Leaving Work Behind

And Now For Something Completely Different

Written by Tom Ewer on March 29, 2012. 38 Comments

And Now For Something Completely DifferentI couldn’t tell you precisely what triggered it. In fact, I don’t think it was a singular event – more a cumulation of relatively minor incidents. But as soon as it became clear to me that this blog was becoming more of a chore than a passion, I knew something had to change.

And I will readily admit that writing for this blog has for the most part been more of a chore over the past few weeks. Not only that, I have been underestimating just how much time it has been taking from me on a daily basis. It’s not just writing the posts – it’s answering emails, promotion, obsessive analytics checking…the list goes on. Something had to give.

Onwards and Upwards

But fortunately, I feel that the changes I am going to make will be positive. For too long I have been trying to push this blog forward. I typically produce three posts a week, and feel guilty if I don’t. I work hard to grow my social media accounts and spread the word as much as possible.

It is only now that I realize I shouldn’t be pushing – I should just simply allow this blog to “be”. This isn’t a business – the blog makes me no money. Maybe one day it will, but if I am going to remain sane, I need to stop acting like it produces a worthwhile income, or is going to in the near future.

I need to point this blog in a new direction – a less commercially-minded one. Because at its heart, this is a personal blog – it is a chronicle of my journey from wanting to quit my job (the past), to quitting my job and starting my online business (the present), to becoming wildly successful (the planned future). It isn’t an attempt to con people out of their money and exploit the naive, as many “make money online” blogs are.

So, you can expect some changes around here folks. It might not be to everyone’s liking, but it will be real and natural, and it will keep me happy. I personally think that it will make for a better blog. Here’s what you need to know:

The last thing I wanted to do was frame myself as some sort of guru or expert, and I am determined to walk as far away from that kind of angle as possible. I claim to be an expert of nothing. To get an idea of what you can expect from me, think less “lecture”, and more “chat down the pub with a friend”.

I’m Not Going Anywhere!

None of this means that I intend to ignore my readers. If you reach out via comment, email, Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon – whatever – you can still expect a reply and my gratitude. I can’t ever see that changing. You guys are awesome.

So What Do You Think?

You have no idea how liberating it felt to write that. I haven’t enjoyed writing a post so much in ages. I hope you enjoy the new Leaving Work Behind! Please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Why Raising A Blog Is Like Raising A Child

Written by Tom Ewer on March 26, 2012. 17 Comments

Why Raising A Blog Is Like Raising A ChildHello! I am writing this post from Denver, Colorado. I am currently skiing with my family. My sister and her three kids are along for the ride. Jack is 5, Auggie is 3, and Maggie is 1.

Watching my sister interact with her children got me to thinking about building a successful blog. Isn’t the connection obvious? No? Oh okay. Well let me explain then.

Newborn

Have you ever held a newborn baby? If you have, you were probably amazed at how completely helpless they are. They rely entirely upon their parents to tend to their every need, and wouldn’t survive for very long at all if they were left alone.

A “newborn” blog is exactly the same. When you are just starting out, you have barely anything of value. A few posts perhaps, and maybe even a few readers, if you are lucky. But what would happen if you stopped looking after your blog? It would only be a few days before pretty much everyone had forgotten that it ever existed.

Childhood

At some point, a child begins to become aware of the world beyond just their parents. To an extent, they are able to start doing certain things for themselves. Their independence is of course limited, but they are essentially showing the very first stages of  adulthood, in their ability to think and reason for themselves.

There comes a point at which your blog will gain a level of traction. You will have a few readers, and a few regular commenters. But the size of your audience still remains very modest, and although you appear to have attracted a few loyal readers, they will not hang around for long if you do not continue to build your blog.

Teenage Years

Any parent will tell you that raising a teenager is a tough experience. Most teenagers are of the opinion that they no longer need their parents, and relative to their vulnerability as a child, that is somewhat true.

At some point, your blog will achieve “critical mass”. It will to an extent be self-sufficient – if you were to stop promoting your blog, people would still visit. However, your blog still has a great deal of unrealized potential, and the more effort you put into increasing your blog’s exposure, the more popular it will become.

What About Adulthood?

Blogs essentially never become “adults”. They always need to be looked after – with new content, and ongoing promotion. It certainly gets easier to run your blog as its exposure increases, but the “parenting” never stops.

If you intend to create a blog that will stand the test of time, you will have to dedicate hours of your life every week for as long as you want the blog to succeed.

The Cumulative Value of a Quality Upbringing

Parenting is a gradual process. The interactions you have with your child on a daily basis add up over time to determine his or her character. This is a double edged sword – whilst you can afford to make many “mistakes” in the way that you raise your child, if you repeat these mistakes constantly, your child may not grow up to be the person you would like them to be.

The same goes for your blog. Every post you publish, every guest post you write, and every message your exchange with your followers, all contribute towards the legacy of your blog. Whilst you can make plenty of mistakes and still build a great blog, you must be heading in the right direction most of the time.

What Stage is YOUR Blog At?

What stage would you say that your blog is at – newborn, childhood, or teenage? And do you feel that you are giving it everything it needs to mature into a successful blog? What more could you be doing? Let us know in the comments section!

5 “Must Have” Qualities for Successfully Leaving Work Behind

Written by Guest Author on March 23, 2012. 7 Comments

This a guest post by Steve Rice of True Spiritual Awakening.

5 “Must Have” Qualities for Successfully Leaving Work BehindI kinda just fell into the addiction, actually. I didn’t even know until it was too late. Entrepreneurism. It just fell into my lap.

I showed up at my buddy’s house that cold January morning ready for “work.” I had no idea what I was getting into that first day.

He led me into his basement where some folding tables had been assembled. He handed me a tablet with a list of documents written.

“Do some research and create the these documents. When you’re done, we’ll run them past legal and you can format them,” he told me.

Things like Internal Job Application Form and Drug/Alcohol Test Consent Form. I knew nothing about these things, but I did it. Creating something from nothing. I loved it.

After nearly five years with my friend’s company, I started feeling the “itch,” and I knew it was time to leave work behind.

This had been my first “real” job after graduating university, and I’ve been “leaving work behind” in one way or another ever since.

This time was different, though. I would be on my own. I was terrified because I was starting over and had no idea what I wanted to do. Then came a fateful walk on a beach in Florida.

I was there on vacation with friends and had decided to take a sunset walk along the beach. I was trudging through the sand. The sun was low on the horizon. The wind blew in off the water and the lull of the waves rolling on the shore provided a soothing cadence to which the drumming of my own thoughts marched forward.

Then it caught my eye! I looked up to my right and there, in the window of a small shack standing on stilts, was a neon sign that read: “Massage Therapy – $1/minute”.

What an awesome life, I thought. I would love to do that. Living on the beach and just taking clients in off the beach.

My heart began to beat faster. My previous thoughts were forgotten. I raced back to the beach house. I now knew what I was going to do.

After nine months, I finished massage therapy school and set out on the next phase of my adventure.

The following are five qualities that I believe are required to successfully leave work behind. Everyone is looking for a magic pill or potion that will transform them into instant success. There is no such thing!

These are not hard and fast standards; but rather, they are necessary components from which you must concoct the potion of your own unique success.

1. Have a Clear Vision

You need a picture of where you are contrasted with clear picture of what life could be for you.

But it’s not just having the vision. True vision-casting requires that you delve deeper into yourself to understand the fundamental desires driving the new vision. It is especially vital that you understand the genesis of this desire.

This is where I screwed up. I don’t want you to do the same.

I had a great “nudge” from intuition there on the beach, and once the decision was made, I didn’t waver. I moved forward without doubt. This is an important quality, but having a clear vision requires more than this.

I had been frustrated with my job for a while. As our company became more stable and our processes were developed and strong, I began to get antsy.

Instead of looking deeper at my discomfort and analyzing why I felt this way, I just began to feel trapped and frustrated. This caused me to “jump” when I felt my intuition leading me away.

In a way, I jumped without looking. This can cause your vision to become a nightmare. I was fortunate to make it through the downturns, but you’ll have enough challenges without fighting yourself. Don’t do what I did.

2. Be Clear

Once you have created a clear vision of where you want to go and how it relates to where you are, and – better yet – you have a clear understanding of “why” you desire the new vision, you will be positioned to move forward effectively.

Understanding your desires and where they are coming from will give you a very clear picture of what you want.

This step is important because it will keep you from getting into things that won’t move you toward your vision. As you create momentum in life, it’s natural that opportunities will come to you because you’re moving forward.

It’s as if you’re walking down a long hotel hallway full of doors and your vision is at the end of the hall. As you move toward your dream, you will see various doors on either side of the hallway. Unless you’re singularly focused on your new vision, you may be tempted to check out what’s behind all those other doors.

Knowing exactly what you want at the end of the hallway keeps you from turning aside into the other doors.

3. Exercise Your Creativity

When I decided to go to massage school, I didn’t have any money saved up for it. I wasn’t planning to go back to school–ever.

So I had to figure out a way to do it. I wasn’t crazy about taking on student loans. I had to use creativity and patience to get the results that I wanted.

The path you initially envision for your future is never how it unfolds in real life. Embrace uncertainty like a friend. He must become your companion on the journey. You must become comfortable hanging out with him.

I romanticized massage therapy (remember the sunset beach vision?). In reality, it was 9 months of school, four nights a week until 10 p.m. (after working all day). Then I had clinical all day on Saturday.

Every moment of it wasn’t fun, but I had a goal. I had a vision of what I wanted at the end of the “hallway.”

Harness your creativity to look for the road “less-traveled.” Like the poet stated, that will make “all the difference.”

4. Be Determined

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda was right. Determination is the key that I call “see through”. Are you willing to see your dream through to the end? Are you willing to do what it takes to create the vision of your life as you imagine it?

I wasn’t, honestly. Let me share a secret here in the middle of my story. Massage therapy was a cop out for me.

Truthfully, I was just too scared to commit myself to my “important” work – that which I was placed on the earth to do. Starting a massage therapy business was the biggest vision that my self-confidence could realistically allow at that time.

There’s a happy ending to the story, however, because I am now doing that work. It took me a few years to get here. But I made it.

You will too. Take the step you can see. One step at a time. Don’t try to tackle the whole vision at once. Go to where you can go and on the journey, build your self-confidence to be able to expand your vision of what is possible.

5. Persist!

Keep going. This is different to stubbornness. Stubbornness is what causes people to go bankrupt because they have become unbending in their beliefs of how their vision should unfold.

You must be unbending in nurturing and maintaining your dream, but you must be allow it to unfold as it does naturally. You have to be able to adapt to the reality of what life brings to you.

If your marketing plan isn’t working, you gotta get a new one, or tweak the one you’ve got until it starts to produce results.

Never give up.

BONUS: Be Flexible

Persistence overlaps flexibility when it comes to successfully leaving work behind.

Two years ago, I began writing a book. I published it myself and began promoting it. After the first few hundred copies sold (mostly to family and friends, or friends of friends), sales slumped.

I was frustrated. What I was doing wasn’t working. I had to re-evaluate. It was such a big dream that I had a hard time stopping to analyze objectively.

Eventually, I did stop and ask myself “why?”

Why did I want to write the book in the first place?

What did I hope to accomplish?

How did this book fit into my purpose? How did it fit into my “important” work.

You have to be willing to reevaluate and let go of the things that aren’t serving your purpose.

The real power comes in being able to work through the obstacles and insecurities to uncover the “magic” combination of these qualities that works for you.

It is then that you find it is not magic at all. It is passion. It is power. It is momentum.

You are on your way. Don’t give up. Don’t falter. Do it!

Steve Rice is the owner of True Spiritual Awakening.  He is an author and entrepreneur committed to creating a well-lived life and helping others to do the same by helping them bridge the gap between abstract philosophy and practical, hands-on tools which, together, create a life of momentum. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Nick J Webb

How To Increase Your Blog’s Conversion Rate

Written by Tom Ewer on March 21, 2012. 22 Comments

How To Increase Your Blog's Conversion RateI have been considering ways of adding as much value to this blog as I can, and it is difficult to ignore the rising prominence of “vlogging”. So with that in mind, I have decided to experiment with video content here on Leaving Work Behind.

Each and every Wednesday I plan to bring you a video post that focuses on one specific area of blogging, internet marketing, or freelance writing. I will provide you with actionable tips that you take away and work on immediately. No filler – just the best advice that I can give you on topics that I have experience in.

Increasing Conversion Rates

We are starting off with something that I have been working on quite a lot recently – conversion rates. More specifically, increasing the number of visitors to your blog that sign up to your email list. In the video below I recommend a whole host of tried and tested ideas that you can implement on your own blog. Enjoy!

I hope that you enjoyed my first ever video here on Leaving Work Behind!

As promised in the video, here is a recap of everything that I mentioned:

I Would Love Your Feedback!

If posts such as this prove to be popular I will be sure to do many more. With that in mind, I would love to get your feedback – constructive criticism is welcomed! Please let me know what you thought of the post in the comments section.

Why BuildMyRank Is Not The Best Private Blog Network

Written by Tom Ewer on March 19, 2012. 53 Comments

Update (27th March): literally hours after I published this post, BuildMyRank announced that the “overwhelming majority” of its blog network has been de-indexed by Google. And yesterday, RankJumpers closed its doors to new customers. I believe that this is the end of private blog networks as we know it.

Why BuildMyRank Is Not The Best Private Blog Network

BuildMyRank seems to be the daddy of private blog networks. So much so that it has temporarily closed its doors in order to “remain relevant over the long run”. By this I assume they mean that the supply of blogs they have does not match the current demand.

I know that there are some amongst you who are looking for a good alternative – the next best thing, if you will. However, I have discovered that you shouldn’t just be looking for the next best thing – I have found a better service.

The Bias of Online Product Reviews

I have always read the vast amount of praise lavished upon BuildMyRank with some skepticism. Call me cynical, but you should take any review of a product with an excellent affiliate program with a pinch of salt. However, assigning bias to a particular product because I might be able to profit from doing so is not in my nature – regular readers of my blog know that.

Anyway, in an effort to help you find the best private blog network, I took it upon myself to do some lengthy and extensive testing. This post is something I actually first mentioned doing back at the end of last year, and I finally have everything I need. My findings, based upon hard data, demonstrate BuildMyRank’s relative impotence alongside a comparably-priced product.

Details of My Study

Any study such as this is only as good as the data upon which the findings are based, so I would like to take a moment to explain what I have actually done.

I have recently worked with three private blog networks – BuildMyRank, Linkvana, and RankJumpers. For each service, I analyzed 20 posts that were all created around the end of 2011, and ascertained the following:

A larger sample pool would have of course been better, but with the results being as comprehensive as they are, I do not really see that as an issue.

To check whether or not a post was indexed in Google, I selected a proportion of the content (enclosed within speech marks), and entered it as a search query in Google. I repeated this process two more times if my search did not initially return any results.

I used this tool to check the page and domain PRs of each post.

All in all, I’m happy with the way in which I conducted my research – I think it returned reliable data.

The Shocking Results

I’m sure you are eager to discover what I found, so without further ado, here are the results:

BuildMyRank

The numbers really do speak for themselves. Whilst RankJumpers and BuildMyRank share the same percentage of indexed, live and unique links, the average page and domain PR of RankJumpers’ posts are far superior to that of BuildMyRank’s.

Linkvana is unfortunately barely even worth talking about. There were an enormous proportion of duplicate domains within the posts, the page PRs were zero across the board, and the domain PRs were very low.

Some Pointers

In fairness, BuildMyRank seemed to have the most diverse range of blog designs – most of the RankJumpers blogs were based on the standard WordPress Twenty Eleven theme. Additionally, BuildMyRank added photos and occasionally videos to the posts. Having said that, it is debatable as to whether these factors are actually of any benefit.

One thing that is interesting to note is that all three services are misleading their customers about domain PR. They all claim to own minimum PR1 domains, but all three have PR0 domains in their networks.

Pricing

Linkvana charges a flat fee of $147 for submission to an unlimited number of sites. You would have to own a considerable number of websites to make their service cost-effective, even if it were the best.

Their pricing model is completely different to that of BuildMyRank and RankJumpers, who follow a structure based upon the number of domains you want to link to. Those two services are comparably priced (with BuildMyRank starting at $59 per month and RankJumpers starting at $57.95), but BuildMyRank is slightly less expensive as you move up through the pricing brackets.

What They Had To Say

When I was carrying out this research, I decided to contact both BuildMyRank and Linkvana to see what they had to say about my findings.

BuildMyRank

I spoke with John, who I believe is the owner of BuildMyRank (correct me if I am wrong).

He claims that the service offers a historical initial indexing rate of over 90%, although he did admit that “slippage” could occur, in the region of 5-10%. Based upon my findings, he is wrong on either one of those counts (or both). My analysis demonstrated an indexing rate of just 70%. My guess is that initial indexing is perhaps in the region of 90%, but that slippage is far greater than 5-10%.

He claimed that the BuildMyRank network has an average PR of 2.5, and concluded that my findings were simply a result of “luck of the draw”. There are two problems with his argument:

  1. My findings most definitely do not indicate an average PR of 2.5. If the average PR were a little lower than the claimed amount, you could write it off as a statistical anomaly, but the actual PR is less than half of the claimed PR.
  2. He is likely basing his averages upon all posts, whether they are indexed or not – but an unindexed post is in reality a PR0, regardless of how high the actual PR is.

I decided to test his argument further by checking the average PR of the last 100 posts I submitted via BuildMyRank. The results? An average PR of 1.75 – and that is based upon the assumption that every single post was indexed (and we know they weren’t).

Either way, his claim appears to be false.

Linkvana

I spoke with Dave at Linkvana, and he had two main points to make.

The first was that my account is on the lowest “node”, which translated into English apparently means that I do not post to their highest PR network. To be perfectly honest, I consider that largely irrelevant, given the high number of duplicate domains and unindexed posts. And the question then is, how much more do you have to pay to get on a higher node, and why would you even bother when initial results are so poor?

Dave was also eager to point out that they are rolling out a “brand new system for indexing”. He claimed that they are seeing “close to 100%” in indexing rates – a bold claim indeed. But again, even if indexing rates do increase, the low PR coupled with duplicate domains cripples the gains made.

Linkvana appears to have the trifecta of what you don’t want to see in a private blog network – low PR, low indexing rate, high duplicate domains.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the evidence is comprehensive – RankJumpers is the clear winner. If you are looking to build links via a private blog network, I would recommend RankJumpers as the service to use. You can explore their site and sign up to a free seven day trial by clicking here.

Creative Commons image courtesy of vitroid