My Life As a "Preblogger"

No, that’s not a typo. If a “problogger” blogs full-time for a living, then I must only be a “preblogger,” because I cannot afford to quit my full-time job, but cannot afford to quit blogging, either. The majority of bloggers out there are prebloggers, working at a job or as a work-at-home parent while making at least a part-time living as a blogger. Only a select few are successful enough to graduate to problogging status.

What Does a Blogger Do, Exactly?

To those who have never given blogging a try it might seem like a simple activity. I felt that way before I started. I mean, how hard is it to sit down and write out your thoughts on a particular subject for a few minutes each day? Well, any blogger will tell you that there is more work to blogging than meets the eye.

For starters, coming up with a steady stream of topics to share with your audience is a challenge. There are weeks when ideas seem to fall into your lap (conversations with friends spark an idea, another blogger’s post provides inspiration, etc.).  And there are weeks when you suffer from sever writer’s block and feel like having to come up with yet another article on how to save money might actually cause physical pain.

Having an idea for a blog post is only half the battle. You have to actually write the post, and hope to do it in a semi-engaging fashion to entertain and inform your readers. If you are not writing with the idea of attracting readers, things get pretty lonely. After all, pouring your soul into a little visited blog is like giving the performance of your lifetime from the stage of an empty theater.

I usually spend thirty minutes to an hour writing, rewriting, adding links to and finding pictures for each post. Some are shorter, and some take much longer, but 30-40 minutes is probably a good average. When the post is complete I schedule it to be posted the next morning (or later that same morning, on some occasions) and that’s it, right? No, there’s more.  Much more.

Interacting With Readers

You may have noticed at some point that I share my email address with readers in the contact section. I enjoy nothing more than hearing from readers either through comments or emails. I try to respond to each one, but often it takes me a couple days to work through the growing monster that is my inbox! And readers aren’t the only people that send me emails. Advertisers, public relations reps, authors, bloggers, journalists, etc. all send messages. I don’t mean to imply each of these types email every single day, but that’s a pretty accurate sampling of the types of messages I get. When I first started blogging my daily emails totals were in the single digits, but now it is not uncommon to receive over 100 emails a day.

Marketing My Blogs

Up to this point, I have not spent any money advertising Frugal Dad, save a trial month of using Google Adwords. In the early stages my single advertising method was commenting on other blogs. I made a daily habit of commenting on 40-50 blogs. Unfortunately, that number has dwindled over time, and now I do good to leave comments on 10-20 of my favorites. I read many more blogs than that, but only have time to comment on a precious few. If you are new to blogging and want to attract readers, commenting on other blogs in your niche is a great way to get your name out there. Don’t just spam blogs with comments, but leave thoughtful remarks that add to the discussion.

My Typical Day

I thought it might be fun to give you a peek at my typical day. The problem is, I have no typical days. Over the last year I have tried to get into a routine of blogging early in the morning, or late in the evening, or when I first get home from work, but I find it hard to stick to any particular schedule. After all, I have a wife, two kids, a full-time job, two blogs, freelance projects, and an attention-starved Labrador (my third child) all competing for my attention. So, I have learned to adapt by squeezing in time to write when I can.

Since I am not as organized as other bloggers who manage to carve out regular time during their day for blog activities, I can only give you a sample schedule from this past Tuesday and Wednesday:

Tuesday

  • 6:00am:  Wake up, read through blog emails, review stats, make sure today’s post is up and running. Approve comments held for moderation.
  • 8:00am:  Arrive at my full time job.
  • 12:00pm:  Sneak a quick check of the blog stats, emails, moderate comments over lunch.
  • 2:00pm:  Travel to Atlanta to visit my mom (she’s been hospitalized the last 70 days recovering from a stroke)
  • 11:00pm:  Back home from Atlanta. Write tomorrow’s post, answer emails, moderate comments. Post five or six comments on other blogs. Check my snail mail, bills, bank account balance, etc.
  • 1:00am:  Lights out.

Wednesday

  • 6:00am:  Wake up, read through blog emails, review stats, make sure today’s post is up and running. Approve comments held for moderation.
  • 8:00am:  Arrive at my full time job.
  • 12:00pm:  Sneak a quick check of the blog, emails, moderate comments.
  • 5:00pm:  Skipped the gym and head for home.
  • 6:00pm:  Talked to a magazine editor about submitting an article.
  • 7:00pm:  Wrote first half of post after dinner, answered ten emails.
  • 8:00pm:  Bedtime routine with the kids.
  • 9:00pm:  Wrote second half of tomorrow’s post, checked on stats, sorted through emails (nearly 150 thanks to blog contest), made a small template change to Frugal Dad in an effort to improve blog monetization, read snail mail, checked stats at my blog host, thumbed through new Kiplingers magazine for inspiration, outlined three blog post ideas.
  • 12:30am:  Lights out.

The Tipping Point

As you can see, there isn’t much free time in that schedule. Somewhere in there I also interact with readers and friends on Twitter, and Stumble a few articles each day for use in roundup posts.  I also participate in a number of forums on a variety of topics from frugal living to blogging.  In addition to the crazy weekday schedule I spend about half a day on Saturday or Sunday playing catch up on all the things that have slipped during the week. I try to have a sort of blogging marathon to crank out three or four posts to pull from during the week if I get in a jam (I have to work late, kids get sick, I get sick, etc.).

The inevitable question becomes, “At what point can I become a problogger?” Well, that’s a good question, and one I don’t have an answer to just yet. While I could easily fill a day with blogging responsibilities and freelance opportunities, I cannot yet replace my full-time income plus make up for the loss of benefits. The problem is that the list of responsibilities is growing, and my full-time job is not getting any easier, so something will have to give.

My second blog, TipDad.com, has not seen as much activity as I would like. It has been a while since I posted anything at Wise Bread or Parenting Squad (though I did recently sneak in a book review at Parenting Squad). Emails are languishing longer in my inbox, and more and more comments are stacking up without my acknowledgment.

At some point I will either have to take a leap of faith, scale back on my full-time work, or put my other writing initiatives on hold. Who knows what the future holds, but for now I’m enjoying my status as a preblogger.

If you are interested in blogging, or are currently a blogger and would like to read more about my trials and tribulations, check out my “Be a Blogger” series roundup.

Comments

  1. As someone who enjoys your blog, I am glad you keep at it. Your schedule looks worrisome, though. Your a prime candidate for burn-out my friend! Take it easy.

  2. From the tone of this post, it doesn’t sound like you enjoy blogging very much. You’d like to do it full time, but for now it sounds like a burden.

    Other than that you do properly illustrate the life of a blogger with a full-time job. Minus your situation with your mother (I follow on Twitter, and I am so sorry for what you’re going through) I can second just about everything you’ve said.

    I didn’t start my blog for anyone but myself though. I wanted to continue my education after college because my current job isn’t challenging enough. It’s nice to have readers, but I don’t write for them. They learn something from me, but I’m learning too. I don’t expect to go full time, and I’m not after getting more readers. I make enough to cover hosting expenses, making blogging a break-even hobby.

    Despite the tired advice that you should pursue your dreams and the money will follow, some of us know deep down that turning our hobby into a career might not be as great as it sounds.

  3. @the weakonomist: The tone was probably more negative than I intended. I am not an unhappy blogger, rather I was trying to show that blogging takes a lot of work.

    Some probloggers are unfairly on the receiving end of criticism that they are somehow lucky to be making money from their site and get to stay at home and write. I was simply pointing out that it is not all roses, and that those who have become very successful have worked hard to get there (some much harder than me, pulling much more difficult schedules).

    But, the bottom line is I do enjoy blogging, for the most part. Like anything else I have good days and bad days. As long as the good outnumber the bad I’ll continue on. And I know that when things settle down with my mom’s situation my schedule will relax a bit and I should be able to get into a better routine.

  4. Whew!!! Makes me treasure my current status as empty-nest mom and full-time student. Even with 6 dogs, 2 cats and 20 chickens, you could run circles around me as far as your daily routine goes. I do think it is wonderful that you have a full life and that you are seizing the day. Do remember to take care of yourself (mother-speak)!

    Namaste
    Kim Ayscue

  5. Intriguing post indeed. I also struggle scheduling time for blogging (not nearly as bad), but mainly b/c I’m glued to PC monitors for 12 hours each day and I’m reluctant to spend any more time in front of them than required.

    Then again, my blog isn’t a money making entity just yet, but I’ve purposely designed it this way to determine if I WANT to keep blogging instead of being forced to do it for other reasons.

    I like your blog, so I hope to see you find a suitable compromise… maybe cutting back to 1 article every 2 days?

  6. @Matt: Instead of cutting articles here at Frugal Dad, I’ve decided to scale back on a number of another initiatives. I’m clearing the way for a big project next year while continuing my work here at Frugal Dad.

    @Kim: Yes ma’am (son-speak!). I am getting back to the gym after work this week as a way to work off some stress, and I am looking forward to a slower pace over the holidays.

  7. That is an intense daily schedule…I am in a similar boat with finding time to dedicate to my blog (even though FinancePuzzle isn’t as big as FrugalDad)..

    I think my schedule gets the best of me and I don’t post as often as I like, once every 3 days. I am sure I have something valuable to add but can’t carve out the time.

    keep it up.

  8. There’s also all the technical considerations. Learning the blogging technology, building a better blog, and for some dealing with advertising. Personally, I found learning about feeds, RSS, WordPress, plugins, spam, and hosting took some time and effort. Blogging is not easy and I have immense respect for any blogger, be it a pre or pro, who puts the time and effort in to run a wicked blog. Cheers!

  9. It really is funny how our lives mirror each other. I’m to the same point as you on the “can’t stop because of the money” track but I’ve been somewhat hampered in my blogging because of work situations. Employers don’t seem to have any problem with someone taking smoke breaks, talking endlessly on the phone to friends or family, or working on a project that will not put a thin dime on the bottom line, but respond to one comment and you’re toast!

    Blogging DOES take up a lot of time. Between idea generation, research, writing, SEO, picture hunting (the longest part of my writing), editing, proofreading, responding to comments, working with advertisers, the occasional technical blow-up, and testing that everything on the post works, you’re looking at several hours on each post. I add to that, managing 15 stores, business travel, 3 kids, a wife, starting a new PCA church, reading financial books, working at a job for 50 hours each week (with a boss who thinks it should be 100 ), writing a book, and just a little relaxation! Whew!

    I love it though. If I was making enough from my blog to make the leap from pre to pro, it would be an easy choice.

  10. Luv your blog but that schedule is not healthy for you…. spoken like the older Mom/Grammi that I am – you are not getting enough sleep! :)

    This blog is one of my top 3…so hope you keep it up as I really enjoy it and all the comments the other readers leave.

  11. @Marci: You sound like my mom (and my wife!). I’m really hustling right now to boost my income, both at work and via blogging/writing, but when we hit debt freedom I plan to slow things down a bit. And don’t worry, I’ll always keep up with Frugal Dad because writing about finances has been therapeutic and kept me honest with my own finances.

    Thanks for your support!

  12. @Curt: It’s a good question. Most probloggers I know have working spouses, so I suspect if their job becomes jeopardized, or they lose significant ad revenue from their blogs, then yes, they may have to find work elsewhere until things turn around.

  13. wow – your schedule is grueling – how on earth do you parents out there manage? I’m in my mid-fifties with no kids and still find it to be a challenge managing all that needs attention. One thing I insist on is 7-8 hours of sleep. That’s not based on any statistics, doctors advice or friends health tips – it’s what my body and soul need. yet, I have always been jealous of folks like you who can manage on 5 hours of sleep – think of all you can accomplish in life! Keep up the good work and take a cat-nap every once in a while. (Remember – George on Seinfeld tucked himself under his desk to nap during his workday)

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