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This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 1
On a whim, I decided to take part in Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge, mainly because I wanted to force myself to write every day, but also because those who complete the challenge are eligible for some pretty awesome prizes. As part of the challenge, I’ll be writing a short post every day for 10 days, addressing different topics.
This challenge is sort of like going on a diet. Now that I’ve admitted it publicly I have to do it. Yaaaaayyyy……
Writing Every Day? Someone Help Me.
I’m a person with very limited creative energy, so the idea of writing a blog post every single day seems incredibly daunting to me. Especially since my blog posts tend to be LONG with tons of photos. I put a lot of time and effort into every post that’s published on this site, which is part of the reason why I’ve had to scale back to one post a week.
I have so many posts I need to write, it can be a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people that panics when confronted with an insane amount of work. So rather than cranking through it with efficiency, I goof around on Facebook or get caught up reading political articles or watching Stranger Things on Netflix.
Well, for the next 10 days I’ll be writing a blog post every day… or at least that’s the idea. These posts won’t be as ridiculously long as usual, and they won’t all be promoted on the front page of my site, but I’ll be linking to them within one another, and sharing them all on Facebook and Twitter if you want to tag along.
The Student Loan Blame Game
Today Natalie asked me to think about the biggest challenges that are holding me back from creating a blogging business and a “life of freedom”. Immediately a few things come to mind:
I’m So Busy.
When I started my desk job as a college counselor in China, I had about $20K USD in student loans from my Master’s Degree. One year in, I only have $10K left and I’m about to pay a huge chunk of that off in the next month or two.
While I know the student loans are my fault, it’s easy to place all the blame on my money woes.
I don’t have time to develop a coherent business plan, I’m too busy and tired from working 6-day weeks.
My business would grow so much faster if I could go on press trips and attend conferences, but I can’t because of my job.
If I traveled full-time I’d have so much more content and recognition.
Wah wah wah * Insert First World Problem Here *
Thankfully, Natalie saw right through my BS before I even had a chance to whine at all of you again. She told us we weren’t allowed to place any of the blame on time, money or freedom. Well…. there goes that.
What’s Really Holding Me Back?
Now that I’m not allowed to blame my student loans, office job, and busy schedule, what’s really holding me back? What are my biggest challenges in creating a business and life I love?
From reading my last monthly recap, I’m sure most of you think that my business is taking off. I was featured in Huffington Most and Matador Network. I got invited on my first press trip. Look at me, I’m so successful!
But this month I also talked about my failures. I told you about how I feel like I’m falling behind my blogger friends because my growth is slow and traffic is low. Sometimes I feel aimless. While the big successes let me know my hard work is paying off, I also feel like I have a vague goal of creating my own business and location-independent lifestyle, without a real idea of how I’m going to get myself there.
1. I Don’t Have a Business Plan
Seriously, I have no idea what I’m doing. How am I going to support myself when I leave this job in a year? My student loans and office job are a crutch and an excuse for not being business savvy. Am I going to lead backpacker tours around China part-time? How would I even do that? Am I going to focus on China-based affiliates? Am I going to try to grow my consulting? * Starts panic-breathing into a paper bag *
2. I Don’t Understand My Audience or “Brand”
Who are you people?! Just kidding. But seriously, I feel like I have two different types of people who consistently read my blog: the people who are interested in my personal and relatable posts, and the people who come for the China stuff. A lot of this overlaps, because the first group likes my China stories and the second group likes that I talk about personal stuff… since I’m a real person and not a robot.
But how do I brand myself? What kinds of products and services do I offer?
I want to avoid becoming a bland “Teach abroad in China” blog, but that’s where all the money is right? Right?!
3. I’m Not Efficient
I get easily overwhelmed by all of the posts and partnerships I’ve promised other people. It zaps my creative energy and makes my blog a source of stress rather than freedom. I need to spend less time chatting with friends on Facebook, and more time getting stuff done. I have a full-time job that’s getting even busier now that it’s fall, so I need to be very efficient with the time I do have.
The problem is that sometimes I really do need a break. I don’t want to look back on my time in China and only remember stress and work. I want to be able to watch a few episodes of TV without feeling guilty. I need to explore my neighborhood, go salsa dancing, hang out with friends and relax. I can’t go back to where I was last fall where I started having panic attacks and I lost my sense of hunger for two weeks.
How Do I Fix This?
It’s not all a disaster over here in China, and I’m not having a quarter-life crisis again or anything.
While I already knew these problems existed, I think it’s good to admit to them publicly rather than pretending like my issues only exist because of my office job and student loans.
1. I Should Probably Make a Business Plan.
Seriously. It’s not like I’m not working on this. I’ve joined some really amazing expert blogging groups. I’ve been networking with people who actually know what they’re doing. I even purchased a place at the Travel Blog Monetization Virtual Summit, which has been the most valuable help I’ve had so far. I’ll be sure to let you all know how to get tickets for the next one once they’re on sale. Tommo and Megsy from the summit were actually the ones that told me about this 10 Day Challenge.
My hope is that by studying, learning, and networking, I’ll begin to find something that works for me. I still don’t know exactly how I’ll be making money a year from now when I don’t have this job to support me, but I’m working on it. The most important thing for me is to not sit around idly stressing about it. I’ll ask my blogger friends for advice, and brainstorm until I figure it out.
2. I Should Probably Figure My Audience/ Brand Out
I’m working hard on this one too. I’ve been asking both blogger and non-blogger friends what they think about my brand and “image”. Most people say that this blog is very “personality” driven. People like that I tend to over-share whether it’s about my love life or my period panties.
I’m also starting to become “known” for China, and I really need to write more actual helpful travel content. I get really bored by traditional destination guides, so I’m thinking about doing a “China off the beaten path” feature once a month where I give actual practical advice for visiting the coolest places in China. I also just created a goal of visiting every single Chinese province. 24 down 10 more to go!
One of my non-blogging friends also gave me some incredible advice a few months ago. I was stressing about feeling pressured into becoming a bland “teach abroad” blog. He told me: “Write whatever you want to write, and then write one important money-making post a month.” It really took the pressure off and made me feel like I have creative freedom again.
Finally, I really need to do a reader survey. It’s been over a year, and I really need to check in with all of you!
3. I Need to Be More Efficient
I started outsourcing more things and even hired a second person to help me deal with all the stuff I don’t want to do. Outsourcing chores that ruin my soul * cough social media following and unfollowing cough * is definitely the best way I can keep myself sane. I also need to create an achievable to-do list that makes sure I get stuff done while also giving me time to have fun.
I think this 10 Day Challenge will be a great push to help me write faster and get over the exhaustion that comes with the mere idea of writing a post when I don’t feel like it. I didn’t feel like writing this, and look, I’m already at 1,500 words!
I think I’m actually incapable of writing anything short.
Can You Help?
So there it is. Now you know my non-BS challenges when it comes to having a successful blog and living a life I want to live.
Now I want to know: do you have any advice? Unless you’re new here, I’m sure you have some thoughts. I would absolutely love it if you’d share your opinions with me. If you don’t already have something in mind, here’s what I want to know:
If you were to describe my blog to a friend in one or two sentences, what would you say?
Seriously, that’s it.
Well, that was much longer than I expected. I’ll still be doing these posts daily, so be sure to let me know what you think. If you want to tag along and try the challenge for yourself, you can find it here!