The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

Reflections on Starting a Blog Five Years Ago

Five years ago this month, I started a personal blog.

At the time, I couldn’t possibly have known what the decision would mean for my career. My plan in July 2012 was to create a space on the internet to do what I enjoy: share career advice and other “life hacks” with my peers.

The concept was loose and unformed, like a round ball of clay ready for a potter’s hands. But the bottom line is I got started. I created the URL and began to put in the hours. And every day — little by little — I have continued to mold the clay into a discernable shape. It’s a never-ending task that fuels my purpose and allows me to make an authentic impact on the world.

The brief timeline from 2012 to 2017.

  • 2012: Created NewsToLiveBy.net, a website that highlighted the career advice “hidden” in the headlines. The blog drew upon time spent as a TV news reporter and media researcher. I blogged on a range of topics like health, finance, productivity, career advice and even a stint in which I made politics understandable for 20-somethings.
  • 2013: Observed my audience preferred “how-to” writing guides on career topics like the job search and networking. I began to move away from blogging about a range of topics and focused on one exclusively. In other words, I found my niche.
    • In the same year, I published an ebook called 25 Things Every Young Professional Should Know by Age 25 after my blog post of the same title went viral on The Huffington Post. It was a foray into book publishing and important experience for what was to come.
  • 2014: Wrote 75+ blog posts with “how-to” writing instruction for career situations and generated more than one million views to NewsToLiveBy.net. At that point, I felt the market had spoken and told me it wanted a book of email guides for networking and the job search. With virtually no idea how to write an actual paperback book, I set to task making one.
  • 2015: Self-published my first book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email? and furiously mailed out copies to influencers and people at key organizations so they could see what I had created.
  • 2016: Cold-called all over the book publishing landscape and secured a U.S. book distributor. The same year, I also began conversations with the Association for Career and Technical Education (AKA “vo tech”), which considered my book for use in classroom instruction at high schools nationwide.
    • Also started to write my second book, Wait, How Do I Promote My Business?, a collection of writing guides for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
  • 2017: Received word from my distributor that FedEx Office would sell Wait, How Do I Write This Email? in 900 locations. I have also made headway with the national “vo-tech” office and the U.S. Navy as it relates to book distribution.
    • Published Wait, How Do I Promote My Business? and already have early sales to select Hudson News locations, Barnes & Noble stores and independent bookstores.
    • ….it’s only July. Who knows what August might bring?

It’s striking to compare 2012 to 2017. If I only look at those two years, it seems impossible to go from a personal blog about life hacks to two books being sold in retail locations and used in places like schools and the military.

How did I get from point A to point B?

The short answer is I methodically built upon my effort from the previous day. No breaks. No excuses. No exceptions.

The past five years contained thousands and thousands of tiny steps that allowed me to improve my skillset and align my passion of helping others with an honest-to-goodness need in the market.

The honest truth is reader didn’t care if I waxed on finance, health and politics. Many, many bloggers do that on the internet every day.

My calling is to teach how to write well in the business world. It’s what I love to do, and it helps to solve a pervasive problem in society. For many students and working professionals, writing is a huge vulnerability that can hold them back in the market. Poor communication skills also impact a company’s bottom line.

That’s why I’m in conversation with retail, schools and the military. No one is doing me a favor. I have a solution to a major skills deficit in our country — plain and simple.

Do I have bigger goals for what I can do with my books, speaking and online courses? You bet.

But I continue to play the long game. I don’t worry about “going viral” or making a splash in the here and now. I’m building the foundation for a business I hope lasts for many, many years. Five years is a blip on the radar, really.

My thought process now is, “What can I accomplish over the next five years?” I don’t expect big wins tomorrow or even next month. I do hope that, by year ten, my round ball of clay from July 2012 has transformed into a full-fledged business with a clear plan of attack to teach students and working professionals how to write, speak and network with confidence.

It’s all within reach if I stick to the plan that brought me to this point.

Onto the next five years!

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