Why I love writing and technology…

…because done well, both can inspire people to act.

Whether it’s laughter or tears, love or hate, making a purchase or revolting against a government – both can provide amazing tools to inspire and encourage.

It’s how I ended up combining writing and marketing.

And it’s why I don’t dream about one day turning this business into an ‘SEO’ agency. Or a ‘social media’ agency.

I dream growing this business into something larger which is known for being able to enable change and action both internally and externally.

And it’s why I also think a lot about how that looks in terms of structure and recruitment.

And both of those issues are likely to become increasingly important this year, so if that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in, please do get in touch. Location won’t be important, but the right ideas will…

Still here – 6 years of blogging and 4 years of data…

Although I started publicly blogging at TheWayoftheWeb on a blogspot account back in 2006, it was only in 2008 that I switched to WordPress and installed my current Google Analytics account, so May 1 is kind of an anniversary. Technically I really started blogging back in about 1999 with a Homestead website, but that didn’t progress further than some horrific design decisions and a couple of extremely half-hearted business ideas, such as a database of pub reviews (I still occasionally wonder how much revenue the likes of FancyAPint make!)

Either way I’ve constantly veered between writing about marketing and journalism, with the occasional posts about blogging and more personal topics. I’ve invested about $300 in the site over the years, including domains, hosting and themes, and I’ve apparently published 1,299 posts, so an average of 20 per month.

And in the last 4 years, that’s brought me over 113,000 visits, almost 100,000 visitors (Should happen in May), and 157,041 pageviews.

It’s also resulted in about $30 in advertising revenue during the period I experimented with ads on here, and about 3 times as much in affiliate revenue.

So you may think reaching 100,000 for around $180 and a lot of time wasn’t the best way to spend my time?

 

The real value of this site:

But that’s ignoring the real value that this site has given me and continues to deliver:

  • Leads for my digital content and marketing business – I don’t need to reach a million people, if I reach 20 or 30 that want to hire TheWayoftheWeb to provide content, marketing or training.
  • It keeps me writing – If there’s a time when I’m focused on other work, this place is the one where I can write whatever I like, whenever I like, although as it’s the only form of marketing for my business, I’m probably doing that slightly less now!
  • It’s entirely mine – All the content is mine, all the data is mine, and I set the rules regarding privacy. 2 minutes of tweaking domain settings and I can move it wherever I want, whenever I want.
  • It’s helped meetings – Surprisingly often I’ve been in meetings where clients or agencies etc have seen my blog and have even occasionally mentioned a post or brought a printed copy along to discuss a particular point.
  • It gets me referenced – Not only does it provide proof of my identity to the likes of Google+, but it’s also been linked to from the likes of The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal.

 

Blogging dying?

In the time I’ve been blogging, it’s been pronounced dead at least 3 or 4 times, and the latest eulogies are probably the strongest yet with numerous studies suggesting corporate blogging in particular is fading fast.

And personally I think that’s great – because the more my competitors and my client’s competitors ignore the benefits of regularly publishing fresh and quality content on their own domains, the easier it is for me to succeed.

I’ve seen client sites grow massively over the last 12 months. And I’ve seen some of my own sites which are more focused and targeted on mass audiences go from a couple of thousand readers per month to 70 or 80,000 per month.

So although I share some of the fears that others have written about regarding the future of the open web ( For example, see John Naughton and Brendan Cooper in the last couple of days), there’s still a lot of success to be had before the opportunities may start to close.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to take advantage of them right now.

 

Oh, and in case you’re interested, here are the 10 most popular posts so far:

  1. The best webcam-based augmented reality application
  2. 2012 – The year of 3d printing?
  3. Has Microsoft made a major marketing mistake?
  4. The best G1 application, augmented reality and Moore’s Law
  5. Solving Feedburner Feedsmith problems with WordPress 2.9
  6. The best social games on any platform
  7. Problems embedding Youtube videos in WordPress
  8. Augmented Reality needs to jump the shark
  9. Breaking the habit of broadcast media
  10. How the traditional world punishes social media

On stage for Jigoshop…

I recently popped along to the WordPress London Meetup on behalf of my client, Jigoshop, who provide a free, open-source WordPress eCommerce platform.

As part of a double act with Lead Developer Robert Rhoades, I attempted to explain a little about how Jigoshop operates as a business based on a free download, open source code, and working with the WordPress community, whilst Rob explained some of the tips for working with the software as a designer or developer.

Here’s the presentation – I attempted to go for extra open source kudos points by using Open Office Impress, which then got merged with Rob’s Mac-based slides via Google Docs, causing all sorts of formatting fun. Thankfully neither of us is responsible for design!

And as a bonus, it turns out that the presentations were being captured on video. So if you’d like to watch the slides accompanied by our mumblings, you can watch it here.

I’m also available to talk about technology, wordpress, marketing and digital content for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and christenings – you can contact me here!

My New Years Obsessions for 2012

The most positive way to describe my life in 2011 would probably be ‘interesting’. Along with every high, such as celebrating my first year in business, there have been a number of lows, particularly when it has come to family life. So the coming of a new year is a welcome fresh start, and rather than partying to celebrate midnight, I’m choosing to focus on how I start 2012 tomorrow morning when I wake up.

And rather than setting out a list of resolutions, a term which seems almost invented to accommodate them being broken, I’m thinking about my obsessions for the next year – things which will continue to drive me forwards no matter what happens.

The Business obsession: Building businesses which enable others to gain control of their employment.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to achieve work-wise. Obviously I’ll always be working towards greater financial security, as I suspect you will, too. And within my portfolio career in marketing, writing, teaching and other stuff, there are areas that I feel driven to concentrate on and expand.

But when I imagine success, I’ve realised a key motivation is that I know many, many people who are incredibly talented and skilled, and feel disillusioned with their current employment. So if I’m able to grow my business and can help other people become empowered to choose their own destiny in their professional life, that appeals far more to me than managing people in an office who are just paid to turn up every day.

So the plan for 2012 is to increase the turnover for my career, and get to the stage where I’m able to employ and empower at least a couple of those people on a regular basis by the end of the year, whether that’s in an existing project or something new.

The best way to achieve any plan is to break it down into smaller steps, which include improving what I produce for my own websites and the way I work, continuing to always do the best possible work for clients, and also making more of opportunities elsewhere.

The personal obsession: Building better connections with family, friends and strangers

Despite doing a reasonable job of keeping in touch with my friends and family via social networks, I’ve been a bit rubbish at actually catching up in the real world, and I’m obsessed with changing that in 2012. Not only do I need to keep working on being the best dad I can, I also intend to try to be a better son/grandson and friend to all the people who have supported and helped me over the years. It’s incredibly important that all of us make time for the people we care about, and it always benefits us as much, if not more, than it does the people we’re visiting/helping/supporting.

And by the same token, since being based more at home and outside of London, I’ve been rubbish at catching up with people I know well electronically, but failed to connect with in the real world. There are several people I haven’t seen in ages, and several more that I keep aiming to meet but fail to arrange it. And each one of them is inspirational in some way.

I have a sneaky suspicion that actually getting my social life together offline will also drastically help my creativity and business – I’ve already benefitted immensely from the clients with whom I regularly work in the office as well as virtually, from Digital People in Peterborough meets, and from the chats and conversations I’ve managed to make time for in 2011.

Again, I’m breaking it into smaller steps, by making lists of the people who I want to make time for, and sorting out my calendar in a more organised fashion.

 

How you can help…

No one achieves all their obsessions completely alone, and I’m going to take this opportunity to ask you for a tiny bit of help. Whether or not we’ve met before or chatted online, if you’d like to meet up for a drink or a chat, let me know. And if I don’t come back straight away with a date or time, then keep reminding me. Because I definitely want to meet up with you (if you’re not going to be in the UK at some point, then Skype works!) And this isn’t about me trying to sell your my services as a prospective client – it’s purely because there’s nothing more interesting to me than finding out about what you’re doing and what your passions are. And the fact you’re reading this means that you’re part of a self-selecting group that are guaranteed to be interesting – after all, you’re reading my blog aren’t you?

The only thing to know to save some confusion are that even if we’re meeting for ‘coffee’, I don’t actually drink the stuff, but mainline caffeine from soft drinks (I do, however, drink beer).

Here’s to a great 2012 for everyone, and I can’t wait to meet up with more of you this year.

Self-employment – the first anniversary

It’s strange to think that it’s exactly a year since I became self-employed, considering that it’s almost hard to remember what it was like working for a full-time employer. Luckily the fact that it coincided with my father’s birthday is a handy reminder that 365 days ago I started working on my dining room table with an old laptop running Ubuntu, a notepad, and the idea that if I could survive for a year on my own I’d consider it a massive success.

And yet here I am at the same table, albeit on a much newer laptop.

Lessons from self-employment:

One of the best things about working for myself has been the massive learning curve which shows no sign of slowing down. Suddenly I became responsible for invoicing, accounts, new business, and everything else, rather than ‘just’ marketing or writing articles, and that definitely took a while to get to grips with. I’ve still got a way to go, but I’ve managed to get comfortable with invoices and tax forms, with a combination of asking advice and finding some decent tools to help manage things.

It’s also been a massive confidence boost to not only be able to get a business going by myself, but to actually survive and reach the stage where my earnings are slightly more than I was able to get in full-time employment. My financial situation, a young family and the start of the recession were all reasons not to go it alone, and I don’t have much disposable income even now, but I’ve actually been able to start reducing some debts which has been great, despite the need to buy a new car midway through the year. And it’s been amazing to not only attract some clients from contacts I’ve known over the years, but also gain new business through new referrals and sources – the fact that it’s all purely coming from my own efforts and from people who respect my abilities enough to recommend me is incredibly empowering, and it makes me more determined than ever to do the very best job I can for every single client.

And it’s been a strange experience working in a variety of industry verticals, from food and catering to mobile applications and software, with all sorts in between. My work combines all areas of content strategy and digital marketing, and my clients not only span a variety of industries, but also a range of knowledge and existing ability, so there hasn’t been a day that hasn’t had something different to offer. And having recently started doing more formal training and tutoring both under my own banner and for a respected training organisation has been a great experience and has helped me evaluate my own knowledge and particularly my communication skills in person.

But probably the biggest lesson has been in thinking about the future. I recently admitted to a couple of people that if everything stayed exactly the same for the next 40 years, I’d be pretty happy with my life – I’m getting to spend time with my son, work with cool clients, and spend some time on my own projects. But I’ve also been thinking about expansion and agency models, and wondering what would make the most sense. What I’ve realised is that I know a number of people who are intelligent and talented, and claim to be fed-up in their current roles – so maybe there’s a way I can work with them and help them to break free and pursue their dreams in a virtual agency capacity? It’s something I’ve definitely going to be investigating in the near future.

The massive list of people to thank:

I can’t even begin to list all the people who have helped and supported me, whether it’s been my family, including those who stood to risk the most if I couldn’t pay the mortgage or put food on the table, or friends and colleagues who have offered referrals and client leads. Then there is a list of great clients, including those I’ve worked with directly, and those who I’ve helped whilst sub-contracting for other organisations.

There’s a huge number of people who have shared tips and advice, including creative coaches, business people, accountants, marketing experts, advertising people, writers, etc. And an equally huge number who have inspired me in some way, whether it’s by following their own adventures, or by their approach to life.

It’s pretty much guaranteed that a list of names would leave so many people unaccounted for, so basically if we’ve spoken, emailed, tweeted, exchanged messages via Facebook, or you’ve linked to me or shared one of my articles, and you think you might be on the list – you are!

The future:

One of the most interesting things about becoming self-employed is that I’ve experienced the frustration of having ideas buried within large organisations, or letting them gather dust because I didn’t have the confidence to go off and do them myself.

That’s changed forever, in a process which started 5 or 6 years ago when I first registered on Blogger and began writing under a pseudonym. That eventually became this site after a couple of false starts, and the transition to WordPress (which I again timed to be memorable – timing it with my son’s birthday).

At the same time, alongside my client work, I’ve had time to start a small group of sites (OnlineRaceDriver, FPSPrestige, ResCogs) which are growing steadily and gaining a reasonable audience thanks to help from a great group of contributors – Cheers to Kalps, Tom, Thomas, Don, etc. And also thanks to the PR and Marketing people from various game developers and associated companies who have started to support us with kit to review, competitions to run etc.

And I’ve been able to start a small experiment in website design and development which is still taking shape in many ways, but has already delivered some clients and is starting to deliver more, thanks to the input of Jonathan and two Matt’s.

I think I’ve now finally started to find the balance between feeling unable to pursue ideas, and trying to launch all of them at once, and the next year should see a more focused expansion of what works, and some changes to what doesn’t. And hopefully the ideas I don’t feel able to pursue can be shared with the right people and help them find more success.

So thanks, cheers, and I can’t imagine what will happen over the next 12 months, but I do know I’m looking forward to every single day…

 

Dan

The digital world keeps spinning faster…

At the start of the year I’d planned to maintain something close to daily updates, but things have slipped somewhat. Much like a Hollywood blockbuster, months of background work are hidden before the launches and partying begins, and as the past couple of weeks have got increasingly busy, it’s necessitated a lot of background work which has been taking up plenty of time…

NoStoppingbyGregHickmanonFlickr

'No Stopping, No Standing, No Parking At Any Time' by Greg Hickman (CC Licence)

Probably the best analogy is if I said I’m essentially ‘speed stacking‘ work and projects at the moment. I’m continuing to work with a number of clients, and most of their projects and campaigns are now coming online, so there’s a constant process of monitoring, reporting and evolving which has had the gratifying effect of showing that things are starting to work pretty quickly.

I’ve also gained a couple of new clients, including a significant amount of work this month, which I’m absolutely loving, but has meant that I’m cramming as much as possible into my time.

Then there’s great news that I’m likely to be teaching some courses with PMA Media Training in addition to offering my tuition independently. Having had the pleasure of taking a 6-week course with them when I was starting my career as a journalist, I’m really honoured that they’ve asked me to get involved…

I’ve also finally started fulfilling my promises to various people to write some articles for them. And there was another #DPiP meeting to head along to.

And then there are my personal projects – OnlineRaceDriver.com has broken a new site record, with over 6,000 users this month, and I’m now working on building the community side with a crack team of volunteers, whilst also looking to do something similar on FPSPrestige.

I’ve also been speaking to a couple of people about evolving the future of the business, and in addition, a new business project is just about to see the light of day, and has already had some interest from a couple of people.

The big things happen in the background:

All of this hasn’t meant that I’ve cut down on utilising all the advantages of social media and social networking. In fact, I’ve been relying on them more than ever – just not publicly.

I’ve been emailing constantly – and some of the most interesting recent developments have come from a quick email to people I’d be meaning to contact. I’ve been spending most of my time on Facebook and Twitter sending private and direct messages to marshal various efforts and make business decisions without having to play phone tennis.

I’ve been sharing Google Docs, creating presentations, and sorting out email addresses. I’ve been analysing analytics, crafting copy, and building business plans.

And it’s reminded me exactly why I use so many digital tools – it’s not the fact that I like cool technology (although that helps), but the fact that they can enable to me to do the things I desperately need to accomplish, with people around the globe, with the minimum of hassle and inconvenience…

The evolution of TheWayoftheWeb

If you’re reading this on the blog rather than as an RSS feed, you may well have already spotted the design of the site has changed somewhat.

There’s a few reasons for the evolution, but the main one is that I’m currently supporting myself (and my family) through freelancing for a number of clients, and therefore it made sense to link up my main presence on the internet to the freelance services I offer.

Plus I was never really happy with the Cutline theme I’d been using – the theme itself is fairly old and isn’t really being developed any more. Plus the design itself seemed to encourage me to overload both sidebars with far too much junk.

It’s part of a conscious effort to re-evaluate everything I’ve been doing and working on to ensure I’m devoting my efforts to the right things and in the right order, which at the moment is:

  • Ensuring my freelance clients get the best possible service.
  • Everything else, including my personal business projects….

It’s very much a work in progress, so expect things to keep changing as time goes by – particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Some sites will be mothballed, some projects will either be finished or ditched, and I’m slimming down some of my other commitments, or looking at ways to evolve them fairly quickly.

With that in mind, it’s probably a good time to get in touch if you need work in the near future, have any interesting opportunities that you feel I might be interested in, or might be interested in buying the 140Char domain…