How I Quit My Government Job to Blog for a Living Forever

If you run a blog in 2014, then you need to consider blogging for a living. Stop spending time on the small things and get serious.

Sure, you might need the day job to pay the bills, and a promotion is always possible if she could get it. But avoid the reality that blogs are largely outnumbering corporate sites, with media experts turning to us for advice, and you could just let someone else in your niche take the job you dream of.

But this post isn’t about a guy who didn’t take make that move. It’s about a guy who did.

Opening Note: This post was inspired by and made possible by you guys! If you’ve ever left a job for what you love (or thought about it) tell us a little of your story in the comments!

Introduction

I should start by saying this isn’t this post – which if you haven’t read it is best post to date on ProBlogger as far as I’m concerned (and far better than mine). I’m pretty healthy and don’t need the worries of Medicaid or anything like that. Jon Morrow is the man and an idol of mine.

But, like that post, I did battle the government. And, like that post, it’s a true story that affects a lot of people.

I wrote this post three times.

My editor had to wait a long time. In the end, I realized I didn’t want to call people out or list bloated, corrupt salaries. Probably not smart to burn bridges, even now. But I will say I worked in the same work place frauded for an international $500 million. The story of frauds are so bad the Huffington Post even has a tag for it!

And while I did see a lot working in New York politics, it was probably only a small fraction. After all, I was only a lowly social media manager.

Why I left

Before I go into all the stuff I’ll be making for you guys in this new chapter of life, I, of course, should deliver the story behind leaving a stealthy government agency. Let me save you some time and say that my story isn’t all the unique – my dreams were getting crushed just like millions of others.

What makes this story unique is that I noticed.

The story

On July 25th, 2012, I left a position with the government. I actually bragged about this government job in my about page when I wrote the page in 2012, because it was an honor. Not writing the about page (though that was fun); I mean walking through the gates of a city each morning. Managing PR 6 webpages and top secret social media accounts was a big deal to me, at least at the time.

But that was 2 years ago, before I learned a tough lesson: blogging and the government do NOT mix.

Life is short. You should do what you want to do. If something gets in the way, then ask yourself how much it matters.

If want you want to do is to be helpful to a lot of people, then you’ve got your answer.

A fateful meeting with the head hauncho

If you’re reading this now and thinking I’m crazy to leave a job in social media in this economy, you’re right. Sitting at a computer all day eating donuts was delicious. But as my ability to fit into my favorite jeans slowly shrunk, so did my dreams.

Rewind to December, 2012. I had just accomplished a major goal of the local governments: redesign their entire internal website and launch a new one (ahead of time, too, which is unheard of in goverment). And after presenting the traffic metrics to a lovely woman seated atop the pyramid, I then marched into the head of technology’s office with a plan to make their sites better. I’ll save you a rant, but the meeting went like this – I said I wanted to redesign them and make them interactive, and in order to advance in my role, I needed to take a course and learn JavaScript.

He said no.

It was a small blow, and it was the first time I think I knew I’d have to leave.

Because even after paying out-of-pocket for the course (and trust me, $3500 costs a lot more than $3500 when you don’t have it), I could still feel the resentment on both sides. I wanted to learn. They didn’t want me to. It was as simple as that.

Where I wanted to expand their web presence, get more traffic and deliver better quality resources, they wanted me to wait and run the request up the bureaucratic chain first. When you have a dream, and your current reality blocks it, it’s only a matter of time before you break. But so many corporate workers don’t realize they’re being broken, because it takes years, and it’s made easier by that satisfaction at the end of each day that you “did a good day’s work.”

Bullsh*t. Leave when you still can.

Countless blogs: devising a plan to make money

Everyone needs money. Some of us need more, because we “need” to have the air conditioning on super-low, use those electric toothbrushes, or don’t cook for ourselves. On large spectrum, I’m probably somewhere near the center. While I’m a minimalist at heart, I need to live in New York City.

So, this would be the short and only list of my sources of income going forward:

  1. Affiliate marketing
  2. Email list – join here
  3. Adsense (sad face, but we do have this)
  4. Public speaking

I don’t have much savings. I’ve always believed in reinvesting what I earn into what I do (blogging) in the form of new themes, a new video camera, a better office, etc. I don’t have an inheritance either (someone actually asked, ha) and I wouldn’t even know how that worked. Lastly, an interesting question I get all the time is how many blogs I run. As someone already bad with numbers, that number is tricky for me.

You already know I have dearblogger.org (this blog!) and honestcollege.com. Dear Blogger is me and my editor, while honestcollege.com runs on about 50+ guest authors who I, thankfully, don’t need to bug. But then there are:

(Note that links go to the actual sites, and not the tutorials for making them.)

All of those are dummy blogs with accompanying tutorials 🙂 So I guess a good answer is: 6 blogs.

I don’t have any speaking gigs booked yet, but I guess the first step is to talk about it 🙂 Plus, I think if I started speaking at blog events it would appease all my family members who think the first reasonable question at gatherings is, “How do you monetize all that?” and can’t quite wrap their brains around passive, voluntary income.

Sigh.

Be 100% sure of yourself

“Is it sustainable?”

That’d be my Dad’s first question, “it” being blogging.

I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe try it for yourself. We now have over 1300 people in the email club, which is pretty cool.

If a lot of other people are sure of something, I reckon it’s safe to be as well.

dearblogger-1300-subscribers

Plus, last time I took a screenshot of this, it was around 400. We’ve always been a small blog/small community, but it’s fun to grow, too. 🙂

I’ve never believed “the money’s in the list” and don’t plan to test it but it’s nice to have this little content marketing outlet where I can talk about personal matters. It’s an honor that people care enough. Again, reassurance.

That said, maybe it’s smart to be about 95% sure. Sure enough, but not so confident that you miss the pitfalls ahead.

Create new goals and new content for a new chapter

There are two ways to look at the future and they are:

1. with anxiety towards the unknown, and

2. with excitement towards the unknown.

I plan to just do more of what I love doing.

Every blogger faces a major dilemma when their excitement runs out and their expectations get too high. It’s sort of like a “I’ve done well so I have to keep doing better and better” phenomena, and it often ends up in a silent blog. Maybe this happens in every profession (I bet it does). In any case, I’ve been blogging for 4 years so I’ve experienced this sort of mental wall about 40 times. Each time you face it, the wall gets smaller, and on the other side is another tiny chapter of your career. But if you were wondering how to get through something like that, here’s my solution:

(I’ll frame these bullets in the realm of “what’s next” as well as the solution to above mentioned dilemma)

  • New projects
    You have to take on new projects and be open to new verticals. If it feels like your posts aren’t going as far as they used to, maybe it’s because they aren’t.
  • New audience
    Social media is open to everyone. I’ve chosen to expand onto YouTube but there are countless places to focus.
  • Up the risk factor
    Taking risks in your life and on your blog is almost sure to bring back the same excitement you had when you started, especially when they pay off. This is golden.

But in a more tangential form for you that’s not some pretty bulleted list, here’s what’s next!

New content going forward will definitely be the same: clear answers. But now that I have more time I’m going to dive deeper into topics I don’t think are being covered adequately in Google or on the web. You’ll be just as amazed as me at the gaps I’m finding!

Watch the first video to see one example of what I mean. 

Speaking of more time on my hands, here’s a Part 2. Maybe I’ll see ya in the conclusion? 🙂

As usual, this stuff is not easy to create and actually does take weeks, so any comments you leave would be a nice vote of encouragement.

Take lessons away from it all

Taking my last phone in one of 1000s of empty conference rooms.
Taking my last phone call in one of 1000s of empty conference rooms.

If one thing is true in this life, it’s that doing what’s wrong helps you figure out what’s right. Just like in blogging or in any online business, you have to put yourself into a crazy environment and make yourself vulnerable to trudge home with valuable lessons.

I’m reminded of ViperChill’s story turning down a “For Dummies” book.

Here are 10 things I’ve already learned, now that I’m jobless, or self-employed, whatever you want to call it (I don’t like the ring of any of them, in case you’ve got suggestions on a new title…):

  1. Time goes a lot slower.
  2. Time warps, meaning one can take an entire 48 hours to work on a blog post if one so desires.
  3. Sleep is trickier, because it’s not mandatory anymore.
  4. You eat less, perhaps because the schedule is differnent. It’s like being in college all over again with 10 times the responsibility.
  5. You read more. That’s just a fact. Learning seems like the replacement “job.”
  6. You enjoy the smaller things way more.
  7. You take more pride in small achievements.
  8. It’s easier to process annoying assignments, whatever yours may be. That’s because you don’t have to spend 30 minutes angrily making your way through a commute and a coffee run.
  9. You become healthier all around.
  10. And all of the above is for the better.

I worked with people who survived 9/11, as our first office was right next door ( I started at my post in 2010). I worked with people with problems much greater than a blog could afford. I had my mind opened in conversations over quiche and coffee, with extremely talented people also stuck in a vortex of government rules like myself. So I guess, overall, I learned to try and keep a perspective, and keep my head on. That, and I learned what I don’t want to do with life.

Ask for help

“It’s the readers who grow a blog, not the blogger him/herself.”

As someone who asks for comments and shares and believe it’s the readers who grow a blog, not the blogger themselves, I’m actually surprisingly bad at asking for things. I’m more of a tough-it-out kind of guy.

But know this:

I don’t just write. I write to answer your questions, emails and tweets I get. I write when I’m so annoyed that it took me 2 hours to find an answer on this fluff-stuffed internet that I need to write it down myself. I write to fill voids and I publish when there is a need. Like, superman. 😉

It’s pretty cool that you guys mention, link to, and share stuff (posts, videos, etc).

And know that if I don’t write for a while, I’m probably banging my head on the wall over an answer.

Lastly, deliver a couple promises you can live up to

Lastly in this post, I think it would only be fair to deliver a couple promises. I am after all requesting your support as usual, so here’s what I can offer:

  1. Answer everything
    I pledge to answer any blog question here. I think I’ve done OK but still see the unanswered (or desperate) question here and there and cringe. So think of this like a forum.
  2. Suggest anything
    I’d also like to honor all requests for a topics covered, or give a good reason why I won’t. Seriously, your suggestions and needs make this blog run, like they always have.

I’m not saying that I’ll be some Glen Allsop, busting the bad-boy internet players like Wix (those bas****s), but I will have more time to uncover cool stuff and go deeper into topics. In short, I’ll be more available. I live to serve – so ask away!

I used to say, “Yeah, I work at the government” but then the tone started to fade. I think when people start to add “I’ve worked there a good ____ years” is when they really need to get out. Because what does that even mean? So be careful.

If this post has inspired just one person to get up from their desk and blog more, then I’ve done my job.

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27 Responses to "How I Quit My Government Job to Blog for a Living Forever"

  1. I am considering starting a blog and, of course, I’m dreaming big. I would like to eventually quit my day job. However, I’m thinking of a literary blog. My question for you is: is it possible to make money blogging when you have no products or services to sell. It seems like most blogs I come across have one or the other that they are promoting. It’s just hard to envision making money by a blog that says “Hey, I like old books, read about me liking them.” 🙂

    Reply
    1. Hey Lindsey! I’ll get right to your point. Most profitable blogs earn money blogging thru affiliate marketing. In your case you could review old books and link them to Amazon, where Amazon would then pay you if someone clicked thru and bought something on the Amazon site. You can also earn thru Adsense ads but you’ll need a lot of traffic.

      I would honestly just get a nice blog live, learn about things like design and SEO and interaction, and then maybe you will truly discover the idea (be it this one or not) that let’s you quit your job! Let me know any other questions and stop by youtube.com/narayguy for some more practical advice.

      Reply
  2. Hi Gerg,

    WOW! superb article. I can’t believe a person can survive only on the income earn from blogging. This article is an eye opener for newbies to don’t loose hope if failed once. Do it or will get results surely of the efforts you’ve made.

    Such an inspirational post.

    _mustafa

    Reply
    1. Apologies. It’s a tough time to run a blog. No that’s not true.. It’s a wonderful time to run a blog.

      New post in the drafts and yours is live. Great post.

      Now back to my vacation 🙂

      Reply
  3. Hi Greg,

    Thanks for your time and write a post to encourage newbies in blogging community.
    Well, after reading this post I got inspiration from here that If I do it wisely then there is no doubt that I can also leave a job and start earning a lot from here.

    Thank you for writing this motivational post!

    Best,
    Mustafa

    Reply
  4. Boy have I ever been in your same situation Greg. I always find it amazing how things do work out as long as we work at it. I know it will for you. I so wish you much success and I look forward watching your next steps. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sounds like you have Susan. I’d love to hear more if you write about it.

      Next steps:
      Change the world (the blog world)
      Roadtrip to california
      Basically do more of what I’ve already been doing 🙂

      Thanks for the wishes, much needed. Glad you’ll be watching out!

      Reply
    1. Haha so you’re like me where it’s tight deadline or no deadline? My office would probably be more professional if there wasn’t a flatscreen and such much darn comfiness. Sounds good, I think have a couple that you’ll like.

      Reply
  5. Hi Greg,

    Good for you for getting out while you still had your sanity. Crazy me (literally?)–I got out while careening towards the brink of cracking up. It is SO important to be aware of the signs, as you mention. We all have a different drum to march to or dance to if we feel like taking the time to listen for it.

    I love writing–a book and now blogging. I make little money and can’t seem to get revved up at this time to learn about monetizing my site. I feel utterly inept with this sort of thing. At this time, though, it’s okay . (I have enough for a minimalist + a wee bit for living.)

    My dreams and my writing are taking me on a grand adventure within a month or so–travelling around China, partly solo and partly with a group of humanitarian Canadian doctors (the Bethune Baiqiuen Canadian Alliance) who asked if I’d like to join them. I’m no medical person and I said yes. Nothing like stepping out of my comfort zone in a big way to churn up anxious feeling and generate excitement!

    Thanks for getting me thinking! All the best with all that matters to you,

    Ramona

    Reply
    1. Thanks for your story Ramona. Great writer you are, I can tell. That first paragraph is exactly what I was trying to say.

      Definitely hope to see you back here post China- or before.

      I really think any of us can make money blogging by playing to our strengths. An example that I always think of is Darren Rowse and his DPS blog. He’s an expert on photography, so he makes money from cameras and camera guides. Simple as that.

      I walk thru the monetization setup here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eKDTtzQlWQ

      Maybe that’ll rev you up? 😉

      Reply
  6. Very inspiring post Greg! I’m glad you got out of a job you weren’t happy in and made a change. It sounds pretty good to be able to make a living from blogging! I’m interested in those passive income sites, they sound like a good idea, but do you have to invest a lot of time in them at first?

    Reply
    1. It’s not bad Christine! You gotta build social proof and organic traffic within a niche – takes at least 1 year I’d say. Are you planning such a takeover?

      Reply
  7. I had been selling real estate for 25 years and was a heavy hitter and decided to leave to follow a dream to have my own business. I have never looked back and there were some real hard times but today I have a thriving business. Never give up.

    Reply
  8. I have been in your situation Greg, a few times. I know this sounds like a cliche but it always works out. The most important thing, and you have hit the nail on the head, is that you have no regrets about leaving your job to do something you love. I wish you all the best and look forward top following you along the way.

    Reply
    1. Thanks Tim, that means a lot.

      You’re right about loving it. I’ve already felt an even higher sense of purpose with the blogging.

      Just gotta make sure I don’t “love” eating out and sleeping in too much 🙂

      Reply

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