Here are a few lessons I have learned from writing 200 blog posts over the past year that might be helpful for aspiring bloggers.
A few words of caution…
1. If you start a blog for any reason other than absolutely loving the topic you’re blogging about, you’ll burn out within a year. If you start blogging because you think it’s a great way to earn some extra income, think again. Earning money takes serious time and dedication (see #3 below). If you blog because you want page views and media attention, you’ll most likely be disappointed (see #2 below). The only way to create a blog that you’ll feel motivated to spend hours on with very little recognition is if you’re incredibly passionate about the topic you’re writing about. If you can derive intrinsic satisfaction from blogging, you can sustain a blog for many years without burning out.
2. Your blog will be a ghost town for the first three months. Just get over it. When you first start out, it’s incredibly hard to gain any traction, reel in dedicated readers, and build any type of audience. It takes time to gain the trust and respect needed to keep people coming back to your site. For the first three months, ignore your page views, number of comments, social media following, and every other metric. Just produce content. Focus on becoming a better writer, honing your craft, finding your voice, and making your site layout user-friendly. This is the bread and butter of blogging.
3. Making money from blogging takes far more time and effort than you think. To anyone out there looking to start earning side-income from a blog, I say go for it. But recognize that it will take at least a year (and often much longer for most) until you start seeing any type of meaningful income from blogging.
In my first year of blogging I earned a grand total of $37.50. I spent roughly 50 hours per month working on the blog, which equates to 600 hours of total effort in my first year. This means I earned about 6 cents an hour from blogging during my first year. Only in the past few months have I started earning hundreds of dollars each month from this site, which drives home the point: blogging is a horrible source of extra income if you need money fast. If you do want to earn money from blogging, make sure you have a multi-year time horizon.
4. Most bloggers earning a full-time living from their blog have been producing content for at least three years. This is something I didn’t understand until I actually started my own blog. The amount of traffic required to even generate a few bucks from advertising is considerably higher than I thought. Sure, it’s possible to make a few hundred bucks from blogging (like I currently do) each month, but to generate enough income to walk away from your day job to blog full-time takes years.
If I haven’t scared you off, here’s some helpful tactics and habits…
5. Blogging is easiest when you do it at the same time each day. I recently wrote about how I do all my writing / data visualizations / content producing in the morning before I head to work. Before I set up this daily routine, I would work on the blog at random times each day, often in an unfocused manner. This wasn’t efficient. I found that by working on my blog in the morning I could take advantage of all the fresh energy, ideas, and focus I had when I woke up. This helped me produce quality content far more often and grow my audience at a much faster pace.
As a side note, it helps that I’m a morning person. I know that I do my best work as soon as I wake up. But this doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to become a morning person. Maybe you do your best work mid-day or late in the evening. What’s important is that you’re able to identify when you do your best work and make it a priority to keep that time clear for blogging.
6. Don’t obsess over page views. Compulsively monitoring page views is a wonderful way to become depressed about blogging. Sure it’s fun to see a spike in traffic, but the subsequent drop in views is deflating. Seeing very few page views for weeks and weeks at a time can be discouraging enough to make you quit altogether. It almost made me quit. Instead, focus purely on your content. How can you make your articles more interesting, more concise, more intellectually stimulating for the reader? As the quality of your work improves, your page views will naturally increase over time.
The Real Joys of Blogging…
7. Receiving an email from a reader stating that your blog has positively impacted them in some way produces an unbelievable amount of joy. A personal email from a reader puts a bigger smile on my face than any amount of page views ever could. This is what blogging is all about: writing content that impacts the way people are thinking, behaving, and living their lives. Blogging is about making connections with readers. Once you receive that first “thank you for what you do” email, you’re hooked.
8. Blogging is a fantastic way to expand your social circle. The number of bloggers and readers I have been able to meet, interact with, and form friendships with over the past year has been mind-blowing. In particular, the personal finance community is packed with wonderful people, most of whom are just trying to share their thoughts and ideas on how to live a better life. Even if you never earn a dime from blogging, being able to connect with like-minded people who are equally passionate about your blog topic is an incredible feeling.
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