What it’s really like to start a blog
About four months ago, in late January, I decided I wanted to start my own blog. I’ve always loved writing and wanted to get back to doing it regularly. I’d spent half a year of pondering what I wanted to do in life and concluded that I wanted to create my own brand and business. Now four months in, this is what it’s really like to start a blog.
What it’s really like to start a blog
Blogging (hate that word) is fun, about 90% of the time. The other 10 can be… challenging, to say the least. It’s easy to get swept away by the romanticizes idea of being famous, self-employed, spending your days sitting on a beach in the Bahamas writing perfect blog posts.
Though that is certainly possible, it’s not the case for the vast majority, least when you’re just starting out. Instead, here are some of the things you can expect to experience when you first start your very own blog.
It takes TIME
Just like with almost everything in life, and there are rarely any real shortcuts. Starting a blog takes time. If you google how to start a blog, you’ll find an abundance of guides and X step checklists for starting a blog. In reality, it’s not that simple.
There is a lot that goes into starting a blog, not to mention you most likely have to learn 95% of it from scratch and that alone takes up significant time and energy. If you want a 5-step guide on how to create a successful blog in one week, I guarantee you’ll find it, but you will be disappointed. I’m sorry to say, starting a blog, although easier than most thinks, isn’t that easy.
Just to give a quick insight, you have to first decide on how to create the site. Should you use a builder or be self-hosted? Will you build and design it yourself or will you hire someone? What is your niche, the overall topic you will write about? Who is your target audience and how do they affect the rest of your decisions? Is it a business or a hobby?
Then you need to put it into practice – create, write, publish, market, etc.
There is more to learn than you think
As I said, there are a lot more to do than just “start a blog”, and you will have to learn about every part of it. Of course, if it gets too much, you can always outsource some tasks so to not get overwhelmed, but chances are that you’ll have to learn that down the line anyway.
Just the vocabulary alone requires you to know a bit about this world, and you’ll have to research a lot of decisions. Choosing your host alone is a giant headache, and you haven’t even started at that point.
Some of the things I didn’t expect I needed to learn about was new social media platforms I had never used before (*cough* Pinterest *cough*). Or how to trick people into reading 2000 word long posts (hint: dry essays with no pictures and 500-word paragraphs does not work).
I realized that if I wanted to earn money from my blog, I needed to know how to put it in my taxes, and I don’t even know how to do my taxes as it is!
Regardless of what kind of blogger you are and what choices you make, you’ll at some point find yourself in uncharted waters. The only real option you have is either to give and go home or to suck it up and learn what you need. It won’t always be fun (and that’s coming from me) but it’s a constant you can’t avoid when starting a blog.
You will make many mistakes
So many mistakes.
I think I wasted about $200 when I started out because I didn’t do proper research and was too hasty in my decisions. That’s money I could use right now to buy a resource that I will need and use for a long time in the future. Not to mention the time I lost that I could and should have spent doing more research on the matter.
This wasn’t and won’t be my last mistake either. I’ll probably end up doing far worse mistakes as a go forward, and that’s just part of the process. Unfortunately, you can’t know what you don’t know, and hindsight doesn’t change the past.
Going in, be aware of that mistakes are inevitable and don’t fool yourself by thinking you, of all the millions of people who’ve ever started a blog, is special in any way. You will fuck up, a lot, so just accept that and do what you can to minimize the damage. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, throw away $200 due to laziness (put that money on a premium theme and plugins instead).
Issues are part of the deal, and you will have to deal with each and every one of them. Most are fairly obvious and as you learn more you won’t be too surprised. But there will come up problems you never even knew could exist.
Especially if you’re not that computer savvy, and even if you’re not self-hosted, weird obstacles will occur. It will halt your progress and take you off course. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up spending days going further down the rabbit hole until you end up somewhere completely unrelated to your original problem.
Just the other day, I was forced to learn about PHP and figure out how to FTP into the root directory of my website to increase the media file upload limit. I didn’t even know what any of it meant and had no idea how to fix it. I spent about two full days of researching, trying and asking my dad who works with this shit, without any luck. Turned out I just had to email my hosting company. It took less than 5 minutes for them to fix it…
You’ll end up learning about things you didn’t even know you had to or was even remotely related to blogging at all, and you will have to repeat the process over and over again with time.
Just like mistakes, these issues are unavoidable. Just solve them and move on to the next one. Trust me, there’s always a next one.
There is always something to do
Speaking of there always being a next one, you always have work to do with a blog, more so when just starting out. The building process aside, with all the new things to learn, and constant problem solving, you will never be out of work.
If you do happen upon one of those rare moments where everything is running smoothly and you’re caught up, you need to plan for when that is over. Just because you’re on schedule right now doesn’t mean you always will be. In fact, in the next 24 hours that will probably have changed.
When you don’t have anything pressing to do, you should always think ahead. Work on the next weeks or next months blog posts, put more energy into promoting or look into how you can improve your website. Can you increase the loading speed? Drive more traffic? Take one extra guest posting gigs?
As a blogger, you’re never “done”, and if you find yourself with a lot of time to spare, maybe it’s time to step up your game.
You will doubt yourself and want to quit
This is not specific to starting a blog in any way, but I feel this is the most important to mention. At times, especially in the beginning when you’re essentially screaming out into the void, the mistakes, the failures, and setbacks will get to you.
You will doubt yourself, question why you even started and contemplate whether or not it’s worth it to go on. Everyone feels this way, not just new bloggers. You are not alone.
It’s easy for people, particularly the more successful bloggers with 10,000+ daily visitors and steady growing email lists, that you shouldn’t give up and keep going. It’s also hard for the people at the bottom to listen to them too, because they and their success feel so far off. But you should listen to them because they’re right.
Brad Merrill, CEO of Merrill Media and one of my favorite teachers on Skillshare, said in his Blogging Masterclass: Build A Successful Blog In 2019 And Beyond that “no blogger has failed mid-keystroke”. You haven’t failed until you give up, so don’t give up.
This is also why I think every new and potentially new blogger should know how much time it really takes to start a blog. The setting up the website part is just the very beginning of a much longer journey.
Allow yourself to not be successful in the first months to years, most blogs aren’t, if they even make it that long. Continue to publish more content and learn how to improve in every way possible. With time, you will get something in return.
Still, it’s all worth it
After painting a less than flattering picture of how it is to start a blog, you should know that all the hard work is worth it. If blogging is something you truly want to do, no amount of time or obstacles will outweigh the drive you have to make it succeed.
Sure, you will have times when you look at what you’ve done and wonder why you even tried in the first place, what made you think you could ever manage it. But you will get past it and remember how much fun it really is to spend those nights trying to decide between plugins and themes.
At the end of the day, it’s all worth it because you know what you would do instead wouldn’t make you half as happy as blogging does. Hobby or business bloggers alike, we all get into the game because we want to create something to share with the world.
That’s my personal experience of what I have and still experience as I’m building my blog. Though it is very fun and rewarding, I would be lying if I said it was easy. It is not. Still, four months in I can with certainty say I don’t regret anything I’ve done, even losing those $200. I learned so much from it and became better. Just because something is difficult it shouldn’t keep you from trying.
Do you have a blog or are you thinking of starting one? What did or do you find to be the most challenging? How did you get through it? Please, comment below and share your tips and stories!