205: 5 Obstacles Bloggers Face (And How to Get Over Them)

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How to Overcome 5 Blogger Obstacles

As I record this, I’m just home from our first ProBlogger event of the year in Brisbane and am preparing for our next one in the coming days in Melbourne.

The Brisbane event was really worthwhile. We heard from Pat Flynn, Jadah Sellner, James Schramko, Kelly Exeter, Shayne Tilley and Laney Galligan and had a couple of days of great teaching and inspiration – including a day with a small group masterminding their businesses.

overcome-5-blogger-obstacles

Each year at our events, I open the event with a keynote. This year I spoke about evolving your blog rather than getting into a ‘revolving’ pattern (or going in circles). I will share more on that topic on the podcast in the future but as we’re very much focused this week on our events and serving our attendees I wanted to give you another taste of what we do at our events and share with you the opening keynote from a previous year as this week’s episode.

I did this in the last episode too and got a lot of positive feedback and hope you’ll enjoy this one too. It’s from 4 years ago but I think it’s spot on in terms of a message for today too.

The bloggers interviewed on stage:

Further Listening and Reading on 5 Obstacles Bloggers Face (And How to Get Over Them)

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Darren: Hey there, my name is Darren Rowse. I’m the blogger behind ProBlogger.com, a blog, podcast, some events, a job board, and a series of ebooks, all designed to help you as a blogger to grow your blog, to start it up, get content on it, build community with your audience and to make some money from it as well.

You can learn more about all we do at ProBlogger over at problogger.com. As I record this episode, episode 205, I’m just home from our first ProBlogger event of 2017. This year was in Brisbane, just in the last weekend. We’re getting ready for our next one, experimenting this year with two in two weeks. The second one will be in Melbourne. By the time this episode goes live, we will have that one as well.

Our Brisbane event was really worthwhile. I’m so excited about what we did this year. We heard from Pat Flynn, Jadah Sellner, James Schramko, Kelly Exeter, Shayne Tilley, Laney Galligan, and had a couple of really great days of teaching and inspiration, including a day with a small mastermind group. Really working through 40 or so blogger’s businesses.

Each year, at our events, I open the event with a keynote. This year, 2017’s event, I spoke about evolving your blog rather than getting into a revolving pattern. I guess the catch was to evolve, not revolve, because many times, we go in circles. I’m going to share more about that topic on this podcast in the future, another reason to subscribe if you haven’t already.

As we’re very much focused upon our real life events this particular week and serving our attendees who come along to that, this week in the episode in the podcast, I want to give you another taste of what we do at our events and share with you another opening keynote from a previous year, as this week’s episode. Now, I did this last week as well. If you haven’t listened to that back in episode 204, got a lot of positive feedback in the last few days about that one and so I hope you enjoy this one as well.

The one I’m about to play for you is from four years ago, 2013, but I think it’s spot on in terms of message for today. It’s one of the more evergreen ones that I’ve ever done. But, this one’s a little bit different. It’s different in two ways. Firstly, in this keynote, I went to a place I normally don’t go to in an opening talk. Normally, for an opening talk, you do something really positive, very constructive. In this one, I share some deeper stuff. I talked about some things that I knew going in could touch a nerve with some bloggers.

I was a little bit nervous about it, to be honest, because it goes to the heart of some things that I know many of us, and I’m talking about myself here, feel that holds us back in our blogging. I actually share in this episode five obstacles or roadblocks that bloggers face and then give some tips on how to overcome those hurdles, those challenges. In this particular keynote, I talk about feeling like you don’t have enough time to blog, we talked about feeling like you don’t have the skills that it takes, maybe you’re not technical enough.

In this one, we talked about fear. We talked about building something that’s sustainable or feeling like you’re not building something profitable and lastly, I talked about that trap that many of us fall into, the comparison game, where we look at what others are doing and compare ourselves to others.

This might all sound a little bit negative, but the result of this talk was pretty remarkable. This event was one of the most powerful ones that I’ve ever been to, all that I’ve held. People at this event, including our speakers and attendees, shared vulnerabilities and really went deep. As a result, we saw some really great results in the months afterwards.

The second thing that’s a bit different about this talk is that you’re not just going to hear my voice, we actually hear the voices of myself but also five other bloggers, five of our speakers in fact. Three of them, our international speakers, we had Amy Porterfield this year and you’ll hear from her in a moment. You’ll hear from Trey Ratcliff from Stuck In Customs, Tsh Oxenreider, and then two Aussie bloggers, Brooke McAlary, who you heard in previous on this podcast, and Phoebe Montague, a fashion blogger from Melbourne as well.

You’re going to hear me talk and then each of these are going to chime in as well, as I invite them onto the stage. If you want to follow along with the slides that I share for this talk, and I just summarized some of the points that I make in these slides, I’m uploading them to this week’s show notes. You can check them out over at problogger.com/podcast/205. I’ll also, on the show notes, link to some further listening and reading for you as well. We’ll link to each of the five bloggers that I interview because they’re all doing really remarkable things and I think are well worth checking out. Without further ado, I’m going to get into this keynote. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll wrap it up at the end to mention a couple of other things that you might like to go and listen to next.

This morning, I want to start by talking about the obstacles that we face as bloggers. It sounds like a bit of a downer to start off, thinking about the things that hold us back and the things that block our way. Thus, I reflected in the lead up to this event. I reflected on my own almost 11 years of blogging. Whilst there have been a lot of highs, there’s also been a lot of bumps in the road for me over that time.

Quite often when I come to a conference like this, either as a speaker or as an attendee, I start thinking about what will I talk to people about. A lot of the time, I think of the positive things that I want to share and the successes that I’ve had and kind of gloss over those hard things. But I want this conference this year to be a place where we talk about the good stuff, but also the challenges that we face. I want this to be a conference this year where we talk about our vulnerabilities, our anxieties, and really, are honest with each other, both as speakers, but also as attendees.

I guess I want to model that a little bit this morning by talking about some of my obstacles over the years because I think a lot of them are things that I know others face as well. I want you to think about answering this question. What is your number one obstacle that you’re facing at the moment as a blogger, whether you are 10 years into blogging, whether you’re just starting blogging, whether you haven’t even started a blog. Every year, we have pre bloggers come to ProBlogger as well. What obstacle are you facing at the moment as a blogger?

I want you to write it down. I want you to get your iPad out or your iPhone out, write in on your hand, wherever. I want you to write it down because I think by writing down these things, they become a little bit more crystallized in our mind. As you head into the next two days of teaching, I want this thing to be in the back of your mind. I want to inform the sessions you go to, the questions you ask speakers, the questions you ask fellow attendees, the conversations that you have.

Don’t just talk about the good things that are happening, the highs, but also, talk about these challenges. Quickly, just in a word or two, write it down. What is this challenge that you’re facing? What’s blocking your way at the moment? What’s holding you back at the moment? Just one thing would do. I know we’ve probably all got about 10, but what’s the number one thing for you?

Now, you’ve written it down, I want you to jump out of your comfort zone a little and turn to someone next to you and tell them. If it’s a highly personal thing, you don’t have to share at all. You got one sentence to say it so you don’t have to go into great detail. Just in one sentence, say what it is. Let the other person say what it is. You got one minute.

Please continue that conversation because it seemed important conversation. The way you’re going to breakthrough those barriers, you’ve just done part of it. I think by verbalizing it, by writing it down, you’re crystallizing it in your mind but you also may have just created an ally to help you to jump over that hurdle. I really encourage you to prolifically tell people about your problems at this conference. You have my permission to do that. That’s the kind of conference I want. I want us to be smashing through these barriers. That’s my aim for this conference.

What do you reckon the number one thing was that you just shared then? Anyone? Oh my gosh, time. I asked that question on our Facebook event page, if you haven’t found it, we’ve got one, and on Twitter the other day. The number one thing that came back was time. It was expressed in a whole heap of different ways, I don’t have enough time to blog. Life gets in the way. We all have other things and they’re important things in our life, like children, partners, friends, jobs, studies, hobbies, volunteering, and all kinds of other stuff that compete for our time.

We have distractions. As bloggers, we live in perhaps one of the most prolific place for distractions. How many times have you sat at the computer to write a blog post and just followed a link and end up watching about funny cats on YouTube. We’re just surrounded by them. Not only do we follow other people’s links, we create our own and just make other people distracted. This is just distractions all around us.

There are opportunities too. I was talking to a blogger the other day and she said to me, “I get invited to seven events every week.” Seven events every week so that’s one a day on average. They’re good things. They’re opportunities. They’re fun. Some of them could open up opportunities to earn an income. But if she went to them all, she’d have no time to actually blog. There are opportunities.

And then there are these demands that we put upon ourselves. And these expectations that we put upon ourselves. I have to post everyday. I have to tweet this many times. I have to be involved in these 42 social networks. There are all of these demands that we place upon ourselves as well, which crowd out our time.

I wish I had the answer for you on this front. I don’t. This is one of my big struggles. From the very day I started blogging to today, it’s been a juggling act for me. When I started blogging, I was working three part time jobs. I was working in an in flight catering kitchen, putting food on trays on a conveyor belt. That was one of my jobs. I was working in a warehouse. I was working in a church as a youth worker. I was also studying at the time as well.

So blogging for me was just something I did in between times. It was what I did in lunch breaks. I took a notebook everywhere. I was writing blog post ideas as I was putting orange juice on trays. It was somewhere feeding around the edges.

Within the first week of blogging, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have half a day a week or a morning a week just to dedicate to blogging?” I was lucky enough about a year later when my blog started to make a bit of money to get to the point where I could put half a day a week into blogging. At that point, I thought to myself, “I can’t get it all done. I wish I could have two mornings a week.”

Gradually, over time, as my blog grew in income, I was able to dedicate more and more time. One day a week, two days a week, three days a week. A couple of years later, I was working 40 hours a week on my blog. It’s seems like an amazing luxury to have 40 hours a week but you know what, I couldn’t get it all done. I started working 50 hours a week and started saying up till 2:00AM or 3:00AM and getting up early in the morning. I’ve got to a point where it started to impact my health. I could see it started to impact my friendships because the only friends I have were my readers. I saw that it could have potential to impact family and other important things to me.

I guess the first thing I want to say about time is that there will always be more that you can do. You just need to come to a point of making peace with that. You’ll never get it all done. I’m sorry but you never will. There will always be another blog post you could write, another tweet you could do, another blog that you could read, another blogger that you could network with, another advertiser you could approach, another ebook that you could write, and the list goes on and on. I’m sorry if that depresses you but that’s the reality. You just gotta make peace with the fact that there will be things that you can’t do.

For me, changing that mind shift for me was probably the time I started to become more effective with my time, because I realized there was a limit of how much time I could put into blogging. I needed to be smart with the way that I used it. For me, probably knowing your goals is probably the thing that’s helped me the most with my time management.

By having a goal, something that I’m aiming for with my blogging, suddenly I’m able to filter out the distractions, suddenly I’m able to judge whether the opportunities are worthwhile opportunities to take. Is this opportunity going to take me towards my goal or take me away from it? By knowing my goals, I suddenly become more time efficient. Still challenges of distractions but it helps.

The other part about goals for me is I’ve noticed that if a goal is a meaningful goal to me, if it is significant to me in some way, I’m much more likely to be efficient with my time in doing that. About eight years ago, I had 30 blogs. I was trying to post to them all everyday. Ridiculous. Stupid. This is when I was working 60, 70 hours a week. It was just dumb. 28 of those blogs, I had no passion for, whatsoever. They meant nothing to me. I just thought they might be profitable.

I told you last year about one of them, my printer blog. A blog about printers. I hate printers. I was writing a post everyday about it. I struggled to dedicate the time to that blog. Of course it died because it didn’t matter to me. But ProBlogger is a blog that matters to me. It matters to me and thankfully, it matters to other people as well. Someone came up this morning and said ProBlogger helped them to grow an income for their family. Something that they never thought would happen. That means something to me. That’s exciting to me. That motivates me to keep on keepin on with that blog. It makes me much more disciplined with that blog as well.

Choose goals that are meaningful to you and others and I think that helps you to become more dedicated with what you’re doing. And then choose things that will move you towards those goals and spend 90% of your time doing those things. This is not rocket science but we need to hear it.

I was talking to a blogger recently and she told me that she just didn’t have enough time to blog. I said, “How much time do you have to blog?” She said, “30 hours a week.” I’m like, “That’s a fair bit of time. What are you doing with that time?” She said, “I don’t know. I’m doing stuff.” I’m like, “What do you do with that time?” I set out a task of noting down everything she did for a week. She set up a grid and she filled in every block, she wrote down what she was doing. She’s probably spent most of the week writing down what she was doing. But she got to the end of the week and I said, “Now, add it all up, the different activities, and work out what you’re doing to your time.” She was spending about 80% of her time on social media.

Then the question is is that taking you towards your goals or is it distracting you away from your goals? Social media, you could say it’s helping you reach your goals but there comes a point where it actually takes you away from your goals. She was confronted by this and she completely redid the way she uses her time. Now, she spends about 10% of her time on social media and she spends 90% of her time writing blog posts and doing things to monetize her blog and building community on her blog. She’s seen her blog take off by just changing the things that she’s doing and making them things that take her towards her goals.

You noticed I said there’s 10% left for you to become distracted. I actually think being distracted is a good thing. It lets your mind wind down and often, when I’m distracted, I get ideas as well. Let your mind have those moments to have fun and do those sorts of things. But this takes a bit of discipline as well.

Identify sticking points out there. I wrote a post on ProBlogger the other day, how over the last 11 years, I’ve had these different bouts of blogger’s block. It’s tough. I used to just call it blogger’s block but I what I’ve realized is there are different types of blogger’s block. For me, identifying exactly what the problem is, then unleashes me to flow in other areas.

For me, one of the things that I struggled with in 2006, 2007 on ProBlogger, was coming up with ideas to write about. I’ve been blogging for two and a half years on ProBlogger and I felt like I’d blogged everything there was to blog about blogging. I was blogging two or three posts a day. That’s a lot of posts. That’s a lot of topics covered.

I really struggled to come up with something new and fresh. I just thought I had blogger’s block but when I realized it was about idea generation, I decided what am I going to do about it, I found two friends and we spent a morning together. They were also going through the same issue. They had blogs on different topics. We just brainstormed together for a morning. They told me what to write about and I came up with almost 30 or 40 posts and so did they. We did it again for a full day. A couple of months later, I came up with hundreds of ideas.

By identifying the sticking point, I then released myself to actually write. Another sticking point I had was in creation of content. This is a more recent problem for me. About a year ago on ProBlogger, I just did not have time to write posts because the opportunities were starting to flow over, running this event, which kept growing. Sponsors wanted to talk. We were publishing ebooks. I’d hired some team members and I was managing them. I just wasn’t writing anything.

By identifying the sticking point, I was able to re-do how I use my time. And so I dedicate Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. I turn everything off, I don’t answer my phone, I work offline, and I just write. They’re my golden hours for writing content.

The other type of blogger’s block that I had was completing posts. Who’s got 30 or 40 posts half written? A year into writing ProBlogger, I had so many ideas to write about. It was fresh. It was new. It was exciting. The blog was going. At one point, I had 93 drafts in the backend of ProBlogger. I just would start a post and I’d get distracted and then start another post and then I’d never finish anything. Again, the sticking point was finishing posts and it was publishing posts and getting them ready to publish. And so I dedicated an hour every afternoon to polishing posts and getting them ready.

It’s not rocket science but for me, I guess it’s about identifying what is the point that’s holding you back and re jigging your time to dedicate some time to those sticking points. Those points will change over time for you as well so just be aware, where’s the blockage and how can I unleash that?

This morning I’m going to get five people up to talk about their challenges with these topics. I’m going to talk to you about five obstacles and I’m going to interview five people. Tsh. I’d like you to welcome Tsh. Many of you know Tsh runs a blog called Simple Mom. She’s from Oregon, although from Austin, Texas before that. She’s come like 36 hours to be here. Tsh, can you tell us a little bit about a time where you struggled with time and what you did about it.

Tsh: I’ve been blogging about five years and I would say all of that time is a struggle for time. When I started, I had a newborn and a two year old. My kids are now eight, five, and I also have a three year old. That, in itself, means I don’t have a lot of time. We also homeschool. I don’t know if that’s a thing in Australia. It just means I don’t have a lot of time.

What I have learned that really helps me a lot is to think about how I made, think about when I work best, what’s important to me in terms of more lifestyle and not so much on the blog. When I started thinking about such as I tend to think better in the morning. I’m a morning person. After 4:00PM, most of my writing is just crap. So I learned to okay, let’s take advantage of that time. I now wake up at about 5:30AM or so and write until about 7:30AM. I don’t get online at all. I just write.

My big fuel and my passion is the writing part of it so that’s where I want to spend most of my energy. I take advantage of that early morning hour or two hours when no one else is awake and it’s nice and quiet. Nobody needs me, for the most part, you got little kids so that still happens. I get most of my writing done before my family even wakes up. By breakfast time, I’ve already written. I feel that sense of accomplishment for my day that if everything else doesn’t happen, at least I’ve gotten something written.

By about 4:00PM, if I want to get more work done, it’s usually kind of the mindless tasks, the things I don’t need to spend as much energy on: editing photos, just the manual editing of posts, getting them scheduled, things like that. Taking advantage of my natural rhythm has helped me a ton. The hours you do spend blogging matter more for me.

The other thing I’ve realized, kind of what Darren was saying, the idea of never having enough time to do it all. Nobody ever says, “Well, I finished Twitter today so I guess I can move on.” It never stops. That’s the nature of the internet.

For me, it helped me a lot to realize that “no” really, a lot of times, means not now. It’s just not a good time for that project, that idea, that whatever it is now. I might be able to do it later but “no” is not necessarily an end to a dream, an end to an idea. It’s just means now is not a good time. That just mentally helps me, I guess, not feel so depressed about the whole never finishing the internet thing.

The last thing that really helps me is getting offline. That seems so counterintuitive because shouldn’t you be online more to get more done? But you know how you don’t feel like you need any clothes until you go to a store and you start seeing all the stuff and you’re like, “Oh, I could use that. I could use that.” It’s the same things in some ways being online. You don’t really think about all these things you want to do and get accomplished until you get online and you see all these other great things happening and all these other people to talk to.

Something about just being offline, being around 3D people, being outside in nature, all those things just cleared your head and you stop feeling that anxiety about time and the lack of it and needing to get everything done. Those are my main three things I do to stay sane and have enough time.

Darren: Lack of skills. I love Napoleon Dynamite. He’s the coolest. I must have watched that so many times. Skills, it’s hard when you start at blogging. I said all of those things that are on that list. That’s my list. I can’t write. I really didn’t really write very well, I still don’t think I write very well. I don’t know enough about social media. I didn’t know anything about blogging. I used the internet for research and email. That was pretty much all I did in the early days. I didn’t know about publishing. I didn’t know how to get a domain name, a design, or any of these sorts of things.

This is something I see a lot of bloggers really struggle with even though the tools have improved a lot. In the early days, you had to know how to code to do a lot of stuff and the tools have improved a lot. My wife started blogging three weeks ago, which is kind of fun. She’s coming this afternoon. Please be nice to her. It’s been interesting to be reminded of those things that you take for granted when you’ve been blogging for awhile, like aligning images and some of those sorts of things. She said all those things as well.

This can stop you in your tracks. It can stop you in your tracks at different times in your blogging as well. I’m still not taking enough. I still don’t think I can write well enough but I guess it’s about how do you breakthrough this sort of obstacle. My thoughts on this, again, you never know it all, you’ll never have enough time but you’ll also never know it all. No blogger that I know knows it all. You have to come up with a strategy to cope with what you don’t know.

I guess in the same way that corporates put time aside for professional development, I want to encourage you to do the same. I’m preaching to be converted here because you’re all at an event, which is about blogging. I don’t want to hop on that too much. Continue to think about maybe 5% to 10% of your time, maybe an hour a week to reading an article on a blog like ProBlogger, for instance. Buying an ebook maybe. There are heaps of resources out there, there are heaps of webinars out there to help you with these sorts of skills. And really, the next two days is about skills.

Collaborate, cooperate, barter, outsource. What I found in my first three weeks of blogging was that there are these other community of other bloggers who know stuff. For me, I had to make text fold on my blog for the first month or so of my blogging. Back then, you couldn’t hit the B button and highlight things. You had to know code like these html stuff. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone about it. I made friends with a couple of New Zealanders, Rachel and Reegan. They were really friendly and so one day, I got up the courage to admit that I didn’t know how to make text dark or I didn’t even know what to call it. I asked Rachel and she giggled and said, “Here’s the code that you can do.” And sent me to a site. And so I began to learn the skills.

Getting the courage to ask someone how you do something was something for me that was actually a bit freaky. It took me out of my comfort zone. But you know, by asking her that, that question led us to a partnership. We actually started a little blog network together and then became business partners. Her husband and I started my first money making blog, which was a blog about the Athens Olympics. We blogged all through the night as the Olympics happened. It led to a profitable sort of mutually beneficially win-win relationship.

Those sorts of little questions you ask and relationships you have with others, try to make them win-win. You don’t have to pay everyone. You’ll find a lot of people will want to just help you and a lot of people will want to collaborate and find win-win. I also sent a lot of traffic to them over the years, as thank you for their help. When I started to earn an income, I started paying Rachel to design my blogs as well. Over time, you’ll find new ways to be able to outsource, whether they’re just bartering or whether they’re actually in pain. Be open. The person next to you may actually be able to help you.

I can’t think simple. This is what I’ve been saying to Vanessa, my wife, who started blogging. Let’s start simple. She looks at social networks, there’s Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and all these different things, she doesn’t know how to use any of those things. She doesn’t know how to use Twitter, which I’m kind of happy about at the moment because I can tweet like crazy and she doesn’t know how to follow me. Gradually, she’s going to learn those things. One thing at a time. One step at a time.

I guess the thing I learned about ProBlogger is by being transparent about what I don’t know, you actually become more relatable to people as well. In ProBlogger, I was terrified when I started ProBlogger because I didn’t know how to design a blog. I didn’t know anything about SEO. I didn’t know anything about analytics, that side of things. I thought to myself do I bluff my way through it or do I say what I know and say what I don’t know, and that’s what I decided to do. I found by showing people what I didn’t know, that I actually made a lot of friends and became more relatable. Be a bit transparent, particularly those of you who are starting out. And practice, you just have to practice. The only way you improve to write, you can learn a lot about writing but unless you actually practice it, you won’t.

I want to get Amy up, another one of our international speakers. Welcome Amy. Amy’s coming all the way from San Diego. Is that right?

Amy: Yes.

Darren: How long were you on the flight?

Amy: It’s a lot of hours. I think 14.

Darren: Oh my gosh.

Amy: Yes.

Darren: I’ve done that trip many times.

Amy: Many times, so I can’t complain.

Darren: No, you can. Anyone who’s on the trip can complain. Can you tell us a little bit about you, your confrontation of lack of skills and what you did about it?

Amy: Yes. I used to work for Tony Robbins. He’s a motivational speaker. I traveled the world with him and was behind the scenes for many, many years. That’s a big guy to be behind the scenes with. I was really behind the scenes. I remember about a year before I went out on my own, I looked at a co-worker and said, “I know nothing to start my own business.” I wanted it so bad but I told her I know nothing I can teach out in front of what I do here at Tony Robbins. She said I was crazy but basically, over that year, I had this desire to have my own business. The word freedom kept going in and out of my head daily.

When I thought I didn’t have any skills, what I did is I took action and I call it total immersion. I immersed myself in everything social media for about a good year, 5:00AM to 7:00AM, every morning, Monday to Friday. Basically, I just had to move forward. When you’re thinking I don’t have the skills, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Everybody has somewhere to start and you’ve just got to actually take action. Total immersion, learning everything I could get my hands on free and paid, came to events, I’m going to talk about that today, basically everything I could.

What’s interesting is I think it comes back to mindset. My desire to have the freedom and not have a boss anymore had to outweigh the fact that I actually didn’t know what I know now and what I teach now. At the time, I knew nothing about Facebook marketing. That was a year before I actually went out on my own. It really moves fast when you go for total immersion.

What’s interesting is when Darren asked me to come to the Gold Coast to speak about Facebook marketing, it was really full circle because I’ve been to the Gold Coast three times with Tony Robbins. If you told me a few years ago that I’d be on stage talking about Facebook marketing, I would say you belong in the loony bin. That would never happen. But it’s funny how when your mindset and you actually put your desire in front of your fear, what can happen. Total immersion, taking action, and saying, “Okay, if I don’t know it, how am I going to know this? What do I need to actually get the knowledge to move me forward?” A combination of that but I really think it comes back to mindset.

Darren: Fear, this is a big one. This is my big one. If you could’ve seen me two weeks ago thinking about this event, I was almost in the fetal position. I was thinking about all the scenarios, all the things that could go wrong with today. I’m sure most of my team know the day I’m talking about. But I almost became paralyzed by fear and the things that could go wrong.

The fears that we face as bloggers are varied. I’m sure the list I’ve got there is just a very small sample. I suspect that a lot of you shared about fear before, when you talked to one another. These fears that haunt us. What if no one likes me? What if no one notices me at all? What if I look stupid or make the wrong choices? What if it’s not perfect? That’s my big one. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. What if I’ve got nothing to say or run out of things to say? What if I don’t know enough? What if? What if? What if?

The fears can grind us to a halt. I’ve seen this happen for many bloggers. They just become almost paralyzed by it. Again, I don’t have the answers to this. it’s something I struggle with a lot of the time. I’ve overcome some of the fears but other ones sort of pop up and replace them. Here’s a few of the thoughts I have on fear. Fear is a signal. It’s a signal that something important is about to happen. As I look back on all of the life changing moments in my life, fear was present. I think it’s a signal. I think it’s designed to make us fight or flight. There are times for both.

Fear can be a good thing. It can warn you to run away from something that’s about to kill you. It gives you that adrenaline and helps you to run faster, I think. It can also be there to give you adrenaline to fight your way through something and to pay attention. If you’re feeling fear about blogging, that’s because you’re about to do something important, something life changing. Let it be a signal to you. This is a mind shift thing. This is something you need to learn when you’re feeling, “Okay, I’m not going to let it paralyze me. I’m going to make it allow me to pay attention to what’s going on in this situation.”

For me, that’s what I did this week. I said to myself, “I’m feeling really scared about ProBlogger event. It means something important is going to happen. I need to focus.” That’s what I allowed the fear to do for me, rather than to distract me and to paralyze me. I made it make me focused. I want to suggest three questions to ask when you’re feeling fear. What’s the worst thing that can happen? It’s a cliché, I know. You hear it a lot. But it gives you perspective.

I use this on my seven year old son all the time. Swimming lessons, he can swim. He was swimming in his lessons in water up to here but for some reason, for a patch, he wouldn’t take his feet off the bottom. We talked our way through it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? “I can die.” I’m like, “The water is only up to there. You’ve got your teacher next to you. I’m watching from the edge. I’ll tell your teacher to jump in and save you. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you?” I put my feet down. The situation is putting into perspective. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

That’s a good question to ask. Sometimes the answer is I could die. And so, it’s good to know that. Fear might be telling you to do something about that. What’s the worst thing that could happen? What would you do if that happens? How would you recover from that? I think this is a really important question to ask. I asked myself this question two weeks ago when I thought about this event. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Amy, Tsh, and Trey could be caught in a volcanic ash cloud and not be able to get out of America. That’s one of the worst things that can happen. I might forget all my clothes and have to wear a dress. There are all these things and you begin to work through them and then you begin to think about what I do.

As a team, we started to think what would we do if all our international speakers couldn’t get here. We came up with a contingency plan. By asking this question, you’re better prepared and you do what you’re about to do, better.

The last thing is what could be the best thing that could happen? I think we dwell on the first one a lot. We allow our minds to go there quite a bit. But if we also go to the best thing that could happen, we actually find perspective. Because the reality is it’s probably something in between. You’ve got just as much of a chance as the best thing happening is the worst.

For me, these three questions together can help me to work my way through fear. I guess the other thing for me is talking to other people about it. Get out of your comfort zone. It’s the place that sparks. Last year in my keynote, I talked about how the big things that have happened to me have often started as little small sparks of opportunity. Those sparks for me usually fly when I put myself out of my comfort zone.

One of my fears is meeting new people. Hi, 450 new people. This is my worst nightmare. But what I’ve discovered is that when I force myself to walk up to a complete stranger and introduce myself, sparks fly. I remember going to my first conference in the US, travelled there by myself, freaking out, sitting in the back corner. The stupid speaker made me talk to the person sitting next to me in the opening session. Terrible thing to do.

I did it. I talked to the guy next to me. He became a business partner three years later. Sparks flew in that conversation. We discovered, we shared an interest and interesting things happened as a result of that. Get out of your comfort zone. I know a lot of you are doing that this weekend and I celebrate that you are doing that. That’s fantastic.

The last thing I’ll say about fear is even wobbly courage is courage. A lot of people say to overcome fear, you need to become a warrior. I don’t feel like a warrior but I pushed myself with wobbly knees and legs and feeling nervous into situations. And that’s courage. That’s when sparks fly.

Brooke’s going to come up. Brooke is another one of our speakers. Brooke came last year to our event. You may have seen the video that she made, which we used to help promote this event. She’s going to speak to us later. Brooke, can you tell us a little bit about fear for you, when you faced it, what you did about it.

Brooke: Apart from now?

Darren: Yeah.

Brooke: Probably one of the things that sticks out in my mind the most is the moment I realized that every single number on my analytics page was a person and they were judging me, in a nice way, I’m sure.

Darren: No, they get together.

Brooke: It’s a forum. It just caused me to question what I was writing about and question my voice. As a result of that, I got really boring. I started to write in the middle of the road. That was just purely based on fear because I didn’t want to offend anybody. I wanted people to like me. It took me quite a while to figure out that was the problem because I started to procrastinate. I didn’t write so well. I didn’t write with passion.

But once I figured out that that was the fear that was driving it, I wrote a post called 10 Things I’m Afraid to Tell You. I just put it out there. The response was amazing. I had lots of emails from people thanking me and thanking me for facing up to my fear. Because I actually spoke about things, some are small things and embarrassing things like enjoying 50 Shades of Grey.

Darren: It’s a bright book.

Brooke: It’s a fantastic book. But other things were quite big: struggled with depression, things like that. As a result, people really responded incredibly well. My main tip would be initially figure out what the fear is because you may not be sitting there and thinking, “I’m terrified of being judged.” You may be sitting there thinking, “I don’t want to write anymore. I’m a bit sick of this.” You just need to look deep into that and figure out if it’s a fear and then face it. As long as you’re not going to die. Face up to it.

Darren: Thank you, Brooke. Another obstacle, we’ve got two more to go, is sustainability. This is around profitability. A lot of bloggers I meet, particularly at this sort of conferences, how am I actually going to keep this going? How am I going to make it pay its way? This is certainly something I know is on the top of a lot of your minds at the moment. You may have built an audience. You may have built some community. You might’ve been able to get traction. You may have started to get interest from PR companies. But you can’t live off of free stuff. How am I actually going to make this pay its own way?

I’m not going to talk a whole heap about this now because this conference is on this particular topic and there’s a whole heap of sessions that can help you with it. There are a few things I’ll say. I’m just going to flip past this because we all know it takes a lot of time and work but there are probably 1.1% of my readers who think it’s easy and it’s going to be easy. If you’ve got that expectation, sorry.

There are no formulas and blueprints. That’s usually the same 1.1% who think that there’s a formula they can follow. I’m sorry. There’s not. Every successful blogger I’ve met has forged their own way. There are certainly principles that you see in a lot of them and we’ll talk about some of those over the next couple of days but each blogger is quite different and each situation is different.

Over time, things change as well in the wider context. A few years ago, sponsored posts weren’t that big in Australia but now, they seem to be being presented all the time. Things change in the wider context. And also, things change depending upon the stage of your blog as well. The way I used to monetize, it was only a limited option of ways I could do it in the early days but today, because my audience has grown, opens up new opportunities.

Profit usually comes around in exchange of value, I found. If you’re just thinking at the start of your journey of business model, ask yourself these sorts of questions. I think somewhere in the intersection of these things, you may find some ways of making profit. Who are your readers? What are their needs and challenges? How can I deliver value to those? Usually, the answer to profitability is somewhere in the midst of those. Your reader’s needs and serving your readers. That’s certainly the case if you have your own product. You can serve your readers needs and challenges by creating a product or a service to sell to them.

Same is true with advertising. Finding someone else’s product and selling space or affiliate marketing, it’s usually somewhere in the intersection of those things. Really, the key thing is to understand your readers and what they want and what they need.

For me, I guess monetization is just being a series of experimenting and tweaking of these. I reckon I’ve monetized my blogs or tried to monetize my blogs in about 40 ways over the last 10 years. Today, I do about seven. I’ve tried a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff didn’t work. But I found a few things where there were glimmers of hope and I continued to work on those things and tweak them and evolve them.

Over time, the more you experiment, the more you learn and the more you learn about your readers, the more you’ll start to logically see fit about how you can monetize your blogs. Again, we’ve got a whole heap of sessions on monetization so I’m not going to talk too much about it. But I’m going to get Trey up. Trey’s another one of our international speakers. He actually lives in New Zealand, but came in from San Fran and in two days, is going back again and then coming back to New Zealand.

Trey: Three.

Darren: Three trips in a week.

Trey: Yeah.

Darren: To and from America. Thank you.

Trey: Sure.

Darren: We’re all on camera. What are you doing? He’s got a Google glass. Trey, he’s a great photographer. He runs a great blog called Stuck in Customs. But a whole heap of other stuff has sort of flowed out of what you do. I know this is a massive topic to talk about in two minutes but can you tell us a little, maybe a story about when you faced sustainability and what you did?

Trey: Yeah. This is a story, it’s a nice story. When I was in college, I went to school in Texas at SMU. I was in computer science and math. That was sort of my thing. I was a huge Star Trek fan. I love The Next Generation. I especially love Patrick Stewart. I love that guy. Remember back then we used to watch TV and we won’t have a laptop on our laps. We would just watch TV. You just pay attention so you would really drink these guys in. I love that guy.

I was walking to a student union and I saw there’s a flyer on the wall that Patrick Stewart was coming to my college and he was going to be doing Shakespeare live on stage. I guess he’s staying true to his roots even though he’s doing the sci-fi stuff. But he loves Shakespeare so I got to go see him. I’m not in the theater department so okay, I’m going to go sneak in there. I headed and marked on my calendar. I went and I went the side door. Huge theater. Meadows auditorium, seats thousands and thousands of people.

I go in there and it’s completely empty except for two people that are sitting in the front row. I thought, “Oh my gosh, what’s going on? This is weird.” I went in and I sat down. And then I realized, “Oh my gosh. They’re just so bad at marketing this thing. Nobody actually came.” Patrick is going to be mortified. I felt really embarrassed for him and it was just a weird bouquet of feelings inside me. I was excited to see him but if felt bad.

So anyway, he came out. He’s like, “Oh.” And then he went off stage for a second and he came back and he brought three chairs. He says, “Would you guys like to come on stage with me?” We’re like, “Yes.” We all went up there. There were four seats all pointing at each other. He says, “Do you all mind if I perform The Merchant of Venice?” No. That would be great. He did the whole thing from memory. Acted the whole thing. every character, everything.

I’ll never forget it. At this one time, he started doing the soliloquy from Shylock and he’s wearing this old tweed sport coat. He was at this point and he slapped his chest and this dust just blew up and the lights were burning down. He was like acting to the dust. I was like, “Wow. This is so awesome.” Looking back on this, I realized, “Look, it doesn’t matter who shows up. He just loved Shakespeare. He was so happy to do it. There’s a purity to it there.”

I realized this. I did the blog. It’s been like seven years now. I did it forever. Just me and my mom showed up on the lonely thing. I did it because I loved it. He did Shakespeare because he loved it. He doesn’t really make his money from Shakespeare, does he? He just loves acting even though the core is this very niche thing that he got into, Shakespeare. He made his money from Star Trek and doing other shows that’s dealt on the ancillary of this.

The two lessons I pulled out of this are one, you just do what you love. It doesn’t matter who shows up. You just can’t help but do it. This was very much his essence. The other half of it is that even on the core was this tight, niche-y Shakespeare thing that only he and very few other people actually really care about in the world, that is what drove him and he took ancillary things to make money that are related to that.

There’s a whole lot of ways to make money on the internet. As long as you get really tight into your core and experiment, that was perfectly said. Just massive amounts of experimentation around things that are directly or indirectly related to this area of expertise that you accidentally fall into just because of love.

Darren: Thank you very much, Trey. It’s so true that most of the people I see making a living from blogging actually started out just talking about their love. They say it’s a bonus that they get paid to do what they used to talk to their mates or annoy their mates with, talking about all the time. That’s certainly my case. That’s great. Thank you, Trey.

The last obstacle, and I almost didn’t want to talk about this one because I say it in the Australian blogger sphere quite a bit. I know it causes angst and I know sometimes it causes a bit of controversy but I just see so many bloggers get caught up in this and I have at times, and so, I want to go there. I hope you’ll let me.

The comparison game. I’d say it’s a comparison trap. I wrote about this on ProBlogger the other day. It’s probably the biggest read post on ProBlogger over the last year. I talked about the story of one blogger who I called Selly, but that’s not her real name. She’s an Aussie blogger who started a blog and three months later, her blog died because she fell into the comparison trap. She started her blog because she admired another blogger and she came across this blogger and she admired her. And so, she was inspired by her. She started her blog and modelled herself on this blogger and then gradually, day by day, she became more and more in the comparison game.

She started to look at how this other blogger wrote and felt insufficient in the way she wrote. She worked and worked and worked on posts, and sometimes, there’ll be a week between posts because she was trying to perfect it to get to point where it was like this other blogger. And so, her writing stopped over time. She began to compare how this person used social media and she started to want to emulate her and then started to become jealous of her and started to become angry because this person did it so much better.

The comparison game led her down this path where she compared herself in so many different ways. She became not a blogger, but a comparer. She actually became more obsessed with the comparisons than the actually blogging. It’s a fairly extreme example of it, but I think most of us at one time or another, if we’re honest, we’ll know that we played this game. It can take us in terrible directions to do some things that we’re not proud of as well. I certainly have gone there myself.

I felt this when I first started out. I used to admire some bloggers who inspired me to start my first blog and I used to try and write in their style. Their style was very deep and analytical and thinking type post. I don’t even know the words to describe their style of writing because I’m just not that kind of person. I remember writing, trying to write those type of posts in the early days and those posts were just the worst posts I’ve ever written. No one ever commented on them because I don’t think anyone understood them.

I discovered after a few months that my style was more conversational. I’m really glad I did. I’m glad I didn’t continue to go down that path of comparing. I guess I forged my path in different ways. I want to encourage you if you’re in this tempting area and it’s tempting. You go on Twitter and you think, “I’ll just see what they’re saying today. I’ll just see if they’re saying something about me or that could be about me.”

If you’re that type of person or if you’re a comparer, if you’re looking at other people’s stats or how many comments they get, I want to encourage you to realize the comparisons you’re making are just not fair. You are comparing everything you know about yourself to snippets of what they’re showing about themselves. It’s not that they’re hiding themselves, those other things about themselves, they’re just showing naturally the things that they’re proud of. And so, your comparison is not fair. They’re showing the best of what they’re doing and you know everything about you. It’s not just the best. It’s the worst as well. The comparison’s just not fair.

If you’re going to compare, compare yourself to yourself when you started out. That’s one of the things that I didn’t actually realize I was doing, this is what I did in the early days of my blog. What I used to do is at the end of every month, I look at my stats and I compare them to last month’s stats and I tried to get my personal best. In the same way an athlete uses their personal best, I use my personal best with my blogs.

When I started to earn income, that’s when I started to compare my income to myself last month. I went for my record month. That became my obsession. Maybe that was a little bit unhealthy in some ways but I think it’s probably a better obsession than trying to beat someone else. Compare yourself to yourself.

You are unique. Use that as your competitive advantage. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to find how to do that but most bloggers that find their voice, that’s what they do. They actually use their weaknesses. They use their failures as part of their story to actually make themselves unique. Everyone’s writing about the same things but no one has your story. Use that story. It’s what makes you unique.

The last thing I found is you are so much more than your successes and what other people say about you. I think as humans beings, we naturally compare ourselves all the time. We naturally think about our self worth based on whether we succeed or what other people say about us. They’re the two things I think most of us judge our self with on. We feel good about ourselves when we succeed and when other people say good stuff about ourselves.

If that’s where we get our self worth from, we’re in for trouble because we all fail. At times, other people won’t ever say nothing about us or crap about us as well. You’ve got to get your self worth from somewhere else. For me, that comes from spirituality, comes from spirituality, comes from a whole heap of other things. I’m not sure where your self worth comes from but I encourage you to look elsewhere than how well you’re doing on your blog, how many Twitter followers you have, how many readers you have, how much money you have, and what other people say about you. You’re so much more worthwhile than any of those things so don’t allow yourselves to compare in that way.

I want to get one last person up, Phoebe. Phoebe is going to come. Phoebe is from Melbourne. Phoebe spoke at our second ProBlogger event. I remember I was in the other room when Phoebe got up to speak and tweet out when completely off in the next room, as Phoebe talks.

Phoebe: I still do.

Darren: You still do, thank goodness. Can you tell us a little bit about the comparison game? You’re in the fashion blogging space. That wouldn’t be a comparative sort of…

Phoebe: Oh no, that’s not judgmental at all. Are there fashion bloggers here? Are there people that maybe don’t blog about fashion but put photos of yourself? Yeah, okay. I know you’re out there. What you find when you put yourself online and put photos of yourself online, that you’re open to judgment and you’re open to compare yourself with other people. I am seven years into my blogging career and last year, a new blogging fashion network opened up, called Felt, which is based out of Sydney.

It was based on an American business model where it was exclusive. It was invitation only. They only worked with, at that stage when they started, I think five bloggers, fashion bloggers. I wasn’t invited. I always like to think that I was somewhat at the top of my game, that I still had a readership a long time into my blogging career. I was just scratching my head, what have I done? What am I not doing right? Why don’t these people like me?

The girls that were chosen were very young. I’m over 30, believe it or not. They were all about 18, 19, 6ft, two of them ex models, weighed 50 kilos. Not me. I had read and followed their blogs. I just sat with my head in my hands and I thought, “What is my value? Why am I doing this? If this is what is being held up as a pinnacle in my industry and within fashion blogging, what is my value?”

I rang one of my girlfriends and she said, “This is just bad for your health. You need to stop this.” She said, “And of all people, Phoebe, you should know better.” I said, “Yeah, I know but it just gets me. It got to me.” She goes, “What are you going to do about it?” I said, “Lose 10 kilos and grow a couple of feet.” She said, “No, you’re not going to do that.” She said, “You need to write about it,” And so, I did. I wrote a two part series because the fashion blogger sphere and Twitter sphere went nuts when it was launched.

I’ve always seen blogging as community based. I’m very generous with my time, knowledge. I’ll tell you anything you want to know about blogging. I won’t charge you unless you’re a corporation. It had always been about positivity and fostering inclusion. It went against this very tight exclusive group, everything that I thought blogging was about, so I wrote about it.

I turned inward and I switched off. I unfollowed them all on Twitter. I unfollowed them on Instagram. I switched off from their blogs for a while. I looked inward. I wrote a two part series. Those blog posts were picked up by AAP and Patty Huntington, who’s one of Australia’s most well known fashion bloggers. She’s a former journalist and she actually referenced that post just last week, again.

What I had perceived as a comparison that really got me down, I turned into a positive because I thought, “If I don’t do this, it’s going to throw up every other fear we’ve talked about today. Fear, roadblock, writer’s block, and it’s not going to be sustainable for me.

Darren: Thanks so much, Phoebe.

Phoebe: You’re welcome.

Darren: Thanks Phoebe and thanks to the other people who’ve come and shared. I really appreciate people going to those places and sharing those sorts of things, honestly. I hope that that encourages you. We all face these obstacles that we’ve been talking about today.

How are we going to finish this off? I was talking to a hurdler recently at a party. Kind of lucky talking about obstacles, hurdles, and things like that. He’s not an Olympic hurdler or anything like that, he competes in a local competition. I said to him, “So tell me, how do you become a great hurdler?” He said this, “You jump over a lot of hurdles.” Effectively, what he told me is that to become a great jumper of obstacles and hurdles, you need to jump over a lot of obstacles and hurdles.

Every time you jump over one, you exercise your muscles and they become stronger. You learn how to keep momentum going when you jump over hurdles. Sometimes, you jump into hurdles and you crash and hurt yourself and you learn how not to jump in over hurdles. The only way we get through this stuff is to confront it. The only way we’re going to face our fears and stop comparing ourselves with others, to actually about and to do it. I really want this event to be an event that challenges us to do that. I really would encourage you as you go into the next couple of days to keep these obstacles in front of your mind and to talk about them and ask questions about them and to take them on rather than run around them.

You can see obstacles as hurdles or you can see them as fences that contain you. When you start seeing them as fences that contain you, you actually stop yourself and you contain yourself. So I encourage you, over the next couple of days, we’re going to get through these obstacles and I really hope that that’s the case for you.

That wraps up our keynote from 2013. I hope you found it beneficial for the different challenges that you face at the moment. I would love to hear what you think about this week’s episode. You can leave a comment over on our show notes over at problogger.com/podcast/205 or you can check out our Facebook group. If you just do a search on Facebook for ProBlogger community or go to problogger.com/group, you’ll find it. Just apply to join if you haven’t already and you can leave your reaction to that episode, that keynote there as well.

Also on the show notes, I’m going to link to some further listening and some further reading as well. As I said at the top of the show, I’ll link to each of the five bloggers that I interviewed: Tsh, Amy, Trey, Phoebe, and Brooke. All of their blogs in details will be listed there as well. Also, I’ll link to the blog post that Brooke mentioned in her interview, the 10 things that she was scared to tell her readers. You can go and check that one out as well if you’d like.

Also, I’ve got some further listening for you. If you want to learn a little bit more about blogger’s block, I did mention three different types of blogger’s block in that particular episode, go and check out episode 83, where I talked about those three types of blogger’s block. And then in episodes 84, 86, and 87, not 85, there’s a bit of a break in that series. I did talk about the three types of blogger’s block and give you some tips on how to get through it.

If that’s something you’re facing at the moment, go look at episode 83 right through to 87, really. And then episode 54, I talk about fear. I go deeper into those three questions to ask when you are facing fear. Lastly, there is a post over on the show notes about the comparison game if that is something that you are struggling with at the moment, comparing yourself to other bloggers.

Whatever it is that you’re facing at the moment, I really do hope that today’s episode has helped you just to push through it a little bit, to keep going, to persist, some of the things that we talked about at this year’s event as well was persisting and really going through those tough times, it’s when we lean into our fear. It’s when we push into those challenges. It’s when we exercise jumping over those challenges that we do really often see growth come out of these periods that could stop us from blogging. If you’re in one of those spaces at the moment, it could actually be just one of those things that you need to push through that’s going to grow your blog, that’s actually going to grow you as a blogger as well.

Love to hear from you. Come and join us in the Facebook group and next week, we’ll be back to our normal schedule. No more event keynotes. I’ve got some stuff planned for you. We’ve got some interviews and we’re going to talk about some cool tools as well in the coming weeks as well.

Thanks for listening. Chat with you next week in episode 206.

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