After much soul searching, I’ve decided not to host a WordCount Blogathon this year. Here’s why.
After I filed my 2013 income taxes, I realized how much the Blogathon costs every year. My expenses include:
- Graphic design fees for the blogathon badges
- A virtual assistant for a 6-8 week period before, during and after the event
- Prizes that I personally donate to the raffle
That doesn’t include the lost opportunity cost of freelance work I don’t solicit or accept during the Blogathon month because I’m too busy doing other things.
Add them together and I figure the 2013 Blogathon cost at least $2,000, possibly a lot more. I sold some advertising that ran during the Blogathon month, and the extra page views bump up revenue I get from being on BlogHer’s ad network, but nowhere near break-even level. This year, I’d intended to publish a couple e-books in conjunction with the Blogathon, one to give away as an incentive to sign up, and another to sell. But other paid projects came in and I didn’t do it.
The Blogathon started because I needed a challenge
But that’s not the only reason I’m taking a break. There are others.
The first 5 Blogathons ran in May. My birthday is in May — last weekend as a matter of fact — and the very first Blogathon happened because I had just started working again after a seven-year hiatus to raise my kids, and I wanted to give myself a challenge. I invited some freelance friends I knew in Portland and from online freelance support groups to join me. Over the years, though, May got busy. As my kids got older, it was the month for end-of-the-school year activities, the prom, baseball playoffs, getting ready for graduation, etc. So last year I moved the blogathon to June.
This year, June’s the busier month. I’ll be out of town for a week for a memorial service for my in-laws, who both passed away last summer. We’re burying their ashes in the seaside community across the country from us, a place they retired to for 20 years before moving here to be closer to my husband. I won’t be working or doing a Blogathon through that.
That’s not all happening in June. We’re getting bids for a remodel that could start any day and last through July, or longer. I work from a home office, which means I’ll be writing with work crews here all the time. That’s plenty of stress without adding the stress of the Blogathon on top of it.
There are other factors too. The virtual assistant who helped me organize and run the Blogathon for the past couple years isn’t available this year and the event’s gotten too big for me to manage on my own. On top of that, our 14-year-old fox terrier is dying of cancer, and his last day could be any day. If his time comes during June, I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to force myself to work on the Blogathon when I’d rather be at his side.
I’m redirecting my focus and time
But there’s another, more personal reason. After six years of blogathons, and four years of working as a freelance editor where I spent a good chunk of my work week working with other writers, I need time to myself. This year, I made the conscious decision to go after more writing assignments and less editing work. I’ve been working as a reporter for a long time, and my goal for 2014 is to really push myself, to improve my writing, to write for new outlets, and see how far I can go. I need to do this. It’s meant cutting back on the number of posts I write for my freelance blog so I can channel that energy in some other directions. It also means the Blogathon as I’ve run it isn’t going to happen.
I’m considering some alternatives that I could offer people who’ve done previous blogathon that wouldn’t be a burden on me, but would still be helpful. One would be to re-run a month’s worth of blogging prompts, in case people still wanted to write a blog post a day as an individual challenge. Another would be to use Twitter or the WordCount Facebook page to post some kind of writing prompt every day. I’m not sure what I’ll do, but if I do something, I have to figure it out pretty fast. If you’ve done the Blogathon before, what would you like?
I’m still interested in working with writers
In recent years, the Blogathon grew to 200+ participants and a lot of people signed up who aren’t writers or freelancers. That was OK for then. But now, as I streamline the direction of my work, I’m less inclined to be a cheerleader for anybody who wants to start a blog, and more interested in helping other writers and freelancers. That’s been my blog’s mission from day one, and as the event got bigger, I strayed from it. What that means for the future, I’m not sure. I still intend to publish those e-books. I might start an online class or do coaching on a select basis. I’m currently on the planning committee for a American Society of Journalists and Authors mini-conference on entrepreneurial journalism and content marketing writing happening Oct. 10-11 in San Francisco – put the dates on your calendar! I recently participate in a Society of American Business Editors and Writers tele-class for freelancers, and would consider doing more, or holding some of my own,
Maybe someone smarter or more ambitious could turn the Blogathon into a money-making venture. Who knows, maybe that person will be me a year from now. But this year, I’m on sabbatical.
If you are reading this and are still interested in finding a daily blog post challenge, I will update a list of blogging challenges that I’ve run every year after my event. Look for it in coming weeks.
I really struggled with this decision, but in the end I know it’s right for me. I think the universe agrees. Last week, as I started to write this post, a client I haven’t worked with in a while contacted me about a couple new projects, including one due by the end of June that I wouldn’t have had time to do if I was running the Blogathon.
Then this morning, when I searched for a photo for this post, I found the one you see above, of a rail yard with a “30” sign. That 30 stands for the 30 days in June I’m taking back for myself. It’s also the number that newspaper reporters in pre-computer days typed at the end of their copy to signal a story had come to an end, as is my blogathon journey for now. If that wasn’t sign enough, the photographer named the photo “Everything has its limits.” Perfect.
I’ll continue to write here regularly, share links onWordCount’s FB page and hang out on Twitter.
See you around the rail yard.
[Flickr photo by Nic McPhee]