My Thoughts on the Future of Leaving Work Behind (And Blogging in General)
You can’t beat the rush of an epiphany.
I seem to have them periodically. The first in this chapter of my life (i.e. the “Leaving Work Behind” chapter) was back in May 2011, where I seemingly came to a decision overnight that I needed to quit my job and launch an online business.
The second was in in May 2012 when I decided that I was no longer in a rush to get rich, which was quite a revelation for someone who had grown up thinking that working your ass off and getting rich was the whole point of life.
The third was just a few weeks ago while on vacation in Turkey, where I realized that my business wasn’t performing anywhere near to its potential and that I had to implement some big changes.
That final epiphany leads me to this post. I have spent the past several days putting some serious thought into the future of Leaving Work Behind and how I can make it a more valuable resource for you, my readers.
I have concluded as follows: the conventional model of blogging is not for me and I am going to make some big changes.
The State of Blogging
The other day I stumbled across an engrossing article by a photography enthusiast named Chuq Von Rospach (spectacular name by the way Chuq). Rarely have I encountered something that was so timely and so fitting to my frame of mind — I thoroughly recommend that you read it.
In the article Chuq refers to what he considers the problem (or in fact, problems) with blogging:
- Too many keyboards chasing too few ideas.
- Too many people following “the rules” rather than the material.
- Too many short, shallow, forgettable, thin pieces of crap.
- Lots of opinions without backing facts or expertise.
I can’t help but agree with Chuq.
That may come as a shock from someone who writes blog posts for a living and has just launched a content marketing agency, but bear with me.
It’s not that “conventional” blogging in itself is redundant — it is in fact a highly effective means of attracting prospective prospects, customers and/or clients. It works. But what is effective may not be what is rewarding to write, nor is it something that I feel brings something new and unique to readers that often.
As a writer working to a schedule you cannot always be at your best. Sometimes you write something that you are truly proud of and that gets a great reception. Other times you write something not so good, or even worse, something while under the influence of ulterior motives (generally financial).
My Involvement in the State of Blogging
I have been as guilty of these shortcomings and sins as any other blogger in the past, but it stops here.
Leaving Work Behind is more than just the little accountability journal on the web that it once was. It is a source of inspiration and perhaps even a beacon of hope for a loyal group of people, either still in their jobs and working to find a way out or already in business and looking to build upon their success to date.
I will not take advantage of the trust and goodwill that I have developed over the past twenty-five months by following the established rules of conventional blogging and online marketing. No more.
Chuq puts it better than I can:
When you boil it all down, blogging today, at least as the so-called experts preach how it ought to be done, has been turned into a big marketing engine. It’s more important that it SEO well than if it’s actually well written. Or interesting. Short and punchy, and break it up into pieces posted over days, so you can get more hits and pageviews out of it. Blogging has been turned into writing daily press releases in hopes of gaining attention. It’s now a PR function, not a creative one. And frankly, most of the time, it fails miserably at that, too.
Writing stuff every day that someone comes and looks at — for 30 seconds — is pretty easy, actually. But not very fulfilling. I don’t want to write stuff that causes people to come to the site and bounce off to the next site two paragraphs later. I want them to stop and finish the piece and then pass it along to their friends to read. That kind of writing — not so easy. What I want to do doesn’t segment out well into 500 word chunks posted five times a week. I’ve tried in the past to build that cadence into my writing, and what I find it does is it pushes you into writing simple, forgettable, easily created chunks of shallow and not terribly useful words.
The other reason I’ve been wandering photography blogs like a hobo the last few months is I’ve been trying to understand how I could add to the conversation about photography out on the net and not merely repeat it. Lets be honest: nobody, anywhere, under any circumstances needs to write another blog post that tries to explain Aperture mode to a new user. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of people who’ve written about that, so if that’s your idea of useful content to write for your blog, just stop and go get your camera and go take pictures instead. The universe does not need another blog full of generic 500 word tutorials on basic camera concepts — except that if you follow the best practices experts, that’s the kind of material they tend to push you at, because it’s easy, it’ll SEO well, and it’ll drive PAGEVIEWS. Quality? Good writing? Interesting topics? Kiddo, that stuff doesn’t SEO, why waste your time?
I’m not talking about blogging as a business model; this is about blogging for self-fulfilment and for the greater good of the LWB community. I’m talking about creating a blog based upon the principles of altruism; not focused on how to get more fans, followers and subscribers.
I won’t lie to you — it is my hope that by taking this approach to my blog, it will continue to grow (both in terms of subscribers and revenue). But I am not going to sell my soul to the devil in the hope that I can make an extra few bucks.
Where Has This Come From?
I guess the issue about trust and value has been on my mind since the very first day I started work on this blog.
It has raised its head at times — such as when I first monetized LWB, when I did a couple of webinars that fell flat and most recently when I published an article on email marketing best practices.
It is a search engine optimized post that was written in an attempt to generate affiliate sales. Don’t get me wrong — I feel like I have created something of value — but it’s not the kind of piece that I get excited about producing.
That post has produced just nine comments (including my own) and zero affiliate sales. I didn’t really enjoy creating it and the lack of interest left me feeling pretty dejected.
The truth is this: I never felt “right” about publishing that post, and my gut feeling was validated by its failure both in terms of financial goals and engagement.
Is doing something unrewarding that I do not feel best serves my audience worth the potential affiliate earnings? I’ve decided that the clear answer is no. It’s the same reason why I’ve never written a post on my affiliate strategy despite having been asked a few times — my heart’s not in it. I don’t feel like a deliberate affiliate marketing strategy is “me.” It’s not how I like to operate.
The only way in which I find affiliate marketing truly rewarding is when it ties in perfectly with a topic that I want to write about — a topic in which I feel I can add value and help my readers. An example of that would be this post: How I Attracted 10,000 Twitter Followers in a Year (My 5 Step Process).
Guess what — that post was shared a load of times, received over fifty comments and resulted in a healthy number of affiliate sales. Take from that what you will.
So What Next?
I’m following Chuq’s lead:
So what I’m going to do is this. I’m going to stop blogging. Any pretense of it. I’m going to write.
I am setting out to create the world’s greatest resource for those who are interested in quitting their jobs and building successful online businesses that afford them the freedom to live as they please. I intend to do that in a manner that I am 100% comfortable with and at no point will I compromise my principles, nor will I do anything to divert my attention from that goal.
No more set blogging schedule. No more sheer volume of content in the hope of attracting more search engine referrals. No more cookie cutter blog posts. No more picking topics on the basis of what I think might rank in Google. No more writing posts in the hope of generating affiliate earnings.
Instead, I will only produce content when I believe it is truly unique and/or adds value to my readers in a way that they could not easily find elsewhere. I will be driven by a perpetual desire to help as many of you as possible to leave work behind.
In a nutshell, this means that you will be seeing less content on the blog — probably just one post per week on average or perhaps even less. But when I do hit publish on something, you will know that it is the best possible content that I can produce.
But What About Making Money?
The last thing I want to do is mislead you and make it seem like I’m presenting myself as some kind of philanthropist. Don’t get me wrong — I want to help you, but I want to make a living too. That’s where the element choice comes in for you.
Here’s the deal: the vast majority of the content on this site is free. There is over two years worth of content packaged into well over two hundred blog posts available at your fingertips right now. That number will only continue to grow. But if I create something I deem valuable enough, I will charge for it (such as I did with my freelance writing guide). I believe that to be an utterly transparent model of creating and providing value.
That won’t stop me from writing free content on the same topic (as I have done to a great extent with my considerable collection of articles on freelance writing), but if you decide that you want to pay for premium content organized and presented in a logical structure, you have the option to do so.
As a brief aside, that brings me onto the great irony of the affiliate marketing system: A system that many claim is far more “transparent” than the “salesy” techniques that so many bloggers pursue in trying to sell their products. But ask yourself this: What is potentially more insidious — someone who says, “Hey, buy my product if you want!” or someone who says, “You should buy this product — I’ll get money if you do so, but don’t worry — my recommendation isn’t biased at all.” As far as I am concerned, you should only trust someone’s affiliate recommendation if they demonstrate that they still use it and have gained positive effects from its use.
Why Blogging is a Terrible Medium for Information Consumption
I’ve got a little secret to tell: I’m not subscribed to a single blog right now.
I am on an “information diet” — I don’t read or watch the news, I don’t engage in personal social media (although I am of course still on Facebook and Twitter in my LWB capacity) and I don’t read blogs. While I still share links to blog posts from those handful of blogs that I love the most, I’m not reading them.
Why? Because when you read a blog you are taking part in the world’s greatest ever exercise of random information consumption.
The reality is this: anyone can blog and there is a lot of crap out there. Even the “best” bloggers publish a high ratio of poor to good content, because there is no real editorial oversight (after all, today’s terrible article is history by tomorrow).
Furthermore, the consumption of blog articles is largely a random act. What your favorite bloggers decide to write about, you read, leading you down paths you never chose. It’s a recipe for paralysis by analysis – one of the most dangerous conditions you can suffer from as a budding entrepreneur.
This may seem pretty crazy coming from a blogger, but I intend to be the exception to the blogging rule.
I encourage you to keep reading Leaving Work Behind, but if you feel that a post isn’t applicable to what you are trying to achieve, don’t read it. Carry on with what you’re doing. That post will still be there in the Archives if you need it in the future. I’ll be waiting if you need help with anything.
So How Am I Supposed to Leave Work Behind?
As a reader of my blog, that is the key question for you. How am I going to the promise of my tagline: “Quit Your Job and Build Your Best Life”?
All I’ll say for now is that I have a plan. A big plan. Something that I am extremely excited about. This plan will come into fruition within the next few months, at which point we could see this blog go in an extraordinary new direction.
I hope to see you there along for the ride. But in the meantime, take a mental note: Leaving Work Behind is about to change.
Who’s with me?