When it comes to blogging, I am by no means an expert. I started out as most bloggers do, with a specific niche topic I was super passionate about and very limited knowledge of how to create and manage a blog. 5 years on I can now proudly say I succeeded in my mission to become a blogger. However, it wasn’t an easy ride to get here and most definitely didn’t come without its hurdles and challenges. I have had to stumble my way through good, bad and some seriously hideously ugly times. This article is designed to teach you the top 12 important lessons I had to learn the hard way so that you won’t have to!
Lesson 1 – DO NOT compare yourself to fellow bloggers!
As I mentioned in the introduction, I’ve been blogging for 5 years now. It’s been an extremely hard uphill battle (imagine pushing a rather large boulder up a steep hill!) and one of my main issues I struggled to overcome right from the beginning was comparing myself to other fellow bloggers in my niche. Especially when I measured myself up against those that had started out around the same time as I did and who are now well and truly light years ahead of me. After allowing this concern to shadow the success of my blog for far longer than I should have permitted I decided I needed to sit down and work out why their blogs were doing so much better than my own. After much consideration I came to the conclusion there are two main reasons as to why they are probably be doing better than I am:
1. They actually enjoy writing!
Yes. My fellow bloggers must love to write. I say this simply because writing isn’t exactly something I personally find great pleasure in. In fact, I’m useless at writing. Not because I never have anything exciting to write about, I do, it’s more lacking the creativity to put those ideas into text form for others to read and replicate the level of passion and knowledge I experience from it. Sadly writing just doesn’t come naturally to me as it appears to do for others. I find it extremely difficult to sit down and write blog posts and since your blogging success clearly relies on the ability to connect with your readers largely through the written material you provide it is an area one must improve on. If this sounds like you, don’t give up on your blogging dreams because you feel limited by your writing ability or in my case lack thereof, I am proof that with a lot of persistence your writing will improve and so too will the performance of your blog. (Plus i have an excellent editor!)
2. They have a lot more spare time to focus on their blogs!
The saying time is money is perhaps the closest, most fitting description I get to in relation to blogging success. The overall accomplishment of your blog relies heavily on the amount of time you are able to invest in it. A lot of the bloggers I have come across are the “I quit my job to write a travel blog” blogger! Don’t get me wrong there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! If you can do it then DO IT!!! Unfortunately, this isn’t an option everyone has the luxury of affording let alone choosing. I REALLY, REALLY wish I could say I was indeed one of those bloggers, it is most definitely the direction I am aiming to take my blog, however, it currently isn’t a possibility for me either. Like so many of today’s population, I am burdened by general living expenses and have to work full time in order to pay for it all. I also go to the gym 5-6 days a week to stay fit and healthy as much day job confines me to a computer chair and desk all day. Overall it doesn’t leave a lot of time to focus on growing my blog and business.
Lesson 2 – Don’t focus on just one social media platform
This day and age online is everything. Everywhere you look there is one form or another of social media. When I started my blog Facebook was originally the best social media platform for bloggers and business owners to spread the word, if you had 4,000 followers your interaction would be high however since Facebook changed their algorithms it seems to be a bit of a “dead art”. Using Facebook now means your post will get very minimal views or interaction and advertising on Facebook makes it these numbers even worse! If you boost a post or pay to have your article seen by more fans, Facebook will reduce the views on normal posts thereby encouraging you to pay more money for fans to see your posts. With this said, some people have had great success using Facebook.
For this reason alone, it pays to distribute your posts across a wide range of social media platforms. I understand how daunting running multiple social media accounts can be, but these days a successful blog relies heavily on such.
Personally, I find Twitter and Pinterest the best platforms to use and bring in a lot more views to my blog than any other. Twitter makes engaging with people far easier and quicker, whilst. Pinterest, although isn’t really a social media platform per say; it’s more of a graphics search engine (like Google but with images only) is a great way to promote your blog content visually. And as I always say “A good graphic can speak a thousand words” and is perhaps the best tool in luring readers to view your website.
Lesson 3 – Face it – There are so many competitive bloggers in your niche!
Prepare for a shock to the system. Go ahead and a Google “Travel blog” or whatever your chosen niche is. Notice how many travel blogs/general blogs there already are, literally hundreds, if not thousands depending on your blogging passion. Technology has made it far too readily possible for anyone wanting to start a blog to jump online and set up a brand new website in as simple as 1-2-3, bam, hello new blogger! Don’t let this discourage you. The best advice I can give you in regards to this is to accept the competition and use it to fuel your own blog ideas.
You also need to be made aware that somewhere, someone, no doubt more than one person actually has written about topics you plan to also write about on your blog. So how does one then be unique, stand out from the crowd I hear you ask? That answer is an easy one actually. You are the difference. The article you plan to write, that you know for a fact has been written before, multiple times in fact it seems, will not be the same as those others because you have a different perspective to those other writers that will make you and your posts unique. Just trust yourself to be the difference that blog topic needed and write the article anyway!
Lesson 4 – Asking for help can be really unhelpful!
So you find yourself needing help and choose to join an online forum or Facebook group in the hope of finding the solution to your problem. Unfortunately, such places don’t always offer honest answers or even helpful…help. I have come across people who have sadly and deliberately led me in the completely wrong direction out of fear that “I’m the competition” and will “steal” their followers! Please, let’s be real! As of 2018, there are over 7.3 billion people in the world I’m very confident in saying there are more than enough to go around! Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of great people in Facebook groups who will go out of their way to help you, just be cautious and take every piece of advice given with a grain of salt or and always do some follow up research to support their counsel.
This same advice also applies if you want to complete a course online. DO YOUR RESEARCH! I’ve had the extremely unpleasant misfortune of being suckered into paying for one too many courses over the years that looked 100% legit thanks largely to great marketing, only to gain access to the course realize I had been taken for a ride, effectively robbed of my money and received nothing in return. Again, I repeat, DO YOUR RESEARCH, read reviews, ask advice and seek recommendations from verified sources.
Lesson 5 – Are you blogging for fun or do you aim to make it into a business aka a side hustle
Let’s face it most people would love to own a blog that earns them some extra income and if that is the case it’s best to establish this right from the start. Ask yourself are your blogging for a bit of fun, a hobby, a creative outlet in your spare time or do you aim to turn your blog into a business and earn an income from it. It can be a difficult decision to make when you first start out. You have all these great ideas written down, ready to turn into amazing posts to share with your readers and all you want to do is jump right in and get started. It’s all good to be enthusiastic; however, you need to figure out your blogs long-term purpose. But by thinking of your blog as a business from the start, you ensure that you look into marketing your blog correctly and setting up branding from the beginning – a very important key element. You also consider how best to set up your posts if your goal is side hustling rather than a hobby. I wish I had taken my blog a little more seriously when I first started blogging because I can honestly tell you going through 300+ posts changing links to affiliate links is a savage pain in the butt!
Lesson 6 – Does blogging pay well? Should you quit your job straight away?
The short answer is no. It’s extremely unlikely, borderline rare that you will start a blog and in 6 months be earning a 6 figure income! If it was that easy to earn such an amazingly wealthy level of income we would all be doing it and it would no longer be so extravagant. I apologize to anyone who held high hopes of becoming a blogger to get out of their 9-5 instantly. I’m afraid it takes a lot more hard work and time investment than that to merely set up your blog to start earning an income stream from it, let alone be able to quit your job and live off it. Sadly this is the cold hard reality of blogging and unfortunately, reality usually stings a little.
With that said, there is a tonne of ways to earn a decent income online, there are heaps of blogs specifically dedicated to successfully doing just that, however over the course of the next year I will be posting articles directly relating to helping you make an income online. Patience is the key to success and slow and steady wins the race!
Lesson 7 – Set your expectations low, very low
Appearances are definitely deceptive when it comes to the success of a blog. Everyone thinks it’s a simple one-time set-up, filling in a website template and then writing a series of posts. Everyone believes they have the skill set to become a rich blogging sensation overnight just by publishing one post under the illusion they were the only ones to write an article about said post topic. Reality check – DOESN’T HAPPEN! You need to set your expectations of blogging low and I mean low. If you set them too high you’re just setting yourself up for failure – a soul-crushing, deeply depressive, self-esteem shattering epic fail. Just pace yourself. Set some achievable goals and take one step at a time. Concentrate on your output more than your success and over time you will start to see your blog grow and become everything you had hoped it would be and maybe more. If you don’t reach those goals then take a step back and re-evaluate them to see if you’ve still set your expectations too high at this stage of your blog.
Lesson 8 – To take a blogging course or not?
Despite having some knowledge on blogging prior to actually becoming a blogger, when I first started blogging I still jumped straight onto a travel blogging course (which has since been taken over by a fairly large travel blogger). At the time I believe I paid approx $250 to do the course and looking back on it now it was a lot of money to pay for a fairly basic course designed more so for beginners than a somewhat knowledgeable blogger like myself and the course content itself was a little dated which wasn’t particularly useful. Since then I have done a few other courses assuming there had to be some worth something beneficial. Some proved to very valuable and helpful, others not so much. I wish I hadn’t been so easily bamboozled by the idea of taking a “course” to perfect my blogging craft and done my research instead on as unfortunately most turned out to be a complete waste of money and time.
Despite this, I highly recommend taking blogging courses because you aren’t always going to be able to find all the information you are looking for online for free, okay that’s a lie, you probably could, however, think about all the time and effort it would take to source all that information online. Sometimes it better to bite the bullet and invest in yourself and your business. As they say, you can’t make money without first spending money. Courses can serve many purposes, they can help to improve you on a personal level, or teach you something you didn’t know about the blogging world and or even educate you on how to grow your income.
Again, I cannot stress enough please do your research before purchasing any courses, read reviews and ask opinions, seek or recommendations in groups or even personally contact a blogger you trust and ask them for their opinion and guidance. Does the course creator have a blog, check out their claims, if they say they are getting 200,000 views a month from Pinterest, check their account, does it look professional, do they have nice pins that are appealing and more importantly do they have legitimate followers. Follow the course creator for a while on their blog or via social media. Try to get a feel for their professionalism and knowledge. Do they offer a money back guarantee?
*Word of warning – some fellow bloggers may try to “sell” you a course so they can make a quick buck in affiliates – these people are very rare however they are around, which is why I constantly recommend looking into something in greater detail before agreeing to anything, simply contact someone you trust, ask their opinion and then check if they have an affiliate link as a way to say thanks for the help! 🙂
Lesson 9 – Don’t obsess over numbers
Yes, blogging is a numbers game, but do not let that consume you. And it will if you let it. Trust me. I’ll admit when I first started blogging, I set my expectations way too high and was subsequently glued to Facebook groups, glued to my WordPress stats and my Google analytics watching the numbers slowly climb, sometimes not even increase at all and would literally and I mean literally, not figuratively cry myself to sleep some nights because other bloggers were seeing higher view counts than I was. Yes, perhaps a little pathetic, borderline desperate and most definitely embarrassing for myself but I was hungry for success.
My blogging expectations needed a reality check so I took a very long 6-8 month break from blogging where I took the opportunity to reprogram my mind and then one day I woke up and realised how much valuable time I was wasting worrying over numbers; visitors, viewers, bounce rates, other bloggers, when I could have been pouring all that energy into my blog itself. I was being completely ridiculous and it needed to stop. I wanted nothing more than to be a “Travel Blogger” and I was allowing a silly obsession with numbers ruin what I was most passionate about. I needed to refocus my attention on my blog and my content. I’m glad I finally woke up because my numbers did start to increase after that and I now have that blog I imagined from the start. And while yes, to this day I still like to check on how my views are doing on a daily basis, however, I don’t get consumed by it or allow it to upset me if the numbers aren’t as I anticipated they should or would be.
Lesson 10 – Don’t get caught up in online “advice” and drama
It’s easy to get side-tracked and caught up in Facebook group drama. By this I mean someone might post something either on the wall itself or on a post which leads to others providing misleading and confusing information, sparking an endless debate. It is very easy to be lured to join in and add your five cents worth. Just leave them to it, stay on track, set yourself goals and don’t get involved in drama.
Lesson 11 – Avoid time-consuming tasks that aren’t bringing value to your readers (or you)
I see a lot of people, mainly in Facebook groups, spending hours and hours in weekly/daily share threads and then comment that they aren’t seeing the results they expect. By all means, join these threads because some of them are beneficial. For example, Pinterest repin groups or link swap groups. Personally, I’m not a fan of the “blog commenting” or the “Facebook likes/ Twitter retweet” threads, these are very time-consuming and provide very little value to you, your blog or your readers in the long run.
Lesson 12 – Take a Goddamn break!
As mentioned in Lesson 9, I was obsessed with numbers and Facebook groups, I spent my every waking moment thinking about my blog and trying to find ways to get more views, more subscribers, and more social media followers. It was insanity which eventually broke me. I was angry and upset at myself for not being better and doing better. I carried my mood around everywhere I went and my constant negativity was driving everyone crazy. My partner suggested I take a break from blogging. I initially reacted badly, assuming he was agreeing with my feelings of inability to be better. See, I told you, crazy lady from crazy town. However, he was merely suggesting I give myself time to clear my brain and start again with a refreshed perspective. His comparison at the time was like when you are in a perfume shop to buy a new scent, perhaps as a gift for a loved one and you have exhausted every spray possible trying to find the perfect one and now everything it starting to smell the same and you are getting frustrated because it shouldn’t be this hard to pick one and the assistant suggests you refresh you nostrils with the smell of coffee beans – it’s an actual thing for those of you thinking this is a just a made up example – and then you’ll be able to smell the perfumes as new.
His advice, however dissimilar it was to blogging, worked a treat. I took the break he suggested was a necessity, admittedly taking way longer then I intended, but in all honesty, I am very thankful I did. Otherwise, the thing I am most passionate about, my awesome blog that I have managed to create to this day would cease to exist. The time off gave me a much-needed perspective. A blog, whatever purpose you have designed it to serve should be enjoyed. I had pushed myself way too hard to be an instant success, worrying over my numbers I had allowed myself to get to a point where I was so burnt out that I hated blogging, I didn’t want to do it anymore, I was done!
Then I checked my emails one morning and saw a renewal notice from Bluehost – my website host. I spent the entire day thinking about my blog, the reasons why I started it and where it could potentially be right now had I not weighed myself down with expectation and all but ruined my blogging career before it had even officially had the opportunity to be something great! In that moment I remembered exactly why I wanted to become a blogger in the first place, I felt so deeply inspired and instantly excited I automatically renewed my website and set about making my blog the best it could possibly be and I haven’t looked back.
My point is…. take the break. Don’t quit.
Have you started a blog? What lessons have you learned the hard way?