Friends, today I present to you, in the grand tradition of stupid and ultimately meaningless lists generated in the personal finance genre, a list of ideal characteristics for the professional blogger top possess. I have been inspired most recently by Bankrate’s recent contribution in the form of the article entitled, Are you a natural-born entrepreneur? to make this list to prove a point; namely, that there are certainly a set of skills that it might behoove one to possess before they set out to build a business, but that the presence or absence of these skills neither guarantees success nor predicts failure at your chosen venture. Because 1) who gives a shit if you’re a natural born entrepreneur if you never make or sell anything? and 2) who gives a shit if you aren’t a natural born entrepreneur but you’ve still managed to make and sell several million dollars worth of products? Similarly, if you do not possess the skills on this list, you might have a hard time becoming a professional blogger. Or, you might just invent a really clever workaround. So here they are, the ideal characteristics of a Professional Blogger, have at them.
- Is Not Discouraged By People Looking At Them Strangely And/Or Patronizing Them. People in The Real World still do not really understand what blogging is, much less how you could make money from doing it. So when people ask you what you do for work, you’ll have to either 1) lie, or 2) endure their confused and/or patronizing responses to your answer of “I’m a blogger.” While you may understand intellectually that this is just a bias of their generation or experience, the reality of dealing with these kinds of responses can be grating, which is why I personally just say I’m a Stay-At-Home-Mom. At least that way, if they seem patronizing, I’ll know it’s because they’re a misogynist and not merely a Luddite.
- Can Hold Out For The Long Con. Even if you are working at your blog(s) with the same intensity as if it is your full time job long before it is supporting you financially, it is going to take at least over a year for your blog to gain any kind of market traction. In most cases, it will take longer than that. There are exceptions that prove this rule, of course, but for the most part you don’t want it to take a lot less time than that because building a blog as a business is just like any other company: if it grows too fast, you can have problems with retention and overhead. You need to base your business on building a hard-fought and loyal community, and it’s hard to do that without time. Most bloggers are not going to get rich off nickel and diming the AdSense: to make a real income, most bloggers will need to be in it for the Long Con of the CopyBlogger Model (not actually a con, but the metaphor works). The real money in blogging is found through consistently creating useful content over a long period of time, building trust in your audience, and making the occasional offer. Sadly, there is no shortcut to this kind of success: to be a successful professional blogger, you need to be able to wait patiently until the right time to cash in.
- Knows How To Design Websites, Is Intimately Involved With Someone Who Knows How To Design Websites, Or Is Willing To Do A Lot Of Learning. There are lots of professional bloggers who cannot code their way out of a paper bag, it’s true. And with all the great technology available to you these days with blogging platforms and awesome customizable premium themes, it is very true that you can get a decent-looking blog up and running in little time with almost know tech know-how. That said, to distinguish your blog from the eleventy billion other blogs out there just like it, it is a huge advantage to have tech skills because, like it or not, people judge the success of your site from how it looks. If it looks professionally designed, then people will assume that you have made enough money to hire a professional web designer, and therefore your blog must be worth reading. Success is like 50% perception (or some other super-scientific stastistic like that). The more you know (or can learn), the more you will be able to set yourself apart from the other bloggers in your niche. Sure, you can hire people to do this for you, but good web design and programming is painstaking and expensive, so unless you’ve got a huge start-up budget, this is unrealistic for most bloggers.
- Can Write Reasonably Well Very Quickly. Sure, old-skool journalists can write well, but what nobody tells you is how fucking long it takes them to put a story out, and how many hands have touched that story before it ever hits print. If you’re bootstrapping a professional blog, it’s just you between writing and publishing, and this can be an advantage and a disadvantage, depending on the day. There will be times where you will spend a longer period of time researching and polishing a post, and then there will be posts that go up almost immediately after you write them. How long does it take you to write? How polished is your writing after a first or second draft? Bloggers have to put out a lot of material, and they have to do it fast. It doesn’t have to be Pulitzer-caliber every time, but it has to be good without much help from outside.
- Has Slightly More Knowledge Than Average On A Variety Of Topics. Most people are not going to make it by purely personal blogging. Though there are notable exceptions, the most successful bloggers provide useful content of some kind over the course of long periods of time and get at least some of their traffic from search engines. Still, even now, most people use the internet to answer a question of some kind — be the answer to that question and you can build an audience. To do this, you need to have more information and expertise than average in at least one (but ideally two or three) different areas of interest.
- Be An Interesting Person. Even if you provide useful information on a few different topics, if you cannot bring something interesting to what you’re writing, it will be tough to maintain an audience. The idea is that you get people coming to you for their information on X topic because not only do you know what you’re talking about, you say it in an unusual or interesting way. This is how to make yourself stand out in an already saturated and boring niche like, say, personal finance.
- Can Handle Constructive Criticism Constructively, Or Convincingly Fake It. Once your blog gains traction, you will start to get criticism. Some of it is just noise, but some of it is worthwhile. You need to be open to hearing criticism and implementing it on your blog: if your audience is not getting what they need, they will go elsewhere. Listen to them.
- Can Ignore Destructive Criticism. If you think people can be assholes in regular life, just wait until you get them on the internet. The thing with negative, non-constructive criticism is that it’s not just annoying and upsetting, it’s also a potential minefield for bloggers: how you deal with it can go a long way for or against you in the eyes of your audience. Constantly complaining about it in a non-humorous way will not earn you points, and lashing out won’t either. To deal with this kind of stuff, you have to learn how to mostly ignore it, except for the occasional quip in public.
- Can Type. A corollary to the “writing well quickly” rule: you need to be able to type well and type quickly, or else you are at a huge disadvantage as a blogger. It may seem stupid or superficial, but it’s the truth. We don’t have time to hunt and peck.
- Has Access To a Decent Camera. People like pictures, and they’re more likely to read a post with pictures. The easiest way to include pictures on your blog without violating somebody’s copyright is to take them yourself. Also, using your own photography adds the more personal element to blogs that to which people really seem to respond. If you have a decent camera, start taking pictures all the time, of everything. You never know when something interesting will show up.
- Has A Copy Of Photoshop. I cannot tell you how important it is to have a copy of photoshop at your disposal if you want to be a problogger. There are just so many things you can do with it and so many ways it will make your life easier. Beg, borrow, or steal a copy if you want to be a professional blogger: you will use it as much or more as WordPress.
- Has a Basic Business Sense And Can Figure Out Good Business Moves On Their Own Without A Ton of Hand-Holding. When you’re a small businessperson, you don’t have the budget to hire a consultant to decide every move you make. People who are trying to blog professionally often get caught up in endeavors that are not going to get them anywhere. For example, it’s a good idea to do guest posts as a means of promoting your own blog. Guest posts don’t pay money, so you need to make sure you’re getting a good bang for your buck every time you do it — questions to ask yourself are: 1) do my ideal readers visit this blog that I’m considering writing for; 2) are my ideal readers likely to click over from this blog to my blog?; 3) how many people actually read this blog I’m considering writing for; 4) is the readership mainly search-related (because if so, they are much less likely to click over); etc. If you want your time to become valuable, you have to act like it’s valuable: writing for free for many different sites and ignoring your own is not the way to get ahead in blogging. Build your own URL.
What have I missed?