I’ve been blogging for about 2 months now. In that time, I have written 13 publicly accessible posts and have grown a success spiral from writing for 1 minute a day to writing for 15 minutes a day . In practice, I actually wrote between 20-30 minutes per day, on average.
Overall, running Make Write Learn has been a positive experience. Apart from meeting my intention of writing 10 quality posts in the first 2 months , I’ve also experienced some other minor milestones I did not expect I would attain so quickly. These include accruing 1000 views on a single post and making my first little bit of passive income (barely, but still).
Anyway, continuing in the spirit of my recap from last month, I decided to also recap my second month of blogging. My intention with these posts is to keep myself honest in my progression, as well to provide a general diary that might be helpful to other early-stage bloggers.
In my original post, I mentioned a few reasons why I started this blog. Here’s a summary:
- I want to write more.
- I want to explore generating passive income.
- I want to build a stable audience for my work.
Let’s see how I did in relation to these goals.
I started the month strong, writing at least 30 minutes per day at the beginning. One day, I wrote for 2 hours. In retrospect, a lot of this zeal might have been a continuation of the high from starting a new project. Since around Thanksgiving break, however, I’ve been writing less. I didn’t write for 3-4 days in the past couple of weeks, and the days that I have written, I’ve generally written for the minimum viable amount: 15 minutes.
Note that this isn’t a violation of my success spirals. I have an expiration date on my spirals, after which I generally decide to re-up the spiral, move it into maintenance mode, or just institute a break. My blog-writing spiral expired around Thanksgiving, and I opted to institute a short break so that I could relax through the holidays. That may not have a great idea, though, because now I’m in this awkward period of time in between Thanksgiving and the winter break. Implementing another growth phase for my success spiral may not be a great idea. I generally go back to my parents’ place for a few weeks over winter break, and when I’m there, I can never get anything done. On the other hand, if I continue this break until after the New Year, I may lose all of the momentum I’ve built up.
But, anyway, I’m still writing pretty consistently and would argue that this past month of writing has been even more successful than the first month, even if done with less enthusiasm. As I hoped, I’ve expanded upon the sorts of posts I’ve written. Whereas my first month was primarily posts about personal development, my second month has been more broadly focused on life experiences. For example:
- My experience at the NSA for their Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition
- An essay on my first love
- A letter to my younger self about dealing with rejection in academia
Of course, I also wrote a post on personal development and a more descriptive post about the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper award itself.
Unfortunately, I have not gotten around to writing more technical content. I think that’s partially because I have to write a lot of technical content for the papers I am submitting, anyway, so it often does not feel like “fun” to write more. In contrast, writing about my life experiences feels more “fun”. Anyway, here are a few stats summed up over my first two months blogging:
Cumulative words written: 18,980 (edited; probably around 25,000 raw)
Posts written: 13 (averaging ~2 per week)
Basically, by writing for around 15-30 minutes every day, I’m getting about a full academic paper’s worth of additional writing practice every month. This can only be a good thing. It’s unclear if my writing has noticeably improved yet, but I’m confident that it will if I continue.
Last month, I mentioned that it was an intention of mine to (eventually) make some passive income with this blog. My current strategy, however, is to not worry about it. I’d rather focus on producing high quality content at this early stage. Once I have a richer understanding of the type of content that people like and that I enjoy producing, I’ll make a more concerted effort at increasing my passive income.
Still, I have made some progress on this end. As I mentioned last week, I’ve had a couple of realized costs already: buying this domain name and purchasing a hosting plan.
Buying MakeWriteLearn.com: $19 for 2 years, or $0.80 per month.
Hosting Plan (Linode): $10/month.
So, given that I had a $10.00 credit for Linode and dividing the $19 up-front cost of the domain, I’ve basically paid about $11.60 for this blog for the first two months. Not bad.
My strategy for earning money, thus far, is “affiliate marketing”. Basically, I have signed up for two affiliate programs. The first is linode’s referral program which would give me some additional linode credit for anyone who signs up through that link, and the second is Amazon associates, which would pay out a small percentage of a purchase someone made on Amazon through my referral link. So far, I’ve linked to five books through my Amazon associates referral link:
- The Motivation Hacker, by Nick Winter
- The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
- Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
- Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, by Jeff VanderMeer, Jeremy Zerfoss
- Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World, by Bruce Schneier
A friend of mine actually purchased The Power of Habit through my link this past month, which netted me $0.40. Hurray! Trivial as the amount may seem, it’s still my first little bit of income from this blog. It’s the proverbial first dollar to be framed and lauded. It’s affirmation that I could make this work, no matter how unlikely it seems.
So, to summarize:
Total Costs (cumulative): $11.60
Total Costs (for this month): $10.80
Total Revenue (for this month): $0.40
This is a summary of my viewership this past month according to Google Analytics: 2181 views from 1638 unique users (up from 558 views from 334 unique users last month). Again, I actually suspect a lot of these are not real people. But the numbers are a lot larger than the previous month which is pretty great. Most of it can be attributed to the huge spike in the middle. That spike comes from a post I wrote that briefly made it to the bottom front page of Hacker News with about 30 upvotes. That post alone has accrued ~1400 views, which is by far the majority of last month’s traffic.
Based on the huge drop in viewership after that post, it’s pretty clear that most of that audience was through-traffic. Whether that spike will have lasting effects on my audience remains a bit unclear. I’ll report back next month.
Not all of my viewership increase is because of that one post though. I wrote another post that racked up quite an audience: my letter about dealing with rejection in academia. According to Google Analytics, that post racked up around 130 views. A lot that success I attribute the Twitter and timing. One of the flagship HCI conferences, CHI, released paper reviews in mid-late November. As the CHI community is highly active on Twitter, and as most people probably got discouraging reviews, I thought it would be apt to write about dealing with rejection in academia.
I would say my audience building strategy still needs a lot of work, but it is improving. I still only share my posts on Hacker News and Twitter. They’ve worked pretty well for me so far. Given the pivotal importance of Twitter in this two-pronged approach, I’ve also started including a more concrete call to action at the end of each of my blog posts. There’s now a direct link to my Twitter account, which has increased my follower count by…8. So, now I have 68 followers. Ha!
Still, I’m sure there are other things I should be doing. I briefly contemplated the idea of using paid advertising to boost my traffic. I even posted about in r/Blogging. The general advice I got was to probably not look into paid advertising for now and to focus on organic growth through social media and soliciting guest posts. That’s a lot more difficult than throwing money at the problem though. Sigh. Anyway, this upcoming month I’ll look into at least one other organic growth method.
Last month, I mentioned that starting a blog is a very messy process. The basic argument I made was that there’s so much information out there about how to start a blog and what you should do in your first few weeks that it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed and avoid doing anything. Turns out, though, that it’s not just starting a blog that’s messy. Running a blog is also a very messy process. At least if you care about more than just writing. My focus, thus far, has been on writing, so it has generally been simple. But I’m now starting to explore some of the more managerial aspects of running a blog such as audience building and generating passive income. Again, I find myself deluged with information and have no idea how I should optimally proceed.
The problem is probably that I’m looking for the optimal solution. In fact, I should probably just resign myself to the fact that I will not find the optimal solution until I make many suboptimal choices. You know: live and learn.
Hopefully, next month, I’ll be willing to take the plunge and make some concrete decisions about audience building and generating passive income even if they’re not the absolute best ones to make. Another goal I have for next month is to write more technical content. Hopefully I’ll be able to deliver!
 With some exceptions. The time-span for my spiral was about 45 days, and I took a small break before re-upping the spiral again. Mostly, I took the break because of Thanksgiving.
 My use of the word “intention” instead of “goal” is deliberate. As I mentioned in previous posts, it is best to choose effort based goals that are driven by your intentions. In contrast, it almost never a good idea to set a goal based on a specific outcome (e.g., produce a post that reaches 1000 people).
One final note: If you liked this post and would like to show your support, here are two things you can do:
– Follow me on Twitter @scyrusk; and,
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If you do either or both of those things, you’d make me happy. Thanks!