The How To Be A Crappy Blogger series examines the mistakes and missteps that keep blogs like this from succeeding. Enjoy and learn from a look back at three years of unsuccessful blogging.
When starting out, you have big dreams and big ambitions for your site. You’re going to become the next (Insert A-List blogger name here), you’re going to get a book deal or you’re going to be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Those dreams quickly turn into plans, because as “they” say, you won’t be successful if you don’t have goals. So you set your sights on a million page views a month, you tell yourself that you have three months to get a book deal or that you’ll make $10,000 in the first quarter of 2012. Sometimes things work out. Usually they don’t and this leads you to abandon your site, squash your ambitions and move on to the next thing.
Goals are important, but at the beginning excessive goal setting can be a distraction. As just about anyone who has ever written a business plan or worked in a startup knows, your reality and your planning often change the instant they meet the world. No matter how hard you plan, now matter how clear your target, the truth doesn’t really come out until it is challenged and changed by the real world. The same is true for blogging. Unless you have past experience, you’re in for something entirely new and until you know what you’re dealing with, goals are often just the reasons you inevitably quit.
While many will disagree, I don’t think those of you who are just starting out on your first site should have any goals at all, I think you should have intentions (and yes, you could easily argue that these are just less ambitious goals, but humor me.). You should know if you’re writing to drive awareness for your business, to get speaking gigs, to bring attention to your upcoming book, but you should avoid getting specific until you take some time to learn what you’re doing and what works. I just had a very interesting back and forth with Derek Halpern over this on Marcus Sheridan’s blog. It’s a worthwhile read and while I still disagree with him, he made some excellent counterpoints.
As I said there, setting unrealistic goals is a surefire way to crush your desire to keep going. Without the right experience and knowledge, you’re often setting yourself up for failure. You’re better off starting your blog because of an interest (or better yet an obsession) as this will keep you going as you struggle to build that elusive early audience. See where your writing takes you, discover what kind of an reader it attracts1 and figure out what works. Once you have that familiarity, once you know yourself as a blogger and begin to understand what your site is capable of, then, and only then, can you set ambitious goals. On the flip side, don’t wait too long either. It’s another post for another day, but it took me two and a half years to get serious about what I was doing here and trust me, that hurt just as much.
Start with intentions for your site, test them against the real world, learn what you’re doing and then set yourself some intimidating goals. It may take a bit longer, but it’s far more likely to get a new blogger where they want to go.
If you’re just starting out, let me know how/if you are approaching goals. Been at it a while? What was your approach at the onset?
It’s often not the audience you expect. ↩