Something has happened lately, I am not sure what has caused it. There is a change in people I talk to. I have been blogging for years but only recently people have started taking an interest and not only asking questions about my blogging but asking how they can start their own. As I have given the same advice to whoever has asked I will share it here in the hope you might either find it useful for yourself or someone you know, or maybe you can add your own advice in the comments.
I’m sure some of this interest has been inspired by the growing “professional blogger” segment. You can fully understand the attraction of course, pro blogging is a great gig if you can work it. This is a good thing, the more the merrier I say. More professional bloggers means more interest from advertisers, more attention from mainstream media and a richer blogosphere for all of us. It’s all good. I do worry though if expectations of “riches” are way too high. Some people seem to anticipate the money being immediate, thinking they can pack their 9-5 jobs in and launch their new career straight away.
Another worry I have is around new bloggers expectations of how much work is involved. They imagine sitting in a warm home office, knocking out a couple of posts before watching day-time television with a hot mug of their favourite brew. I’m sure there are bloggers who have that kind of lifestyle, I am not one of them!
So what does blogging actually involve?
Anyone expecting to make wads of cash right off the bat needs to have a reality check. The people doing very well out of blogging either get paid to do it, have one super-powered A-list hyper trafficked famous blog or have had their blogs (note; multiple) for a couple of years. You need traffic, a well-stuffed archive of great content, well implemented monetization strategy and plenty of time to earn from blogging. These successes do not happen over night, sorry to say. Do not go and tell your boss what you think about them just yet, wait until your earnings from blogging are consistent and enough to live on first.
It’s important to remember that blogging is a particular type of writing. When people ask what I do for a living now I often avoid telling them but if they persist in asking, depending on the audience I sometimes tell them I am a writer. It’s the truth (partly) plus it explains why I am pasty faced, at home all the time, work in my underwear and keep strange hours.
Regardless of my personal habits the most important aspect of the writer element of being a blogger is you have to write. A lot. Every day. To an aspiring blogger that doesn’t seem too hard, they might have tons of ideas what to write about. Give it six months though. What initially was a flood of creativity might dry up to a trickle of mediocrity. How you work through this writers pain barrier is very important to knowing if you can make a long-term go of it.
How to start
Most of the people who have approached me were not actually at the point where they were even ready to begin. “What can I blog about?” is often one of their early questions.
The answer to both “what should I write about” and “can you do it for the long-haul” is to start blogging now. Go get a free wordpress.com and set up a personal blog. Blog about your life, your pets, your thoughts, stories, jokes, anything. The important thing is that you post to your blog every day, multiple times a day if you can manage it, for at least 30 days. The more you post, the more you write, the more often for as long as possible, the more realistic assessment of your own blogging ability you will have. 99% of the people I know socially who started blogs quit after a very short time. Oh they might post a “sorry I haven’t updated in a while” message every couple of months but effectively after the initial excitement has dimmed the whole game is over.
There are two elements to starting out blogging, the writing and the audience. You need to learn how to attract an audience through good writing on interesting topics. It’s no good going to the time and expense of organising a professional blogging setup if you can’t face up to these basic skills.
What to write about
Everyone has a story to tell. Your own experience is your best source of blogging topics to begin with. Fill your personal blog with stories, tips and insights based on your own work and life. Branch out into commenting on things that interest you, things you hear, read in the news or see on television. There are a million ways you can go and this is why I recommend you do it from the safety of your “anything goes” personal blog. Once you have more of an idea of your style and what you find easiest to blog about, then you can move to choosing a niche for a professional blog.
The money question
Just because this is a personal blog does not mean you can’t make any money from it. Unfortunately you are limited when using hosted blogs as to how much you can change the default templates. On WordPress.com I don’t think you can change them at all. You might have to settle for entering advertising code into your posts or bite the bullet and get a proper blog at this point.
It is though a good idea to learn the ropes of various monetization strategies. You might only make enough for a starbucks a month but by experimenting, tweaking and implementing the basic ideas found in Andys Monetization Makeovers you will be empowered for when you start your real money blog(s).
Just do it
The main thing is to get started, get writing quickly while you have the enthusiasm and get your blog launched. Get a lot of practice, the more you practice the better you get and the more you learn. While you can learn a lot from reading Performancing and Problogger, there is no substitute for actually doing it and also by actually blogging you will discover what you need to read more about and questions you need answering. Remember you can ask any blogging related questions in our forum and the lovely and intelligent Performancing members will be only too pleased to answer!
Over to you
I hope this post has been useful and not diminished your enthusiasm too much, blogging is great it’s just not the easy ride many people think it will be!
Have you any advice for aspiring bloggers? Please add your tips and encouragement in the comments!
Author: Chris Garrett
Chris Garrett is a content marketing and blogging coach and co-author of the Problogger Book with Darren Rowse.
Write ideas down. Have your paper notebook in reach all the time. Take a walk in the neighborhood and try to figure out companies for which it could be interesting to have a (blog style?) website. Talk to the owners and present your concept(s).
Don’t hesitate to take pictures of products you like or dislike and write a review. This is an absolutely wonderful and easy way to practice writing.
If you are just starting to create content find a blog community which allows to share subjects. I can really recommend the StumbleUpon community. Great to practice research, forum, self promotion, blogging and writing. They offer a very comfortable FF extension and you have everything you need to get started incl. your own blog. The content you create is absolutely not lost as you can always recycle it on a ‘real’ blog.
Blogger and wordpress.com are great for getting some feeling for the possibilities, the technical limits and how to use them. As you want to build up traffic all free blogging platforms are a nice opportunity to test how different strategies work out. Last not least you can use free blogs to fetch traffic and try to redirect traffic to your main site.
The key to making a living at any kind of writing is to turn yourself into a brand, Chris. That means you don’t do just one thing. You blog, you write articles and books, you speak at events, you do interviews, you consult, etc. And you’re right–it takes years for most people to develop a name for themselves and a following. If you go in realizing that, you’ll be a lot happier than if you expect instant riches.
BTW, on the subject of what to write about, how about doing interviews? They take a while, but then you get fresh input from others rather than doing all the work yourself.
A couple of people asked why I suggest using wordpress.com when elsewhere we tell people to get their own domain. I need to clarify that I suggest wordpress.com for a *personal* site, a free host for your anything-including-cat-posts diary, not your professional blog. Once you find blogging is for you, then buy a domain.
Dude….live a little….lose the underwear.
Ahmed – that ethos you describe, e.g. corporate slave for 50 years is one shared by a first world countries such as (Great) Britain, (United) Kingdom and Japan.
Back in the 70’s, when I was a youngster I was good a football (soccer). I was naturally athletic, good at all sports except golf. I loved art and music too. My parents never really encouraged my natural talent because football was a working class game, not seen as career. They were not sufficiently middle class enough to encourage me in my other talents: music and art. Then punk rock happened (1977). I changed overnight, I was 15. I forgot about football. I pursued music and art with a passion. Ending up with my own record label.
Now, here we are in 2006 and all of the above fields: music, art and football are sophisticated industries. There’s career opportunities in all fields, the likes of which has never been seen before. Talent is no longer a prerequisite. You just need to work out the formulas (wish I’d paid more attention to math when I was at school)
I no longer have any high faulting ideas of job descriptions, never did. I sell ad space, pure and simple.
Considering that I live in a third world country where people are still stuck in the whole “study hard-get a job-be a corporate slave for 50 yeas” loop, even saying that I’m a writer gets me very strange looks and stranger questions.
“So like, you cant do that for the rest of your life, can you? What about getting a real job?”
So I tell them I’m a business consultant (which makes sense, because some of the work that I do *is* consulting), and they go away impressed though totally clueless.
shotoshi – advertising – yea, gotta try that line sometime
Chris, you tell them you’re a writer, eh? Me, I sell ad space!
For me, it’s not a matter of the idea well being dry, but a matter of not having the time to blog. With an 8-5 job, school part time (work on bachelors degree) and generally wishing to get some sleep on occasion, I find it hard to take the time to write. Well, to be honest, part of that writing I wish to be from personal experiences related to the subject, but if I can’t get to the subject and work on it,then I can’t very well write about it.
I think your insight is spot on though. I currently fall into the “great start but fizzled” category. I took the track of trying to at least blog every day starting January 1. I have failed miserably. I’ve not even taken a look at Adsense or other money schemes yet. I figure I have to get started with the actual “content” before I can think about money.
. . . then there’s that pesky “job” thing I’m working right now too.