Blogging, for many, is simply a creative outlet. But for those looking to build a side hustle or even a career, it can be a rude awakening to fully realize what is involved, how much time it takes, and how much effort you have to give it.
The great thing about blogging is that you can do it from anywhere, make money more or less passively, and the connections you make along the way can be excellent. Blogging has allowed me to do many unique things over the years, but it took work.
10 Things New Bloggers Should Be Aware Of
- Starting a blog can be free, fun, and simple… in the beginning.
- Growing a blog takes time. Unless there is some spectacular reason for it, you will never become an overnight success. Think of it like becoming a celebrity. Most actors work for peanuts for decades before they get their first break. This is not dissimilar.
- Many bloggers work for free for years before they ever make enough to buy a cup of coffee. That’s not to say you can’t be an exception to the rule, but generally speaking, making money at blogging takes time. You have to love it to do it.
- Being a blogger will give you a thick skin. People don’t hold back on the internet. You have to learn to handle insults and criticism with professionalism. If this is to be your business, you need to act like it.
- If you want to build a business, you must treat it like one. Set up separate books for your business. Talk to an accountant. Open a business checking account (or at least a different checking account from your personal account. Also, open a savings to put money aside each month for taxes.).
- Blogging can be the ride of a lifetime if you stick with it. It has allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom for my child while still working and bringing in a full-time income. But blogging is also a full-time job. It will always be challenging.
- Once you have income, it will change every month. You have to be okay with that.
- You can’t panic every time your traffic drops. Blog stats are never a straight line. They are more of a rollercoaster ride. You have to be willing to ride the ride financially and statistically.
- Your friends and family will only understand what you do if they have a blog themselves. Get used to people’s eyes glazing over when you tell them what you do for work. To this day, some people in my family ask, “How is your little blog doing?” as if it’s a hobby. I sigh and say, “Fine,” knowing they will never understand what I do. Also, be ready to tell people repeatedly that you make money through the ads on your site and/or the products you sell. Because the first question people will always ask you is, “How do you make money doing that?”
- If your blog succeeds, get used to people asking you for advice. Decide how much time you want to spend helping others do what you do. I’ve had neighbors who took up my entire day “picking my brain” for blogs they wanted to start, only to have them never even begin the darn thing. Decide what your time is worth and stick to it.
Finding Your Niche
You have to decide from the beginning what you want to share with the world. This is called your niche, and your readers will come to depend on it. Once you have an established readership, they won’t like it much if you suddenly veer off in a new direction.
That said, if you want to be a multi-subject blog, that is totally fine. But figure out what those subjects are early on and stick with them.
Yes, you can branch out in the future. However, ensure the new addition makes sense and fits everything else on your site. If you blog about woodworking and then two years later suddenly start writing about psychology, your readers are unlikely to appreciate the sudden change. However, if you blog about woodworking and start branching out into other crafts, that’s far more acceptable, and your readers are likely to come along for the ride.
Identifying Your Niche
This is something new bloggers sometimes struggle with. Before starting a blog, decide what you want to share with the world. What do you have to say? Why is it important? Who can you help? Because people only come back to blogs that either entertain them or give them something they can use. It really is that simple. You absolutely must have a passion for what you do and have some expertise. You can’t blog about parenting if you don’t have kids. You can’t be a food blogger if you never cook or always burn your food when you do. You have to have some experience. Some reason for people to trust you. Maybe it’s life experience, or maybe it’s a degree. But either way, you must have it.
Everyone has theories on the magical number of posts that will help your blog grow. But at the end of the day, the only real thing that matters is that you pick a schedule and stick to it like glue. Even if you have to schedule posts in advance so you can do other things while your blog keeps working. Being consistent is critical.
The one thing you can never compromise on is the quality of your content. What you put out on your site is a reflection of you. It’s literally your reputation. It can make you or break you. Even content you might purchase needs to have your stamp on it. Meaning you need to add to it, change it, or do whatever you need to do to make it uniquely yours.
There is a vast market out there for buying and selling content. But one thing I learned the hard way is to not purchase content that I know nothing about. I won’t buy content on something like financial investing because I will be completely reliant on purchased content in the future. If you can’t write anything original on a particular subject, you should never buy content for that subject just to have it on your blog. Your blog should be based on your expertise if you are teaching something.
If you start a blog in a niche, such as a recipe blog or craft blog, you will always need a photo for each process step. And yes, your photos need to be good.
I’m not the best photographer, but I’ve honed my skills a bit over the years, and now I do okay. I’m not great, but I can take a clear shot that shows what I’m trying to describe in each step.
The truth is, the better your photography is, the better your blog will do. Blogs are a visual experience.
I will be the first to admit that this area is not my strong suit. But most bloggers swear by their editorial calendars. These days, you can get Chat GPT to spit out a customized editorial calendar for you for free. So, if that helps you stay organized and on track, it’s a good idea to create one for yourself. Think of it as your roadmap for content creation. It also allows you to stay on top of the calendar year in that it will remind you to start posting about Halloween in July or August, for example. Most events begin 2 to 3 months ahead of time online, particularly on social media. So, your blog needs to be ready for that, even if you are sharing content from the year before. Start early to promote your content.
Building an Audience Takes Time and Patience
People have to grow to trust you. Until they feel a connection to you, you and your blog are just some random internet blip. Always do your best to connect with people via social media and the comment section of your blog. The best advice I ever got in this department is, “No comment left behind.” Even if you simply “like” the comment on social media, you need to interact with every single comment in some way. But most often, you’ll want to actually respond to people.
Does this take a lot of time? Not so much in the beginning. But as you grow, yes. It can take a chunk of your morning, and that’s okay. It’s part of what you do for as long as you do it. Never let this side of your business slide because it’s your readers who keep you in business. They should always be your #1 focus. You should always ask yourself, “How can I help them? How can I serve them? How can I make their lives better in some small way?“
The truth is, you will never grow as fast as you want to grow. Especially in the beginning, growth will be very slow. Not only because people don’t know you exist yet but also because it takes time to grow a reputation with Google so that they will show your stuff to people in search results.
How To Grow A Blog
There are three things you will need to grow your blog.
- Quality content that has good SEO. (Search Engine Optimization)
- Good quality backlinks. These are the links that people add to their own sites that link back to something on your site. You need these. These can be gotten through guest posts, forum comments, and many other approaches. Just make sure everything you do is “legal” by Google standards. Buying backlinks is a big no-no.
- A good social media standing. Yes, the Google Gods take your social media stats into account, too. All these things (and a few others) get combined into one number. Your Domain Authority (DA). The higher that number is, the better position your blog is in overall.
Monetizing Your Blog
If you want to earn money with your blog, you’ll first need a wake-up call. The reality is you won’t make any money at first. While there may be a few ad networks out there that will take your blog while you have almost zero traffic, the majority of them have a traffic minimum that you must meet in order to qualify to be in their network.
The two biggest and best ad networks are MediaVine and Raptive (formerly AdThrive). MediaVine has a lower traffic threshold, so they are easier to get into in that respect. You will see bloggers discussing which one is better or pays more, but in my experience, it all depends on your blog and niche. Some topics will do better with one ad network over the other, and the only way to know is to try them both once you reach that level of traffic. That said, you want to avoid bouncing back and forth between the two. So, if you are making good money, stick with what you’ve got unless you have a very good reason for switching.
Diversifying Income Streams
Everyone loves to think that blogging is a path to passive income, and sometimes, it is. But only for some. You’ll want as many different income streams for your blog as possible, especially if you plan to make your living this way. That way, if one dips, you still have the others keeping you afloat.
What are some possible streams of income beyond ads? Generally speaking, there are three of them.
- Selling digital files such as how-to guides or digital books you have written.
- Selling a physical product.
- Selling your time. For example, consultations or coaching.
There is no way around it. If you want to blog for money, you have to get good at marketing yourself on social media. And yes, each platform has its own rabbit hole of how-to information you can get lost in. Your best bet is to learn as much as you can for free. While some courses out there are good, it’s been my experience that most are not great. Especially once you’ve been doing this for a while. I’ll list the best courses I’ve found down below.
Take your time with this. It’s important. Learn how to properly optimize your content for search engines so that search engines can actually find you. It is literally your blog’s lifeline and how you will grow. You need search engines to find you and list you.
If you blog for money, you will constantly be on social media. Get used to it. It can take up a sizeable chunk of your day to schedule social media posts and interact with people. But that’s part of the job, and hopefully, you will enjoy it.
Dealing with Criticism and Negative Feedback
I have gotten my fair share of this over the years, and all I can tell you is that you have to not only grow a thick skin but grow your grace, too. It’s social media. Don’t let a negative comment bother you. There are literally non-human bots out there that are made to spread meanness and horrible comments. Learn to brush it off. Delete what needs deleting, block those who need to be blocked, and don’t give it a second thought. It’s part of the territory.
That being said, there are mean/nasty comments, and then there are constructive criticisms. Learn to tell the difference. The difference between a frustrated reader who genuinely is trying to read your blog and interact with it but is having a difficult time for a valid reason and somebody who is only there to spread meanness. The former, you should always address with grace. The latter, you should delete and block or ban.
How Much Time Will You Spend Blogging?
If you do it as a hobby, it will totally be up to you. If you do it for money, you’ll need to give it as much time as possible. I have days where I am on my laptop from 8 a.m. to after midnight because I have so much I have to get done. Not everyone has to do that but be aware that a single blog post can sometimes take a full day or two to complete. Sometimes, more if you have to wait on certain things or people to complete it.
Much of this will depend on your niche as well. If your blog involves only writing about a certain topic, you’ll get things finished much faster than a blogger who has to photograph everything and make videos constantly for a tutorial or recipe. But no matter what you blog about, give it the time it deserves to create quality over quantity.
New Blogger Tip
One of the many courses I’ve taken taught me one little trick that I think helped me quite a bit when I started one of my blogs. That is, write 25 to 50 posts before you ever start your blog. Make sure they are topic-specific to your niche, and then publish them all at once. This gives Google crawlers something to crawl and lets Google know what your site is about. It also gives people something to read when they arrive. After that, fall back on your decided schedule for blogging.
The Importance of Networking
It’s critical to find a blogging group (there are many) where you feel comfortable participating. You want to network with other bloggers as well as have a place to ask the many questions you will have as you go down this road. Networking will save you time and time again. It’s also a great way to collaborate with those who are essentially your colleagues. Don’t underestimate the power of networking in the blogging world.
Integrity In Blogging
This article wouldn’t be complete without discussing integrity. There are a lot of people who work on the web that just don’t have any. Don’t be one of them. It will always come back to haunt you. The blogging world is very small. Your reputation will always precede you. Make sure it’s a good one. Your business will never succeed if you practice black hat tactics or take underhanded approaches. Will you make money? Possibly. But I guarantee it will come back to bite you in the b*tt.
- Don’t copy/paste other people’s content into your blog. It’s called plagiarism and copyright infringement. And yes, you can and will get into trouble at some point. You may even get a large bill in the mail from an attorney representing the blogger you stole from. Just don’t do it.
- Do not use photos unless you took them yourself, paid for the license to use them, or have written permission to use them and give full credit to the photographer on your site. Again, if you take somebody’s photos and use them on your blog without permission, you are likely to get a big bill in the mail for its commercial use, as well as a slap on the wrist for doing it in the first place.
- Don’t simply rewrite somebody else’s content because it’s popular on their blog. First, that doesn’t guarantee it will be popular on yours, and second, it’s just another form of stealing content. If you don’t have anything original to say, don’t bother starting a blog.
That said, it’s okay to use other blogs and blog posts for inspiration, but there is a definite line between using something for inspiration and simply rewriting a full blog post from start to finish just so you don’t get dinged for duplicate content. The closest you should ever get to rewriting something on another blog is rewriting their headers. This is generally considered okay practice, at least at the time of this writing. That could change in the future. The world of blogging is constantly changing. You have to keep up.
Blogging is a wild and fun ride. It’s also stressful and time-consuming. You have to love the process to stick with it over the long haul, and to make money, you definitely need to stick with it for the long haul.
Be persistent, stay committed, stay on schedule, and, most importantly, keep your integrity in everything you do.