Some Kindly Advice to Would-Be Bloggers

Today, I’m going to step away from the subject of money for just a brief moment (as I sometimes do) to discuss another issue near to my heart: blogging.  Yes, as you might guess from the sheer volume of material I’ve written, I’ve learned a thing or two about being a blogger.  Now, I’m going to share a few pointers to those considering getting started in blogging, particularly those who want to use it as a source of alternate income.  I’m not trying to scare anyone off from blogging; I certainly find it a fun and enjoyable way to spend my time, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

But much of what you have read about the process of blogging seems rather upbeat and optimistic.  You might have the idea floating around in your mind that blogging can serve as a quick and easy way to generate income.  That, unfortunately, is not the case; instead, some of the realities you’ll face while blogging include:

1) You won’t make much money (at least, at first): Before you ask, yes, it is possible to generate a good income, even enough to replace (or exceed) your day-job income, while blogging.  I could point out any number of bloggers who have done just that (Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar is my go-to example).  BUT, that is far from saying you can simply start blogging and the money will pour in.  Not only do bloggers like Trent illustrate how much work you need to put into blogging to make money from it (writing for years, multiple times a day, before earning enough to quit his day job, and even then only earning half as much from blogging as his job was paying), but the very fact that there are successful bloggers in most major fields means you have competition already in place to keep you from dominating the market.

Picture a swimming competition, where the most famous swimmers have already lapped you several times

So, what’s a more realistic view on the income you can earn?  Well, Darwin of Darwin’s Money, who is a quite successful money blogger, currently earns over a thousand dollars a month, after years of blogging.  Hardly the level of income you need to earn if you want to tell your boss to ‘take this job and restaff it’; but for some perspective, I typically earn less than a dollar a day from my blog after two years of writing (and can go days without earning anything at all), and I still consider myself fairly successful.  If you want to start blogging to quit your job, whether next week or years down the road, be advised that it is unlikely to come to that.  Instead, you should consider blogging as more of a hobby, and…

2) You’ll need to blog about what you love (if you hope to keep at it): Now for a quick reminder about how much you need to blog to keep your blog fresh.  Most suggestions you will hear recommend posting at least once a day, or 365 posts each year.  That said, there are successful bloggers who don’t publish that often, getting by on three to four posts per week (about 150 to 200 posts per year), and there are also prolific bloggers who publish multiple times per day (like Trent again, who publishes twice a day and puts out about 730 posts per year).

All of this is just to say that if you hope to be successful, you will end up writing hundreds of posts per year at minimum.  If you are writing about something you enjoy and love to write about and discuss, it should be no problem; I personally enjoy talking about money, investing, and finance, and so The Amateur Financier keeps humming along.  If I was trying to write about something I didn’t really care for, say sports (what can I say; I’m a nerd at heart), I probably would have called it quits years ago.  Find a topic that you enjoy and you can blog about it forever.  (If you are hoping to make money at it, you probably want to make sure it has some wider popular appeal as well; if only you, and maybe your mom, are interested in reading your blog’s topic, you’ll have even more trouble than normal turning it into a profitable enterprise).

3) You’ll have to ensure that you enjoy writing (as you’ll be doing a LOT of it): Regardless of what topic you decide to write about, one thing you will need to enjoy doing is an incredible amount of writing.  Even if you don’t publish a post each day, you’ll still need to write regularly in order to keep the posts flowing.  To help put things in perspective, I’ve written over 500 blog posts, which clock in at about 1000 words per post (possibly more; I tend to be rather verbose), for a total of 500,000 words written. (And that’s just the posts themselves; it doesn’t count responses to comments or comments on other blogs, which I’ll get into in my next point.)  For comparison, that is a higher word count than the first four Harry Potter books combined.  And I’m nothing compared to the more prolific bloggers out there.  If you don’t like writing, and writing a lot, stay away from blogging.

That said, if you don’t like writing but still want to get in on the blogging band wagon, there are ways around the writing aspect of it.  With the availability and (relatively) low cost of audio visual equipment nowadays, you could fairly easily do a audio blog.  Or, if you are fairly photogenic and get a hold of a webcam, why not do a video blog?  (Or vlog, I guess they are also called, although that’s a bit too much abbreviation for my taste.)  Even if you want to stick with a traditional blog, there are options for you; I recently picked up some transcription software and a audio headset, and as soon as I get the hang of it, you might be reading a transcribed version of this web page.

4) You must be prepared to socialize (and socialize, and socialize): So, you started a blog, you’ve been publishing steadily, but you still aren’t getting much traffic.  Well, my friend, you’ve forgotten one of the most important steps in blogging success: socialization.  Yes, one of the best ways to get out the word about your new blog is to comment on other people’s blogs.  Find people who are blogging about the same sort of topics as you, and comment on their posts (and respond to comments on yours), share ideas with them, join any blogger organizations in your area of interest, even offer to guest write an article or two.  If you do all this, it will come back to you in the form of more traffic (and more profits) down the road.

The disadvantage is that doing all this will take time and effort.  You can easily spend much more time trying to get out word about your blog than you do, say, blogging.  Such social networking (to borrow a phrase) also tends to build on itself; you comment on someone’s blog, another blogger takes notice and comments on your blog, so you return the favor and comment on this second blog.  As you get more comments, you try to comment more yourself, the number of people in your network increases, and you soon find yourself with dozens of blogs on your ‘To Read’ list, with no hope of catching everything they have to say.  For a ‘passive’ income source, blogging requires quite a bit of work, even outside of the actual effort to put words into a post.

A Final Encouragement

I hope I didn’t just send dozens of would-be bloggers screaming into the night.  There are plenty of reasons to blog that I haven’t shared yet.  You get to share your views with the world, and actually have (at least some) people read and understand them.  You get a level of feedback and encouragement that is rare in most public forums.  You can, when you become successful, influence any number of readers and help to shift their opinions on issues that are close to your heart.  And yes, if you keep at it and are successful, you can end up earning sizable amount of profit, perhaps even getting up to a substantial portion of your income from your blog.

All this article was designed to do was to help remind you that it is not a short, easy, or guaranteed road you face to reach those points.  If you want to become a blogger (or some variation thereon), it will require quite a bit of effort on your part.  If you go through that effort, I wish you good luck; it’s always nice to see someone else try to join the blogger crew.  Have fun, and here’s hoping you have much success!

12 Responses to Some Kindly Advice to Would-Be Bloggers

  1. @Jacob: Yup, it definitely takes a while to make money in the blogging game. (And even then, it’s far from certain.) As I noted in this post, I’m not trying to scare people away from blogging, but if you go into thinking that a month or two of posting a few times a week will allow you to generate a lot of money (or heck, even a moderate amount of money), you have much to learn…

  2. LOL! You make me feel like some sort of blogging tycoon, with my munificent $150 to $200/mo revenue.

    By “social” IMHO you need to add physically getting out of the house and socializing with people in the real world whose expertise or jobs have something to do with your subject. You need to write about these folks, and you also need to try to hustle them to read your site and (with any luck at all) to advertise on it. For example, I belong to a business group and a trade group, and write the newsletter for the latter.

    You also need to try to get publicity in local and national print and radio media, which can feed into your traffic.

    One of the great frustrations of this business (such as it is!) is the unpredictability of income. You can make six or eight hundred bucks in a couple of days from a traffic spike, and then drop back to your normal pittance. More annoying is to see your steady Adsense revenues drop to a lower plateau for no discernible reason. Neither of these qualities of blogging makes it useful, for most people, as a primary source of income.
    Funny about Money´s last blog post ..Workman Waltz- Save the Last Dance for Me…

    • Heh, well, I’m glad I could make you feel like a tycoon; I’ll count that as my good deed for the day, then. You do raise a good point; socializing with people in the ‘real’ world can be quite beneficial, both from a money/readership point of view and to get a better idea of what is going in your field of interest and the local area in which you live. Spreading the word through local and national media is also a good approach, one that can much increase your traffic if you do it right.

      As to the frustration of an unpredictable income, that is certainly another issue, one I didn’t really touch upon (although, I could probably have made a whole week of posts of advice to would-be bloggers, if I were so inclined). Certainly, one of the disadvantages of blogging (or any form of passive income, really) is that the whole ‘your income is not tied to the number of hours you work’ thing can end up biting you in the rump. You can put hundreds of hours of work into a blog and make nearly nothing as a result. As you say, given the unpredictability, it’s hard to make a living blogging, if you generally pull in quite a bit of income from it; it tends to be feast or famine.

  3. Great article and very useful thanks – I am thinking of starting a blog soon and now realise its a bit of a bigger commitment than first thought.

  4. @Roger: Thanks for the compliments. It is a fairly big commitment, one that too few would-be bloggers seem to realize. It’s probably better to to consider blogging as more of a hobby, rather than a guaranteed source of side income. That said, it does offer the possibility to earn a decent amount of money for sharing your opinions, which you can’t say about too many hobbies.

  5. I am new to blogging, I just started a few months ago and I am actually doing it for money. I am paid to blog for a certain site which my company maintains for promotion. At first, I didn’t like it, but as time goes by, it became a good stress reliever for me and loving every moment to write whatever it is about the company’s product/service.

    • It sounds like you’ve managed to find a good situation to do your blogging, Paige. I hope that you are doing a good job promoting your company, and that they appreciate the work that you are doing. Good luck with your blogging, and good luck promoting your company!

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