When you’ve got your nose to the screen and your fingers on the keyboard, it’s hard to pause and take in the bigger picture. After all, you’ve got a blog post to write today, a bunch of comments to reply to, and Twitter and Facebook to check.
You might have great daily – or weekly – routines for your blog. Perhaps you manage to get a post out every single weekday, or you’re really quick to answer comments, or you always get back to emails straight away.
But are you missing the bigger picture?
It’s easy to do – especially if, like me, you love blogging for its speed. You can take a thought through to published post in an hour or two, and get feedback straight away – which is fun, rewarding, and perhaps a teensy bit addictive.
Today, instead of racing on with the next blog post, how about taking a step back to look at five big questions ? These are the “W”s that let you see the bigger picture of your blog.
#1: Why Are You Blogging?
This can be a tough one to answer – but it’s crucially important.
There are dozens of potential reasons why you might be blogging. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
- Just for fun – as a hobby
- To improve your writing
- To build up an audience for your products (physical or digital)
- As a journaling or reflective activity
- To create a website which will make money through advertising or affiliate sales
- To build your profile in a particular field (perhaps aiming to get a job)
- To attract clients who’ll pay for your services
Before you write your next post, be honest with yourself about why you blog. If you’re seriously intending to turn your blog into a business, you’ll be taking a very different approach from someone who just enjoys blogging as an outlet.
#2: Where Do You Want to Be in Six Months?
Whatever your reasons for blogging, you’re probably keen to progress in some way. When looking at the big picture, you might not want to think five years ahead (who knows what’ll have happened to the blogosphere by then?) – but six months is a good length of time.
In six months, you could:
- Write and release an ebook
- Substantially increase the subscribers on your blog
- Build an email list
- Start making a serious income from your blog
…and lots more.
In order to get there, though, you need to know what you’re aiming at ahead of time. Obvious enough, I know, but how often do you sit down and check that your current posts are taking you towards your eventual goals?
#3: What Products or Services Could You Launch?
Although this isn’t the route that every blogger takes, it seems to be how most successful ones make money. Unless your site gets huge amounts of traffic, advertising and affiliate sales probably won’t give you a full-time income.
Selling your own products or services, though, could net you plenty of money without an especially big audience. If you’re a coach, for instance, you might only need ten clients. If you sell ebooks, you might only need to sell to a hundred people each month in order to make a living.
Give yourself a few minutes to brainstorm possible products or services that you could provide:
- Could you write an ebook or record an audio program that covers the same topics as your blog, in more depth?
- What services could you provide? Lots of bloggers work as freelancers, or as consultants.
- If your blog isn’t on an easily-saleable topic, how could you start tweaking it to bring it around into a slightly different area?
#4: When Will You Post Next?
Do you have great intentions about posting three times a week – only to find that yet another month has gone by with only two posts?
Do you find yourself staring at the screen every weekend, wanting to write a post but completely lacking inspiration?
It’s easy to get stuck, especially when you’ve been blogging for a while – it feels like you’ve said everything that you want to say. And it’s easy to fall out of good habits and let days and weeks slide by without a post.
A great way to fix this is by using a post calendar. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy – a notebook document with a list of dates and post topics might well be enough. A post calendar lets you:
- Plan series of posts
- Mix up different styles (perhaps a “how to” post one day and a “FAQ” post the next)
- Set yourself specific dates for posting – no excuses!
- Work out topics and post titles ahead of time, so you know what you’ll be writing
#5: Who Else is Blogging in Your Space?
Seeing the big picture doesn’t just mean keeping your eyes on your own blog. How often do you look for new blogs in your niche?
I know I fall into bad habits here – I’ll have a few favourite blogs that I follow avidly, and I often forget to check out new voices (or older blogs that I just haven’t discovered yet). But whenever I take the time to make new connections, it’s always valuable.
By finding and befriending other bloggers in your niche, you can:
- Get opportunities to guest post, and attract new readers
- Share ideas – and even partner up (I run a joint blog with fellow freelance writer Thursday Bram)
- Produce a product together – using your combined expertise and audiences to create and launch something much bigger than either of you could manage alone
- Help promote one another’s content on Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon or other sites
Getting off your own blog can often spark new ideas. You might want to look at the ways that other bloggers in your area are making money, or at the sorts of posts that they write. Is there anything you could be inspired by, or take further?
Skip writing one post this week, or leave your comments unanswered for a day. Take a step back, and look at the big picture of your blog. How’s it shaping up?
Ali Luke co-authored The Creativity Toolbox along with Thursday Bram. The Toolbox includes a full guide on getting the big picture and the detailed view of any project – as well as two other great guides, and seven interviews with fantastic creative practitioners and coaches.