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!

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