Updated February 5, 2016
I can’t tell you how often someone emails me and says, “I know nothing about computers and I’m so overwhelmed!”
I also can’t tell you how often someone emails me and says, “I knew nothing about computers X months ago, but now I have my own blog!”
Regardless of where you’re at in the process, I’d like to remind you of a few things:
1. You’re already ahead
I mean that. Diving in to this blogging thing is no small feat. Be proud of yourself for becoming more technologically astute. I mean, how many other people do you know in real life who are starting blogs? See? You’re ahead.
2. There is a huge learning curve
We’ve all experienced it. It’s not just you, I promise. Take it slow. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I know it’s exciting at first, but when you start to feel a bit stumped, take a break and come back later. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself nutso.
3. It’s not linear
Blogging is not like a recipe where you add this ingredient, then this ingredient, mix it all together and out pops the cake in the picture, every time. The setting up of the website is pretty straightforward but once you’ve got that part done, you can go in all kinds of directions and be successful (whatever that means to you) or not so successful.
4. There will be a lot of “It depends…” answers
When I was just starting, I wanted “do this and that will result” type of answers to my questions. I never got that. Everyone seemed vague, or they answered with “It depends…” It made me crazy, but I soon learned this is just how it is. Let me illustrate…
Imagine you’re talking to someone who has never been to your home country and they say to you, “Hi, I’m moving to [your home country]. How should I live there?” Hard question, isn’t it?
If someone asked me that question, I’d say, “Well, what do you mean? Do you mean living day to day in America, or living in America in general? Do you mean living in Maine or in Florida or in Hawaii? Do you mean living and working? Or living and going to school?”
I could go in a whole lot of directions. It’s the same with blogging. Many of your questions will depend on your situation. Having said that…
5. Don’t wait to be told what to do
Get the basics and then just go. If you’ve got a blog started, you’re well on your way.
A lot of us are most comfortable getting the syllabus at the beginning of the course, reading the chapter titles at the beginning of the book or getting the review sheet before we take the test. We like to know what to expect. We like to know how to prepare. We like to know what’s expected of us. Blogging is different. Be willing to chart your own course.
6. Embrace the flip side of being overwhelmed
Sometimes being overwhelmed makes new bloggers latch onto another blogger and the way that other blogger does things. But if you’re a new blogger, embrace your newness, your fresh eyes and your don’t-quite-know-how-this-is-supposed-to-go perspective! It might just be that you’ve got an idea that nobody has thought of or tried, or were too afraid to pursue because it wasn’t the “right way” to blog.
7. Wing it
Sounds cheesy (and vague) but I promise you, if you’re willing to step out into unknown territory and just try something, you’re going to make a lot more progress a lot faster. Who cares if you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re not technically savvy? Neither was I. Sure, you’ll make mistakes along the way, but most of them will be fixable.
8. Launch with a handful of quality posts in the queue
I recommend you write at least 10 posts before you launch your blog. Not only will it give you a little posting cushion, but if you can write 10-20 posts and feel like you’re just barely scratching the surface of your topic, it’s a good indication you’ll be able to sustain the writing pace long term.
Also, it’s good to have some solid content available when visitors find you. It’s difficult to convince others to visit you again if they tried it once and only found a “This is my first post!” post.
9. Know your target audience
Who is your ideal reader? Figure out where they hang out and go there.
10. Choose to focus on your blog and one or two social media platforms and do them well
Don’t dip your toes into everything just because everyone else is doing it and says you should too. Do a few things well to start. Add more as you have the time and understanding.
11. Pick up tips as you need them and as you go
You do not need to have a general idea of everything blog-related before you start. There will be tips everywhere. Some tips you’ll use, some you won’t. If you’ve only got time for Facebook and Twitter, disregard the ones about Pinterest. No single tip is going to make or break your blog.
12. Make sure you are really clear about your goal(s)
What’s your blog for? Why are you blogging? For fun? For money? Post those goals in written form somewhere. When you sit down to work, ask yourself if what you’re doing is helping you get closer to that goal.
13. Find bloggers further along than you who appear to have the same goal(s) and watch them
Note what they do. Note what they do repeatedly. Figure out how they’re doing it. Consider why they’re doing it. Sometimes that might mean you have to reverse engineer something, sometimes you might have to google it, sometimes you might just ask straight out. Be curious and observant. Take off your casual observer hat and put on your detective hat.
This is not so you can be their clone. This is so you know where to focus in your own way.
14. Connect with others
A long time ago when blogs were rare, just having one made you stand out. Not so today. There are millions of blogs. Things have changed. Now, in order to stand out, you have to join with others and get involved in the community.
15. Be flexible
Blogging changes constantly. It is a completely different beast today than it was when I started back in 2004. Blogs have a shelf life so if you want yours to be extended, you must always be learning and changing.
Routinely look ahead to what might be next. Maintain a running list of ways to expand. Think of new things you could offer your readers. Keep your eyes and ears open for things your target audience is looking for but can’t find. Follow the pioneers and the movers & shakers in your niche; even if you don’t actively participate in the conversation, know what they’re talking about. Stay informed.
16. Google is your (best) friend
I’m bummed I can’t help all of you who email me with questions. But honestly? A lot of the time, I just google an answer for you anyway. That’s my little secret. Do it enough an you’ll eventually become a googling ninja and then you can figure out just about anything. (And here’s what I do when I get errors and warnings.)
17. Keep going
Settle in for the long haul. Building a successful blog is a hard road. You’re not going to see results overnight. Weeks will go by and you’ll hear only crickets. You’ll wonder if it’s worth it. Comments and followers will be few and far between (if there at all). You won’t make a penny for months. Believe me, it’s normal. So normal. Nine out of ten bloggers have been there. I certainly have. Just keep going.
18. As a new blogger, you’ve got (at least) one advantage
Don’t take this the wrong way. I know we all want to be a lot further down the road than we are. But you are where you are, so embrace it. Don’t get caught up in having everything “just so” or making sure everything is “just right.”
One of the greatest things about starting a blog is that you can make all kinds of mistakes and it doesn’t matter because no one is reading it yet anyway. Sure, you could focus on the fact that you don’t have a lot of followers at the beginning. Or you could focus on the fact that you have a lot of freedom.
If you want to make money with your blog, be sure to do these things before you start. And don’t forget to check out the Contents page for a handy list of all the articles on this site organized by topic.