I hate to break it to you, but you look like you need a break. 🙂

If the idea of a break from blogging doesn’t resonate with you at the core of your being, you don’t have a pulse. Especially if you’ve been doing this full-time for more than a couple years.

Feeling a little claustrophobic? Chained to your blog? Believe it or not, you CAN get away. We all need a break from the norm. Even bloggers deserve vacations, sabbaticals, and moments of solitude. But it takes too much extra work to have posts ready to cover a vacation!

So let your readers write for you. Why should you have to work extra hard before your time off just so you can be too tired to enjoy it?

Turn that Sabbatical into a Contest!

We’re experimenting with this idea right now on my wife’s blog – Mommypotamus.com. We’re expecting baby #2 any day now and my wife doesn’t want to lose steam during that first tiresome month with our new baby. She also doesn’t want to scramble to write extra posts beforehand… that’s not relaxing! So we’re doing a contest. We’re putting her readers in charge of the content during that first month and giving a pretty major prize to the winner.

Getting to Know the Readers

My wife blogs on several topics, including real food, organic lifestyle, attachment parenting, full-term breastfeeding, sleep, and hormones. The majority of her readers are moms, and we know that many of them are still blogging on free platforms like Blogspot and WordPress.com.

These women are passionate about their families and lifestyle choices, and some of them are burgeoning small business owners. But with almost no startup funds, it’s tough to justify making the switch to a self-owned domain and content management system.

Despite working from home, I wanted to give my wife a legitimate break from work after the birth of our first child. So rather than abandon the site for a month while she rests, we turned the time off into a content generating contest.

I’ve created dozens of blogs on the self-hosted version of WordPress, so we offered my services to the guest blogger who gets the most comments. The guest blogger contest winner received a free domain registration, free year of hosting, import of all content from current blog platform to self-hosted WordPress, and a premium WordPress theme. Our winner leveraged her prize into additional momentum for her entrepreneurial endeavors.

How to Run A Guest Blog Contest

  1. Encourage readers to submit a guest post along similar themes to the typical content on our site.
  2. Give them topical and technical requirements. Don’t forget a minimum word count.
  3. Set a limited-time submission window so you’re not explaining why you can’t take more submissions weeks later.
  4. Determine the winner by number of unique commenters or social shares. This motivates each contributor to share their guest post with their friends, family and followers in hopes of winning the prize.

Benefits of Guest Blogging Contests

  • Free content – each person who enters the contest writes and submits one blog post. Heather doesn’t have to write anything if she doesn’t want to after the baby is born. I can edit and format the posts for her and take the blogging burden off her shoulders.
  • Spreading the word – each guest blogger will send their friends, families, and neighbors to the site to read their post and leave a comment. More people will become aware of the site.
  • Comments leads to return visits – when you visit a blog for the first time and you see 20 or more comments on several of the most recent posts, you get the point that this blog is somewhat popular. If other people find it useful, you might too. So you make the mental association that this is probably worth revisiting sometime later.
  • Engaging the community – you might think that the regulars would check out if there’s an extended hiatus from the blog owner. In this case, I think we’ll find that readers visit more often, to check out the competition’s posts and to keep a tally on blog comment totals. They’ll need to know if there’s a reason to find more friends to comment if they start losing to someone else.
  • Promote the community – you build loyal relationships when you give your readers a voice and then promote their blogs at the same time. Each guest blogger will get a bio and link to their current blog on the post.
  • Builds business exposure – I don’t actively promote my blog consulting and building services. But this contest will make everyone who enters or considers entering aware of what I do and what it can turn their current blog into. Whether anyone entering this contest ever requests my services or not doesn’t really matter. Each of them knows potentially dozens of OTHER people who they might refer to me. And this is purely an additional benefit. I couldn’t care less if this generates revenue or not. It’s really all about getting guest posts for my wife and making it fun.
  • It’s just plain fun – As I just mentioned, there’s nothing better to unite a community than to get everyone in on fun activities. A little sense of competition with the underlying motivation of helping out a new mommy is a winning combo! Who wouldn’t want to help out a woman with an newborn and gain some exposure at the same time?

The Challenge: Too Few or Too Many

One of my concerns was that we wouldn’t get enough submissions. If I give my precious time away to set up a blog for someone and my wife only benefits one week off, I’d have been disappointed. I want all sides to win on this one. But in the same vein, if we were to somehow get 30, 40, or 50 submissions, we’d have ourselves another quandary. We wouldn’t want to continue posting guest submissions indefinitely, but we also didn’t want to turn anyone away.

Answer? Keep it Simple

If that sounds like you, and you’re worried about having more work reading submissions than it takes to write the posts yourself, limit the contest to the first 25 or 30 entries. Then cut it off. Do what you need to do for your own well-being. That’s why you’re taking time off in the first place!

If your goal is to reach five guest posts, consider accepting 30 just in case ten are really bad or off topic. Everyone will lose steam if the contest lasts longer than a month and you’ll forget how to blog if it turned into a two month hiatus. Okay, probably not. But you get the point.

Turn your next escape into a content generating opportunity and let me know how it goes.