Below is the notes I took from the Type A Conference keynote speech by Chris Garrett who can be found @chrisgarrett.
I want to makesure that your blogs are awesome and that you can make a full time living from it. Who here wants to make a full time living from your blog? Most people. Who really just wants to write it and doesn’t care about the money thing? Ok, some of those, too.
I want to give you a little of my story – not to say that I’m awesome, because I’m not – but so you can learn from what I did, some things right and some wrong and some tips on blogging, what you should do instead. I will share the presentation out afterwards. Don’t look at me if I’m putting you off your meal.
It all started when my cousin came around with a computer when I was five. I was fascinated. And the reason why I illustrate this is because people say, “It’s too late to get into blogging, you have to have been an early adoptor.” And that’s true. There is an early adopter advantage, but there is also a disadvantage because you are the ones who are going first and making mistakes. Stay curious; there’s always something new.
Pinterest took me completely by surprise. I missed it. I’m male. We’re selling themes using Pinterest. How stupid was I? Two things: stay curious, and it’s never too late.
I started learning from the day my dad brought home a computer, and he regretted it five years later. He always wanted me off the computer and outside, but it worked out ok.
Who recognizes the modem on the screen? If you do, you probably also hear the sound in your head. In the early days of social media, you had to dial in, wait for it and check for messages on bulletin boards. What it did for me was make me realize that I wasn’t the only geek in the world, and this for me speaks volumes about the people who are in this room. We’re all here because we have a shared interest. Finding people who share these interests is powerful. They’re the peple who inspire you to do different things. It so makes you feel that you’re not alone. When the nasty people do attack, you can ask if you really suck and they’ll tell you, “Yes, but only a bit.” There are some people who won’t understand, so reach out to your tribe for support.
After the bulletin boards and all that good stuff, I started writing an online diary, but there wasn’t any WordPress, but I was a geek so I hand coded it over a couple months – don’t do that! Once of the worst mistakes I made was changing the url of my site, changing the structure of my site, changing my perspective. From the beginning until about 2007, it was constantly changing, and it confused my own people.
People started coming to me for computer advice. I put the articles about them online only to keep me from having to repeat myself. The crazy thing that was that people started sending me checks. They would find the article and then ask them to come into the office and fix this computer problem. I said that I could just expand the article, but they wanted me to come in. The fact that I could make money from writing articles blew me away. Indirectly, I was monetizing. If people had told me that I could monetize the articles I was writing, I wouldn’t have believed them.
I actually made good money from it where I had the content to do it. You don’t have to be confident, just have good stuff to share. If there’s only lesson to take away from me, you don’t have to be a competent person, just have good content. You just need to have a way to help people.
My wife went into labor 16 weeks early, and the same week I found I was unemployed. That was a wakeup call that there is no such thing as job security. The people at the company I thought were my friends. I had helped them move – not a body, but the next closest thing. I had to send resumes out to find a job while my wife was trying not to give birth. Always have a backup plan.
Your blog is an asset even if you don’t want to quit your job. I wish that I had done more to prepare for that moment because it was like everything was being taken away from me, but the good news is that we got through it. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. I knew from that moment that I wasn’t going to give my future over to someone else’s control.
I started out as a complete geek. I’m less of a geek now, but still am one. I was geeky about stuff that people wanted to know about – it wasn’t just cartoons and comics. I got approached to write articles. I discovered you don’t have to be a journalist to write articles. If you have an interesting idea and can pitch an editor, you can get in print. I was one of the first people in Europe who wrote about SV codes (or something?). That led to books and speaking and other opportunities, and it led to getting an award from Microsoft. That led to more opportunities, which taught me something very crucial: don’t hide. Be proud of who you are because the opportunities come to people who they can identify. We don’t give awards to anonymous.
The problem was that I got sick of computer programming, but that was where my entire living came from. I slowly moved from it, not ditching it completely but instead moved sideways over to web master stuff. In 2005, that allowed me to become self-employed, but I was just covering my bills. The big mistake I made was that as the startup started to grow, the CEO said we want you to be 100% us, and I said ok.
When I said that I was never going to put my life in someone else’s hands, I made the same mistake twice. It was going so well, and I thought I was going to be a milionaire because I had stock options. We were in the top 15 in Technorati in the first six months. We had great writers and software, but I didn’t realize we were burnining through cash and not making any, and the rest is history. Another company came along and said they wanted to buy the community. We asked if they wanted the assets, but they just wanted the community – and the people in the community got wind of it, and there was a stampede for the doors. There was a horror that people would be paid to write articles.
It did get sold but at a bargain basement price, and I was again out of a job and didn’t have my millions. I had to reboot my site – and remember that I didn’t have a blog because I had to be 100% to my company. I am so grateful for my friends, because they were my lifelines. Don’t dismiss anybody. If I talk to somebody, I do try to be present because you never know who they’re going to be or how they could help you someday or how you could help them. Think about those random dudes – dudettes – who you’re meeting.
Because of that help from my friends, I had over 1,000 subscribers in the first month. Darren approached me and said “I think I’m going to do an ebook.” I said ok, because I needed the money. Wylie approached and asked if Darren could write a book on that topic, but I said lets toss that away, and do something new. I was making money because of my blog but not directly on my blog. It was a complement. While I should have maybe pushed more on the ebook, I probably wouldn’t be speaking if I hadn’t got my name attached to Darren’s. Now I’m associated with Problogger. It’s a funny turn of events.
I’ve talked a bit about doing things that scares me. It’s important to talk to you about doing things that scare you. If I can do it, you can as well. I started speaking because I couldn’t do it. I had a job teaching a class, and like people go to the zoo and hold spiders, I stand in front of audiences. What scares you most about what you’re doing? Think about it, and then do it. That’s how we grow. I call it moving the fear line. If you don’t push the lines of your comfort zone, it becomes smaller. If you don’t grow your comfort zone, it shrinks, and I firmly beleive that.
I went kayaking and was upsidedown pulling the cord that’s supposed to release you, but it wasn’t working. It felt like it was five minutes that I’m trying not to breathe water. I was tapping at the sides like I’m supposed to, and finally the instructor flipped me over. “What happened?” He asked if I pulled my cord, and I said that I had. He explained that I had to pull it out and then up – that would have been good information to have. I had written a whole article in my head while I was underwater doing this. I faced a huge fear that I have. I’m not going to literally die on stage. Think about your fears and why you’re not doing stuff, then do them.
When I’m talking about a full time business, I’m talking about not just paying the mortgage or putting away money for college education. Even if you don’t want to make money from your blog, it’s about what you can do because of your blog. You can speak or travel or meet people. There are non-monetary benefits, too. My income isn’t linked to geography, so you can work anywhere. That’s a fantastic thing, especially when you bring family into the equation. When I worked 9-5, I had to ask permission to go to the doctor, I had to ask permission to go to a school play. That really grabbed my ear, but now I don’t have to ask permission to do anything, especially those important things in my life.
Once you get past paying the bills, freedom is the most important thing. Growing and doing cool things will be a great stress reliever. One of my fears is selling. I was getting people coming to me making me offers to come work for them. I wasn’t putting any offers out there. The first dollar sign I put in an email, I got horrible response about how I was a spammer. The first thing you do if you’re going to sell yourself or your expertise is set the scene that you are in business and that you need to make money. The people who are nasty are far outweighed by the people I help.
Monetizing with ads is great, but I haven’t been able to do that as well as I have been able to monetize with services. Most people I talk to go through this route – they do stuff. I did freelance writing; I built websites. Freelancing is a great way to make money using your knowledge and skills. There’s usually someone out there who wants to know about what you can do. The next step is managing projects or managing people. I will gather the technical guy, the hosting, and I will put it together. You can earn more and do more projects at the same time. The next step from actively managing is advising. It’s the next step because there is only so much scale with managing. Advising and teaching is a great way to advance. It’s helping a lot of people achieve their goals so you can achieve yours. The next step is investing. I haven’t gotten there yet. It’s where you can invest yourself in other people. As you work up that ladder, your freedom and security increase. Your rewards increase, but you have to start somewhere.
This is how my business works now. If you are monetizing with ads, that’s great. But when you have a product or service – when you have repeat customers – you have a business. I have entry level, authority, and coaching bloggers I advise. The key to make people as happy as possible is that you deliver on your promises and they get the results that you promised them.
Don’t fear failure. Embrace it. I’ve made crazy mistakes before. You sometimes learn more from your failures than your successes. Make progress not perfection. Don’t hold off doing something because you think you should be perfect. If you wait until it’s perfect, it will be out of date the minute you put it out there.
This is a mistake I made in terms of income. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You need an email list. A friend lost all his Adsense income and other income based on traffic when Google turned off his traffic. He was able to claw his way back and sell the site, but don’t get stuck in this situation.
Most blogs suck. My advice is to not suck. The way to do this is to help your audience. You have to get out there and promote. You have to network and make your content king.
You have to decide you’re going to make money or not make money. If you want to make money, are you a magazine or are you a service? If you sell a book, you’re a service. If you’re not, you’re a magazine and embrace it.
You can’t control the conversation. Make sure people know your twitter account. Make sure you have your contact information right there. People will complain. Just make sure you have an answer – and ignore the crazies.
Google will have the good content filter to the top. It will happen eventually, so put your best stuff out there. The more you write, the more traffic you will get. But if the visitor sees some rubbish, they won’t come back. I only post every 2 weeks now because I really work on my articles. Don’t beat yourself up for not writing. Never write a post apologizing for not having written for so long.
Nobody cares about you – they care about them. WIIFM is everybody’s favorite radio station. The most interested person is the most interesting person. Make it about them. Attract, engage, and convert – in that order. Most people try to go to that sale first, but that’s wrong. It’s what spammers do.
Be a human being, be approachable. Have a conversation. You’ll otherwise lose more people than you gain, and share with them what’s in it for them. You have to have something useful, valuable, and free if you want to build up your audience.
I used to want to be my brother. I used to wear his old hand me down clothes. He’s now a wannabe rock star, and he’s shared the stage with Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m never going to be like my brother, and it’s crazy to try. Be you. Be the best you you can be. Everybody else is taken. People will either connect to you or they won’t. If you are the best you can be while being open that you’re an imperfect human being, that’s when people will really connect with you.
Instead of passion, think about your purpose, your mission, what you should be doing in life. If you can find the intersection between what the audience cares about, what you know, what people are willing to pay for, and inset that with your passions, then that’s where the magic happens. It’s hard work, but that’s what you’re going to be doing for a long time.
There’s no such thing as driving traffic. Attract traffic. You’re not the blog whisperer.
Discover what people want solved and then help them solve it. That’s something to be proud of, something to look in people’s eyes and tell them.
Content is the bread and butter of what you do. SEO without content is a bit nasty. The social is the jelly on top. All together, that’s where it’s awesome. That’s where it’s the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can’t have some elements without the others.
You need to find those blog buddies. You need to make friends. Don’t find people to put into your network. Think about why they should want you in their network. Friends will stick around. Your network will come and go. There is always something you can do that others need. Everyone is useful; you just need to find how.
Create a list. This is why you need to be on my email subscription list – tell them. And then provide good useful content to keep them coming back. Only then should you pitch them on somethng. Every link you get is an asset. Every link you get that might send traffic to you is an asset. Not all of this is made equal. The conversion rate – depending on where traffic comes from – varies widely. Work out where your best sources of traffic come from and then lavish attention on that source.
Educate – talk about the problems and how to solve them. Inspire them – talk about stories of success and failure. Motivate them – tell them that they can do something and give them the tips that they can do something so they can believe in themselves. Next step – tell them the next step of what they do. Always give them the next step.
Don’t be the Sham-Wow guy. The most basic offer that works is: Who are you, what do you have for me, What are you going to do to help me, why should I care, and what should I do next. That works for your subscription signup form and for your ebook sales.
Really understand your audience. Love them. Build their trust. And the way you build trust is by being valuable and consistent delivering on promises over time. Don’t be an anonymous robot. Be a human. Why should someone read your blog and not someone else’s? Super important – make friends. And always give a next step.
Alicia Sherman: What is the absolute best part of your job and what you do? What gets you up in the morning and drives you and makes you happy? The biggest reward is helping people. I love getting the emails that tell me how I’ve helped them. That isn’t just a reward. For every complaint I get, I need about 10 of those tobalance it out. It’s not just me. If I get 3 negatives, I need nine positives. That’s what keeps me going – when I know I’m helping people. Obviously paying the bills is important, too.
Kris Cain: I have a similar background to you. I worked in tech, built servers, etc. I was laid off in January and was already planning to move more in the direction that you are, and I’ve started with the blogging and speaking, but what do I do next? Make your blog your portfolio that shows what you can do. Tell people that you’re in the business of what you want to do. Tell people you’re a programmer. Don’t rely on the blog to do all the work. If you have to knock on doors or call people, do that. Getting work is the most important thing. Yes, you can get work through the blog, but maybe not straight away. As long as you have the blog, you can use that to show what you can do once people find you.
Anne Parris: What’s the first thing you do in the morning to get you set for the day? I check my emails first, but that probably sets me back. I have set hours for when I know I’m going to work, and that’s when I know I’m going to focus. Figure out the best hours of the day for you, and focus on that.