I began blogging a year ago because I wanted to see if I had something to say. I consider myself to be a bright, interesting person. I had been reading a number of blogs and wanted to see if I could do it. It seemed simple enough--Seth Godin just writes a few lines each day with little formatting and no pictures and thousands of people read. How hard could that be?
I also started blogging because I saw it as an important tool that my organization could use to reach out to a broader audience. We had been working along the Haitian-Dominican border for many years and knew the region quite well. I had encouraged others to write about the border, most notably Elizabeth Roebling,yet we had written very little.
Last November, I took the plunge and starting blogging. I worked hard on my own blog for six months and then started a blog for my project and let this one go quiet. I certainly did not have "279 Days to an Overnight Success." I did learn a lot and will continue blogging. The five biggest lessons that I learned are the following:
- Having a blog is fun: I love my blog. I love referring to it ("I wrote a piece on that subject on my blog--can I send you the link?"). I love thinking about what I will write. I love seeing that people read what I write.
- Writing a blog is a lot of work: I can't jot down a quick thought and hit "publish." A quick post for me takes an hour. The longer posts on the Our Border site or the early posts on poverty on this site took at least several hours to pull together and I sometimes agonize for days over them.
- Getting readers is harder than writing: There is so much great, free content available, it is hard to attract readers' attention. Writing interesting material is essential, but it is not enough. Instead, all the blogging gurus highlight the importance of actively recruiting an audience through commenting on other blogs, participating in forums, guest blogging, and using your networks (email contacts, facebook, twitter, etc.). Recruiting readers can take more time than writing!
- Making money off a blog is even harder: I read the emails that I get from the blogging money gurus like Jeremy Shoemaker and Eben Pagan, but I have never followed their advice. I would be happy to earn lots of money doing little work, however I don't see myself running operations like theirs. Instead, I opt for Chris G's Authority Blogger model. I blog to share knowledge and attract attention rather than to directly earn money. The donations that come in through the Our Border blog don't cover the hosting cost of the blog. However, the blog is our best calling card. When people read our blog, they know that we are the experts on cross-border development. I'm hoping that this blog will land me the perfect job as the Executive Director of an exciting organization.
- Blogging is fun: I love the new interactions that I have because of my blogs. I love it when I get comments on my articles and I love the challenge of developing interesting content and attracting new readers. Blogging has made me more thoughtful and has brought me in touch with lots of people that have helped me improve my work. Despite all the hassles and frustrations, I can't imagine ever giving up blogging!
Back when I was first considering blogging, the best advice that I received was to just do it. Don't worry about the quality of your writing--no one will read it in the beginning and it will improve with practice. If you're not willing to pay the small fee that typepad charges, there are lots of free options. The only way to learn how to blog is to start blogging.