in Start

The Definition of a ‘Professional Blogger’ or ‘Full Time Blogger’

Do I Look Like a Professional at ANYTHING?

[This is part of the Blogging Foundations Starter Kit Series. Have you seen the other posts yet?]

One of the comments and questions that I’m getting a lot is what I mean when I say ‘Professional Blogger‘.

There are a number of differing viewpoints and not one of them is necessarily incorrect; in fact, anyone has the full right to call themselves a ‘Full Time Blogger‘ or ‘Professional Blogger’ regardless of any outside opinion. But, there seems to be an understanding, both cultural and nuanced, about what it means to be ‘Pro.’

Just think about it for a moment, especially as it relates to professions and jobs in other areas – What do you think of when you say that so and so is a Professional? You probably assume a number of things, right?

So, let’s start with a classic example and something much more familiar, shall we? Let’s talk about Professional Athletes for a moment. When you think about them you probably have a number of ideas in your head, all of them being correct and varied in your perspective.

So let’s start there.

Definition of a Professional Athlete:

A True Professional at His Craft

When you think of a professional athlete you most likely think of a person who:

  • Is exceptionally talented, skilled, or competent. Most likely they are naturally gifted with both the mental and physical requirements to be the best.
  • They have achieved a “top” ranking or standing within their particular sport of choice.
  • They have had a number of personal and culturally understood accolades attached to their name.
  • They train a lot. Every day and all year round. They spend most of their physical time every day playing their sport.
  • I would argue that it is also what they mentally train for as well; I can imagine they think about their sport passionately and incessantly.
  • They are competitive and play to win. They want to be the best at what they do.
  • They have a long history of experience in their field most likely starting at a very young age.
  • They have also received coaching, education, and mentoring within their field. Constant improvement is just as important as executing well and winning.
  • They make a living (or a significant source of income) through their sports activity both directly (salary) and/or indirectly (endorsements, promotions, etc.). They receive payment for their performance.

And the list could go on and on. For the above example I’m trying to cover as much as possible but you always want to find the get to the most simple and most accepted definition possible.

So, the bottom line is probably best summed up with this definition of a Professional Athlete: They make a living playing sports and/or activities related to their sport.

Right?

With that in mind I’m going to jump into what it means to be a ‘Professional Blogger‘:

Professionals Attract People (And Fill Stadiums)

A Few Understood or Assumed Characteristics:

Just like the example of a professional athlete above our internet culture has crafted a number of assumed characteristics that allow a blogger to hold the title of ‘Professional’ or ‘Pro.’

Here are a few that may come to mind:

  • A blogger who has an exceptional amount of “engagement” on their property, either in the form of comments, pingbacks, retweets via Twitter, or submissions to social sharing websites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, and more.
  • A blogger who has a lot of traffic to their blog, much more than the average blogger.
  • A blogger who has a large fan base and community. Typically this results in visible engagement, as listed above, but it also can be seen in other ways such as the number of Twitter followers, RSS subscribers, email subscriptions, and more.
  • A blogger who blogs consistently and who typically posts more than once a day (but not necessarily required).
  • A blogger who has been blogging for a while and who has a lot of blog posts published. In other words, they have a pedigree and history within this profession.
  • A blogger who has been able to move from the blogging and online medium to offline media. For example, a blogger who now hosts a TV show or Radio spot and/or is physically present at events for speaking, panels, and more.
  • A blogger who is culturally seen as a thought-leader and a “guru” in their space. They are sought after for wisdom, education, and general leadership within their particular niche.
  • A blogger who makes a living (or a significant source of income) through their blog both directly (salary) and/or indirectly (endorsements, promotions, etc.). They receive payment for their performance.

And again, the list of characteristics go on and some of these may ring more true than others for you and your perspective but most of them can be seen as part and parcel with being a professional blogger.

The Definition of a Professional Blogger:

So where does this leave us? You’ll notice that the last bullet point in both list of assumptions for the Professional Athlete and the Professional Blogger is the same. I think this just makes sense and is a common denominator for many of those that find themselves in the professional space and I feel confident using that as the foundation for my definition and how I use the terms.

A Professional Blogger is a person who blogs for a living.

Just like a professional athlete, a professional blogger is one who can support themselves and their family with the income generated through their online properties and their blog(s).

This is the definition that I’m the most comfortable with and is what I mean whenever I use the term ‘Professional Blogger,’ ‘Full Time Blogger,’ and other such combinations thereof.

It’s Not a Perfect Definition!

Now, before you throw rocks at me I understand that my definition excludes a number of bloggers who I consider to be shining examples of what it means to be ‘Pro’ but may not necessarily (at first glance) appear to make any money through their blogging (but they do).

For example, Seth Godin‘s blog does not appear to make any money from his blogging efforts (no explicit advertisements) but he is, without question, a Professional Blogger because he exemplifies nearly all of the characteristics above.

And Seth’s a marketer and uses his blog to promote his books (which he sells in boat-loads). His blog is his channel and platform for his income as an indirect source of revenue. In fact, he’s even said himself that his last book would be the last book he sells through a traditional publisher; his blog (and other online outlets) will be the primary channel of sales.

Another great example is a long-time favorite, Leo Babauta, who runs Zen Habits. His blog is one of the top 25 blogs in the world with a reported reader-base of over 200,000. I believe it’s much more north of this reported figure.

Again, Leo’s blog doesn’t appear to have any direct channel of income. In fact, he even states it explicitly on his site:

I love how this works and how he’s’ able to earn an income in other ways, through books, affiliates, speaking, and more.

Finally, there are countless examples of Professional Bloggers who really do not make any money and simply enjoy the experience, exercise, and activity of blogging. This list is just as extensive and long as those who claim to be ‘Pro.’

But here’s the bottom line:

  • You can call yourself a ‘Professional Blogger’ and that’s well within your right, but there appears to be some culturally understood characteristics that provide clarity to the definition, just like a Professional Athlete. My 4 year old daughter can call herself a ‘Pro’ (and I let her!) but she is definitely not a Professional Athlete by any stretch of the imagination (yet…).
  • A Professional Blogger spends their most valuable resource blogging. This resource is simply their time. They could be doing more with their time but they are not, and most of them strategically convert this time into a financial return, but not always.

Finally, just as culture dictates and guides us to a solid definition it is ultimately culture and community that helps firm up the definition as it characterizes the individual. In other words, someone may call himself/herself a Professional Blogger but it’s the community that ultimately supports that self-proclaimed title.

It’s saying something if no one shows up, right?

Are You Pro if No One Shows?

What Am I Missing?

This definition is most definitely a “working” definition but it will at least establish a foundational understanding as how I use it on TentBlogger and the other properties which I blog on.

What do you say? What am I missing? What do you think about my definition?

[This is part of the Blogging Foundations Starter Kit Series. Have you seen the other posts yet?]