About every month or so, I get an email that goes something like this:
I’m thinking of starting a blog. How do I do this? And how do I make money at it?
When I get a question like this, I honestly feel overwhelmed. You might as well have asked this:
You have a BA. Can you basically tell me what you learned when you were in college? And in the space of about an email?
However, I am sympathetic to anyone who’d ask this question, because I was there at one time, too. Nearly two years later, I’m more passionate about my blog then when I started. It is the most fulfilling career move I’ve ever made. This month, I would like to share some of my personal journey, reflections, and general advice with you. What I’m not going to do is teach you how to build a blog from the ground up (for that, please refer to the most excellent Blogging with Amy). I hope that whether you are new to blogging, an old pro, or just kicking around the idea, you’ll find what I have to share useful. And, of course, I would like you to participate by asking your questions and sharing your stories, too.
Thinking of starting a blog?
There are a few questions that would be helpful to answer before you publish that first post and put yourself out there.
1. Why do I want to start a blog? Identify your purpose in starting a blog. Do you want to help others? Process through a grief you’ve suffered? Share your photos and family stories with friends? Promote your business? A word of caution here: starting a blog because you just want to earn money may not be a strong enough reason in and of itself. Making money blogging can be a long, difficult, and sometimes frustrating process. And there are no promises. I frequently say that I got my first check in the mail of $100 after 8 months of blood, sweat, and tears. If you need money NOW, blogging might not be your gig.
2. What do I want my blog to be about? I had the honor of watching my friend Keri launch her blog Pop Parables last fall. She did an outstanding job of asking herself this question. She wrestled with if she wanted it to be a Christian blog, a movie/book review blog, a Mommy blog, a forum site, a combination, or something else. She scoured blogs across other niches. In the end, she decided her blog was about ”finding God in the parables of pop culture”. If I recall correctly, it took her several months of careful planning to arrive there! Consider what you do and don’t want your blog to be about before you launch. Of course, there is always room for you to adjust course once you set out, but having a good sense of vision will help propel your blog forward and keep you passionate.
3. Who do I want to read my blog? As a blogger, I believe you set the tone for the readers you will attract and the comments left. When I started this blog, I wanted to make sure that new-to-coupon users would feel comfortable reading my content. Knowing this, I’ve worked hard to write lots of “how to” posts, avoid acronyms or terms wherever possible, and added the live webcasts. It was also important to me that I work to welcome male readers as couponing is sometimes unfairly portrayed as “for women only.” So you’ll NEVER hear me refer to my readers as “ladies” and I’ve avoided using pink/purple colors on my blog, girly avatars, and the like. I also wanted folks that were committed to a high standard of ethics and “thinkers” (for lack of a better word). Oh, and I wanted to attract readers who could just have some fun with me and not take things too seriously. In watching this blog evolve, I am extremely humbled by readers that continue to share their deals and thoughts here every day.
4. Where do I want to take this blog? If your goal is to share your family’s life story, you may not need to worry about driving in lots of traffic. On the flipside, if you’re hoping to make money, you will have the added duty to bring in new readers and find an effective monetization strategy. This will take considerable effort and learning to achieve. A sizeable amount of my blogging time is spent managing affiliates and ads, networking with PR and other bloggers, and finding new and interesting ways to grow my site.
5. How much time can I realistically spend blogging? You’ve probably guessed by now to successfully run a blog, you need to post regularly. How much is “regularly” is going to depend on your niche and your content. My niche can be crazy when it comes to frequency. However, a few times a week or even once a week may be more suited to other niches. I had a realization sometime last year. And that realization was: I can’t keep up. My niche is very high pressure, time sensitive, and it quite frankly drives me nuts some days. I’ve decided that I’m just going to miss some deals, but I’m not willing to give up my time with my children. So I made a deliberate move mid-year 2010 that I would concentrate on quality of posts, not quantity. I’m going to spend more time in a separate post on time management. But it’s important you ask yourself: how much time can I spend blogging? And when will I blog? (Particularly if you have another job or are a stay at home mom.)
Once you’ve decided to proceed, a final word.
Please take extra care in what you name your blog. As much as possible, make it memorable, keep it short, and easy to spell. Ask a few friends what their initial thoughts are about your proposed blog name. The name you think is cute may not be to others. Then, Google to make sure (1) your name is not taken and (2) nothing close to your name is taken lest you infringe on someone’s trademark.
More on this series soon….
Bloggers, what other questions do you wish you would’ve asked before launching your blog? Or steps you wish you would’ve taken? Things you think you did well? If you’re thinking about starting a blog, what things are you doing right now to look into it?
Photo credit B S K (Stock.xchng)