Let me say right up front, this is definitely not a post about how you should set up your blog. It’s the very opposite of that, in fact. Nothing about my process was/is by the book, none of it is particularly efficient or smart, and definitely none of it followed best practice. But nevertheless, here we are:-)
I thought I’d write down my process, especially while it is still evolving, because maybe it will guide your process if you are experiencing the same challenges as I am. Once again though, none of this is advice as to how things should be done. It’s just an unconventional process that (so far) works for me.
Unconventional Thing #1
Probably the worst thing about my process is the fact that this site was an absolute mess for …ages. I had the domain, I had WordPress installed, and I had some posts up, but I paid the site zero attention for probably well over a year. This is obviously a really stupid thing to do if you rely on your site to drive business, but luckily that wasn’t really an issue for me. I had other revenue sources, and I wasn’t actively looking for clients, and I wasn’t actively expanding my network (and I used my Linkedin profile for that anyway).
Unconventional Thing #2
Even as I write this, the site is a mess. It has broken links, menu items that don’t go anywhere, I haven’s looked at the “about me” sections for over 12 months…you get the idea. Nevertheless, here I am, playing with it and trying to shape it. While it’s a live site. TO be honest, I am not quite sure why I am doing that. I should just switch on a maintenance plug, and play around until I am happy with it. I think I opted to not do that for a couple reasons:
- 1. It is much easier to send a link of this site or a specific page to someone when there is no maintenance plugin. With the plugin, I’d have to create a user account for the person, and they would have to log in to view the page. A big ask of anyone who is doing you a favour by giving feedback (which is what I am asking for).
- 2. Since I know the site is live, I need to kind of hurry up. and finish it. If I were to leave it in maintenance mode, I might take months to perfect it. (Perfection is the enemy of done, etc etc).
- 3. It’s not bad for SEO to leave the domain up, although SEO is not a huge motivator for me. (SEO, if you don’t know, is just a fancy way of determining how high on Google search result page your site appears).
Ok, moving on.
The site is a WordPress site (free), on my own domain (eved.co.za) hosted with WPEngine. I also have the ofrelevance.com domain which I will also link to the site, since I like it (and I’ve had it forever). It is definitely not a good idea to have two domains (especially for a personal blog) because…why would you? It’s just confusing to the audience, and a nightmare with promotions. But it doesn’t do much harm either.
I have a premium theme, but I also have the Elementor Pro plugin which I use to design and tweak the site. All the work is done by me, at my own pace.
The biggest problem with the blog
This deserves its own post, which I will hopefully write in the future, but the reason it will take me so long to get this blog to a decent state, is because I have never had any clear vision of what I wanted this blog to achieve. I never wanted it to be a “hire me!” site, because that is not where my focus lies. I really just wanted a site where I could write things.
The problem though, was that I wanted to write about very, very varied stuff. I want to write about my kids, and my personal growth, and the good restaurants I visit, the books that I’ve read, the pottery I designed, the cool documentaries I watch, my thoughts on Uber, why I thing Facebook is evil, what I wish Google did better etc etc etc. The topics are so varied and so wide, that there is absolutely no way that a site with all that writing would be consistently read by anyone other than family and friends (and even that is asking much).
I solved this problem by splitting things into two: I have a site for my “personal” writing, the stuff that you could file under “lifestyle”. And then I have this site, which I think will end up being more of a “I’m wearing my work hat when I write here” site.
Having these two separate avenues for self-expression has already – just in principle – solved a lot of the problems I was feeling when writing online. I don’t have to worry about what my future clients will think if they read a post about a bad date I had, but I also don’t have to bore my friends and family with why I think Facebook s going to crumble on itself.
I’m not hungry for an audience
This is important, and it probably separates me from 95% of people who create stuff online. Although I have other business interests where it is absolutely vital for me to draw an audience, neither of my blogs fall into that category.
But it does beg the question (which I ask myself often) of …”why, then?” Why write anything, if I am not going to be actively pushing to have it read?
I don’t really have an answer, to be honest. Maybe, somehow, I am hoping that it will just gain traction on its own, and will receive positive feedback. On the other hand, I really don’t want it to gain any traction at all, because I want to be able to write what I want, when I want without much worry about the feedback and criticism that is bound to follow if it was read by a lot of people.
The one thing that I do know, is that I want to write. And I want to create. And I want an avenue to be able to share stuff I want to share.
This whole aspect needs a lot more self-exploration…which I can afford myself here becasue (wouldn’t you know it) I can write here without much scrutiny, and perhaps learn new things in the process.
I only mention it here because I want to emphasize that this blog was not set up with a game-plan in mind. (Which is why I opened up with the disclaimer that this not a site should be set up!). It’s probably a ridiculous way of approaching anything, but it somehow feels right for me to “learn-on-the-job”, and define what I want out of this site as the site evolves through its setup, and through my subsequent writing.
How I mapped it out
Once again, completely unconventional. Instead of writing down the goals and the best way to achieve them, I opened up the “Create Menu” tab, and started putting in headings of the type of things I want to write.
For example, I know I want a place to put my favourite business books. And a place to recommend stuff. And to recommend people. This sounds like it will lead to lists-of-things, so I added exactly that to the menu (which you can see on top): “Big Lists”. I don’t have any lists yet, hence the links don’t go anywhere, but maybe by the time you read this it will be full of things. See?
I followed a similar process with all the other menu items. I took out “Contact Me” because it was taking up to much space, and will move my email address to the footer (probably). But what I have now is more than a structure for the site. What I have is permission to write what I want, becasue the way the menu has been set up there will always be fit in any piece of writing. And if such place doesn’t exist, it can easily be created.
This is huge for me, and counter-intuitive for most personal sites. Sites are usually designed around a niche, or a career, or a goal. Mine is not. Mine is designed around the concept of self-expression. That’s it. This is not a very good idea for revenue. If I was expecting this site to drive my revenue, I would have to focus the topics, otherwise it would be impossible to market to a specific audience. Focussing topics is the absolutely last thing I want to do though, because I want to this site to help define who I am, not help me sell myself. And the best way for me to define who I am is to allow me to talk about whatever interests me.
Something else I need to do a separate blog post about. Removing friction is not only a necessary step in dramatically increasing productivity, but also in increasing output. If there are obstacles along the way to producing, then those obstacles are going to stop you from producing. That should be pretty obvious.
I have many such roadblocks in my creative/writing process, but the silliest one is that I cannot easily or quickly produce a blog post because with my current setup, producing a blog post also requires producing an image to headline it. Now, often (always?) the image is completely inconsequential to the words, it acts simply as an illustration to make the blog pretty, nothing more than that. (Apparently, I do not believe my words are attractive enough on their own.)
I don’t have the skill or time to custom-illustrate my own blog posts, I’m not a particularly good or prolific photographer so don’t have a repository of my own photographs, and so I end up usually using Unsplash.com for my photos (it’s free, and doesn’t have a bad selection). Still, this is time consuming, and less than ideal. I feel as if I am cheating by using someone else’s artwork on what is supposed to be my creative outlet. This absolutely inhibits my writing, and takes away the spontaneity of quick posts.
There are three ways around this:
- I take more photographs, or create illustrations
- I pre-prepare a whole bunch of photographs, so that appending one to a blog post will be effortless
- I scrap the photographs altogether
I have no idea which one I am going to go with yet, and I guess that that is…okay?
Will this work?
The only measure of whether this “worked” is to check back in 12 months time to see how much I have written. Not how many visitors I had, or comments, or newsletter signups. The only thing that matters is whether the site gave me the freedom and the willingness to express myself. I guess time will tell.