Most bloggers give up within the first year, so I'm proud to celebrate a year since my first blog on May 1st 2016, making 43 in total. I only went weekly in November which is why it's not 53.
I intend to persevere for another year, and I'll start by sharing some things I've learnt on the way.
1) Try Different Topics
When you start is the best time to play around with topics to see what you want to write about. When I started the site was about "Contracting, .NET and Data Science", but a quick look at my categories and tags shows extras such as Remote Working, Presenting, Random Generation, IDEs, R and Podcasts.
But just as important you discover what you don't want to cover.
To begin with I blogged on whatever was easy or in my life at the time, and someone suggested a series on R. Soon I decided that R wasn't really the tool for me but I persevered anyway and finished off the series. From it I found that Python is a better fit for me and I still write my presentations in R Markdown.
2) Find a Focus
The site currently focuses on "Umbraco, Python, Remote Dev and Randomisation", which may not seem like a focus but...
- .NET has narrowed to Umbraco
- Data Science has narrowed to Python (and Randomisation)
- Contracting has shifted to Remote Working and then again to Remote Development
- And Randomisation is what I currently find most interesting
It's still a broad range of topics but I'm starting to focus on these and find places where they cross-over. Expect to see some
- Data Generation for Umbraco
- Randomisation tools in Python
- Remote Collaboration on Umbraco open source
Hopefully you're choosing to focus on things which you have enthusiasm for. Readers will pick up on this and it is something that will keep them coming back.
3) Schedule Can Vary
I started on a schedule of every fortnight and went up to once a week. I know professionals who manage 3 or more posts a week, and other bloggers who rarely manage more than once a month.
Choose what is right for you at the moment. If you need a break or want to ramp it up for a week, then that is ok.
I fully intend to go slower if I start an intensive contract or have other priorities. I would most likely go down to once a fortnight or every 3 weeks if I had to.
4) Regular Content
But people also like a regular routine, so try to have content on your schedule and if it changes let people know. I put my frequency at the top of the site and would put it in a blog post if I knew it was going to change.
If possible have a back-up post or a pipeline with one or two posts written in advance. After a couple of late posts recently I'm trying to establish a pipeline of writing two weeks in advance.
This is also useful as some blog posts may take an hour and another a day to write. It's often hard to tell when you start writing your post. Having some sort of backup will help maintain a schedule.
5) Blogging is a Skill
Like coding, remote working or Spanish, blogging is a skill that you can work on and practice, mostly by writing regular writing.
I've found a number of useful tools for aiding in my writing including
- ProBlogger website and podcast, covering everything around blog writing and promotion.
- On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
- Reading other blogs currently about Umbraco, Remote Working and Python
- Writing Excuses podcast, only 15 minutes long. About writing fiction but I find it useful and engaging.
My mistakes have also taught me most, from bad content choices to dull blog posts and losing schedules.
6) Blogs Won't Promote Themselves
There is a lot of good content on the internet that few see, lost in the sea of irrelevant, average and dross.
If you want to stand out then you'll need to promote your blog in some way, often via social media or a community.
I need to get better at this as I currently only promote via the odd post on twitter via @DuncanThom
LinkedIn is also on my list, and Facebook, YouTube or Pinterest would also be other possibilities.
7) Blogging can Link into a Larger Strategy
Your blog can work well with other pieces of a larger plan, each part playing off the others.
I'm trying to combine my blogging into a larger view which includes
- Attending and running local meetups
- Presenting at meetups and conferences
- Attending local, national and international conferences
- Keeping up with other blogs
- Being active on twitter (and LinkedIn)
- Having some activity on GitHub
- Getting ideas and keeping up with Podcasts
This will vary on how much spare time you have and what your job entails
8) Content can be re-used
The content you write can be re-used in many ways, including
- for presentations you give in work and meetups
- As a reference from future blog posts
- In a podcast, as part of a book, video or training course you create
- When you need to remember how you did something a year ago
- A similar post on another medium such as LinkedIn or Facebook
9) Podcasts are your Friend (or Obsession)
I consume podcasts all the time with 27 subscriptions at this moment, using them to keep up to date and discover new ideas.
I also find them an efficient use of time when walking, doing housework, driving or doing yoga.
Developers love efficiency.
I have written several times about podcasts and you can expect to more in the future.
- Podcasts for Umbraco Developers
- Podcasts for Remote Development
- Podcasts for Python Developers
- Podcasts for Random Generation
- Podcasts for Tech Bloggers
10) Keep Going
I'm going to see what the next year brings and hope to have a similar post in a year's time after trying some guest-blogging, open-source collaboration, CodeGarden in Denmark and time in Europe!
Leave me a comment with your favourite point or what blogging has taught you!