Yearly subscriptions are a blessing and a curse. On the bright side, it’s an upfront payment that you suffer through and never have to think about again, but renewing is always a challenge. Given that the sum is reasonably large, you’re left wondering whether you made the most of that annual subscription, and if you should indeed commit to another year.
While I’m still on the fence about subscriptions like Netflix or Amazon Prime, I can confidently say that my annual subscription to Squarespace, which hosts this blog, is one I’m happy to renew. Blogging has given me a lot of perspective on life and opened new doors. I hope to share some of the things I’ve learned after a full year of blogging in this post.
I started this blog after returning from a reading week (Americans: spring break) trip to San Francisco, with hopes on summarizing what I’d learned. It was actually during a dinner with a mentor in SF that I was prompted to start a blog. He’ll remain anonymous, for fear of misquoting, but the gist was:
My first posts were strictly to reflect on my trip to San Francisco, and were more matter-of-fact than an engaging narrative. Silicon Valley 101 and Canucks in the Bay weren’t exactly captivating reads, but they helped me distill my thoughts in a public fashion.
Unfortunately, few people in my network were interested in reading about a trip to SF, or hearing the stories of people I met (as captivating as they were to me). After 1-2 months of blogging, I had racked up only a few hundred views, leading me to question whether starting a blog was worthwhile. The game-changer was when I started to write for my audience.
Two of my most popular posts, “How to Get a Summer Internship” and “How to Rock your Summer Internship”, struck well within my audience. Reflecting back, they did so well (~ 700 views in a day) because they (1) came from personal experience and (2) were applicable to my network.
The hurdle I had to overcome in writing these posts is that they were no longer matter-of-fact; they had opinion, tangibility, and were open to scrutiny. What I realized, was these elements are what makes a great post.
Documenting your work
The best bloggers are far from actual experts in their field. The top marketers are too busy running a business to blog. The top engineers are too busy creating products to write about it. And the top financiers know that sharing their edge would defeat the purpose of doing so.
With this in mind, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t HAVE to be an expert to write about something. So that’s exactly what I started to do — I blogged about SEO, content creation, drip sequences, and more things “marketing” to summarize what I was learning in those areas. Looking back (and take note if you plan on reading them), a lot of what I said in those posts was inaccurate and/or inapplicable beyond my specific use case. Did this mean the posts themselves were useless?
Not at all. The value here was that I was showcasing what I knew, and this was entirely public. A blog for a marketer is like Github to an engineer; nothing speaks better to a line on a resume than somewhere a prospective employer can see it themselves.
This was exactly the case when I started to interview at Clearbit for my current role. Despite numerous errors and lack of cohesiveness, it was easy to show them what I knew and what I still had to learn. I regret to say that while the blog landed well, my terrible puns still do not (sorry team).
Dabbling in the rough
More recently, I’ve begun playing around with different topics that interest me, and blogging about them. Specifically, I’ve started to blog about finance, building companies, and more things I, quite honestly, have very little hard knowledge about.
The reason being, I want to be challenged and learn more from my peers. I would love to blog around my opinions on the medical field, or political scene, just to have someone shoot me an angry Facebook message denouncing my work. Controversy creates virality, sparks conversation, and (in my opinion) is the backbone of a strong blog.
Unfortunately, as I’ve only recently begun experimenting with new topics, I haven’t had a lot of this. But if you’re reading this and want to give me a piece of your mind about something I’ve read, please do!
Learning from failure
The posts I’ve written that I’ve learned the most from are the ones that expose some level of vulnerability, combined with a strong narrative. Posts like “21 & Up” and “My Failed Startup” forced me to revisit previous assumptions I had, confront them, and evaluate if they’re still true. For the former, it meant leveling with the idea of “good jobs” and focusing more on finding purpose and value. For the latter, it meant diving deeper into something I wrote off long ago — why did my idea fail, and how I can ensure it doesn’t happen again?
I hope to continue this trend throughout 2018, as it has helped me immensely in understanding where I’m at in my life, what I should be learning, and where I need to be. Just like keeping a diary, I found blogging to be mildly therapeutic, helping to keep me level-headed, rational, and most importantly, observant of what was happening in my life.
Consistency is key
I’m often hesitant to put out a new blog post. Even if it’s been weeks since my last one, I often wonder whether it has enough value, a strong enough narrative, or (quite honestly) something captivating that people will want to read. The conclusion I’ve come to, is that to someone reading, it will.
I’m sure my self-reflection posts strike better with people my age who might be in a similar walk of life. Posts on marketing get a lot more traction on LinkedIn, getting views from people I’ve never met, and helping them to understand the space better. I know that as I continue to expand my scope of blogging, this will grow as the case.
The one thing that has hurt my blog traffic and engagement the most is a lack of consistency. No matter how good / bad the post is, I get a lot more engagement if the time between posts is low, compared to if it isn’t. It’s something I’ve given more thought to in recent weeks, and plan to change my blogging frequency to match once per week (if not more).
It makes my day when I get a message about a post I’ve written. Since starting, I’ve received a handful from people I haven’t chatted with in years, sparking conversations about their life and what they’re up to.
If you’re considering starting a blog, regardless of the niche or focus, I’d highly recommend doing so. If you’re consistent with it, the value you will get out of it looking back in a year will be immense — both from self-reflection and external opportunities.
I look forward to blogging more in 2018, and as always (if not more now), reach out to me if you have any thoughts or comments on what I’m writing.