10 things I WISH I had known before I started blogging: Are you considering a career as a blogger? Whether it’s for passion or money I have help, tips & tricks on what to expect (and what most bloggers selling a service or class WON’T tell you). I’ve even included start-up costs & typical hours spent.
If you’re wondering…
How long will it take to build a following and make a real income?
What are the expenses associated with starting a professional blog?
What is the time commitment?
Do I need technical expertise?
Then read on my dear….
1. Blogging is not a part-time job or “side-hustle”
If you are dreaming of only working a few hours a week while you build a million dollar blog I’ve got some bad news for you. Professional blogging is a full time 40+ hour a week job. What nobody selling a blogging course will tell you is how many hours they spend working on a weekly basis. It takes a LOT of time to create rich content, post on social media, manage ads/affiliates, research SEO etc. Once a loyal audience is built it has to be maintained. While it is TRUE that you will have residual income from popular posts of the past (requiring only a small amount of recurring work)…realistically you have to post engaging, original content at least once a week. Most of the guidance I’ve received is that you really need to post 2-3 times a week in the blog audience building phase (first year).
Would you be surprised to hear that only 10-20% of my time is spent on the actual (fun, creative) subject matter of my blog (crafting, DIY etc). My day mostly consists of brainstorming future blog topics, styling/taking pictures, creating written content, designing pins & sharing on/monitoring social media. When I’m not doing those tasks I’m either trying to make my website better or learning new things to apply. I’m not kidding…it’s pretty much a 40-45 hour work week.
2. Own your content and pictures
While it might be enticing to use free stock photos to make your postings come together faster…try to avoid it whenever possible. Occasional use is permittable. Bloggers who constantly use stock photos have sites that appear unoriginal & spammy. People will come to you (and will return) because you entice them with something they haven’t seen before. Invest in a good camera and learn to take good pictures (which isn’t as difficult as it sounds…hmmmm, I should do a post on this!!!!).
3. Do not use free hosting or domain names
When you’re starting out (especially on a budget) it can be tempting to use some of the free services available from WordPress or WIX (such as free domain & hosting). When you use these free services you don’t actually own your content and it can be taken down or lost at anytime. There are past cases of this happening to some very regretful bloggers who lost YEARS worth of hard work. Another downside is that these free services only allow you a small amount of traffic. If by chance you have a post go viral…your website may not be able to handle the traffic and inevitably crash. Lastly, the domain names provided are long and cumbersome…a free domain from WordPress for me would look something like this:
That’s a mouthful. You want a short, sweet, easy to remember domain name. I only recommend paying for domain hosting and creating/buying your own domain. Want to know how much this is all going to cost? Keep reading…
4. Invest in a unique website design
I don’t know how many pre-fab “free” website templates I’ve looked at….but I have yet to see one that met my expectations or fit the vision for my blog. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably have the same problem. If you hire a designer (which is always an option) you can spend an untold amount of money.
What many beginning bloggers do not know is that there are some GORGEOUS designs on Etsy ranging from $50-$200 in most cases. This is a BARGAIN. Many of these designers will also load your design onto WordPress for a small fee….ALSO A BARGAIN. If you choose to load the design yourself make sure that the designer provides support and instructions on how to load the design. Take it from me, loading a design is not straight forward or intuitive for a newbie blogger.
I can’t stress enough the importance of your website design. It should be beautiful, functional and something you’re proud to show others. You don’t want your website to look like everyone else’s out there using the pre-fab designs. Invest the small amount of capital it requires to have something most people won’t.
5. If something isn’t working change it quickly
If a post or a pin isn’t getting the traffic or the click throughs you are expecting….there is probably something wrong. It could be the photo you used, your writing style, too much info, too little info….the possibilities for failure are almost endless. So you have to be ready to adjust photos, text or keywords if you aren’t seeing results.
My best piece of advice is to model pins and posts off of the content providers and bloggers you love. I don’t mean copy them….I mean model your postings and pins similarly. While you’re creating a post photo or pin…make at least 2-3 versions with varying text and photos. Use all versions and see which ones are working best. If something isn’t working change it up quickly.
When you’re first starting out everything you create is in beta testing. It may take significant trial and error find what appeals to your audience to get those clicks!
6. It can take a year (or more) to build traffic & income
Yes, it’s true. And if you do the math…it’s many hours and many days of hard work before you may see a reasonable profit. You need to ask yourself if you can devote a year of full-time work without any pay?
There are some rare exceptions…but most full time bloggers I talk to tell me that it took about a year to develop a following and have enough content to see financial rewards ($1000 a month or more in income). It also takes quite a bit of traffic to be accepted into some of the major advertising houses like Mediavine or Adthrive.
In a sense it’s a little bit of a numbers game. Imagine the revenue you might gain from 10 quality blog posts. Then imagine if you had 100 quality blog posts…and 200 posts. If you’ve done your homework you should be able to monetize every post you write. As you build your catalog of rich content you should be able to recognize the financial benefits into perpetuity.
Side note: the summer months can be slow for traffic with summer vacation and good weather to compete with.
Keep this in mind…
- You need strong and ample content to build traffic (and residual/recurring income)
- Traffic builds a reputation that makes affiliates and sponsors want to work with you
- Affiliates and sponsors are what allow us to make a profit
Strong Content = Strong Traffic = Strong Sponsors = Profit
7. Buyer beware of blogging & social media courses costing hundreds of dollars
Would it surprise you to know that many of the million dollar bloggers make the majority of their revenue by selling professional blogging courses to people like you and me?
Let me first start out by saying that there are probably some really good coaches out there helping others. BUT there are far more out there who are copying the business model and have little to offer for your hard earned hundreds of dollars. I have taken some of these courses free and paid (even courses of the best known bloggers) and I’ve found them to be severely lacking in detail and execution. Most of the information in these courses are readily available through simple google searches.
I suppose these courses have a place if you literally know nothing about blogging but…my guess is that you’ve done basic research on how paid professional blogging works…aaaaand that’s basically what these courses provide.
Many top coaches provide a wealth of information for free on their Youtube channels or their blogs at no cost (I suggest you digest EVERYTHING you possibly can there). Much of the rest you can figure out on your own.
8. You need to be a little tech savvy to start your own blog
I’m going to be honest with you here…you need more than just a desire or a passion to blog. You need a little tech savvy and you need even more patience for learning a new technology. If you’ve never done this before there is a medium sized learning curve that some people just don’t have the tech savvy or patience to deal with. If I had a dime every time something tech driven about my blog didn’t work the way it was supposed to (usually due to my lack of understanding) I wouldn’t need to blog! You can overcome almost any problem by patiently seeking a solution through help related content on the web or contacting technical support. Don’t get frustrated….get Google.
9. Find a niche…but not too niche-y mmmmk?
So I have to tell you…there are millions of lifestyle, travel, beauty and food bloggers out there. Literally millions. You need to distinguish your niche somehow. Get more granular. Some examples: “Traveling with Special Needs Children”, “Beauty secrets for women over 60” or “Food Recipes for diabetics”. It doesn’t mean you HAVE to blog about that one niche on every post but it helps to have something that distinguishes you from the other millions of bloggers out there.
On the other end of the spectrum…don’t get too specific or cryptic on your blog subject matter. You don’t want to limit your potential audience.
10. The true costs of starting a professional blog
So there is some variation from person to person but I’m sharing with you the expenses that I have and I would expect most professional bloggers having. Note that I’m not including any paid advertising, classes or office supplies. This also assumes that you have a good quality digital SLR camera for taking photos. As you can see below there is almost $700 in upfront costs to launch your website and get the most efficient tools to do your job. $650 is recurring yearly costs (meaning you will owe this amount year after year assuming the price does not go up).
WordPress feature rich business plan $300 p/yr
Siteground webpage hosting & security monitoring $67.20 p/yr
Hover domain name registration $13.17 p/yr
Professionally designed website (one time cost) $52.35
Pic Monkey Premium (photo editing) $95.88 p/year
Tailwind App for Pinterest (Pin Scheduler) $120 p/year
Google G-Suite Email $50 p/year
11. Start Learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ASAP!
If you’re going to be a blogger you absolutely have to learn SEO….and I mean make it one of the first things you do. I gotta be honest with you…unless you’re a back end web person much of what you first learn is going to make your eyes cross and make your head want to explode. BUT this SEO stuff is SO vital to your future as a blogger!
You’ve got to diversify your traffic and not become too dependent on any one medium to drive your traffic (like Pinterest or Facebook). Sadly, we are at the whims of algorithms which are always changing on sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Many bloggers who created a career on Facebook woke up to an algorithm change this year that sent their traffic down 80% (and consequently a drop in revenue followed).
If you’re trying to learn SEO on your own you’ll want to start learning how to rank in search engines before you write your posts. Figure out how to gain domain authority (and not compete with large sites for the same keywords).
11. “Results are not Typical”
If you are even remotely interested in blogging you’ve probably completed some cursory searches on pinterest or google about the subject. Without a doubt you’ve come across more than a few professional bloggers professing a 6 figure monthly income for blogging. I wish all of these ‘monthly income reports’ came with the disclaimer that “results are not typical”.
I’ve been blogging full time long enough to formulate an opinion on this subject. I get a chance to network with successful bloggers, moderately successful bloggers & complete failures. There are very, very, very few extremely successful bloggers making 6 figures every month. If I had to affix a figure I’d say only about .05% of bloggers reach this income level. Of the .05% ….zero of them were an overnight sensation. Most were doing this for MANY, many years before reaching this income level.
Not to say that you can’t achieve a comfortable living from blogging….I just want readers of this article to have realistic expectations about what the most likely outcomes are. The vast majority of the bloggers I know earn a side income or a modest salary for their 40 hour work weeks.
So, by no means am I trying to discourage anyone from blogging. I wish I had a little dose of realism before I started my journey. Professional blogging is like anything else in life…you get out of it what you put into it. It’s not unlike starting a brick and mortar business where it may take awhile before you’re able to pay yourself.
I’d love to hear your perspective or experiences…I might even add it to the list!
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