I’ve been blogging since the late 90’s and podcasting since 2005. This makes me an old-timer in Internet years. It also means I’ve been at this for a long time with very little to show for it monetarily. Financial gain has never been a primary goal of my blogging and podcasting but it’s nice to be able to generate a little income to fund my hobby.
I didn’t start blogging or podcasting to make money but as I’ve plied my trade over the 16+ years of my online life I’ve realized that this is a way I’d like to earn money. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years and there are five that stand out as huge pitfalls that I’m still trying to overcome.
If you’re looking for answers or ways to avoid these pitfalls you may not find them here. This is really a top-of-mind blog post addressing some of the glaring shortcomings of my online endeavors. Consider it a beacon shining in the night warning you of the dangerous rocks ahead.
Managing personal and “professional” personas
Before social media became popular most people weren’t concerned about how they were perceived online. This is typically true because it wasn’t easy to track down someone’s alter-ego and find out who the “real person” was behind the online handle (boy, that dates me).
With the growth of social media it has become more and more important to manage a “personal brand” and with that comes a number of difficulties. The primary difficulty I see is whether or not to manage multiple personas. If I could do it all over again I’d have one online personality.
Personally, I went from publishing a conservative, semi-political blog to what you see here today: a mish-mash of meh. That’s just my “personal brand”.
Professionally, I’ve tried to bill myself as an expert at integrating tech with homeschooling as well as an expert on social TV. Both personas have had a bit of mild success but nothing that I could hang my future on.
I’ve reinvented myself more times than I can count and that’s caused confusion not only for myself but those who follow me. It means I’ve had trouble establishing authority and trust with my readers and listeners.
Finding the time to blog/podcast
Every hobby-blogger or part-time podcaster feels like they don’t have time to write or record. Balancing your personal and professional life and adding commitments makes the margins in our lives smaller and smaller.
Let me share with you some of the ways I’ve used to find time to write and record:
1. Burning the midnight oil. When I was younger this wasn’t a problem. As my family grew and I wasn’t getting as much sleep this was no longer doable. I got a lot done in those early years but now burning the midnight oil makes me grumpy the next day. That’s not good for co-workers or family.
2. Lunch break sprints. My first few years podcasting were a combination of late night marathons and lunch time sprints. I’d spend my evenings writing copy or “maintaining” my blog then recording my podcast episodes during my lunch break. My lunch breaks would sometimes happen at odd hours during the day in order to record an interview or publish time-sensitive content.
3. Early morning creativity. I’ve found I am the most-creative early in the morning. I would wake up at 5AM and get my creative juices flowing just in time to bottle it up and head into the office for work. I still do this some days and it’s frustrating.
4. Fitting it in when I feel like it. This is where I am now and it’s the least productive and most frustrating way to work. I’ve lost and gained motivation to produce content many times over the years. I’ve been most productive when I had a schedule and now I typically do thing when I can and when I feel like it. There are a few exceptions but this is my current “normal” and it’s tough to find inspiration at this point.
I’m the first to admit that I’ve never worked smart when it comes to blogging or podcasting. I’ve always done it by the seat of my pants. The ‘Drafts’ section of my blogs contain many unfinished articles that I’ll get to “when I feel like it”.
Not earning enough to go “full-time” and support my family
My blogs and podcasts have earned a little money over the years. Typically it’s been just enough to cover the expenses of hosting sites, media, and occasionally buy some equipment.
Right now, I could pay my mortgage for two months off of what I make in a year. Not bad. However, because I really would like to do this full-time it’s also not good.
I’ve never really sat down with my wife and seriously discussed the possibility of doing this as my job. My wife likes security. That means a steady income, health insurance, etc. Most spouses want that out of the primary income provider in a relationship.
I think to seriously do this she’d feel comfortable if I had a year’s salary in the bank. For her that’s security, for me that’s a reason to slack off. I know my bills will be paid for a year so why work my tail off?
I’m more like, “Let’s do it tomorrow!” If I knew I had 2 weeks to make some money. I’d work my face off to get the mortgage paid, food on the table, and any other necessities.
Neither of these approaches is best. There’s a level of risk that I’ll need to assume if I do this full-time and a level of security I’ll need to provide for my family. Finding that balance seems out of reach at this point.
“Personal brand” confusion over the years
I’ve had at least 10 Twitter accounts. At one point I had thousands of “friends” on Facebook. Over the years I’ve re-branded myself several times.
Jesus Geek is one of those old brands I’ve just recently let go. It contains the largest amount of content I’ve created over the years. It’s become a online reference for me to refer back to when I’m feeling nostalgic.
Within the 700+ posts that span over 7 years there are hints and points of time when you can see a change in my personal brand.
I’ve never consistently had a personal brand. I think it’s because at first I was holding on to the old ways from my days using BBS’s. I had a handle and crafted a persona that wasn’t really me.
I tried to do that with social media and as a result I’ve had to create multiple identities because sometimes the content or focus of that brand wouldn’t really resonate with my current following.
It may seem a little self-absorbed saying that but each of us has a following. Some of us share multiple areas of our lives in those personas and others choose to compartmentalize. I like things in tidy boxes.
Loss of old content
I can’t dig out of this hole. People say the Internet never forgets. Well, if it’s been gone long enough it’s as good as forgotten. There are blog posts, podcast episodes, and more that have I’ve lost. Add to that my inability to grasp SEO and you get lost content.
I suppose the content might be on an NSA file server somewhere but I’m certain there is content I can never get back. In some ways that’s good. In other ways that’s bad. It’s good because my original BlogSpot posts make me cringe. It’s bad because I can’t track that content down and learn from it.
I’ve never had a good system for archiving my blog posts and podcasts. Trying to find old content requires a fair amount of searching. Some of the things I’ve done only exist online. There have been times when I’ve “given up” and purged content from online or even my hard drive only to come back a few months later and think, “That was dumb.”
I’m envious of people who have a great archival system for their content. I just can never get around to it. I’m about as organized as a TV static.
I think I’ve rambled enough about my failures. In a way, this has been therapeutic. I see some of my flaws (not all of them) and too often they overshadow my successes. At least, I let them overshadow my successes.
Sometimes I feel like the lady in the parable Jesus told about the lost coin except I haven’t found that coin yet. I’ve been sweeping for years and hopefully one day I’ll find it and be able to celebrate. Until then, has anyone seen my dustpan?