Thursday, June 07, 2007

How I Became a Professional Blogger

(You can skip this post, ekted; I know you don't like it when I talk about blogging :-) )

I didn't really plan it, but I dreamed it.

1. First of all, when I started blogging I knew I had something to offer. One of my strengths is the ability to come up with new and creative ideas. Sometimes what I come up with falls flat, but I always have another three or four ideas waiting as a follow up.

Everyone has something to offer about something. Whatever you are good at or know about, other people will be interested in it. Worst comes to worst, by blogging you'll be practicing your writing and organizational skills. Even if you just do it for fun, like most people.

2. I picked a subject that I'm passionate about to begin with. I really do play games, and I really do evangelize about them. And I really believe the things I write about (at least at the time that I write them).

3. I wasn't afraid of failing, because I started from nothing: no audience, no readers, nothing to lose. When I got some readers, I thought: well, the worst that can happen is that I post something lame or offensive and I lose them all. In which case I'm no worse off then when I started.

4. I have lots of dreams, and only so much time to devote to them. In order to succeed with this one, it was necessary that I made blogging a daily priority. Especially at the beginning, when I didn't necessarily have anything to write, I wrote anyway. I scoured news and web sites. I made it a point of writing every day (at first, three times a week), regardless. Often, usually, about halfway through writing something, I realized that I finally had something to say. I then erased everything I had written and started over.

Sometimes the ideas only start flowing after the pen hits the paper; most people want it to be the other way around, but this doesn't work for me.

5. Since I wasn't getting paid for this, I had to justify the time spent to myself, to my wife and family. I had to fight adversity and answer questions like "why am I playing around on the computer?" Because I am laying the groundwork. I am spending the time now to get better at it, until one day I may be in a position that I will have enough experience and enough traffic, or be offered a blog position, so that I can quit my other jobs.

In the meantime, the time spent is no more wasteful than the time spent in school that you don't get paid for. It's education. It's experience. It's building habits and working through errors. Especially getting those errors out before I have a big readership, when failure becomes a bigger problem.

It was also a commitment; because even if only one other person is expecting me to write something, I feel a need to write for that person, money or no money.

6. I turned to the professionals: Problogger, Performancing, Gaping Void, Seth Godin, Copyblogger, Kathy Sierra, and so on. Some of these are specifically about blogging, while the others are about branding. Both are key. Professional blogging sites help you with the technical stuff: how to be a good blog citizen, how to network, how to optimize, how to write content in attractive ways. Branding/Marketing sites help you identify what you have to offer, how to connect to what people like to read, and how to tap into the creative process. There's an overlap between the two, of course.

7. Not only did I find myself in a good niche (board gaming), but I found things that weren't being covered in my niche and covered them. There are blogs with session reports and reviews about Eurogames, war games, Go and Chess, but basically none that cover all board gaming - which, by the way, is my interest. I collect and report on daily gaming news that nobody else reports. I cover game patents because nobody else does them. I write game poetry because, um, I'm crazy (but I like to do it, and few others do). I maintain an up-to-date blogroll like no one else does.

I also branched out into a few other subjects, when I found myself with something particularly unique or interesting to say (well, at least something that I found interesting, anyway).

8. Any person who has played a negotiation or trading game can tell you that you have to trade promiscuously to win. As such, I am promiscuous with my links. I link to all the hundreds of people that I love and read. If only 10% of them link back to me, thats still hundreds of people with one link (from me), and dozens of links back for me.

9. I maintained focus on my readers. I don't write for transient hits from Google or Digg. Not that I reject them, but I don't make that my focus. If my post isn't good enough for the regular readers, it's not good enough. On the other hand, my regular readers do get a wide range of topics covered.

I RSS full feed. Anyone who subscribes to my feed doesn't have to jump through hoops to get my content. I can count on them coming to my site a few times a year at the very least, which is a heck of a lot more than the other billion people on the internet. I'm not going to purposely annoy them.

I try not to annoy my readers with ads. I played around with ads and rejected most of them because they would annoy me if I went to read the site. I use only a small ad on the top. I use affiliate links to sites where I would also buy products, and which don't pop-up or interfere with the flow of text. I began writing reviews only of sites that I thought contained at least something that I would be interested in, anyway (and rejected many others).

Yes, it's a little extra work to tune ads properly and add all the affiliate links in my posts, but I got used to it. With little exception, I don't think I've annoyed my readers too much.

10. After I had experience in blogging - three years, now - I looked for the opportunities. There are blog positions advertised online, and there are companies that looked like they could use blogging help.

A. The direct results:

By post number 1000, I had made $75, which I gave back to my readers in the form of games. I'm now up to around $50 a month in Text Link Ads ($35), Google Ad-Sense ($12), and Amazon ($3).

Not very impressive, I admit. However ...

B. The indirect results:

I landed a professional blogging position at a company. I went in for a programming position and offered instead to be their company blogger. And they accepted.

I have had a game published by a publisher who is one my readers.

I've received dozens of free games to review.

My writing is getting better all the time.

I know hundreds of great people around the world.

I've had articles published in professional journals around the world. I've even been interviewed a few times on various subjects.

I know a lot about my field and interest.

I'm enjoying myself.

C. Will I ever run out of things to blog about?

Blogging is now easier than ever. Where I once scrounged for topics, I now have to hold back from writing too much every day.

- I have played 250 games and have only reviewed 50 of them.
- I can compare any two games
- I can review and compare game genres
- I can write about gaming in every country, city, religion, or culture
- I can pick any topic and write about the games that concern that topic (I did Zebra games, once, as an example)
- I can find thousands of unusual games any day on eBay
- I can write about other game blogs and websites
- I can respond to articles on these sites
- I have thousands of game books to read and review
- Each of them covering topics in intelligence, theory, culture, history, fun, tactics, and so on, all of which I can also write about
- And that's off the top of my head, and doesn't include keeping up with game news and patents and the games that I play and design
- And so on

And you can do it to, if you really want to.


P.S. You may also want to read my Ten Lesser Known Secrets of Blogging.


Gerald McD said...

Excellent! Keep up the great work! I enjoy reading your blog every day.

Thomas said...

Great post. This will be useful to me and many others, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

I found my way here through gapingvoid, and I am definitely glad I did. This is a very useful and encouraging post to a newer blogger like myself. Also, as a minor fan of board games and a major fan of good writing, I think I'll be hanging around to hear what you have to say.

Yehuda Berlinger said...


And a link from Hugh is an honor.


Anonymous said...

Same here, Hugh loved this post and so do I. I've posted a point to it on my blog. I couldn't have said it better. It's about the passion and having something to say baby!

Unknown said...

came here from hugh, too...
great post - i'll send it to my brother...

will have a look through the rest, too. although i'm not really into board games...


ninefish said...

Yehuda, Hugh sent me too, and I'm grateful he did.
It's your kind of passion that makes a difference, and it's exactly what makes the form so exciting and enabling for us all.

Thanks for elucidating it so well for the guys who don't get it. :-)

MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

Mazel Tov!


Anonymous said...

I'm one of those anonymous lurkers - I came here looking for board gaming news a few months ago, and have stayed for all the rest ever since...

So I just wanted to say a quick - Keep up the good work!

Hrishi Mittal said...

Ace writing! You have a clear and direct voice which will keep me pulling back here even though I'm not into games. Thanks Yehuda.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost, the very fact that I now have a blog to visit that covers the oft-forgotten 'classic' game Pente makes me very, very, very happy.

Second, to echo Hugh (and the others who have already commented) on this particular post of yours, bravo. Great content, reminders, inspiration, and taking it back to the roots of it all: passion.

I work specifically with the educational and school design worlds...and so often the adoption of blogging is in a linear manner. If it leads to something valuable that is easily measured and controlled, then perhaps it'll be considered. Or worse yet, as a press release! Oy. But the longer journey of discovery? The value of writing about your passions, rather than simply to drum up Google links? Thank you for reminding all of us what it's about at the beginning...and end of the day.

I'll be sharing your points with those who are passionate about integrating blogging into schools and education. It's spot-on!

Again, bravo on the Pente pieces!

"think:lab" blog

bgrier said...

Informative post! With about 200 blog posts to my name, I have a long way to go, yet your thoughts inspire. Thanks!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thanks for the great comments, guys. I really appreciate it!

Christian: Yes, Pente is an overlooked classic.

As far as education goes, I hope you're bringing games into the classroom; it's the best way to learn!


Steve Williams said...

A fine piece on blogging. I recognize the process and the dream.

Found you quite by accident while reading the auspiciousdragon photostream.

Now on to some of your other "about blogging" posts.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Lindsey said...

Thank you for this great post! As a new blogger, I can relate to feeling frustrated in the beginning. And I'm still trying to convince my friends that I'm not just playing around on my computer!

Although I'm not very into games, I'll stick around for your clarity and writing voice. It's refreshing when mindless barking seems to be the trend.

Havana N. said...

Inspiring and motivating.

Anonymous said...

I am really a dumb on games but the article is inspiring.

I have started blogging just few weeks ago, may be about 3 weeks, but still i am feeling hard on finding my niche. Can you help me out in this matter.

In which category i am blogging on? What is my Niche? Please help me.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

blogtantra: I sent you an email on the subject. Thanks for the comment!


Gerrard Fess said...

Professional blogging ...hmmm so can one live off doing that though?

Any other companies hiring?

Yehuda Berlinger said...


Actually? Tons of people. A great many of them don't know that they're hiring and need to be told so. And a great many of those hiring don't know what they're getting.


Anonymous said...

Yehuda, shalom from San Diego, California! I too have experienced a modicum of success with blogging. Or should I say, vlogging? I closed my original blog from last year, in order to focus on my job. Then my job got boring, so I began vlogging on YouTube. The result has been enormous and I would like to pass on to your readers, that in addition to exploring the world of blogging, they should also try vlogging! The latest CrAzE!



Miss Rhoadie said...

Great post. Helpful tips!!!

Anonymous said...

its samy.....
just enter in blogging field .
its great work yaar.!!!
I waana become professional in it.
Please if any body can help,give mail to

Anonymous said...

You've got a great blog going here, and some great ideas about blogging. Excellent! Of course, the two go together.

David Hurley

Anonymous said...

I wanna play too:) if you can help me figure out how to blog for life I would be forever grateful. I think it's my true calling. I love writing and computers, fashion, travel, games, books, etc. please let me know what else I can do

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Lilly: A blog is a tool, in the same way that a camera is a tool. To make money with a blog, you have to make something that people want to buy directly, or hire yourself out to work for other people.

And you have to market yourself.

That's it, plain and simple.


Tyson Stakes said...

This is a cool blog. It's always refreshing to see people doing what they love and what they are good at.

Highway Star said...

Instead of writing about video games, why not write about girls?

Lori said...

That is excellent advice for someone who wants to start a blog but doesn't know how to go about it. Thank you!

karen said...

This is fantastic. My sister sent me this link because I have been blogging seriously for a year and I feel the need to justify my time spent.

I don't make a dime but, thanks to analytics, I know a handful of people look at my site each month.

Also, I was just hired to blog for a magazine in my field, real estate investing.

Good for you that you stuck with it. Thanks for encouraging me that it's ok to keep doing what I enjoy, even when it doesn't pay!

Unknown said...

I just found your blog all by chance as I was trying to find some material for an article a client asked me to write about blogging. I find your blog interesting. I like the way you write.

I am a novice blogger and I am learning by trial and error. Your post encourages me to keep at it though I have very little time to spare.

I am glad you are doing good and hope that more opportunities will come your way.