Got a blog? Thinking of starting one? Join the club, who doesn’t.
These days it’s actually rare to meet someone who doesn’t either have a blog or plans of starting one. Whether it’s a photofeed, a vlog, a portfolio of writing, some kind of coaching, documentation of travel, or just an active social media page, everyone and their mother (literally) seems to be a blogger.
As you can imagine, I get questions from people all of the time asking how they can start a successful blog. They want to travel indefinitely, blog about their experiences, and somehow make a living in the process. But… they’re unsure how to do it, afraid to expose themselves vulnerably, and are concerned about the oversaturated marketplace out there.
With good reason. Frankly, the world doesn’t need another blogger. There are plenty of us out there. Perhaps, too many out there. So many that it’s hard to be noticed, hard to grow an audience, hard to differentiate yourself, hard to be seen. The world doesn’t need another blog.
But… the world does need you. The world does need your voice. The world does need your unique gifts. And you deserve to be read, heard, and seen. So even though the world doesn’t need another blog, create one anyway.
Not to say that being a blogger is at all easy or glamorous. It takes a ton of work, dedication, courage, and humility. If you’re looking for an easy way to travel and make money, there are way better paths you can follow (check out my article How to Travel and Work From Anywhere for those). However if you’re aching to dig into the depths of your soul, reveal yourself layer by layer to the world, and shatter your ego through the radically kind and shockingly mean responses of strangers, welcome to my world. You belong here.
In this post I’ll share with you both the practical and emotional lessons I’ve learned in my journey becoming a “successful” blogger. My intention is to help you process whether this path is right for you, and to offer you the necessary insights to walk it more courageously and consciously.
Here we go…
Know Your “Why”
Why do you want to start a blog? What is your intention behind creating it? What drives you to write, document and share? Are you hoping to connect more with your audience for a business you already have? Are you hoping to find an outlet to write, create, and share? Do you desire to be a living permission slip for others to follow their dreams?
If you already have a blog, why do you keep showing up for it? Why do you keep writing? What keeps you motivated? Do you see the way that blogging has transformed you? Do you hear the way that your blog has transformed others? Do you feel happy, alive, expressive, free when you blog?
Knowing your “why” and always coming back to it is the most essential aspect of being a successful blogger. Because your “why” determines how you measure success.
The world may tell you that success looks like a million followers on Instagram or thousands of dollars a month in passive income, but unless blogging makes you feel the way that you really want to feel, how successful can you possibly be? When you’re not getting as many “likes” on your Facebook post, or nobody commented on your latest blog, what makes you show up? Why do you keep doing this? Can you come back to your key intention and check your ego at the door?
Uncover your “why” and bring yourself back to it often. This keeps you in alignment with your heart’s wisdom, which is the only place any of us should be blogging from at all.
Get Over Being Perfect
I talked about starting a blog years before I actually did it. What stood in my way? Perfectionism. Though once I finally pulled the trigger and pressed publish, blogging really helped me heal my relationship with perfectionism. If I wanted to consistently post and learn how to do something I had very little experience in, I needed to publish stuff that wasn’t perfect. Which I did. The more I did that, the more freely I created.
Just start something. Put something out there. Keep putting more stuff out there. Allow it to evolve. Let yourself learn. See what happens. You are way more amazing than your first blog posts will be. Your potential goes far beyond what’s going to show up in the beginning. Humbly recognize this, and put it out there anyway.
Give, Give, Give, and then Give Some More
So often I witness people get frustrated about their following not growing as quickly as they’d like, not monetizing their blog as effectively as they’d like, not getting as much response as they’d like. And at times I see myself go through it too. What we all need to remember is that writing a blog doesn’t make anybody owe you anything.
I wrote for my blog at least once a week, if not several times per week, for years before I received any kind of compensation for it. I posted on social media every day back when I had a few hundred followers. I poured my heart out for the 10 people who would read my blog posts. I did it, because my “why” told me to. I did it because it felt good for me write, to share, and to give. No matter what the response was in return.
Blogging is in its highest form an act of pure generosity. You must offer your gifts freely, simply because they want to be given, without expecting anything in return. Otherwise, there will be times where you want to give up because the validation won’t come through. Find something that your heart wants to share so fully, that you simply must express it, even if you don’t get anything back.
Listen to People and Help Them
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity I see on many blogs, is a complete focus on “self.” Yes, your story is beautiful. You are beautiful. People want to know you and connect with you. But before they give a f&*k who you are, give them a reason to want to.
There’s a really simple way to do this: listen to the questions that people have most often and write the answers on your blog. Give people the advice that they’re asking you for. Help them by directly offering solutions to the problems they express.
My posts that have received the most shares, comments, and views are the ones that offer truly valuable, helpful, useful solutions to common problems.
For instance, from traveling and blogging for years I knew that money was the main factor that limits people from travel. So, I decided to unravel that limitation head on and wrote a post “How to Travel the World When You’ve Got Absolutely No Money.” I spent days on this post in an effort to make it the most useful, comprehensive guide on the subject.
It went viral immediately, has had millions of views, and has brought me many long term loyal followers. More importantly than that, I get feedback often from people that it reframed their mindsets, opened the door to freedom, and even changed their lives. That looks like success to me.
Be Vulnerably Authentically You
Helping people with practical solutions will bring them to your site and get them interested. However, I believe that to keep them coming and establish trust, you must be willing to be vulnerable and authentic. In a world where we operate in a state of such illusion, where nothing is as it seems, everything is airbrushed, and we can easily hide behind online personas, your realness is what we all crave.
This doesn’t mean you have to show up naked and talk about your deepest pockets of shame (which I’ve done plenty of times). What’s more important, is that you write from a place of direct personal experience and are willing to show your imperfections.
Like with travel blogging for instance. There are so many gorgeous Instagrammers, hilarious Youtube bloggers, and well crafted writers who make travel sound like a dream come true. Which it absolutely can be. The stunning photos of mountaintop vistas and pristine beaches are real. But there are struggles and there is ugliness on the travel journey too.
Be the brave one who is willing to talk about the times you felt alone and isolated in a party hostel or confused and guilty in the face of poverty. Be the one who is real and you will remind your audience that they are not alone in their fears, shame, and imperfections. The deeper you’re willing to go the more you inspire others to heal through accepting who they really are.
Show Up, Consistently
Imagine if you decided to just not show up for work for a week. What would happen? You would probably get fired. If you work for yourself, you would probably lose customers. Notice the difference in the effectiveness of anything that you do when you show up consistently, and when you don’t. Like learning a skill, exercising, or eating healthy. To be effective, you need to be consistent.
Blogging is no different. If you commit to your blog like you would a paying, full time job, you will see results. If you don’t take it seriously and only offer it your attention when you have time, you probably won’t. If you truly want to make your blog your job, you need to treat it that way, before it’s earning you any money.
A lot of people thought I was crazy how much I devoted myself to my blog, turning down invitations for adventures, spending full travel days in an internet cafe, staying up late at night writing, and prioritizing my blog over most things… when it wasn’t earning me a dime. I attribute how broke I was at times to the fact that I cared way more about my blog than I did about my paying jobs. I’d spend about 10 hours a week doing freelance writing, which funded my travels, and most of my mental and physical energy to my blog. My passion is what fueled me.
Decide how much you’re willing to commit, how badly you want this, and make a contract with yourself to stick to it. Write consistently, share consistently, show up consistently, and it will make a huge difference.
Share, Share, and Then Share Some More
You can write every day of the week, offer the most helpful articles the world has ever seen, and be as raw as can be, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to see what you’re putting out. That’s why being a successful blogger also means being an expert at Marketing… or at least learning how to become one.
I am blessed with a background in Internet Marketing and a degree in Business, which I’m not gonna lie, helped. That said, most of what I learned about Marketing my blog has come from reading millions of articles online, trial and error, moments of genius, being mentored by other bloggers, and working with my Business Coach. My following has grown over the years because I spent a lot of hours sharing my work in creative ways.
If you really want to grow your following, you need to also grow your outlets for reaching people. In other words, you need to build a network. This can mean growing social media pages, connecting with others in your industry, guest posting on popular blogs and news sites, and on.
Start by googling things like “How to grow your Instagram” Facebook, etc, etc. Join blogging groups on Facebook. Make friends with other bloggers in your particular industry. Write guest posts for popular, relevant blogs and link back to your blog. Share your posts and social media pages with everyone you know on Facebook. Tag people like crazy. Share what you write with people who might be interested in linking back.
If you invest a lot of energy into not only writing, but SHARING what you write, your following will grow. Plain and simple.
Sell Up, Don’t Sell Out
When I started my blog, I never intended to sell out. I adamantly steered clear of advertising and any kind of sponsorships, despite the fact that I was pretty broke. Keeping the integrity of my blog was the most important thing to me of all.
And then… I wanted to taste the other side. I got desperate. Selling out started to look good because I was tired of working hard for no money. I went a route that many bloggers take, having all of my travels sponsored by tourism boards and companies, writing them recommendations in exchange for a free stay. It was sweet for a moment, but it wasn’t sustainable and left me feeling shallow and trapped. To make money, I accepted guest posts from companies who put a link in the article back to their site, a sneaky form of Marketing, and then just hid those articles from my readers. It felt… sneaky and out of alignment. But, I didn’t know how else to make money through my blog, and it’s what the other travel bloggers I knew were doing.
I lasted less than 6 months, since betraying my heart has never really been an option for me. What I learned the hard way, through 2 years with little to no money, and 6 months living like a Queen on somebody else’s dime but feeling completely unfulfilled, is that it was time to stop selling out and to start selling to my audience.
Unless you’re content to sell out the quick and easy, cheap and dirty way, you need to create valuable offerings to sell to your audience. Selling to your audience beats selling out any day. First of all, you get to create what you want to create, and offer it to the people who already trust you. Secondly, you don’t need to worry about accumulating a massive audience, you just need enough people who really want you’ve got to sell them.
What can you package and offer that isn’t already available for free through your blog? Can you write an eBook? Offer workshops? Live events? Online courses? Consulting? Create physical products? The same way you can ask your audience what problems they have and how they can solve them when creating blog content, you can use what your people really want, and what gifts you have to share when creating products for them to buy. Everybody wins.
Build an Email List
When it comes time to sell to your audience, an email list makes all of the difference. Your email list has people who dig you so much they want to hear from you. They want to know what you have to offer. Best of all, you have control over your list, unlike with social media channels. Assuming it’s not being hidden by the recipient’s spam filter, everyone on your list will actually receive the email. This is different from social media channels which decide how many people get to see your post and how.
As soon as possible, create an email list and make it easy for your readers to subscribe. Then, invest energy into growing the list by giving people a reason to want to subscribe. Most importantly offer value in the emails that you send out, and give people a reason to want to stay subscribed. Typically I recommend the 80/20 rule, which means 80% free, quality content, and 20% sales pitch. So for every 8 helpful emails you send, you can throw in 2 sales pitches.
Having an effective email list necessitates an entire blog post in and of itself, so I recommend you dig deeper by reading some other articles on the topic. Get started with these ones:
When you fully commit yourself to blogging, it’s easy to let it take over your world. Especially the bigger your following becomes. I’ve been through it. And it’s beautiful, and it’s hard. It’s beautiful to be that devoted to something. It’s also suffocating.
I’ve unconsciously monologued my entire day because I was so used to sharing everything on Facebook. Told friends to “read my blog” when they wanted to catch up on what was going on in my life. Seriously offended men by writing on my blog the vulnerable things that I couldn’t say to their faces. And been so consumed and burned out from blogging that I nearly quit… multiple times.
To create from a place of joy, and respect the many facets of your life and your wholeness as so much more than a blogger, you need to set boundaries with the blog. Schedule days off away from social media. Give yourself vacations. Keep certain things private. Remember what matters beyond the blog. Because you deserve to be a person too.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Aye aye aye, if you’re blogging because you’re hoping to get a certain response from people… you’re going to want to give up a lot. You’re going to get discouraged when no one cares what you wrote. You’re going to shut down with the haters come in (which actually means you’re doing something right). And you’re going to want to hide when the fans start stopping you in the street (which means you’re REALLY doing something right).
To make it as a successful blogger, you can’t take anything personally. None of it. The compliments nor the attacks. None of it is about you. It’s not about you when you get emails from people saying they wish they could be just like you. It’s about what your words woke up in them. It’s not about you when you get comments that you’re everything that’s wrong with the world (yes I’ve gotten those comments). It’s about what your expression triggered in them.
Don’t take the” success”, the “failure”, the “praise”, and the “bashing” personally. This will keep you free to keep creating and free to succeed in the way that you desire. Don’t let the compliments get to your head, because then when they stop you suffer. Keep blogging because it feels good, with or without the audience. Come back to your “why”. Why are you doing this?
And finally… most importantly of all…
Create Your Own Rules
Ultimately, this is your journey. This is your expression. This is your creation.
Create your own rules. Cause you can.
For more insights check out my post How to be a Blogger Without Losing Yourself.