I’ve been blogging for 18 years.
Starting in my teen years when the medium was new and fresh and most bloggers were on platforms like Live Journal or DearDiary.net or (if you’re fancy) TypePad.
Writing has always been how I think. How I reason things out. How I make sense of the world. So I blogged as a teen about everything I was trying to reason out in the world. I switched platforms many times. Changed topics. Shifted my voice. Tried my hand at humor, at serious tones, at sketches and photos and coding and design. But I kept writing.
For 18 years, I kept writing.
Now, here’s something that might surprise you: despite 18 years of continuous blogging, my personal blog makes me little to no money.
Perhaps a surprise because most of the conversations around blogging these days seem to see it as an easy money-maker. Quit your job to travel and blog! Woohoo!
(Um, no. Please don’t do that.)
But the reality is this: most bloggers don’t make a lot of money directly from blogging.
And I’m one of the ones that doesn’t.
A fact I am solidly and happily and completely okay with.
Because I didn’t start blogging to make money. And I didn’t keep blogging to make money. I blog because I love it. I blog to share. I blog to think.
And I do blog for business.
Just not in the ways you think.
Because the truth is that blogging has been really good for my career, even though I’ve never truly monetized it. It has brought me clients, kept me connected, and given me a platform to test ideas and tease out what matters to people. It’s kept me in the habit of consistent writing, photography, and code work. And it has given me the confidence to move forward with little entrepreneurial adventures.
So today I thought I’d share what blogging success looks like to me–the ways that this weekly practice has impacted my career over and over again, even without being an affiliate sales powerhouse.
1. It’s brought in new clients.
One of my biggest ongoing clients of the last year found me through the blog.
She was looking for someone with a travel background and a content marketing background and then–et voila!—stumbled upon my work and reached out. We did a trial project and loved working together and the next thing you know, her agency was sending me project upon project every week.
This doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen. People find me here, feel connected to my work, and reach out for my help with a project. Often, those relationships become ongoing.
2. It’s created excitement for other clients.
Most of my clients find me in more traditional ways. Word of mouth. Networking groups online. Casual introductions at events.
But even for those who don’t find me through the blog itself, it seems to keep me top of mind.
So many times, especially lately, I’ve reconnected with a past client only to find out they’ve been quietly following along for years. And when another project came up years after the first (or second or third), I was the person who came to mind because I was already (still) on their radar. They knew I was still working freelance. They knew I still specialized in travel and tech content. They knew how to find me.
3. It’s given me a platform to test ideas.
I started blogging simply because I loved it. I loved writing. I loved playing with ideas. I loved seeing how people reacted to them. And over the years, that has continued to be one of the most valuable things blogging has offered me—both personally and professionally.
When I had the idea for the 100 Locals guidebooks, the blog gave me a place to test the idea. I posted one interview, then another, and watched as they quickly became the most popular stuff on this blog.
That gave me the confidence to pour six months of my life into that first guide…and to keep going from there.
4. It’s given me the chance to help people…and that karma came back around.
I do my best to answer every sincere email I get from readers (after all, you guys are my people).
People write with questions about dog travel or going full-time or freelancing. They write to share their own stories of traveling with depression or anxiety. They write to say hi, to connect with a like-minded stranger.
And when they do, I answer.
Both because the blog isn’t so big that answering is impossible (for some big bloggers, I’m sure it’s just too many emails to get through) and because that connection matters to me. It’s why I blog in the first place. And it brings me joy to write back to the high school student who asks my advice on how to nab a writing gig or the fellow freelancer who writes to talk about having to go part time because of illness.
I don’t do it for this reason, but I’ll tell you that that karma—my choice to give time and advice away free via email—has come back around again and again.
Readers have shared client referrals and PayPaled donations. They’ve sent encouraging notes and connected me with experts to interview. They’ve given me pointers for new destinations and even let me stay at their apartments. For free.
5. It made it easy to find beta readers.
In the quest to publish a book, once you’ve got a solid draft and can’t think of any other way to improve it, the next step is to find what the industry calls Beta Readers.
They’re people you ask to read your manuscript and tell you where you can improve. They point out plot holes or confusing spots. They help you figure out where to cut or expand. They tell you if the story captures them…or not.
Writers complain often about finding betas. After all, you don’t usually want friends and family (who are likely to sugarcoat things) and it’s hard to get a complete stranger to commit to reading your work.
But because of the blog, I didn’t have trouble finding mine.
You see, my readers already know me. They know my style. They know my writing. And so they’re not quite strangers, people I’ve randomly asked on the street, but they’re also not quite family, not as likely to sugarcoat a big ol’ plot hole if they find one.
In fact, I had too many people offer to beta read for me and had to keep myself in check (there is such a thing as too much feedback) and take only about 10.
6. It taught me tech skills—which helped me land my first advertising job.
When I started blogging back in my teen years, it was about experimenting and sharing and publishing something other people would read. Back then, the internet was a trickier place to navigate and you needed to have some tech skills to get by.
And so I taught myself.
I taught myself blogging platforms and I taught myself code.
I customized my blogs and made a site from scratch where I could post other content.
And it was those tech skills that landed me my first-ever advertising job, which was how I got my start as a copywriter and content strategist.
7. It’s demonstrated expertise.
When a potential client is thinking about hiring me for blog strategy, I point them here.
If they want to see consistency in publishing, I point them here.
If they need examples of interviews or photo essays or hotel reviews, I point them toward magazine clips and book excerpts I’ve written and blog posts I’ve done for clients, but I also often point them here.
Because this is a massive catalog of my work, proof of my consistency, proof of my tech skills. It’s not the only arrow in my freelance sample quiver, but it’s one I do use to land new work.
8. It’s helped me work with the *right* clients.
The longer I freelance, the more I realize that some clients are a great fit and some really really are not. And the clients who aren’t? They tend not to like it here. They don’t like that I work part-time or they don’t like that I take a month off every year or they don’t like that I travel.
But the clients who end up being the most pleasant to work with? They love it here. They love that travel isn’t just the kind of content I write, but that it’s a part of my everyday life. They love that I work with less clients and spend my time trying to over-deliver on my promises. They love that I have the tech chops to maintain my own web presence. They love that writing is more than a job; it’s something I do with my free time.
Those clients are the ones I love working with. And my blog and lifestyle draw them to me.
Now, to you: Do you blog? Has it helped your career?
Thinking of starting or re-vamping your blog? Did I mention that I run a DIY Website Workshop?