The Blog-Myth Revisited: Why You Need a Blogging System

When you start a new blog, putting out a new post every day doesn’t feel like a lot. But how long can you keep it up? The initial passion keeps you going for a while, and after that you keep moving because of your strong commitment. But you are glued to your blog, and your blog is glued to you. Your blog will suffer from every life event that takes up your time (sickness, family matters, work), and your life will suffer from the fact that you can’t get away and leave your blog without risking its success.As the best-selling book, The E-Myth Revisited, puts it: you have created yourself a job, not a business. You are working in your business, not on it.Or in blogging terms: you are working in your blog, not on it.

You Need a System

If you are like most serious bloggers, you have made a sacred promise to write something consistently to keep your blog going. Maybe you even post in advance to cover for the short breaks, but still your blog is tied to your personal ability to deliver what you promise.Your blog’s growth is tied to your ability to grow it.This might not necessarily be a problem, but if you want to see your blog take off and grow into something bigger than you have ever dared to dream of, or if you want it to outlive your passion – or even outlive you, you may want to consider building a blogging system.A blogging system is a set of guidelines that define how your blog should be run in different situations by all the different people involved. Clearly defined guidelines, I might add. This idea for blogging guidelines comes from the world of franchising, where for example at McDonald’s, the operations manual goes to great detail in explaining the new employee how she should wipe the floors or sell a hamburger. In our case, the context is different – but the idea of a manual is exactly the same as in the McDonald’s case.In this post, I’ll explain the basic rules of building a blog machine that can be run by anyone following the instructions in your manual. When correctly implemented, the blogging system will give you more options than you’ve ever had before:

  1. Keep working in your blog: Following the new set of guidelines will make sure that your readers get a consistent experience and know what to expect when they come to your blog the next time. This will make the visit much more enjoyable.
  2. Outsource some writing: When you have a clear manual to give to the potential blogger, you can safely hand some responsibility over trusting that everything will work smoothly, just like it should.
  3. Outsource all writing: Assume the responsibility of the blog’s editor and work together with paid bloggers to bring your vision about your blog to life.
  4. Outsource the editing: Once the writing part works well without your own input, you might want to consider also outsourcing the editing part to one of your writers. This is a big leap, because you are now giving up most of the control – moving to the role of an owner instead of an active performer.
  5. Sell the blog: It’s much easier to sell a blog that works than one that relies completely to your own work. In the case of a finely tuned blogging system, the transition from one owner to another may not even be visible to the readers!

The benefits for a functional blogging system are many, but how do you actually build one?

How to Build a Blogging System

First, you need to define the roles involved in your blog. At first, you’ll be filling all the positions, so make sure to divide the roles based on function and not the person doing the work.Here are the roles I have identified for my own blogging system:

  1. Writer: The writer is the one who comes up with all the content for the readers to see. With guidance from the editor, he comes up with ideas for blog posts and brings the ideas to life. Most bloggers feel most comfortable in this role as it’s what blogging technically is about.
  2. Editor: The editor takes care of things such as posting schedule, the overall plan for the month at hand, and making sure the writers have everything they need to get their work done. He also checks spelling and grammar, and finds imagery for the posts before publishing them to the public.
  3. Owner: The owner is the person who started (or bought) the blog. He has the overall vision of where he wants to take the blog to, in terms of subject matter, monetization, readership, and brand. By paying the editor and writer to do their jobs, he frees time for looking at the strategic opportunities that lie ahead.
  4. Various support activities: When your blog grows, you’ll probably need to think about activities such as accounting, web design, advertising, and so on. These can fall on you, the owner, or you can outsource them to professionals.

With the roles in place, Michael Gerber, the author of The E-Myth Revisited says that your next step is to step into the lowest-level role and start working in it. But not just working but at the same time always considering how to best work in the role, writing down all the hurdles and solutions that come your way. Answering in advance the questions that a person filling that role would later have.When you have completed a guide book for the first role (writer), you will want to try it out in real life by paying someone to work by the book and watching him closely to see if the guide provides the answers to all of his questions or not. If everything works, you can move on to the next role on the list and repeat the process.

What To Include in a Blogging Manual

Every blog is unique and every blogger values different things, but there are some common topics I think every blogging manual will need to include. The list below forms the basis of my own manual for the blog writer, and can be used as a starting point for manuals of your own.The writer needs to know what you expect from him: what he should deliver, when you need to have the articles, and what to do in all kinds of special cases:

  1. Agreeing on posts: How do the writer and the editor decide on what the writer should write? This can include a process for setting up a meeting, or exchanging ideas over e-mail, as well as a description of how to use Google Calendar to define due dates for posts.
  2. Writing the posts: A wide topic that includes guidelines for various things like using headers, colors, and all the other formatting options in your blogging platform, tips for checking the spelling and grammar of the post, a guide for looking for photos from Flickr, a tutorial on using your blogging platform, a process for marking the post done and notifying the editor, tips for formulating a good opening sentence.
  3. Problem situations: What do you expect the writer to do when he realizes that he’s running late and won’t be able to make it? What about when after a while of writing, he comes to the conclusion that this topic will get him nowhere and needs to change the subject of the article in hand?
  4. Editing phase: Is there something the writer still needs to do when he has passed the article over to the editor? Maybe fix some problems identified by the editor? Or is that done mostly by the editor herself?
  5. Commenting: The writer needs to be there for a while after his post has gone live to answer comments from the readers and participate in the discussion. For how long? Which comments can be ignored? How quickly should the comments be answered? Are there any other policies you want to enforce?
  6. Getting paid: The actual paying would go to the owner’s operating manual, but it’s good to also make sure the writer knows how the payment process works. Include things like payment method (PayPal), the date at which the writer can expect to receive payment (and how often it happens), pricing rules, and a format for an e-mail notification when the payment has been sent. You may also want to add instructions for special cases such as what the writer should do if he’s not receiving a payment, and how to check that a payment has arrived.

In short, write down the system that keeps your blog going, and make sure it’s one you can apply yourself as well.When you see that your system is working, get out there and start hiring. With the new hire in place, keep your eyes open and follow how well the system is working: listen to the questions from the field and keep updating the guide with every new piece of advice you find from day to day.This way, your blogging will transform from an ad hoc, learn as you go activity into something organized and reproducable that can serve your readers better while at the same time making your own life easier and less stressful!

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19 Responses to The Blog-Myth Revisited: Why You Need a Blogging System

  1. Okay, this just made my week. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Well said.Oh, and I fully agree. Outsource all writing. Hiring great writers (like us!) can make life a whole lot easier. ;)

  2. I’m wondering if small niche sites with one author running the show might be the wave of the future.As blogs get bigger, and more people are involved with each individual blog they tend to run the risk of being percieved as just another “big company” enterprise. Really no different than the tv news, magazines, newspaper, or even large portals.And after all we don’t really need another Yahoo, MSN, Google, etc…The larger they get, the more people involved, the less personnel they are. The experience vanishes and sooner or later so will the readers.Live From Las VegasThe Masked Millionaire

  3. Jarkko Laine says:

    @James: Good idea :) And no, James didn’t pay me to write this post, although he quite nicely turned it into an ad for their writing business!@The Masked Millionaire: I agree with the point you make about Yahoo, MSN, and Google.We sure don’t need to turn our blogs into portals or one-stop internet locations. But I don’t think the only viable alternative is to have a single-author niche blog.There are plenty of great blogs that are much smaller than the giants you mentioned, but yet big enough to make some business sense: Small enough to be personal and unique, but big enough to make some difference.FreelanceSwitch has tens of writers, yet it feels like a small niche site. So does LifeHack.org. And actually, that’s the case with NorthxEast as well. Where you draw the line is of course your own decision.Still, I believe it makes sense to build your blog in a way that supports adding more writers to it. Just don’t add too many ;)

  4. blisters says:

    Wow, I’ve always think that most blogs are a one man show/system. After reading this, it really puts into perspective the amount of work that needs to be done!

  5. space code says:

    I think that a one man show is also okay. Just as long as you dont lose focus and passion for blogging

  6. Amrit Hallan says:

    Hi Jarkko.Nice, insightful tips. After lots of internal debate I’ve decided to outsource my writing work, even for a couple of blogs I want to maintain regularly. It’s almost like giving up control :-)

  7. Goldy says:

    Yep, running a serious blog is really a tough job and if you don’t have a system only miracle can save you. I guess I’ve been lucky so far without a system.

  8. bugsy says:

    Building, building, and building some more. Most of my “system” is a pretty extensive online notebook. Every thought, every topic, every path of expansion, who to reach, where to grow, etc.Get it on paper (or computer), get it all on paper. Remembering your thoughts has no guarantee, but putting it on paper gives it some chance of coming back to it.All the best *tips hat*

  9. Jarkko Laine says:

    @Amrit: Yeah, it’s not an easy decision to make – blogs somehow feel really close, like a part of the blogger :) How has outsourcing worked for you so far?@Bugsy: I agree. Writing your ideas down the minute they cross your mind is one of the best habits I have developed so far.

  10. Satish says:

    You cannot expect to be a greate blogger on a part-time basis, especially if you are a one man show.

  11. ~Kat~ says:

    I am really happy to read this.I LOVE blogging, but I don’t love writing. I like it OK, but I would rather be marketing my blog or tweaking the design, or lining up advertisers. With my lasted blog I hired a group of writers and it has been working great. Thanks to your post I don’t feel completely guilty about not being the only writer.

  12. Adam says:

    Hiring writers isn’t that big of a step. Its easy to review their material and pick one that’ll work with your site.Hiring an editor is a huge step. Trusting someone with the content of your site can be hard since your site is generally a representation of yourself. If you get a bad editor visitors could turn away from your site hurting your reputation.

  13. Gianluca S. says:

    But what are we talking about?If we are going to make some money, this method might be ok. And it coud work and make all of us happy!But if we are writing about our passion, our life, our way to see the world… well we can’t even hire a writer.So imho the two way of running a blog produce two distinct experiences, maybe for two distinct audience and switching from one way to the other isn’t so simple.(Sorry 4 my ugly english)

  14. Bugsy says:

    NxE where have you gone! I miss you!

  15. Sumesh says:

    Useful tips. I’ve been thinking of outsourcing 1 or 2 posts per week so that I can focus on viral posts, optimization and the like. I’m just waiting for enough revenue to get started with it :) I’m wondering what’s happening to NxE. The owner took over the site and things have changed quite a bit – much fewer posts than before. If he bought it for keeps, I wonder why he’s not investing it (and monetizing it). Something similar is happnening in WPdesigner.com’s case, although it has no updates now. A rather sad situation for both blogs.

  16. My blogging system is to do everything myself. It’s the best way when you’re small.Even when you have a larger blog, if you’re passionate about the topic, I don’t see why you shouldn’t write every article. When you write everything, your readers see a cohesive vision rather than a blog in fragments.If you don’t have enough motivation or your topic isn’t interesting enough to keep writing about, the answer isn’t to get other people to do your job. The answer is to find what really interests you. Perhaps your true interest is personal development or relationships or your kids, but the topics are too personal or cliched. Write about them anyway. Anything that truly fascinates you will do the same for others. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t your passion to begin with.

  17. Bob Ashford says:

    Came across this through a convoluted path. Interesting that it’s about making money. Is everything we do today about making money? I thought blogging was about getting your ideas, thoughts out there and “gaining” through information and friendship.Interesting.

  18. Jarkko Laine says:

    @Bob: Good question. I don’t think everything is about making money, and most bloggers will agree with me on that.But the reason why I find it important to talk about money on blogs that talk about blogging is that many bloggers want to devote a lot of time to their blogs, and that is so much easier when the blog brings you at least some amount of money.The truth is that you have to make money to survive in this world, and if you can make that money while helping people, gaining information, making new friends, that’s just perfect. :)

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