Contrary to what you see splashed across Pinterest, you CANNOT start a REAL blog in just 10 minutes.
Even 10 freakin’ hours may not be enough to start your blog.
And today I’m here to tell you why.
I’ve been blogging for a long time now… ever since I got my very first desktop PC — a hand-me-down from my uncle. At that time, the only blogging platform that I knew of was Blogger.
Back in those days, no one that I knew blogged except this one off-beat internet friend that I had made on MSN chat (yeah…) We never saw one another in person, but he was the most “tech-savvy” teenager I knew, and he introduced me to the world of HTML, CSS, and coding in general, and then eventually, to blogging.
All my blogs, however, have been some version or another of a personal diary. The concept of blogging as something more than that was largely foreign to me until a few years ago when I started freelancing. That’s when I learned the true power of a blog.
And so the journey began.
At first, it was just to boost Google ranking for my freelance business website, and then, a few months ago, I decided to start a blog that’s to be a business venture on its own. (Yep, this very blog!)
Because I worked with a lot of bloggers as a freelance web designer and developer, I had been slowly learning about blogging. So, when I started the blog, I had a general idea of what I had to do.
That said, the whole process so far has been like nothing I could’ve ever imagined.
Guys, seriously, blogging ain’t easy! Not if you take it seriously and want to make money off it.
So, here I am, to shed some light on the darker parts of the blogging world. You see,
Blogging is a Lot of Time Spent Not Blogging
If you think blogging is about setting up a WordPress site and then get cranking with your exceptional wordsmithing, think again. Blogging is not what it used to be my friends. Nowadays, blogging starts way before you set up that WordPress site, and definitely does NOT end at setting up said WordPress site.
Here’s what unfolds when you decide to become a pro-blogger:
Blogging is a Lot About Branding
How you define branding is a whole another topic for another day, but I’ll highlight a few aspects of branding as a blogger just to give you some context.
There is no shortage of bloggers out there, as so, understandably, one of the methods to set yourself apart from the crowd is proper branding. And this branding strategy starts way before you set up your WordPress blog.
One way to brand your blog is by deciding your niche.
The whole concept of niche is also somewhat misunderstood. Your niche can be very specific; for example, you may be a tech-review blogger and have a blog dedicated to reviewing latest gadgets only. Or your niche can be something broader, like problem-solving. You can now niche down even more and write only about a certain kind of problem-solving — such as organizing small spaces — or you can take a broader angle to this problem-solving niche and solve all kinds of problems… much like what Lifehacker does.
Another way to brand your blog is the way you deliver your content.
Some folks really double down on their writing techniques. Take SmartBlogger by Jon Morrow for example. The coolest thing about SmartBlogger is that no matter who’s writing the posts (Jon has multiple bloggers in his team), they all have a very consistent style. Pretty much all of their posts start with single sentence paragraphs, and then they build up from there. These posts are all long-form and read more like essays. They’re also really witty.
SmartBlogger’s main attraction is the words — the way the posts are written. The rest of the blog is really kinda blah if you think about it. As a designer, every time I land on their blog I start thinking about all the ways I could improve upon the looks and feel of this blog. But it was a conscious choice by Jon Morrow to have it that way, and I can respect that — that’s how he branded his blog. SmartBlogger is all about the words, and not at all about the fluffs.
Then, of course, there’s the other, more obvious branding — the visual experience.
The logo, the graphics, the images, the colors. Some blogs are so stunningly beautiful that you keep coming back to them just because they’re so pretty! The content is important of course — without great content, it’s hard to sustain a profitable blog. But to be honest, as far as delivery is concerned, I’ve yet to find another blog like Jon’s SmartBlogger, that’s so bland in terms of aesthetics, and yet so popular because of the quality of the written content alone.
Blogging is a Lot of Tech Stuff
Here comes the WordPress blog. Sure, hosting companies these days have made installing WordPress super easy. (If you’re a newbie and trying to figure out how to set up WordPress, do check out my blog post: How to Set Up Your Blog with Self-Hosted WordPress)
But it doesn’t stop at just clicking a few buttons. You have to make sure your blog is secure and not vulnerable to hackers, you need to install plugins to do certain things for you. You need to make your site presentable. You need to make sure your content is regularly backed up. You need to make sure said WordPress and all other plugins are always up to date. Yada yada yada.
Basically, if you want to be a blogger, you also need to become a semi tech-whiz (or hire a tech-whiz on retainer to do all the maintenance for you).
Of course, there are other, easier-to-handle platforms that one can choose, but who are we kidding? Blogging is best done on WordPress. Period. Any successful blogger will tell you so, and for very good reasons too. I’ve spent the better parts of the past few years freelancing as a web designer and developer, so yeah, I can vouch for the sentiment.
Blogging is a Lot of Planning & Strategizing
So you’ve set up your blog and now it’s time for writing, right? Now, HOLD YOUR HORSES RIGHT THERE! Not YET! You need a solid plan before you start writing. You know, if you want to be a successful blogger, you NEED to have a solid plan. For starter, you need to start an email list going. But before you do that, you know what you need? An opt-in freebie incentive. It’s a small product, a taste of your brand and your blog. It is this incentive that lures your readers into giving up their email address to you… that precious, precious real estate is where the money’s at my fellow bloggers! Without a list, you’re pretty much doomed. No matter how many followers you have on social media, it’s the list that really counts.
Speaking of social media platforms, while it’s true they’re not as valuable as your email list, they’re still really important. Its what you use to promote your blog posts. And without promotion, in this saturated blogosphere, you’re doomed to get lost into oblivion. And social media needs planning as well. How often do you promote? What do you promote? Do you only promote or do you create unique content for social media platforms? Yeah. It’s not pretty, but one can argue that it’s necessary. Whether you choose to really double down on only one platform, or 20 separate platforms, you’ll be spending a lot of time crafting a social media marketing plan, I can guarantee that!
Blogging is a Lot of Research
Unless you know your subject matter REALLY well, you’re bound to have to do some research when you’re writing a post.
Bloggers who solve a problem or educate their readers about a certain topic definitely fits the bill, but even lifestyle bloggers have it hard.
For example, if you’re a food blogger, you need to research about the recipes you share. You need to find out the total calories of individual serving size, whether or not any of the ingredients used contain gluten, and a bunch of other things.
One of my favorite lifestyle blogs — Cup of Jo — has almost weekly interviews, style shoots, various tips and how-to posts. Imagine the work! Just one interview can take up SO.MUCH.TIME! First, you have to research who you want to interview, then you have to research this person and their work, then you have to ask if you can interview them, then you have to wait until they respond, and then you have to prepare questions, and then you have to wait for those answers, then you have to create a blog post and maybe even go on site to take this person’s photos…
My head is spinning and I didn’t even do the work.
Blogging is a Lot of Writing
YES, oh YES! Now we’re talking!
It’s time to finally, finally, FINALLY write some good stuff!
And you know what? Writing is HARD. It takes a lot of time!
And the worst part is that half of the time spent writing goes into coming up with a clever blog post title and a clever meta description.
Someone kill me now…
But yes, after the painstaking process of crafting the perfect title and description, you can finally sit down to write, and like I said, it’s not even that easy.
Blogging is a Lot of… Graphic Design?
Uh yes. The most important part of blogging is… yeah, not necessarily writing (unless you’re Jon Morrow of SmartBlogger). It’s coming up with the perfect graphics. Choosing the perfect image and then creating Pinterest shareable, vertically aligned graphics, as well as square graphics for Instagram, rectangular graphics for Facebook and Twitter… by now, you’re not only a tech-whiz and a superb writer, but you’re also a graphic designer (maybe even a photographer, if you’re ambitious)… how nice!
Blogging is a Lot of Promoting
Remember planning and strategizing? Well, now’s your time to shine. Put all that planning into action and get cranking! And don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s easy. First of all, it takes a lot of strategizing, and constantly tweaking the said strategies to find the perfect one that works for you and you alone. That initial planning is important, but it doesn’t stop at that. Soon enough, you’ll have multiple content calendars for not only your blog, but also all of the different social media outlets.
Uh, Crap… I Almost Forgot That Blogging Is Also a Lot of… Making Money… or so We Hope
Yeah… a lot of the making-money part actually starts at the planning and strategizing phase. You should have a solid plan of action. You need to figure out how to make money from your blog. Will you have sponsored posts? Will you have ads on your blog? Will you sell your own products? Maybe offer some services on the side? Or perhaps you want to sell products created by others (a.k.a. affiliate marketing)?
There’s a lot to be considered. And as a pro-blogger who makes money off of blogging, these are some of the things you’ll need to decide at some point, and then create content around whatever it is you’re selling — be that your services or your products or somebody else’s products.
Still want to be a blogger?
Great! And great news! Because you know what? There are folks who have abandoned all the things I’ve said so far and yet, somehow, they’ve managed to become mighty, and mighty successful. (Seth Godin, anyone?)
In short, life isn’t a set of rules, and so, neither is blogging. But for the most part, and for most bloggers, all the above-mentioned criteria apply.
And for those who’re neither mighty nor into starting off perfectly? There’s always the option to just start and learn along the way, from all the mistakes you’ll make, and all the money you’ll lose in the process… but no worries! Eventually, you’ll figure it all out!
That’s a relief, huh!
Good luck, and happy blogging!
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