Why Launching a Blog “For Yourself” Doesn’t Work – a Failure Case Study

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So a while ago, I launched a new blog. Something that was built because – and I quote my very first launch post:

I write this blog purely for myself. {Name} is something I want to start and participate in from now on. I’ve created this blog to document my progress, nearest plans and goals.

I even went on to say that:

[...] I don’t intend to focus on things like SEO and promotion. Essentially, I don’t care how popular this blog is or will be.

Quite strange, right?

A couple of words of explanation before I get any deeper into this, just so you know why I’m even sharing this story here.

The “whats”

  1. This was a purely personal project. This means that I indeed didn’t want to grow a community around it. I mean, I wouldn’t mind, but this was nowhere among my goals.
  2. This was my attempt at running something that’s not business-related alongside my everyday efforts in other areas.
  3. The project was about improving some aspects of my life and documenting the progress along the way. You could call it a personal development project.
  4. I won’t disclose the name of the project here because right now, there’s a fairly ugly imposter site under the old domain name and it does focus somewhat on the same idea. So, I’m guessing someone took the domain over once I didn’t pay to have it kept online.
  5. The site was live for 12 months.
  6. I published a total of 4 (!) posts.
  7. I didn’t stop pursuing the thing that the site was supposed to document, I just stopped writing about it.

What’s in it for you

Now, the most important question here is this: What’s in it for you and how can you learn from my unfortunate mistakes?

Here are the things I’m about to discuss:

  • Why I think that writing a 100 percent personal blog is very unlikely to stand the test of time.
  • How to find out if you’re heading towards failure or not.
  • How to launch a personal blog better.
  • When is a good time to pull the plug on such a site.

First order of business:

The problem with “I will just write” mindset

The number one thing I did badly was having the “I will just write” mindset.

I mean, I had the idea for the project pretty much figured out (I still have), but when it came to my content writing plan, there wasn’t any. I just thought that since I am engaged in this whole thing, writing something about it every other day wouldn’t be a problem. It was.

(And I’m really sorry because I know that this post might be a little harder to read due to the fact that I’m not disclosing what the project was about, but I don’t think it’s necessary. After all, it’s the blog we’re talking about here.)

The thing I learned from this is that you always need a content plan, or in other words, a plan on how you’re going to create content exactly. And “exactly” is the keyword here. If you don’t start with such a plan, you’ll almost certainly fail.

How to stay motivated on a daily basis

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The main problem with personal blogs (at least in my opinion) is that the only audience is you. This has many consequences. One of which is that it’s really easy to slack off and don’t write anything for a week or so. After all, since it’s only you reading then nothing bad can happen anyway, right?

What I’m trying to say is that it’s a bigger responsibility to write for your online business website, and therefore, kind of easier to stay motivated. You have audience. You have views. You have revenues. In the end, not publishing content has a direct impact on your bank account. For a personal blog though, none of this applies.

The way to fix this is to cheat. More precisely, to cheat yourself into some daily work. You can do it by creating a habit of writing in the morning. In other words, every morning, right after breakfast, you write a blog post.

Creating such a habit has many benefits and ending up with some fresh blog posts is only one of them. For instance, it’s a great warm-up and a superb method of waking up and getting over the morning slowness.

(This isn’t a new idea from me; I actually shared it in one of my guest posts.)

The funniest part in all of this is that even though I do a lot of my writing in the morning, I seem to have forgotten about the idea when creating content for that personal blog. I think that by doing just this one thing alone – writing something in the morning – I would probably be able to run the blog consistently, instead of having just 4 posts on it.

Getting caught up in the setup process

Another problem I experienced was that, for some reason, I spent a lot of time on the setup itself. I mean, this was supposed to be a personal site from the start, so I really don’t have a clue why I spent hours looking for the perfect theme and set of plugins. It makes no sense to me now that I look back.

The correct way of doing this should be to just have the site launched on a default WordPress theme (really).

The only reason I can see why I didn’t do it like that is because I was worried that someone might find the blog and think that it’s crappy because of the default theme. A stupid worry, I know.

The no. 1 sign you’re just about to fail

The toughest part of facing failure is probably noticing that it’s coming your way in the first place.

For a business, failure is very very easy to spot. Essentially, if you don’t have money, you’ve failed. For a personal blog, it’s not that obvious.

There is one thing though. If you’ve been running a personal blog and the following two things have occurred then you’re close to failure:

  1. You didn’t publish anything for a long while, and
  2. You broke the silence by publishing a “sorry I’ve been away” post.

The thing with “sorry I’ve been away” posts is that they are often your very last posts on the blog, despite the fact that they are the posts where you usually promise to get back to regular postings.

This is exactly what happened to me. I published my “sorry I’ve been away” post after 7 months of inactivity (the period between my posts #3 and #4). This post has then become my last post ever on the site.

So the lesson for you is the following: If at any point in time you feel the need to publish a “sorry I’ve been away” post, your site is in serious trouble.

That moment is a good opportunity to make a decision. Should you pull the plug? Or should you keep going after slight re-evaluation of your goals? (A question to answer on your own.)

Conclusion

The lesson for me in all this is that personal blogs are not as easy as they seem. And even though it can be argued that there’s no such thing as failure with them, the fact is that not posting anything for 7 months and then abandoning the blog altogether is a failure by every definition.

I guess the main, in-the-nutshell, takeaway from the story is this: Treat your personal projects and blogs just like you’re treating your main business. Just because they are personal, doesn’t mean that they are unimportant.

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  • http://speakforthemeek.com Davis Nguyen

    John Do at Tentblogger (or what used to be tentblogger now John.Do) would agree 100% with you. He set up a blog that combined his thoughts “writing for himself” but also remembered his audience “what value can I add to their lives” so it worked both ways.

    Sometimes you need to fail to realize that there is more to a blog than writing about yourself if you want to succeed long-term.

  • Karol K.

    That is true, I have to say.

  • http://discountr.net Shaun Hoobler

    I guess it depends on the nature of your blog. I see bloggers who post content that reeks the “for yourself” attitude. And it works for them.