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.
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.
In the meantime let me know in the comments if there’s anything you would like help with in the coming year.