I reached a milestone of sorts last week. By my unofficial count, I have now written 400 HR blogs.
My blogging journey began on August 17, 2011, with the aptly named blog, “Just What The World Needs -- Another Career Advice Expert!”
That primitive first blog (207 words) started my writing journey.
What lessons have I learned over the past 8 years, 3 months, and 18 days since then?
Writing looks easy, but it is hard
From a distance, writing a blog does not seem that difficult (the same can be said about writing a book – more to follow on this). My experience is that blogging requires time, dedication, a willingness to be criticized, and a willingness to grow. From publishing a weekly blog, I have grown to respect the writers who blog daily or create long-form content on sites like Medium. As a practitioner, I now know the level of skill and dedication it takes to create something that people will want to read and share with others.
I am also learning a related lesson: Writing a book is hard – even harder than a blog. I have had a stalled book project on my action item list for over a year now. My breakthrough moment has yet to arrive, but I am pushing forward.
Curiosity is essential
My experience has shown that I need to consume a lot of content to get the ideas and inspiration for my weekly blog. I have found that subjects currently in the news have been the most interesting to my blog subscribers.
Embrace the uniqueness of being a blogger
According to Google, there are 31.7 million blogs in the USA, suggesting that bloggers are everywhere, but the truth is bloggers are not that common. Finding a topic that is worth writing about, organizing your thoughts, getting it down in written form, and finding the means to get it published require skills that not everyone has. Now try doing this every week.
Find your authentic voice
Throughout my blogging journey, I have been continually looking to establish and refine my voice. Was I going to be informative, witty, analytical, academic, or snarky? The blogs that hit my weekly news feed cover all of these areas. Much like people in creative fields like music, your long-term success will be finding your true voice. Trying to be someone else will not work.
I have found that being personal and informed works best for me. I am not trying to present myself as a leadership expert, but I can provide a researched opinion on whatever leadership issue is topical. I am also lucky I found a subject – human resources – that is interesting, diverse, and always evolving.
Stop trying to predict clicks
Blogging has proven to be a tremendous creative channel for me. Another truth: While I enjoy writing, I also need to know that others find it interesting. But while clicks, opens, comments, and shares are the blogger’s tools of the trade, we cannot become a slave to clicks, because this behavior leads to creating content designed solely to get people to open it (Five Ways to Find Romance at Work!!!).
Of course, I am human, and I still think about what response my blog will receive (including this one). But over my eight years of blogging, I have found I am not a great predictor of what the response rate for any of my blogs will be. I have written some great (by my standards) blogs that have gone nowhere. I have also written some rather ordinary blogs that for some unknown reason have received 20 X the replies of my typical blog.
Recognize that blogging is for business, but it can also be fun
When I started blogging, I felt like the tired guy in the Dunkin’ Donuts ad waking up every morning to make the donuts. Much like developing a successful exercise regimen, I learned to discipline myself by creating specific times of the day to write. I also began to relax while writing and not limit myself to word count. In the beginning, I struggled to get to 300 words for a post. Today, I have to make sure that I do not go much above 1,000 words. This change has come about because I now enjoy blogging.
I have also been careful not to be a slave to SEO and content calendars. As a marketing person, I am fully aware of the impact blogging can have to bring visitors to my website and hopefully start conversations about what solutions I can provide. Securing top-ranked search results on Google requires a keyword-focused strategy. Done to an extreme, however, it can make your blog monochromatic – boring, predictable, and something to avoid. I know that SEO is essential, but I balance it with writing content I believe the reader will find interesting.
Find a good editor
Full confession: I am not a detail person. I am also a terrible proofreader. This combination of traits has resulted in my publishing some cringe-worthy blogs full of missing words, grammar errors, and spelling mistakes. My heart sank every time I received a message from a friend politely telling me about the mistakes I made.
I made the smart decision to get help. I first installed the paid version of Grammarly. With this app, I had my first line of defense (although I am still working on my “passive” writing style). I also got an editor, the wonderful Susan Rooks (aka The Grammar Goddess), to help me get a professional version ready for release. These two resources have helped me avoid future embarrassment and sharpen my skills as a writer (an ongoing improvement project).
When I started blogging over eight years ago, I did not imagine being in this place today looking back at over 400 blogs I had written. Blogging has not made me a household name, but it has allowed me to learn and grow as a consultant leader in the HR space. I look forward to continuing to publish and also thank my readers for your time in reading what I have to say.