I’ve been blogging since I was thirteen years old (Diaryland & Livejournal, holla!), and one of my favourite parts of being part of this community for so long is that I’ve seen what having a strong online presences has done for my friends, acquaintances, and mentors as their websites grow and evolve with their interests.
While some brands hit the internet fully formed, many of us who work online, freelance, own etsy shops, or sell blog ads have had a much more organic evolution that can be frustrating to navigate on your own.
When I started this blog, it was a completely personal space where I shared my wedding planning process and the DIY process of everything I was pulling together for the day. That was in 2008, and what started out as some casual personal documenting has turned into a key part of how I make my living.
How to handle that awkward transition of your blog from a personal space part of a business
For me the process has been gradual over many years, and continues to evolve but these are a few of the things that helped make it less awkward and more fun for those of you how are navigating these waters yourself.
Don’t Burn Your House Down
While this feels like a big change at first, this is more of an adjustment for you than your readers. Unless you’re starting a radically different business, you don’t need to move to another URL and you don’t need to change the name of your blog or website. Really! And it’s actually to your benefit to stay exactly where you are.
Writing in your existing space means you have the benefit of your blog archives, and even content that you feel is no longer relevant gives you SEO klout, a built in audience, and time to fine tune while you feel you way through writing about your new venture. There’s likely to be crossover interest in your audience, and you never know what in your archives can become incredibly powerful for you.
In my case, the day planner and organizer posts I wrote before Pinterest was popular have been shared between hundreds of friends, and links on those posts feed directly into the sales page for my online design course, Planner Camp. It’s internet income magic! And if I’d deleted all my craft and handmade posts, it would have never happened.
What you write from here forward matters most, and you can always selectively delete posts, or make them private.
Do Be Clear
When you first start offering a product or service for sale online, it’s natural to want to try everything. And you should! Trying new things is hands down, the best way to figure out what you don’t want to do, and I highly recommend it. That said, before you fill your sidebar with ads, create an Amazon affiliate account and start sending your best ideas to the Huffington Post, make sure you step back and understand what you want out of your new blogging experience.
If you’re going to blog in support of your work, it’s important to keep your blog free of clutter and distractions, and to make active decisions about what you’re going to value as part of your success. If you get caught up in valuing comment counts and site traffic you can easily feel like a failure based on something that’s completely outside of your control – and that has little bearing on your success. (Blogs that look little can be part of huge businesses, I’ve seen it!)
What’s important is the bigger story you’re telling, how you help, and the work you do when you’re not blogging. Most of all, be committed to being honest and upfront with your readers. They aren’t interest in a version of reality with all the flaws and mis-steps lacquered over.
@kylaroma Talk to an accountant right away and NEVER underestimate the importance of self-care
— Campfire Kam (@CampfireChic) November 3, 2014
Don’t Let Dinosaurs Pave Your Way
If the New York Times hasn’t found a way to make pure content creation a profitable, sustainable business, chances are you aren’t going to crack the code on that one. Ready for some real talk? Most of the lifestyle bloggers you love who make their living completely from ad revenue had their audiences hit a critical mass in the early 2000’s, and their success is next to impossible to duplicate on the internet of today.
If you look closely, most of your favourite content creators have also created some kind of an app, product or service in the past few years, because living from advertising revenue alone is increasingly difficult. Never mind that running any business based on one stream of income is asking for trouble.
If your blog wasn’t your business, what could be? More on that next…
Be a Screwdriver
Screwdrivers are profoundly useful, and we should be too. While changing your blog’s topics can feel like a huge deal to you, your readers are coming to your blog or website already because you help them with something, even if you don’t realize it. Your job as you transition is to clearly communicate what you help readers with now, so they can start thinking about you in a new way.
Instead of thinking about your blog as your business, consider what people in your life ask you for help with. Consider what you can help with, make, write or teach around the topics that you love. Then start sharing, being helpful, and telling compelling stories around those ideas.
Shifting topics on your blog can feel monumental, but when you stop worrying and focusing on being helpful you’ll be surprised to find that there are already people in your audience who also need help with your new topic.
Don’t focus on announcements, take action!
When you adjust your blog focus it can feel like you need to send out a press release to make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s great to be excited and enthusiastic, but your audience’s attention is hard to capture so don’t waste it!
If you want to offer development support or mentoring sessions on your website, instead of writing about the idea why not create a paypal button, write about how you can help and give your readers the chance support you. Instead of worrying about how to sell to your friends without being phony, just start be actively helpful. Whatever you want to do, you can – and should – start with your next post.
One of the beautiful things about the being small is that adjusting your plans and focus is so easy to do. You will lose people through the transition, but you’ll gain and lose followers no matter what. The most graceful way to get through the awkward stage is to stop waiting, and to start today.