11 Things Thomas Edison Can Teach You About Profitable Blogging
If it wasn’t for Thomas Edison, you’d probably be sitting in the dark feeling quite bored.
Edison was a prolific and influential inventor. He invented world-changing technologies including the light bulb, the phonograph and motion picture camera.
And his views back then on emerging technologies can teach you about blogging today.
Quotes from Edison and thoughts on how they apply to blogging:
Start with a need: “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”
When building a blog, think about what problems it will solve, how it will serve people, and what changes it will bring.
Work smart: “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
It’s easy to fill your time with tasks that seem urgent but aren’t necessarily important. Avoid distractions. Write content, update archives, and drive traffic.
Work and wait: “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”
It takes time to build a blog to its full potential. While search engines index your blog, establish trust with readers and build a profile in your niche.
It takes work: “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Coming up with a great idea for a new blog is just the beginning. It takes a lot of hard work to make it successful. Lots of little actions add up to a great blog.
Failure brings You closer to success: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Treat every post you write, every attempt you make to promote your blog and every tool you use as learning experiences that shape your future.
You are capable of astounding things: “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
You have incredible potential. You are unique. And you know something no-one else does. Tap into what makes you special, and don’t sell yourself short.
Sometimes failing is the start of success: “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
Even when things don’t turn out the way you want, they can still be a success. What you include in your blog can rise to something new.
Don’t give up too early: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
Most blogs are abandoned after a month or two. The average time that it takes a blog to rise to the top is about 3 years or longer. Don’t give up on it.
Make it fun: “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”
Blog about something you enjoy and are passionate about. Readers pick up on your energy and love for the topic.
Have lots of ideas: “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
Put time aside to dream, brainstorm, and wonder “What if?” Not every idea for your blog will work, so it pays to have lots of ideas. Practice the art of curiosity.
You don’t have to start with a finished product: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”
Don’t get trapped into thinking you need to start with all the bells and whistles. Most successful bloggers start with just the basics.
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Hey there and welcome to episode 252 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, ebook, courses, events, and so much more that all help you to start a great blog, to create content for that blog that’s going to make the world a better place in some way, but also that will hopefully be profitable for you in some way.
In today’s episode I want to do something a little bit different. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing a quote of the week and I’ve had some really nice feedback on that. In fact, quite a few of you have been tweeting and sending me quotes that you love on Twitter, social media as well.
This week is all based around 11 quotes from Thomas Edison. I want to talk about these 11 things that Thomas Edison can teach you about blogging. This is just a different way of talking about some of the principles of building a profitable blog. Thomas Edison was one of the most prolific and influential inventors that the world has seen, particularly for his time and has developed all kinds of amazing technologies. He’s also prolifically quoted. As I was digging around looking at some quotes, I came across quite a few his that I thought really did relate to blogging. We’re going to go through those. It will be a relatively quick episode today. You can find all of the quotes and full transcript of today’s show over at our show notes at problogger.com/podcast/252.
I also want to mention today before we get into the show, that you can enroll in 31 Days To Build A Better Blog. This is a course that I’ve been talking about now for a few months which we have officially launched. If you go problogger.com/31days or you’ll find it linked to in our courses tab over at problogger.com. This course is an updated version of our incredibly best-selling ebook, the best selling ebook I’ve ever launched, 31 Days To Build A Better Blog, which I launched I think it was back in 2008.
We did an update in 2012, and now 2018, we’re doing a complete overhaul of it and presenting it as a course. You get video, audio, you get all the slides, you get a whole stack of writable worksheets. There’s a Facebook group for some accountability as well. You get all that for $49. This is an early bird special for the next—as I recall this—seven days as this one goes live, it’ll only be for the next five days. So you want to head over to problogger.com/31days where you get it for $49. The normal price will be $99.
This course is perfect for those of you who are either just starting out. You might have just started a Start A Blog course which is a free course. This is the perfect kind of next step. It will help you to set up some routines and rhythms in your first month or so of blogging. It’s also really great for those of you who’ve got a blog that has been maybe plateaued, that you need a bit of a kick start. It gives you 31 pieces of teaching, but more importantly, 31 pieces of action that you can take to improve your blog.
It’s been done by over 20,000 people in the ebook version. I know it’s going to help a lot of you. We’ve just had over 200 bloggers go through the beta version of it and I’ve incorporated a lot of their feedback into improving it even further. Again, check it out at problogger.com/31days. Make sure you do that very fairly because it only lasts—for the early bird discount—for the next few days. Alright, today’s show notes again problogger.com/podcast/252.
Let’s get into today’s show. What Thomas Edison can teach you about profitable blogging? Now you might think nothing at all because he was around way before blogging was invented. But just pointing out the wisdom from these 11 quotes, I do think a lot of them do apply to any kind of entrepreneurial activity, blogging being one of those if you are trying to do it for profit. So, let me go through them.
Number one thing that I think he can teach us is to really have at the center of what you do the need of someone. Start with a need. This is the quote that I found: “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I find out what the world needs then I proceed to invent.” So, this sense that really does start with a need and then the invention comes out of that. This is certainly something that I’ve seen in many entrepreneurs over the years. Spot a problem, solve the problem whether that problem be someone else’s problem or your own, and then create a product or a service to solve that problem.
Most successful blogs that I’ve come across succeed when they meet a need, when they solve a problem, when they enhance the life of someone. This is something that I took almost every episode over the years in some way or another. Whether it be your blog is to give people information when they don’t have information, whether your blog maybe is to entertain people when they’re feeling bored, whether it is your blog gives people a sense of community when they feel alone, when it gives them information that teaches them something, how to do something when they don’t know how to do something.
Blogs succeed most when they meet a need, when they enhance the life of their reader in some way. The best place to start now when you’re building your blog is to think about that need, that problem that people have. Many times, many successful blogs start with a problem of the blogger themselves. They solve that problem and they talk out loud about how they solved their own problem, or it is spotting someone else’s problem.
Certainly for me, ProBlogger was me trying to solve my problem; how do I build a profitable blog. That was a problem I had and so I started a blog about my journey in solving that problem. Digital photography school was me seeing the need that other people had, the questions that other people are asking. So I began to answer those questions, solve those problems of other people. I already had answers to those things.
Really, this does apply on a couple of levels. Firstly, in a big picture way, when you’re choosing your niche, when you’re choosing your topic, when you’re choosing the focus of your blog, keeping the problem, keeping the need, keeping that gain that people want in mind, keeping that central when you’re choosing your overall theme, but also on a post-by-post basis. Every post I write, the goal that I have, and then I tell my writers is that we want to solve at least one problem with every post that we write.
You could take it further. Every Facebook update you do, every Instagram post you do, every tweet you do. Really, you could be making it your goal to solve that problem in some way. The problem doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t have to be life-changing in a massive way for your reader. But if it does enhance their life in some small way, that goes a long way in the long run to building a profitable blog–so, number one start with a need.
Number two: work smart. This is another quote that I found from Thomas Edison: “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment. To either of these ends, there must be a forthright system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
I love this quote because there’s a sense that, many times we fill our lives with things that seem to make us look busy but they don’t actually take us towards our goal. It’s really easy as a blogger fill your time with a lot of tasks that seem important, that seem urgent but they are not actually important in any way. It’s so easy as a blogger to build these machines of routines and things that we do that, when we first start doing them, we think maybe they could help us but they turned out not really to do anything at all.
Social media can be one of these things. Social media can build our blog but we spend a lot of time doing it in ways that don’t always translate into growth in our blog. They can end up being a distraction from the key things that we need to do. Exploring the latest tools, the latest trends, these can all be distractions. They can be good things but if we spend all of our time, filling our time with these things that everyone else is doing, that everyone else is talking about, that can actually take us away from the core things that we need to do to build a blog.
Really, ultimately the core things you need to do to build a blog are write great content, update your archive, working on that content side of things, working on building traffic to your blog, to activities that are putting yourself out there, building community engagement with the people who come to your blog, and then thinking about monetization. The tools, the social media, and all these things, they can play their part in that but many times we get distracted by it–so work smart. Be ruthless as you think about what you are doing with your time.
If you are thinking maybe you’re not working smart, I challenge you, over the next week, to record everything that you do and take a look at that at the end of the week. Ask yourself at the end of the week, “How much of my time was spent on those core activities and how much of that time I’m spending on doing things that weren’t really converting, that weren’t really helping me to build my blog.
Number three thing that I learned from Thomas Edison is work and wait, which sounds weird, work and wait, but here’s the quote: “Everything comes to him or her who hustles while he or she waits.” Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait. There’s this sense of hustling, working, striving, but also waiting. These things can actually sit side-by-side. Most bloggers that I meet—very quickly in their journey—find that to build a profitable blog takes both work but also time. You need to work. It’s not just going to happen. It takes action but it also takes waiting. It’s a waiting game.
It takes time for the search engines to index you. It takes time for you to create enough content to have an archive. It takes time to establish trust with your readers. It takes time to build profile in your niche. It takes time to learn about blogging. It takes time to learn about your niche and to find your writing style, to find your voice. All these things take time.
There’s this sense of having to wait but also there’s a sense that you need to be hard at work in the waiting as well, particularly in those early days of your blog, you need to not just wait, you need to work. You need to hustle as Thomas Edison said. Be busy but be patient. Busily wait, if you like. I love that kind of idea these two things that seem almost opposites but they both are true.
Number four, and builds on this idea that I just talked about, it takes work. This is another quote from Thomas: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Coming up with great ideas for your new blog is great. You need to nail that. You need to work out what that focus is so that first idea you have is great. The inspiration you have, fantastic.
I’ve met so many people who’ve got great ideas for blogs, brilliant ideas for blogs but they don’t actually do anything. They don’t actually perspire. To make a blog successful, it takes a lot of work. It’s the accumulation of all of those little actions that you need to do over time that add up to create an epic blog that’s going to be successful. If you want a profitable blog, yes, that first idea you have is so important, nail it but then follow it up with a lot of work. It takes so much work.
Number five: “Failing takes you closer to succeeding.” Another quote that many of you will have heard before, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I’ve heard variations of this quote. Every post your write, every way that you attempt to promote your blog, every tool that you used, every question you ask your readers, all of these things that you do, treat them like little learning experiences that will shape your future.
If you put something out there and it doesn’t work, you are one step closer to finding something that will work. To continue to put things out there, to treat everything you do as an experiment. The key with an experiment is that the experiment itself doesn’t always end up being the finished product. The experiment reveals something that can reveal the product that you want to create. Everything you do, treat it as an experiment.
Many of the things you do will fall over, they’ll fail. Some of the things that you do will work and they’ll go okay. But a few of the things that you do, the few of those thousands of experiments that you do will fly. They’ll go viral and you build further on those things, you evolve those things even further. Pay attention to what is going okay and particularly what’s going brilliantly. Out of those little sparks that fly when you experiment will become the things you need to pay more attention to and then you need to put more work into those things as well.
Number six, I love this one, “You are capable of astounding things.” I love this quote. If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves. Don’t get trapped into limiting yourself as a blogger because you’ve not made it yet. You may look at your blog and you may think, “It hasn’t made it.” Or you may compare it to someone else and what they’re doing. Don’t limit yourself by what’s in front of you right now. You have incredible potential.
Potential is a future thing. Something that’s not yet reached. You’re unique. You have something that no one else has. Your story, your experience, the combination of your personality and those things, so tap into those things. Tap into the things that make you, you. Hopefully, you’ll be on the way to building something valuable. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re capable of astounding things.
Those things won’t just fall in your lap, though. You got to combine this one with some of those other things. There’s a lot of work. There’s patience. Busily wait. Remember that one. But don’t sell yourself short. You are capable of astounding things. Those things will hopefully reveal themselves to you particularly when you tap into what makes you, you.
Number seven tapped into a theme that we did touch on a little bit before: “Sometimes, failing is just the start of success.” Another quote that Thomas said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do, doesn’t mean it’s useless.” There’s the sense here in the experiments that Thomas did. Sometimes, he would start an experiment thinking it would turn out one way but it turned out the other way, and the other way actually revealed something else he could do. This is a thing that comes out many times when you talk to inventors.
It’s how the microwave oven was invented. I can’t remember the guy who did it, but he was developing radar in weaponry. He was working in the US Department of Defense in radar weaponry and he was standing in front of this microwave unit that he was developing for a weapon and he notice that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. This unexpected outcome of the experiment showed him potential in another area–heating food. You couldn’t get two things that are more different, but he took notice of this unexpected outcome and that actually sparked an idea that then became the microwave oven, and became one of the most successful inventions of all time, we’ve almost all got one in our family’s homes.
One of the wonderful things about experiment is that you will have unexpected outcomes. One of the wonderful things about the blogging space is that sometimes you put things out there and they come back to you in a different way. Sometimes, you start out thinking that you’re going to serve your readers in one way and then you actually serve them in another way.
There’s been many times in my own journey where the things that I thought I was doing actually didn’t work but they revealed something else. Perhaps the best example I can give you of that is my first ever photography blog. It was designed to be a photo blog. I was going to share photos of a trip I was taking to Morocco. I also wrote this little review of the camera I was using on this trip. Of course, went away on the trip, came home, and realize no one took any notice of my photos. It turns out my photos weren’t that great but the camera review took off. It was ranking high in Google and people were responding to that and that gave birth to a camera review blog. The photo blog became something else. I would never have discovered that if I hadn’t have done the experiment of the photo blog and taken note of the unexpected outcome.
Take note not only of your failures, of things that don’t work, but also pay attention to what unexpected things come out of that failure. Maybe it will give birth to something new, that can become your new main thing.
Number eight, don’t give up too early. Here’s the quote: “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” Most bloggers abandon their blogs after a month or two. I actually saw a study a few years ago. I think it was two months was the average length of a blog. Here’s one thing for you; if you’ve been blogging for longer than two months, congratulations. You’re above average. You’ve done well. If you’re less than two months, persist. Get to that two-month mark to make yourself above average.
But here’s the thing. Our most successful blogs, most profitable blogs actually take two to three years to get to that point where they’re beginning to take off. There’s this patch between that two-month mark where most people give up and the two, or three, or four-year mark where blogs begin to grow and take off–that is a tough time to get through. I remember that time myself, of wondering, “Is this going to work? I can see some little sparks and some things happening but I’m not full time. I’m not able to sustain it.” That time can be a hard time to push through.
That’s why we started 31 Days To Build A Better Blog, to be honest. Because that’s where I find most people who are in that patch of just sort of wondering if they should just give up. Thirty-one days of intense burst of action and interaction on your blog can actually lift it a lot. Use 31 Days if you want. I’ll start a Facebook group and get together with a few other bloggers to get you through that patch. Because that is the number one I think that most blogs fall on is that bloggers don’t just doesn’t persist for long enough, so you need to persist with that.
Number nine: “Make it fun.” I love this quote from Thomas. I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun. Blog about something that you enjoy. Blog about something that you have an interest in, a passion in, something that you would talk to your friends about, even if no one was paying, even if no one else is listening, you just enjoy it. This doesn’t guarantee success but it certainly makes blogging a more pleasurable and therefore a sustainable thing.
If you are going to get through that, that tough patch between in the first two or three years, you want to be doing something fun. You’re not going to be making much money in those early days. You probably won’t have a whole heap of recognition. You probably won’t have a lot of traffic or people affirming you in those early days. But if it’s fun, if it’s the type of thing that you do for free—because you are doing it for free—then it will get you through that tough time. Choose something that you are going to enjoy.
You also will find the other benefit of doing something that you enjoy. Those who do eventually read your blog will pick up on your energy. They’ll pick up on your enjoyment of your topic. They’ll pick up on the fun that you are having and increases the chances of them having fun too. I know when I read a blog for the first time whether the author is actually engaged with their topic. If they’re energized by their topic, it shines through in the writing. You can hear it in the voice of a podcaster. You can see it in the face of a video blogger. It shines through. You might want to choose something that you actually do enjoy and that will help you to sustain but it will also help you to grow your blog as well.
Two more things that Thomas Edison can teach you about profitable blogging. Number 10 is have lots of ideas. This is the quote: “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” The reality is—this does tap into some of the other things that we’re talking about with experiments before—the reality is a lot of the ideas that you have over time will go okay. Some of them will completely flop, but occasionally you’ll have one that just sparks, and that does really well for you.
Again, I don’t want to talk too much about 31 Days To Build A Better Blog but it all started with a crazy idea that I had lying in bed at two o’clock one night, to do a blog post series of 31 blog posts over a month. This ebook that eventually sold 20,000 copies and now has turned into a course, all started with just this crazy idea I have one night to do a 31-part series on my blog. The unexpected result was my readers really loved it and they suggested I turn it into an ebook. That would never happened if I hadn’t paid attention to that crazy idea.
But here’s the thing, I had hundreds of crazy ideas at 2:00 AM. That’s my best time of thinking of ideas. I sleep with a little pad and pencil next to my bed. Quite often in the morning I wake up and there’s an idea there that I’ve had during the night. I’ve had thousands probably of ideas in the last 15 years but only a few of them were really taken off like 31 Days To Build A Better Blog.
Put aside time to dream, to brainstorm, to wonder what if, pay attention to those ideas and most importantly, capture them in some way. Having that piece of paper and pencil next to my bed is so important. Develop a way to capture those ideas and be willing to try ideas that may not work. It’s all about that prolific experimentation.
Practice the art of curiosity–is something that I will encourage you to do. Schedule time for curiosity and for playfulness. Whilst you do need to work, I also do believe that it’s important to have a little bit of white space in your week as well where you allow yourself just to dream, to be curious, to ask questions, and to brainstorm things as well. You never know what might come out of that.
The last thing that I’ve learned from Thomas Edison quotes is you don’t have to start with a finished product. This is the quote that I found to talk about this: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” You’ll never going to start with a perfect blog. A lot of bloggers get trapped into this way of thinking that on the day they start they need to have a brilliant blog design, they need to have the perfect blog domain, they need to be using the perfect tool, they need to have all their tools installed, they need to have the opt-in, they need to have the product, they need a logo, they need to have all these things before they start.
The reality is that–no successful blog ever started that way. I can’t think of one that launched and it was perfect out of the gate. I looked back on my first blog. It was on Blogger, it was on the Blogspot domain. I didn’t have a server, I didn’t have the best tool. I didn’t have a design. I was using this ugly navy blue default template that they had. I didn’t have any pictures or visuals on my blog at all. It was not perfect. I did not know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to make text bold, I didn’t know how to code, I didn’t know anything. But I wrote a post and that post led me to write another post. Gradually, I learned the skills. Gradually, I designed my blog. Gradually, I realized there were other tools that I could use and I learned how to use them. I learned how to make text bold. Gradually, over time, I added some bells and whistles.
Even today, I look at my blog and it’s not perfect. There are still things that I’m learning and still things that I can add to it. The key is to experiment. It’s to start and to keep working. Gradually, over time, your ideas will be refined, your blog will begin to grow, it will improve, and you’ll get there. You’ll get to that point where you have a finished product but it all starts in a kind of an ugly, awkward way. That’s totally okay because over time, as you persist, as you experiment, as ideas turn out in unexpected ways, all of these things that I’ve been just talking about, as you have fun, hopefully it would grow.
I hope you found a little bit of inspiration in these quotes from Thomas Edison. I’m going to include them all over in our show notes today at problogger.com/podcast/252. I really hope that something in that has sparked for you some ideas, and some inspiration, some encouragement to persist and keep working on what you are doing.
If you’ve got a favorite quote, I would love to hear it. You can share it over in our Facebook group or on the show notes as well. You might just find it gets featured in an upcoming show as well. Lastly, don’t forget 31 Days To Build A Better Blog. As this podcast goes live, there’ll be only about five days to go, to get that early bird special of $49. It’s about half-price. Find it at problogger.com/31days. I look forward to seeing you in that Facebook group as well. Thanks for listening today. Chat with you next week in episode 253.
You’ve been listening to ProBlogger. If you’d like to comment on any of today’s topics or subscribe to the series, find us at problogger.com/podcast. Tweet us @problogger. Find us at facebook.com/problogger or search ProBlogger on iTunes.
Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at PodcastMotor, who’ve been editing all of our podcast for some time now. PodcastMotor have a great range of services for podcasters at all levels. They can help you to set up your podcast but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you to edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at podcastmotor.com.
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