If you want to save time, money and energy on your journey to becoming a blogger, this post provides 12 critical things to know before starting a blog. You will have access to often-overlooked tidbits that will help you set your blog up for success from day 1. Don’t flounder like most new bloggers learning these things the hard way.
Why a Post About Things to Know Before Starting a Blog?
I launched this blog 5 months ago as a complete newbie to blogging. There is so much misleading information out there about how easy it is to launch a blog, drive traffic and make money. I wasted time, effort and money by being ignorant of the following information. By writing this post, I want to make sure my fellow aspiring bloggers have access to information I wish I knew before starting a blog. I would like to save you months of wasted time, money and energy so you can realistically focus on blogging goals that work from day 1.
The 12 Critical Things to Know Before Starting a Blog
1. Your Blog is A Small Business-Plan for That
Set your blog up as real businesses do
Unfortunately, there are very few blogging courses that actually speak about this topic. Many fledgling bloggers think they can write about topics that interest them and this will draw an audience that can be monetized. This is unlikely in blogging in 2018. Without a solid business plan, most blogs will fail.
When you plan to launch a blog, plan for it the way you would plan for a brick and mortar business. Think about research, market analysis, marketing, competition, sales, business planning, and goal setting, and the like. Have a bona fide blog business plan before you even buy a domain name. Do some market testing on your audience before you launch a blog to make sure you are basing your business model on facts, not speculation. Also, have a realistic timeline for business results similar to other start-up businesses. Don’t be deceived by the small percentage of bloggers with instant success all over social media, most small businesses take about 2 years of hard work to start turning a profit.
The majority of bloggers are not succeeding!
Similar to other small businesses, it is estimated that 50% of blogs will fail in the first two years. Further, Blog Tyrant (a very excellent blog to follow on blogging) does a regular survey of its blogger readers and they found in 2018 69% of their blogger readers made 0$ per year from blogging! However, 83% of that sample worked on their blog less than 20 hours a week. You can read more about their fascinating survey results here. Just like other start-up businesses, blogging may demand more than a part-time commitment to become a profitable venture. Be aware and plan accordingly.
Try the New Lean Start-Up Approach to Blogging First
SmartBlogger‘s Jon Morrow recently released this post about how to launch a blog much more intelligently in 2018, taking a “lean start-up” business approach. It minimizes your initial financial risk and bases your business model on well-researched information. If I had it to do over again, I would follow his approach before even picking a WordPress theme (lesson learned)! You can avoid wasted time and energy too with his approach.
2. Plan Your Finances Based on Truths about Blogging
There are Hidden Up-Front Costs to Blogging
The lure of blogging is that you can set up a self-hosted website for less than $5 dollars a month. Then you have a blog.
However, there is a tonne of other things you need as a newbie to run a profitable blog. You will likely need some paid courses, email service providers to manage subscribers, social media scheduling software, tech help, stock photography, and many other expenses for your business. I would estimate at least $1,500 USD is needed in the first year.
The Majority of Bloggers Take at Least 2 Years to Turn a Profit
Similar to any small business, most bloggers will need time to turn a profit from their blog. There are exceptions that are easy to read about on social media, but please remember that is not the majority. Planning in your finances should take into consideration the most likely scenario.
If You Need Money Fast Consider Selling Blogging-Related Services
A lot of newbie bloggers who need an income earlier than the typical timeline for a profitable blog offer services to gain income. Services such as virtual assistance, web design, graphic design and ghostwriting are all ways to sell services to other bloggers until your blog is profitable. Just ensure you are skilled in these areas. There are several excellent, brief and affordable courses on each of these. This will take the pressure off until your blog is profitable.
3. Proactively Manage Your Schedule to Prevent Burnout
There will be A LOT to learn as a new blogger. Then there will be the application of all the new learning while trying to build your blog and develop and promote your quality content.
I am assuming you want to have a life outside of work? Why trade a 9-5 office job for a 120 hour a week home-based blogging business?
To avoid becoming one of the many new bloggers who suffer burnout and quit blogging, you will need to set firm boundaries with your time and take regular breaks from blogging tasks. Pace yourself. Take care of your health and your relationships as a priority.
4. Block Out Information Distractions while Working Your Blogging Business Plan
The blogging world changes often. There will be new courses coming out daily to teach you the latest thing. Do not become a victim of shiny-object-syndrome. Chasing new courses and new information daily will reduce you to an unfocussed underachiever.
Pick one or two blogging courses that are comprehensive and stay focussed on completing them. A good course will have a Facebook group that updates you about any major changes in the blogging world you need to be aware of.
Make sure you have a clear blog business plan, with clear goals as you launch. Stay focussed on working that plan as you learn what you need to in one or two comprehensive courses (not more than that!). If you are to accomplish anything on your journey to blogging success, you will need to be merciless with cutting out distracting information.
5. Some Blogging Niches are Naturally Geared for Profit
The first blogging course I signed up for did not mention this at all. They encouraged me to “follow my passion”.
The only thing is there are niches and topics that have pre-existing large audiences who want to spend money in the topic area. There are other niches where it is almost impossible to make any income from. There is really no point “following your passion” for a business if it is not profitable. If you are following your passion as a hobby and need no money that is fine, but most bloggers want at least some income from their efforts.
There is an awesome post here from Obstacle.co by blogging genius Paul Scrivens on profitable niches. If I had to start over again, I would have found the intersection of my passion and one of these niches first.
5. Pinterest is a New Blogger’s Best Friend
Normally, it takes about 6 months for Google to start sending significant traffic to your blog based on search engine optimization. As a new blogger, you can use Pinterest for a lot of quick and free referral traffic. Using Pinterest early also builds up your ranking with Google faster.
Blog post pins can circulate on Pinterest for months after you launch a post. Any promotion you do on other social media platforms last minutes to hours. So Pinterest really is the biggest bang-for-your-buck for blog post promotion as a new blogger.
This new blog was officially launched in the middle of June (2018) and by mid-November (2018), it is up to 5,000 page views to my blog a month (for the last two months) with referral traffic from Pinterest. Remember I am not in a niche that tends to get huge traffic, so for me, that is pretty decent!
6. Choose a Maximum of Two Paid Courses that Are Geared to Beginners
The first course I registered for said it was beginner friendly, but the very first lesson asked me to give the statistics for how many visitors were on my blog! I had no blog!!! So, clearly, this course was not specifically suited to beginners. I have taken a bunch of blogging courses (I was the victim of shiny-object-syndrome) and will be reviewing the pros and cons of each course in 2019.
My suggestion before you choose a paid blogging course is to take advantage of some of the free resources that the big blogging gurus provide to get a feel for which teacher/style fits best for you. All of the following have high-quality free email courses or very informative blog posts (or even free videos) geared for beginners: Paul Scrivens of Obstacle.co , Billionaire Blog Club (Now Called Dare to Conquer); Suzi from Start a Mom Blog (Blog by Number courses); Abby Lawson who runs Build a Framework course; Melyssa Griffin; byRegina;Meera Kothand; and Raelyn Tan. Of course, they all sell paid products for beginners as well. I have found their material very helpfully targetted for the total newbie.
7. Those Who Have Built Six or Seven Figures from their Blogs Usually Sell Products
If you want your blogging business to reach its full potential, most of the big bloggers like Melyssa Griffin have been saying for several years that blogging has changed from 5 years ago. She says ads and affiliate sales are not the way most bloggers make significant money efficiently in 2018/19. Her advice is to sell your own products and services through your blog (courses, printables, books, stock photography, blog audits, and the like). Consider this in how you craft your blogging business plan and goals.
8. Expect and Prepare for Constant Change
For me, this was a surprise. Any blog posts or courses you are consuming about blogging are likely outdated if they are more than 2 years old. In fact for Pinterest, if they are more than 6 months old (that platform changes often), they likely have some outdated information. You will need to be nimble to adjust to changes affecting blogging.
9. Ditch Ads Until You Have Significant Traffic
Pop up ads slow down your website and annoy your readers. If your traffic is below about 30,000 page views a month-is it worth a few cents a month to have Google Adsense ads on your site? I think not. When your site is over 25,000 sessions (sessions are usually a little less than your page views each month) you can apply to a premium ad network like Mediavine and make several times more for ads than with Adsense. In that case, it is worth the trade-off for slower site speed and annoying your readers.
10. You Have No Idea Which Blog Post will Drive Huge Traffic
This was another huge surprise for me. Most bloggers who have had huge traffic report two or three posts driving most of their traffic. For me, I had 3 Christian dating posts last month that all did over 1,000 page views on the blog. I would have never guessed that was the interest of the audience of the blog. Keep putting out quality content consistently, your audience will teach you what they are most interested in with page views. It may surprise you too.
11. You Need a Collaborative Community of Fellow Bloggers
When you are a beginner in blogging, you will need community. Other bloggers will help you grow and give you tips. I suggest you join a blogging Facebook group in your niche. If you are in the Christian niche like me here is a post listing some great Christian blogging Facebook groups.
There are in-person blogging conferences and meetups all over the world. Try and connect with fellow bloggers often. Your business growth depends on it.
12. If You Can Hire Services to Expedite Your Blogging Journey, Do It!
I was able to hire a graphic designer and website developer and have this website updated for less than $100.00. It saved me about six weeks of work. When I was ill earlier this year, I hired a fellow Christian writer (a pastor!) to draft a couple of posts for me that I later refined so that I could keep going with the written content. I have a related post here on how to launch a blog fast when you have no tech skills.
Do not be shy about hiring help if you need it to keep to your deadlines and goals and to prevent burnout.
For tech support, I use Grayson Bell’s company (very affordable, professional and high integrity) Imark Interactive. He gives a free WordPress course and also provides a free Facebook support group. When tech issues arise, he will rescue you from pulling your hair out!
If you would like some help on your blog, send me a message through the contact page. I am still a beginner myself, but I have discovered I absolutely love making pins for Pinterest. I have mastered the necessary graphic design, Pinterest rules, and search engine optimization guidelines and my pins have done very well for generating traffic. I will be able to help you with your first pins for a very nominal price. If you would just like some advice free of charge, please feel free to reach out too.
Want More Tips for New Bloggers?
I have a post for new bloggers here that reviews some little-known tips that will save you time on your blogging journey.
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Have you learned a hard-won lesson in early blogging? Please share it below!
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