Take a Break from Blogging without Losing Your Audience

From Jeff: This is a guest by Alise Wright. Alise just published Not Alone, a series of stories about depression. You can visit her on her blog, Twitter, or Facbeook.

The other month, I faced a difficult decision. I needed to take a break from blogging — for a few reasons:

  • I was editing a book of stories, and I needed to put some serious time into working on that project.
  • We were taking a family vacation, and I wanted to enjoy it without spending time thinking about the blog.
  • There was some more personal writing  I wanted to focus on that wasn’t intended for the blog.
  • Quite honestly, I was feeling like things were getting a bit stale. I wanted to take some time off to refresh a bit.

If you blog, you know letting your site sit idle for a month can be brutal on your audience and traffic.

I knew my core group of readers would stick around, but I didn’t want to lose momentum that was building.

What was I to do?

I decided to open up my blog to the public.

Break from Blogging
Photo credit: kamshots (Creative Commons)

About two months before I knew I wanted to take my break, I put a call out to my readers, asking them to consider submitting a guest post. Over the following two months, 25 people answered the call.

In August, every single weekday and two Saturdays were given to other writers.

I learned a few lessons about blogging and life in general from this experience. I’d like to share them with you.

Generosity pays off

I don’t think you have to give away your site for a whole month, but be generous with your space.

I’ve found that when I show another writer that I trust them enough to write for me, they give me quality content. Generosity begets generosity.

Give clear directions

My site has very clear guidelines for guest posts. This allows people to know just what to expect when they’re guest blogging. If someone has any questions, I point them to that list. It saves us both a lot of frustration.

I also offered topic suggestions for the month, so if someone wanted to participate but didn’t have a plan, they had some guidance.

Be flexible

Even though I went out of my way to make it easy for me and my guests, there were some who missed the deadline, didn’t include a bio, didn’t send a picture, didn’t stay in the word requirements.

I could have laid down the hammer and said “no” to their requests. I still had enough content to fill the time, but instead, I showed grace and ended up with some of my most popular posts.

You don’t have to compromise your standards, but don’t be so rigid that you miss out on good stuff.

Take a chance

I had several well-established bloggers write for me and I really appreciate their contributions. But I also had some lesser-known folks stop by and share. Several brought a lot of traffic to the site, which was great for all of us.

Don’t let the size of your guest’s audience be a determining factor — let their work speak for itself.

Be honest

Most people know when they’re being scammed, so be real.

I absolutely wanted to have a chance to promote people on my blog. And I wanted to keep my stats from plummeting when I took a month off.

I was up-front about both desires. This allowed my guests to know I was trustworthy — not just about my motivations but about how I would promote their work.

Should you give your blog away?

Is this something you should do? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I do know is this: Writing breaks are essential.

Giving away your blog for a season can be a fun way to enjoy some time off or focus on other projects, while allowing your readers to stay busy and engaged in the community you've created.

Have you ever given something away — your blog, credit, an opportunity, etc.? How did it feel? What did you learn? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: kamshots (Creative Commons)