Happy 4 Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

Life After College Book as a Cake - Photo Collage (Jenny Blake and NYC-Angel, Ann)

FOUR YEARS. I can’t believe that this little project, cooked up on a whim based on a love for writing that started with a family newspaper operation out of my living room at age 11, has turned into the very center of my life and career.

Starting a blog is easy — buying a domain, setting up WordPress, making a few tweaks. Writing quality content week-over-week, cracking yourself open again and again, coming up with original ideas, and exposing your innermost thoughts for public review and scrutiny, is not. But damn is it rewarding.

About this post:

In these round-ups, I outline my favorite and the most popular posts of the year, give statistics about blog traffic, and share personal milestones and achievements. It’s the best way to get a view of the entire blog on fast-forward and the full year in review.

I hesitate every year to publish these because it seems so self-indulgent, but it feels like the best way to honor all the work that goes into the blog. I hope that by the end of this epically long post that you learn something new, feel inspired or catch some helpful content you might have missed.

Previous Round-ups

The 4 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned in Four Years of Blogging

  1. Big projects become successful after thousands of micro-steps taken regularly and consistently over time. Everyone starts somewhere. While some bloggers seem to skyrocket to success over night, I have taken an alternate route with my blog. I have never once had an explicit goal to grow my traffic. Partly because my day job kept me very busy for the first 3+ years, and partly because I don’t like to force things or “over-effort.” My mission has always been to focus on delivering the best content I can muster as consistently as I can each month. When people look at my blog today, they may not realize that it’s has been a four-year process of making micro-revisions, one tiny little adjustment at a time. The first version was a design hack-job I did myself, and it wasn’t until three years later that I paid a professional to clean things WAY up. The categories, format, posts, about page — every single sentence, piece of content, widget and plug-in has been tried and tested and tweaked dozens of times, over time. There is no way I could have done it all at once, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to either. Start somewhere. Then fix while flying.
  2. Constantly push yourself to be more vulnerable and transparent than you’re comfortable with. This is the hardest lesson to practice, and though it has gotten MUCH easier over the years, I still have to frequently ask myself what I’m afraid to write about and then GO THERE. My most popular posts without question are the ones in which I reveal struggles, flaws and bumps. We bond through shared struggle, and while that doesn’t have to be the sole focus of a blog, it is a great service to others if you can allow yourself to open up more.
  3. Make real connections with people. Blogging should really be referred to as an “insta-friend generator.” Blogging has introduced me to the most wonderful network of friends and readers — I am absolutely rich with relationships because of it. However it still isn’t a magic bullet; relationships — online and off — take work to cultivate. They require setting aside time, proactively reaching out to people, and keeping your commitments.
  4. Don’t forget to thank the hand that feeds you. I see some newer bloggers who are hungry to make it big, land a book deal, and/or strike it rich. While those are all nice dreams, of course, that tunnel vision it creates forgets that blogging is really an act of service. It doesn’t often pay well, if at all, and the most successful bloggers remember that their readers are everything. At least to me. You are not a means to an end in my life — you are my life. You are the reason I was able to quit my job at Google and break-even after my first six months of running my own business. You are the reason I got a book deal, and get asked to do speaking engagements and can create meaningful courses and content to help you gain clarity and take action in your life. Don’t forget where you came from, and don’t forget to thank the hand that feeds you — whether you are a blogger, an employee, a company, or frankly . . . a living, breathing human being.

Personal Milestones

  • After two years of intense work, the Life After College book was released March 27, 2011! It has 88 reviews on Amazon and has sold about 7,000 copies to-date which is about halfway to earning back my advance (after which point I can start getting royalties).
  • It has been such a joy to hear from readers who are inspired to improve their lives after reading the book — I am humbled by and grateful for every reader who has helped bring the book to life.
  • I took a three-month sabbatical from Google to go on a self-funded 10 city book tour.
  • As part of the book tour, I spoke at spoke at TEDxCMU (April 2011), appeared on the BetterTV Morning Show (May 2011), and delivered my very own Authors@Google talk on 10 lessons I learned during the publishing process.
  • When it came time to go back to Google, I realized there was no way I could effectively juggle both any more. It wouldn’t be fair to Google and my teammates, and it wouldn’t be fair to my projects and big dreams. I wasn’t willing to give up the latter.
  • I gave Google my two-weeks notice on June 15. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but deep down I knew what I needed to do, if only I could overcome the fear of uncertainty and failure.
  • I became an official no-strings-attached solopreneur on July 5, 2011.
  • Seth Godin mentioned my 15-tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet on the Domino Project Blog; it got over 6K downloads in the first month.
  • I moved to New York City on September 11 and haven’t looked back since. I document most of my love affair through Tumblr.
  • I launched my first course, Make Sh*t Happen, two days later despite massive fears that no one would be interested and my hopes and dreams as an Internet entrepreneur would be crushed. The course sold-out in less than 24 hours.
  • I decided to slow things WAAAAY down in Q4 by saying no more and only scheduling meetings on one day a week. It has worked out so well I plan to keep things this way.
  • I’m also excited to share that I’m one of Brazen Careerist’s 20 Brazen Young Professionals to Watch in 2012 (announced today!), one of eHow’s first annual Shift List honorees, and ProBlogger’s (!!) 20 Blogs to Watch in 2012. Thank you so much!

My Favorite Posts

The Life After College Book Journey

Speaking

Big Goals & Finding Your Path

Breakdowns & Important Reminders

My Big Leap

Blog Statistics:

  • Visits - In the last month I received 21,767 visits (45,959 page views) from 134 countries, about double from last year’s 11,580 visits (20,532 page views) from 110 countries and 2009’s 7,000+ visits (13,500 page views) from 97 countries. The total visits for 2011 was just over 124,821 uniques (365,449 page views) from 180 countries, up from last year’s 100,000 uniques (200,000 page views).
  • Top Keywords - In 2010, the keyword “life after college” sent 12,769 visits (up from last year’s 8,773 visits). “Jenny Blake” was the next highest search query with 4,793 (compared to last year’s 1,199 visits).
  • Quirky question keywords (always fun) – is female and male viagra the same? (I have no clue), is it hard to date after college? (you are asking the wrong girl), is it normal to be lonely after college? (yes, for sure — we all have ups and downs), is it possible to keep everyone happy? (no!), is it unprofessional to skype interview in your bedroom? (I’m gonna go with…YES), is it worth experimenting after college for your dream? (HELL YES!)
  • Best “Jenny Blake” keywords - how old is jenny blake (28 folks!), jenny blake kickboxing free aerobic lesson (ummm…last I checked I don’t offer those), jenny blake millionaire (YES! Where do I sign up??), jenny blake naked (sorry to disappoint…none of that here), jenny blake ninja (::blushing:: I like to think so), jenny gets kicked in the ass (ouch! really?), i love jenny blake (aww, thanks!)

What’s on the docket for 2012?

  • In general: to slow down, relax and ENJOY my life. This is not going to be a year of massive striving — any big leaps or opportunities that occur will be nice surprises. This is my year to practice being fully present, grateful, intentional, graceful and positive.
  • More freedom– I’m putting the “lifestyle” piece square in the center of my lifestyle business. I want to design a business that is not intended for crazy growth, but rather to allow me to live my days in ways I love (which typically involves reading with a cup of coffee in the morning, going for a run, going to yoga class, doing strategic and/or my best creative work, and hanging out with friends).The parts of my business that I love are speaking, coaching, writing and my new baby, the Make Sh*t Happen course (which will re-launch in January).
  • Building out my store page — One important part of a lifestyle business is adding products that will help my audience AND allow me to scale myself and my ideas. In addition to offering services that involve trading time for money (ie 1:1 coaching) I’d like to keep building evergreen products that can sell while I sleep. I hesitate to call this passive income because there’s nothing passive about the work that goes into them, but they do eventually become self-sustaining (if built with adding tremendous value in mind). On that note, stay tuned for another awesome course that Emily Smith (my MSH Angel) and I are putting together based on my book!
  • My biggest personal goal is to finish my yoga teacher certification and start teaching Geek Yoga classes in NYC for my entrepreneur friends (and anyone else who would like to join!). I’ve been taking classes 5-6 times a week since I moved here; now it’s time for me to stretch outside of my comfort zone (no yoga pun intended!) and TEACH, even though I’m often intimidated at the thought of it. The funny thing about yoga is that I don’t know exactly what form it will take in my business moving forward . . . all I know is that it is my rock in life. It keeps me sane, grounded, and true to myself, and I am thrilled at the prospect of sharing that gift with others and creating a place for my community to congregate.

THANK YOU EVERYONE for making this such a memorable, incredible year. I look forward to serving you to the very best of my ability in 2012 and far far beyond. Happy holidays, and see you in 2012!

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