If you are thinking to bring minimalism into your life you may want to start reading Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus essays at The Minimalists. They run a site about living a meaningful life with less stuff. More than 100,000 monthly readers learn how to benefit from simplicity and focus on things that matter.
They left corporate jobs to pursue a full-time writing career and have rapidly grown the site, published three e-books and engaged with the community. How did they manage to make this happen so quickly and so well? In this interview, where Ryan tells us their story and insights on blogging, you’ll find many answers.
How and why did you start?
We first started this site as a grounds to share the experiences we were learning while applying minimalistic principles in our lives. We started with my 21 day journey, and it started to receive a lot of traffic at the time (about 100-150 visits a week), because at the time it was “a lot” of traffic. When Joshua and I saw the attention we were getting that’s when we saw the opportunity to make this a full-time gig.
There is a big misconception though. People assume we jumped ship from our corporate jobs to make more money with our site (or even the same money) however I make significantly less than what I made at my corporate job. The key to making the transition was planning, budgeting, and getting rid of as much debt as possible. One very cool thing about being a minimalist is not having many bills.
What are the usual tasks?
We don’t keep track of how many hours we work on the site, because sometimes we’re working when we don’t even realize it. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say Joshua and I work on website stuff 100-120 hours a week combined. Our work includes responding to our readers, writing and editing essays, spending time on social media, conducting interviews, and brainstorming new topics to write about. People may think we’re crazy for working as much as we do, but if your doing it right, and living your passion, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
What is the best lesson learned that you want to share?
Do not set yourself up with unrealistic expectations. We did a great job of setting reasonable expectations with ourselves but there were still a few things we didn’t expect. The biggest surprise was how uncomfortable changing each of our routines would be. Being in the routine of having to be somewhere every day and suddenly waking up to being your own boss can be difficult.
What is your best advice on how to attract visitors?
This is one of the top three questions we get asked. I’m going to list out this advice in the order of most importance to the least:
- Content, content, content
This means a few things. First, make sure the content you are providing your readers is good content. Ask yourself questions like “Would I want to read this?” and “Is this my best effort?” Don’t ever publish something you are only sort of happy with, because if you’re not happy with your published content, then your readers won’t be either.
Second, be genuine in your writings. That means to write from your heart, not what you think your readers want to hear. People will sniff out the bullshit even if you think they won’t.
Third, you want to make sure you not only have a considerable initial amount of content but also make sure the content is being posted to your site consistently. Fridays are a good day usually to post content because the loyal readers will start to look forward to your posts as a good start to the weekend. They will start getting excited to the point of being impatient, which is a great thing. If you don’t have the time to be consistent then don’t expect great results.
There is nothing wrong with sending someone an email that says “Hi, I want to add value to your site and think I have an idea on how to do that.” The important part to networking with other bloggers is making sure they are getting something out of it. The worst someone can tell you is “no” or just not respond to your email. You will get the occasional jerk that makes you feel bad for emailing them but that’s just it, they’re jerks. If you are genuine and add value you will do well in creating a thriving network of bloggers.
- Have a Plan
Don’t just quit your job and start blogging. That’s silly. Recognize there is going to be a transition period and its going to be uncomfortable as hell, but that means your doing the right thing. If you don’t have a plan at least have a direction you want to go in and make steps towards that every day.
- One Thing at a Time
Do not overwhelm yourself with all the things you want to accomplish with your site. Its alright to have a high level idea of your ideas but working on more than one of those ideas at a time will take you down a stressful, unorganized, and cluttered road. Additionally, the value of your work will suffer if you’re trying to do a million things at once. I had to learn this the hard way. The good news is, you don’t have to.
What is your biggest achievement?
The best thing that we have experienced is the joy of knowing the profound positive affect we have had on our readers. I can’t begin to tell you how many emails we have gotten that starts with “You have added value to my life…”