If You Write It They Will Come

“Dad, I need you to build a website for me. I am starting a business and I am going to make a lot of money selling my products online.”

I nodded my head and asked her if she had a name for her business. She told me it was “New Invented Jewelry.” I nodded my head again and asked her if she had tried googling the name to see what sort of competition was out there.

I already knew the answer and what we would find but I didn’t want to start the conversation by throwing cold water on her dreams. Instead I asked her to walk to the computer with me and suggested that we try to figure out what expectations were realistic for her new venture.

Realistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations kill blogs, businesses and dreams. I have had multiple conversations with people who are shocked by how many people aren’t reading their blogs. The conversation isn’t limited to those who do business online or to people who run personal blogs.  More than a few people have told me they believe if you write it they will come is a realistic approach to online success.

I try not to be obnoxious or harsh in my response. I don’t believe there is one approach that is successful so I won’t fault people who do things differently than I do, but I do wonder about people who believe Internet Mythology.

And this idea of “if you write it they will come” is Internet Mythology.

Very few new bloggers or online businesses will see the sort of immediate success that is suggested by this mythology that so many promote.

I suppose that you could say this mythology plays a role in my creating  some of my more colorful headlines. Posts like Cheaper Than A $5 Whore With Less Risk of Infection, Things Bloggers Say During Sex and 69 Reasons Why Fathers Make Better Lovers are all suggestive but they are not as lurid and lascivious as they sound.

I play with headlines and complain about a society that prizes short attention spans and instant gratification. I use words like insouciant and defenestrate because they please me and I write first for me and then for you.

Sometimes I play it straight because I wonder if it will raise engagement levels. Since I haven’t conducted a scientific study I am not entirely sure about it. My gut says it is not entirely true. There is a low barrier to entry in blogging and the noise level is enormous.

That means there are lots of posts that have headlines that are similar to How To Become a Better Writer In Three Easy Steps, Living My Dreams and What Is The Value of A Comment?

What Distinguishes Our Posts From Everyone Else?

The obvious answer is how well it is written and whether the information is valuable to the readers. But I tend to focus on voice, passion and personality. Bloggers who put some of themselves into their words do better, at least with me they do.

I like reading posts that aren’t sterile and devoid of feeling. This isn’t a medical treatise, contract or financial report. It is a conversation between friends. It is a backyard barbecue that I host.

So I write and write and write and then I write some more.

Writing is a skill that improves with practice and so is storytelling.

Part of the reason I take part in prompts  is because it provides a consistent opportunity to practice my storytelling. And part of it is there are stories locked inside of me that are begging to be told.

Where is Your Focus?

This dark eyed beauty of mine is on the verge of turning eight. If you stick around you’ll get a chance to read the post I write to/about her. I do it every year because I like chronicling the lives of my children.

It is natural. I am a father. I am a dad blogger. There are a ton of parents who read this blog. If I write about my experience with Nintendo people ask questions about what games are appropriate for kids and which aren’t.

Some of the most heavily trafficked posts here are about mean moms and whether children should be on Facebook. With my oldest about to hit middle school I am sure I’ll start talking about dating, drugs and sex as it relates to kids his age.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t integrate writing, marketing and social media into the mix. Nor does it mean that I can’t use some of the discussions with the kids as launch pads for discussions or examples.

When my favorite girl and I reached the computer she was shocked by how many people had the same idea she had. She couldn’t believe how many competitors were out there. So we had a very short conversation about whether it made sense to try to compete and what she might need to do to be successful.

It made for a very good teaching moment.I think one of my favorite moments was talking about the joy of the journey and how you can start out in one place and end up somewhere entirely different.

When she asked me if it has ever happened to me I looked at her and said it is happening right now. Stay tuned, things are afoot. More on that to come, for now it is time for your friend Jack to get some sleep. It is 2:30 AM and morning comes far too soon.

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  1. Lori July 16, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I always miss the Sunday parties 🙁 Hi Jack! Hi Everyone! (The gang’s all here!)
    Don’t you just love teaching moments!? It’s like: okay, here we go, I hope I say the best things! My heart goes out to your daughter, and kudos to her for an entrepreneurial spirit at such a young age! It’s daunting to put your stuff out there and hope you can make sure it is found. We faced that when we started Terra Cotta Pendants – wearable essential oil diffusers so new people weren’t even looking for them. Nevermind the impossibility of getting ranking for “diffusers” either! But we persisted and now it seems people are searching in just the nice we’ve been hiding in for nine years 😉 Tell her, nevermind, I’m sure you knew what to tell her!
    Now I’m back at square one – trying to apply all this fun blogging/social media stuff to facebook and the TCPs. It’s a new challenge and I LOVE it! Maybe they shouldn’t say, “If you build it they will come,” but “If you build it and it’s different and you work your butt off to make sure it is seen, etc.etc.etc.” (augh – no! there’s no good way to encapsulate all that needs to be in that statement, is there?
    But I do come here for the writing 😉

    • TheJackB July 17, 2012 at 12:05 am

      Teaching moments are awesome. I love them and never get tired of spending those moments with the kids.
      Nine years is a substantial amount of time to run a small business. It is proof that you know something about what you are doing. There is an education tied into it that you can’t get in school or any other way.
      When I look at LFI it is clear that you built it and that people do come so you can and should be proud of what you have made.

  2. Julie July 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Hi J,
    I have been amazed at how many people do find me and then how many of them order readings.  Granted, I am providing a service, and that’s the income generation part.  Funny that I never really thought that I would somehow instantly be seen online.  The other thing of interest is how many people wrote what a “great job” I did in generating business when I simply said I wouldn’t be offering readings in the same way after August…as if it were a marketing ploy. I can’t wait to hear what’s happening for you!

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 11:33 pm

       @Julie | A Clear Sign 
      Hi Julie,
      That is awesome. I love reading/hearing about success. That positive energy is contagious. It really attracts people.
      As for me lots of good things going on and more to come. Some of it will be talked about here.

  3. Sandi Amorim July 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

    This post made me think back to my first few months of blogging when I too believed that if I write it they will come. I’m generally pretty practical so not sure how I bought into the myth, but I did and then felt disappointed in myself, frustrated by my stats and resentful. For awhile I considered chucking the whole damn thing. 
    And then a funny thing happened…I wrote because I enjoyed writing, and willed myself away from the numbers. Resentment and disappointment turned into satisfaction and connection as I engaged with more people reading. That shift has made all the difference! 

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 11:30 pm

       @Sandi Amorim 
      Hi Sandi,
      I am not surprised to hear that you expected things to move more quickly, more than a few people do. I know some very sharp people who had the same expectations. You are in good company.
      Besides, there has been quite a bit of discussion about how easy it is to do this. That sort of buzz develops and maintains at a much louder pitch than the comments about the challenges here.
      But I think there are some benefits in being surprised because it can stimulate your mind and make you get a bit more creative than you might have.
      People really do make the difference. The connections and friendships we continue to build are awesome and the joy of writing is like icing on the cake.

  4. William Veasley July 15, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Jack: I have went into ventures without doing any planning and they all failed. Some lasted longer than others, but eventually they failed. A little planning goes a long way when trying to start a business from nothing. It is important to set realistic goals, but to make those goals not easily obtainable or at least this is how I feel.
    My goal is a bit tough and time is slowly fading away, but I am staying focused and pushing myself to work hard and reach my goals.
    My present goals conflict with the mythology that a blogger can write it and they will come. Your content might be spectacular and you might get a few vistors here and there, but it takes more than great content to build a buisness online or off.
    I spend most of my time creating content and working on finishing my book (I try to spend time on what I will benefit most from), but I do make time to promote my work. I have a couple tricks up my sleeve, but no matter who we are, we must promote and not just promote, but promote hard!

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm

       @William Veasley 
      Hi William,
      Planning in business is critical. In my personal life I like to just wing it but not in business. There are too many things that need to to get done and if you don’t map it out things slip through the cracks.
      I agree with establishing metrics that make you reach a little bit. Good things happen when you stretch yourself, the trick is finding the point at which you will tip over and then setting a mark just below it.
      Self promotion is key. If you don’t act as your own advocate then who will.

  5. William Veasley July 15, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Jack: I have went into ventures without doing any planning and they all failed. Some lasted longer than others, but eventually they failed. A little planning goes a long way when trying to start a business from nothing. It is important to set realistic goals, but to make those goals not easily obtainable or at least this is how I feel.
    My goal is a bit tough and time is slowly fading away, but I am staying focused and pushing myself to work hard and reach my goals.
    My present goals conflict with the mythology that a blogger can write it and they will come. Your content might be spectacular and you might get a few vistors here and there, but it takes more than great content to build a buisness online or off.
    I spend most of my time creating content and working on finishing my book (I try to spend time on what I will benefit most from), but I do make time to promote my work. I have a couple tricks up my sleeve, but no matter who we are, we must promote and not just promote, but promote hard!

  6. rdopping July 15, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Hey  TheJackB  I like the idea that your daughter had and the way you handled it. It’s great to get a little realistic viewpoint without killing the dream. It’s great to get her to think along the lines of what makes her unique and work from there. At 8 years old I am sure that may change a few times.
    The idea of personality is the magic “internet mythology” that actually gets recognition. That and what I have heard you talk about many times here. Consistency. 
    If I always remember this forum is to grow my knowledge base by garnering healthy discourse then I will be ok. Making money from blogging is one of those pursuits that could be attainable but not really as an individual. Your actual business, whatever it may be, is certainly something that can be complimented by blogging. All very obvious to most of us now that we have lived in this world for a while. Realistic expectations in blogging are like any business. Blogging like your business takes dedication and time to grow.
    An interesting statistic to know would be what percentage of bloggers hit it big in the first year. If I was a betting man I would say less than 1% which would be something like 450,000 blogs out of the 450million out there. I just read some 2010 from one site stat that suggested the 450million. Another said that there are 70million wordpress blogs alone. Check it out! I hope you don’t mind the link here http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011-in-numbers/
    Anyway, the numbers are mind boggling and the most I can hope for is to build my share of interest based on what I love to talk about: Architecture + Design Management. That’s it.
    BTW, Livefyre is checking into why this is the only site where I have zero points. Points are important after all, ya know?
    Great thought starter, Jack. Thanks for indulging me.

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Hi Ralph,
      These ideas of hers and her brother have created some of my favorite moments. I learn so much from them and the conversations they create. It is a pleasure and an honor to be their father.
      Personality and consistency are critical elements of success. I can’t explain what makes a person charismatic in a way that has anything but the most basic elements. They are funny/smart/handsome/beautiful etc.
      While I often say there is no reason to reinvent the wheel those are things that you can’t just imitate. It is part of why I say you have to just be yourself and build your community around you.
      Consistency is different. You can show up on a regular basis and be counted upon. 
      When it comes to monetizing our blogs the question I always ask is do you want/need to and why. If you know the answers to those questions it makes it easier to construct a map/plan for success.
      It probably makes more sense to use the blog to complement an existing business. There is a lot more utility there.
      One of the things that jumps out in your comment is that you said you love to talk about Architecture + Design Management. That makes a significant impact on a blog. It helps to provide a certain amount of passion and personality in your posts and keeps it from feeling like work.

  7. Hajra July 15, 2012 at 6:04 am

    One thing I didn’t know when I started “kvetching” online was the fact that there are thousands who are doing the same. But then, like you say just keep writing. And I am just making sure I am doing my own thing, enjoying what I am doing and just moving along. I know this ain’t making me rich, but then I got a couple of writing assignments, thanks to my blog and that is adding a little to the pocket! 😉
    As for kids, my 4 year old niece just realized that her neighbor loves pink too.. she was shocked. Pink was “her color”…. 

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Kvetch is a great word, but I am always biased toward Yiddish words. Meshugah, narishkeit, mensch- love ’em.
      Those writing assignments start to add up over time. Over the years the blog is responsible for having helped me generate a nice chunk of change. If I didn’t have to amortize it over a few years it would sound better, but either way I am grateful. 😉
      Pink was her color. Uh oh, my niece might be upset about that too. 😉

  8. Vidya Sury July 15, 2012 at 5:52 am

    🙂 I felt all mushy when you talked about your “favorite girl”‘s business idea. I wish her success. Yes, you’re right about instant gratification for readers and not the bloggers. Well, not always. We want steady,not just spikes of traffic and readers. You, Jack, are a terrific blogger, and one whose posts I look forward to reading. I’ll be watching for updates on her progress. 🙂 I remember how shocked my 8 year old son, now 14, was, when he realized the entire world had the same ideas as his in terms of blog name. 😀 He then decided his own name was unique enough, and thankfully not already taken. Ah, the joys (and woes) of discovery!

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 10:31 pm

       @Vidya Sury She is my favorite girl and always will be. I tell her all the time that I have  a secret and when she asks what I say: “I love you.”
      Anyhoo, I appreciate the kind words. I think like everyone else I have some good posts and some that aren’t so good. The difference is that I just never quit and lots of others do.
      Steady traffic and all that comes with it is good. It is nice because it makes it easier to develop relationships and that is really what distinguishes a blog from a diary.
      Does your son enjoy blogging? I think it is great that he is doing it. If he keeps it up he might find it to be quite interesting to read down the road, or maybe that is just the voice of an old man talking. 😉

  9. Jens July 15, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I used to think that making money online was the easiest way of making money. Like you said, it was just to set up a website and write and I’d get traffic and in the end I’d get sponsors and ads, and I would just start earning money. It would be the easiest money ever. But, I only started being (a little) successful when I started jobbing a lot harder and started to connect with people. Being personal and becoming friends with people in business that’s the way to go (at least it is for me) 🙂
    Great post Jack. I hope you’re having an awesome summer.

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      The connections and networking make a huge difference. When you build those you find that you get real help when you need it and a lot of times people refer others to you. I think there are legitimate benefits that come with it.
      But it doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly doesn’t come just because we write a few posts.
      Summer has been great. How is yours going?

      • Jens July 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm

         @TheJackB I’m having a great summer. We’re camping. The weather hasn’t been great, but we’re swimming every single day and we’re outside all day no matter if it’s raining and lots of wind :)What have you been doing so far?

        • TheJackB July 17, 2012 at 12:09 am

           @Jens Sounds nice.
          Things here have been good but hectic. Had a lot of family stuff going on. Most of it has been fun stuff but it keeps us running.
          I try to play ball twice a week and hit the treadmill daily. Now if I can teach myself to stop eating…. 😉

  10. BetsyKCross July 15, 2012 at 3:04 am

    We all thrive on following through with inspiration, and learning to apply new principles and techniques to make our dreams and visions “come true” is vital. There has to be some openness and flexibility to a dream.
    I love it when I come up against the tenacity of a goal – my own or someone else’s- when I can come up with a million reasons why it won’t work and still feel the passion to move forward. It’s like water trying to find the crack in the rock. You know? When you know you can’t help yourself from overcoming and finding your way to make things happen that logic says can’t work.
    That’s what I look for when my kids start dreaming and scheming. Do they have that depth of focus? If they don’t I question them to see if they understand that there will always be obstacles that they’ll need to push through – obstacles that prove and challenge their commitment. Sometimes I think that they believe that hard work might mean it’s not a good fit for them (the goal). But then there’s the talk about working “hard” and learning how to work “smart”.
    Fun stuff!
    Thanks, Jack!

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 4:59 pm

       @BetsyKCross Over time the rock always loses to water. If you have the patience and the tenacity you see that come to be.
      I love that imagery and I am with you about the joy you feel when you want to take something on even though you know it is going to be really tough. It is something special and worthwhile. I think there is magic in those moments.
      It is even better when we can teach our children about the value and rewards that come along with working through these moments because that is usually all they really are, moments.

  11. AnnieAndreHacks July 15, 2012 at 1:54 am

    I love how you handled the lesson with your daughter. I had a similar experience with my boys who want to make money through youtube ads by making video game videos. They are creating the videos but not a dime yet. They have learned that they actually are enjoying the journey of learning and doing and are willing to stick with it.  Ironically, many grown ups (as you stated in your post) believe in the mystical blog where people will flock to their site to read their content.
     i get countless emails from people asking how to travel long term and start a profitable website to pay for their ventures with no idea even for a product or business. Just some vague idea to build a blog.. THey assume that since i have one that i am making heaps of cash. LOL. their dreams are dashed when i say i am not and that it will take years if ever before you will realistically make money selling something online from just BLOGGING.
    My most popular blog post is titled “how i crushed my fears by screaming like a pig” and “A Twitter Virgins Story: How I Went From Twitter Hell To Twitter Heaven” How’s that for short attention span? It was a test in headlines that changed my point of view. I’ll use the words breast in some future post and see what happens. Just havn’t had the opportunity yet.  

    • rdopping July 15, 2012 at 6:21 am

       @AnnieAndreHacks “I’ll use the word breast to see what happens” Love that comment…..it’s like gaming the system for attraction. I know it works for a while but just wanted to ask. When you do that do you get the type of people you want on your blog? Just askin’…..

      • AnnieAndreHacks July 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

         @rdopping Well i can’t say for sure But i think it gets more of my idea readers to actually click and read.  It gets pervs too, but the one saving grace is that the pervs who thought there would be nidity quickly realize there is no sex in my article they don’t come back. But those that were intrigued and who really do find value in my writing will come back. It’s not hurting me. they are fun to write so I say why the hell not.  This life is too short to be serious all the time. Needs to have fun, educate and entertain people if i can. 

        • rdopping July 15, 2012 at 8:10 am

           @AnnieAndreHacks I am glad that works for you. Something I need to remember. Quit being so damn serious all the time. BTW, confession, I have not been by your blog in quite some time. I have to head over and check it out! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

    • TheJackB July 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Hi Annie,
      I think its great that your boys are sticking with it. There is a lot to be learned about life that comes with having the fortitude to stick it out when things don’t happen immediately. I am biased, but I see it as a more rewarding experience.
      I want my children to understand that it is ok to work for something and that it takes time to make things happen. I really get irked with this need to see immediate success because it almost never happens. I don’t want to cripple my kids with this.
      I am not surprised to hear about all those emails you receive. Now if you could charge them a couple of bucks you might start to pull in some steady passive income. 😉
      Those headlines are funny. Somewhere in here I have one that says something about naked Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie pictures. I wrote it years ago but it still pulls in some traffic. Sometimes I get nasty comments from people who complain about the pix not being here.

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