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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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!