So, you want to be a blogger…
I recently had a conversation with somebody who was considering starting a blog, and that has come up from time to time.
I’m happy to give you what advice I can. I think I can reasonably say that I’m a successful blogger, although there are certainly people with more readers, and even more people who make more money at it. I’m not big on monetization: I have a full time job, so this isn’t paying the bills. I do want to make a certain amount to justify the time and energize I spend on it, and I do that. The subscribers (thanks, subscribers!), some of whom have been with me more than half a decade, really make it possible.
ILMK has been one of the top-selling blogs in the USA Kindle store almost from the beginning, although the audience of people who pay for a blog subscription is relatively small. I always like to recall the day I passed the Huffington Post and The Onion on the same day, and I’ve stayed above them since. Obviously, they have more readers and make money than I do.
For me, it’s not about making money…and that’s the first thing I’d say to anybody thinking about starting a blog…or any other project (I’ve taught project management). You need to decide how you’ll be able to tell it’s a success. That’s how you know where to put your energies.
- Are you doing it to make money?
- Are you doing it to promote a cause?
- Are you doing it to improve your writing skills through practice?
- Are you doing it because…you just have to do something creative?
- Are you doing it to help people?
- Are you using it to promote something else you are doing?
There could be other motivations, and it’s up to you what they are and how you will measure them. You can have more than one motivation.
For example, if you say you are doing it to help people (that’s one of my motivations), how will you know you’ve helped somebody? One way I can tell that is through the comments.
Once you’ve made that decision, you want to think about how much time, and perhaps more importantly, how much social energy you want to spend on it. I blog, but I don’t really do Facebook, because I don’t have the social energy left over for the latter. You can do the blog itself for free…I don’t pay for my WordPress.com blogs. I could pay for a more robust blog, but this one suits my purposes. It’s those energy and time costs that you need to consider.
Oh, and you need to decide on a subject area…but most people know that already.
At this point, you know what you want to do, how you’ll know if it’s a success or not, and how much time you are going to spend.
You are just about ready to start writing…but I do want you to think about how you are going to deal with comments. Will you allow them at all? I do…one of my favorite parts of the blog is the comments I get, especially when people respectfully disagree with me. I’ve learned a lot that way! Will you moderate them (review them before they are published)? If you don’t, you’ll have a lot of ads…I get (and reject) them every week.
Okay, start writing. 🙂 I recommend that you write two weeks worth of the blog before you publish your first post. If you figure you are posting one post a day, write fourteen posts before you put the first one up. Two weeks is enough of a buffer so you won’t fall behind. If something else sparks you while you are in the middle of the fourteen, that’s fine…write about that. You just don’t want to feel the pressure in the beginning, while you are finding your footing.
Part of writing the blog is thinking about the content. Will you just write articles yourself? Will you do interviews? Will you have guest writers? There are a lot of possibilities.
Now, pick a platform. As I mentioned, I use WordPress…it’s pretty simple to use, and seems to work reasonably well and reliably. It’s been around for a long (knock virtual wood), which suggests stability for the future.
Perhaps part of that decision: if you are going to monetize it, how will you do that? Will you take paid advertising (like Google AdSense, or other ads)? I’ve chosen not to do that….if you ever see ads on the website, WordPress put them there, not me. 🙂 Will you do paid subscriptions, perhaps through Amazon (that works well for me)? Will you ask for donations? Will you be an Amazon Associate, so you can get paid when people follow links from your blog and then buy something?
You’ll also have to decide how you will promote the blog. Social media? If you don’t have a Twitter account, will you start one? Will your blog have a Facebook page? Are you going to promote the blog by offering your expertise…if so, where?
Once the blog is running, how will you evaluate how it is doing and make adjustments in order to improve it? You’ll get stats…you’ll probably get so many of them that you can become addicted just to looking at them. I don’t pay much attention to those…I do look from time to time. If I was trying to make my living just on my blogs, I’d pay more attention to it. I do poll my readers from time to time…that helps.
One last thought: how will you make your writing good enough for what you want to do? I do get asked that one, although not always phrased that way. The most important thing about being a writer is writing. 🙂 You become a better basketball player by playing a lot. You become a better writer by writing a lot. However, the second most important thing is reading. Writers read, it’s that simple. That doesn’t mean you are going to copy what someone else is doing, but you may find rhythms of speech that you like, and you’ll recognize what makes you feel good when you read it.
Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Writing a blog, especially a daily one, isn’t like writing a book. That would be like comparing your casual conversation to your doctoral dissertation. 😉 They are two different types of communication. Some people may spend a week when writing a book on one page…and I write the equivalent of something like four pages a day. Naturally, it won’t be as polished…but for many blogs, that’s part of the charm. It’s more like a conversation than a lecture, and readers like feeling the spontaneity and emotion.
Well, I hope that helps! Blogging is a big part of my life, and helps fulfill it. I think it makes me a better person, which helps with my relationships, both at home and at work. When I help someone, that makes me feel good…and that’s a good influence on how I treat others. 🙂
If you have more questions about blogging, or comments about what I’ve said (you may be wiser on part of this than I am), feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
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