Monthly Archives: May 2011

Focus is Hard

There are many people that don’t understand what I do for a living. They assume that I can start and stop at any time, and that I am free to go with them to do the things they want me to do. They don’t understand my long hours or why I need things to be structured a certain way, but it all comes down to focus.

If you want to succeed at working from home and making a living online, be it from blogging or something else, you need to have focus, and you need to find ways to make others understand that the focus to do your job well isn’t easy.

Right now my focus is really messed up. My wife is only working casually right now which means she is hope a lot more. I am used to her working between eight and twelve hours a day, and so having her home all of the time has absolutely destroyed my normal daily flow and disturbed my focus immensely.

It isn’t that she is always bothering me, or getting in my way, but she does take advantage of the fact that I am home, no matter how plainly I explain to her that I need to work. She doesn’t understand that I need to take many short breaks between projects to unwind, as well as having uninterrupted periods of time, sometimes for many hours, where I can be productive.

Without being able to focus on my work, certain extra projects that I used to have time for fall by the wayside. Everything takes longer because I am not getting into that “groove” where I reach my peak productivity, and certain tasks that would normally take me three or four hours, now seem to stretch on for an entire day, only making me feel more stressed, further behind and a little annoyed.

It definitely makes me want to have an office outside of home, and it is taking a huge amount of time to re-adjust how I get into my focused state so that I can produce quality content in a timely manner.

So if you have been wondering why this blog has been a little slow lately, now you know. If anyone has any tips to increase my focus, work from home while the wife is home and making the most of such close quarters, I would love to hear them. Please let me know in the comments below.

Question: Reviving a Dead Blog

So, I am not sure how to go about this, but I need to know what everyone thinks. I have a few blogs that I have let fade away, but I really want to revive them, and over the next two weeks especially, I feel like I have the time, energy and hopefully continual focus to make them part of my daily routine.

Do I just start writing on them again and act like they never faded? Do I give up on them, and start again fresh without any of the baggage and the apparent break in posting? What do you think? What is the best way to revive a dead blog?

Let me know in the comments below.

Designing your way to winning graphics

True multimedia connoisseurs are always on the lookout for events which will trigger their creative selves. Graphic artists, for e.g. are always hunting for contests based on graphic designing – logos, banners, stand alone illustrations or larger than life masterpieces, it’s an exciting world out there. Most of the graphic design contest events (about 80%) are conducted online – through related websites & blogs. It is very important to keep a tab of the dates (final date of submission, etc.). Also verify the genuine nature of the organizer of this graphic design contest – many are plain hoaxes. Do not forget to check whether you fit into the eligibility criteria of the contest – it will be a pity if you discover you are not eligible after you spend many hours & much more neurons over the masterpiece.

Get details about the specifications of the artwork. Many of the contests will be a part of some or the other advertising or promoting campaign for an upcoming venture, product or a social cause. Get information about the size, orientation (landscape or portrait) and the resolution of the graphic that is required. Many contests will restrict you to particular software or a group of software that can be used for developing the graphic while there are many who won’t care where the graphic comes from.

Check the output format desired & it’s parameters. While sending the raw file for verification, barcode it (see the available tutorials for your designing software) before you release it to somebody. This will help protect the originality of your artwork.

Organizing a Blog Post

So many people have a hard time hashing out blog posts in a consistent and efficient manner, and so I wanted to take a minute to talk a bit more about my own system which I have found can decrease the time between starting a post and publishing it.

The Idea

The first part of posting is to come up with ideas. I sometimes find it necessary to just start writing down words related to my industry and working outwards from there. After coming up with a few different ideas, I bring certain main points together as a single post and I have a fully conceptualized idea.

It can also help to see what other people are writing about. Do you have an opinion? Look back and see what was interesting to people a year ago, two years ago. Have things changed or are they still the same? Some of my favourite posts by authors are the ones where they compare/contrast two different products or two different time periods.

The Questions

Everyone knows about who, what, where, when, why and how, and these questions are infinitely more important when getting ready to post on a blog. They are especially useful when you don’t know everything, and can come up with things you’ll want to research to include in the post.

For example, if you are doing an article about a car company you could easily add information about who designed their main cars? When did they perform the best? How well has the public received their cars? Why are they producing cars with bigger engines than another company? What do you see them dealing with over the next few years?

The Research

Don’t take too much time researching, or you can get bogged down in what others have said. For longer articles, you shouldn’t be spending more than an hour researching for a post. This can be one of the longest time sinks in creating an article. Don’t spend time writing the post as you research, or you can get sidetracked, and unable to create proper flow in your article.

For any niche you should be able to, over a period of time, pick out a few resources that are consistently useful for research, and that will save you massive amounts of time. Try not to stray from these main resources too often, unless you aren’t finding the answers you need. Too much variety, and you can land into information overload world, where nothing productive ever happens.

The Post

The amount of time you need to write an article always depends on its length, but now that you’ve come up with an idea, answered some questions, and completed your research, the words should flow from you. Don’t worry about what you are writing, as you can come back after you are done and edit. The hardest thing I ever learned was not to self edit as I was writing.

As paragraphs are written, your mind will come up with other things to say, and usually, if you are properly prepared, the article will flow together nicely.

You should easily be able to tell how long your article is going to be by this point, and don’t try to push it too far beyond that point, or you’ll find yourself adding useless filler. Brevity can be just as important as details, but with the attention span of most people dwindling, shorter is most likely better.

The Call to Action

After you have written, and edited the post, I always suggest going back and adding in a call to action. It might be a question at the end of the post, links to further reading, or just a simple request to have people comment. You are much more likely to have people act upon what they read, if you ask them to.

I enjoy asking people to comment. I want them to know that I’d love to see them participate if they have any thoughts on what I’ve written. Some bloggers put in affiliate links, strange questions, or a list of other articles they have written along the same lines. These can all be important to increasing the longevity of an article online.

The Pretty Additions

Now you are ready to add in links, images, proper text formatting of headings and whatnot. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but it will add some pizazz to your article. Don’t give it too much time. You can edit articles after they have been published, but no one can see the content until it is published. Far too many people play with formatting for so long that the information that they wanted to share becomes stale.

I take the time to set proper headings, bold certain lines of text, italicize what I think would work best, work on the coding for my lists, and insert block quotes at this point.

The Publishing and Promotion

Once everything else is complete, publish. Your articles don’t do you any good unpublished. Get them out into the world. Feel free to edit them after the fact, or to write whole new articles giving more details, or adding onto your original points.

Don’t forget to let the world know about what you’ve written. Don’t be shy. People are hungry for new content, new ideas, and new perspectives, so find a way to get your work to them. The best thing a writer can receive is constructive criticism on how to improve, so open yourself up to that.

Conclusion

If you are trying to merge all of these steps into one, you might find your articles taking forever to craft and it is fairly easy to see why. There are so many areas between crafting the idea and publishing that breaking it down is really the only way to remain consistent and efficient.

Post inspired by Tom Leroux, check out his blog Leroux.ca.

Learning about Affiliate Marketing

There is one thing that I haven’t spent much time doing during my career as a blogger and that is learning about affiliate marketing. It seems like it is a whole strange world off on its own, with different rules, and business ethics. It looks like it can be very hard to compete and really make a living in the industry, with so many of the learned players gobbling up as much money as they can as quickly as they can.

I recently ran across a forum where many of the members are making four figures a day in their various making money online endeavours, and I must say, it is very intimidating.

Have you tried affiliate marketing, and were you, in your own mind, successful? Let me know in the comments below.

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