I need your help, oh awesome and faithful reader. This is your chance to shape the future of Johnny B. Truant, because I know that’s the ambition of every one of you. Admit it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve grown a lot over the past few months, and find myself at a crossroads. Something needs to change, and I’m not sure what, or how.
So here’s the story.
(I’ll just warn you that this will be a fairly long post and that I’m going to ramble a bit as I work this out myself, so stick with me. If you need to skim, that’s cool, but please see if you can’t offer your two cents at the end. And of course, if you want to send more than two cents, like maybe a hundred dollars, that would totally cause me to return your pets that I’ve kidnapped, safe and unharmed.)
Let’s start with a little backstory.
Just under a year ago, I started out as a humor blogger, writing the blog you’re reading right now. As you know, this is a blog about family, dick jokes, and crossing into Canada with pills and a bloody machete. Then, early in 2009, I started really trying to expand readership on that blog, and in doing so started writing guest posts on other people’s more-popular blogs.
Now, the best way to write a guest post is to write in your own style, but to match the content to that of the other blog. So that’s what I did.
• The first guest post I wrote, for the small business marketing blog IttyBiz, was “Douchebag Marketing.” Naomi didn’t end up using it because I soon started writing an unrelated column for her, so I ran it on my blog. It was about my efforts to market myself, but was also funny.
• The first guest post I wrote that was published was “Why Fear is Good,” on the psychology and self-help blog The Discomfort Zone. (i.e. that blog by that fruity English guy.) This one was about reframing the meaning of fear, but was also funny.
• A bit after this, in late March, I started that aforementioned column on IttyBiz, chronicling my use of IttyBiz’s Online Business School course to start an online business. These posts were about my trials and tribulations, but were also funny.
• And all the while, some serious and non-humor posts began to show up on my own blog, like the one about how the news sucks. Although, I did try to be kind of funny in those, too.
So the online personality of JBT began to expand and evolve. I went from being a strict humor writer to being someone who wrote about various topics while also being funny. I tended to write pretty comfortably about “business and brain” topics — everything from marketing to motivation — and found that I liked doing so. (Which, really, isn’t too surprising when I think about it.)
I also found that I was much more apt to write about whatever was on my mind than to try and conjure a laugh. A lot of times, these ended up being funny, but if they weren’t, I didn’t sweat it.
Then, as I worked with Naomi of IttyBiz on the Online-Business-School, me-writing-an-IttyBiz-column project, I launched my Learn To Be Your Own V.A. website as a home base for my new business. In its first month, that business made $3000. Every month since, it has made more than the month prior. So I became an evangelist for Online Business School because it was working so well for me, and sacrificed many goats in Naomi’s honor. I also found that I liked writing about business-building — and, because my own business was growing fast, I began to feel somewhat qualified to do so.
Then, on a roll, I created and launched my own course, Zero to Business: A ridiculously simple guide to turning your online business from tech headache to profit center.
And suddenly, as this business guy, I was writing about such not-normally-humorous topics like
right there on my “humor blog” because it was the only place that kind of made sense, even though it didn’t make sense. And this is where things started to feel weird. That stuff I was dying to say about psychology and self-help and business and so on? If I didn’t say it on other blogs, I kind of had nowhere to say it.
So I wrote a piece on how to be a popular blogger for Copyblogger. A while earlier, I’d had a post on Problogger on how to build your business by making your topic stupidly simple. Being on these huge sites was a major coup, but it also kind of didn’t make sense. I mean here I am, a humble dick jokes blogger, posting on some of the biggest and best-known business blogs in the world.
I really dug doing those posts, and I continue to dig it. Last week, I had posts on both Problogger (here) and Copyblogger (here) again. I continue to write for IttyBiz. I want to talk about motivation, about business, about how to connect with people because frankly it seems to be something I’m good at.
Hell, one of my favorite posts on my own site is “Fear of a Truant Planet,” and that one fits NOWHERE. You can’t run that post on a business blog. You can’t run it on a motivation blog. And the place I ran it, on a humor blog? That doesn’t make sense either, because it’s about business and motivation.
So here’s the issue.
I’m scattered. I need to reorganize, to redefine myself and what I do.
The Economy Isn’t Happening is supposed to be a humor blog. The people who read it want to laugh. I think that when I write about business or psychology, those people give me a big WTF and probably urinate on their computers.
Learn To Be Your Own V.A. is a technology tips blog and a home for people who want to hire me. Business talk and business motivation kind of belong here, but kind of also do not. A piece on “personality branding” does not qualify as advice on how to be your own V.A. But yet, this is where I want to put most of my effort in identity-building, because it’s where most of my income comes from.
And another thing? “Learn To Be Your Own V.A. is a descriptive name, but it’s also
2. Mechanical (feels very step-by-step, not a place for thought or philosophy), and
3. Still fairly confusing. Most people still don’t know what a “V.A.” is.
In case you can’t see where I’m going here, I want to switch some of this up.
I need a change.
Much of what I want to write has no proper home, and knowing that I need to write a “straight humor” piece and a “technical tips” piece on a regular basis in addition to all of that homeless stuff is confining. So I want to move some things around. Mix it up. Redefine.
And I’d like to know what you all think about how I should do it, since you’re the people I do this for.
Here’s what I’m thinking I should do:
1. Convert LearnToBeYourOwnVA.com to JohnnyBTruant.com. I’ll just change the URL and the header and make a few other tweaks, but it’d look pretty much the same. Changing the name opens it to being about more than learning V.A. skills like how to use aWeber and a shopping cart. It also would, with some changes, allow me to write about the kinds of things I write about on Copyblogger, Problogger, and IttyBiz.
2. Move some of the more businessy posts on TheEconomyIsntHappening.com over to the new JohnnyBTruant.com. That would make TEIH back into a pure humor blog.
3. Do WHAT with TheEconomyIsntHappening.com? This is where I come up short. It’s still hard to maintain two blogs, and pure humor is also really difficult and generates exactly $0. I figure my options are:
• Leave it as it remains once I’ve removed the “business” posts, and continue to write it as a humor blog. I don’t know if I like this option. It’s a lot of work and feels like an obligation. I’m better when I’m casually funny, rather than when I’m oh-shit-I-haven’t-written-on-that-blog-in-a-week-and-need-to-come-up-with-something-pronto funny. Ironically, this latter sometimes ends up not so funny.
• Leave it as-is, but don’t feel compelled to write on it that often. This may work, but it’s dangerous. Like I said, straight humor is hard. If I’m not required to do it on a schedule, chances are it’ll be weeks and weeks between posts, and all of my readers will vanish.
• Close it and move the posts to JohnnyBTruant.com, and then continue to write the occasional pure humor post on JohnnyBTruant.com. This would give me one blog, but it would be a big hodge-podge containing all sorts of topics and styles. I could create categories for humor, tech tips, business, psychology, etc., and it would become the kind of blog where you wouldn’t know what you’d get day to day. You’d have to like ME first and foremost, rather than liking any one topic. Or, if you don’t just like ME, you’d have to be willing to tolerate the content you weren’t into.
I like the last option, but I don’t know if it makes sense. It may; who knows? My new friend Marie Forleo has about as diverse portfolio as I’ve ever seen, and I’ve talked to her about this, and she manages to pull it off.
I’d have all of my eggs in one basket. I’d have to find a way to segregate content so that it made sense for each audience (humor readers, business readers, tech tip readers, clients), but I’m sure there’s a way.
I’m truly asking for input here, folks. Please jump in and let me know what you think, what you’d like, what you wouldn’t like, what you find good or confusing or disjointed about my current way of doing things or the new ways… whatever.
Weigh in, and thanks.