This is a guest post by Zach Nielsen of Take Your Vitamin Z (a blog which I highly recommend). Zach’s post gives a good “behind the scenes” view of blogging and how to be productive in it.
Some people have inquired about my method for blogging. How do I approach it? How much time does it take? Do I make much money from it? How does it all work? Here is my response.
The number one catalyst for my blog is very simple: Google Reader. I subscribe to over a hundred and fifty different blogs via Google Reader and most of those posts form the content of my posts on Take Your Vitamin Z. Google Reader makes my blogging way less time consuming than if I was bookmarking all those blog sites. If you read a lot of blogs and don’t use RSS yet, you are simply wasting a lot of time. The idea is not complicated. It’s just like checking your email, except for blogs. All your favorite blogs can be read on one internet page. Google Reader updates whenever a blog that I subscribe to updates. If I am going directly to one of the many blog sites that I like it may or may not have updated, but with Google Reader (or any other RSS feed provider) I have the freedom to only be notified when those blogs that I like update. This makes my blog reading much faster and efficient.
In terms of how I decide what to post, it’s pretty simple as well. I just look for things that I find to be interesting. This is how my blog has been all along. If I find it interesting then I’ll post it. This usually means that the topics include Christian theology, music, art, some sports, culture, adoption, abortion, leadership, short essays that I choose to write on various topics, and other random things that I find amusing.
It seems that there are other people out there who resonate with the same things that I do and find my blog worth reading, but it is also important to note that I have been blogging at least 5 days a week for almost four years in a row. Most people don’t understand that it times a huge commitment over a long period of time to have a blog that might be consistently read. Guys that know way more about blogging than I do always say that the key to a good blog is great content and consistency over a long period of time.
When I first started my blog I thought I would write long essays everyday that would be full of life changing wisdom. I found out after day two that day one’s post wasn’t all that life changing and the well was dry for day two. Thus, taking my cue from my college roommate, Justin Taylor, I mainly post things that other people have written. Those folks can usually say it better than I can anyway and I’ll bless way more people if my blog is more than just what stems from my own reflections. Also, I simply don’t have time to craft my own short essays everyday. Even if I did have that much to say, I wouldn’t be able to justify it in light of the fact that I have a wife, four kids, a busy church job, jazz gigs on the weekend, and am planting a church in Madison, WI in 2010.
I usually do most of my posting in the morning. Google Reader fills up during the night and in the morning there are usually 50-100 items for me to looks through. I can look through these very quickly and if I see something that is of interest I can copy the text, copy a photo, write some short interactions with it, etc. in a matter of minutes. On Blogger (my blogging platform) you can schedule what time your posts go live on the web so at times I’ll schedule four posts, an hour apart, but do it all at once. I often check Google Reader through the day but this usually only takes 1-10 minutes since there usually are fewer items to sort through.
I have started to make a bit of an income from blogging. It’s nothing that I could support my family with, but it is a nice extra bonus every month. This comes through two various streams of income, 1) Amazon.com, and 2) paying advertisers. The Amazon.com program is rather remarkable. All you have to do is click on any Amazon link that I provide anywhere on my site and then buy whatever you want (not necessarily the product that you first clicked on) and I’ll get a small commission. This extra income is a great way for us to save money for our church plant in Madison, WI, so if any of you out there would be willing to remember to click through my site when you buy on Amazon it would be a blessing for us. All you have to do is go to my blog first and then click on an Amazon link in the right sidebar under “sponsors” or any Amazon link in my posts.
In my life, this whole blogging thing has taken on a bit of a life of it’s own, beyond what I ever thought it would, but I enjoy it quite a bit. If you are interested, I have posted some other reflections here on why I have a blog.