5 Harsh Realities of Problogging

Alice in Wonderland? Realityland?

I’ve learned a thing or two over the past decade of blogging and the reality of being a professional blogger is not all that it sounds like or looks like.

It’s tough climb to the top and it takes a lot of time, a lot of detours, a lot of surprise challenges, and tons of disappointments. And unlike climbing a mountain there aren’t any specific or tangible “paths” to the top – you have to craft your own and follow general models and principles of business, writing, marketing, and sales.

But otherwise you’re completely on your own; sure, you may have a community of people around you but what I mean by this is that you’re the one doing the writing. Someone has to sit down every single day, draft and publish that content, engage with your readers, and make it all count.

In other words, no one will believe in your dream more than you so you’ll have to carry it through to the finish line. But for some that’s a really good thing!

Here are 5 realities that I was pondering this past week that will hopefully provide some context and insight into what you can expect if you make the jump from the 9-5:

1. Some Business Model

Yes, you need a business model. You don’t need to build out some complex and comprehensive plan but you need to understand that if you’re going to make it financially you need a plan around it which requires you to ultimately make money.

Many people are still frightened by the idea (or at least queasy) and you’ll need to get over that, and quickly. In addition, you’ll have to realize that “free” is not a business model at all but rather a marketing strategy to get people to come to your blog. Some people wrongly believe that you’ll just “make money” but offering free all the time every time but that’s not the case.

Your blog will be a part of your business (it won’t be your business, mind you) and you have to work on it just like anything else. You’ll have to work hard because it’s your baby, it’s your startup, it’s your bread and butter, and it’s what may keep the roof over your head and the food on the table.

2. No Rules

There are no rules when it comes to being successful online and no particular hard-and-fast models that’ll make you big and bad. In fact, despite what people say (or market) you are creating the “rules” for yourself every single day.

Sure, there may be some patterns of success and some things that have generally worked but the challenge I see is a lot of people “buying” into one model or plan and then assuming that it’ll work through until the end.

You have to create your own unique cocktail of success if you’re going to succeed and that’s simply because you’re a unique person and there’s only one of you out there – so don’t copy or borrow someone else’s rule book and think naively that’ll bring the same result!

There are no rules, and that can be a big deal for some people, both for those that rejoice in not having boundaries and for those that wish that there were.

3. Overnight Success

This is a lie. There’s no push-button “WIN” button on the internet. There is no “do this and make 5 figures a month!” type solution. Don’t buy (literally) the hype.

Trust me.

4. You Are Not a Machine

There will come a point where you realize that you simply cannot scale to meet the demands of your community and your blog. You’ll come to realize that you can’t read every single comment (and reply) nor can you read all of the inbound email every single day. You’ll realize that you cannot be as engaged with the audience that you love and that you don’t have 25 hours available in a 24-hour day.

You’ll realize that you, as a person, aren’t scaleable and that’ll you’ll have to continually change the way that you work and relate with your blog and community. Establishing boundaries early on (learning to say “no”) can be of infinite help in this regard.

The bottom line is that you’ll have to evolve as your blog evolves and you’ll have to get used to this fact.

5. Rethinking Authenticity

This one can be a hard pill to swallow but I’ve seen it time and time again: No one really wants you to be 100% authentic with your thoughts. In fact, you shouldn’t try to be either! For example, no one wants to know every single detail of your professional and personal life and that’s not of value to your community.

Part of your ability to be professionally authentic is by creating those boundaries and having good online and offline balance. Sometimes that requires some time off and sometimes that means that you’ll be more effective by not saying what you want to say in certain situations and blog posts.

Raw, unfiltered authenticity is nearly impossible as well since it’s all tempered and translated through your reader’s monitor screen. Working hard to establish a 1:1 will just look weird if you try since the medium demands context.

[This is part of the Escaping the 9-5: My Road to ProBlogging series.]