The Accidental Blogger

[Editor:] Have you ever started something that didn’t seem to work out, only to later experience great success in that same area? Have you ever thought about blogging professionally?

If you answered “yes” to either question, this post is for you. It’s the true story, in her own words, of a professional blogger and how she got started.

Let’s begin. Here is Sharon’s story…

I sometimes describe myself as an accidental blogger. That’s because the first time I started a blog, it didn’t go so well.

How I Started and Stopped Blogging in 2 Weeks

Let me take you back to the beginning. Picture the early days of blogging. Blogger was around, but it was a far cry from what it was today. It was a rudimentary tool, and only true geeks knew what it was for and used it. Since I like trying new web tools, I dipped into it, wrote a few posts, found no one I knew was reading my blog or interested in blogging. I deleted my blog and dipped right back out without breaking a sweat, thinking it was probably a waste of time. How wrong I was. If I’d stuck with it then, I could conceivably have cornered the market in the topics that would later become my primary niche.

How I Followed the Crowd into Pro Blogging

My second foray into blogging was completely different–and it’s where I fell in love with the practice and the medium. However, it was also an accident.

I’d like to take credit for rediscovering blogging on my own, but I can’t. I had started a freelance writing business and someone in the know suggested that I start a blog, so I did. In fact, I started two. One blog was on my professional site and another on a now defunct multiple blogging site called WritingUp. That second blog showed me what blogging could be and made me fall in love with blogging. That site had a committed community of bloggers and blog readers, many of whom were writers like me and who were taking their first steps into blogging. We grew and learned together, finding out about search engine optimization, burning feeds, using Technorati, getting paid to blog, using contextual ads and all the blogging trends that were important then but are old hat now.

Finding a Niche

That’s also when I learned the importance of writing about something that you’re passionate about, but that also interests readers. It happened by accident. My early blog posts were an eclectic mix of poems, opinions and entries to writing challenges.

But then, just for the heck of it, I started writing about writing. Just before going freelance, I’d been a journalism professor at a university in the UK, so I converted some of my freshman lessons into blog posts. Readers loved them. They wanted to know more about writing skills and techniques. Since I love teaching, I was happy to share and finally experienced that beautiful synergy that happens when bloggers and their readers share the same interests. Those early posts were the start of my writer mentoring blog.

Resolving Blogging Challenges

Of course, blogging hasn’t always been smooth sailing. More than once, I’ve faced the complete evaporation of my blog. The first time, it was because the site owner pulled the plug taking all our posts with him. The second time was because my hosting reseller had ‘forgotten’ to pay his fees.

The lesson: backup religiously. I save plain text copies of all my posts and I also back up my WordPress blogs via plugins and–in one case–Vaultpress. Without a doubt, this has helped me face some of the most challenging times on my blog. I’ve also learned the hard way how to find and copy old posts from the Google cache, which is another tool that can save your bacon if you move fast enough.

Blogging for Professional Purposes

Since I started that second blog, I’ve never stopped blogging. In fact, blogging, ghost blogging and guest blogging are a large part of my writing business.

When I ghost blog, the fact that I’m getting to follow my interests makes up for not having my name on the post, though of course, it’s better when I do. And of course, I’m still mentoring other writers through my writing blog.

One of the first things I advise writers to do is to start a blog. There are lots of reasons why this is a good idea:

  • A blog helps writers and bloggers to develop their writing voice.
  • A blog gives them a place to showcase their skills.
  • A blog gives them lots of search engine entries for their site (which helps clients to find them).

In addition, I advocate guest blogging as part of building a professional platform. It’s certainly helped me land better writing and blogging gigs.

Why I Still Love to Blog

I still love blogging because I get to write about topics that interest me and connect with others who are interested in the same things via comments and social media. And then; there’s the most important part–the community.

It still thrills me when people take the time to comment on something I’ve written, and I still respond to all comments. I’m still in touch with my old blogging friends from that community blogging site. We still read and comment on each others’ blogs and we are now also connected on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Some of us have even worked together. And there are also lots of new friends I’ve made online through my blog. I value my relationships with all of them–and I’m very happy to be an accidental blogger!

Your Turn

[Editor:] I loved Sharon’s story, not only because it provides a valuable inside look at professional freelance blogging, but also because it shows that it sometimes pays to go back and try something a second time.

What about you?

Are you professional blogger? If so, leave a link to your blog (keep it clean please) in the comments and share your story.

Have you tried something and given up only to return to it a second time and experience success? If so, feel free to share this experience in the comments also.

Image by kevygee