Hey blogger, look to the future to realize your professional potential

Prepare for climate change in the blogosphere

I started my blog in 2007. In blogging terms, that translates to, “I started my blog back when the earth was beginning to cool,” and it’s no exaggeration to say that the blogosphere is a completely different place than it was a mere eight years ago.

Back in Ye Olde Blogging Tymes, relatively few people blogged for a living and even fewer launched blogs with the intention of transforming them into viable, profitable businesses. Blogging wasn’t considered a legitimate career path and bloggers weren’t acknowledged as “real” writers by the Old Guard. (Some might argue both still hold true.) There was less hate, but there was also less opportunity. It was quieter, smaller and considerably less cutthroat.

Perhaps most significantly, there was less competition. While there were fewer people vying for the blogging spotlight within each topic area, there were also far fewer social media clamoring for a slice of people’s extremely limited attention spans. Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, and Pinterest didn’t exist. Twitter was just starting to ramp up, Tumblr was brand new, and nobody really cared about LinkedIn yet.

In those simpler bygone days it was mainly Facebook with a side order of Flickr. And blogs. Blogs were everywhere. And everyone read them.

Today, blogs compete with all of those social media platforms and more. Mobile device consumption is prevalent, so text messages, selfies, and Angry Birds are all chipping away at limited user time and interest. And with people gravitating toward visual-driven, minimal-text media like Instagram and Pinterest, wordy blogs are losing ground.

My blog is wordy. Oh, so very wordy. Even before I quit my day job in 2011 to freelance, I knew I needed income streams beyond my affiliate networks and ads to keep myself afloat. And if you’re a professional blogger, so do you. Here’s why.

Blogs may go the way of the dodo

Critics and pundits have been saying “blogging is dead” since … well, at least since 2007, the year that I launched my blog. So while it may be true that blogs are alive and well making people money and gaining them exposure across the globe, they aren’t the social medium du jour. Teenagers aren’t reading lengthy posts from Dooce or The Bloggess, they’re trolling image-heavy Tumblrs.

Believe it or not, in this day and age some “bloggers” no longer have actual blogs, just wildly popular Instagram feeds!

Blogs may eventually become the Sunday papers of the Internet — still being cranked out to be read only by people over a certain age. Limited audience means limited growth and limited income. But don’t despair — prepare!

If you can blog, you can do other things, too

Unless you hire out all your photography, employ a ghostwriter for your posts and make your intern handle your social media, your blog is currently profitable because you, the blogger, have some very valuable and transferrable skills. For instance:

  • If you’ve mastered staging and lighting, you could explore freelance photography work for local businesses or other websites.
  • If you built your Pinterest following from zero to 2 million in six months and excel at composing pithy tweets, you might make a fantastic social media consultant.
  • If, like me, you have a background in writing, you can try your hand at everything from ghostwriting to copywriting.

No one’s going to hand this work to you on a platter; you’ll need to network, be patient, and prove your worth. However, by getting started now, you’ll have a more robust work portfolio in the months and years to come.

Freelancers should always diversify

I have a couple of friends who work as freelance writers, but only for one or two clients. Overall their work has been steady and lucrative, so they’ve had no reason to cultivate other contacts. Yet when the economy dips or their clients cut costs, they are well and truly screwed.

From them I’ve learned this valuable lesson: No matter your field, if you freelance, you should have at least a half-dozen possible clients at any given time. And if you’re a professional blogger, you are (most likely) a self-employed freelancer.

While my blog is the platform on which I’ve built my business, it only accounts for around 40 percent of my overall income. I offer closet consults, sell books, ghostwrite, teach classes, have a weekly TV appearance, write for various other blogs, take on speaking engagements, write a column for the daily paper, and manage a channel for About.com.

So not only do I have many streams of income, they are relatively diverse. This keeps my money-centric insomnia at bay, and gives me hope for life beyond blogging.

If your blog is thriving, kudos to you! Seriously! It’s a glutted market out there and anyone rising above deserves some accolades. But think about the future while you’re prosperous in the present, and know that someday, blogging might not be enough. And that you can be prepared.

Image by: Stitch via Compfight cc

Sally McGraw
Sally McGraw is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She is the creator the popular daily blog Already Pretty, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a Huffington Post contributor, and the author of several books about style and body image. Sally is also a ghostwriter and editor who specializes in non-fiction books and book proposals. She believes that writing is like solving a living, breathing, ever-changing puzzle, and finds the challenge exhilarating. Her favorite word is "crepuscular."