Turning Blogging From Hobby to Career

This Monday morning in New Zealand, my local Wellington newspaper The Dominion Post ran a story about Read/WriteWeb. Seeing as the focus of the article is making a living off blogging, I thought I’d add some more thoughts on that. The DomPost article states:

“Richard MacManus runs the world’s 28th most popular blog, Read/WriteWeb, from his home office in Lower Hutt.

It’s every blogger’s fantasy. Mr MacManus started a blog on web technology as a hobby back in 2003. He’s now turned that into a full-time job that earns him a comfortable living.”

This is the second time a New Zealand newspaper has used the theme of turning a hobby (blogging) into a living, when writing about R/WW. The DomPost reporter, Reuben Schwarz, even asked me if I blog in pyjamas – to which I replied, yes sometimes! But he was half-joking, and assured me he wouldn’t run the pyjamas line 🙂

So what does it take to turn blogging into a full-time living? Basically it takes a whole lot of hard work, knowledge and passion about the topic you’re blogging about, patience, and some ‘being in the right place at the right time’ luck. Also, as the DomPost article stated, you need to frequently update your blog – although I think a lot of tech blogs have taken that to a worrying extreme recently – and reach out to the blogging community.

It’s worth pointing out that I started this blog in April 2003 and it took at least a couple of years to make money. In fact this is what I emailed to Reuben (as a follow-up to our phone conversation) on that point:

“Also I was trying to pinpoint when R/WW really began to be a full-time venture in terms of revenue. I think the tipping point was mid 2006, when I got a number of regular sponsors and adverts. Not long after, R/WW was my main source of income. And of course since that time, it has gone from strength to strength.”

So really, it took 3 whole years for Read/WriteWeb to go from ‘hobby’ to full-time job. The bottom line: blogging is a very difficult, and highly competitive, way to make a living. If I didn’t have a true passion for the topic of Web technology, I would not have been able to put in the ‘hard yards’ (I think that is a kiwi or rugby expression, meaning hard work).

Finally, I told Reuben that these days I treat Read/WriteWeb as a media property and that I take it very seriously – even if I do sometimes blog in my PJs 😉 I’m not sure I ever thought of R/WW as a hobby, to be honest. It started out as an evening activity, but even in 2003 I was serious about it and viewed it as an extension of my career.

Photo: Ross Giblin / Dominion Post

Update: Just read this article in The Times by Michael Parsons about TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, which echoes my thoughts on what it takes to run a successful blog.

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