Has it been a while since you learned a new skill?
For me, blogging is a new skill that I’ve been learning by doing for nearly a year.
Why I did it and how I did it might help you decide to try something new for yourself!
I started my retirement blog in July 2014. A friend suggested that I use LinkedIn as a way to promote my blog to more readers.
So I joined a LinkedIn blogging group. I met a lot of interesting people through the group and learned things from them about improving my retirement blog.
Then Matt Kaboomis Loomis invited me to write a guest post that told my story. So here it is.
I am a Baby Boomer born in the very first year of that era – 1946. As part of the Baby Boomer front line, I have seen a lot of change during my lifetime. There’s been a lot of resistance to change from my parents’ generation.
When I was in high school, I saw that only a few professions were open to women: nursing, elementary school teaching, and secretarial work. Most girls in my school expected to do as their mothers had done, and stay home and raise children.
But some of us wanted more. So we went to college and vocational school and butted heads with the Establishment who tried to keep us penned up in the corrals of the past.
I became a teacher, but I taught college instead of kindergarten. My undergraduate degree was in a nontraditional profession: mass communications. Unfortunately, after graduation I could not get a job in radio, TV, or film-making (except as a typist) because these industries weren’t open to women in 1968.
So I went to graduate school and became a college professor. I retired from that career at age 58.
After my retirement from university teaching, I became a newspaper reporter. I worked freelance at that for 10 years, until one of my clients sold his newspapers, and another laid me off and took over my beat for herself.
So why write a blog?
Last year, I decided to write a blog because I needed an outlet for my writing. I was used to writing almost every day as a freelance news reporter. But when most of my freelance assignments ended in June 2014, I was left with little to do.
My daughter suggested that I write a blog about things I cared about: women’s issues, the environment, and retirement itself. So I decided to try it.
I knew nothing about blogging. After a few hours of Googling about the process, I found that Matthew Kaboomis Loomis’ website, BuildYourOwnBlog.net, would teach me what I needed to learn, step by step.
So I took the plunge.
How do you go about creating a blog?
I won’t sugarcoat it for you: there is a LOT to learn about writing a blog online. Especially for seniors like me who had no prior experience with the web except for email, word processing, and online research.
Matt ‘s blog instructions told me that first I had to pick a domain name. What the heck is a “domain”? Well, I found out, and then I tried out several names until I found one I liked: “thingscouldbeworse”.
My domain name was meant to be a commentary on my life. The .com and .net suffixes of my domain name were already in use. So I created a .org domain and registered it.
Then I had to find a web host. I chose iPage. I used a credit card to pay for a year’s hosting, plus website backup service.
Next, I had to choose a website creation tool. Knowing nothing, I chose WordPress since Matt recommended it. And then I continued my journey through the rest of Matthew’s 8 steps for building a blog.
It was incredibly difficult for me to figure out all the user names, passwords, control panels, dashboards, settings, widgets, image placement, and other minutia that I needed for a website business, but after a couple of weeks, I began to get comfortable with these new concepts. I’m sure I drove the iPage tech support staff crazy during that time with my constant phone calls and chat room visits.
There were many times during the first two months of blogging when I almost gave up, because the extent of the new vocabulary and new concepts was overwhelming to me.
Online articles about blogging, marketing, monetization, and other aspects of web work used tons of jargon that I didn’t understand. But I kept on going.
I wrote my first few blog posts just by feeling my way along, and asked my Gen-X daughter and her friends to read them and give me feedback. That was helpful.
What does a person write about in a retirement blog?
My retirement blog was brand new. I had no customers, no clients, and almost no readership at all. I wrote blog posts about things that were of concern to me and to other retirees and sent them out into the blogosphere.
I figured that if I cared about an issue, then probably other people did too, and it was just a matter of finding them and then I would have an audience.
That was a little bit naïve, but it was how I started out.
I write in my blog about retirement issues, women’s issues, and environmental issues because I see connections among them. I planned to write about 1/3 of my blog posts on each of the three broad topics.
On retirement: I was utterly unprepared for the reality of retirement. No one had explained to me that I would feel a loss of identity when I left my teaching career, that I would find myself incredibly lonely without my colleagues to give me a social life, and that I would have to be concerned with money almost constantly.
To save other people from being as unprepared, I write about these retirement issues in some of my posts. I try to get people to see that they need to start early to plan how they will spend the 20 to 25 years of life that almost all of us have in retirement.
Yes, that’s right: 20 to 25 years of retirement.
On women’s issues: I have been working to get equality for women since I was 14. As a young teenager in the early 1960s, I thought it was unfair that boys could wear pants to school, but girls had to wear skirts of a certain length and style – never pants. And NO ONE was allowed to wear jeans.
It also made no sense to me that girls who barely knew each other had to shower together nude after gym class. It made no sense to me that girls had to enroll in home economics while boys could take woodworking or auto mechanics courses in junior high and high school. Girls were taught typing and shorthand, while boys were taught accounting and the basics of business.
And so on.
Until the women’s movement began to gain traction and publicity in the early 1970s, “real issues” (like the right for a woman to get credit in her own name, be admitted to law schools and medical schools, keep her name when she married, get equal pay for equal work, and enter professions that were previously closed to women) were not taken seriously by the male establishment who ran Western countries.
I campaigned for these issues during my working life in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Many of them remain unresolved today. And so I include them in my blog at times.
Women’s issues connect with retirement issues. Since women are paid less than men (about 79 cents for every $1.00 a man earns), when women retire, they have less money in their Social Security accounts and retirement accounts than men do. Thus, they receive lower Social Security payments and generally have less money in their 401K or 403B accounts than men do. So women’s standards of living drop when they retire.
In addition, about 7 out of 10 women will find themselves alone during their retirement years, due to the death of their spouse or partner, divorce, or the choice to be single. Being alone and without a job lead to loneliness and social isolation – big problems for retirees.
On the environment: I have volunteered in environmental conservation for more than 20 years.
- I participated in the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
- In the 1970s, I joined nationwide organizations like the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Federation, and Defenders of Wildlife.
- In the 1980s, I took part in neighborhood clean-up activities.
- In the 1990s, I joined a local land trust group.
- In 2003, I was part of the organizing committee for a statewide energy efficiency group. I’m still a member of the steering committee of this group.
- In 2007, I was hired as an ongoing consultant by a state agency that uses retirees to help local governments and businesses to reduce their energy usage.
So I have quite a bit of experience in environmental matters, and I like to share my experience through my blog. I’ve written posts about recycling, personal responsibility, the place of birds in the earth’s ecosystem, minimalism, and gardening.
Environmental issues connect to retirement issues when retirees reduce their expenses and their consumerism by shopping at garage sales, buying clothes at Goodwill, sharing equipment with neighbors, and bartering. Using fewer resources means reducing one’s impact on the planet.
Environmental issues connect with retirement issues when retirees move to smaller housing, use less energy for heating and cooling, stop commuting to work, and drive energy efficient cars.
Do you make money from writing a blog?
Some people do and some don’t. Right now, I don’t.
Making money from blogging (called “monetizing a blog”) is possible after a blogger develops a large enough readership, acquires some influence in a topic area, or succeeds in selling goods or services connected with the blog.
I have not reached critical mass in any of those three factors, so I’m not making any money from my retirement blog.
But I hope to eventually. I’d like to market my services as a writer, editor, communication skills trainer, and retirement speaker. To make any of these options possible, I have to keep working on my blog to increase my audience and build trust.
How do you market a blog?
I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about that issue – marketing.
So far, I’ve followed the recommendations of established bloggers in the field of internet content marketing: read the blogs of others in my topic area, comment on those blogs, make contact with people who are influential in my topic area and in internet marketing, do favors for those you know and trust, join online forums and discussion groups, be active on social media, be friendly and humble, write really good blog posts in forms that follow content marketing principles, and improve my “profiles” on all the social media that I use.
In the last few months, I’ve quadrupled my “followers” on Twitter and my blog readership, but I still have a long way to go.
When you start from zero, getting to be ranked on Google is difficult, but lots of people have done it, so I believe that I can too. Eventually.
What is my blog niche?
When I began writing my blog, I planned to aim it at women over 60 – the prime area of the Baby Boomer demographic (which is the largest demographic in the U.S. population).
Right now, according to Google Analytics, 83% of my readers are age 54 and up. My readers are 74% women and 26% men.
The average length of time that readers stay on my website is 1.33 minutes. That means that people aren’t clicking away from the site the moment they reach it, but are staying to read some or all of the post that they chose.
My readers are coming from primarily from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a senior website called “As Time Goes By.”
So I conclude that my blog is reaching the audience that I wanted, and that readers are staying for a short time.
But there are too few readers!
I need to find ways to reach computer-literate women age 54 and up in greater volume than I am presently doing.
What benefits do I get from blogging?
Well so far, in 11 months of blogging, I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary and gained understanding of some aspects of social media. I’ve met at least a dozen new friends online. I’ve helped publicize the blogs of three of these friends, and have helped one of them by editing two of her blog posts. I’ve received help and advice from four of these online friends.
I’ve given myself a new reason for writing and studying three hours a day, five days a week. My enthusiasm for life has increased. I’ve found a new way to help others by explaining hidden aspects of retirement.
I’m optimistic about the future of my blog as a platform that will help me identify potential clients for my writing and editing services, retirement speaking engagements, and communication skills training gigs.
For me, blogging is definitely worth it!
Dr. Rin Porter is a retired communications professor and former print journalist. On her blog Things Could Be Worse, she writes about issues that affect the soon-to-be retired, along with occasional posts on women’s issues and environmental concerns. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google Plus.