Things I’ve Found
Have a Backlog
I always give the same advice when people ask me about starting a blog. I say: put together a month’s worth of content first.
As far as I know, no-one who has asked me this has actually started a blog, so maybe it’s bad advice. Or, maybe it’s good advice, because if you can’t put together a month of content with no audience, you’ll probably to struggle to put together a month of content with a website and no audience.
This is why I think Medium is cool, for the person without their own platform, because it helps you find that audience, especially if you’ve already built one on Twitter.
But still, I think you need a little backlog first. Because when nobody reads your first post – and after years of writing, it often feels like nobody is reading the things that I write – you will be discouraged, and that’s not a great frame of mind to be creative in. Knowing, “well, this is the thing that is coming next, and it’s written so I may as well” is how you put out the next one.
Have a Schedule
The best thing I have done for my writing, is to give myself a schedule. A schedule of days to post on was great, a schedule of days to post on and topics was even better. It gives me a structure, and it helps keep me in balance, so I don’t get obsessed with one topic and write about it incessantly.
I think you can evolve this over time with the things it turns out you want to write about, no point dreading Thursdays every week because it’s topic-you-hate-day. I think it can change over time, my Mondays used to be travel-and-personal, and as I’ve been travelling less lately, I’ve started to expand what personal means.
For me, the schedule is purely for me. So I only write about it in the context of “this is how I get stuff done”, and not “and on Wednesdays you can expect this kind of post”. If people notice, fine, but mostly they don’t. It doesn’t matter – the schedule is for me.
Write For It’s Own Sake
A lot of the time, it feels like nobody reads what I write. I look at my traffic stats, I know it’s not just my mom, but still. Sometimes I get an email (wow!) and sometimes people tweet me nice things, and occasionally something I write gets a lot of discussion online but mostly… I just put stuff out into the void.
Sometimes that is discouraging. But I get enough out of writing – becoming a better writer, structuring my thoughts, reflecting on things in this way – that even if nobody reads something I write, that doesn’t mean it’s not without value. Even if one person reads it and hates it enough to attack me personally, it’s not without value.
Write because there are things you want to document, not because of anything external. My weekly roundups are purely for me. No-one else needs to read them for them to be worthwhile (but it’s lovely when they do! Especially when they send birthday presents as a result).
Dark Sharing is a Thing
There are certain posts I’ve written where I thought yes, people are going to read this. And then… nothing. Maybe I get a couple of tweets but it feels like… DOA (dead on arrival). But then, the traffic stats show that people are reading it, and I look at traffic sources, and it’s coming via email, or Facebook. And people are reading it, and sharing it… just not publicly.
Things I Still Don’t Know
Recently I started sharing posts that I’d written, ones that were proving popular or that I felt strongly about… more than once. This was a huge step, and one that made me extremely uncomfortable. I had this temporary thing where I’d re-share things I’d written from a while ago on weekdays that I don’t publish (Tuesday and Thursday). This soon fell by the wayside.
I don’t know if I should be doing more with what I write or make, or making more with “connect with me on social networks” or if I should just keep on being “yeah this is me over here, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing”.
The first post I ever put on Medium, ended up on Lifehacker. Obviously I wasn’t going to replicate that success and so I had this complete blank as to what I should use Medium for, and how would I follow that? It was super intimidating. Eventually I got over it and posted something else, but I still don’t really know what to put on there.
Now, I have a HuffPost blogger account. I have no idea what to do with that either.
Sometimes I see people/platforms asking for submissions of content. I pretty much never (once this year, no response, didn’t follow up) submit anything.
Anything Regarding Monetization
I had this idea that it might be interesting goal for this year to see if I could cover my hosting and domain registration costs. Maybe I’ll gather enough data to write a separate post about this, but the short story so far is: utter fail.
I technically work on Ads now, so I installed the WordPress Plugin as an experiment to see what happens. I liked the way it laid things out for me, although I preferred the cleaner aesthetics without. So far (~4 months), 13.41GBP. Meh, probably not worthwhile and I’ll likely turn them off later.
For ages I’ve used Amazon Affiliate links, I figured I would link there anyway so I may as well. From time to time I get a giftcard which I use to offset my expensive kindle habit. So far this year: 22.85 USD.
I hear the thing to do is ebooks, and I have a couple of ideas but feel pretty ambivalent about it. I don’t find the project of publishing an ebook interesting in and of itself. Stressful, yes, how would I decide what to put in it?
What Will Be Popular
Some of my most popular posts are ones where I thought “it’s only me who needs this remedial advice, I’ll just put it somewhere where I can find it if I need it again” (like this one). Or, my solo-travel post, the original was just this stream of consciousness of things I felt had taken me too long to figure out (and I was lucky enough to get edited). Sometimes I’m just arranging a bunch of data (as with my popular women in tech posts here, here and here).
Meanwhile I have other things that I thought might be popular, but weren’t. Oh well, as I covered above: try not to care, keep writing.
Previously, I wrote up some thoughts on making progress on side projects.