Three years ago, the concept of professional blogging was unheard of. Perhaps the concept of blogging for income or revenue was there, only that it was not mainstream enough to even merit a name.
Here, I share a story about a part of my life which is perhaps most interesting to my fellow geeks. I wouldn’t necessarily delve into definitions and other specifics of pro-blogging, which can be defined in a multitude of ways. Before I start with the nitty-gritty of things, let me share with you how I see myself personality-wise. As I may have mentioned in many an interview (pro-bloggers are oft interviewed by peers), I am a rebel by nature. I am a non-conformist. I dance to my own beat. I live by my own rules–or at least I try to. And this is probably the reason why I find blogging a very appropriate and meaningful means of living. This concept will be echoed time and again in the various stages of pro-blogging I have gone into, as you will see.
I am an economist by profession. I took up economics as my undergraduate degree, and also in my measly attempt at post-graduate studies. My first full-time job was as an economist for a government socio-economic planning agency. I went for the job upon the urging of my parents, whom I believe wanted their children to take on stable corporate (or in this case bureaucratic) careers. The entrepreneur in me on the other hand would rather start some interesting new business, but I hadn’t the guts and the resources then to do so, and hence my folks prevailed.
Government work was okay. I was able to use what I had studied for. And I was also able to explore my technical side, being my department’s resident techie. We were on flexi-time, which was great. The pay wasn’t so bad for a guy just starting out, but it was nothing spectacular. It was during this time when I started to blog. I signed up for a Blogger account in 2003, but didn’t get to start posting and tweaking my blog until exactly a year after, in August of 2004. By then I found it a cool way to express my thoughts and link up with other netizens.
I rose up the ranks gradually, and was a senior economist by the time I considered leaving government about three years after I started–I had a growing family to sustain and my earnings as a bureaucrat just didn’t cut it. I had applied with an IT company for a job I honestly thought wouldn’t have any relevance to my skills and training. But they considered the fact that I blogged as an advantage, since they were developing their own blogging service, still at soft-launch during that time.
Hence came to my realization that blogging can help you land a job.
Lesson #1: Blogging can help you land a job.
So here was my first stint as a pro-blogger–more specifically a corporate blogger. I didn’t necessarily derive all of my income from blogging, but conceptualizing and improving on the company’s blogging service was part of my job description, as well as being a blogging evangelist. I took this chance to learn as much as I could about blogs and blogging, and to connect to as many people in the blogging scene as I could. I got acquainted with several pro-bloggers and niche bloggers. It was also during this time that I took the chance to learn about setting up revenue-generating schemes from my personal blogs.
Being ever the techie, I wasn’t too satisfied with the blogging service and how development was moving along. And then the work was a fixed nine-to-sixer, which usually meant my staying at the office until past eight (duh!). I also had other responsibilities aside from those blog- and tech-related, which I found to be a bit on the boring side. I thought I needed to get away from the trap I seem to have been in for quite some time. What’s worse was that the job’s being a nine-to-sixer, I didn’t have the flexbility of not having to come early in the morning, which usually cost me about half the day’s salary most of the week.
So my finances suffered, and I sought for better ways to earn. It was during this time that my former office asked me to implement an IT project. With my being exposed to content management software, databases and web services, I knew just how to do the gig. And so I got started with the relatively high-paying, but short-term project.
I finally mustered the guts to quit my day job in favor of the consultancy gig, which was quite scary at that time.
Lesson #2: Blogging can expand your horizons.
I got the contract mainly because of my exposure to web services (along with the fact that I’d been involved in the activities in my previous job). I was able to design the project from ground-up, hire staffers to do the legwork for me, and do most of the technical stuff myself. I thought all was well, but alas! Money doesn’t flow too smoothly when it comes to output-based projects, especially those with government involved. So I had to look for better alternatives.
I was in dire straits financially for much of the two months after resigning my day job, and what’s worse is that it was during the holiday seasons. Some blessings came along the way, though, as during this time, the AdSense account I’d set up for my blogs finally came out with my first pay-off, with the cheque in the mail.
Lesson # 3: Build it up slowly, and you’ll see the benefits in a while.
I got the results of this other pro-blogging activity (AdSense) after four months’ time. It was great–it augmented the resources I had to pay the bills and cover for expenses for a while, but this was just not enough, and this was definitely not regular. Try as I may to be as successful as certain individuals in this room are in terms of web monetization through ads, I just didn’t have the magic touch. So again, I had to look for better alternatives.
It was during this time when I decided to get in touch with a content-writing company referred to my wife by one of her colleagues. I applied and was instantly accepted–no trial periods, no test articles; and all this was because of the writing “portfolio” I had in my blogs.
Lesson # 4: Your blog is your online portfolio
I was assigned to ghost-write several blogs in exchange for compensation that was approximately equivalent to my gross salary in the corporate world. As it was largely contract work, it had no perks, no bonuses, no health plan, no company outing. But what was great was I had the freedom to work from anywhere at any time. It was great because it allowed me to work from home (or anywhere with WiFi). And staying at home implied I didn’t have to cope with office politics, overbearing bosses, transportation costs, long commutes, and missed family milestones. I was able to help look after the kids while my wife went to work mornings (which was an issue even when I was still working my day job). And I got a regular salary, which I got in the bank every two weeks.
During this time, I also applied to write for a startup blog network, and was accepted. I was assigned a gadgets blog and a mobile blog. The compensation scheme was revenue-share, which was quite risky, but also potentially rewarding.
Lesson # 5: Connections, connections, connections–they can mean everything when it comes to your career.
I was a couple of months into my ghost-writing and network-blogging career when a blogging contact referred me to some business partners to prospectively blog for them. So I was “interviewed” via IM and was given an offer to write for their blog network for a considerable amount.
Great I thought, but this was in exchange for exclusivity. In other words, I was being headhunted.
Lesson # 6: Pro-blogging is just like any career–you can move companies, and you can even get headhunted!
I was flattered and at the same time very interested with the offer. I was to write about five hours a day on popular tech blogs. And what was great was this was no ghost-writing gig–I was to write as myself on fairly popular sites and on a more established network. After much thought, I decided to make the move. And this is what I’ve been doing regularly for more than a month now.
I’m a career pro-blogger! Difficult as it may seem, but the path to pro-blogging bliss is certainly attainable. However, it’s not an overnight thing.
Lesson # 7: It’s not an overnight thing!
There’s a misconception that you become a pro-blogger the moment you get fired from your day job because of blogging. This is downright wrong. As you may have gathered from my story, pro-blogging takes on many forms. And for me, at least, I progressed from one type to another as time went by. And, of course, I still get to benefit from the other types of pro-blogging activities every now and then. AdSense cheques come in every couple of months or so. And I also get hired for blog- and podcast-related consultancy projects.
Question: So is it sustainable?
Of course, there is always the question of job security with regard to blogging for the blog networks, or even blogging for ad revenue. But isn’t it the same case with working in the corporate world? And pro-blogging is essentially an entrepreneurial exploit. There are risks involved, but in order for you to succeed and get good returns, you’d have to take calculated risks.
The economist in me would say that pro-blogging, is actually but another one of the business process offshoring activities that have grown popular of late. If there are contact centers for people talented with their voices and technical skills, there are content and blogging companies for people talened with writing. And with good talent in this regard, I am hopeful that writers will also find blogging to be a worthwhile activity that is also potentially revenue or income-generating.
So if you ask me if I will still be pro-blogging a couple of months, a couple of years, or a decade from now, my answer is, I don’t know. I don’t necessarily think of pro-blogging as a very long-term career path, but at the moment, it earns me good money, and gets me great connections, which I would inevitably find beneficial in whatever endeavors, business- or career-wise I decide to pursue in the near or distant future.
Right now, I’m lovin’ it!