I have always thought that blogging is a way to reach your career goals. It's hard to write a blog if you don't have a goal. You need to know what blogging success looks like to you, so you know what you’re aiming for.
Like most goals in life, my definition of blogging success has shifted as the circumstances of my life have shifted.
1. Post regularly without messing anything up.
My first goal was simply to understand how to get my writing onto the Internet. All the buzzwords overwhelmed me: feeds, trackbacks, SEO. I understood none of it, and it took weeks to get up the nerve to blog before I actually started. My first goal was to post regularly and avoid basic publishing mistakes like posting a draft before it was ready. (Reality check: There are much easier ways to start a blog than the method I chose.)
2. Create traffic.
I started measuring my success by traffic. But after a few months, I was totally overwhelmed and had to rethink what I was doing. Suddenly I couldn't answer all the comments, I couldn't even answer all my email at the beginning—it started coming in faster than I ever imagined. (Reality check: Traffic metrics are addictive.)
3. Grow conversations.
I started getting a handle on my email and the comments and the general influx of blog-related information from all the readers. And in the process, I realized that what I really cared about was the conversation. I wanted to meet new people and learn new things about topics I'm interested in. So I wanted the conversation to be good. I started measuring my success by the number of comments, and then, in turn, by how much I was learning from the comments. (Note: Here’s a lovely post from Problogger about encouraging comments.)
4. Make money.
I realized that I loved blogging more than any other writing I had ever done. I knew I wanted this to be my job, so I needed to be able to support my family doing it. I started measuring my success by how much income I could generate. I hit my target of $100,000 a year pretty easily (thanks to Yahoo) so I realized that I could aim higher. (Reality check: Money is not a good blog goal for most people.)
5. Build a company.
So I decided to sell equity in my blog and spin off a company. I gauged my success on how quickly I could get the company launched and funded. And, once I did that, I gauged my success on how well I could leverage my blog to drive traffic to my company, Brazen Careerist. You might be sick of hearing about my company here, but, you might also be happy to know that I've accomplished that goal, too. (Reality check: I nearly died from the stress of doing this.)
6. Regain my sanity.
So, here I am, asking myself, what is my goal with the blog now? Right now, what I want for myself is to be calm and peaceful. I have had a really wild ride in the last five years. I have gone from being nearly broke in NYC, moving to Wisconsin, starting a company, getting a divorce, traveling every week, while I'm trying to raise kids. Life has been chaotic and erratic and I'm sick of that. I want a break. I want to feel grounded, stable and I want routine.
Part of that, of course, is why I'm with a farmer. It's the farmer stereotype: grounded, stable, waking up every day to do chores. But I need to find that stuff from inside myself, as well.
On days when I post, I feel grounded and stable and connected. On days I don't post, I don't feel that. Which is why I should be posting every day. I see people who have very busy lives who are able to post every day.
So this will be a test for me. For now, my definition of successful blogging is using my blog to give myself a sense of stability and connectedness.
Each blogger starts for some reason. A good test for whether a goal is really meaningful to you is, do you keep at it? Do you keep striving to meet the goal? Sometimes I wonder, do I really want stability and a sense of being grounded, or do I just talk about it? The only way to find out is this: committing to it here, in a very public way, and seeing if it sticks.