Interview With Darren Rowse – How to Become a Problogger

Darren’s ability to consistently deliver practical, applicable, and timely tips on blogging, internet marketing, and making money online is truly remarkable. The last time I checked his subscriber count was very close 37,000 and he is currently ranked 17th on Technorati’s top 100 most popular blogs list.

Alongside being a tremendous writer and blogger he is also a fantastic person. At present some of Darren’s online ventures include ProBlogger (of course), Digital Photography School, http://jobs.problogger.net/, and b5media.com where he was a co-founder and currently serves as the VP of Blogger Training.

I think Darren’s true mastery is his ability to “speak to everyone” with his writing style. It does not matter if you are a beginner just starting out or a long time pro, you will always find some information of value on ProBlogger. Enjoy the interview.

Question 1: Where do you see ProBlogger heading in the next three to five years? What are your long-term objectives (e.g. retirement, help the world to be better bloggers, etc)?

Darren’s answer: As I look forward into the next 3-5 years I can honestly say that I don’t really know where it will end up. I do have many ideas for new features, experiments and businesses – but any success that I’ve had so far has really come from an evolutionary process and one that is not overly strategic.

Of course I have some general goals for the blog – that it becomes more profitable, readership grows etc – but I’m not one for tethering myself to specific goals. My own personal plans – again there’s an element of letting things evolve in my own planning.

We do have some goals as a family – to pay off our newly purchased home, have more kids etc. I don’t have any aspirations for early retirement – I see myself working for decades to come.

Having said this I would love to get to a point that I cut back to only working three to four days a week and am able to dedicate the other day or two to my family and to voluntary work for worthwhile organizations.

Question 2: How does your relationship with God and religion affect your blogging? How is leading a flock of bloggers similar to leading a church?

Darren’s answer: I attempt to integrate my relationship with God into every area of life. I’m not always successful at this of course – but I’m learning to spot God at work in all kinds of places and hope that I’m getting better at interacting on that level in places like my work as a blogger.

Leading bloggers and leading a church – hmmmm, interesting comparison. I’ve not considered it really but off the top of my head there are a few immediate similarities. In fact it’s probably not dissimilar to leading any group of people in that you need to have good communication skills, creative thinking, be able to manage change etc.

I do think that I’m a better blogger for my work as a minister as my previous work included a lot of preaching (and preparing for sermons) and I did a lot of study into communication methods, culture etc.

Question 3: Sometimes people can be hesitant when it comes to pursuing their dreams, goals, and aspirations. From the general tone of your blogs it is quite obvious that you are doing what you love. What specifically allowed you to push beyond the fear and strive to create a living from blogging? How receptive was your family to the idea of “ProBlogger” during the early stages?

Darren’s answer: The thing is that I never set out to make a living from blogging. It was purely a hobby and it very very gradually evolved into something beyond that.

There were a few points along the way that I (and my family) had to decide whether I’d step things up (at the expense of pursuing other things) but it was a gradual process. I know others quit their jobs to start blogging and do things in a much more extreme and sudden way – but my style is to transition from one thing to another.

My wife was a little skeptical about the idea at first – but as I was able to show her how things were expanding and as the money began to come in from it she became more open to the idea.

Question 4: Who do you feel are five top innovators that are currently online (either as bloggers or entrepreneurs) that maybe the blogging world has not yet heard about? And what is the one blog that you read every day?

Darren’s answer: Tough question. To be honest I find it very difficult to find time to track a lot of what others are doing. I do keep my head around trends – but don’t really track too many individuals.

One person who influenced me a lot before I started blogging was Seth Godin. I didn’t realize he had a blog until I’d been doing it for a while – but his books did influence me and his writing continues to challenge me. I’m sure there are others doing amazing things online – but none are coming to mind right now.

In terms of blogs that I read every day. Again it’s a tough question because I subscribe to over 600 blogs and I read them all every day (when they publish – via RSS). There is no one blog that I am any more religious about than others as they all have their good and bad days.

Having said that – the blog that I watch the most (according to my Google Reader ‘Trends’ function is Lifehacker. Web Worker Daily comes in at #2).

Question 5: You recently ran a post that discussed your participation in an opinion topic (one side pro and one side con) regarding “User Generated Content and the Threat to Journalism.” Did you find any of Phil Mclean’s opinions such as, “people want ‘intelligent people‘ to help them understand the world” in which he infers that bloggers are not intelligent, either offensive or insulting?

Darren’s answer: I’m not sure that he intentionally was trying to say that bloggers or those creating content online were not intelligent – I suspect that he just didn’t think about how his statement would look.

I didn’t take any personal offense by it – but like I said in my response, some of the most intelligent and insightful people I know are bloggers.

Question 6: (Editor’s note: This question was submitted by Terence Chang of The Internet Entrepreneur Diary) If you could start over again, what would you do to make your life better or different? Besides your success in the blogging world, what achievements are you most proud in your life?

Darren’s answer: The first two things that come to mind are that I’m proud of my family and the work I’ve done with starting a church over the last 5 years (LivingRoom). If I was starting out again I’d probably want to spend more time working on my health and fitness.

Question 7: Was your participation in Movember a success? Do you feel bloggers collectively as a group are doing enough to effect a positive change with respect to social and humanitarian issues?

Darren’s answer: I set out with the goal of raising about $2000. We fell short by just over $100 – so I’d say it was successful. I do think that bloggers have a great platform to bring about social change.

There are some good examples of them taking this up – but there’s always room for more.

Question 8: How do blog media networks, like b5media, help to support their bloggers? Do you think more struggling bloggers (who would like to generate some income) should attempt to join into a network?

Darren’s answer: I’ve always said that blog networks can be great for some bloggers but not for others. It really depends upon your goals and style. Blog networks provide bloggers with more than money/payment for their blogging.

They take away the need to know about hosting, design, SEO, finding advertisers etc. At b5 we also work on training bloggers, creating a community where bloggers work together etc.

This is great for some bloggers who just want to write – but for others who have skills in those areas and want to retain complete control over their blogs then setting up as an owner blogger is probably a better way forward.

Question 9: Your ability to deliver practical, applicable, and informative posts related to all things blogging is quite amazing and rivaled by very few on the internet. I have always wondered, do you do your own research, or do you have an assistant to help out?

Darren’s answer: Until recently I’ve run ProBlogger completely by myself (with the occasional help of guest posters). In the last few months I’ve taken on a staff writer (Skellie) who is writing a post or two a week for me and who is also running our consulting project.

I still write all my own posts though – it’s a lot of work but I enjoy the writing and research involved.

Question 10: When you wake up in the morning what are 5 strategies that you use to get inspired to write, and to help stir the creative juices, if you are not in the mood to blog?

Darren’s answer:

  • Know and work in my ‘golden hours’ – Mornings are my most creative and productive time of the day. So I rarely plan any other activity in them.
  • Work offline – two mornings a week I leave the house/office and go and work in cafes. This takes me away from the distractions of home and work and also puts me in a different environment which can lead to creativity.
  • Batch Writing – I don’t write posts every day but instead try to write multiple posts in a sitting that I can then roll out later in the week. This then frees up time on other days for other activities.
  • Brainstorming – every now and again when I’m feeling particularly creative I’ll brainstorm as many topics and idea for series of posts as I can. In these times I don’t write posts, just titles and topics. This then gives me a head start on those days when I’m feeling uninspired – at least I’ll have a topic on those days.
  • Take time off – I take time off on numerous levels including daily time off (breaks for lunch, exercise etc), weekly (weekends I work less and attempt to have at least one day completely off) and every few months (taking weeks or weekends off to go away). Taking time off makes me more productive when I’m at work.

I would like to THANK Darren for his time — He was actually in the middle of moving and going on vacation when I asked him to do this interview so I really appreciate him taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions.

About Collis Ta'eed

As cofounder and CEO, Collis Ta’eed leads Envato, one of the world’s most thriving digital marketplaces and creative educational blog networks.

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