Is Blogging The New Volunteer Work?



blogging the new volunteerIs it? Let’s think about it. If you are blogging to bring in business and not one client can be traced back to the blog, then, you are in essence volunteering to throw out your expertise for people to read and implement and never ever give you a dime. Heck most will not even give you a hat tip of a share. This is similar to what Carol Roth talks about this in her book The Entrepreneur Equation (which is fabulous) where she calls a business that is not making any money a jobby (job hobby). Let’s look at this from just blogging as you can have a business and not have a blog so you are not giving away free information as you do in blogging (unless of course you are not making any money there either). You can also have a blog without a business which is the question here … is blogging the new volunteer work?

Blogging as Volunteer Work

We like to help people, of course we do. It helps to build trust in our knowledge and who we are as people. A freebie here for something simple is spreading the goodwill of humanity. But are we taking it too far in blogging? Is post after post that is helping readers really just volunteering your time and you throwing money out the window? Is it always throwing money out the window? No, as in time clients may to come to you from consistently reading the blog and when the time arises for them to need your services, they look no further. Ok, great argument and an even better one is that in blogging you are building trust, authority, and a community that can become clients and/or referral agents. But this takes time so in the meantime, aren’t you really just volunteering? Yes, your writing skills will improve no doubt as the more you practice something the better you get at it (and take a peek at the free writing tips that other volunteers are dishing out) but there has to come a time when you have to look at the time and effort vs the conversion rate. Is there a time limit? Should there be? I do not know. I guess when your revenue stream runs dry or when you take some real action and make some really big but yet simple changes.

Taking Real Action

Taking real action sounds like a power talk where you hear something get so pumped up and cannot wait to implement and make the changes. Sound familiar? We have all done it and feel so empowered until we are back into our own world and sit there and try to make the changes to stop being the volunteer in the world of blogging and becoming the business person. It is a part of being honest with yourself and really look at your blog, website, tweets, connections and tap into where changes can be made so that leads can become conversions. Sometimes it is as simple as asking for it. As many here are readers of Chris Brogan’s blog, you probably were just as shocked as I was over Derek Halpern’s evaluation of the Kitchen Table Companies website: ” … but I don’t see the words small business anywhere on this website.” I think that the look on Chris’ face emulated all of ours – are you effing kidding me? Huh? If that was not an eye opener for many I do not know what is.

Do People Know What You Are All About?

Ask yourself. No wait, throw it out there on Twitter or Facebook and just simply ask, do you know what I do? I actually saw this question posed on Twitter:

chrisenyoung tweet

Have you ever done this? I know I have not. I think a part of it is that um duh, go to my bio and then my website and you will get the 411. Well as we saw above with Kitchen Table Companies, it is not always so clear. We have to think to ourselves how can it be so unclear? I mean we talk about what we do on the blog all the time and we have it on our profile and tweet articles of our own and others so it has to be so clear exactly what we do. Well, I am here to ensure you that it is not. I, like many, suffer from the “Curse of Knowledge” that Derek talks about. When we are talking to a potential client, we can go so fast or too far and not see the signals that they are so lost. It would be like a football fan talking about the movement by movement of the flea flicker to a 4 year old (ok I have actually tried this). They follow, and ask some questions but, at some point, they let you just go on and on as they are so lost that you finishing allows them to have to stop paying attention.

Can We Stop Being the Volunteer?

If you are blogging as a hobby, then this does not apply to you. If you are blogging for business, you have to look at your past articles, your pages and then make changes that clearly define what you want them to do. On a blog, it seems almost elementary that as you want them to read, comment and share as we have all the right buttons but do we have the call to action of HIRE ME? Nah, as this is the taboo of self promotion.Self promotion is not a territory that we like to delve into as it is wrong. Right, as when throw it in their faces asking them for it, no-one will listen. However as we learned from Christopher Penn, a pop up subscribe that we all claim to hate, has garnered results. Does this equate to asking people to hire us? Well if we look at Derek and his behavioral studies (delve into his blog at Social Triggers and see all that he has studied) and how it relates to conversions, we have to wonder – can I really be so brave and bold to go against all the advice and be the the hard sale? It feels like being a goldfish in an ocean but yet if you are not making any money in blogging and driving conversions and sales, you have to make the changes. We have learned, if nothing else, you have to be there before the sale but we have to ask for the sale. If you are not asking for the sale, we are not going to get the sale.


photo credit: vastateparksstaff

  •  Keith

    Oh my gosh, thank you so much. That is one hell of a compliment but I will take it. This issue is something that many are facing including me sometimes so it was something that I felt was needed to write. I am all about blogs having fresh, relevant content and that they rank so much better and that people will be using search and you will appear in the search results and they find you but how many of those that are searching are finding you and hiring you and that can be attributed to a certain search term from the blog?  Does it really matter? I guess in a way it may not to most but then we have to accept that we are volunteering our time and expertise and cannot complain about it.

    It is a big decision to get rid of jobbies as we really think that we will turn them around sometime and that if we just keep blogging that we will get the client, the speaking gig, the paid writing gig.

    Thank so much for reading and commenting. I have missed ya.

  • Hi Suzanne,

    I don’t think I have ever commented here – so I needed to fix that. It made me sad to think my friends don’t really know what I do for a living – I am a writer for a marketing firm. We are a very small startup, and I am responsible for the content.

    I am working on more webpages now (boss’s orders) and blog posts. It really is a fine line between giving away the farm and announcing “hire me” all the time. Both approaches fail for many reasons.

    The trick is to get them to hire you not because you asked for the sale, but because when you asked, they were ready to buy.

    • Nancy

      I did not know that about you but now I do! It is a fine line but unless we tell people what we want them to do we are not guiding them to a direction. You also have to make them be ready to buy. That is good advertising: creating the want and desire (ie people lining up at apple when the iphone came out). In SM we can all improve what we are doing and as an industry that is still growing and people learning, creating the want is not very difficult but a touchy one when we think about how. The hard sell is frowned up but at the same time gets results. If we ask the worst people can say is No but if we never ask we never give them a chance to say yes.

      If this blog is telling people how to do things, is that to be inferred that they would hire the agency to do the work for them? Would they go that far in their thought process? If I ask them to hire then they are clear that this is what the agency can do with even more but you have to make the move and hire.

      It is a tough one but I am finding more and more, guiding them and asking for it will yield better results than assuming that they know on their own that they should do so. I am still thinking about this.

      BTW, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Great to see your smiling face. 

  • What a great way to look at blogging Suzanne. Honestly, I do think at some level, blogging is the new volunteering. True I want my blog to drive biz, but at the same time, if I’m honest, many of my posts are driven by me desire to share information or get folks as fired up about an idea, approach, platform or technology as I am.

    I’ll have to mull this one a bit… thanks for making me think tonight.
     @TomMa:disqus rtin

    • Tom

      This is something I have been mulling over for a few weeks. I am on the fence here as sharing and helping is great and I love to share the new things I learn but then it is sharing and not driving biz. Driving biz is a component of having the blog which is also accomplished in getting rankings and having the search component. If the blog is more of a fun place to share with colleagues then we have to delve into that further and talk about it that way, instead of talking about it as a business driving, lead generation tool.

      Ok now I am thinking more about this. You always do that and I am grateful for that.

  • Miriam Christof

     During the last weeks, I had exactly the same thoughts. Blogging is great but what is the value, or even the ROI? I’m scared to take a realistic look at my blog- the answer might be 0. The article is not only helpful to take some minutes to think about the topic in general, but as well to establish some sale mechanism into the blog or your personal brand. 
    Miriam Christof
    Little Birds Design

    • Miriam

      Yes, the sale mechanism. When we are handing out the tips, ideas, how to’s we are helping people and I am all about that. I want to see people succeed as do many however we have a softer sell in the blog as we are presuming/assuming that without asking people will connect the dots that while we are handing out the tips, there is more to what we are saying and that we want them to hire to hear more about it and how we can help. Blogging is a form of advertising. Some may disagree but it is true. It is a means of getting our names out there with the idea that it will reach the target market and they will read and then run to hit the contact button or grab the phone and pick it up. What happens when they do not? Sure there are other means of driving business and we spend a lot of time on that as well. But could more time be spent there and less time on volunteering out our time?

      Those that blog regularly enjoy it and it has a lot of benefits especially as it relates to search. I know this blog has see dramatic results in a year in rankings and the search traffic. That is 100% attached to the blog. How does that relate to then getting clients? It is different than a tangible product that is for sure. With a product we are asking for the purchase whereas with most blog articles we are not and are assuming those that are reading are understanding that we want them to hire us. 

      Great to have you come on over here from KTC. I enjoyed your thread and am thrilled to see you talk about it over here as well.

  • Tracy

    Thought provoking post indeed, I re-tweeted. Just like the FTC has disclosure policies, perhaps it’s time for blogging to become ‘unionized’ where guidelines are established, and PR firms can understand for once and for all, magazine editors get paid by their publication to sing your praises, why should we? #bloggersunite


    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    • Tracy

      Great to meet you on Twitter. There are bloggers that do get paid so the argument there would be to get a paid gig. The problem with blogging as I see it now is that for a year or 2 we have been hearing about blogging and social media as a lead generation/biz building and that has not panned out for many. It is a part of the advertising & marketing however for most it cannot be the only means of trying to get new clients/customers.


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  • Great post! I’m sure many can relate to it. Lot’s of bloggers these days do have a “Hire Me” page. I was actually one of those people you’ve talk about before, but I’ve made those changes long ago. As my blog isn’t necessarily for a specific niche I made a second site strictly for my services. You are absolutely right about coming out of that jobbies gig.