10 Lessons Learned During a Year of Blogging

Today marks a full year of existence for PeteDupuis.com and the blog I’ve somehow managed to maintain.  In 52 weeks I’ve published 48 blog posts and learned valuable lessons along the way.

Before I get in to it, let me begin with a disclaimer: I am NOT pretending to be some sort of authority on writing.  In fact, I second-guess 100% of the material I’ve prepared each and every time my mouse hovers above the “save and publish” button.  I’m simply sharing some insights I’ve accumulated since getting started on May 18th of 2015.

For those of you who have been kicking around the idea of starting your own blog, I hope this list allows you to accelerate creation of content you’re proud of.  For those of you who have a blog but temporarily abandon your mission of writing regularly, I hope this list lights the fire you need to get back in the game.  Lastly, for those of you who are already crushing it on a daily or weekly basis on your own site, thank you for inspiring me to stay consistent.

Here, in no particular order, are my ten favorite blogging lessons learned in year number one:

1. If you don’t look back on your original material and cringe just a little bit, you’re not evolving as a writer

This is a message I’ve heard Eric Cressey share with other fitness professionals when discussing the evolution of his programming strategy, and it also holds true in relation to writing.  I took an inventory of my year-one blogging output during the past couple of days and began to see the same handful of mistakes and tendencies my editor (wife) has been kind enough to point out just about every week as she reviews my material. 

There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes along the way, but failing to address them is not acceptable if you’d like people to take your material seriously.

2. Abandoning ideas entirely is wasteful

CSP Strength Coach Tony Bonvechio once told me that he knows within the first 200 words whether or not he’s got something of value to share.  As it turns out, I have about a dozen 200-word “under construction” posts sitting in my Google Drive as I write this.  While I routinely walk away from a concept, I never abandon it entirely. 

On countless occasions I have been prompted to revisit an old idea and build upon the concept after encountering a new book, presentation, or discussion that forced me to think a little bit differently about my approach on a given topic.  Some of my most popular material was conceived and temporarily abandoned several months before publishing.

Speaking of 200-word posts…

3. If your content is sound, post length doesn’t matter

When I stumble upon a period of writer’s block, my best course of action is to revisit my “Abandoned Posts” folder for ideas.  One such idea sat buried at the bottom of that folder for months until I finally decided to stop waiting for two or three more complimentary bullet points to magically appear.

Instead, I posted a 249-word blog titled Are You Sabotaging Your Ability to Convert Leads?  It was the 5th most popular blog I’ve posted to date.  I’ve yet to come across a reader who said: “The concept presented in that blog post was fantastic but damn you for not giving me more.”

4. Don’t ever stop practicing the execution of the content you’re discussing

Cressey Sports Performance is the foundation of my credibility.  In nearly nine years of running my business, I have accumulated enough memories and experiences to continue writing about my craft for weeks, months, and (hopefully) years to come.  Walking away from the fundamentals of running our business would eventually make my content stale and redundant.

I count on the evolution of our business and brand to stimulate new and unique thoughts on a daily basis.  Fresh experiences make for unique content.

5. Read. Read. Read. Then read more.

You know that nine years’ worth of ideas and experiences I mentioned in tip #4?  Accumulating this material may have been part of the job, but extracting it from memory in preparation for writing is not.  Reading business-specific books like Zero-To-One help me to connect concepts with experiences and create content gold.

The more I read, the more I write.  My cure for writer’s block is immersing myself in other writers’ material.

6. If you think you’ve got your audience figured out…prepare to be disappointed

I recently emailed my wife a first-draft of a blog post with the subject “this is garbage but I’m struggling for content this week.”  She suggested a couple of minor grammatical adjustments and said it looked good to go.  That post went on to be the most shared, liked, and trafficked post in the history of my blog.

Similarly, I’ve seen more than a few of my posts go essentially unnoticed despite my thinking that I’d finally prepared something “really good.”  I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes my audience consumes my content differently than I perceive it, and that’s ok.

7. Provocative gets hits

I probably shouldn’t have referred to the post “Because My Boss Sucks” is a Shitty Reason to Open a Gym as garbage.  However, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it because the points made were not particularly new to my readers.  I guess that when it comes to gym ownership, most things worth saying once should probably be repeated!

This being said, I am almost positive that this post got attention because I used the word “Shitty” in the title.  My initial instinct was to tone it down, but thankfully my wife pointed out that it brought an edginess that complimented the message and I ultimately decided to roll with it.  Provocative blog titles (within reason) can occasionally draw just enough attention to entice new people to check out your material.  Lesson learned.   

8. Authenticity is key

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a number of talented writers.  My business partner Eric has managed to attract more than 100,000 followers spanning multiple platforms thanks to a style that features a unique (and often scientific) take on strength training for the overhead athlete population.  On the other end of the spectrum, Tony Gentilcore successfully blends strength-training concepts with a combination of current events and stories about his cat in a style that is best described as “weight lifting infotainment.”

Both approaches have been immensely successful, but that doesn’t mean they’d work for me.  Much like I preach that gym owners should stay in their own lane when it comes to building gym culture (i.e. don’t try to appear eccentric like Mark Fisher Fitness if you’re not Mark or a part of his team), I’d also strongly encourage aspiring writers to let their true personality and strengths shine through their material. 

I will never be comfortable taking a mathematic approach to describing the nuts and bolts of operating a fitness business in the way that Eric delves into anatomy in his writing about training baseball players.  I will also never effectively tie pop culture references into my content the way Tony seamlessly does.  I will tell stories that convey messages…stories that I’ve experienced…stories that I’ve lived.  Assuming I stay the course, no one will ever be able to say my material lacks authenticity.

9. Consistency matters

48 blogs in 52 weeks…I don’t blame you if you’re you asking yourself “why not 52 in 52?”

The first week that I failed to publish was that of the 4th Annual CSP Fall Seminar.  When it comes to the logistics of putting on a 150+ attendee event, everything else gets pushed aside to make sure things get done. I get a pass on that week.

The other 3 missed weeks took place in succession during the holidays.  “Taking a week off” suddenly became two, and then three.  If I was lucky enough to have readers who looked forward to my weekly post at that point in time, I probably lost a few of them due to my unpredictable publishing schedule. 

Once I finally got back on track I decided to standardize the time of the week that I write (usually Tuesday mornings), and the time of the week that I publish (Wednesday or Thursday).  By locking in a routine, I’ve managed to lock in some consistency that has led to a bigger audience.

10. Speak to one distinct population at a time

I mentioned earlier that these lessons were in no particular order, but I think I may have saved the most important for last…

I have three types of readers: gym owners, personal trainers, and personal trainers who dream of one day being gym owners.  In hindsight, the most mediocre blogs I’ve written were attempts at speaking to all three populations simultaneously.  I got so caught up in trying to be everything to everyone, that I lost track of the importance on speaking clearly to one specific audience.

The numbers don’t lie…my three most popular posts of year-one were as follows:

1. “Because My Boss Sucks” is a Shitty Reason To Open a Gym – directed toward personal trainers who dream of opening their own gym some day

2. Three Reasons We Don’t Offer Free Consultations – directed toward gym owners

3. How To Stand Out in a Crowded Fitness Industry – directed toward personal trainers

Thank You

I want to thank everyone who has set aside time to read even just a single one of my blog posts during the past 365 days.  I’ve immensely enjoyed creating this material and look forward to another productive year of writing.  Make sure to join my newsletter and stay tuned for more!