Last month I shared a number of quotes that have really helped me in the last three years as I try to work out a way to support myself doing what I love. One of those was “Blogging is never a waste of time” and I promised that I would come back to this in more detail.
So today I want to share seven thoughts about (serious) blogging and in particular how it relates to my vision for this blog as we begin 2016. Just for the record, I will try to stick to my quota of seven items today! And yes, this is another long post, but its the last of these for a while.
1. Why I love blogging
A few of many reasons:
- Whenever I sketch I have lots of ideas in my head and it is great to have a format where I can record these. I don’t see blogging (scanning, writing and posting) as an additional step but as the last part of the whole process. The sketch isn’t finished till it’s posted!
- The fact that I hope to share ‘every’ sketch means that I’m less likely to give up if it’s not going well. It’s not a hard and fast rule to post everything, and it’s certainly not a burden, but my intention becomes a motivation.
- I love the documentation of my process and get much benefit from re-reading old posts – reinforcing the idea that my creative journey is a spiral. I wrote more about this here.
- The discipline of writing my art thoughts spurs me on to my ideas and ways of further developing my work.
- I think that blogging as part of my typical workday has a direct correlation with my ‘previous life’ as an architect. The core of my work was producing documents that I then sent on to clients, planners, builders etc with a written explanation. This combined story of images and text is second nature to me and in a way, preparing a blog post each day is like my personal ticking the box that I have achieved something today!
2. Why I don’t think blogs are dead
I started sharing online in 2008 when people had a personal blog and/or a Flickr account. Along came Facebook and much of the sketching community moved there and it’s certainly made the community more active. Now with Instagram and numerous other platforms, it has never been easier to take a photo on your smartphone, add some words and share with the world. This means those personal blogs are now too much hard work and as a rule are they are no longer the best way to share daily images with a few thoughts.
I still think nothing beats blogs:
- For combining a series of images with text
- For people who want to write more about their art
- For detailed reviews and instructional posts (note: video is the next big threat to blogs (Vlogs) in this regard but I think there will always be writers!)
- And perhaps the biggest advantage of all is the ability to revisit good articles – it is so hard to find stuff on FB (if not impossible).
So I think that blogs these days are all about more planned, detailed content and as a result, having a good archive system is very desirable. I know, I don’t have this yet (although I do continually add links to my Current Sketching Tools page!) but it is one of my big projects for 2016.
3. Blogging is a huge commitment
It takes a lot of time to write more than a few sentences and post an image – and I am more and more appreciative of the time ANYONE takes to put a blog post together – especially those that have busy full time jobs and family commitments.
The scanning and photo editing is a huge job in itself, but the time taken to think of ideas, formulate and compose the text should never be underestimated. I used to allow 2 hours per day for blogging, but that is often not enough – some posts take 4 hours, 1 day or 3 days (those Fountain Pen posts were in this later category). At some stage what was once a journally hobby starts to look like work.
I have done a lot of research into the methods of full time bloggers in other industries (who blog as a career!) and a lot of them stress that to get serious, you must work to a blog schedule. I certainly do some scheduling, but also like to allow for spontaneous posting. December’s ‘serious blogging’ season made me realise that what I love most about blogging is the spontaneity of writing about what I sketch – so too much scheduling could easily kill the joy for me.
Do I ever run out of ideas? No way! I am bursting at the seams with ideas, have a long list of things that I want to write about, and am constantly prompted with more ideas by the comments/ questions of my readers.
4. How to make a living out of blogging
Okay, lets get to the nitty gritty (and potentially controversial!) Can someone possibly support themselves by sharing free content?
There are a few established methods of generating income from blogging:
1. Advertising (sidebar ads)
2. Sponsored posts (get paid to using a company’s product)
3. Affiliate Links (get a % if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase based on your recommendation)
4. Subscription (provide addition content for a paid monthly subscription)
5. Marketing for your product.
A few comments:
1. Completely out for me – there is no way that I want ads on my personal blog.
2. This might work well for food/lifestyle bloggers who can make use of the products in a way that is a good fit, but I think it is less appropriate to the art/sketching world.
3. I am still thinking though this but I think it is best suited to someone that does a lot of product reviews – such as ‘the review king’ Parkablogs!
4. Whilst on one level this makes a lot of sense, I worry that as per above, it could kill the joy of blogging, and I know many readers wouldn’t like it. Not to mention the fact that the whole concept of blogging has been to provide free regular ‘web-logs’.
5. This is what I am left with….
Now, I might be opening a can of worms discussing this! Some of you will be thinking I am nuts not to set up some affiliate links and others might be shuddering at the mention of income and marketing and thinking “its all making blogging and/or sketching too commercial”. Other people question whether the content is biased or not when there is any kind of sponsorship. There are a lot of things to be considered!
But like many other full time artists, I am simply trying to make a living doing what I love. I am not trying to create a mega business, but there is no doubt that starting to use the word ‘business’ in regard to what I do, has helped me to become more efficient and to focus on strengthening what I love to do (my brand).
I have observed in some other industries (lifestyle, food, sewing) how bloggers who become very successful lose their personal voice and their blogs, if maintained at all, become nearly all advertising – the person has been lost in the success. I am very conscious of this danger however it’s always inevitable in some degree with growth and development.
5. Social Media Marketing
This is another big topic but a few quick thoughts:
- There are plenty of social media experts out there, and business coaches who will tell you how you ‘should’ use social media, but as someone that has been learning the ropes on the ground, building my ‘platform’ over many years of copious posting, I am trusting my instinct more and more. I have been greatly encouraged by the approach to blogging (and small business) of Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess and the podcasts of Elise Blaha Cripe. These have got nothing to do with sketching, but I love researching bloggers in other industries.
- The common mantra is that you use social media to support your product, however I see my product (which at the moment is my teaching – online classes and local workshops) as a way of supporting my blogging!
- I will mention my classes frequently because they are the way that I am able to continue to provide free content to everyone and more importantly, because the concepts that I teach in them are a huge part of my daily sketching experiences. This connects me in an ongoing way with the readers that have done my courses.
- For me, the key is a commitment to providing quality free content, daily encouragement to keep sketching and personal engagement. Generosity rather than a hard sell.
James Gurney a blogger whom I greatly admire said a few things in a post last year that really struck a chord. I have to quote this whole section:
What I come away with is that the new digital arts economy is different in several fundamental ways compared to the old one. These differences are suggested by the following four paradoxes:
• You have to give something away in order to sell it.
• Some people will pay more than your asking price if you give them the option.
• Promote others if you want to advance your career.
• Share your trade secrets and you will benefit.
These principles seem counter intuitive to someone like me raised in the pre-digital arts economy. The differences arise because people buying digital content understand that they’re directly supporting the personal vision of the artist. They’re not just buying a product; they’re buying into a relationship.
6. My Blog and SketchingNow
Basically my blog is where I share the sketches of my life and the ideas I have during the experience of sketching. Although I might do a few ‘series’ and have periods when I share more detailed content, it is basically a dump of my art brain on a regular basis. Sharing the ups and down, and the crazy thoughts as I progress along my creative journey.
As I mentioned above, doing this helps me formulate new ideas but also the concepts behind what I do. My SketchingNow classes are where I put these together in a structured way so that I can pass it on to others. The more I do this, the easier it is for me to sketch more spontaneously (fast sketching is not laziness but rather confidence to simplify based on the development of my visual thinking).
The more I can sketch spontaneously, the more of my life I can record in sketches and so the cycle goes on!
7. Looking Forward
Finally just a few things on my radar for 2016 and beyond:
I have finally begun the process of formatting my blog the way I want, including a serious archive section. This is a major project happening behind the scenes, and I can’t wait for this to be achieved! It has been my dream for three years to put some time into my blog, not just into generating content.
I want to find a sustainable mix
– between schedules and spontaneous posts,
– between short and long posts (recently it has been long and longer!)
– between everyday sketches, product reviews and instructional posts.
But most of all, my goal is that by sharing my own creative journey on a regular basis I will inspire and encourage you to start or continue on yours.
How can you support me to continue to do this?
- Obviously my teaching is my main way of supporting myself at the moment, so enrolling in any workshop/online class is huge (thank you!!!) so is recommending them to others (another big thank you!!)
- Sharing the posts that you find helpful (on FB, Google+, Twitter etc) is great!
- Commenting here on my blog really keeps me going – it encourages me and I feel more engaged with you, my readers. However I know there is often not the time to comment, so just the fact that I can see people are reading my blog is a huge motivation to me to keep posting! The comments are a bonus!
So thank you, once again, for sharing this journey with me – there are some exciting things in store for 2016 and I would love for you to be part of them.