101 Essential Blogging Skills 67

Over the last few weeks I set myself the challenge of boiling an entire hypothetical meta-blog down into one post. I asked myself: if I could only write one more post about blogging, what would it be?

This was the result: 101 essential skills for any blogger, gleaned from more than seven years of observation, as well as my own experiences. I feel confident in stating that a blogger who developed all of these skills would be a formidable force indeed. Where possible, I’ve linked to an article I feel will help you develop that skill, either here at Skelliewag or elsewhere.

I hope the work that went into constructing this list has resulted in something that will be useful to you for a long time to come.

Exceptional bloggers have the ability to…

  1. Be unique. Give your readers something no-one else can give.
  2. Write dirty. Readers can’t form a relationship with information alone.
  3. Acknowledge feedback. Never let an email go unanswered, even if you write back to say you don’t have the time to answer right now!
  4. Omit unnecessary words.
  5. Weave outbound links into your content. This will add another layer of depth to what you write.
  6. Be consistent. Establish a blogging rhythm readers can follow.
  7. Be vulnerable. Get to know readers on a personal level.
  8. Recognize opportunities and take them.
  9. Keep an orderly and constructive comments section.
  10. Write captivating headlines without resorting to hyperbole.
  11. Listen to feedback, both positive and negative.
  12. Acknowledge when you have made a mistake.
  13. Have the courage to reverse bad decisions, even if you invested time, effort or money in them.
  14. Be prepared to invest considerable time into one post.
  15. Format text for clarity and readability.
  16. Write posts which can be scanned, but:
  17. Be gripping. Encourage readers to consume every word.
  18. Approach existing ideas in new ways.
  19. Recognize which blog elements are useful and which elements are clutter.
  20. Understand social media.
  21. Give without expecting to receive.
  22. Avoid self-indulgence. Blog selfishly.
  23. Stay motivated. Find a way to satisfy both your readers and yourself.
  24. Communicate with other bloggers.
  25. Do not close yourself off from competitors. Learn from them.
  26. Answer every question that comes your way.
  27. Be resilient in the face of personal attacks and criticism.
  28. Embrace simplicity.
  29. Pay attention to what others write about your blog. You can learn a lot from it.
  30. Don’t be afraid to say a lot in just a few words. Length does not directly correlate with meaning.
  31. Be ambitious. Don’t under-sell your abilities.
  32. Be audacious. Innovate, experiment, create a spectacle.
  33. Demonstrate why you’re an expert.
  34. Care about spelling, grammar and expression.
  35. Break out of generic looking themes. Be visually unique.
  36. Use stories and anecdotes effectively and to illustrate a point.
  37. Disagree with others respectfully and convincingly.
  38. Spend time constructing links into your blog.
  39. Get involved in your niche. Comment on other blogs writing on your topic and become part of the community there.
  40. Take an interest in your commenters. Respond to them, visit their blogs, offer assistance or answers.
  41. Create a navigable list of categories. 10-15 provides a balance between specificity and usability.
  42. Select images which help convey the meaning of your posts. Differentiate between images with relevance and pure eye-candy.
  43. Give credit where credit is due. It’s better to reference and acknowledge sources too often rather than too little.
  44. Provide archives. It can be disorienting not to know how long a blog has been in existence. Some readers prefer chronology to category.
  45. Carefully mind your reputation. Be conscious of the way you conduct yourself in spaces outside your blog.
  46. Develop a unique logo or icon for yourself or your site.
  47. Do more than aggregate and post links. Even if you are pointing elsewhere, make yourself and your reactions the central focus.
  48. Don’t link out to the same sites again and again. This makes it easy for readers to skip you and go straight to the source.
  49. Be honest about your shortcomings.
  50. Feed the need for self-improvement. Help your readers become better at something.
  51. If something has been said before, don’t say it again. Conveying the same meaning in different words is not new content.
  52. Build a collection of links you could use to support future blog posts.
  53. Return favors. Help those who help you.
  54. Develop a basic knowledge of HTML. You will be surprised how many opportunities you have to use it, either to tweak your template or gain control of your blog posts.
  55. Read great writing. It will lift the way you write.
  56. Write ahead. Always keep a few posts unpublished for periods of busyness, laziness, or emergencies. This will help ensure real life does not negatively affect your blog.
  57. Keep organized. Make notes of blogging to-dos, develop schedules and stick to them. You will be much more productive with a structure in place.
  58. Write guest-posts. You will be surprised at the opportunities a solid idea and a polite email can open up for you.
  59. Offer to help other bloggers. Aside from possible indirect benefits, it’s just good karma.
  60. Understand that whitespace is not wasted space. A blog full of ‘stuff’ is a claustrophobic blog.
  61. Differentiate between spam comments or trackbacks and legitimate ones. Delete trackbacks from scrapers. Don’t reward them with backlinks.
  62. Understand that you will not succeed by being a doppleganger. The harder you try to make your blog’s content resemble that of a more popular blog, the more likely readers are to head to the original instead.
  63. Make it easy for readers to submit your articles to social media, but don’t over complicate the process.
  64. Be prepared to part with widgets that do not benefit your readers.
  65. Understand the value of social proof, as well as the damage caused by its absence.
  66. Be transparent. Disclose your biases and affiliations, particularly when it comes to potential profit.
  67. Recognize when advertisements are negatively impacting on your blog. Be willing to part with or change them if necessary.
  68. Understand that there is a simple correlation between the effort poured into a blog and its quality. There is no secret to popularity; it is achieved mainly by hard work.
  69. Don’t measure your success against the achievement of goals you have no direct control over. Traffic levels, RSS subscribers and Technorati rank are all outside your control. Aim to achieve goals for which the only variable is you.
  70. Keep track of milestones. The result will be something you can look to whenever your morale is low.
  71. Understand the true worth of traffic statistics. Once you do that, you’ll realize there’s no benefit to be had in checking them more than once per day.
  72. Don’t sit in your blog’s email account. Check it once in the morning and once at night. If you are not sticking comments in moderation you can cut this down to once per day.
  73. Strike a balance between blogging and real-world commitments. Don’t sacrifice what’s important for the sake of your blog, as this is a surefire way to cripple your motivation in the long-term.
  74. Brainstorm ideas in advance. Don’t think of a topic as you stare at the blank screen. Make the most of times when you are inspired and develop a catalog of post ideas you can browse as soon as you have the time to write.
  75. Ignore tradition. Don’t be hampered by established ideas on what a blog, or a blog in your niche, can be.
  76. Overcome the taboo against banning commenters, if necessary. Most of us, thankfully, will never have to consider this, but some will. If a commenter is doing nothing but making your comments section a horrible place to be, or continuously bothering you, be willing to reject their comments. The belief they have in being able to say whatever they want is not worth more than the happiness of you and your readers.
  77. Focus on what you’re good at. You will gain more by utilizing your strengths than trying to develop weak skills into something half decent.
  78. Recognize that most ideas are simply new combinations of old ideas.
  79. Learn from other bloggers. Ask questions of those you admire.
  80. Read blogs outside your niche. They will teach you new ways of doing things.
  81. Read feeds quickly and efficiently. This will allow you to extract the maximum amount of information in a minimum of time.
  82. Be a source of solid knowledge. Before presenting something as true, make sure you have verified the facts.
  83. Don’t focus on generating links at the expense of value. Lately I’ve seen a number of blogs hold contest after contest. The bloggers were so busy promoting them that they stopped creating actual content! You are not moving anywhere if, for every new reader you gain, an existing one becomes disillusioned with your blog.
  84. Use numbered headlines in moderation. Too many can fatigue readers and decrease their impact.
  85. Avoid making unsupported claims. If you pull statistics out of the air for the sake of grabbing attention, readers may become skeptical about your honesty.
  86. Choose the right words. You don’t need to be Hemingway, but putting effort into the way you express yourself will pay off.
  87. Suggest, don’t command. There is a difference between giving advice and presenting what you write as the be all and end all. I have seen a number of bloggers giving advice while simultaneously implying there will be negative consequences for not following it (you will lose lots of subscribers, for example). Be aware that you are not the supreme authority on how things should be done, because readers certainly will be.
  88. Be involved with your commenters. If you don’t have time to respond to each comment, at least acknowledge those who’ve put significant effort or thought into their responses. There is nothing worse than spending time on something only to have it ignored.
  89. Allow readers to search your blog. A search bar is incredibly easy to implement and the result is a powerful tool for your users.
  90. Be aware of SEO, but don’t let it control you.
  91. Get involved in a forum relevant to your topic. This is a simple way to build your public profile and promote your blog. It’s enjoyable, too.
  92. Don’t go on hiatus or ‘take a break’ from blogging. Many bloggers experience times when their passion for blogging wanes. Rather than going on hiatus commit yourself to low-intensity blogging for the duration of the slump (links, short posts, and so on). Many blog readers see the word ‘hiatus’ or ‘break’ as a euphemism for ‘I’ve given up blogging’. A few easy posts here and there will show them that you’re still thinking about the blog.
  93. Weigh up effort required vs. reward. Your time is precious, so be mindful to use it on the tasks which provide strong returns. For example, five guest posts on new blogs is unlikely to yield the same rewards as a single guest post on a highly trafficked blog.
  94. Bring the most important details to the top of your About page. Your credentials should come before anything else, because this is what new visitors to your About page are most interested to know.
  95. Subscribe to your own feed and make sure it is in good health.
  96. Chat to your readers. Allow them to add you to Gchat, or to your instant messenger service of choice. You can develop a more solid relationship in five minutes chatting than you can across a series of emails.
  97. Be inventive with how you promote your blog. Brainstorm new strategies for generating inbound links, though you should always ensure they are ethical.
  98. Be observant. When you see content which has become popular, ask yourself why. Consider how you could adapt these characteristics to the content you create.
  99. Ask questions of your readers. It is difficult to give your readers what they want when you don’t know what that is. Don’t spend hours trying to guess what that could be. Ask them! Most of the time they will be more than happy to tell you.
  100. Avoid being stubborn. If you consistently receive complaints or negative feedback about an aspect of your blog, consider scrapping it — regardless of how dear it is to you.
  101. Murder your darlings. Not everything you write will be great. Not every word or paragraph you commit to the screen should be kept. Learn to mercilessly cut out writing that is sub-standard, even if it means scrapping an entire post and starting again.

The Best of Skelliewag in 2007 202

A lot of new readers have joined the Skelliewag community in the last few months. I thought the general trend of ‘Best of 2007′ lists would be a nice way to remind both recent and long-time readers of this year’s highlights. Unfortunately, this list can’t be a true ‘Best of 2007′ round-up because Skelliewag is only five months old — but I’ll do my best!

If you’ve ever wanted to spread the word about this site, this post might just be a good place to start :-).

25 Headline Formulas That Have Plagued and Blessed Web 2.0 143

Headlines can make or break a story. With thousands of different articles vying for our attention, web users can afford to be picky.

In an ideal world we’d give articles a fighting chance to prove their worth, but in truth, unless we have pre-existing faith in the author, we often make the decision to read or ignore before our eyes have reached the end of the headline.

Web writers have only recently, it seems, started to realize the crucial importance of the headline. The ascendancy of the headline has been one aspect of Web 2.0 culture which hasn’t received the attention it deserves.

This post is a tour of the key web headline formulas being used today. Some will inspire you, others will make you cringe. All of them are sourced from real examples.


1. The destined for Digg

More than half of Americans – 56 per cent – say they’re not proud of the country 

2. Because headlines and context don’t mix

‘Microsoft sucks’, says top blogger 

3. Is that a threat?

Warning: People are Ignoring Advertising. But They do Read News. 

4. The love it or hate it number + text combo

3 Painful Ways You Lose Money Every Month

5. Bait for the curious

What’s the scariest fish in the Amazon? Hint: It’s not the Piranha. It’s far, far worse. 

6. The delayed number + text combo

Grip Your Readers With These 7 Knock-out Opening Sentences 

7. The only slightly less loathed/loved ‘written’ number

Five Tips for Stealthy Facebooking 

8. The not so secret anymore

Five Secret Strategies to Add $1 Million in Revenue 

9. The number + assertion of superiority

Top 10 Wi-Fi Boosts, Tweaks and Apps 

10. The savvy linkbaiter

45 Excellent Blog Designs

11. The resource list you’ll bookmark and never look at again

40+ Free Fonts for Professional Design

12. The hook, colon, describe

Quitting the Day Job: Finding the Guts to Pursue Your Dreams 

13. The sensational claim only a member of the blogerati could make

The Web 2.0 World is Skunk-Drunk on its Own Kool-Aid

14. The splogger’s magnum opus

Welcome to the World of the Slim People

15. The subjective masquerading as objective

TIME: The Best Photos of 2005

16. The wild promise

How to Amaze Your Friends and Family With Your Eerily Accurate Psychic Readings 

17. The search-term as headline

How to Hack an iPod 

18. The keyword stuffer

Monetize Your Blog With These Ways to Make Money Online Monetize Your Blog 

19. The troubling question

Are You Prepared for a Blogging Emergency?

20. The amateur philosopher

Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture 

21. The harsh call

Most People Are Depressed For a Very Good Reason 

22. Google + intrigue = traffic

Dr. Google Sends Pain Relief 

23. The mysterious premise

5 HTML Elements You Probably Never Use (But Perhaps Should)

24. The self-improver

How to Become a Vegetarian, the Easy Way 

25. The appeal to our fear of failure

Do You Make These Mistakes When You Write?

The Definitive Guide to Choosing a Topic for Your New Blog Part 1 1079

Many things go into building a house before the first drop of concrete hits the soil, and before the first brick has been laid down. Surveyors pore over a prospective construction site and take measurements, confirming that there’s enough space for the construction, and that the ground is steady. They consider the surroundings, the views, and other environmental factors long before the building tools leave their pouches.

If you’re thinking about launching a new blog (or your first ever blog) I want to suggest that you should approach choosing its niche in much the same way.

The niche you decide to join will play a significant role in shaping the content you create, the people you communicate with, the readers you gather and how you reach out to your target audience.

If you want to start a blog in a very small (or possibly empty) niche, you’re going to have a very different experience to someone starting a blog in a big niche, like gadgets – a very popular blog topic. It’s worth being mindful of this before you start transporting your blog from concept into reality. Like a surveyor at a building site, carefully testing for firm ground and acceptable surroundings, it’s essential that you start to think about the space your blog is going to occupy.

It’s a Tough, Important Decision

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to think about the interplay between your blog and its niche:

Blogs in small or empty niches are challenging to get going. This is because, in the beginning, it’s very difficult for people to find your blog. Search engines are unfamiliar with it, so they’re unlikely to send much traffic your way. Because people haven’t found it yet, they can’t go on to link to it. Furthermore, if people aren’t visiting, you won’t receive votes from visitors on social media services like StumbleUpon and Digg. Links, search-engines and social media are the three ways a new visitor can find your blog. Obviously, it’s essential to get links, appeal to search engines and receive social media votes, but if nobody can find your blog to begin with, there’s nobody around to create links, or share social media votes. Except, of course, you.

It’s Up to You

When you first launch your blog, expect to be a one-person promotional army. You’ll need to find inventive ways to start directing visitors to your blog – usually by laying down links on other blogs, websites and forums frequented by people in your target audience.

Sometimes, though, it seems like there are very few such websites. Self-promoting in a very small (or possibly empty) niche is tough. There are few places where you can create links, and they may not be frequented by many people. A link doesn’t count for much if nobody ever travels through it.

Before you toss away your small niche blog concept and let out a sigh of disappointment, be reassured that launching in a small/empty niche is not an unbeatable obstacle. Better yet, if you do succeed, you may be up for some incredible benefits. Just because there are few quality blogs targeting the same audience doesn’t mean that there isn’t an audience to be found. You might find that there is an audience, that they’ve been waiting for a blog just like yours, and that when they do discover it, they’ll come in droves.

One thing to be mindful of, though, is whether your blog’s concept is going to be self-limiting. If you’re writing a blog for yodelers, you may only be able to grow so big before you reach a natural ceiling: that there are only so many yodeling blog readers out there. This doesn’t matter so much if you enjoy blogging for a small community, and want a stronger connection with a smaller group of readers. But if your goal is to build an insanely popular blog by anyone’s standards (not just the standards of your niche), it’s worth considering whether your blog’s focus will limit you in that goal.

Potential Rewards, Potential Drawbacks

In a crowded niche, it’s easy to start, but hard to stand-out. A new blog in the marketing niche would have no trouble gathering an initial rivulet of visitors, for example. It’s easy to spot your target audience, and there are plenty of highly-trafficked places to create enticing links for them to follow (most bloggers start by leaving comments on other blogs, with links back to their own blog). A blogger’s first challenge in this situation is finding a way to be something other than ‘just another new marketing blog’. If visitors who come to your blog perceive it as having nothing new to offer them, they won’t stick around – and if you’re losing as many visitors as you gain, you can’t grow. It’s like pouring sand into a funnel at the same rate you let it spill out.

But, just like the experience of founding a blog in a small niche, the initial challenges can give way to some impressive rewards. The fact that your niche is crowded means that there is a big audience available. If you can establish yourself as one of the best in your niche, your audience may end up bigger than you could have imagined. That being said, the more competition you have, the harder it is to be the best.

To help you decide whether starting in a small or crowded niche is the right choice for you, I want to provide some advice on what you can expect your day-to-day promotional routine to look like, depending on which path you choose.

I’d also suggest that you read the routine twice. The first time, when you’re still finalizing your blog concept and want to be clear on what you’re getting yourself into. The second time, when you’ve debuted your blog to the public and published your first batch of posts. At that point, I hope the list will help you optimize the way you promote to best suit the niche you are in.

Part 2 of this series shares the list and focuses on how to grow your blog when there are already lots of other blogs on the same topic. How can you stand out and succeed?

19 Strategies to Help Turn New Visitors into Loyal Readers 109

Yesterday I wrote about loyal readers and how they can be a key factor in your blog or website’s growth. Today’s post provides 19 answers to the question: how can I help new visitors become loyal readers?

Each point is not necessarily a complete answer in itself, and is best used in tandem with several others. The stronger the connection you make with a new visitor, the more likely they are to keep your site firmly planted in their memory.

How many of these strategies are you already using? How many more could you build into your approach?

The value of each loyal reader

  • dozens to hundreds of visits
  • much more likely to link/recommend you
  • takes your recommendations more seriously
  • more likely to buy your product or service

How can we build loyal readers?

  1. Welcome new commenters. You could keep a document of users who’ve commented on your blog and add to it as comments appear. When you encounter a name you’re not sure you’ve seen before you can word-search the document for the user and quickly now if they’re a new commenter or not. Take the time to welcome them to the community.
  2. Answer commenter questions. Sometimes they will seem off-topic or difficult to answer, but it’s worth giving it a shot. Few interactions leave a more lasting impression on a person than being helped by someone else.
  3. Thank those who thank you. All of us will, at some point, be lucky enough to be on the receiving end of kind words delivered via comments. It’s important to acknowledge these — even if it’s just to say thanks.
  4. Don’t neglect frequent commenters. Part of building a loyal readership is maintaining those who are already part of that readership base. Continue to engage with regular commenters as much as possible.
  5. Encourage RSS subscription. Few readers are more loyal than those who get your content instantly delivered to their feed reader. In order to help the process along, I’d suggest advertising your feed in the first screen of your site and beneath each post on its single post page. I’m not sold on those ‘Please subscribe to my feed’ banners that often appear above the first headline as I think they may interrupt the reader’s attempt to engage with the content.
  6. Check the formatting on your feed. Perhaps this is something everyone does already out of vanity but I do suggest subscribing to your own feed. This will allow you to see when something isn’t working or displaying properly. If it’s a frequent problem, it may cause some of your subscribers to drop your feed.
  7. Answer every email you get. Sound impossible? What if that answer were only ‘Sorry, I don’t have the time to get back to you at the moment, but I’ll do so as soon as possible.’ Not hard — you could even cut and paste it. The worst thing an emailer can experience is the feeling of being ignored, particularly when it took time to compose the email. Simple acknowledgment can put you ahead of many other bloggers and webmasters in this area.
  8. Solve problems/answer questions via email. Sometimes a reader will contact me with a tricky question or problem that would take me at least 10 or 15 minutes to answer. My first reaction might be: I don’t have that much time to spend with one person. The second stage of my reaction, however, is to think: what if doing so will help them towards becoming a loyal reader? When you think of it like that, it’s not hard to make the effort.
  9. Get to know readers personally. Chat to them via your IM of choice, use social media together, or meet up for coffee if you’re in the same area. A personal connection will always prove stronger than an informational one.
  10. Acknowledge the web presence of those readers who have them. If a reader with a blog or website comments, go and visit it. Leave a comment, or send them an email if you enjoyed the site. Make reference to it in comments. Subscribe to their feed. The reader is acknowledging your web presence and they will surely appreciate it if you engage with theirs.
  11. Thank/friend those who vote for your articles on social media. This practice, aside from being good karma, is a great way to attract one-time social media fans back to your site. They may have enjoyed your content enough to vote it up, but perhaps took the article for what it was and moved on to the next thing. A kind thank you email or message can remind them that the site is still growing and you have more to offer.
  12. Give new visitors something to remember you by. Just like you might remember a friend each time you glance at the gift she bought you, giving new readers something to remember you by is a means to keep your site in their memory. Some suggestions: offer a free service (depending on where your skills lie), a free eBook, plugin, digital image, printable cheat sheet, etc. Publicize it towards the top of your site, in plain view.
  13. Stick to your core topics. Too many topics will mean that, unless the site is mainly about you and your personality, for every person you please you will be boring ten others. If you do need to write on diverse topics it could be wise to assign them to certain days, so uninterested readers can skip them. (See it: Zen Habits).
  14. Don’t let competitions be replacements for your site’s content. A good competition runs alongside and does not interrupt the normal functioning of your site. If it does, think of all the readers who have not entered and will not win prizes. Your site may be getting inbound links (of dubious clickability, often), but what about all the loyal readers who are no longer getting the same amount of value from your site?
  15. Publish on certain days, at certain times. If you’re struggling to write five posts a week, for example, cut it down to four, or even three. Consistency and quality is more important than frequency. In fact, post frequency doesn’t matter anymore. A consistent publishing rhythm will stop readers loading up your site only to find nothing new there.
  16. Make every article remarkable, and cut out filler. Will new readers remember your site if the first article on the page is a ‘thank the sponsors’ message, or a conventional links round-up? Filler posts might seem harmless, but they effectively mean that new visitors who come to your site when such posts are in the spotlight will have few reasons to remember it. What if every post your wrote was remarkable — even if you had to post less?
  17. Put your loyal readers in the spotlight. If you visibly treat your loyal readers well it helps make the ‘loyal readers’ group a better place to be. Which user has commented on your site, more than any other? Send them a gift today — a DVD, CD, a consultation voucher, or whatever’s appropriate — as long as it says ‘thanks’. Write about it, so other readers know how much you value loyal readers. Assemble a round-up of your favorite comments for the month. If your readers have blogs or websites, link to them.
  18. Write dirty. Humans form attachments to personalities more strongly than they do information. Put yourself in your writing and people will start to care about you and what you write. After all, there’s a reason you find your best-friend’s cat blog far more fascinating than someone who doesn’t know them would.
  19. Connect with new commenters via social media. Add them as a friend, send them a message thanking them for stopping by. Even better, vote up one of their best articles. Social media offers us an opportunity to do real, meaningful favors for others by giving them what they most want: traffic.

9 Things That Drive a Blogger Crazy 229

I like blogging, but there are a few things about it that drive me a little crazy.

Maybe you can relate?

1. Your daily traffic plummets
Links and social media votes dry up and so does your incoming traffic. It will rarely disappear completely, but if you’re like me and don’t get a lot of search engine traffic, a bad day can see half your usual visitors fail to show up. Remembering one thing can help you avoid letting this get you down: it’s completely normal. They say traffic comes in waves, and it behaves like them too: every blog and website will experience periods of high and low tide. Your main concern is long-term trends and monthly averages. Are you getting more traffic, overall?

2. Your subscriber count fluctuates up and down
This drove me crazy in the first few months of SKW’s existence. What could I have possibly done to make 50 people unsubscribe? A few months later I learned how Feedburner determines its subscriber count. Rather than a holistic total number of subscribers, Feedburner gets figures from each feed reading service, some of which base subscriber numbers on the number of times your feed was read rather than total subscriber numbers. That’s why your feed count tends to drop or stagnate over weekends, and spike a little the day after you’ve posted.

Looking at day-to-day counts is fun, but looking at graphs for the last few weeks and ‘all time’ is more useful to identify long-term trends and whether you need to be trying harder.

The graph below is the ‘all-time’ graph for SKW, with my, err, narration. Oprah has ‘Ah-ha’ moments, I have ‘Uh oh’ periods, also known as plateaus. You can see that most plateaus are followed by a steep spike where I put a redoubled effort into the blog to get things moving again.

Skelliewag's all-time feed graph.

3. The thought of updating WordPress
This seemed pretty scary to me for a long time, but it’s actually not that hard. I’d suggest using an FTP program to download a copy of your uploaded files on to your computer as back-up, and if you’re really paranoid, you can back-up your database (which includes all content and comments). I used MYSQL GUI Tools to do this. Not because you should expect anything to go wrong, but you’ll probably be less stressed during the process if you know you have a back-up.

Skellie’s thirty-second how to upgrade WordPress guide:

  • De-activate your blog’s plug-ins.
  • Open the .zip file for the version of WP you want to upgrade to.
  • Cut the WP-Content folder and wp-config-sample.php from the .zip file and Paste them to your Desktop.
  • Save the .zip file and double-check those files are gone, then upload the .zip to your blog’s root directory, unzip and overwrite the files on your server with the files from the .zip.
  • Upload the contents of folders wp-contentplug-ins and themes into the same folders on your server, but not the folders themselves. Uploading the folders will overwrite your theme, plug-ins and any customizations you’ve made.
  • After you’ve done that, visit this URL immediately and finish the process:http://example.com/wordpress/wp-admin/upgrade.php

4. Plateaus
Your stats and subscriber count seems to freeze, producing the same results day-in, day out. Plateaus are one of the main reasons I suspect bloggers decide to give up. When your actions produce no results, it’s easy to wonder why you’re bothering at all.

While this mind-set isn’t hard to slip into, you should always remember that plateaus are a normal part of growth. If you look at the ‘all-time’ graph for SKW’s subscriber count above, you can see some major plateaus, even some dips. They do end eventually, as long as you interpret a plateau as encouragement to work harder, rather than ease off the accelerator, or worst of all, take a hiatus.

5. You finally get Dugg… and your blog goes down
The first time SKW got Dugg the server took it like a slap to the face: the blog was down for 24 hours and connections were severely limited for some time after (sorry about that, to those who remember). If your blog hasn’t been on the front page of Digg before, there’s one major positive: you have time to install and enable the WP-Cache plug-in, which will allow your WordPress blog to survive a stint on the front page even on a shared hosting account.

6. The odd nasty comment or insult
It happens. In fact, there are only two variables guaranteed to increase as your blog grows: email and nasty criticism. I appreciate constructive criticism a lot, but criticism with the intention only to hurt was always something that played on my mind. My skin has become thicker over time, though, with the help of the following methods.

  1. If the comment goes into moderation, delete it. You’ll find that most of those who leave nasty comments are first-time, hit and run visitors, and if moderation is turned on you’ll have a chance to nip the problem in the bud. I think of it like this: my blog is my property, and so is my house. If I wouldn’t let someone say it in my house, I won’t let someone say it on my blog.
  2. Respond only once. There’ll be some situations where the criticism is published in public, either on your own blog or another blog. The key things I’d suggest are: a) don’t respond straight away, b) make sure your comment is shorter than theirs, c) respond rationally and professionally, rather than emotionally and d) don’t give them something to argue with. In other words, if someone says your blog sucks, you shouldn’t list all the reasons why it doesn’t. Instead, you could respond with: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” They can’t argue with that, so it short-circuits the argument. It also creates the impression that you’re completely unbothered by their comment. I’d only break rule d) if someone says something libelous, in which case you should correct them.
  3. Ignorance is bliss. Nasty comments can’t bother you if you never read them. I don’t read Digg comments, I just enjoy the traffic. If a post I write elsewhere elicits a nasty reaction from some people, I’ll give my defense and then stop reading comments on the post. Unlike constructive criticism, nasty criticism has negative value — it’s only purpose is to unsettle you. Once you’ve said your defense, there’s no reason (or obligation) to expose yourself to more of it.

I’ve also written in more detail on dealing with criticism.

7. Not enough time
If there were ten of me, I would have started twenty blogs instead of two. Anyone who takes blogging seriously will have felt that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things you’d like to do. I’m not sure there’s a cure for this. I suspect it’s the inevitable result of ambition and inspiration meeting with its arch-nemesis, reality. You can make the problem a little better, though, by cutting the fat from your blogging routine.

8. Blogger’s block
I wrote this post five days ago, relative to the time you’re reading it. I write all my SKW and Anywired posts on Fridays, in one batch of about 10,000 words. Blogger’s block is the reason I spent most of the morning watching YouTube videos!

Ideas are fickle things. Sometimes they come in spades, sometimes they take time, other times you can look back on a pool of ideas you thought were fantastic three days ago and see no merit in them now. My strategy is to devote at least one hour a week to inspiration and brainstorming. Ideas tend to be sheep — once you get one, others usually follow — but you need to give yourself enough time for the trickle-down process to occur.

My favorite posts on SKW dealing with this topic are:
Top 20 Ways to Come Up With Amazing Ideas (written by Leo Babauta)
110+ Resources for Creative Minds

I also loved Darren’s post on how he comes up with so many ideas: Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas For Your Blog with Mind-Mapping. I thought idea-drought would be an issue for someone who writes dozens of posts a week but when I asked him about it, it turns out that he actually has too many ideas. Sucks to be him, right? 😉
9. When it feels like you’re shouting into a vacuum
Anyone who’s started a blog from scratch has experienced (or might still be experiencing) this feeling. No-one comments on your post, or votes for it, or links to it. You wonder if anyone actually read it. You wish you could have used the two hours you spent writing it to go out to dinner with someone you’re fond of instead.

Well, all is not lost. Sometimes a post doesn’t blossom until a few months after it’s been published. Search engine traffic might start trickling in. You can also link to under-appreciated posts in future and help it receive comments and votes that way.

The problem is more troubling when it’s long-term. If your posts consistently seem to be getting no reaction, I suggest you use SKW’s search bar to look for ‘the five barriers to success series’, which will explain why this might be happening, and what you can do about it.

Transforming your Blog into Really Big Business-556

The idea of blogging as a source of passive income has always seemed a little off to me (and others). In fact, I’d suggest that most bloggers earning significant money from blogging devote as much time to it as a part-time or full-time job. That’s not as close as we can get, though: passive income should be just that, passive, meaning income for no hands-on work, or income that is hugely disproportionate to the hands-on work required.

If you’re writing blog posts each week, moderating comments, answering email and trying to propel your content forward on social media, you’re not earning passive income. You’re still exchanging time for money.

I’m also skeptical about people who claim to earn passive income from dozens of small niche, SEO and AdSense optimized blogs. Despite some question marks about the value being provided to visitors, I’m also not sure this is passive income, either. Most of those maintaining dozens of these blogs do seem to spend a lot of time on them! Darren Rowse has said it can be a full-time job and more.

The precedent

The above scenarios show bloggers running their blogs in a traditional small-business style: cutting costs by doing everything themselves. The only way to create genuinely passive income is to flip this model on its head and remove yourself from the equation.An inspiring real-life example of this is the entrepreneur Derek Sivers (who runs an amazing blog, despite stolen Favicon… tsk tsk), who created a hugely successful music service in CDBaby.com. However, Derek wanted more time to share his marketing knowledge with musicians and travel as he did it. After working long hours, seven day weeks and sleeping in his office, Derek decided to re-invent his life by removing himself as much as possible from CDBaby.com. He still owned the company, was still profiting from it, but he hired someone to do all the hands-on work for him. Assuming this resulted in work commitments being cut down to just a couple of hours a week–enough to keep the company humming along smoothly on autopilot–he had created a genuine source of passive income.

I have no idea how much the owner of something like CDBaby earns, but I’m guessing the total amount was initially less than what he would have earned doing everything himself. After all, you have to pay people to replace you. I’m also guessing that pay-cut became a phantom compared to huge percentile increase–probably over 1000%–in time he freed up to enjoy the money he had (by riding around Vietnam on a motorbike, for example). Someone else might have used the time to start up yet another entrepreneurial venture and repeat the process again.

Real passive income, not delayed rewards

Let’s look at how we could translate this scenario into what we are all in the business of: blogging. The end point is to own a blog that you can run like big business: hands-off, by employing others to do your work and taking the left-over profits.

If you start out half-way there by employing writers for content creation but managing the blog personally (answering email, promoting and so on) you will initially run at a loss, which might be $250 a week if you are publishing one feature article each week-day. If you take yourself out of the equation completely from the beginning, that loss will run deeper, as you’ll need to cover the cost of a manager. This isn’t something to be overly afraid of: the same goes for any business–small or large. You should be comfortable with running at a loss initially, and be careful to ensure the blog moves out of the red as it grows. After all, entrepreneur literally means someone who is accountable for both outcomes and risks in the business they own.

Alternately, you might choose to run the blog on its own profits alone if you don’t have available capital (or aren’t willing to put it at risk). This model might see you follow a classical small business trajectory, wherein you start off doing everything and gradually reinvest your blog’s earnings into replacing yourself. You might start off writing five articles a week, then four, then three, then two, then one, then none, paying for staff writers from your blog’s earnings. When you have enough left over from paying staff writers you could then promote one of them to an editor role: someone who will manage the other writers, answer email, moderate comments and keep the blog running smoothly from day to day.

Regardless of which route you take, either re-investing profits or starting with seed capital, the end point to aim for is to assume a ‘director’-type role, where you spend a couple of hours a week checking in with the editor and providing feedback and instruction. If you’re brave, you might relinquish this role to someone who knows your vision and can limit your involvement to a weekly progress report. If your bank balance is climbing at the rate you hoped for, then you have no reason to be any more involved than this.

To reach this point, though, your blog will have to be successful and well trafficked. At a minimum content will cost $200 a week. An editor will cost another $200, at the least. To turn a profit, your blog will need to be making at least $400 a week, or about $1600 a month. This is equivalent to six banner ads costing about $270 a week each. Your blog doesn’t need to be in the Technorati Top 100 to reach this kind of level, but you will need either a) around 300,000 page views a month, or b) a niche that encourages the spending of money (it will either be highly productized or read by those who’re willing to spend money to make it). Niches that create a higher ROI for advertisers mean that you can charge more for your advertising impressions, even if you have less traffic.

Once you have on blog running passively in this way, you can start another, and repeat the process. The two key elements of success here are, firstly, your own savvy for creating popular blogs, and secondly, your sense for good people and good content. You shouldn’t abide an editor who lets your blog stagnate, or a writer who rarely receives more than a lukewarm response. Work with them to rectify the situation, or find someone else: either way, never let yourself become complacent.


Photo by wannes deprez / ony one.

If you’re interested in running a big business model blog, here are some principles to keep in mind:

  • Small niches probably won’t work here unless you’re selling an expensive product or service. If you’re relying mainly on advertising, you need to have broad appeal (which = good traffic). This isn’t to suggest you blog about ‘business’ or ‘technology’, but rather that you don’t blog about super-specific topics.
  • Always think about ways to weave in income streams that go beyond advertising. This includes job boards, eBooks, products, subscription-only content, courses and video seminars.
  • If you earn most of your profit via privately negotiated advertising based on page views, search out and treasure writers with a knack for social media optimized content. You don’t necessarily have to charge advertisers for social media page views, but charging the same price for more traffic can make your advertising plans much more attractive.
  • Your writers are the lifeblood of your blogs. Eventually you will want your editor to handle the hiring and (if necessary) firing of them, but initially you will probably be in charge of putting a writing team together. Scrimping on your authors is like scrimping on fresh ingredients in a restaurant–it only lowers the quality of your product.
  • The best writers are people who run their own flourishing blog. You should also look to have a social media maverick amongst them: someone who knows how to write headlines that kill.
  • You should pay a minimum of $30 for a 500 word article, and at least $50 for a 1,000 word article. A good strategy is to work out your pricing based on a minimum rate or more. I think $50 posts that are 750 words or more is perfect if you’re publishing long-ish feature posts.
  • Don’t always look for the cheapest deal. If an author is asking for $75 or $100 per article it probably means they’re receiving a lot of offers and can afford to have you say no–which probably means they’re also bloody good. Don’t be afraid to pay more for writers with that certain star quality.

Most important of all is this: treat your blog like a real business. Invest money in it. Hire a good consultant, hire a marketer, get a professional design and logo. If you want to play it safe, only re-invest what you earn. Fundamentally, though, the old saying is as true here as it is anywhere else: you have to spend money to make money. Business owners who boast about their miniscule expenditures are probably only talking about money: usually, they trade time in its place. Sadly, they don’t believe their time is worth anything. The web is at the forefront of a new culture that says time is infinitely more valuable.

***

Those of you who read Skelliewag regularly will know that I usually don’t talk about business here. Those of you who read Anywired will know I usually do talk about business there. The truth is pretty simple: I like weekends. I don’t think it’s possible for me to work full-time, have weekends and do everything on two blogs with time left over to focus on other entrepreneurial projects–at least, not in the long-term. My aim is to transform Anywired into the kind of big business model outlined above, though initially I will start off doing everything and then begin to use advertising revenue to find writers and, eventually, a manager (though I still want to write one or two posts each week for fun).

The new Anywired is going to be related but significantly different to what it was before. The old Anywired will be absorbed into Skelliewag, so that I have the freedom to talk about online business, time-minimal income, entrepreneurship and marketing alongside blogging and social media (though all the content will still be written for bloggers). Will this become another ‘make money online’ blog? Definitely not. I’m not really interested in AdSense and affiliate programs, but in using blogs to support and fuel your entrepreneurial projects. In the mean-time, I’ll let you know when the new Anywired is ready.

110 Resources for Creative Minds 121

Tips, tutorials, exercises and inspiration from the fields of visual art, writing, photography, blogging, design and invention. Next time you’re stuck for ideas or inspiration I hope you’ll find something here to get your right brain firing. A tip: sometimes the best sources of inspiration often lie far outside your own creative field.

1. 7 Can’t-Miss Ways to Kick-Start The Writing Habit
Write nothing but headlines. Write crap without feeling guilty. Schedule and show up. Write about problem solving. Edit older articles. Type out other people’s articles. Add your tip. [Tips: Writing]

Thomas Edison.2. The Wisdom of Thomas Edison
“I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.” [Inspiration: Quotes]

3. Web Urbanist
Urban Culture, guerilla communication and street art images. [Inspiration: Art & Culture]

4. 100 Blog Topics I Hope YOU Write
Chris Brogan’s challenge to bloggers should be fuel for dozens of innovative post ideas. [Ideas: Blogging]

Soldier stencil.5. Stencil Revolution
Thousands of innovative stencil artworks, from on and off the street. [Inspiration: Art]

6. How to Survive Creative Burn-out
“But the day it hits you, the world seems suddenly grey. What was once fun and challenging feel stupid and annoying. Or perhaps the things that used to motivate or move you don’t resonate at all. You feel nothing for them. It all just seems like so much more crap to deal with. If this sounds familiar, or you fear that this day is in your future, this essay is for you.” [Tips: Creativity]

Dream Anatomy.7. Dreaming the Industrial Body
“In the early 20th century, Fritz Kahn produced a succession of books on the inner workings of the human body, using visual metaphors drawn from industrial society—assembly lines, internal combustion engines, refineries, dynamos, telephones, etc.” [Inspiration: Art]

8. Complete Your First Book With These 9 Simple Writing Habits
Writing time. Simple tools. Writing log. Idea time. Capture ideas. Just start. Write when inspired. Revise. Book bible. [Tips: Writing]

9. 15 Design Decisions That Annoy Readers
Sometimes we learn more about what we should do by reading about what we should always avoid. [Tips: Design]

10. Seth Godin on Big Ideas
“History is littered with inventors who had “great” ideas but kept them quiet and then poorly executed them. And history is lit up with do-ers who took ideas that were floating around in the ether and actually made something happen. In fact, just about every successful venture is based on an unoriginal idea, beautifully executed.” [Inspiration: Creativity]

Cory Doctorow.11. Cory Doctorow on Giving It Away
Doctorow is a sci-fi writer who made his fortune by giving away the fruits of his best ideas. This article might just change the way you think about exchanging creative works for money. [Inspiration: Creativity & Money]

12. Pingnews Collections @ Flickr
A massive selection of public domain historical photography from around the world. [Inspiration: Photography]

13. A Brief Message
Pithy thoughts and theories on design and innovation in sub-200 words. The design of the site is ever-changing. [Inspiration: Design]

Timothy Ferriss.14. Timothy Ferriss on Doing The Impossible
“The key to finding means to accomplish the “impossible” is asking the right question: “How would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?” Most things considered impossible just haven’t been looked at through the “how” lens of lateral thinking.” [Tips: Innovation]

15. Battling Blogger’s Block
“It’s all very well and good to join a conversation – but look for the gaps in conversations also and you might just find yourself starting a whole new line of thought.” [Tips: Blogging]

16. 100 Websites You Should Know and Use
TEDBlog promises to provide ideas worth spreading, and this list delivers. 100 innovative websites in the knowledge, arts, e-commerce, search and resource fields: some you will know, others you won’t. [Inspiration: Web]

17. How to Write a Book: The Short Honest Truth
“Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I’ll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one.” [Tips: Writing]

Language is a virus.18. Language is a Virus
Helping you cure writer’s block with generators, exercises, visuals, brainstorming and names you can pilfer.

19. “Where do you get your ideas?”
“Frankly, I have trouble just understanding the question — how can you not get ideas?” — Lawrence Watt-Evans [Tips: Ideas]

The world without us.20. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
This interactive Flash display is Alan Weisman’s projection of the changes the world would undergo without us on it. Sometimes imagining the inconceivable can be a great way to get the mind working differently. [Inspiration: Innovation]

Moleskine project.21. Moleskine Project
The Moleskine notebook has been an idea catcher for creative thinkers across generations. This blog collates doodles and illustrations from creative minds — the only requirement is that they’re committed to a cream-colored Moleskine page. [Inspiration: Art]

22. 101 Great Posting Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle
Philip Liu ensures every blogger has plenty of ideas saved up for a rainy day. [Ideas: blogging]

Diastema's toy photos.23. Diastema’s Toy Photos
Flickr is home to many innovative photographers and Diastema is one of them. Her tiny toy collection finds itself in all kinds of unusual, colourful and perilous situations. [Inspiration: Photography]

Little people.24. Slinkachu’s Little People
The artist’s tiny people help us to see the world from a different perspective. More innovative photography to get you approaching things from a new angle. [Inspiration: Photography]

25. Collected Creativity Quotes
“It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.” — Edward de Bono [Quotes: Creativity]

Seth's eye.26. Seth Godin on Creativity
“99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn’t coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you’ve thought of.” [Tips: Creativity]

27. Creative Thinking Hacks
“On the new creative landscape you’ve made, place the following simple definition: an idea is a combination of other ideas. Say it five times out loud. Say it to your cat. Yell it out you car window at strangers waiting for the bus.” [Tips: Ideas]

28. Idea Recording
Comprehensive article outlining the various ways ideas can be recorded. Thomas Edison and Da Vinci used notebooks, but your tastes might be different. [Tips: Ideas]

FOUND.29. FOUND Magazine
“We collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles – anything that gives a glimpse into someone else’s life.” [Inspiration: Culture]

30. How Do You Woo The Muse?
“You can’t passively eye the beautiful muse sitting at the bar, waiting and hoping for her to approach you. You have to go to her, promise her greatness, and hope that she accepts your pitch – and maybe, just maybe, stays on for the long haul.” [Tips: Creativity]

Wildcard.31. Wildcard.jp.org
When it comes to design, the Japanese are world leaders. Physics, art, minimalism and interactivity merge into one interesting user experience. Bliss out to the ambient music, make some shapes and slip into a different way of thinking. You can change the visualizations via the controls at the bottom. [Inspiration: Art]

32. Classic Cat
Some of the greatest creative works in history were conceived and executed whilst the complex strains of classical music filled the air. Classic Cat hosts hundreds of free and legal downloads from well-known composers. [Inspiration: Music]

gaping void.33. gaping void
Hugh McLeod has churned out thousands of poignant and thought-provoking cartoons in his time. Subscribe to his blog for a regular stream of pithy thought and philosophical doodles. [Inspiration: Art]

34. Do You Recognize These 10 Mental Blocks to Creative Thinking?
Trying to find the “right” answer. Logical thinking. Following rules. Being practical. Play is not work. That’s not my job. Being a “serious” person. Avoiding ambiguity. Being wrong is bad. I’m not creative. [Tips: Creativity]

35. How to Write Remarkably Creative Content
“Inspiration from other sources is what creativity is all about. It seems that many people believe creativity involves pulling a completely brand new idea out of thin air. In truth, creativity is an adaptive process that consists of looking at the same existing thing everyone else is and thinking about it differently.” [Tips: Creativity]

DFCKR.36. Flickr as a Source of Inspiration
28 inspirational photo pools for designers, from AdBusting to Typography to Illustration. [Inspiration: Photography]

Chicken.37. 34 Places to Get Design Inspiration: Online & Off
It’s resources like these that explain why Freelance Switch has experienced such phenomenal growth. This post showcases some outstanding design sites while suggesting real-world sources of design inspiration (yep — you might actually have to swap the light of the computer screen for the light of day). [Inspiration: Design]

38. 37 Sources of Inspiration
A group writing project at Inspirationbit.com saw 37 bloggers outline where they find inspiration on a day-to-day basis. [Inspiration: Blogging]

DeviantART.39. DeviantART
Often unsung, sometimes unknown, occasionally genius: DeviantART allows anyone with talent to showcase their visual art to an audience of thousands. [Inspiration: Art]

Smashing Magazine.40. Smashing Magazine
A resource for web developers and designers, Smashing Magazine never publishes a half-baked post. Amongst the tips, tools, resources and useful lists you’re bound to find something that strikes a creative spark. [Inspiration: Web]

41. xhilarate: supercharged creative bookmarks
The xhilarate team provide us with carefully picked links to cutting-edge web and industrial design, advertising and contemporary art. [Inspiration: Design]

42. The Secret to Getting Others to Talk About You
Ankesh Kothari outlines a creative approach to getting noticed. Chock-full of anecdotes, examples and fine writing, this article is a must-read for any innovative individual hoping to have their talent recognized. [Tips: Innovation]

Green face.43. Drawn! The Illustration and Cartooning Blog
This blog showcases illustrators and cartoonists dabbling in every genre under the sun and above the ground (though their characters surely sometimes venture beyond both). From graphic novel realists to masters of the stick-figure, this blog is a visual treat. [Inspiration: Art]

44. Digg Labs {Arc.BigSpy.Stack.Swarm}
Digg labs allows you to take a birds-eye view of the content submitted to Digg, with a clear distinction between more popular and less popular content. When brainstorming headlines or post ideas Digg labs can be a useful first port of call. [Inspiration: Web]

Pollock knock-off.45. Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas
Create your own Jackson Pollock-style artwork by moving your cursor and clicking to change the color of your paint. Hit spacebar to clear the canvas. Much cleaner than doing it with actual paint, which is a bonus. [Inspiration: Art]

46. Time to Write: a weblog
Jurgen Wolff’s tips, ideas and inspiration for writers and would-be writers. [Inspiration: Writing]

Skellieton.47. A4 Papercut
Intricate artworks and models cut out of a single sheet of A4 paper. Proof that much can be done with little, and that art is more than the sum of its parts. [Inspiration: Art]

48. New Minimalism in Web Interface Design
A fantastic resource for web designers looking for minimalist inspiration, this page tracks the evolution of minimalist web design and contains a number of useful resources for those trying to achieve it. [Inspiration: Design]

Stick figure.49. xkcd: a webcomic
Romace, sarcasm, math and language: a webcomic to help you laugh and think. [Inspiration: Art]

50. 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creative Output
“For me the creative flow state is a common occurrence. I usually enter this state several times a week, staying with it for hours at a time. I’m able to routinely enjoy the flow state as long as I ensure the right conditions, which I’ll share with you in a moment.” [Tips: Creativity]

Boing Boing.51. Boing Boing
A steady stream of oddities, ideas, innovation, pop-culture and the unusual: Boing Boing is a virtual tour of the unorthodox. What better way to get you thinking differently? [Inspiration: Web]

52. Sidewalk Chalk Guy
Mr. Sidewalk Chalk busies himself by reinventing the pavement in three dimensions, often placing pedestrians in artificially perilous situations: in hell, or water, or a chasm inhabited by Roman gods. You know, the usual. [Inspiration: Street art]

Face.53. Flickr: Photos Tagged ‘Street Art’
This page seems to update every time you look at it. As far as I’m concerned, street art is where the real artistic innovation is occurring. Any contemporary designer who prides themselves on being located at the cutting edge should have a firm grip on this stuff. [Inspiration: Street art]

54. Top 10 Tips For Overcoming Writer’s Block
“If we think of ourselves as laborers, as craftsmen, it’s easier to sit down and write. We’re just putting words on the page, after all, one beside another, as a bricklayer puts down bricks. At the end of the day, we’re just creating things — stories, poems, or plays — only we use vocabulary and grammar instead of bricks and mortar.” [Tips: Writing]

55. The 6 Myths of Creativity
Creativity comes from creative types. Money is a creativity motivator. Time pressure fuels creativity. Fear forces breakthroughs. Competition beats collaboration. A streamlined organization is a creative organization. [Tips: Creativity]

56. Quick Story Idea Generator
The theme of this story: romantic slice-of-life. The main character: frustrated cab driver. The major event of the story: theft. [Ideas: Writing]

JPG.57. JPG Magazine
Dedicated to innovation in photography. When you’re sick of trawling Flickr for the odd diamond-in-the-rough, great photography can be found here without the hassles. [Inspiration: Photography]

58. 25 Unique Places to Find Story Ideas
“The little things from life’s daily events can also provide dozens of ideas. Anything you do or anywhere you go could supply fodder for your next story. You simply need to keep your mind open.” [Tips: Writing]

59. 111 Instant Blog Post Ideas
Many of these ideas have a business focus, but could be easily adapted to other niches with a little bit of tweaking. Add this list of post ideas to your arsenal and blogging inspiration should not be too far off. [Ideas: Blogging]

60. Projectionist: a tumblelog
Music, images, uncommon words, code snippets and links. Projectionist is one of the web’s best-known tumblelogs, and for good reason. There is so much here that you’re bound to find something that gets your neurons firing. [Inspiration: Web]

61. 10 Killer Post Ideas
While the post idea sets previously provided in this article have emphasized quantity and brevity, this article explores ten ideas in greater detail. [Ideas: Blogging]

62. How to Find Your Creative Zen
“In reality, these Zen-like states are not nearly as unpredictable or as unattainable as you might think. In most cases, they occur as natural fallout from a well-constructed creative process. If you want to live on that free-flowing edge, then you must learn how to force your brain through the sequence of triggers that will result in your own cognitive Zen.” [Tips: Creativity]

StumbleUpon.63. StumbleUpon
Presents the best of the web in what is virtually a slideshow format. Uninspired by a stumble? Then stumble somewhere else with a single click. [Inspiration: Web]

64. Reddit
A social bookmarking service that, unlike StumbleUpon, is less about entire websites and more about specific content. Unlike StumbleUpon you can browse headlines and visit only those than interest you. [Inspiration: Web]

65. Hugh McLeod on How to be Creative
This post is a gargantuan resource collating prolific cartoonist Hugh McLeod’s thoughts on the matter. Some key points: ignore everybody. Don’t count on being ‘discovered’. Avoid crowds. Do it for yourself. Eschew the need for approval, and others. Highly recommended. [Tips: Creativity]

American Gothic.66. 64 of the World’s Greatest Paintings
These paintings are all recognized as outstanding (often legendary) contributions to the world of art. Sometimes nothing brings out our own creativity more than basking in the creativity of the greats. [Inspiration: Art]

67. Fifty Phrases That Kill Creativity
It’s never been tried. Don’t rock the boat. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Let’s give it more thought. [Tips: Creativity]

68. Thinking Like a Genius
“Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, and believed that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.” [Tips: Creativity]

Blentwell.69. Blentwell
Classical music barely ruffles your white, curly wig? Try Blentwell, the people’s DJ mixset link collective. Whether you’re into rock, hip hop, house or grime, crunk and baile funk, you’ll find a mix to form a suitable backdrop to your creative endeavours. [Inspiration: Music]

70. cre.ations.net
An open showcase of creativity across all fields: from face-mounted lucid dreaming masks to an extravagantly decorated cookie island. [Inspiration: Web]

71. An Interview With Ze Frank
Humorist. Designer. Teacher. Ze Frank is one of the most creative individuals currently calling the web his home. This interview focuses on the creative process behind all of Frank’s projects. [Inspiration: Culture]

72. Manufacturing Inspiration
“Inspiration is a luxury. I do not sit down at my computer spiritually aglow, fingers tapping in ecstasy. I think it’s a bad model for writers. Novels are more like houses, the process of constructing one a long and labor-intensive activity. There are sparks of insight, moments of crystalline clarity, but more often writing resembles brick-laying, a word, a sentence, a paragraph at a time.” [Inspiration: Writing]

73. George Orwell’s 5 Rules For Effective Writing Style
Never use metaphors, similes or other figures of speech you are used of seeing in print. Don’t use long words where a short one will do. Cut out unnecessary words. Avoid jargon. Break rules. [Tips: Writing]

Behance.74. Behance: Make Ideas Happen
Showcasing creative professional work from a number of fields, Behance speaks to creative minds to tease out how and why they work. [Inspiration: Creativity]

Dora Maar.75. Mr. Picassohead
Assemble your own Picasso-style painting from various drag-and-drop shapes and figures. If you’re lucky, cubist painting will lead to cubist thinking. [Inspiration: Art]

76. Anarchaia: a tumblelog
Sure to suit geekier tastes, Anarchaia showcases its contents with minimal commentary and analysis. The simple act of interpreting what you see is a creative exercise in its own right. [Inspiration: Web]

77. Limit Creativity, Get Innovation
“The reasonable person finds this overwhelming. Creativity’s root is the tension filled conflict between the imagination and the physical: input and output, insight and achievement, learning and performing. Remove conflict and there is no need for creativity.” [Tips: Innovation]

78. My Top 5 Sources of Inspiration in Photography
Accomplishments of mankind. Beauty of nature. Other photographs. Challenge. Kids. [Inspiration: Photography]

79. Hack Your Way Out of Writer’s Block
It’s hard to think of a bigger obstacle to productivity than writer’s block. Productivity guru Merlin Mann shares his thoughts on battling with the muse’s greatest enemy. [Tips: Writing]

Cute things.80. 50 Ways to Become a Better Designer
“We approached 17 leading designers working in print, video and on the web, to obtain their words of wisdom on every stage of the design process, from ideas and planning, through to best practice and software skills, and finally putting the finishing touches on their work.” [Tips: Design]

Hironao Tsuboi.81. 100%: Sophisticated Simplicity
PingMag interviews Hironao Tsuboi of Japanese design duo 100%. These guys make everyday objects beautiful — proof that innovation lives everywhere. [Inspiration: Design]

Reduction.82. The Laws of Simplicity
1. The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. 2. Organization makes a system of many appear fewer. 3. Savings in time feel like simplicity. 4. Knowledge makes everything simpler. 5. Simplicity and complexity need each other. 6. What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral. 7. More emotions are better than less. 8. In simplicity we trust. 9. Some things can never be made simple. [Inspiration: Innovation]

83. bubbl.us
A simple, free web application designed to help you brainstorm online. Because sometimes a pen and paper don’t feel like enough — even though they probably are. [Inspiration: Creativity]

84. Essential Resources for Creativity
163 creativity techniques, 30 tips and recommended books from Lifehack.org[Tips: Creativity]

85. Creativity Techniques From A-Z
“I like to think of these creativity techniques as tools in a toolbox in much the same way as my toolbox at home for DIY. It has a saw, spanner, hammer, knife and all sorts of other things in it, they are all very useful, but you have to pick the right tool (creativity technique) for each job.” [Inspiration: Creativity]

NotCot.org.86. NotCot.org
Innovation in architecture, industrial design, food, gadgets, photography and typography, all presented via photography. [Inspiration: Design]

87. How to Become a Creative Genius
“Our minds are much like a garden. Without proper care, the weeds will take over. Nothing sparks the mind like learning something new.” [Tips: Creativity]

88. How to Stifle Your Creativity in 10 Easy Steps
Be afraid. Remind yourself of all the times you failed in the past. Stay constantly busy. Always try to fit in. Stick to what you know. Always defer to authority. Don’t ask stupid questions. Always listen to your Inner Critic. Leave thinking to the experts. Keep it simple, stupid. [Tips: Creativity]

89. Idea Killers: Ways to Stop Ideas
“Mostly these are used as thought inhibitors: they don’t require any thought to say. They’re used as flinch negative responses, dismissing without explanation. Unlike real critical thinking, which offers a path (e.g if you can overcome x, y and z we’ll consider it) idea killers are lazy dead ends.” [Tips: Creativity]

PostSecret.90. PostSecret
Confessions on postcards — sometimes depressing, often poignant, occasionally funny. These can kick-off ideas in any field. [Inspiration: Culture]

91. Tips for Personal Brainstorming
“By gathering all of the information that you know about your challenge and laying it out in front of you in tangible form, you enable your most powerful problem-solving tool — your brain — to see connections, interrelationships and implications in the information you’ve collected, which would not be obvious if you just kept all of this information in your head.” [Tips: Creativity]

Ad.92. Creative Advertisements Around the World
Images of advertising innovation. Too expensive to be guerilla, so it’s hard to know what to call it. Whatever you want to call it, these ads will make you think. [Inspiration: Advertising]

What?93. Banksy.co.uk
The world’s most notorious street artist, Banksy has made his mark across the globe: from the streets of Great Britain to the West Bank Barrier in Palestine. His art makes the viewer see their surrounds from a very different perspective. [Inspiration: Street art]

94. Interview with Lemony Snicket
Daniel Handler (Snicket’s real name) has had his books turned into movies. In other words, his creativity has made him quite rich. In this interview he talks creativity, productivity, writing routines and perseverence. [Inspiration: Writing]

95. How to Get Creative
“Creativity is all about coming up with new ideas, interpretations and methods and involves thinking and exploring what goes through your mind. It’s a quality that should be encouraged at all walks of life. You need to feed your creative side with inspirational material, give it the time and attention is needs.” [Inspiration: Creativity]

96. Drops of Blood: a weblog
A weblog for fiction writers containing tips, tricks, thoughts and resources. An interesting quote from the main page: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” — Andre Gide [Inspiration: Writing]

97. 10 Steps For Boosting Your Creativity
“8. Don’t do drugs. People on drugs think they are creative. To everyone else, they seem like people on drugs.” [Tips: Creativity]

ProBlogger.98. How to be a More Creative Blogger
Evolution. Reapplication. Synthesis. Revolution. Changing direction. [Tips: Blogging]

99. 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post
When I look at the people around me . . . If I could, I’d invent . . . It happens the same way every time . . . When I sit down with the news every morning . . . [Ideas: Blogging]

Kottke.org.100. Kottke.org
Jason Kottke has been blogging forever. He consistently unearths valuable nuggets of art and culture from the hidden pockets of the web. Any creative mind will find something to love here. [Inspiration: Web]

101. 10 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block
Another article on this perennially troubling topic, to the tune of: make a deal with your Inner Critic. Remember who you’re writing for. Sit down. Stand up. Imagine you’re having a drink with a friend. Leave the house without a notebook. Get trigger happy. Talk to other writers. Have some fun. [Tips: Writing]

102. Set a Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices
“Strict limits can be a powerful stimulant to the creative process. If you’ve ever been asked to solve a challenging problem with a small budget or a tight deadline, you’ve probably found that you were much more resourceful than if you had been granted a ton of money and time.” [Tips: Creativity]

A painting.103. An Interview With James Warren Perry
Painter James Warren Perry talks idea generation, day-to-day creative habits, burn-out, creativity techniques and productivity. [Inspiration: Creativity]

104. Neatorama
A more mainstream (or perhaps, more accurately, less pretentious) Boing Boing-style blog offering a regularly updated stream of wierd, awe-inspiring and innovative cultural curiosities. [Inspiration: Web]

105. 9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People
“Creative people see problems as a natural and normal part of life – in fact they often have a fascination with problems and are drawn to them.” [Tips: Creativity]

Tumblr Radar.106. Tumblr: Radar
Tumblelogs aggregate the online lives of avid web users. The Radar at Tumblr.com highlights some of the most fascinating tumblelogs hosted on the service. Expect photos, links and quotes without the fluff. [Inspiration: Innovation]

107: Writing Hacks: Starting
“Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard. Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. “Dufus big much Scott is”). It might be grammarless, broken, or inaccurate but it is writing. This means that when people can’t start they’re imagining the precision of the end, all polished and brilliant, a vision that makes the ugly clumsy junkyard that all beginnings are, impossible to accept.” [Tips: Writing]

108. Seth Godin on Real Creativity
“I think that inventing the unimplementable is a fine hobby, but it’s also a bit of a crutch. Yes, of course we need big visions and big ideas, but not at the expense of the stuff you can actually pull off.” [Tips: Creativity]

109. D. Keith Robinson on Overcoming Writer’s Block
Record everything. Wander the bookstore. Ask a question. Take risks. Take advantage of creative highs. Get the title first. Pay attention to reader feedback. Become a commentator. Go off-topic. Use real-world stories. Take a drive or a walk. Keep writing. [Tips: Writing]

Bird.110. 101 Ways to Brew Up a Great Idea
Take a warm bath. Go for a drive with the windows open. Order Chinese food and eat it with chopsticks. Call a random phone number — ask a stranger. And more: they’re facetious, but they might just work. [Tips: Creativity]

111. Flickr: Explore!
Photos generating a buzz over the last seven days on Flickr, ranked by so-called ‘interestingness’. Regardless of what that means, this service is a great way to get several great images quickly delivered. [Inspiration: Photography]

How to Run a Profitable Freelance Business Through Your Blog 1068

’m extremely excited to finally be able to share with you my first book, The Blog Business Funnel. Written and refined over 6 months (since June 2009), it’s an outpouring of knowledge on everything I know and have learned about how to run a thriving freelance business supported only by your blog.

In July 2008 I was studying full-time and freelancing part-time as a writer, copywriter and consultant. In that month, I earned more than $8,000 through my own Blog Business Funnel. Every single cent was earned through jobs that came through my blog.

Was I a veteran freelancer? Nope. I took my first ever client in September 2007, only eleven months earlier—a freelance blogging job. I figured I would start with what I knew!

When I added up my earnings and stared in shock at the final figure, I knew I had stumbled across something incredible.

If I’d known then what I know now, I’m confident I could have cracked the $10,000 mark that month.

The book was borne out of the question: Why do bloggers struggle so much with advertising and affiliate programs, when there is clearly a better way?

While others have written brief articles on the topic of using blogging as the foundation for a freelance business, nobody else has outlined a complete blueprint in book form, sharing everything there is to know. If you don’t have a freelance business yet, you’ll learn how to create one.

Whether you’re a blogger, freelancer, or neither, you’ll learn everything you need to create a Blog Business Funnel system.

See Inside

The Blog Business Funnel is a beautifully designed 93 page eBook with 8 substantial chapters. Click the thumbnails to see a one-page excerpt from the beginning of each chapter.

Introduction: Why Aren’t Bloggers Filthy Rich?

Introduction - Click for view of first page

For years we’ve been told that blogging has the power to make you rich. Why have so few of us made it? Instead of endlessly tweaking ads for other people’s products, start your own freelance business and begin to make a living doing work you love.

(See first page)

Chapter 1: Setting Yourself Up For Business

Chapter 1 - Click for view of first page

This chapter outlines the foundations of a strong freelance business, while also discussing the many different services you can sell as a freelancer.

(See first page)

Chapter 2: The Blog Business Funnel Explained

Chapter 2 - Click for view of first page

Here you’ll learn how to create a popular, thriving blog that is specially designed to appeal to the target market for your services. You’ll learn how the model works and how to adapt the model to your blog.

(See first page)

Chapter 3: Trust and Targeted Traffic

Chapter 3 - Click for view of first page

Learn methods and formulas for creating incredible content designed to draw your target market deeper into your blog. Also, learn how to build trust and a rock-solid reputation.

(See first page)

Chapter 4: Turning Readers Into Clients

Chapter 4 - Click for view of first page

When you have a healthy and thriving blog, the next step is to start funneling readers into your business. You’ll learn how to properly promote your services to your readership.

(See first page)

Chapter 5: Using Business Launch and Re-Launch Formulas

Chapter 5 - Click for view of first page

People are always talking about the importance of product launches, but what about a proper launch for your freelance business? This chapter shows you how to create exciting launches that will fill your client list for months to come.

(See first page)

Chapter 6: Advanced Blog Business Strategies

Chapter 6 - Click for view of first page

Get a measurable and profitable return on investment with online advertising for your services. Clever tips that some of the world’s biggest companies still don’t know.

(See first page)

Chapter 7: Scaling Up!

Chapter 7 - Click for view of first page

The book finishes with three strategies that your competition simply don’t know about: 1. How to charge your dream rates 2. How to create low-maintenance partnerships you can profit from (without actually doing any work) 3. Productizing your business to sell in your sleep.

(See first page)

It’s More Affordable Than You Think

Most eBooks that teach you ways to run a business online require a serious investment. $97 for one eBook is considered cheap. And for other products, the price keeps climbing. $199. $247. $499!

This product is different – I want it to be accessible to as many people as possible, so that the book isn’t out of reach of anyone. If you walked down the aisles of any bookstore you’d never pay $100 or more for a single book. Why should an eBook be different?

The Blog Business Funnel is $29 USD if you buy it now.

If you do one single hour of billable work as a result of reading this book, it has paid for itself.

Of course, it’s my hope that the book will help you land thousands of dollars worth of clients, all while doing what you love.

This book shows you how to do work that makes you happy, and earn a great, independent living in the process.

The Blog Business Funnel (eBook), 93 Pages

The Blog Business Funnel cover

By Skellie

Written and perfected over six months, this book outlines an easy to follow process for funneling clients into your freelance business through your blog.

You’ll learn how to create a thriving popular blog your target market loves, how to sell your services to your target market and how to optimize your business and charge dream rates. Filled with Skellie’s clever tips on blogging, freelancing and personal branding, you’ll learn dozens of things you never knew and will be landing clients on autopilot in no time.

It’s time to earn a living online doing something that makes you happy.

5 Hard Questions You Should Answer Before Starting a New Project 193

When it comes to new projects (for me, a new blog or a website), you could say that I’m commitment phobic. For a long time I was more interested in the ideas behind a new project than the execution, leading to a long trail of half-finished projects — and some that never made it out of my notebook.

I found my mind wandering as I was trying to sleep a few days ago and hit upon a project idea that excited me. I could run it alongside Skelliewag. It would only be a hobby thing — nothing serious. My neurons started firing as I began to plan what I’d do when I woke up (ensuring it would be another hour or so before I finally drifted off).

One moderating influence I’m grateful for — in hindsight — was being unable to get online the next day. When I finally sat down to think about this new project, I noticed that something had changed since I started working with this blog.

Instead of leaping into the process of choosing a domain name and making the project a reality, I started to ask myself some hard questions. They’re not fun to answer — particularly when you’re feeling inspired and excited — but they have the potential to save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money.

(A note: I’m deliberately avoiding specifics about my idea so you might be better able to see yourself in the process. My apologies to the curious!)

1. What are my end goals with the project?

If you don’t know where you want the journey to end, you can’t do anything except wander around in circles. The first step in starting any new project is to work out where you want to end up. You can then start to reverse-engineer everything else from that point.

I decided that my goals for the project — the point where I’d be satisfied with it — were to build an active niche forum with a blog off-shoot. I would be catering to a really small niche, so grand aspirations didn’t figure into it.

This question is probably the easiest of the five, because it allows you to stay firmly in that comfortable realm where you’re thinking about the end product in ignorance of the ‘How‘ question. What’s involved in getting there?

The Honeymoon didn’t last for long!

2. What will I have to do to reach those goals?

Like any strong structure, worthy goals tend to have more than one foundation. I split my goals into two:

  • Build a thriving forum to serve a very small niche.
  • Create a blog offshoot to convert blog readers into forum members (and vice versa).

As I considered both these necessary steps, some difficulties began to spring up immediately.

  1. I don’t know how to promote a forum — though I could probably learn.
  2. The niche I’m targeting is already partially served by a few different forums. How could I move them to leave — or participate in more than one forum?
  3. There’s little opportunity for off-blog promotion because there are very few active sites in the niche. In other words, there’s nowhere to guest post or comment *gulp*.
  4. I’ll have to create blog content on a topic I’m not an expert on.
  5. I’ll have to moderate the forums, or get others to do so. In my previous experiences being a forum admin, this hasn’t been fun!

While none of these challenges are insurmountable, they did start to cause me some worry. Which was a good thing. It meant that I was starting to take the ‘How’ question into account.

At this stage, it’s important to break up your goals into the separate chunks required to achieve them. Then comes the difficult task of identifying the necessary steps you’ll need to take — and the potential problems with each step.

A portrait of the artist.
Photo by striatic (CC license).

3. Do I have enough ideas and inspiration?

Ideas are the fuel behind any new project. While two or three good ideas can be enough to get you excited, a successful project requires a lot of good ideas over an extended period of time.

I’ve started many projects only to find that I ran out of steam after a month or so. I wasn’t inspired and the content started to bore me. The finished product I had in mind seemed far removed from the regular drudge of creating the content required to get there.

It’s not quite enough to be passionate about something. You also need to be passionate about writing about it. That’s an ugly sentence, but it’s the truth. There are a lot of topics I’m passionate about — topics I thought would make the perfect subject of a blog or website — only to find that my passion didn’t extend quite so far as to enjoy writing about it semi-daily.

The process for answering this question is simple, but it’s a step many of us (myself included) have been reluctant to take. Essentially, you need to start before you start.

  1. You should be able to brainstorm 20-30 ideas for content. If you can’t make it, that’s a warning sign.
  2. You should aim to write five or so content items for the project before you start thinking about a name. If you can’t make it, that’s a warning sign. If you make it but didn’t enjoy it, that’s another sign you might be running into trouble.

4. Do I have enough time?

This is one question which seems to be a recurring theme in most of our lives.

The short of it is this: if you’re not juggling any other projects, you can make enough time. You may just have to pace yourself. If your goals are attached to a time-frame, then you run into a problem.

If you’re adding the new project on top of an existing one, this question becomes even more important. If you’re dedicating all your available web time to your existing blog or website, then you’re either going to have to make more time or redistribute the time between the two sites.

Between Skelliewag and freelancing, I simply couldn’t make more time without stealing it from one of my other projects. At the moment, I’m not willing to do that.

5. Will it impact on my other projects?

An offshoot of the previous question, and the final one you need to consider. A new project often requires you to sacrifice some part of your old project — unless you take time from elsewhere.

Unless you spend large swathes of time doing absolutely nothing, something will have to be sacrificed. This is another oft-overlooked factor in the ‘Eureka!’ moment behind a new project idea. You need to be sure the project will be worth the sacrifice, whether it’s less time with the Playstation or less time working on your magnum opus.

Wrapping up loose ends

I hope this list of hard questions will be useful to those of you flirting with the idea of starting a new project or running two (or more) projects at the same time. It might also be a resource you return to if the desire strikes in future.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether any of you feel this list could be applied to projects in other fields — from a new business venture to a new novel.

To wrap up my personal story, the new project I’ve been thinking about is on hold indefinitely. (Much like Lynne Spears’ parenting book). Before I start, I need to figure out how to make it work without taking time away from the things that are most important to me.

With Leo Babauta, J. D. Roth and Maki (who each work harder than me already) all starting new projects alongside their existing ones, I can only think: if they can do it, I have no excuse not to try. But first, I need to take the time to think before acting on impulse.

It’s taken me seven years to develop the ability to do that. If you find it hard, you’re not alone.