Sam Holstein

I Quit Pro Blogging Because I Did Not Want to Be a Product Anymore

I Quit Pro Blogging Because I Did Not Want to Be a Product Anymore

I quit being a full-time blogger a few months ago, primarily because I wasn’t making any money at it. I was sick of being poor. But I could have been a rich blogger if I’d been a different sort of person.

Many people will tell you it’s just too difficult to make money as a full-time blogger because of all the other competitors or market forces. That may be the case for some people, but that wasn’t my problem. Market forces were in my favor, and from a business point of view, it would have been easy for me to parlay my audience into a six-figure income. My problem was that I wasn’t willing to do what it took.

Any successful entrepreneur knows that to have a successful business, you need to do something called “productizing.” That’s what it’s called when you get a good feel for what your market wants, and you get good at delivering what they want, the same way, every time. Companies that are extremely good at productizing include:

Productizing is key to having a successful small business. But when your product is your self, things get hairy.

Products are predictable. They’re designed to serve a customer reliably in some way. They continue to sell well as long as they serve that purpose for their customer.

Bloggers who make a lot of money have productized their selves. A great example is Neil Patel. I’ve been working with online businesses for over ten years now, and in all that time, Neil Patel has had the same online brand. He’s certainly gotten better at his game, but he hasn’t changed games.

Maybe this works for some people, like Patel, who have one overriding passion in life and will go to their grave happy to have spent large parts of their emotional existence on one thing. But I’m not like that. The pursuit of wisdom and new ideas is my single favorite thing about life. To enjoy that, I need the flexibility to shed even my most deeply-held beliefs — indeed, I need to be careful to hold no belief too close to my heart lest I become emotionally entangled and unable to think clearly.

After several years of blogging, I found this mental orientation to be fundamentally incompatible with building a business as a lifestyle blogger.

Lifestyle bloggers must pick a niche to earn big bucks. This is just the truth. You can earn full-time money without a niche, but you can’t earn work-in-my-underpants-in-the-Bahamas-money without a niche. (At least, not reliably. I know there are exceptions, but one can’t make a life plan on the assumption they’re the special exception to things.)

But the act of spending 20+ hours a week maintaining a blog with your own face and name all over it, and then combining that into a niche, locks you into more cognitive bias than a marital contract. If you want to ensure you’ll feel the same way about something now as you will fifty years from now, I’m telling you, start a blog.

You may be able to observe this effect in real time. How many bloggers have you followed who have never publicly changed their viewpoints? Even five, ten, or twenty years later? Hell, the entire genre ‘political commentator’ exists for people to bleat about their unchanging views ad nauseum.

I didn’t want to become a product, a talking head on Medium and Teachable who preached about personal productivity and the evils of social media forever. I’m proud of what I’ve written in the past, but what will always be more important to me than money or reputation is continuing to grow wiser and more educated as a person. It became clear to me that pro blogging was standing directly in the way of that goal.

And now that my income is not on the line, I’m free to do something that is considered bad writing — I’m free to hedge. So here it goes: There’s a strong possibility I’m wrong. Or have mistaken cause for effect, or committed some other cognitive blunder. It’s not as if I’ve read every blogger in the world. If there are bloggers you follow who break this mold, please, drop a link in the comments section and let me know. One of the greatest joys in life is learning something new.