The Three Stages of a Blogger’s Life (and What it Means to You)

by Craig McBreen · 32 comments · Blogging, Content Marketing


The-Three-Stages-of-a-Bloggers-LifeIf you’ve been blogging for a while, you immediately get this, right? …

You realize writing online is an iterative process. Do. Learn. Start over … Repeat.

You also understand finding your voice and your “thing” can be harder than parallel parking a 1970 Eldorado.

Yes, many have this nailed from the start, but most of us don’t.

That’s what today’s post is about: what I’ve observed, experienced and learned over the past two years. And I’m hoping this helps you, Dear Blogger in some way …

1. Stage One: The Tail Wagging Puppy

Trying to make a dent, you comment anywhere and everywhere with golden, flowery, complementary prose. Racing around like Kim Kardashian at a Paparazzi beach party you have one goal: To get eyes on your site.

I did this and started to to make friends and rub elbows with big shots, but there was a problem: Like a stinky puppy I had boundless energy, and was crapping everywhere, but needed serious training.

My main goals were:
1. Building audience (good)
2. Making connections (even better) and …
3. Getting a bazillion comments (you make the call here, but really, Craig?)

The above practices didn’t earn me a red cent and I burnt about 8,765.81119 hours. BUT all the racing around launched my “blogging career,”  kind of.

The “kind of” part is where it gets tricky.
My hyperactive beginning was a launching pad and gave me the impetus to bust some moves along the way. I made connections that I still maintain to this day.

But my excitement got in the way. I became obsessed with meaningless metrics and my overeager approach led me in too many different directions.

If you come into blogging with a solid plan, great.
If you have a narrow target audience in mind, even better.
If you’re jumping around like a tail wagging pup that’s fine, just work like a fiend to get yourself focused as you go.

As a blogging infant I was spinning my head faster than Linda Blair in The Exorcist, which led to …

2. Stage two: The Over Promiser

One of the amazing benefits of blogging? You get to know so many bright and talented people, but this brings a host of problems. In my case, the more peeps I got to know, the more excited I became and the more stuff I wanted (and, um promised) to do.

The over promiser sees what other peeps are doing and says, we’ll I’m gonna do that: Start speaking at conferences, publish four eBooks a year, create a video training course, grow that email list to mammoth proportions, and start publishing on Amazon … exhausting, right?

This just overextends little old you. That is not good, especially when you have 199.57 other distractions in your life.

My main goals were:
1. Be everywhere. Get on as many channels as possible (not good without a plan).
2. Build authority (again not good without focus).
3. To have more Goals (Argh).

Being everywhere is great (if you have a plan for each channel).

And building authority is one important part of a making it online. And yes, goals are wonderful.

BUT … here’s what the above becomes if you are not completely dialed in: A giant, time-draining succubus.

Over-promising means over-planning which usually leads to zero follow-through. You don’t accomplish what you set out to do, opening the doors to self-doubt, negativity, and burn out.

So, what helps you get out of this hyperdrive rut? Read on …

3. Stage Three: The Settled Planner …

The over eager, over promiser (read: me) eventually realizes there comes a time when you must slow down, re-tool, and refocus.

I’ll be honest … at the end of 2013 a host of issues in my life kinda sidelined me. But these events, plus two years in the online jungle help me gain clarity.

Clarity rules.

Ask yourself:
What is essential to my success?
And what will suck the life blood right out of me?
Then KILL the life-sucking part.

If you don’t gain this clarity you’ll get caught in a never-ending cycle: creating for naught.

For me, stages 1-2 helped things come into focus. But I really wish I’d hit the gas pedal to reach phase 3 more quickly.

My main goals now?
1. Having a clear reason for blogging and all attached to it (read: hard work). I thought I had this at first, but didn’t.

2. Improve by slowing down. Hyperdrive means trying to be everywhere with no plan; writing without purpose; and burning the midnight oil with no return on your investment.

3. To kill my goal-setting addiction, for my health and bottom line.

You’ve read this advice: just write, give, give, give, and be in the moment. All good, but if you’re like me you need to work to get more business, write to establish some kind of authority and retool and refocus to actually find the customers you covet. Meaning this simple framework ain’t gonna cut it, sorry.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be passionate (you should).

Or you shouldn’t write with conviction (that’s part of the golden ticket).

And I’m not trying to convince you to do something you hate (quite the contrary actually).

What I do think you should do is: read the above again, decide which phase you’re in, and make some decisions. Stop spinning your wheels.

Blogging is damn hard work … just make those precious hours count for something.

I would love to get your thoughts on this below.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Brent Kelly January 9, 2014 at 10:10 am

Craig,

This is spot on. I think I am in the middle of my over promise stage. I have about 15 goals going at the same time and it’s time to really sit back and focus in the most important and valuable tasks at hand. Thanks for the insight.

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Craig McBreen January 9, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Hey Brent,

Glad you enjoyed! I think I’m finally over the over-promising ;) … Yes, 15 goals, well that’s too many in my humble opinion. Frankly, any time I’ve had more than 10 they quickly got sidelined. I’m also much more focused on the short-term now, like what the heck can I get accomplished today! Good seeing you.

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Stephen Lahey January 9, 2014 at 10:34 am

I love your candid, clear thinking style, Craig! Great food for thought, as always.
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Craig McBreen January 9, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Hi Mr. Lahey,

So glad to see you here. If you think this is candid, just wait ’til my next blog goes live ;)

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Davina K. Brewer January 9, 2014 at 10:48 am

Think I’m on stage 47 Craig – I still have so much I want to say, so much to share but don’t think much of it aligns with my other goals. So many years, I’ve over-promised and planned to ‘blog more, blog more better’ – only to not. Ideas and thoughts and rambles pop in my head, I never get to keyboard to bang them out.

Goals and strategy are key, provided you have the right ones. Blogging is a tremendous amount of work, even as fun or hobby; blogging well is insanely hard work. When it’s for business, when it’s about career, when it’s for work and brand — it’d better mean something. Figuring out what.. FWIW, I’m back at that stage.. Vicious cycle this is! :-)
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Craig McBreen January 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Hi Davina,

Ha! I obviously know the feeling ;) One of the best practices ever, for me at least, is writing 500-1000 words per day. Sometimes it’s total crap, but I’m still using my writing muscles. And the other? Not having so many goals … they just clouded my head and stressed me out. Oh man is blogging a crap-ton of work, but with a solid strategy, creativity and dogged determination, you’ll get places :) Hitting it hard every single day. Cheers!

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Lori Gosselin January 9, 2014 at 10:56 am

Hi Craig,
I can relate to some of these stages, especially the first one. I can remember when I would have to make a concerted effort to back away from the computer in the evening! Like you I have made some solid connections in the early days which remain to this day.

In stage 2 I actually posted 3 times a week. I was all over the place and finally settled on once a week which is working great. Not only have many who started blogging with me stopped blogging but many, like me, have become busy with their bread-and-butter business and so have been porch-hopping less frequently.

It will be interesting to see what stage 4 is ;-) Any ideas? What a fun ride!

:-)
Lori
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Craig McBreen January 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Hi Lori,

Great to see you here! Oh yes, that part of the first stage was kind of bewitching, eh? The social, blogging vortex that won’t let go of your eyeballs. But yes, those connections (including great people like you) have been great.

I hear you on the posting. I’ve been pretty infrequent here, but for the most part post twice a week. I may go to once a week when my other blog is live. Yes, I’ve seen so many people give it up or just get too busy and stop … the crazy online world.

The next stage is a 2nd blog, which will be quite a departure from this one. Should be fun :)

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Craig Lindberg January 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

In some odd way Larry the Cable Guy may have summed up the best blogging CTA with “Get ‘er done!” Craig you’ve nailed with near perfection the afflictions nagging so many disenfranchised marketing professionals turned entrepreneurs like myself. And your thoughts are both painful and reassuring in their accuracy and affirmation. Combine this with your post “How to Change 3 Mindsets that Kill Your Productivity” and it’s déjà vu all over again to quote Mr. Berra. I’ve been here, seen this and ready to move on with Stage 3. The good news is this comes as a shot in the arm at just the right time in my professional walkabout. Thanks for the clarity and wisdom. Skol!

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Craig McBreen January 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Hi Craig,

Yup! “Get ‘er done!” kind of sums it up. Winning the war is about doing the work, right? :) Thanks so much for the kind words too. For me, the blogging word is enchanting, but beguiling, so you better be crafty to keep things moving. Thanks for the sage Berra quote as well ;) Thanks again and glad I gave you a good shot in the arm at the right time. Cheers to your success, Sir!

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Mary Stephenson January 9, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Craig

You have described everything the way it is. For those of us who have not kept up with your feverish beginnings, we feel a little guilty for being so wore out from all that we should or felt we should be doing. Hoping that if we waited long enough someone would tell us it was a waste of time. Thank you, now I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t have the stamina to do it all.

It is like a boat for most of us…a money pit, which you are constantly pouring in and getting nothing back.

Somewhere along the line we all seem to figure it out, it just isn’t working as planned or promised by the big scammers. When we get pulled back down to earth and try to figure out what we are doing here or what we want out of this, we adjust. Do we stay or do we leave, do we get focused or do we just learn more about ourselves and find what we are really good at.

I do think blogging opens our eyes to the reality of who we are and what we are or are not capable of. Spend enough time online and you find there are plenty of places to learn and it may not just be about blogging.

My expectations have definitely changed and I have not decided where I want to go with blogging, it did not turn out the way I envisioned. The journey takes a different path as from where I first started.

Mary
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Craig McBreen January 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

Hi Mary,

That’s how I like to tell it ;) And … not one of us can do it all.

Money pit. Yep, and that’s the point of my post … have a strategy. If you don’t get out and come back when you do … unless you’re independently wealthy and have all the time in the world.

With all that being said, I think in my case the first two years were necessary. Sometimes frustrating, but also very productive in many ways. A fleshing out period to become more focused.

Thanks for stopping in, Mary, and good luck on your journey!

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Maxwell Ivey January 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Hello; You are probably going to hate me, but I believe i started at stage three. I have known from the beginning that the goal is to help people sell their amusement equipment or related items to earn commissions. The website, blog, and now the videos are all focused on making that happen. And the only blogs i follow share or comment on are those belonging to people who i like trust and or respect. Fortunately, many of my blogging friends have been very helpful to my growing the site and improving as a bloggr. but then I’ve always been one of those people that is older than he should be. My new year’s resolution was to have more fun. smile still haven’t started but I’m not giving up on it yet. Of course, I’m loving all the positive feedback on my videos. Thanks for the great post. I’m sure you will save a lot of people from wasting time and suffering frustration by helping them see the mistakes you made. Take care, max
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Craig McBreen January 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

Hi Max,

I love it when you come and and thoroughly enjoy your comments :)

I’m glad you started at Stage 3! And glad you’ve had that focus from the very beginning.

It’s also great to have blogging friends, because yes, they do help you in many ways. Just glad you’re growing the site and continually improving … great!

I’m trying to have more fun too, something we all need to practice. Thanks again and have a great day, Sir!

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Maxwell Ivey January 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi Craig; Yes, it is good to have blogging friends as quite often your family and regular friends either don’t know what the heck you are talking about or their eyes glaze over as they lose interest. wink i just found out today that I am continuing to have trouble with how my images and other aspects of my blog posts are appearing. I am a blind blogger using a mac and i depend on mars edit to write my posts. Editing posts is one of the few areas of the word press dashboard that i have trouble with using speech. so, if there is anyone here using a mac who would be willing to download the 30 day free trial of mars edit or who is already using that fine piece of software I’d love for you to contact me to see if I can learn how to make my posts more reader friendly and generate even better audience numbers. I am open to suggestions on having more fun. Mainly i need a partner in crime or a traveling buddy preferably a nice lady with a sweet voice even temper and valid license. smile thanks for welcoming me here. Take care, max
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Suzanne January 10, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Craig,
You make me laugh :). I’m glad to say that my days of chasing my tail are over. At some point you have to say “What’s my life all about?” and start spending time on priorities in your life. I’m glad you took a step back. Sometimes that’s what helps us see the forest rather than the trees.
Suzanne
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Craig McBreen January 12, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Hi Suzanne,

I’m just glad I can make somebody laugh ;)

Glad those days are over for you. Yep, figure out why you are here and if it’s too much of a time suck … maybe getting out for a while is a good thing. Thanks for stopping in.

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Bob January 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I love how you said 199.57 other distractions in life, how appropriate! My struggle fit into number 2 and 3. I actually wasted so much time on my very first blog with the theme, look, color, and brand. What I should have been doing is content creation!

Thanks for this great post,

Bob
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Craig McBreen January 12, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Hi Bob,

Well, that number felt about right for me ;)

Oh yes, so easy to get caught up in one facet of what you’re doing … I say if someone is struggling mightily it might be time to delegate. Focus on what makes you sing and delegate the rest.

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Bill Dorman January 12, 2014 at 7:00 am

Whoa, who woulda thunk it, huh?

I got in for the networking and relationship building; I didn’t have a grand scheme to make me rich from my efforts. Subsequently, it’s hard to be consistent with that type of model. However, with that as my model it pretty much makes whatever I do ‘ok,’ huh?

Yes, you have pretty much hit the nail on the head, how prophetic; I knew you’d be the next big thing….
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Jeevan Jacob John January 12, 2014 at 8:46 pm

“Over-promising means over-planning which usually leads to zero follow-through”

Love it (I am clapping right here…not sure whether you can hear, can ya, Craig? :D).

I think I am on the second step (two and three). I have promised myself (and others) to do a lot this year (I am bit ambitious…..well, a lot ambitious. But, I am going to try, and I know how I can achieve this – planning).

Not, over planning though. I am dividing up my goals into months and focusing on particular tasks per month (take for instance: Jan is for building up the blog…which means more comments, more traffic and so forth…same with Feb, but the focus will change a bit in Feb).

And so forth.

I plan to write Kindle books, start niche marketing and a writing service this year.

Writing service is the last (Nov-Dec).

I know I won’t be able to succeed in many of these (maybe most of these), but I have got to try, right?

This time I will learn. Next year, I will improve and try harder – maybe I will succeed :D

Ah, I made it all about me again, didn’t I? Hope you don’t mind ;)
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Craig McBreen January 14, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Hey Jeevan,

I hear ya!

Well it sounds like you have it all figured out, Sir.

I like the idea of dividing tasks up into months, but it’s just something that never quite worked for me. Now I just plan out a few weeks at a time and it works better, for me at least.

I’m glad to hear you’re really making a go at this. It all sounds incredibly exciting and I’m excited for you. For a 20-year-old guy you’ve really got it together :)

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Paul January 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Craig,

I’m seven months into my blog and have certainly crapped on the floor a number of times. I feel fortunate in not really going through the ‘over-promising’ phase, but I am definitely feeling the planning portion right now. My intent is to transition invested hours into a worthy business by providing value to others. Quite a simple philosophy that requires a ton of work.

Thanks for your post!

Paul
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Craig McBreen January 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Hey Paul,

You too, huh? ;)

Yes, quite a simple philosophy we all read over and over, but making it all work is like having another full-time job.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Natalie January 14, 2014 at 7:38 am

This is spot on and I can identify with every stage. I am on stage 3
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Craig McBreen January 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Hi Natalie,

Good to hear … hopefully you got there faster than I did ;)

Thanks for stopping in.

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Peter Sterlacci January 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

Hey Craig. This is so spot on and so nicely mapped out. I did exactly what you mentioned in Stages 1 & 2. Still trying to figure out Stage 3. I will get there at some point. Thanks again for capturing the essence of so many things. Rock on.
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Craig McBreen January 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thanks, Peter.

Not sure how long you’ve been at it, but this took a good two years for me ;) But I’m a realist and my blogging plan is a 2-5 year one.

Hope all is well on your side of the world, Sir! Thanks for visiting.

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Adrienne January 18, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Hey Craig,

I use to hate it when people told me to plan for what I wanted to achieve and I didn’t yet have a clear vision in my head because I was still trying to discover what brought me the most joy.

Now you know I love blogging and commenting. I’m finding as we move into this year that lot of the bloggers that I know are finding it very exhausting now because the process is fun and meeting all these amazing people is an added bonus. BUT, they aren’t making any money doing what they’re doing because they don’t have a plan.

You can spin your wheels, make all the goals but if you aren’t promoting a product or a service you offer then yeah, I’m sure it can be very frustrating for them. That just makes it more of a hobby.

I think we all need to focus on what we really want while we’re here and those are definitely the three stages of most bloggers. I was smiling as I was reading through this actually nodding at some of the stuff I did myself. Not anymore though, I’m much more focused this year in achieving what I want and backing off from some of the things that aren’t bringing me the results I want.

Here’s to a great new year and you achieving everything you want.

~Adrienne
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Craig McBreen January 19, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Hi Adrienne,

The process is exhausting and if you’re not getting any return on your investment, man that’s a ton of time to spend with no reward. Very tough to keep going that way.

Glad you were smiling through it. We all do it for a certain period of time, right? Trying to find our way … and this fleshing out process can be a bear.

Glad you’re much more focused and achieving what you want :) Like you wrote, sometimes that means backing off from some practices that aren’t bringing results … the “not do” list ;)

Thanks and here’s to a great 2014. I’m sure you’ll make some great strides this year.

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