I think that the blogosphere contains a lot of internal pressure. Bloggers give each other tips on growth, push each other to connect with readers, and will even meet in person to discuss blogging and how to become better at their craft. If you’ve been around the blogosphere for a while, you will have heard tons of tips including the following:
Stay active on social media!
Comment thoughtfully on other blogs!
Self-host your blog and custom design it!
Take high-quality photographs!
Respond to your readers promptly!
Write respectfully and avoid controversial topics!
… and on and on.
I love the blog community, but I have heard (both implicitly and explicitly) fellow bloggers grow tired of all our regular blog-related obligations. So how do we decide when enough is enough?
If you’re a blogger, I think the main question to ask yourself is this: is your blog closer to a hobby or a business start-up?
Is this something you’re doing because you prefer to do it rather than play golf, knit, go camping, ski, play music, paint, volunteer, or take photographs? Or is it something you’d like to turn into a living?
Because hobbies and businesses are not the same thing.
People have written “how-to” blog posts with titles such as: “Turn Your Hobby Into A Business,” or “How To Make Money Doing What You Love.” While these tips are well-intentioned if not effective, I think that they’re merging two things that shouldn’t be merged: your approach to a hobby vs. your approach to a business.
What’s a hobby?
I can’t believe I’m actually articulating definitions, but I think we need to talk about this. A hobby is something you do for fun, during leisure time and with disposable income. Hobbies are luxuries that some people can’t afford to have, or at least to invest too much time and money in. But ultimately, we do these things for the sheer joy of them, and theoretically we can choose to neglect them whenever our more important life obligations call on us.
Your hobby should not stress you out; much less burn you out.
What’s a business?
A business, then, is something quite different. A business– whether it grows successfully or not– is something that usually demands an upfront investment without immediate payoff. Especially when we start our own businesses, the first few years can be characterized by serious hustling, perhaps even running at a loss. There are rules to a business– guidelines, etiquette, even laws. And at the beginning, it’s usually rough.
(A man I met at a recent holiday cocktail party recounted that during the first years of his startup, he made approximately 16 cents an hour.)
So, a business has the promise of becoming a livelihood and aims in that direction. But in order to make it that, you can’t treat it as a hobby. You can’t ask yourself, “Am I having fun?” Because you might have fun on certain days, but there certainly will be days when you won’t. And that’s not an excuse to quit.
So what does this have to do with our many blogging obligations? Well, I think that we need to decide for ourselves whether to treat our blogs as hobbies or businesses. This will determine how we feel about these blogging “obligations” and the amount of pressure we put on ourselves.
Blogging as a hobby might mean…
- You like this, but can choose to put many other things before your blog.
- You aren’t looking to monetize. Oh, and by the way: just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it for money.
- Growth is fun and even desirable, but you’re not looking for a certain investment/growth payoff.
- You write a blog that meets your needs, interests and expectations.
- You treat investing in your blog as you would any other hobby: as a luxury.
- You are not obliged to “please” your readers; they can come and go at no cost to you.
Blogging as a business might mean…
- You love blogging, and are willing to do everything it takes to develop it– even those things you don’t love to do.
- You think strategically about how you invest time and money in your blog.
- You expect to work hard with little return, especially at the beginning.
- You maintain relationships and develop a real professional network.
- You are constantly looking for ways to improve; you follow rules and industry standards.
- You evaluate methods of monetizing and try different options.
- You are obliged to “please” your readers/advertisers; they’re your clients and they pay for your work.
“I’m blogging for fun, but maybe one day I’ll do it for money.”
I’ve heard lots of people say this. My question is, when is “one day”? A year from now? Five years? Are you stressed about when that “one day” will come?
If you do want this, then perhaps you should treat your blog as a business. If running a blog business is not for you, then your blog is a hobby. It’s quite simple, really.
Ultimately, I think our vision for our blogs can change as we do. All I’m saying is that the pressure we put on ourselves should match that vision.
If your blog is strictly a hobby from which you simply hope to find joy, make a few friends, and create fun content, then don’t feel so pressured to do everything bloggers are told to do! Take things at your own pace. Invest what you can afford. Don’t stress when numbers take a nose dive or when comments aren’t coming in.
If your blog is a business, then by all means, hustle– in the way that’s right for you. I can’t advise much further than that, because (as you might have guessed) Simplicity Relished is a hobby.
Before I close, I should note that I have absolutely no problem with blogs that make money. In fact, I have a lot of admiration for blogs that operate as part- or full-time jobs. It’s so fun to learn from bloggers who do this, and I’ve really enjoyed reading blogs that serve as an income for the blogger.
Simplicity Relished is a hobby because it neither promotes another product nor makes money from advertising. This is simply because I don’t think that this space is where I’ve been called to make a career, though I do so deeply enjoy blogging.
Ultimately, I hope that we all can see our own blogs clearly, and thus experience some freedom. There’s freedom in knowing what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and committing to that. If you’re anything like me, you hate hustling when you don’t really know where you’re going. The unnecessary stress doesn’t help, either!
What are your thoughts? Is your blog more of a business or a hobby? Or TBD? I know there are lots of opinions on this, so I can’t wait to hear from you! Have a great weekend everyone!