In Germany we have a saying “Übung macht den Meister”, which roughly translates to practice makes perfect. I’m still far from perfect in blogging, but after about nine months I can see a training effect. With 2017 ending I want to take the opportunity to reflect on my progress and share my learnings.
Train your writing muscles
I never liked writing and thought my writing is awful. In first quarter this year I shared my knowledge in remote working with a couple of people. Alexander Gerber found it very useful and motivated me to write this up and publish a book together as soon as we have enough material together. I had a hard time getting started and never got into a flow when writing into a document. But fortunately there was another nice coincidence. Werner Motzet invited me to write up my thoughts about his idea of a courage bank. So I re-activated my WordPress account and wrote my first article: Finanzwelt reloaded. I also stumbled over the Blogging Fundamentals course and subscribed. And so the journey started. My first posts had been rather short and probably not very interesting. Also I wasn’t very sure what my blog is about. But the 14 day course helped to get into a rhythm.
My first steps had been a little bit bumpy, so at some point I decided to change my theme and also came up with New categories and publishing cadence. Now I had the pirate theme and more important, a regular heartbeat. Since then I write twice a week and publish Monday and Friday (with very little exceptions 🙂 ). Sometimes it is pretty challenging to balance this with other priorities (e.g. being on a weekend roadtrip with the family). However, like a sports workout this really develops your writing muscles. I now can easily write 1000 word articles and make them ready for publication in less than two hours.
I also experimented with story telling by using analogies and one article even was based on a fairy tale. While my articles are usually in English, I tried another experiment and wrote this in German. Since the number of views haven’t been too bad, I also published some other German articles later. I still don’t have a good sense on what is better – pure English, pure German or mixed. Your feedback is welcome!
The topics had been very diverse due to different reasons. First I used the blog as a thinking tool. It really helps to get things off your head and ideas sorted. Besides remote working I wasn’t sure what topics could be interesting to readers. So the second reason was experimenting with different topics and see where there is resonance. Last I also participated in a couple of blog parades. I can only recommend this to other bloggers. By seeing different perspectives on a topic this expands your horizon and in some cases even triggered me to write an extra article in response to another blogger: #NewPay – Extrapass in der Crunchtime.
How about equipment?
As in sports, while exercising is most important, the right equipment makes it easier. My biggest learning is on WordPress.com versus WordPress.org. I started on WordPress.com, because you can immediately start blogging without an own webspace. But after some time you want to leverage some advanced features like special themes or even plugins. If you want to install plugins you need to go for the business plan which is $25 per month. So I decided to do my own installation of WordPress.org, which is pretty easy. Also there’s an export and import function, so you can easily move your articles over. Unfortunately it doesn’t convert links in the articles and pictures, which prevented me from completing the move so far.
Another important tool is an editorial calendar. I tried different free tools for this. Some of them had been too feature rich, some other tools didn’t have a good user interface. I ended up using Trello as Kanban board. In the picture below you can see an example how I plan my weekly treasures. When I come across an interesting nugget, I add it to the column “Nuggets to review”. Once I read it and added some notes, it goes into the ready column and then I pull three for my weekly treasure. I also have a Kanban board for articles and infrastructural tasks.
Pictures say more than 1000 words. I get my pictures mainly from two sources – Pixabay and Unsplash. Both offer free stock photos with a CC0 license. I became pretty firm in using these databases and it also helped me outside my blog when I create presentations.
One more thing: In the beginning I just started writing. Now I use a mindmap to collect and structure my thoughts before I write articles. The tool I use is Mindmeister. Nice UI, good Android tablet app and syncs very well between Desktop and tablet.
How big is my reach?
The featured image is a good representation of my reach. I’m still at the beginning of the
bridge. While I was able to continuously grow the number of views, I still have a small community. So far I mainly use my social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, XING, Facebook) to get traffic on my blog. Most of the referrers come in from LinkedIn, which makes sense as my main topic is business. I’m not sure how many people really see my updates. Social media sometimes filter the timelines, so I’m not sure if I show up at all. And even if they don’t, my updates might get missed in the huge amount of posts.
Through my articles I got in touch with some new contacts, which is really exciting. In general you don’t get a lot of likes or even comments on WordPress, so you never know how much a topic resonated. There’s a bit more feedback on LinkedIn. And interestingly I get the most feedback from people in real life. Here I want to to thank Hans-Martin, with whom I developed a nice passing game on my articles about change. He gave the most feedback from all readers! Of course I also feel honored when I see other people share my posts (Thanks Tom Dahlstroem!). I use Twitter to give credits to the originators of nuggets. It is exciting to see how thankful people are for this and in some cases a nice dialogue developed.
Next week I’ll publish my last article in 2017 on how I want to move forward with this blog. I got plenty of ideas and thoughts, so stay tuned!
Let me know your feedback via social media, email or personally. Positive or constructive feedback on articles in 2017 as well as ideas and wishes for 2018 are highly appreciated. And don’t forget to share interesting pieces with your peers.