Blurring the lines

The line between business and personal blogs is not always a clear one. In Lumpers and Splitters I discussed five types of business blog, but I deliberately didn’t discuss blogs which are both business-related and personal.

Partly this is because they didn’t fit neatly into my categorisation, but mainly it’s because I am grappling with the implications of moving from blogging-as-a-hobby to blogging-as-a-job myself.

The last two months has seen blogging go from something I do for a laugh to something that, amongst other things, I do for a living. Whilst Strange Attractor is an important part of my professional life, Corante is complemented by two other clients for whom blogging is a key tool of their trade.

This aspect of blogging poses no problem – I know what is appropriate content for Strange Attractor the same way that I know how my clients view blogging and what they are looking to get out of it. The issue lies not with being employed to blog, (although that does have its own pitfalls), or advise about blogging, but with what has happened to Chocolate and Vodka because I am now employed to blog.

A year ago I would never have considered that I might wind up working as a professional blogger, or that I would end up having my very own metablog. I posted whatever I liked to Chocolate and Vodka because it didn’t matter. No one was really reading it anyway, and anyone who was reading it could take or leave my posts as they saw fit.

Then my business effectively closed and I had to move from being an entrepreneur to being a freelance again. I’ve been working as a freelance writer and web designer for some seven years, so whilst it was an unpleasant experience to watch my 18 month old business slip through my hands, I knew that at least I had useful skills to fall back on.

This is when the nature of Chocolate and Vodka began to change. I started to use my personal blog, in conjunction with IRC and a portfolio site, to get work. Whenever I met a potential client, I pointed them at my portfolio site and thence on to my blog. And it worked. I have three main clients, and all of them either found me online or were influenced by my blog.

When I was touting myself around, looking for work, I didn’t really consider the impact that this would have in the eventuality that I was successful at locating new clients. I continued to blog as per normal.

Then I started Strange Attractor and my more serious posts had found a new home, leaving Chocolate and Vodka to become my personal blog. Yet my clients still read it. So what is it? Is it a personal blog? Is it a professional blog? Certainly it’s a blog by a professional, but that doesn’t make it a professional blog.

My problems does not centre around talking about my clients on my blog, because I have a very keen sense for conflicts of interest and what is and isn’t appropriate. It’s not even about whether or not my clients read my blog. Instead, the issue is around what I feel comfortable confessing.

The event that brought this to the forefront of my mind happened last weekend. Whilst out on the town, something happened which I would normally have blogged about, (you’ll have to wait until I blog it on Chocolate and Vodka to find out what it is! If I blog it, that is…), but I suddenly fell prey to a moment of self-censorship: “Oh! I can’t blog that!”.

I have always had a confessional personality. Take me to the pub, ply me with a vodka or two, and I will tell you my life story, whether you like it or not. Stand-up comedy was, for a while, the arena in which I confessed. Then it was fiction. Now it is blogging.

The best sort of confession is, as the Catholics figured out, anonymous. Nothing on the web is anonymous, not even anonymous blogs. There is always the risk of being outed, always the risk that someone who is savvier than you can figure you out. And I’m crap at keeping my own secrets, so anonymous blogging never was an option.

Being a small, z-list blog is very much like being anonymous, though. The temptation to assume that no one is paying attention lulls you into a false sense of security which draws from you confessions that perhaps might be best left unsaid. Of course, nothing I’ve blogged has been as salacious as that last sentence implies, but people do get caught out, and fired.

I can ignore, though, the fact that I’m getting traffic. That’s easy. Until people mention blog posts in conversation. (The fact that people read me is something that never ceases to genuinely surprise me.) Finally I am getting to grips with the fact that my personal little scratchpad is no long so little, and no longer so personal.

I am not the only person to deal with the fact that, at some point, your personal blog ceases to appear personal and starts to appear professional. At the beginning of the year Michael O’Connor Clarke went through the same thought process that I am going through now. Journalist David Akin has more recently felt the need to explain who pays for his blog.

I think, upon reflection, that I have come to the same conclusion that Michael came to – my clients saw my blog before they hired me, they have been fully informed as to the sort of person that I am and anyone who doesn’t like my blog is not someone that I would want to be employed by. Thus self-censorship is essentially unnecessary.

Chocolate and Vodka is not a professional blog, it’s a professional’s blog. Big difference.

This is a hard line to draw in the sand because I have used my blog for professional purposes – getting work. But it is still not a business blog, not a professional blog. So if I choose to blog about cute guys in skirts, that really doesn’t matter. It’ll just make for some interesting chat the next time I’m in the office.