Committing to this blog is one of the best professional decisions I've made. I say committing instead of starting because they are very different things. I've started many blogs, but have only committed to this one. Last year I set out to do 100 posts and ended above that. This year I set out to do fewer, more in depth posts, on the order of at least once per week.
It's not an easy decision, and one that is constantly in your face, simply because blogging takes a lot of time. A good post may take 3-5 hours when all is said and done. That time (for me) is often directly taken away from other professional activity, so the opportunity cost is quite high. In other words, I must have a good reason for doing so or else I really shouldn't be doing it.
Writing leads to understanding
Blogging forces you to write down your arguments and assumptions. This is the single biggest reason to do it, and I think it alone makes it worth it.
You have a lot of opinions. I'm sure some of them you hold strongly. Pick one and write it up in a post -- I'm sure your opinion will change somewhat, or at least become more nuanced.
When you move from your head to "paper," a lot of the hand-waveyness goes away and you are left to really defend your position to yourself.
Getting over your fears
Blogging is a bit like public speaking, and people are scared of it for good reason. You are really putting yourself out there.
If you do it right, you will stay stupid things every now and then. You will piss people off. It's scary at first to hit Publish and push your ideas into the public sphere.
In the process though you will learn how to live with a thick skin and how to confidently state your opinion. You will also come to be more zen about putting yourself out there in general. In my opinion, these skills are essential for good entrepreneurs and hard to learn elsewhere.
You can reach the right people
When I committed to this blog I had zero following, on Twitter or otherwise. When you have a following, blogging makes a bit more sense since your posts have a built-in audience and are often automatically amplified to some degree, e.g. submitted to social news sites, retweeted, etc.
Yet even without that built-in audience, you can reach the right people. You can still submit your posts to social news sites yourself. People will still find you via search engines. You can @reply the right people on Twitter.
Fundamentally, people like reading blog posts, and you can use that fact to your advantage.
You can stand out
I love under-utilized resources, e.g. Twitter for PR and newsletters for M&A. Blogging is one of these under-utilized resources.
Because it does take a lot of effort, most people won't touch it. But that means if you do, you are all the more visible.
Why are Chris Dixon, Mark Suster and Fred Wilson some of the most well-known VCs? I know they are smart, high-quality investors, but if you look in the VC world there are actually a lot of those types. You know them more because they stand out as a result of their blogs and all the other stuff that flows from them.
Maybe I've convinced you to commit to a blog, but probably not :). In any case, if you do decide to do it, please take this additional advice with regards to your blog:
- Don't be bland. Bland blogs don't get you any of the above benefits. You won't stand out or reach the right people because your posts are bland. You won't get over any fears or understand anything better because you didn't really say anything. I know it's hard, but really state an opinion. Really put yourself out there or the whole thing isn't worth it.
- Don't hold back. There are so many startups, and yet there is seemingly so few startup blogs that tell real stories with real numbers. If you accomplish something, in the blog post you write about it, why don't you tell us exactly what you did? Not only will it make clear to yourself what contributed to the accomplishment, but it will help others as well (and therefore attract them to your post). Give us the real numbers!
- Let people know. If you do take the time to write "real" posts, please take the additional time to let people know about them. Yes, it can feel weird submitting your own post to HN, but if you know what you wrote is solid and useful, people will want to read it. Let the right people know on Twitter. You're doing yourself and others a disservice if you don't market your good work.
- Engage. No one likes trolls, but that isn't a good enough reason not to engage with people about your ideas. Engaging amplifies all the benefits stated above. The first decision here involves turning on comments and watching for comments on other sites. I would then try to respond to any comment that warrants it as quickly as possible.
Here are a couple posts that come to mind that really do the above (not by me):
- Misadventures in VC Funding: The $24 Million Moz Almost Raised (just saw this on HN)
- Bootstrapping Stormpulse (this one always sticks in my head)