Balancing Blogging with a Full Time Job
I started my first blog in 2012, just before graduating from college. As I began my career in finance, I blogged on and off and took arguably more time than I should have to figure out what exactly I wanted to write about and where I wanted to do that writing. Eventually, Sarah Going was born in 2016 (where I write about travel and money). Then I launched this blog in December of 2018 (where I write content for go getters about side hustling, working, blogging, and entrepreneurship).
Why have a full-time job with one blog you struggle to maintain when you can have two blogs, right?
I wanted to subtitle this post “staying sane while getting blog posts done”.
But I’m not entirely sure that I am sane at this point (as evidenced by the fact that I now have TWO BLOGS).
However, I do get blog posts done. The posts themselves aren’t always pretty, and the process sometimes feels like a disorganized mess.
But blog posts get published.
And that, my friends, is the first and most important lesson I have learned about balancing blogging with a full-time job.
Lesson #1: Establish a bias toward writing blog posts.
The internet is full of content about establishing the correct mindset, morning routine, daily rituals, spiritual alignment and motivational energy so that you can do creative work. But this is not a post about those things. This is a post about getting blog posts done.
Because if you aren’t writing blog posts, you aren’t blogging.
I don’t want to imply that your mindset doesn’t matter, because it does. But the problem with blogging (or any creative endeavor in a scenario where you have limited time) is that it is deceivingly easy to procrastinate by doing arguably positive things. If you want to be a blogger, the bias for any free time you can carve out of your schedule has to be execution. Establish a bias toward writing blog posts and you’ll have a strong foundation for blogging with a full-time job.
A related important lesson I’ve learned about blogging over the past few years is that learning by doing is the best way to learn. What this means in practice is that writing blog posts and sharing them is never a waste of your time. Every time you write a post you are practicing content creation, which leads to faster writing and higher quality content. Sharing quality content regularly is at the core of every piece of advice I’ve ever read about how to become a successful blogger.
And on this point at least, the conventional blogging wisdom is right.
Lesson #2. Establish a blogging block in your weekly schedule.
While I have met a few bloggers that don’t enjoy website design, photography, getting an about page, tag line and site description just right, creating media to share on social channels, or strategizing and brainstorming content... most of us do enjoy at least some of these blog-related tasks.
Because we are creatives, and creating stuff is fun.
The problem with these creative blogging tasks is that these tasks are not writing.
They are also time consuming and need to be done, making them the perfect storm when it comes to finding ways to procrastinate on actually writing blog posts.
After much trial and error, I’ve determined a way around this problem that I’m hoping will also work for you: create a block for blogging in your weekly schedule. This is the time you can use each week for all non-writing blog tasks, including content strategy and planning, design, bios, taglines and about pages, and any other fun stuff that prevents you from writing a blog post the entire day even though you're “working on the blog”... been there.
Having a set amount of time for these tasks each week helps to keep them from expanding to fill the space you give them (and as anyone who has ever spent 8 hours trying every single available design template for their website can attest, keeping these tasks on track is easier said than done.)
Since most of these non-writing blog tasks won’t come up every single week, I also use my blogging block for strategizing and planning content. I write down ideas and outlines and try to get a handle on what I want published on each blog the following week. Even if you can’t maintain a formal editorial calendar for your blog due to work and other demands, if you can think ahead about your content for the following week, it will save you time throughout the week that you can spend writing blog posts without worrying about what you should be writing.
Lesson #3. Keep everything else out of your blogging block.
If you are blogging with a full-time job, you are inherently dealing with very limited time to manage your blog. Although this is largely attributable to those 9+ hours a day you spend commuting to your full-time job, doing said job, and commuting back, there is another unfortunate side effect of full-time work that most of us deal with: the limited time you have outside of work becomes very crowded, very quickly.
All the life administration (errands, meal planning, cooking, workouts, time with family and friends, activities and events, housework, yardwork, etc.) is competing with the time that you need to set aside for blogging if you want to be successful.
To make matters more difficult, blogging – along with most creative tasks – doesn't work well with multi-tasking. You have to focus to write posts, and multiple interruptions can make it difficult if not impossible to stay on track.
This is why it is essential define a block of time each week you can dedicate focused time to your blog, so do whatever you need to do to keep other tasks out of that time. Saturday mornings are usually my blogging block, which means that I have had to shift a lot of the life administration tasks that used to dominate my weekends to weeknight evenings (like laundry, housework, errands, and workouts). If something is happening in a given week that will interfere with your blogging block, that’s ok – this is your schedule, so you can move it to another time during that week. Multiple shorter blogging blocks throughout the week may also work better for your schedule, just make sure to contain non-writing tasks to a set time as much as possible.
Then you can write with any other time you can find. Which brings us to...
Lesson #4. Outside your blogging block, get blog posts done.
The primary way that having limited time to write effects content creation (as is the case in a scenario where you are blogging with a full-time job) is that you don’t have the luxury of muses. Or writing zones. Or any other way you want to describe the perfectly clean, quiet, organized office where your mental status is perfectly clear, inspired and energized.
If you want to blog with a full-time job, you need to be writing anywhere and everywhere.
Outside the time you set aside each week for blog design, content planning and strategy, and other non-writing tasks, you should be writing. All of that work during your weekly blogging block is to set up the rest of your week so that you can write: mornings before work, evenings after work, lunch breaks, waiting in doctor’s offices... wherever and whenever it may be, you can pull up your content plan, know what you should be writing, and write.
Get the tools in place that you need to make this a reality. Carry a notebook with you or utilize an application or online word processor (such as Microsoft Word online or Google docs) so that you can always access your posts.
Lesson #5. Work with your natural tendencies for additional productivity.
Although I said up front this isn’t a post about mindset or energy, it is worth acknowledging what you learn about yourself as a blogger after you start blogging regularly... and one of the first things you’ll learn is when you are most productive. You can apply this knowledge to determine when you should do each blog-related task.
As much as I would love to be able to write posts after staring at financial spreadsheets for 10 hours, I’ve learned through years of trial and error that evenings aren’t the best time for me to try to do creative work. I spend that time doing other, less mentally-demanding things so I can free up time that I will actually be able to use writing. I go to the gym after work (where the ability to zone out a bit is arguably a plus), do life administration (because the grocery store at 9:00pm is actually a much better experience than Sunday afternoon), and batch the blog tasks that don’t require a lot of mental bandwidth. For me, these less-demanding blog tasks include designing media on Canva to share on my social channels and scheduling social media content.
A few additional tips
One of the reasons I’ll likely always have a bias toward writing blog posts is because it is the blogging equivalent of a bias toward action... and a bias toward action is essential. As a person who loves strategy and planning, I know exactly how fun it can be to spend an entire day or weekend planning things you want to do on your blog.
But I also know that those days and weekends can easily turn into weeks, months, and even years where you are planning a blog, but not actually blogging.
At some point, you have to take action, even if it isn't perfect.
Because taking action is the best way to learn.
A few additional tips and thoughts that might work for you, depending on what challenges you face while blogging with a full-time job:
1) Limit design changes to once every six months
This is one I’ve used personally, because I love design and can let it prevent me from writing without even noticing. If you also have this problem, limit your blog design changes to once every six months. Whatever template you decide on when you establish your blog... make yourself stick with it no matter what.
2) Batch write then batch edit
After years of taking HOURS to finish a blog post, I realized that one of my problems is that I try to edit what I’m writing as I write it. This leads to a lot of skipping around and can really slow you down if you have a tendency to write long posts (which, as you’ve probably noticed, is a tendency I have).
If you’re having this problem too, try drafting a few posts but don’t let yourself edit them. Just get the words on the page. Later, you can edit the posts. Personally, I’ve noticed that this approach speeds up the writing process considerably, because I’m not reworking every sentence as I go... and it also speeds up the editing process, because I don’t have to rework sections to make them fit within the whole when the whole isn’t even complete yet.
3) Start with the social media platforms you love
Ah, social media... it truly is a blessing and a curse when it comes to blogging. Obviously, you want to share the content you are creating on social media so that you can build your audience. However, the time commitment that social media requires (to build an engaged audience, share quality content and maintain consistency) directly cuts into time you could be using to create content for your blog. While I think that considering the return on your time investment for each social media account is worthwhile, I have also noticed through my own experience that you’ll likely be most successful getting the word out about your content on a social media platform you actually like. So if you know that you don’t have time to build a presence on multiple social media platforms from the very beginning, my suggestion is to start by building a presence you are proud of on the platform you like the most.
4) Build a network of bloggers (in real life if possible)
This has been an idea I’ve been focusing on a lot more lately, because at some level of content creation (like the level where you are trying to manage 2 blogs with a full-time job), having people around who understand what you’re going through is invaluable. Whether you reach out to a blogger online or are able to find someone in your city or through your personal network, it’s fun to have someone to head to a coffeeshop with to get content done and also learn from each other about what is working and what isn’t. If there are no blogger meetups or other bloggers you follow online in your city that you are able to reach out to, then say hi to me on social media sometime.
It’s always great to connect with other people in this insane blogging with a full-time job boat.
Are you considering or currently blogging with a full-time job? What tips, tricks or ideas do you have for getting posts done? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!