Sign up right now for email updates and get two free ebooks:

Free Pursuits Blog Critique

Free Pursuits is a blog about “Lifestyle Design”, or How to Live the Good Life Without Being Independently Wealthy or Retired

  • Find the flexible career you were meant to have
  • Manage your career to maximize your happiness
  • Make time for and pursue the things that really matter to you

What this means for you is a blog packed with content guiding you towards living the life of your dreams. Of course what this means for Corbett as a blogger is he is pitting himself up against Mr 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris and the fantastic Non Conformist, Mr Chris Guillebeau.

This is two challenges in one:

  1. Most people do not know what “Lifestyle Design” is (you need to do some keyword research to find what people are really looking for and build lots of content around those items)
  2. Those people who do know what Lifestyle Design is probably turn to the learned gentlemen mentioned above.

Now all is not gloom and doom because in Corbett’s favor he has a great blog. Let me briefly outline some of the good points:

  • Well set up (WordPress + Thesis)
  • Nicely designed and usable, if not a vast departure from the default Thesis look
  • The content is well written and clearly readable.
  • Good emphasis on reader benefits, including running a survey to get insights
  • Beginnings of some peer-outreach

In fact this all makes my job of critiquing much harder. You can’t see this but I am shaking my fist at the monitor, heh.

So the blog is on good foundations, what is the answer to the aforementioned challenges?

Differentiate!

You must move past the template, both visually in terms of Thesis, and also direction as compared to the rest of the niche. How are you different?

First with the design, while it looks great and a lot of people would love to have a blog that looks as good, the niche is competitive and dominated by strong, well positioned personalities. You need to stand out from the pack by offering something richer, more impactful and most of all, yours.

As always the strategy, once you have moved past infrastructure, is to decide, and to effectively communicate, your positioning. What is your uniqueness, remarkability, or brand?

When you are not the first, not the biggest, and not the most well known, in any niche, you need to find ways to stand out on your own and cut through the fog.

One way I like to approach this is by using the following fill-in-the-blanks phrase:

Unlike other Lifestyle Design Blogs, Free Pursuits ___________, which means for you __________.

The first part of the phrase identifies how you are different, the second part answers “so what?”.

You could be different by painting yourself green, but that doesn’t mean anyone should necessarily care :)

After you can answer this in a compelling way, then you can translate that into action.

Audience Focus

Your first port of call when differentiating outside of yourself is your audience. After all it is these folks you are aiming to serve. At present the blog aims to capture pretty much everyone interested in lifestyle design. This could be a tough struggle, better to focus and grow outwards.

For example David Hobby writes a photography blog, but instead of all of photography he focused on photography lighting using inexpensive strobe lights. Now he is a world renowned photography rock star :)

So what part of the overall audience can you most appeal to and help?

  • Beginners
  • Advanced
  • Freelancers
  • Travelers
  • Wealth-focus
  • Spiritual-focus
  • Productivity folks
  • Cubicle escapees
  • Passive income dreamers
  • Silver surfers
  • Eco-living
  • Families
  • … the list goes on

You will find if you focus on a sub-group then you will have more content ideas rather than fewer, plus nobody will be in competition and therefore everyone will be much more willing to help, link and comment.

Multi-Author

Rather than fixate on one smaller group, you could go the other way and make your blog (and you have a great name for this) into a multi-author blog. Think of your blog as Techcrunch or BlogHerald for the lifestyle designers maybe?

You could even bring in the existing lifestyle design personalities for regular or guest posts.

Grow Your Community

Of course the logical extension of a community of bloggers is a community forum, membership site or social network. This kind of connection and interaction is practically designed for lifestyle design and nomadic lifestyles as very often the old face to face networks become strained and a virtual socialization takes its place.

Perhaps Free Pursuits could be the biggest community for the lifestyle designer?

  • You need to drive more people to comment using in-content call to action
  • Post polls
  • Drive people to comment with questions in Twitter
  • Draw people over from forums and Facebook
  • Find out where people hang out and interact there

In particular you will want to look in social bookmarking sites for what was popular previously.

Once people are on your site you need to keep them around, and there are two main ways your site is ideal for this

  1. Build a real email list now, not Feedburner but with a service like Aweber – this will enable you to send out interactions and alerts, along with free reports and other exclusive content. It also allows people to reply and know they will get a human being.
  2. Create series posts on “big ideas”, and perhaps collect them into reports that you can give away

I also find conversions much better when I use an obvious email form rather than a sign up link.

Sell the Dream

Any lifestyle blogger needs to remember that the majority of the people reading will not make the full leap. You need to sell the dream, give vivid pictures, video, audio. The full multimedia life stream. Use flickr, youtube, twitter so people can live your life via proxy. Show Don’t Tell.

This is also

  1. An excellent way for your audience to get to know you better
  2. A way to introduce other prominent folks from the niche and network with them

Consider a blogtalkradio show? I imagine Webinars/Teleseminars would be a huge draw (and profitable if you wanted to charge)

Fix Real, Compelling Problems

So we have talked about how you can stand out, and we have briefly looked at community. Both of those are going to aid you getting more visibility and traffic, while branding your site.

The biggest impact you can make though is if you take the overall “dreamer” aspect of the niche and turn around and solve real, pressing problems for the people who really need to make a change.

Interact with your audience, on forums, in social media (particularly Twitter and Facebook) and find out the real challenges that people are coping with and can not find an answer to. Once your audience grows, make it obvious and easy for people to send you their problems.

Most of my best content ideas are from consulting clients or reader questions. You can not top the inspiration and good feelings that come from actually helping people with real issues.

A great example for how to gather reader issues is over at CopyBlogger … sometimes how people do something is more instructive than what :)

One of the problems with “Your guide to lifestyle design” (other than “what’s that?”) is the “That’s nice dear” effect. You know, when you tell someone something really cool and they just smile and say “That’s nice” rather than get as excited and passionate about it as you are?

So work out the real problem your blog solves on a macro level and for each post aim to solve a problem on a per-article basis also. A real problem that people can solve with your help. If possible use the exact phrasing that your audience uses.

Summary

Free Pursuits is an excellent blog and has been given a great start, and is now ready to be taken to the next level.

Check it out now.

Over to you – what do you think about Free Pursuits? What would you do differently? Do you disagree with what I have said here? Give the benefit of your thoughts in the comments …

»crosslinked«

Sign up right now for email updates and get these
two free ebooks

"Creating Killer
Flagship Content"

"Authority Alliances"

Just enter your primary email address in the form below and hit the button!

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!

Comments

  1. Great points, Chris – the most important being ‘the reason why’. Why is Freepursuits different, why should we care. But as you say, he’s off to a good start which should put him ahead of many.

  2. Great points, Chris – the most important being ‘the reason why’. Why is Freepursuits different, why should we care. But as you say, he’s off to a good start which should put him ahead of many.

  3. Given that I’m in the same field I now have a perfect benchmark for reviewing my own blog – thanks for the review Chris!

  4. Given that I’m in the same field I now have a perfect benchmark for reviewing my own blog – thanks for the review Chris!

  5. Wow. Excellent critique. Well thought out. Thorough. Immediately actionable. (is that really a word?)

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this and will be taking some action steps for myself. Most notably, aweber. Heard of this but not used. Might be a great alternative to RSS for my blog. Folks are interested in local events, and local soc networking activity, without reading anymore about how tos and lists.

    Thanks for sharing this publicly.

  6. Wow. Excellent critique. Well thought out. Thorough. Immediately actionable. (is that really a word?)

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading this and will be taking some action steps for myself. Most notably, aweber. Heard of this but not used. Might be a great alternative to RSS for my blog. Folks are interested in local events, and local soc networking activity, without reading anymore about how tos and lists.

    Thanks for sharing this publicly.

  7. Georjina says:

    Nice critique, and I’ve saved both your comments and the blog for my new blog that’s similar…Now I know what not to do:)

  8. Georjina says:

    Nice critique, and I’ve saved both your comments and the blog for my new blog that’s similar…Now I know what not to do:)

  9. Hi Chris

    As usual you have given so much. Like Alex’s comment I am also in this niche (with a twist)and I really loved the ideas you gave to Corbett and am going to implement them on my blog. The one big thing for me was confirming that I should move or incorporate another blog offsite and let it then drive traffic to my main site. I left a comment on Corbett’s blog as I would love to be able to link up when I have my ‘new’ blog up.
    If you have time I would really love to ask your opinion before making my change to my site?

    Best wishes
    Anne

  10. Hi Chris

    As usual you have given so much. Like Alex’s comment I am also in this niche (with a twist)and I really loved the ideas you gave to Corbett and am going to implement them on my blog. The one big thing for me was confirming that I should move or incorporate another blog offsite and let it then drive traffic to my main site. I left a comment on Corbett’s blog as I would love to be able to link up when I have my ‘new’ blog up.
    If you have time I would really love to ask your opinion before making my change to my site?

    Best wishes
    Anne

  11. Wow Chris, thanks very much for the thoughtful critique. Your points about differentiation are well taken. I look forward to exploring ways of acting on the suggestions. This was exactly the high level of advice I expected, considering the quality of your other reviews!

    Thanks everybody for the comments. I hope the public critique is beneficial to your own blogging as well.

  12. Wow Chris, thanks very much for the thoughtful critique. Your points about differentiation are well taken. I look forward to exploring ways of acting on the suggestions. This was exactly the high level of advice I expected, considering the quality of your other reviews!

    Thanks everybody for the comments. I hope the public critique is beneficial to your own blogging as well.

  13. This is a fabulous critique that would benefit all bloggers. The critique is thoughtfully presented. I’m going to use it as a benchmark for evaluating where I want to go with my blog.

    Finding a niche of readers can be one of the most difficult parts if we like being experts on everything. :)

    Thanks Chris

  14. This is a fabulous critique that would benefit all bloggers. The critique is thoughtfully presented. I’m going to use it as a benchmark for evaluating where I want to go with my blog.

    Finding a niche of readers can be one of the most difficult parts if we like being experts on everything. :)

    Thanks Chris

  15. Excellent advice, Chris!

    We have a somewhat related website ( but we are the only ones with 3 years experience of doing it as we travel the world as a family) and had to learn much of this on our own when we started. How great to get this fab critique by Chris G.!

    Tim had not written his book when we started and neither he or Chris had websites yet. ( We are thrilled to be featured in the new edition of 4HWW and want more families to know it is doable). We did not even know anything about websites or blogs when we started. LOL. They’re both great way-showers in two very different ways.

    There has been a huge growth of this type of website in the last year, even more in the last 6 months. I suspect this trend will continue. Use that to your advantage.

    Another important thing to keep in mind, is the time it takes to do all of this. Know that it will take up even more time as you gain popularity. Factor that in!

    I could not agree more with “Show Don’t Tell”. It takes time to do that with quality, but in the end it makes a huge difference on places like Youtube where so many put out videos where only 10 people see them.

    Our first video got almost a million views immediately. That surprised us, but we stopped what we were doing in Portugal then & quickly put up more (that were ready, just hadn’t had time to get up). They also went viral. A week well spent. Always go with the flow as sometimes social media seems to have a life of it’s own. ;)

    If you are living the dream and traveling most of the time while sharing your experiences, there are some unique challenges that you will run into. Be prepared for that aspect. Note that both Tim and Chris are based in one place and spend most of their time there.

    On the move things are different. Don’t forget to factor that into your plan. Even Scoble twittered about problems with internet connection in Barcelona etc. ;)

  16. Excellent advice, Chris!

    We have a somewhat related website ( but we are the only ones with 3 years experience of doing it as we travel the world as a family) and had to learn much of this on our own when we started. How great to get this fab critique by Chris G.!

    Tim had not written his book when we started and neither he or Chris had websites yet. ( We are thrilled to be featured in the new edition of 4HWW and want more families to know it is doable). We did not even know anything about websites or blogs when we started. LOL. They’re both great way-showers in two very different ways.

    There has been a huge growth of this type of website in the last year, even more in the last 6 months. I suspect this trend will continue. Use that to your advantage.

    Another important thing to keep in mind, is the time it takes to do all of this. Know that it will take up even more time as you gain popularity. Factor that in!

    I could not agree more with “Show Don’t Tell”. It takes time to do that with quality, but in the end it makes a huge difference on places like Youtube where so many put out videos where only 10 people see them.

    Our first video got almost a million views immediately. That surprised us, but we stopped what we were doing in Portugal then & quickly put up more (that were ready, just hadn’t had time to get up). They also went viral. A week well spent. Always go with the flow as sometimes social media seems to have a life of it’s own. ;)

    If you are living the dream and traveling most of the time while sharing your experiences, there are some unique challenges that you will run into. Be prepared for that aspect. Note that both Tim and Chris are based in one place and spend most of their time there.

    On the move things are different. Don’t forget to factor that into your plan. Even Scoble twittered about problems with internet connection in Barcelona etc. ;)

  17. Enjoyed this piece. I’ve been intending to create a blog for an age now but am determined to be totally focused before I begin. Chris, I remember you saying to me a while ago that you advise folk that are thinking about blogging to just go ahead and start. Good advice in many ways of course, but I really do not want to start A N OTHER blog to be ignored and get lost in the ether as I meander through ideas on a trial and error basis. Content really is king but I really believe the overall topic has to be super tight and focused before work begins. Your post has certainly helped in the thought process.
    Al

  18. Enjoyed this piece. I’ve been intending to create a blog for an age now but am determined to be totally focused before I begin. Chris, I remember you saying to me a while ago that you advise folk that are thinking about blogging to just go ahead and start. Good advice in many ways of course, but I really do not want to start A N OTHER blog to be ignored and get lost in the ether as I meander through ideas on a trial and error basis. Content really is king but I really believe the overall topic has to be super tight and focused before work begins. Your post has certainly helped in the thought process.
    Al

  19. Chris,

    To answer your call to action question; FreePursuits looks interesting but doesn’t sufficiently differentiate in content from Tim and Chris G (the other Chris G) fro me to feel compelled to subscribe.

    To pose a question back to you, did you deliberately mis-spell freepErsuits instead of freepUrsuits for seo purposes?

  20. Chris,

    To answer your call to action question; FreePursuits looks interesting but doesn’t sufficiently differentiate in content from Tim and Chris G (the other Chris G) fro me to feel compelled to subscribe.

    To pose a question back to you, did you deliberately mis-spell freepErsuits instead of freepUrsuits for seo purposes?

  21. Re: Sell the Dream. Could not agree more! I would like to feel like I get to know the author from the very moment I land on the site. He doesn’t have to be pictured draped over a Porsche but being personal on a site like this would go a long way.

  22. Re: Sell the Dream. Could not agree more! I would like to feel like I get to know the author from the very moment I land on the site. He doesn’t have to be pictured draped over a Porsche but being personal on a site like this would go a long way.

  23. I just wanted to say good luck to Corbett! I think Chris’s advice is fantastic (as always), and I certainly believe that there is always room for more voices. Differentiation, as Chris said, is really the key to building a following in this field.

    (Well, that and working hard…. but Corbett doesn’t seem like he’s afraid of hard work.)

    I’ll look forward to hearing how Free Pursuits applies some of these great lessons.

  24. I just wanted to say good luck to Corbett! I think Chris’s advice is fantastic (as always), and I certainly believe that there is always room for more voices. Differentiation, as Chris said, is really the key to building a following in this field.

    (Well, that and working hard…. but Corbett doesn’t seem like he’s afraid of hard work.)

    I’ll look forward to hearing how Free Pursuits applies some of these great lessons.

  25. What a fantastic article. Very insightful. Makes you want to start a lifestyle design site lol (but i wont).

    Great read Chris…you have a new fan

  26. What a fantastic article. Very insightful. Makes you want to start a lifestyle design site lol (but i wont).

    Great read Chris…you have a new fan

  27. Thanks a lot Chris for this very interesting review. It is saving me a lot of learning time!
    By the way, the last link doesn’t work (the one after summary). It should be spelled ‘freepursuits’ instead of ‘freepersuits’. Is it for SEO purposes? Really? :)

  28. Thanks a lot Chris for this very interesting review. It is saving me a lot of learning time!
    By the way, the last link doesn’t work (the one after summary). It should be spelled ‘freepursuits’ instead of ‘freepersuits’. Is it for SEO purposes? Really? :)

  29. I like the blog. I didn’t really understand what “lifestyle design” was, but the “about” paragraph at the very top of the blog helped me get past that immediately.

    The content is good and the look of the blog is nice. One of my personal annoyances is having to click on a link to read the rest of the post, but that’s just me.

    Thanks Chris for this public review. There’s a lot in here I can put to use for my own blog.

  30. I like the blog. I didn’t really understand what “lifestyle design” was, but the “about” paragraph at the very top of the blog helped me get past that immediately.

    The content is good and the look of the blog is nice. One of my personal annoyances is having to click on a link to read the rest of the post, but that’s just me.

    Thanks Chris for this public review. There’s a lot in here I can put to use for my own blog.

  31. @Andy – Yes, we often think that the why is obvious, but the better we explain it to our potential audience the more success we have at standing out from the crowd

    @Alex – Thanks to Corbett for allowing it to be public :)

    @Todd – Aweber can be a bit of a pain (eg. today it took an age to load and I finally gave up and moved on to something else), and the price seems to have gone up since I signed up, but it is still the best out there for bloggers. I have been looking at infusionsoft also but not sure it is worth the hassle of moving my lists over. Let me know how you get on with your subscriptions?

    @Georjina – Hope you have some ideas of what TO do also :)

    @Anne – Corbett has put out a guest post call so perhaps that is a way you both can cooperate?

    @Corbett – Thanks for letting everyone share :)

    @Christen – You can still be an expert on everything, just give people a hook that they can start with :) Look at Tim Ferris, he is an expert in languages, dancing, martial arts … ;)

    @Soultravelers3 – I had seen a video from you I think but didn’t realize your videos had been so popular, well done!

    @alfoxy – There is a difference though, everyone I would recommend starting a throwaway personal blog on wordpress.com or some other non-essential domain just to “break the seal” – that initial doing something, taking action and technical familiarity really helps. For a business or authority blog I usually advise you to be a bit more intentional. In fact the early parts of the authority blogger course exercises normally give people the most intense thinking :) As always though a decent plan WELL EXECUTED is what makes the difference. Aim to make progress, not perfection. Otherwise you will be stuck in analysis paralysis forever :)

    @Ted – I did get confused with the spelling, and have edited the article twice or more now because I seemed to mix and match, with a very confused spell checker :)

    @Laurie – Yes, and also getting personal shows it is a real person rather than a spam bot behind the site also :)

    @Chris – Thanks for stopping by, I thought you would like it :)

    @Andrew – Thank you, very kind :)

    @Jean – Yeah, I got caught out a couple of times with the spelling. Wasn’t intentional on my part! In fact the article you see was my second go, the first was lost to a database corruption :O

    @Jennifer – I am sure the site will only get better :)

  32. @Andy – Yes, we often think that the why is obvious, but the better we explain it to our potential audience the more success we have at standing out from the crowd

    @Alex – Thanks to Corbett for allowing it to be public :)

    @Todd – Aweber can be a bit of a pain (eg. today it took an age to load and I finally gave up and moved on to something else), and the price seems to have gone up since I signed up, but it is still the best out there for bloggers. I have been looking at infusionsoft also but not sure it is worth the hassle of moving my lists over. Let me know how you get on with your subscriptions?

    @Georjina – Hope you have some ideas of what TO do also :)

    @Anne – Corbett has put out a guest post call so perhaps that is a way you both can cooperate?

    @Corbett – Thanks for letting everyone share :)

    @Christen – You can still be an expert on everything, just give people a hook that they can start with :) Look at Tim Ferris, he is an expert in languages, dancing, martial arts … ;)

    @Soultravelers3 – I had seen a video from you I think but didn’t realize your videos had been so popular, well done!

    @alfoxy – There is a difference though, everyone I would recommend starting a throwaway personal blog on wordpress.com or some other non-essential domain just to “break the seal” – that initial doing something, taking action and technical familiarity really helps. For a business or authority blog I usually advise you to be a bit more intentional. In fact the early parts of the authority blogger course exercises normally give people the most intense thinking :) As always though a decent plan WELL EXECUTED is what makes the difference. Aim to make progress, not perfection. Otherwise you will be stuck in analysis paralysis forever :)

    @Ted – I did get confused with the spelling, and have edited the article twice or more now because I seemed to mix and match, with a very confused spell checker :)

    @Laurie – Yes, and also getting personal shows it is a real person rather than a spam bot behind the site also :)

    @Chris – Thanks for stopping by, I thought you would like it :)

    @Andrew – Thank you, very kind :)

    @Jean – Yeah, I got caught out a couple of times with the spelling. Wasn’t intentional on my part! In fact the article you see was my second go, the first was lost to a database corruption :O

    @Jennifer – I am sure the site will only get better :)

  33. interesting and appealing topic…

    and a groundshift in thinking (imho)… why? Because of the “without being independently whealthy”

    maybe that also answers the WHY questions ;-)

  34. interesting and appealing topic…

    and a groundshift in thinking (imho)… why? Because of the “without being independently whealthy”

    maybe that also answers the WHY questions ;-)

  35. Wow.. I guess most of the blogs need some comments and suggestions just the Free Pursuits Blog.. Good points on that. I will come back to read it again :-)

  36. Wow.. I guess most of the blogs need some comments and suggestions just the Free Pursuits Blog.. Good points on that. I will come back to read it again :-)