The 3 Fatal Diseases that Kill Good Blogs

image of a man in a flu maskPicture this. You’re in a fancy night club, one of the best in Vegas. You’re drinking free beer and watching 50 or 100 people party to heavy beats and exotic dance tunes. You should be enjoying the mood . . . maybe even letting a dance sneak out every now and then.

But instead, you’re off in the corner talking business. Not just any business either. You’re talking about the business of blogging.

I know . . . pretty lame right?

But hold that thought, because although on the surface it seems like you’re missing the point of the “nightclub experience,” the truth is that you are working feverishly to solve a problem that plagues the blogging world.

It might not be life or death, but the fact that most bloggers don’t see it is cause for great concern. So what’s the problem?

Bloggers make terrible businesspeople

I was at the Bank in the Bellagio hotel earlier this month, talking with my pal Rich Lazzara, and we started talking about something we noticed during the first two days of the Blogworld Expo.

Rich mentioned to me that bloggers were crappy business people (that’s putting it nicely) and proposed that if people like you and I started treating our blog as a business, we’d actually start seeing better results. At first I was a bit surprised by the assumption, but after digesting it this weekend I realized that he was absolutely right.

Over the course of our conversation, we discussed a variety of examples, but I want to share the three “blog killers” that really stood out to me.

1. Business Bloggers Making Hobby Money: These guys (and gals) work like Gary Vaynerchuk, but they aren’t making anything more than hobby money. They want to say that they are probloggers, but they allow the comfort of their job to lull them into a sense of security.

Rather than live up to their inner desire to become a blogging powerhouse, they use “hobby blogging” as an excuse to stay exactly where they are.

2. The Dreamers: These bloggers dream all day about blogging success, but they never get around to actually doing the work required to make it happen. They simply won’t take things seriously. To them, spending four hours on Twitter is just as productive as writing a blog post.

3. The Selfish: These bloggers just don’t see the point in networking or in spreading goodwill. They certainly don’t take the time to foster relationships that can help them reach the next level, including creating a solid relationship with their audience.

For selfish bloggers, everything is about them . . . what they can do, how good their products are, and how much you should want to be like them. They step on everyone else in order to get onto the shoulders of giants.

It’s time to get serious

In my opinion, each of these three maladies hinge on what Chris Brogan said during his Blogworld keynote on Thursday, which is that as bloggers we all need to elevate our game.

If you are serious about blogging, you need to treat your blog like a business. You are the CEO of You Inc., and you’ve got to weigh every single decision as if there were millions of dollars on the line. Yeah, it would be great to blog in your underwear and sleep in every morning, but the reality is that most of us can’t afford to do that.

Measure the day’s work in results, not in hours spent typing on Facebook or Twitter. Absolutely, fostering relationships is important, but every action needs to be treated as an investment of your time.

This is especially important if you are a solo blogger, as there is only so much work that you can get done in a day. You’ve got to be efficient with your time. This means measured action and measured results — not just going with the flow.

Be honest with yourself

If you really don’t care whether or not you make any money as a blogger, then that’s fine. But don’t lie to yourself just so you can feel better about being broke.

Bust your tail

Copyblogger took about four years to get where it is today. Gary V busted his ass for two years before he got the book deal. And Chris Brogan spent 11 years on his “overnight success.”

You’ve got to work hard to become successful. End of story.

Be strategic

Develop a short-, mid-, and long-term plan for your business and follow it to the best of your ability. You can adapt it as you gain knowledge and expertise, but if you go without a plan you’re toast.

Learn how to network

As someone who spends time in sales and marketing, I’m used to shaking hands and saying hello.

It’s important to get out there and meet people, but please don’t be “that guy.” Treat relationships as an investment in your business.

Provide value

Quit worrying about what your customer can do for you and instead worry about what you can do for your customer.

Don’t think about how you can shove a new product down a customer’s throat. Instead, spend your time worrying about whether you can solve a problem or improve their experience. If providing value to your audience isn’t a priority, you’re in for trouble.

There’s no secret to becoming a full-time blogger aside from hard work and adopting the right mentality. Sure, there are nuances that you’ll need to master, but the plan is already laid out there for you. Find your passion, develop a plan, and work your tail off by creating awesome content.

But heck, isn’t that what they’ve been saying here all along?

About the Author: Nathan Hangen writes about web entrepreneurship at NathanHangen.com, and about how to use social media to fuel your brand at Making It Social. Follow him on Twitter @nhangen.

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  1. Hey Nathan,

    When you treat your blog like a business, you not only create more income doing what you love, but you also make better stuff and faster.

    Assuming you love writing and building your blog, then treating it like a business just means approaching it with an organized and effective mindset.

    The enjoyable activity stays the same, but you kick yourself in the butt to focus on the most important elements that’ll give you maximum results, while ruthlessly ignoring the rest.

    You end up creating more and faster. You do it more often, you improve, you make better stuff. So, not only are you giving people more value, but you’re actually enjoying it more too. And who doesn’t like getting better faster and making awesome-er stuff?

    Thanks for the simple but important reminder to treat our blogs like a business.

    Best,
    Oleg

    PS. Thanks again for being one of my super-awesome early readers and commenters. Very cool to see you write on CopyBlogger :)

  2. Absolutely right Oleg, and I’m certainly not perfect on this front. However, being at Blogworld gave me poke in the right direction.

    I think much of it has to do with not just grinding out a post to have another one, but make sure that everything furthers what you are trying to do. The decisions you make today will impact your life tomorrow.

    Oh, and by the way, your blog is great, glad I found it :)

  3. Hmmm, nice article. A light just turned on. Business, alright!

  4. I totally agree with this article..
    Selfish is bad habit.. Blogging is not just about writing skills.
    Networking is also important .

  5. Wow, what a great pep talk this morning! We business owners l probloggers need to never let ourselves get in that comfort zone because before you know it when your eyes are closed, someone else is going to come up with a better plan and rip the rug right out from under you. I need to tweet this one because you always need to keep on your toes…thanks for such an insightful article!

  6. Totally agree Nathan, and we desperately need to get away from the “working two hours a day, spending the rest of the day on the beach” mentality that seems to have attached itself to blogging.

    Treated seriously, it can provide a fantastic income and lifestyle, but like anything else, if you don’t work or behave unprofessionally, you’ll be another blogger earning pennies and complaining about it.

  7. Nathan,

    Great post. Can’t agree more.

    This is a reminder for me too. I’m somewhere in between group 1 and group 2 to be honest.

    When you treat your blog as a business, you work consistently (everyday). Just like how you would work in real business. To make it more serious, I think one can try having a separate office (room), dress almost like how one goes to office and start working on time. Once things start getting serious, there won’t be a need for a reminder.

    Thanks again for the reminder (and hopefully I won’t need it again)

    Cheers

  8. Wow–After reading this I realized that I am, in fact, blog killer number 1: A business blogger making hobby money. I guess I never really looked at it like that before, but now that I see it–WOW!! I’ve been working hard on my blog for almost two years now, and I gripe almost everyday because it’s not where I want it to be. Well–hello! If it took Copyblogger 4 years to get where it’s at today, I should feel lucky to have the early-adoption that my blog has right now!

    This post really made me see that I’m right where I should be with the amount of effort I’m putting in. I’m going to take some time over the next couple weeks to really make a plan for my blog and decide what I want to do with it and how I’m going to do it.

    Thanks Nathan!

  9. Nicely put, Nathan. It all boils down to what you want as a blogger and what you’re willing to do to get it. Success doesn’t come to you, YOU have to run to it! My blog – The Success Center started as a hobby blog for my first 3 months, and then I relaunched it into the multimedia power house it is today.

    When I did that, everything really changed. My work ethic, my content, my audience (I actually started to grow one) – it all started to fall into place. Great article again.

  10. @Dorothy – so true, and it always happens when we least expect it.

    @Mike – I blame Tim Ferriss!

    @Jennifer – The best part about that realization is that if you improve your game in just a few areas, you can speed up that growth to get to where you want to be.

  11. @nathan – So do I, but let’s keep quiet about that that one!

  12. I think you’ve hit it right on the money. I think another thing dreamers do is get caught up reading other blogs and wishing they could be successful, but not spending the time needed to reach that level of success.

    Lack of confidence is keeping many hobby bloggers from taking the step out to being pro. Lack of willingness to commit.

    Running a blog as a business can also take money. Setting up a serious mailing list. Getting a strong theme like Thesis. Either taking the time to design an attractive site or paying someone to can all be make or break.

  13. I wish I could have been there to hear Chris speak. He is so inspirational and seems down to earth. I think he’s got that intoxicating mix of aspiration and guy-next-door going for him.

    Bloggers are professionalizing! We need to do it justice.

  14. I want to say thank you for sending this article to me, it made alot of sence to me. I am the ceo, and within 5 years this will be a profitable company. goal #1. Im lucky that im in business with my two best friends, and that they have been doing this for a few years, they give me the incentive to continue. i see my pal of 15 years buying a house for 375000, and i know that someday, soon i hope, i will be doing the same. thank you for the information. you have been very helpful. i look forward to the next piece of information i get from you. thanks.

  15. I desperately needed this message. And today, right this moment. Apparently, there’s something like blog paralysis and I think you just knocked it out of me. Thank you thank you thank you!

  16. Hey Nathan:

    The point that resonated with me the most is hard work as a
    “secret” to being successful as a blogger. If you work smart and you work hard, you will get results.

    People are so bombarded with get rich quick schemes that they fall into the trap of quick money as opposed to building value for others just like you mentioned.

    Yet, I also think that many people become bloggers thinking, just like MIKE CJ mentioned, that they can work only for two hours a day and they lay around on the beech and do nothing.

    Becoming a professional blogger is not about easy money. It is about find the passion that you can share with others and working hard and consistently to deliver to others in a way that improves their lives.

    Yet another big trap in the way of becoming a professional blogger is that we work for ourselves and it is hard to work for ourselves mainly because there is nobody to boss us around. So it might actually take more effort to become susccesful as opposed to work for someone else.

    Sorry about the lengthy post, but it’s just that all of the above things resonate with me and I care to share this with the rest of you!

    Make that change!

    Best,
    Tomas

  17. Love this comment: “You’ve got to work hard to become successful. End of story.”

    The tough part is deciding exactly what you want to be successful at and which direction to excel in when there are so many interesting avenues to turn down. You really have to pick your passion and narrow the focus (which I have yet to do).

    Great insightful post!

  18. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation, Nathan. Naturally everything you say here we can all agree on.

    I wish you had also touched on *how* we go about treating our blogs like a business. I realize it’s a vast subject, but I would have liked to have seen some real-life, successful examples of how you or others you know do this.

    Most bloggers, including me, don’t lack the burning desire to turn our blogs into our business — we just don’t know how.

  19. I think there is a 4th disease – not reading blog post titles properly. Because of the pest control nature of our business blog (and its name: deBugged), I read “the 3 fatal diseases that kill good bugs” – I was wondering which good bugs they might be and then twigged what I had done when I re-read the title.

    How true the content here is though (as always). deBugged has been going since April this year and is doing well, but I think the specific advice of having a short, medium and long term strategy is actually very very important. So, it’s something I will review asap.

  20. @Charles – That’s a good point, maybe I’ll follow up with some clearcut examples in another post or two.

  21. @Danusia, laughing, that is definitely a new one.

    @Blake, fortunately, there are a lot of tools and resources that are very reasonable. Aweber is about $20 a month. Thesis is $87. Compared to common routine expenses like cable bills or our latte habit, the tools for bloggers are a great deal, IMO. (And I felt that before I made a dime with my blog.)

  22. This is hardcore. I believe you guys are a step ahead of most people I know, who are not even making hobby money. They just blog for the fun, the attention or to make new friends.

  23. Blogging is still in trend. Don’t expect, however, to make big bucks out of it. I just do it for fun in my spare time, traffic that generates revenue is kind of a side effect.

  24. Treating my web site as a business is what enabled me to quit my real job when it got boring to me. While not a true blog, what I do is really equivalent to blogging in terms of the content – I just got started before wordpress and blogging were on the scene.

    One of the keys to treating the site/blog as a business is to have a really good idea of your market and where the revenue is going to come from. For me and my site, the revenue from ad sales was going to be beer money at best

    Rather than sell ads to companies that make products, I went out and got the products to sell directly to my market. While I took a gradual approach to this, it’s what has enabled me to run my own biz and use great content to power it.

  25. Great post! Writer’s block is one thing, legitimate (to a degree) and can be worked through and overcome. However, the whole shut-in mentality of being above the readership masses is something that is best realized as laziness and arrogance. Hard work is hard work. Discipline is required as well as dedication out of anything that you commit to. Your examples of Gary Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan were right on- they worked hard, they are focused and disciplined still. People skills are and always be essential. Otherwise, you’ll always be “that guy”.
    Thanks for the inspirational insight!

  26. I’ve just started writing my own personal blog, and as I just finished reading your post here I felt that I have just came across some real gold!

    Thank you for sharing these tips with us, I will definitely not be any one of those three blog killers that you have mentioned.

    There’s nothing more important for a blogger than his readers. After all, without his readers the blog will be meaningless. :)

  27. Great post. Sadly, many bloggers start off with the thought of very little work for lots of money. When that doesn’t pan out, they excuse it by calling it a hobby.

  28. I have just recently started to think of my parenting blog as a business. I realized I spend a lot of time writing on it and I need to either treat it like a buinsess and go somewhere with it, or stop doing it.

    I have a LONG ways to go. Thanks for this reminder!

  29. Interesting and useful insights. Time for blogging ‘business’.

  30. B – Blog
    L – Laborously/Lastingly/Lovingly/Lawfully
    O – Or
    G – Go Away

    :)

  31. Yeah, we surely need to treat our blog as business if want a big succes. But that never need to do if only want so-so success.

  32. Its hard not to give all your secrets away whilst trying to be open and appraochable!

  33. @Sonia – They are excellent deals. I’m not so sure I would be willing to invest $500 or $1000 on my blog before I started seeing real income, but the price of Awebber and Thesis is well worth every penny.

    I think there is some amount of assumption that being a problogger doesn’t require buying anything (or requires buying things that are very expensive ).

    From what I can tell, a little investment goes a long way to becoming a problogger. Not being willing to make that investment is one of the things that keeps some people in the “hobby blogger” and “dreamer” categories mentioned.

    Like it has been said here on Copyblogger many times, once people feel invested, they are more likely to follow through with their actions.

  34. Thanks for the wake up call Nathan
    I do think that finding and developing your own personality and delivering that out through your blog is a key. Otherwise in the words of Seth Godin, you won’t be able to atttract a tribe and then all you do is put another piece of unread content on the web.

  35. @Tomas – It is an interesting dynamic for sure. It takes a self-starter and a lot of dedication to take the long road.

    @Sarah – So true! It’s so easy to get distracted online too, that many times I find myself chasing the next best thing. I’ve learned though, that if I dig in and focus on 1 project, that I am much more effective. I think the key to knowing what to work on has a lot to do with trusting your instincts, even if the road ahead seems uncomfortable.

    @PH – Nothing wrong with that, but if for those that do want to step up and go to the next level, you have to have a deeper desire than just wanting to make friends.

    @Andy – Oh, I’m not so sure about that :)

    @Craig – thanks for sharing your experience, some good stuff there.

    @Joe – yep, Gary gets it because he was raised in the business world, same with Chris. I think that has a lot to do with how they picked it up so quickly.

    @Grey – Awesome, this blog is a great place to start :)

    @Gabe – I admit, that’s how I started, but my desire to not have a “real job” was greater than my desire to be lazy…not the same for everyone unfortunately.

    @Samantha – Parenting blogs are awesome…good luck!

    @Shane – Sweet, love it!

    @Blake – I found that when I started spending more than just Paypal money on my business, the switch flipped and I realized that I had to do something more than just shoestring. Sure, the costs of starting a blog with Thesis and Aweber are nothing when compared to that of a brick and mortar, but it doesn’t stop there. I’m big on hiring people and feeding the community.

    @Andee – Perfect. Seth has it exactly right.

  36. Hey Nathan,
    I think You’re absolutely right! The first decision when You want to start a blog is to choose if You want it as Your hobby (but really just a hobby) or as a business.. Yeah, sometimes You can upgrade from a hobby to pro blogger, but I think usually it’s little bit different – a lot of guys start as a ‘pro’ blogger and then downgrade to ‘hobby’..
    It’s not as easy as it looks like!
    Great article! Especially for guys who want to start a blog!

  37. Thanks for the inspiration to get a concrete plan in place.

  38. This is something I need to get back into the routine of. I’ve been letting life in general get too much in the way of business. Things are hectic still, but I need to find a way.

  39. Nathan, you are a genius. And you’re obviously listening to the right people. I can’t remember where I found you, you’d probably know better about that than I, but since I’ve been following your blog, (a few months) the hits to my blog have increased from 35 a week to 235. I can’t put that into book sales, but I just signed with a new publisher. And my blog is 136 over at Wikios. SO… keep up the good work. And thanks for teaching an old dog new tricks.

  40. Nathan,

    You obviously know where I stand on all of this ;) Thanks for the good post.

  41. Blogging like a business – Check…wait what?

  42. Brogan’s BWE keynote was a good one. His story about the inner city community leader using Facebook to stop gang wars and keep kids connected was a true check of how we can use social media to impact lives with real change instead of just playing Farmville.

    Unfortunately, I agree with you that bloggers are not the greatest business people. I expected more from fellow bloggers at blogworld. But it’s post like this one and reading Seth Godin’s Tribes or Brogan’s Trust Agents that have added fuel to my goals because for the last year I’ve approached my blog as both a business and service to live music fans. I made the decision to approach blogging as a business of serving live music fans by giving them a voice to share their experiences.

    There’s no getting around the fact that this “business” blogging approach is hard work, but I hope more bloggers will make the same decision I did because the payoff has been very fun and I’m just getting warmed up. ;)

  43. Um, Gary V has a TV show promoting his blog… hello!!!! not a fair comparison to joe blow blogger

  44. Well, as you’ve mentioned, there’s no substitute for hardwork. But to make ones hardwork reach out, social networking is important. It all matters on how this whole thing is strategized and implemented.

  45. I agree with you that the Selfish is one factor that can kill a good blogger

  46. @ml – if you are talking about Wine Library TV, then let me ask you…how do you think he built that platform?

  47. oh god, this post really help/ saved me from killing my blog, anyhow iam happy i was not in the 3 points you mentioned and it helped to avoid that in future, and i must think what can i do for the customers/readers.
    thank you so much, 4 days headache came down :).
    -Sriganesh.M

  48. Really enjoyed this post and the comments. Especially what sarah (GenMom) wrote with “the tough part is deciding exactly what you want to be successful at and which direction to excel in when there are so many interesting avenues to turn down.”

    I completely agree and will share this on Twitter.

  49. treat blog as business, this is absolutely the best way to gain more from your blog.. yay i blog for fun.. but doesn’t mean i dont want get anything from it.. maybe i now at “hobby bloggin’ state, because various reasons.. but “the selfish” – that just bad.. no blogger should do that.

  50. Nice ideas, Nathan
    I think Networking with other bloggers should be a priority.
    What matters who you know.

  51. Yes coach! :)

    It is funny that for me, treating my blog like a business comes natural, it is the product I have sometimes have a hard time defining. I don’t really want to sell anything. Just want to share my ideas. I know my content is my “product” but for some reason, it is hard for me to see it that way. I love writing and will always do it. Any suggestions?

  52. @Sid – Your blog looks great and it seems you are well on your way to achieving your goals. If you don’t want to sell, don’t sweat it! Just keep doing what you are doing.

    Sure, your content is a product, but your lifestyle doesn’t depend on it. In your case, I’d say that you are the product…so don’t sell yourself short :)

  53. Ouch…still learning how to get knee-deep in everything and actually force myself to do these things to get my blog done. Much needed advice for any aspiring blogger who has to go from aspiring to realized.

  54. @ Nathan, Thanks! That is what I needed to hear. Now about not selling myself short….. ;-)

    Peace.

  55. Thank you for this post Nathan.

    To treat your blog as a business is a nice ideal worth pursueing. My challenge is that most bloggers know very little about business since most bloggers are either employees or self – employed.

    Bloggers are the business themselves and that is precisely the problem. A business is built around a system and not a person. We bloggers are the brand we sell, simply removing the blogger kills the entire business of blogging. How do we solve this?

  56. @Tito – Brian is a perfect example of how to do this. Copyblogger doesn’t depend on his name alone, so he can remove himself without killing the blog.

  57. Wow, some of this has never crossed my mind before. I have never realised that there is so much thought put into this. I think this is truly brilliant. I will take all this into account from now on.

  58. Absolutely dead on ideas. If you look at any of the top bloggers when they right posts about how they make money online, they actually will tell you that they treat their blog as a business and that’s what separates them from the rest.

  59. I think you raise some really valid points within this blog and have struck home with many people. I think getting the right balance is vital to having a successful blog and to do this you have to have the mind set of a business person.

  60. I’ve to agree. I feel most bloggers start writing about their lifes or passion, and never intended to monetize their blogs in any way, only to realise later that they have attracted readers expecting free stuff all the time.

  61. Is blogging really a business for most bloggers? Or is it a means to promote another business?

  62. Does blogging need to be a business?
    Can it be a way to share your passions?
    I find many of the so-called ‘blogging experts’ tiring.
    Isn’t there a point where blogging about blogs is plain boring?
    I cringe when I read some ‘advice givers’ who cannot even write properly.
    Being passionate and enthusiastic about whatever topic you write on is not a bad way to create an audience.
    In the end blogging is just a tool that allows us to write and publish and connect with people in the same way that a car is there to take us places.
    If there are only 2 things I hope I have accomplished in my months and years writing ‘Serge the Concierge’ is that I have become a better writer and that once in a while I shed light on some interesting topics.

    My 2 cents

    Serge
    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’

  63. Nathan, it’s cool to see yet another blogger with sales experience. I honestly believe people who have been in the position where they’re forced to get results in order to get a paycheck learn lessons that apply directly to blogging success. It is a business, period. And the results you get relate directly to how well you run it…it’s not about the hours you work; it’s about getting results. People with business and/or sales experience seem to “get” this more readily.