For me, the biggest challenge of full-time blogging is one which I think probably applies to any type of self-employment: how will you keep things ticking over if you need to take some time off?
With the holiday season in full swing, this is something a lot of bloggers are probably considering right now, but it’s also a question that comes up at other times of year too: when you’re on vacation, for instance, or just need a break for health, family or other reasons.
WHY BOTHER UPDATING YOUR BLOG AT ALL DURING HOLIDAYS AND OTHER BLOG BREAKS?
The first question people tend to ask me any time I mention preparing my blog for some time off is always, why even bother? “For goodness sake,” they say, ” It’s Christmas/vacation-time/you’re sick: just take some time off and forget about your stupid blog!”
It’s definitely true that, for some blogs, taking time off is more of an issue than it is for others. Because of the very personal nature of this blog, for instance, it’s much easier for me to be able to hold my hands up and say, “Guys, I won’t be around for the next few days.” Honestly, I doubt most people would even notice (I’ve mentioned before that it would feel really big-headed of me to start apologising for not posting, as if you’re all just sitting there biting your nails, and waiting for the next installment in my bathroom saga or whatever…), and if they did, like I said, it’s a personal blog: my readers feel more like friends than anything else (Or maybe I just have particularly awesome readers?), so if they know I’m not well, or on vacation, or whatever, they’re more likely to scold me FOR posting, than for taking some time off.
Reader pressure isn’t the only reason you might want to keep up some kind of posting schedule over a break, though. For some blogs – especially monetised ones – revenue is directly linked to pageviews, which are directly linked to your posting schedule – so you make more money on days when you publish a new post.
ShoeperWoman, for instance, falls into this category: I can’t just “take a break” without planning for it in advance – that would be like someone in a conventional job just not bothering to turn up for a couple of weeks, but still expecting to get paid, and for their job to still be waiting for them when they got back. It’s not going to happen, and in addition to the loss of income, I’d also expect to lose some readers, too – either because they unsubscribed, on the assumption the blog was “dead”, or because they just got out of the habit of checking for new updates. I’ve said it before, but (in my experience) regular content is one of the most important things for a blog, and lack of it is one of the main reasons blogs fail.
With all of that said, I think the first thing you have to do if you need to take a blog break is this:
WORK OUT JUST HOW MUCH CONTENT YOUR BLOG NEEDS TO KEEP TICKING OVER
I could be wrong, but I have a suspicion that there are a lot of bloggers out there forcing themselves to stick to a rigid posting schedule – and to continue with that during holidays etc – when there’s really no need to. Many bloggers assume they HAVE to stick to these schedules they’ve set for themselves, and in a lot of cases that pressure is entirely self-imposed, and isn’t backed up by any evidence that their blog will suffer if they drop the ball.
That, of course, is one of the fastest routes to blogger burnout, so, if you’re blogging full time, one of the most important things you should do (and you should do this anyway, not just when you’re planning a break) is to establish exactly how much content your blog REALLY needs in order to maintain your traffic/revenue/subscribers/whatever else is important to you. You could be surprised by the answers to this: you might find that switching your schedule from every day to every second day, say, won’t actually make any difference at all to the figures – and making that change could give you the opportunity to produce better content, or work on other projects.
On the other hand, it might make a significant difference – the point is, you won’t know unless you try. Producing daily content can feel a bit like being on a treadmill you can’t ever switch off – trust one who knows – so doing it when there’s no real need is pretty silly, really. Of course, the only way you can know for sure what works for your blog and what doesn’t, is through trial and error. No two blogs are the same, and while it might seem a bit scary to suddenly change a schedule you’ve stuck to for months or years, the information you’ll get from experimenting a little will be invaluable in the long-run.
ADAPTING YOUR POST SCHEDULE FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Once you know what kind of posting schedule works for your blog in general, you can pretty much throw it out of the window during national holidays, because these are times of year when your traffic will change regardless of how often you post, or what you post about.
I should say here that this might just be my experience, but I find that traffic to all of my blogs will dip significantly during times when the majority of the country is on holiday. Christmas day, for instance, is always the lowest traffic day of the year for me, regardless of whether I publish a new post or not, and I’ll see a reduction in traffic for the week or so on either side of Christmas, too.
The first few weeks in December, by contrast, are some of the busiest traffic weeks of the year: people are looking for party outfit inspiration, or Christmas gift ideas, so the internet in general sees a surge of activity, which then dies down as businesses close for the holidays, and people switch into ‘holiday mode’. At that point, there’s a feeling of normal service being suspended: people aren’t at work, and are out of their usual routines – they’re not reading blogs, so there’s not much point in bloggers continuing to produce content that will be largely ignored.
Having seen this pattern repeat over the course of a few years, I now don’t post at all on any of my blogs for a few days before and after Christmas. I always put up a holiday message explaining that I’m taking time off, and if something came up that I felt I HAD to post about, I would, but for the most part, it’s radio silence – and it really doesn’t matter.
In the run-up to Christmas, and in the week between Christmas and New Year, meanwhile, my posting schedule will, again, be slightly different, as will the content itself. As I said in this post, December is a super-busy month for us, and it’s really difficult to find time to post. I need to take time off, and luckily, so do many of my readers, which allows me to lighten the post load, so to speak.
The same situation applies to other national holidays, and, in my case, it applies to US holidays, too. Although I’m based in the UK, a lot of my visitors are in America, so I see a reduction in traffic around Thanksgiving, Labor Day, and 4th of July weekend. I normally DO continue to post at those times, because my non-American readers are still around, but if I did need some time off, American holidays are a good time to take it, because my traffic is lower then, anyway.
WHAT TYPE OF CONTENT SHOULD YOU POST DURING THE HOLIDAYS?
If you do want to continue blogging during national holidays, my advice is to not “waste” your best content on times when very few people will be around to read it. At Christmas time, for instance, I’ll often publish yearly roundups, or other ‘lightweight’ posts that make use of the older content in the archive, as opposed to continuing with the same kind of posts I publish during the rest of the year. Not only are those posts much quicker to put together (they don’t require outfit shots or other photography, for one thing!) they can also be a good way to showcase some of your best content, and introduce new readers to posts they might have missed.
I’m not saying here that you should only publish “filler” during these busier times of year, but if there’s a post which is particularly important to you, and which you’re hoping will do well, I’d suggest saving it for after the holidays, rather than publishing it on Christmas Eve, say, when it’s likely to just sink without trace. Readers will sometimes go back over old posts to see what they’ve missed during a holiday, but they’re less likely to comment on or share those posts, and it can be quite disheartening to publish something from the heart, or a post you spent a lot of time on, and see only tumbleweeds in return.
REMEMBER EVERY BLOG IS DIFFERENT
I should probably just start every one of my posts on blogging, but it goes without saying that every blog – and ever blogger – is different. The observations above are mostly aimed at people who are blogging for commercial reasons, but if your blog is mostly a hobby, they might not apply to you. While the holiday season can mean a reduction in visitors, which means there are fewer people around to read your posts, conversely, there are often more things to blog about than usual.
Christmas gifts, holiday parties, more interesting outfits than usual… there’s a good chance you’ll spend the holiday season bursting with ideas for posts, and while you could just save them for after the holidays, when they’ll be seen by more people, you might not want to wait. The problem is that, by January, people can be a little tired of Christmas: they’ve been reading posts about it for weeks by that point, so they may not want to read even MORE. Generally, January is a time when people start to think about other things (health and fitness posts go down well, then, as New Year’s Resolutions are made!), and it might seem a bit odd to be posting your Christmas day outfit in the middle of January.
It’s also important to remember that while every blog is different, every blog reader is different, too. Not all cultures celebrate Christmas, obviously, and those who do, don’t all celebrate in exactly the same way. If a large part of your audience is continuing with business as normal over the holiday season, they might really appreciate having something to read, so if it works for you/them to keep your site running over the holidays, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you.
This site, for instance, may be my “job” (or part of it, anyway…), but it started out as a hobby, and it still feels like that. I genuinely love writing the type of content I post here, and I don’t STOP enjoying it just because I’m on vacation, say. So although I don’t write any posts for my other sites if I’m on holiday (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy writing for those, too, but they do feel much more like “work” to me), I will occasionally pop in here with an outfit post, or some holiday snaps.
In my case, it’s much easier to take outfit photos if I’m somewhere warm, wearing the clothes I want to wear (as opposed to the ones I HAVE to wear because of the cold), and it doesn’t take me long to put up a few photos. I don’t stick to a schedule, of course, and I wouldn’t sit down and write a blog tips post, or a product review, say, because that would take up too much of my vacation time, but there’s always an hour or so of downtime here or there, so if I feel like posting something, I will. I sometimes get vaguely snarky comments about that, from people telling me how RIDICULOUS it is of me to be blogging when I “should” be relaxing, but everyone relaxes in different ways, and if you like to relax by writing something for your blog, why not?
How do you handle blogging over the holidays?