This is my 200th post here on Leaving Work Behind. When I started back in June 2011 I had barely read a blog before, let alone created one of my own. And yet through application, persistence and surely some luck, I have managed to create a blog that helped me earn (directly and indirectly) nearly $7,000 last month. This is despite me picking one of the most crowded niches (making money online) out there.
I don’t say any of this to boast. After all, there are plenty of other people out there doing far better than me and I don’t consider myself special or innately talented in some way that few other people are. The fact is that there is a lot of money to be made in blogging and the barriers to entry are so small as to be non-existent.
With that said I want to take this opportunity, at a milestone for my own blog, to share with you my thoughts on how to start blogging to earn a sizeable income.
There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!
The Key to Successful Blogging
Most people will tell you that in order to start a successful blog you must pick a lucrative niche and come at it from a unique angle. While doing that can make a huge impact on the success of your blog, I actually consider more fundamental aspects to be the real key to success.
A good analogy for this is learning piano — something that I started recently. In order to become better at piano (or any musical instrument for that matter) you need to focus on two things:
- Consistent application
- Quality practice
To put it another way, you need to practice regularly and you must make sure that your practice is actually improving you. It is all too easy to sit down for thirty minutes and play pieces you already know for fun, and while that is fine and I wouldn’t discourage it, you must also include “deliberate” practice. You must challenge yourself with more technical pieces and push the boundaries of your current ability. If you don’t do that you will never improve. On the other hand, if you consistently apply yourself in learning piano, practice deliberately and seek to expand your technical ability each time you sit down to play, improvement is inevitable.
The exact same thing can be said for blogging. I know of no blogger that consistently applies themselves and seeks to push their boundaries that isn’t progressing with their craft. The bloggers who have spent a year without growing are just like the pianists that play the same pieces over and over again and wonder why they’re not getting any better.
So above all else remember this when committing to blogging: you cannot fail if you apply yourself consistently and always seek to push the boundaries of your abilities (tweet this). It may take six months, a year or more, but ultimately you will hit a point at which it all falls into place and you start making the kind of money that you set out to make when you first started.
Setting the Foundations
Typically speaking, when you start blogging the last thing on your mind is which hosting provider to go with or what content management platform to use. However, making the right choices at this stage will save you a lot of headaches in the future — I can tell you that from personal experience.
Take web hosting as an example. I started out with Bluehost because a lot of bloggers say that they’re awesome. It turns out they have an awesome affiliate program too, which perhaps explains why so many people sing their praises. I soon found out that Bluehost’s service leaves little to be desired and finally threw the towel in when my site went offline for two whole days and I got the distinct impression from Bluehost’s customer service that they really couldn’t care any less.
After hopping from one provider to the next I finally found WestHost: the best domains and hosting company I have come across by a mile. They offer a 60 day money back guarantee, free backups and awesome 24/7 support from guys that really know what they’re talking about. And after transferring from Bluehost, I found that this blog’s load speed increased by 10%. All of my sites are with WestHost now. Get 30% off Westhost by clicking here and using the discount code LEAVING30 on checkout.
My point is this — make the right choices up front and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches down the line. There are just two vitally important things you need to concern yourself with up front — here are my recommendations:
- Domain name/hosting: WestHost
- Content Management System (i.e. what you will build the blog with): self-hosted WordPress (find out how to install WordPress on WestHost here)
Go with these two and you’ll be set for years to come — I can say that from personal experience.
How to Start Blogging
By this stage you have everything you need to start blogging — a domain name, a hosting account and a WordPress installation. Life need get no more complicated at this stage.
If you’re interested in reading more about the likes of email marketing services and themes for your site then I’d recommend my Beginner’s Guide to Blogging but in this post I want to keep things extremely simple. After all, at this stage you’re probably already overwhelmed with an enormous variety of questions:
- What topic(s) should my blog focus on?
- What unique angle can I bring to my chosen topic(s)?
- How do I publish a post?
- What’s a plugin?
- How can I get people to read my content?
- Do I actually have anything worthwhile to say that people will want to read?
My answer to all of these questions is just three words: keep it simple. Don’t sweat it. I launched Leaving Work Behind with little direction and can testify to the effectiveness of this approach in helping you to retain your sanity and remain on course.
The beauty of blogging is that you can pivot at any stage and completely change your design, content, promotional strategy, and so on. Nothing is permanent. Sure — it would be difficult to morph a blog about cooking into a blog about technology but even if you decide to scrap your first blog and launch a new one you’re not starting from scratch. On the contrary, you bring to that new blog the huge wealth of knowledge you have accrued from working on your first blog.
The fact is that any blog can make money. A blog that gets 500 visitors per month will make a minimum of $5. That may sounds like an utterly trivial amount but I’m assuming the least profitable form of monetization and a trivial amount of traffic (anyone can attract 500 visitors per month, trust me).
Focus on the Right Reward
When getting started, worry less about how much money you make and more about enjoying what you are doing and writing about something that you have a passion for. Few bloggers make good money from day one (or month one, or quarter one) so making that your number one priority makes little sense. Focus instead upon blogging being an enjoyable hobby — fuel your accrual of knowledge with enthusiasm for what you are doing, not the hope of what might be. Take pleasure in every visit to your site, every comment and every share.
Consider this: Leaving Work Behind makes me about $65 per hour (if you divide the total monthly income by hours invested), but my freelance work makes me nearly $100 per hour. That’s a $35 deficit per hour, yet I still post here twice a week without fail. I still communicate with my readers via email, Facebook and Twitter. I still pour my heart and soul into this blog.
One might argue that I would be far better off spending less time on this blog and more time on my freelancing work — I’d certainly make more money that way. But I don’t. Do you know why? Because Leaving Work Behind offers me so much more than money. It gives me a forum on which I can publish my views and plans and get feedback from an attentive audience of intelligent and thoughtful people (that’s you guys). It allows me to help others in achieving their goals in leaving work behind, which is endlessly rewarding in a way that money never can be.
If you want to be a successful blogger then put your passion first. Start a blog that means something to you — not something that you hope will make money down the line. While you may succeed with such an approach, it’ll be a hell of a grind. Don’t make life hard on yourself.
What Defines a Successful Blog?
I’ll leave you with the key to starting a successful blog: content. That’s right — content is still king, no matter what you may read.
Let me put it this way — if design aesthetics disappeared tomorrow and the web reverted to plaintext, people would still surf. But if we lost our content and the web was just a huge network of beautifully designed empty shells, the Internet would become redundant.
So if you want to create a successful blog you must focus on content above all else. Not just on your own site though — you should aim for your content to be everywhere: on other blogs, social media, popular directories, search engines, forums, and so on. The web is made up of countless cliques — the key is for your content to be an ever-present in the ones that will care about what you have to say.
It’s not rocket science — it just requires a lot of hard work and faith that your hard work will pay off. Like I said near the start of this post, you cannot fail if you apply yourself consistently and seek to push the boundaries of your ability and expertise.
I very deliberately titled this post “Everything You Need to Know” because although I’ve not given much in terms of actionable advice, you should now have everything you need to start blogging. In understanding the real priorities of getting started with blogging you are far better equipped than the vast majority of people out there.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!