My friend Bryan Allain is knee-deep in a new coaching venture called BlogRocket, which is designed to help bloggers improve their blogs and grow their readership. Because I know many of my readers maintain their own blogs, I asked Bryan to submit to an interview about blogging, creativity, and Ben Arment‘s Dream Year.
How did you get into blogging?
In 2001, I created a website for hard-core fans of the band Caedmon’s Call (of which I was one) that had a front page with short, time-stamped updates on the band. You would call it a blog. I didn’t call it a blog because i had no idea what a blog was. Every day I would rewrite the code of the home page to include a new rumor because I didn’t know any other way. Blue ones were true things about the band I culled from fans on message boards, red ones were fake things I made up.
Incidentally, that was the start of my humor writing as well. One red rumor I wrote involved fake eBay auctions for half-eaten sandwiches from the band. When I found out later that the band’s manager had made some frantic phone calls to find out where I got the sandwiches from, well, that was a proud moment for me.
What compels you to blog, write, and generally be creative?
Would it be terrible of me to quote Chris Martin of Coldplay from the song “Square One”? Yes? Well I’ll do it anyway. “You just want somebody listening to what you say, it doesn’t matter who you are…”
I remember 10 years ago toying with the idea of sharing life observations on a blog because I thought other people might enjoy them and find them funny. But when you first come across that idea, it’s frightening. You ask yourself, “Who am I to think I have something to say?” and “What if people think this is awful?” And of course, 10 years later I still ask those questions, BUT having stepped out and done it for so long, I understand that it is part of the creative process.
But to actually answer your question, what compels me to be creative is not a belief that I am somehow special enough to be worthy to share the things I write and create with the world. What compels me to be creative is that I believe all of us are special enough to share our art and creations with the rest of the world. We all have something to say, and so when I write and create, I’m just doing my part.
What was the process that led to the creation of BlogRocket?
Over the past 2 years I found myself doling out blog advice more and more. From technical help to style critiques to plain old encouragement, people were coming to me for advice and I loved helping them out. I realized I could talk about blogging all day because I loved it, so that got the gears turning about how I could take that to the next level.
After bouncing the idea off friend for 12 months, I took the plunge last year and asked my blog readers if they’d like to do a 3-month coaching term with me. I had 8 people pay me to join the coaching program, and BlogRocket was born.
What role has Ben Arment’s Dream Year program played in that process? And do you recommend it?
I’ve been a fan of Ben for years now, so for me he was the perfect person to help with BlogRocket. The Dream Year program is a year-long investment where you basically hire Ben to be your “dream coach.” Ben has authored a book, planted a church, started up two successful conferences, and maintained a growing business, so he’s Been There, Done That.
I’m only three months in, but his help has been invaluable. It’s provided accountability, because I’ve wanted to quit BlogRocket when things got tough about 13 times now, but I know it’s not an option. It’s provided wisdom with some tough decisions I had to make. It’s also provided resources, specifically with the great network of friends Ben has. Because his name is on the line too, Ben challenges you to take risks and make it happen, and for me that has been the biggest help. Dream Year might not be worth it for everyone, but I truly believe that for a lot of people (like me) it is exactly what they need to step it up.
Setting modesty aside, what are some of the things that qualify you as a blog coach?
I set modesty aside so long ago, I can’t remember where I put it. (I kid, I kid)
Here’s the thing. I’ve been blogging for 10 years now, so I’ve made a ton of mistakes. That’s a lot of experience to share. But beyond that, I’ve done a lot of things right too. I’ve got about 6,500 monthly readers at my blog right now (not amazing, but not terrible) and I’ve done it the hard way. Little by little, month by month. The good thing about that is that it is repeatable. You can’t coach somehow how to go viral or give them an already existing platform to launch a popular blog, but you can coach them on how to add readers every month and how to keep the readers they already have. If you do those 2 things, your blog will grow. If you do them well, it will grow even faster.
There are other things that make me a good blog coach beyond the blogging expertise. I’m pretty good with people, I can usually keep things fun and entertaining, and I genuinely care about helping people get more satisfaction from blogging and sharing their thoughts with others. That might be the most important thing. Oh look, there’s my modesty! I guess I need to stop talking about myself now.
What things could I do better as a blogger? (Be honest, but I am not paying you so get that out of your head right now.)
Wow, putting me on the spot here. I guess my biggest gripe with your blog is that it’s not as fun as I want it to be. And that’s only because I feel like it was more fun in the past before you moved to Beliefnet.
It’s interesting to me because while both you and Matthew Paul Turner are funny writers who have written snarky books on Christian topics, your blogs are very much different. When i think of his blog I think of short, fun posts (and yes, occasionally edgy content) and when I think of your blog I think of longer, more serious posts. Is that fair? Maybe not entirely…but that’s my perception. Not saying I like his blog more than yours, or vice versa, maybe I just wish your blog was a little lighter.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are not BIG problems for you. I still read and enjoy your blog every week. That’s just me nitpicking because you forced me to at gunpoint. Please put the gun away now.
The gun has been holstered. Besides heavily armed freeloaders like me, what have been your biggest frustrations as a blogger?
Probably the most frustrating thing has been not getting the results I expect to get, both with a specific blog post and with my blog as a whole. Sometimes you write something and you think it’s gonna kill and you get 0 comments and nobody cares. That can be frustrating for sure. (I bet every blogger is nodding their head right now.)
I am nodding my head right now.
And on a bigger scale, it’s easy to get discouraged when you see other blogs go viral and thrive in popularity doing things that don’t seem to warrant the buzz.
But I’m learning that all you can do in either case is worry about your part. If you keep creating content you believe in, and learn better strategies for finding new readers and keeping the ones you have, then you should start seeing progress and feeling more satisfied about the process.
Where do you hope to be one year from now in regard to BlogRocket?
My dream for BlogRocket is that a year from now it is a thriving community of writers who take their blogs more seriously than they take themselves. I see a forum full of engaged creators inspiring and challenging each other in a positive way. And I hope that the 12-week Booster Course has a reputation for successfully teaching bloggers how to hone in on their voice, keep the readers they have, and gain new ones at a steady pace.
Five years from now?
The same as my last answer times five.
125 years from now?
Nice try, Boyett, but I read your Pocket Guide to the Afterlife. We’re all gonna be dead by then.
You have the attention of 100 frustrated bloggers and you have 10 seconds to help them. What do you say?
“Your voice won’t matter to everyone, but it WILL MATTER to a lot of people out there who need to hear what you have to say. So figure out how to keep saying it better, and how to find the people who need to hear it.”
Thanks, Bryan. If you’re interested in BlogRocket, head over to the site to learn more and join Bryan’s mailing list. When you do, you’ll receive a free 32-page eBook on the Top 29 Frustrations Bloggers Face and get a chance to win a $109 Amazon Gift Card.
If you’re not interested in BlogRocket, but want to check out Bryan’s blog, it’s at BryanAllain.com.
If you’re interested in neither of those things, then I am surprised you read all the way to the bottom of this post.
Feel free to comment if you have any questions for Bryan about BlogRocket, blogging in general, or Amish people (see this series on his blog).