So You Want To Start a Blog/ June 17, 2014
Starting your first blog is an exciting step, and you should be proud that you’ve decided to make the commitment. Most people never get past the “idea” phase, so the fact that you’re here reading this post already sets you apart from the average.
Before you start shopping web hosts and purchasing domains, though, there are a few things you should know.
Don’t worry, you’ll learn quickly.
What Is This Blog Thing, Anyway?
Blogs can take lots of forms:
- They can focus on long, text-based stories, or only on images
- They can be attached to a retail website or have a domain all to themselves
- They can share personal stories, provide DIY tutorials, show off works of fiction, or help businesses connect with their customers.
Basically, a blog can do almost anything.
It’s no wonder, then, that people aren’t sure exactly what makes something a “blog.”
Let’s be clear:
Your social media profiles, like your Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, are NOT blogs. You can use social media to share your blog posts and promote your website, and most social media platforms have some sort of blog-like feature – like LinkedIn Posts and Facebook’s “notes” tool – but a blog is something else entirely.
Basically, a blog is a website or webpage that is regularly updated with new content.
Each new article is called a blog post. You might also refer to your blog posts as content.
The act of blogging simply means writing blog posts and publishing them regularly on your blog.
Sure, that’s a nonspecific definition…but that’s a good thing, because there aren’t many rules you absolutely must follow to be a blogger.
Of course, there are best practices.
And you’re much more likely to attract readers if you pay attention and build good habits.
But technically, you could start a free blog right now, write literally whatever you want about any topic at all, and you’d be a blogger.
Let’s assume that you have some compelling reason to learn blogging, though.
If you do want readers to find you, and you do want them to stick around and keep reading your new content, you’ve only just started. Let’s talk about what it takes to be a successful blogger.
What Do You Want?
Before you start writing, it’s imperative that you figure out what you want. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Is this a hobby, or do I want to earn an income?
- Is this blog for personal or business use?
- Who do I want to reach, and what kind of people do I want to read my posts?
- Do I already know what I want to write about, or do I need help coming up with content ideas?
- Do I plan to blog professionally for other people, or only for myself?
- Why do I want to start a blog?
By answering the above questions honestly, you can begin to determine an appropriate budget for building your website and starting your blog, and get started down the right path towards your version of success.
If you only plan to blog as a hobby and you don’t care much who reads your posts, a free blog hosted on a website like WordPress.com will probably be all you need. You don’t even need to purchase your own domain name or buy any upgraded features – just follow the prompts to start a free site, and you can start writing blog posts today.
However, if you want to earn money, use this as a professional or marketing tool, or if you aim to eventually make blogging your career, the little things matter. Consider budgeting for things like web hosting, upgrades, and probably a web developer to make your blog’s website look professional and perform reliably – plus, plan on investing some serious time and effort into learning about content marketing, copywriting, and search engine optimization techniques.
For modern businesses, blogging is an absolutely necessary part of your marketing strategy if you want to keep up with the marketplace.
The great news is that most businesses are making lots of mistakes!
Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound so great, but it means that YOU can stand out and take your industry by storm…by being just a little bit better than average.
Realistic Expectations, Please
Whether you’re blogging for fun or profit, there’s one thing you absolutely must know.
Your blog is going to SUCK for at least 6 months.
And after that, you’ve got another 6 months of average performance ahead of you while you continue to hone your skills.
All of us suck when we’re new.
Even the talented ones.
The important thing is that you KNOW you’re going to suck, you accept it, and you work on getting better.
As you first get started, even if you know you want to blog for profit, you might want to learn the basics on a free blog hosting website. Later, when you launch your “real” blog, you can use some of the posts you’ve already written to build content…and you already have a pretty good idea of how they’ll be received.
Remember, too, that just because you write stuff…well, that doesn’t mean anybody’s going to read it. Building traffic is one of those things you’ll learn as you go, but master the basics first.
For those of you who are planning to make blogging a career, remember that you’re not going to make money overnight.
And you’re not going to make money while your blog sucks.
And you’re not going to make much money while your blog is average.
For those of you following along and doing the math, that adds up to at least a year where you’re not particularly profitable. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship: that’s why they say “don’t quit your day job.”
No, really, don’t quit your job.
This is your chance to build your empire without giving up the security of that 9 to 5 before you’re ready to support yourself. Yeah, it’s difficult. It’s inconvenient, frustrating, and sometimes infuriating.
It’s also totally worth it.
Forget about that stuff for now.
Some (maybe all) of those things will be important much later, but you’ve got that six months of suck to get through. Step 1 in reaching blogging success is the long process of learning NOT to suck.
Okay, so how do you do that?
Your first 3 to 4 months of blogging should focus on mastery of these basics:
- Pick a topic. It’s okay to start with a general idea of what you want to blog about, and then let things develop naturally from there. The more you write, the more you’ll figure out whether or not your topic is right for you and accomplishes your goals. Change your mind if you need to. Start over. Delete old stuff and add new posts. Remember, you’re in that first six months of suck, so take advantage of the fact that nobody (with the possible exception of your mother) reads your blog – experiment!
- Build the habit of posting regularly. Starting out, most people aim to have a new post completed on 1 designated day every week – every Monday, for example. Posting on a regular schedule makes an unbelievable difference in the amount of people who read your posts and subscribe to follow your blog, so build the habit now. It will be much harder to create that discipline later. Don’t overextend yourself, though – if you know that coming up with new content every week is too much for you, post every two weeks, or perhaps even once per month. Some businesses even aim to add new posts every day, and if you can keep up with that pace, go for it! There’s no right or wrong answer as to how often you should post…as long as it’s something you can do consistently.
- Learn to use your blogging system. At the very least, you need to know how to write a post, schedule something to post later, add pictures, and insert links. WordPress is a personal favorite and a popular choice worldwide: there’s a huge support community, you can start for free and upgrade later, and it’s flexible enough that you can accomplish pretty much anything with it. Of course, there are other options, and some people opt to build their own websites completely from scratch, so do what seems right for you. Whatever you use, getting acquainted with your software is simply a matter of spending some time using it. There are no shortcuts.
- Identify your audience. Knowing who you’re writing for is a big deal, even if you’re only writing for yourself. Knowing your readership is infinitely more important, though, if you plan to blog for marketing purposes. If it’s within your budget, you can hire a professional blogger with copywriting and content marketing training to help you develop your voice and identify that audience, but great bloggers are going to charge what they’re worth, so be prepared to budget for it. Once you identify your audience, you can begin to refine your topic to connect with them better, and if that’s when you’ll start seeing big returns on your investments.
- Master the tone and style that works for you. Writing is a skill. Blogging is a different skill. As a general rule, blog posts tend to be written in an informal and conversational tone, and they don’t necessarily follow all of the same grammatical rules as academic writing. You’ll have to write a lot to develop your own voice, and it will continue to evolve over time. Reading your posts out loud as you proofread does wonders in helping you develop that conversational tone, and it also helps you quickly identify any passages that don’t flow particularly well. Blogging is a brilliant opportunity to inject personality into your brand, so let your humanity shine through!
Obviously, these aren’t the only skills you need to run a kickass blog.
These are just the FIRST skills you’ll need, and you shouldn’t rush ahead until you’ve got these few things pretty much down. There’s no substitute for your time and effort, so get started and don’t give up! You’d be surprised how fast 6 months race by.
Your Imagination Is The Limit
You’ll be amazed at what you accomplish through blogging.
Do a few internet searches for things you’re interested in – the type of stuff you’d read in a magazine – and you’ll find hundreds, maybe even thousands of blogs devoted to that topic.
If you’re going to be a blogger, you should read blogs regularly…daily if you can make the time for it.
Reading other people’s work, especially if it’s good, helps you develop your own skill and inspires you to try things you never would have otherwise considered.
Creativity, too, is a skill, and as such it can be practiced and developed.
So do that.
Besides that, the only thing you need to know is this:
You’re going to be awesome.