“A blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list.”
Welcome to Becoming Minimalist. This is not a blog about blogging, websites, or getting rich. Never has been, never will be. This is a blog about minimalizing possessions, simplifying life, and focusing on what’s most important. It’s a blog about inspiring others to find the same freedom that we have found in removing the nonessentials from our life.
However, I would like to digress for one brief moment because there is something that I need to tell you.
I have no desire to quit my day job and become a full time blogger. There I said it. It may not sound all that important to you, but it was important for me to say.
I love my day job. I love Monday mornings because I look forward to another week of doing what I do. I guess that makes me one of the “lucky ones” to end up in a career that I enjoy, am good at, and brings me more fulfillment than a weekly paycheck. I encourage high school students to live fulfilling lives by helping them develop spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. And I invest 50 hours a week into my day job because I believe in what I do. There are countless bloggers who have quit their day jobs to blog full-time (Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Everett Bogue, and Colin Wright). I’m just not one of them… nor do I plan to be one of them.
Because of that, as this blog has become more and more successful and continues to grow everyday as people resonate with its simple message of freedom, I have been forced to reevaluate its role in my life on a consistent basis. And I keep coming to the same conclusions: I am committed to my day job, I am committed to writing a successful blog, and I am committed to living a simple life. Balancing these three commitments has taken time and patience.
This post is for all of you who desire to blog successfully, keep your day job, and keep your life focused on the things that really matter. Hopefully, I can save you same anguish. These are the essentials that I have found necessary to be a successful blogger, keep your day job, AND live clutter-free.
- Love to write. I have had countless friends with a desire to start a successful blog but lacked one key quality: they didn’t enjoy writing. They soon found other hobbies because well, blogging includes a lot of writing. Writing exercises your mind. It causes you to research, solidify opinions, organize, and articulate. Every person should sit and write for 30 minutes everyday regardless if they blog or not… that just comes easier to some than others. If you love to write and share your thoughts with others, you are well on your way to being a successful blogger.
- Concentrate on your writing. Your content is your blog. Nice layouts, designs, graphics, or widgets will never replace good strong opinions and crystal clear writing. Focus your energy like a laser beam on your writing skills. Do that first, the rest will come as you grow.
- Find your voice. This was the best piece of advice I ever received about blogging and maybe the only thing I couldn’t learn from someone else. When you find your voice, you’ll know it. Blogging will just become a natural extension of who you are. Find something that you want to say and decide how you are going to say it. If you keep saying it in a way that people understand (see the first two points), people will start listening. Don’t believe me? Just consider the fact that this blog started with me simply telling the story of the stuff we were removing… and it has grown to 3,000 subscribed readers.
- Define success. Decide on your goals for the blog. If your goal is not to quit your day job and blog full-time, what is your purpose? To keep your family informed about your life? To inspire others? To educate others on a particular topic? To enjoy a new hobby? To make a little income on the side to supplement your salary? If you accomplish the goals that you have spelled out, you are a successful blogger.
- Learn from full-time bloggers. Remember, there are people who do this for a living. They have a lot to offer. Study them. Read their advice. Learn from them. Here are a couple of articles you may find helpful: Write to Done, Copyblogger, Far Beyond the Stars.
- Don’t compare yourself to full-time bloggers. Remember, there are people who do this for a living. They have more time to commit and more riding on it. It pays their rent, their grocery bill, and their health care. Obviously, they are going to spend more time than you designing their site, writing their posts, analyzing their data, and researching trends. Don’t let jealousy or your competitive side drive your time investment or definition of success. Jealousy will quickly rob you of your joy in blogging.
- Network. Most bloggers are lovely people who understand that the pie is not finite. They gladly welcome new people into their niche. If you are producing great content, they want to know about it and will gladly promote your material to their readers. And you don’t have to attend some large conference in Las Vegas to accomplish networking anymore. Just jump on Twitter. Or join the conversation on other blogs in your niche by adding valuable comments. Trust me - they’ll notice you.
- Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Define them and keep them! Your employer is paying you to work, not to write on your blog. Your children need you to be their parent more than your readers need a new post. Your wife still needs you to sit and talk and your husband still needs you to make out. Because blogging well takes time, you will need to establish clear boundaries defining when you are going to blog and when you are not. Here are the boundaries that I have established: I do my actual writing early in the morning before my family is awake. Following a new post, I will check the blog two times daily (lunchtime and right after work). If I have a significant post that I am working on, I will steal some time before bed to do some research, networking, or promotion. Be aware that there are life cycles to a blog that may require more attention for a period of time (i.e., a book launch). But the more you keep the boundaries you have defined, the better.
- Don’t post everyday. When I first started Becoming Minimalist, I used to post everyday. Sometimes, I would just stare at a blank screen until I could come with a post. But then I noticed something… some of the biggest (most successful) blogs in the world don’t even post everyday. Why should I? Quality is more important than quantity. Consistency is more important than frequency. And your family is more important than staring at a blank computer screen.
- Get some help by including other writers on your blog. Ask people to write a guest post for your blog. Ask a fellow blogger if you can interview them by e-mail. Or simply reference an existing work from someone in your niche. Bloggers love the publicity. Oh sure, not even full-time bloggers accept every guest post request and your writing quality, blog history, and reader numbers will certainly be considered… but it can’t hurt to ask.
- Hold on to your blog loosely. In my list of priorities, this blog is low on my list (literally, I have a written list of values that I view daily). Because this blog is less valuable to me that most other things, I have learned to hold on to it loosely. The next time my wife or kids need to capture an extra hour of my attention, I’ll take it from blogging. I always do. And I know that as soon as tragedy strikes my family (which it will at some point… it always does), this blog will be the first to go.
I enjoy blogging. I’m so glad I started. It has become my favorite hobby of all-time. But I love my job more and I love my family more. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a successful blogger, it just means I have to be a little more intentional about it.