The Zen of blogging – How to start a blog in 3 easy steps (and eventually make some money)
I’m a professional blogger.
And there aren’t very many of us.
I just know a couple of people like me, whose blog and related content is their main source of income.
Others use a blog to support their main business – to build their reputation as experts in their field. Which works fine… actually it was my original plan.
Didn’t work out for me. But hey.
Here we are.
In any case, let’s get this out of the way at the beginning:
Writers are usually pretty badly paid. By which I mean that most writers earn next to nothing.
They make us all look bad. ‘Cause most writers don’t earn that much.
If you want to have some idea about the top dogs in the writing world, read Stephen King’s On Writing. It won’t tell you how to start a blog or make half a billy online, but it’s certainly interesting and has some useful advice about style and storytelling.
In any case, you can earn money with a blog. Maybe a lot of money… depends on you, your topic, your audience, lots of factors.
But if I can do it, anyone can do it.
You just have to be flexible and willing to put in the work.
As a professional blogger, I get questions all the time: How do I start a blog? How do I make money?
I’m going to take a stab at answering the most important questions about blogging here… if nothing else so I can just send a link to people who ask in the future.
(Time management is pretty important for anyone – especially the self-employed and entrepreneurial.)
So without further ado…
Here’s my best advice about how to start a blog.
How to start a blog (and eventually make money)
Keep in mind, I’m just one guy and not nearly as rich as some other bloggers.
But at the same time, I’ve “made it”.
If your writing income is larger than your rent payment in any given month, you’re basically an elite writer. That’s just how publishing works.
And the blogosphere is similar, from what I’ve been able to figure out: a few people make a lot of money, more are able to earn a living, most earn very little or nothing.
I’m making a living, and it’s enough to fund my lifestyle in Spain and travels around Europe.
But I’m no online bazillionaire.
So by all means… If you want some advice from the real experts, check out some people at the top as well. Many of them go “behind the scenes” once in a while and it’s quite interesting.
Anyway, without further ado…
Rule #1 – Just get started
The world doesn’t care about your business plan. The world doesn’t care about your logo or your design or your domain name.
You will never make money off the blog you’re “going to” write.
So just get started. Go to WordPress.com and set one up.
Or get a goddamn tumblr for all I care.
I spent 6 years on tumblr, made some money and built myself quite a reputation – and all because I didn’t have the tech knowledge to start a “real blog”.
And that’s another thing…
Forget all your excuses.
Cause you ain’t gonna pay your rent with excuses either.
You don’t need tech knowledge, a logo, a business plan, a Facebook page or anything else – yet. I know because I started out without all those things.
And here’s the brutal truth: most people who say they want to start a blog will never do it. The rest won’t make it to 10 posts before giving up.
There’s a lot of competition among new bloggers in the blogosphere. But not many people who are actually putting in the work and playing the long game.
My first piece of advice to new bloggers, then, is the following:
- Get a piece of paper.
- Make a list of 10 posts you could write about some topic you enjoy.
- Open up a WordPress.
- Sit down and write post #1.
- Publish it.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’ve gotten through the list (feel free to do this over a space of 5 to 10 days).
- Evaluate what’s gone well and what hasn’t up till now.
- Continue with idea generation and writing, potentially forever.
And that’s about it. Incidentally, this is the same advice I got from a friend years ago. It’s the advice that got me started. And look at me now.
So really, just start.
You ain’t shit ’till you’ve actually published 10 posts.
(If you’re offended by my use of colloquial English in this post, I respect that. But see Rule #3.)
Rule #2 – Think topic, think audience
Getting started is really the most important thing. You should have a general idea of the topic, but that will probably change with time.
If you keep blogging, you’ll change.
You’ll develop new interests, new ideas. You’ll learn things you never imagined when you were starting out, and you’ll have the unique opportunity to take your audience along for the ride.
You don’t need a perfectly clear idea of your topic to start out, but make sure your general topic is something you’re going to be into for the long haul.
Lifestyle design or digital nomads might be the fashionable thing now, but do you really want to write hundreds of posts about one or the other?
Write about something you’re truly interested in.
And by the way – just in case you’re thinking you’re going to start a blog about how to make money blogging, despite the fact that you’ve never made money blogging…
I’ve just got two syllables for you:
And a third one:
All this talk about your topic is useless, of course, unless you also have an idea of who your audience will be.
Mostly, think about this: does your topic actually have an audience?
The internet is great because it’s a place where the few weirdos are interested in one-legged midget boxing or Twilight fan fiction can get together. Those people who might, a couple of decades ago, have died alone without ever meeting anyone sharing their bizarre interests.
But not every topic is necessarily interesting to a large enough audience to make it profitable or otherwise worth your time.
If you want to blog about your personal drama with your friends, or about your fetish for stuffing your underwear with origami owls, go right ahead…
But before you decide to start a blog in order to quit your day job, make sure your topic is actually useful or interesting to some segment of humanity.
Hardly obscure niches, for the most part.
On the other hand, I’m sure you can make money on something pretty obscure. Especially if people are willing to spend money on it – and if there’s not much competition.
And if you absolutely must write a personal blog, or a blog about something that’s not immediately useful to many, well…
Best of luck.
I’m not pretending to have a monopoly on great blogging ideas.
I’ve been wrong so many times it’s ridiculous.
If you break all these rules and still manage to become successful, my hat goes off to you. And I’ll be happy to buy you dinner so we can talk about it.
(Important caveat: just try to be a “successful” blogger while breaking rule #1 – just get started. Go ahead, punk. Make my goddamn day.)
Rule #3 – Write like you speak
A blog post isn’t a formal letter.
It isn’t a 5 paragraph essay.
It isn’t a chance to prove how big your vocabulary is or how educated you are.
In a way, this point is a continuation of the previous idea of thinking about your audience. Because you need to be real.
I don’t care how cool you think you are.
If you have an audience (and I hope you do)…
They’re not sitting at home hoping you’ll publish some massive wall of text for them to sift their way through.
They’re not hoping they’ll have to pick up a dictionary to decipher your meaning.
And they’re certainly not going to read whatever you have to write just because you’re you and you wrote it.
(Unless you’re Kanye West – or someone similarly famous. In which case, congratulations.)
One of the most important things you can do as a blogger is to write like you talk.
Keep it simple, stupid.
And while you’re at it, just imagine that your audience is stupid also.
This is not because a lot of people reading your blog will necessarily be dumb – that’s a different question, about which I have no comment…
It’s simply because we all have other things to do rather than read your blog.
But we’ve all got 24 other browser tabs open, a pot of coffee on the stove, text messages are coming in from people we’re hoping (someday) to sleep with, we’re reading your blog on our mobiles while on the bus, on the metro, on the toilet.
You’ve got like 3 seconds to drag us into your post – or you’re gone.
So don’t bore us.
Some people see my one-sentence paragraphs, and flip the fuck out. They think I can’t possibly be a serious writer.
Well, that’s up for debate. (And after all, they’re the one’s reading my blog.)
But serious or not, I am a paid writer. I’m doing this for the creative expression, for the recognition, for the money, for the satisfaction of helping people to achieve their goals… Lots of reasons.
But I’m not doing it for a pat on the head from my 8th grade English teacher.
By the way… the reason for my one-sentence paragraphs is to break up the wall of text. Nobody wants to read that shit.
White space, y’all.
Almost nobody speaks in complete paragraphs with an introductory sentence and thesis statement.
So I’m not gonna write that way.
Final thoughts about how to blog good and change the world in the process
Yeah, I just dropped a Zoolander reference up in this. Kinda.
Anyway, before I finish… get a few books about writing and style, and read them. I personally don’t like Strunk and White that much, but whatever. Lots of smart writers swear by it.
Both really good and full of useful ideas.
I probably wouldn’t be a writer at all if it wasn’t for a copy of Writing Down the Bones I grabbed from a shelf at a coffeeshop a million years ago. (Thanks Natalie!)
And to finish up, here’s my final big tip for today: read a blog post aloud before publishing it.
I almost always do, and I almost always find several things that just don’t sound natural.
If it doesn’t sound natural coming out of your mouth, it won’t sound any better in the reading.
Ready, set, blog!
You started that WordPress yet?
Everyone and their grandma is a wannablogger – just write those ten posts and you’ll be ahead of almost all of them.
P.S. Someone recently pointed out to me that in Spanish, “chorizo” can be used to mean a person who’s a small time thief. I had known that for years, but honestly never thought about my alter-ego Mr Chorizo in that way. So just in case you’re wondering, I was trying to make a lame phallic joke all along. Because that’s how I roll…
P.P.S. I really don’t make much money with this blog. Wanna see the real moneymaker? Head on over to aprendemasingles.com and whip out your credit card. Thanks!