Now, now, now. Don’t even try to pretend it isn’t true.
Let me guess…
You spend hours on Twitter and Facebook “working,” only to wonder later if you really accomplished anything.
You comment on the blogs of bigwig bloggers, telling yourself you’re “networking,” nevermind that none of those comments actually lead to anything.
You have a growing collection of books and courses promising to teach you all the secrets in the universe, but they sit in that “to be read” folder collecting dust.
In the back of your mind, you know you can do better. Technically, you even know what to do.
But something inside you refuses to let you, and every day you struggle with whether or not you should just give up or find some other shortcut.
You know how I know this?
Because I’m you.
The conversation that saved my life
“You are the dumbest smart marketer I know.”
All I could do was sit there, dumbfounded, staring at my monitor, blinking like a moron. Derek Halpern, a friend and a marketer I respect, just called me out, and I had nowhere to hide.
“I like you, which is why I’m telling you this. Stop Doing Dumb Things.”
I tried telling him about how my website was no longer what it needed to be. I tried telling him I knew I was “a little backwards” at the moment, but I would soon get it sorted out. I tried telling him I was working on a product, and once I released it, it would change everything.
“Those are nothing but excuses,” he said. “Just wanted to point that out, that you’re creating bullshit reasons not to grow your email list.”
The life and times of a professional blog saboteur
After the pants incident, I faced two choices:
Find a job in the middle of an economic crisis or do what I knew I was born to do.
Naturally, I picked the latter.
For months, I downloaded online marketing to my brain. I absorbed so much information, I’d wake up every morning bleary eyed, head on the keyboard, cheek deep in a puddle of drool.
It paid off, though.
Before long, not only did I start to really understand what was going on, but I used my background in entertainment industry to draw parallels between character building and the internet, forming my own unique marketing philosophy. A year later, I’d gone from just barely scraping by to building a sustainable income.
But you know what?
This was the worst thing that could’ve happened
I got comfortable. I stopped exploring.
I gave money to others for spoon feeding me their perspective. I’d buy training, put it into action, see it work, help a few people out, then…stop. I’d buy more training, see it work, then move on to the next shiny thing.
It was disastrous. In just a few years, I switched my “authority” position eight times, each time believing it was the secret to finally setting me apart.
Good luck to regular readers trying to keep up. As soon as you started to think you figured out who I am, poof, I turned around and became someone else entirely.
Haha! No commitment to a career path rulez!
*Ahem* Ok, so why? Why would anyone do this to themselves or their audience?
Have I been afraid of success? Afraid to put the work in? Am I just being lazy?
As much as I hate to admit it, I think it’s fear of success.
That and arrogance.
How to stop holding yourself back
Truth is, when you know your work is great, but you don’t have the recognition you deserve, you’re arrogant too.
You don’t have to walk with your nose high to be arrogant. I mean, isn’t it arrogant to think just because you’ve created something good, you deserve to be recognized?
This was a hard one for me, but eventually I realized doing good work is only the first step.
Less talented people will always get more recognition when they hustle harder to get their name out.
You can’t rely on, nor should you expect, your readers to do your promotion. It’s not their job to make sure you’re seen.
Instead, adopt mindsets and systems to improve your output and expand your reach.
And stop doing silly things. Here are some of the biggest offenders:
1. Not taking your blog seriously
“I’ve got client work to do.” “I have to write for this other website.” “I’ll write when I’m a little less tired.”
I tell myself these things all the time.
But if you want to be successful, you have to realize they’re just excuses. They’re reasonable, yes, but they’re excuses nonetheless.
The reality is successful bloggers take their blog just as seriously as their day job. It’s that important.
Yes, you have to eat and sleep, or you’ll keel over dead, but you don’t have to watch TV for hours every night, check your email every five minutes or get sucked into the social media vortex. So, stop screwing around with all that stuff. I’m serious.
You HAVE TO be the first person to respect your blog. If you don’t, how can you expect others to respect it too?
This means spending long, sweaty hours at the anvil banging out headlines, refining your storytelling skills, and magnetizing your calls to action.
It means stalking your competition to near obsession, so you can predict their every move, and beat them at their own game.
Is it a lot of work? You bet your ass it is.
But it’s the only way.
2. Thinking you can work without a schedule
When I was producing “Inside The Mind” my assistant (read: friend) and I spent 95 hours every week to produce a 4-6 minute video.
On top of that, I maintained two full time clients, and a writing gig that required 1,000-2,000 words every single week, for 22 weeks.
What I learned? Your schedule is your only path to freedom.
For me, there are two schedules:
The Writing Schedule
The writing schedule is all about the creation process.
When your workload increases, saying you’ll create “when you feel like it” is the same as saying “I want to never have time for anything please.”
Instead, block out times for you to work on your different writing projects, and set deadlines. The point of a writing schedule is to create as much as possible in the time you allow yourself. You’re won’t always be satisfied, but the only way to polish an idea is to pull it from your brain and put it on the page, no matter how much it writhes, kicks, spits and swears at you.
Ideally, you want to get into the habit of writing a set amount of words every day.
Learn your rhythms. Write when you’re passionate. Edit when you’re critical.
No doubt, you’ll be walking through spider webs at first. But underneath it all you’re training yourself to be a helluva good writer.
The Publishing Schedule
Just because you write every day doesn’t mean you have to publish every day.
The whole point of the writing schedule is for you to create a volume of work while refining your skills.
Your publishing schedule curates the best work to your blog. Some blogs are only publishing only one or two extremely useful articles a month on their own blog.
When you take your writing seriously, and you put yourself on a schedule, you don’t have any choice but to produce a large enough volume of work that’ll grab people’s attention.
Not everything has to make the final cut to your blog, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used somewhere else. And if you commit to publishing on a schedule, both on and off your blog, people will notice.
3. Trying to make everything perfect
Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing was able to write 40 posts, more than 80 guest posts, two books, and a lot of other content, all in a single year (2011).
Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers grew from 0-17,000 subscribers in 11 months. He’s managed to get to A-List status in what seems like a crazy short amount of time.
Heck, Smart Blogger had 13,000 subscribers before the site even launched.
While this sounds Herculean, the truth is these guys have the same 24 hours in a day you do. The difference between them and you, is while you’re perfecting your one piece, they’re moving on to the next opportunity.
Set a goal for how long you’ll dedicate to a single article.
If you plan on writing one article a week, only spend a week on it, don’t go over. If your limit is 3 days/article, make it the best it can be in 3 days time, then move on.
Even if you’re only writing one article a week, by the end of the year you’d still have 52 articles. (if you’re publishing on your own blog once a month, you’d have 40 articles left over to publish in other places.)
4. Reinventing the wheel
There’s a reason why every Cosmopolitan’s headline looks exactly the same.Those headline templates sell.
There’s a reason that every popular blog within a niche formats their posts similarly. It’s easier to read.
There’s a reason why shows like CSI and House stay on the air. Every episode follows a proven structure, making them easy to follow and keeping attention between commercial breaks.
Does that mean you have to be a copycat?
No. Don’t think for a second that borrowing someone else’s format means you skimp on individuality.
For example, imagine your content is an apartment. The floorplan might be the same as every other apartment in the building, but you change the furniture, paint, and decor to make it your own.
Content works the same way. You take the framework and adapt it to your own individual style.
Less guesswork. Faster content creation. More traffic.
Speaking of traffic…
5. Promoting your blog only sporadically
With one caveat:
You must be consistent. (and guest blog like a professional)
Promoting your blog is a marathon, not a sprint. One good guest post every few months will not sustain you.
Our attention spans are too short. (Honestly, can you point me to an article you read a month ago?)
To grow your blog, you need regular support from other bloggers, on a steady basis. That means writing lots of guest posts.
Don’t limit yourself to posting only on A-List blogs either. Look to some of the other B and C list blogs too.
Hang with the cool kids, but form your own posse. That’s how all of the popular blogs I can think of got to where they are, and that’s how you can do it too.
The bottom line?
You know, reading this is well and good, but if you really want to start a blog and make it popular, you have to earn it.
What’s painful for me right now is reflecting on the past 3 years and thinking, “I haven’t done enough.”
I know I’ve done great work, but I’ve been afraid to share it. If you’ve read this far, chances are, you feel the same way.
It’s not that I’m afraid of being told that I’m wrong or stupid. No it’s much worse that that.
I’m terrified of being center field, stripped naked, with the faceless crowd laughing in one booming, disjointed voice.
But you know what’s even more terrifying?
Knowing I’ll wake up tomorrow and 20 years will have passed – and I know I didn’t do squat.
Don’t let this happen.
You want to be successful? It has to be a choice.
So, let’s make a pledge. Repeat after me:
From now on, my fears will not rule me. I will be disciplined. My fears will not bully me into doing silly things.
The rest is up to you.