As of this month, I’ve been chronicling my life here for six years. Unbelieveable.
Since I missed the big five-year mark, being off gallivanting somewhere in Europe last year, I’ll have to make up for it now.
Here are the biggest things I’ve learned.
It’s all about me
It’s the rawest and most honest posts that seem to resonate.
Guest posts and posts where I get a bit more journalistic just don’t get the same response.
It makes sense – if I think about all the blogs I currently read, the reason I continue to subscribe is because I feel a connection to the blogger. This is why I read very few blogs that use staff writers (and usually skim over the staff posts in favour of the posts by the original writer). I promise I will never hire staff writers.
Ultimately, the only thing you have to set you apart online is yourself - your viewpoint, your writing, your voice.
It’s hard to know how much to reveal
Walking that fine line is something anyone who writes for public consumption faces.
As I’ve become less anonymous, finding that balance has become even harder. I want to be as honest as possible, but within reason. Although I don’t share my blog with many people IRL, my rough benchmark is ‘would I mind if my family/closest friends read this?’ and that helps guide me.
I will happily talk to anyone, online or offline, stranger or friend, about how I spend and save. I probably wouldn’t share my income or net worth. I might not want to disclose the details if I was going through a rough time personally but I might allude to them or talk about how I’m coping (or not). Struggles with relationships and career/work, I find, are the toughest to navigate.
Go self-hosted early
I wish I’d made the switch to self-hosted blogging earlier. (Check out some options for domains and hosting.) Mainly for selfish reasons, to be honest with you: I could have made a lot more money.
But it’s also encouraged me to take my writing here more seriously. I almost don’t even count those first couple of years of blogging. These days, I usually work on draft posts for awhile and preschedule them – often continuing to make tweaks before and even just after go-live.
Don’t sell out
Doesn’t this directly contradict that last point, you ask? Well, like with most things, it’s all about balance. I’m not principled enough to eschew commercialism entirely. In going self-hosted, I wanted to be confident I would at least make enough to cover the costs involved.
That doesn’t mean jumping at every opportunity, though. I had a phase where I ran a ton of crappy (paid) guest posts, and that accounted for a reasonable proportion of the money I earned online while travelling full-time last year. I tried to edit to higher standards and put my own spin on them with a personalised intro, but ultimately I was no longer comfortable playing that game. It was a weird and totally conflicting dynamic at play: Advertisers essentially wanted to piggyback off your blog’s SEO juice, but in allowing them to do so you put that hard-earned built-up SEO goodness – the very thing advertisers are paying you for – at risk. And since I was working in mainstream media (which of course is playing its own game with sponsored content and struggling to define boundaries) I felt extremely suspect doing this kind of thing on my personal site.
Suffice to say my standards are now a lot higher. I want to be proud of everything I run here.
Do not obsess over stats
I go through ebbs and flows – currently I’m in a phase where I feel compelled to check in on my traffic every few hours. This is unhealthy and I know it!
I’m used to running larger, non-personal sites and constantly monitoring analytics, because that kind of data informs what we do. I don’t want to do the same here.
I don’t have the huge numbers that some other bloggers do, and while sometimes that bums me out, ultimately, I’m much more interested in quality, not quantity.
Don’t force it
When it comes to blogging, I go through bursts and spurts of inspiration. Often I’ll realise I’ve almost run out of posts, but it always works out. Forcing ideas never works!