Q&A: Shawn Blanc reflects on one year of full-time blogging
Shawn Blanc sits in the office of his Kansas City home, where he writes and blogs full-time for shawnblanc.net.
One year after making the leap from part-time to full-time blogger, Shawn Blanc has no regrets.
Blanc launched shawnblanc.net, his tech- and design-centric blog, in July of 2007 on the side of his full-time job as director of marketing for the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Mo. In April 2011 he left IHOP to write and blog full-time.
Silicon Prairie News conducted an email interview with Blanc this month, the one-year anniversary of his foray into full-time blogging and writing, to ask him about the past year, his site and what advice he has for other aspiring bloggers.
Silicon Prairie News: Hi Shawn! Congratulations on your one-year anniversary. Tell us a little bit about your site, shawnblanc.net.
Shawn Blanc: I launched the site on July 2, 2007, and it was somewhat on a whim. I'd been writing on a personal blog for 18 months before I launched shawnblanc.net, and on that blog I was wanting to do more substantial and serious writing. Primarily, I wanted to write about design, technology and other creative matters.
Before launching shawnblanc.net, the first "techy" post I wrote was a review of a blogging app for Mac called "ecto." I published that on my personal blog, and it was vastly under appreciated. So I got the bug to start a wholly different site which was centered around exactly that type of content. About a year later is when I actually launched shawnblanc.net and now, five years later, it's become my full-time gig.
I kicked off a membership drive during the month of March last year, and then began writing full-time in April 2011.
SPN: There's a big difference between dreaming about leaving your full-time job to do what you love, and then actually doing it. How did you finally take the plunge to go full-time?
SB: There wasn't a specific moment where I decided to go for it, but rather a series of moments all within a short period of time. They led me to the realization that I wanted to take my website and my writing full time. Once I realized it was something I wanted to do, then it was a no-brainer.
Though if I did have to pick the most significant moments that led up to the decision was during a conversation with my wife, Anna, where I mentioned to her that I'd been thinking of taking shawnblanc.net full time. She looked me in the eye and said that if that is what I wanted to do, she would stand behind me.
SPN: That's awesome. A lot of entrepreneurs, techies, and bloggers dream about leaving their jobs and doing what they love, but those that have done it are well aware that it's not all roses and lollipops. What surprised you about what self-employment and working from home was really all about?
SB: The biggest surprise to me was how much of my time needed to be devoted to non-writing tasks such as accounting, email, errands, website maintenance and development, planning, networking with others, and more.
It's surprising how many things there are to pull my attention away from writing, even though that is my occupation.
"There wasn't a specific moment where I decided to go for it, but rather a series of moments all within a short period of time. They led me to the realization that I wanted to take my website and my writing full time. Once I realized it was something I wanted to do, then it was a no-brainer."
SPN: What other struggles have you had the past year?
SB: Making time to write, and sticking with it. Since I work for myself I have no bosses giving me deadlines. Though I have no trouble putting in my hours, it can be easy to get distracted by trivial subjects or topics, and lose focus on the bigger projects I want to work on.
SPN: How have you overcome that?
SB: Time management and focus. I have a forgiving but regular schedule that dictates my priorities for me. I have time set aside every morning that is my "writing time." All the other logistical and/or fun stuff has to wait until later. Sometimes that writing time flies by, and other times I cut out early.
SPN: What advice would you give to someone who's considering making the leap? What would you encourage them to do, or warn them against not doing?
SB: That is hard to say because everyone has a different story, a different situation in life, and a different work ethic. I would encourage them to start out part-time first. Try to establish a regular writing routine and try to get some income from that writing. Then, if the thirst to write only gets stronger, start to look into ways to make the income work.
SPN: You used to work at IHOP as their director of marketing. Do you miss it?
SB: The thing I miss the most is working with and leading a team. At IHOP I had a team of designers, developers, writers, and project managers and it was a lot of fun working together on projects. Now that I work for myself and work from home as a writer, the environment is significantly different. At times I miss the team dynamic, those relationships, and all that comes with it.
SPN: Back to shawnblanc.net (above), how has your site grown or changed over the past year, now that you have been able to dedicate more time to it?
SB: I hope that the only real changes have been those of constancy and quality. When I took the site full time I didn't start anything new, make any radical changes, or veer off into any new direction — I simply had more time to write.
SPN: What resources — networking, online, mentors, etc. — have helped with that increase in quality?
SB: Primarily, I would have to credit the readers of my site. If they hadn't signed up as paying members during the membership drive in March 2011, then I wouldn't have been able to take the site full time.
SPN: Share what you're excited about for the rest of 2012 and beyond with the SPN community.
SB: I am looking forward to getting better at my job. I want to write more often and at an ever-increasing quality. I'm looking forward to establishing new relationships in the industry and linking arms with some of the other great folks who contribute to the tech and design scene.
On the geeky side, I am of course looking forward to any new Apple announcements this year, such as an LTE iPhone and iOS 6.
SPN: Anything else you would like to share about yourself and/or your story with SPN readers? Any fun tidbits?
SB: Coffee is one of the great things about Kansas City. I've never had a better espresso than what Broadway Cafe serves, and I never feel like "that guy" when I take the laptop or the iPad to The Roasterie in order to work for a few hours.
Check out the video below for more of Blanc's thoughts on his first year and the pitch for his latest membership drive.