When you start an extremely popular blog called The Art of Manliness, you tend to build a reputation for yourself that may be hard to live up to.
“People have this idea that I’m this super manly, Ron Swanson sort of a guy. But I’m just this average guy with two kids and a wife in suburban Tulsa,” Brett McKay, founder of the Art of Manliness jokes, “But I really do try and practice what I preach so I’m not just spitting stuff out there.”
Case in point, McKay didn’t start the Art Of Manliness because he wanted to be the manliest guy in the world; rather, he started it because he was curious. He felt like there were so many manly skills in the world that he had yet to learn.
In October of 2007, while perusing the men’s magazines at a Borders book store, the idea for his blog hit him when he realized that none of the popular publications were resonating with him.
“I was beyond the stage in my life where I wanted to read about picking up women and getting six pack abs. I thought ‘maybe I’ll just write the men’s magazines that I would want to read,’” McKay says.
And while the site began with features on changing your own oil and fixing holes in drywall (among other topics), he quickly realized that there was a huge potential to create a place to discuss an important topic that he felt was lacking in today’s society: true manliness.
“We started thinking, ‘we have this site called The Art of Manliness, but what does manliness even mean’?” McKay recalls, “I didn’t have that idea from the beginning but it sort of naturally happened over the course of that research and it’s been steadily incorporated into our content as the underlying ethos.”
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
McKay attended the University of Oklahoma and then law school at the University of Tulsa. When he started The Art of Manliness in 2008 he didn’t imagine that it would eventually take him away from his career in the legal field. But, using an audience he had built on a former blog called The Frugal Law Student, he just began writing about manliness based on research he was doing. It wasn’t long before his content took off.
“I remember when my first article, “How to Shave Like Your Grandpa”, got on the front page of Digg,” McKay says, “It crashed my site!”
Before McKay knew it, he had a book deal. He remembers faxing over paperwork for his publishing contract while at the law office where he was an intern. At this point, he still didn’t view blogging as something that would become his full-time job.
When he graduated law school, he continued blogging frequently as he searched for jobs in the legal field. After a year of applying, he finally got one, and he took it because of the traditional security blanket that a job like that brings. That only lasted six months.
“I finally just said, ‘I need to do this [blog] full-time, burn the bridges and realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and just go for it.’”
GO ALL IN
Three years after starting The Art of Manliness as a hobby and a passion, McKay gave himself over to the site in 2011. As promising as his site had become, with book deals, an ever-growing audience, and revenue from advertisers, it still wasn’t easy to give up a steady career to be a professional blogger. Blogging, as McKay points out, comes without company health insurance, benefits, life insurance, or a hiring tree to move up in the business.
But it did provide McKay with the independence to live comfortably while doing something he loved that resonated with people. It also afforded him the ability to work from his home in Tulsa, OK with his wife Kate, who is also his blogging partner, and their two kids, Gus and Scout.
Today, the Art of Manliness has expanded far beyond just Brett and Kate. Writings, illustrations, and videos from regular and guest contributors, now populate the site. There is also a shop with everything from the hefty Art of Manliness mug to the John L. Sullivan Tie Bar.
One unique thing about The Art of Manliness as a blog is its commitment to long-form, well-researched articles. The McKays don’t rush into posting content out of a need to fill a quota. They focus on getting all of the information they can in order to be as thorough as possible. In an internet age in which the prevailing wisdom is that lists and video are the only things that maintain a reader’s interest, they have posted a “Roadmap To Manhood In The 21st Century” that spans a gargantuan 20,000 words.
“I think people appreciate when writers treat them as intelligent human beings who are capable of nuance and slogging through a long piece,” says McKay, “People respond well to that stuff and to me that shows that there’s still a desire or a need for long-form content.”
TREAT YOUR PASSION LIKE A BUSINESS
Even though McKay doesn’t have an editor breathing down his neck to constantly produce viral content, that doesn’t mean he can just do whatever he wants and make money. McKay says it’s important to treat it like any other business.
“Unfortunately there’s this idea that if you start a blog you can magically start making money and you’ll be able to travel the world and blog from Thailand,” jokes McKay, “Like any other business, it’s going to take about three to four years before you become successful, if you even do become successful.”
This ethos of hard work and perseverance is the thread that is woven throughout The Art of Manliness site. It took the McKays over 20,000 words to describe what it means to be a man in the 21st century, but Brett’s advice for starting a blog, business, or anything difficult is much more concise:
“Work hard. Put in the time. Always strive to be better.”
For manly information, visit: www.artofmanliness.com