When I started this blog in January 2011 it had a bigger impact than I could have hoped, with lots of comments and interest.
However, I think it’s clear I wasn’t quite ready to capitalize on that initial success and actually do what was needed to run a successful blog.
The initial success was mainly due to the fact that I had already been blogging for a few years beforehand at gaseousbrain.com and writing articles for various other publications. I was also on Twitter in the early days when there was a lot less ‘noise’ and you could get noticed easier.
In addition the blog was featured by the Guardian Edinburgh and Creative Boom which brought some new readers and contacts.
Whilst I’m proud that this blog is still alive after 3 years, the growth in terms of traffic and email subscribers has been minimal and I’ve made very little actual income from it.
Being self-employed, the way I choose to spend my time directly affects how much money I earn and therefore my quality of life. Every time I choose to spend time on this blog at the moment, I am not putting time into my business and therefore I’m limiting my own earnings.
Therefore, whilst this blog is something I love to do, as part of my annual review process I’m taking a look at everything I spent my time on and re-evaluating whether it’s worthwhile.
What Went Right?
After only 6 months I already felt like giving up. But despite that, Clear-Minded Creative is still going.
This is the 150th post on the blog, each of which I’ve put a considerable amount of work into (most posts take from several hours to a full day’s work to put together) and I’ve also created and published 20 video diaries, 7 ebooks, and co-created one paid course and 10 Mountain Shores podcasts.
You’re still here
Most importantly, a loyal band of readers and subscribers have stuck with this blog through thick and thin, despite the lack of consistency (see ‘what went wrong’ for more on that).
It means the world to me to have people (many of whom have become friends) who read this blog and care what I have to say – and who have also told me they find the articles and other content helpful.
I particularly appreciate every single person who’s taken the time to comment on the blog, share posts on Twitter or Facebook, review my ebooks on Amazon or tell other people about it.
It may seem trivial or even egotistical to bring this up, but as a blogger it’s that support which makes it all worthwhile. Otherwise it’s hard to know who is reading and whether they got anything out of it. Also, if people don’t spread the word, the blog will never grow beyond its current readership.
I’ve raised approximately $2k in the last couple of years for Charity: Water and Bowel Cancer UK that I couldn’t have done without having the small platform I have here to spread the word.
There’s no doubt that being able to share my goals publicly via this blog has helped to keep me accountable in making some pretty big changes in my life, from taking the leap into self-employment to quitting alcohol for a year and running two half-marathons.
It’s always been essential for me to actually practice what I preach rather than writing generic self-help or creativity articles that aren’t based in my own experience.
Whilst this has limited the amount of content I’ve been able to produce, at least I’ve done my best to live up to my own idea of what a Clear-Minded Creative is and to change my habits so I can live by the values I hold most important.
What went wrong?
Despite all these great things, I do sometimes feel like I’ve failed to achieve what I set out to with this blog because it hasn’t grown as much as other blogs that started at the same time or have sprung up since.
It can be hard to understand why something so close to you isn’t working when it’s your own project (which is why I recommend some form of coaching or consulting to everyone) but I suspect a few things are to blame, such as the following:
Lack of consistency
The major mistake I think I’ve made was not blogging consistently and often. When I started it, I declared that I would blog twice weekly, just like Chris Guillebeau. That lasted a couple of months or thereabouts before life (and procrastination) got in the way.
Whilst I like having the freedom to post when ‘I feel inspired’ that leads to a lack of updates and of course a lot of people have gone elsewhere for the information they want rather than wait around for my sporadic updates.
I’m also disappointed that I didn’t manage to stick to my own schedule for The Career Masterplan for Mad Geniuses and get all of the microguides done in the 2nd half of 2012 as planned. The problem was that they weren’t really ‘micro’ – each one is around 8-10,000 words long, meaning that combined they will be the length of a ‘proper’ non-fiction book, and I did a lot of research, and experimenting with different ideas and methods, in order to write each.
On reflection, I’m proud of the guides I’ve produced so far and would prefer each of them be as high quality as possible rather than rush something half-arsed out into the world. So whilst I will continue to work on these at a leisurely pace, I’m determined to get them finished this year so I can finally move on to other creative projects.
Weekly posts in 2014
The beauty of having written the first four Mad Genius Guides is that I have actually produced a lot of content that hasn’t been published anywhere else online. What this means is, I can at last set up a consistent schedule for this blog in advance and publish one extract per week from the micro-guides.
During 2014 therefore, I can say with some confidence that there will be an article published every week on this blog, finally ensuring some consistency. I will also be committing to a fixed schedule for my email newsletters once I work out what the best frequency is going to be.
Lack of focus
This blog was intended to be a resource for creative people who want to fulfil their true potential both in terms of building a body of work and in finding work they loved.
Combining self-development and creativity seemed like a really good idea at the time, as I have multiple interests and didn’t want to limit myself. But the scope of this blog is probably enough for 10 separate more tightly-focused blogs – just as the topics of each of the Career Masterplan “micro-guides” could each be a separate full-length book.
When you’ve got unlimited options it can be hard to make a decision as to which one to explore next – so I’ve learnt that limitations are a very useful thing.
I’ve also realized that this blog has become more about documenting my own journey than providing useful information and resources to others, as was originally intended.
I’m still giving consideration to what that focus will be going forward but I want to take the focus off me and more on the people who have come here for help with specific problems. This ‘refocusing’ is something I’ll be working on throughout 2014.
Trying to document life in real-time
A fair lot has happened in the 3 years I’ve been running this blog, including getting married and becoming self-employed. It hasn’t always been easy to document these changes in real-time because they still felt so raw and it was too early to draw sensible conclusions.
Deciding to make The Ditch the Day Job Diaries video diaries about my first year freelancing wasn’t perhaps the smartest move. It was hard to tell the full story because I couldn’t and didn’t want to write about specific clients or the experience of working with them for the obvious reasons of legal confidentiality and out of respect.
I also didn’t want to share every self-doubt and concern I was feeling, as that would be equally unedifying for any potential or existing clients and not necessarily useful to anyone else either.
The video diaries stopped rather suddenly as I found myself in the eye of the storm of being self-employed, though I continued to record the odd one if something particularly interesting happened that I felt was worth documenting.
In the end, I felt like my Kindle book of the same name, written one year after I quit my job was a better solution – I had enough time to reflect on how the year went to be able to write as honestly as possible about it and people have said that it stood out because I also shared the downsides and difficulties of going freelance.
Looking forwards not back
February 2014 will mark the second year of being self-employed and I’ve definitely shifted in terms of my mindset from someone who’s quit a full-time job (looking back) into someone who’s trying to build a sustainable creative business/career (looking forward).
I will be recording a final episode of the Ditch the Day Job Diaries before then, and it’s possible there will be follow-up to the first ebook. As for videos in the future, well – I have some ideas about that but I will be asking for your support to help make them happen.
I didn’t showcase my business knowledge and skills enough
this blog hasn’t necessarily been helpful when it comes to my freelance business because I need to showcase my knowledge of copywriting, content strategy, and communications much more so that potential clients can clearly see that I have the expertise and experience to help them.
I did set up the Clear-Minded Copywriter site, but my client work involves much more than just copywriting now, and without regular blog posts the site wasn’t going to attract very many new visitors – which is why I’m going to be relaunching my business this year with a new website.
A lack of guest posting and other clever promotional strategies
It’s not a lack of knowledge that’s held me back in this regard as I’ve known for a while that guest posting is a good way to grow an audience for your blog – I did a fairly successful guest post for Pick the Brain back in 2010 but for some reason I failed to keep up the habit.
I think I’ve had a bit of a mental block about actually taking action and doing it on a regular basis as the work involved in creating and promoting each post felt a bit overwhelming. But that really needs to change if I’m serious about growing this blog and my business in the future. In general, I need to be a lot bolder about promotion if I want to get the audience that I believe it deserves.
Not keeping in touch
I’ve not been as good as I’d have liked at keeping in touch with friends/readers/blogging peers, both offline and online. I need to be more proactive in getting back in touch with people I haven’t seen or heard from for a while.
I’ve no idea how bloggers with large readerships keep track of everyone they get to know online as even with a small audience I haven’t managed to keep on top of this!
Coming Next: How You Can Help Keep Clear-Minded Creative Alive
So, that’s an honest account of what I’ve learnt from my blogging successes and failures over the last 3 years.
Soon, I’ll be getting over one of my biggest fears – asking other people for help – because I need your support to keep Clear-Minded Creative alive.[/color-box]
In the meantime let me know in the comments if there’s anything you would like help with in the coming year.
26 replies on “Lessons Learnt from the Last 3 Years of Blogging”
a brilliantly written, authentic, bare bones and all account of the trials and tribs of those of us who create our careers doing what we love and then shuffle along, bending with the wind… thanks milo. you continue to be an inspiration.
Aw, thanks Tori, glad you can relate to it!
Congratulations for CMC’s birthday, Milo! I agree with most of what you write, ups and downs and all. One minor comment I cannot resist to make concerns this sentence: “Being self-employed, the way I choose to spend my time directly affects how much money I earn and therefore my quality of life.”
No doubt about the relationship between time spent and money earned, but quality of life also comes from other things. As I know you know. Still, I thought this needed some highlighting here, as I feel that maintaining a blog per se – even a totally uncommercial one – can contribute to our quality of life as writers, curators and people who like to communicate online.
Whatever way you choose to take, I’m looking forward to CMC’s future! 🙂
Thanks Fabian – and quite right to call me out on that point – I wanted to emphasise the fact that how much money I earn ‘directly affects’ my quality of life as opposed to ‘entirely determines’, but I can see that the wording was a little unclear.
However I also think there’s a certain ‘baseline’ quality of life where you do need enough cash – to eat well, keep the roof over your head and pay the bills. Once you’ve covered that you can of course think about doing other things like blogging 😉
Excellent post, Milo.
Having started a blog in 2011, also, I recognise a lot of these lessons. The key for our site has been finding a formula for posting regular content that doesn’t take up all of our time and creative energy. Like you, we’re now looking at where we take our site in 2014, so look forward to hearing what your next steps are 🙂
Thanking you sir. As you know I’m very impressed by what you’ve done with Lunchquest and I’m sure you’ll have a tremendous 2014 🙂
Go Milo, I think you’re doing an awesome job and I love your blog! Here’s to 2014.
Cheers Emily! Hope we can catch up soon 🙂
Good post Milo. An honest evaluation of things so far – not easy to do. Wishing you all the best with your various ventures in 2014!
Many thanks James. You’re right, it isn’t easy to do, but it is essential to be realistic I think!
Great to hear from you, and best wishes to you for the New Year also 🙂
I think that blogging is a very personal thing and it has to work for you but I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. It gets me thinking and motivated. Good luck for 2014.
That’s really nice to hear, thanks for taking the time to comment Pete!
I agree that blogging is a personal thing, and many people do it just for enjoyment (myself included, to a large degree).
What can be frustrating is that I know quite a few people who are reading are finding it useful, but there are a lot of other people out there I could help, who don’t know this blog exists. Still, the challenge is part of what makes it fun I guess 😉
Great minds, Milo… I think you’re doing a really good job documenting and analyzing and improving your trade, which is highly useful to others in a similar space. Plus, you do it all with such wit and style! 🙂 I’m considering pulling TLT back into the wings and refocusing my online presence to be A Writer, rather than the confusing, multipod-y mix of things that’s up now. We shall see what 2014 brings… as long as it’s health and happiness, bother the details, right?
Hi Margaret, really appreciate your kind words and support as always.
Seems like a natural progression for you to present a more focused writerly web presence what with being an author and all!
At the same time it’s good to have an outlet for other passions, so maybe you could keep both going, even if one is dormant for a while. I’ll be interested to see how things progress.
And you’re right – health and happiness is what it’s all about in the end!
Hi Milo, Thanks for your honesty throughout your posts and for not giving up! I always enjoy the quality of your posts over the regularity of some other newsletters I receive, which can sometimes have a “filler” feel about them.
Sorry that I don’t often comment to show support, it’s much easier to type up on the laptop. I find that using a tablet for internet is just for consumption and not creation. Unfortunately, the tablet has been in use a lot in 2013, something I must address in 2014 – More Creation!
Wishing the Clear-Minded Creative a successful 2014.
Hi Anz, glad to hear that I’m doing something right! I hope the quality will remain despite the increased frequency. I’m always conscious not to overwhelm people, especially in their inboxes where we all receive enough messages already!
I know exactly what you mean, adding comments on a tablet or a smartphone is a pain and I’m guilty of ‘meaning to’ comment on people’s posts later and then not getting round to it. With that in mind, I really appreciate you stopping by this time 🙂
There are many things to learn from the journey.
I myself need to work on my consistency and get better at it.
Consistency will win you the race!
Thanks for the article.
Cheers for commenting Samuel.
I think consistent output is a good one to focus on cracking first. The key of course, is to get ahead of yourself and have some content stored up and ready to go.
I’ve arrived at that, and the ability to post an article every week this year by accident really, through having written the microguides.
Great post, Milo. I admire the honesty and realism you bring to this blogging lark! It is so much more human, and I’d rather you say something when you want. Rigid posting schedules can seem so … relentless.
Of course, that doesn’t help build your business necessarily, and I don’t envy you with that conflict. While growth may not have been as much as you’d have liked to see, hopefully the knowledge that you are influencing people and their habits is some satisfaction. I would like to think the people you have helped have been influenced on a much deeper level than outwardly more ‘successful’ bloggers 🙂
Keep up the good work and, as ever, I will keep reading with interest!
Cheers Paul. I agree that posting something for the sake of it is pretty pointless. At the same time, if you don’t have a consistent schedule there’s a danger of not posting for weeks on end. Quality is definitely most important though.
Yes, it’s been lovely to get these extra comments and to see that I’ve made an impact.
Really appreciate all of your support during 2013 and have been impressed with your own efforts too!
Hi Milo. The comments show that people appreciate your honesty. I’ll endorse that and add that you might think of it as a strength and not a weakness. I think many people are fed up of ‘pro-bloggers’ who appear to have everything under control & can identify much more with those of us who are prepared to admit our struggles.
I also think you are totally on the right track with your new posting idea. We have to leverage the content we have already created in as many ways as possible for it to be worth the time it takes to create it. As you’ve found, it also works the other way round – your videos that became a book – so no effort is ever lost! Keep going, I’m still reading & I now only subscribe to about five newsletters 🙂
Hey Cherry, thanks! Yeah it’s good to know that there are other humans out there 😉
Honored to be part of your top five newsletters and hope I can continue to earn my place there.
Really glad you commented as it looks like you’ve been posting some interesting articles recently and looking forward to having a read 🙂
I’m going to use a much bandied-about (website-cliche) word that might make you want to get all stabby – authentic. That’s what I like about Clear Minded Creative. You have just acknowledged life in all it’s messy glory in this post – it is reassuring to read that someone else goes up what turn out to be a cul-de-sac, or has occasionally dropped one of the oars. There are a plethora what I think of as gung-ho/smug sites – but precious few honest ones.
Carry on Milo.
I’ll take that Elaine – have been called a lot worse! Glad I’m not the only one with a gloriously messy life and modus operandus. Grateful for your seal of approval 🙂
Congratulations on beginning your second year of being self-employed and for all you have achieved.
Without you sparking my creativity, I wouldn’t have created Tullulah or ‘Mission MOM’, my current project.
Wishing you great happiness, good health and success in 2014.
That’s great to hear, thanks for commenting Poppy! Wishing you the same 🙂