It’s true that making a living through blogging is entirely possible. I’ve made a decent living from blogs myself, so I’m proof it can be done. However, the truth about blogging, or rather what it takes to create a successful blog, is often overlooked.
You’ll have read the same stories about the super-bloggers that I have and no doubt been inspired to try to do the same.
And why shouldn’t you? Anyone can start a blog.
Even if you don’t consider yourself very technical, with a little guidance you can set up a blog within a few hours and be in a position to start publishing posts shortly afterwards.
But a truth about blogging, and one that people might want to ignore, is that making a living from a blog is not easy and does not happen right away.
There are things about blogging that you might prefer not to know when you’re full of enthusiasm at the start of your blogging journey. But these things are important to bear in mind, because ignoring some or all of them won’t make experiencing them any less likely.
While you’re setting yourself up to start making a living from your blog, I’m going to be completely honest with you about what you’re going to have to deal with before the bucks start rolling in.
So… without further ado, here are 11 truths you need to be aware of prior to starting your blog.
1. The Truth is Blogging is Very Competitive
Do you want to start a lifestyle blog? It’s very competitive. How about personal finance? Yes, that too is competitive. What about travel, sports, movies, crafting, blah, blah, blah? You name it, they’re all competitive niches.
I’d go as far to say that any niche you can think of is competitive. Of course some niches are more difficult to crack than others, but make no mistake, bloggers are working hard to hit every niche imaginable.
If you think you’ll start a blog and imagine you’ll be at the top of your niche in no time, you’re setting yourself up for a big fall.
My first big fat truth about blogging is you need to prepare yourself for competition. It may sound daunting, but if you’re unprepared for a bit of niche power struggling, it’ll put you off wherever you encounter it.
On a positive note, if you are ready for competition, there’s no reason to be deterred and you shouldn’t let it put you off before you’ve even started. You just need to set your expectations correctly and understand truth number 2 on my list.
2. Blogging Takes a Long Time to Work Out
Sad but true. When I started blogging years ago, it was very easy to start a blog in any niche and receive hordes of visitors in a relatively short time.
Those days are gone!
Nowadays, you have to be prepared to wait a while, but still commit to a consistent blogging schedule regardless.
I’ll warn you… this is tough!
It’s extremely hard to keep believing in what you’re doing month after month when you don’t start seeing steady and, more importantly, high visitor growth. You have to contend with the rumored Google Sandbox, competition in your niche and learning a bunch of new skills just to get a foothold in what others in your niche are doing.
The time it takes to start seeing substantial and tangible results from your efforts is one of the big reasons why most blogs fail. So you have to be prepared to serve a kind of temporal apprenticeship before enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Of course this is a bitter pill to swallow, but it also offers a chink of light. The time it takes to break through the wall is going to affect anyone starting a blog in your niche. If you have the stamina to keep going where others give up, you have an edge over others.
As long as you understand from the get go that it might take you between 6 months to 1 year (possibly even more) to see substantial improvements in traffic growth (without paying for it with ads), you’ll be mentally stronger that others starting out.
3. You Must Embrace Continuous Learning
The blogging world is in a constant state of flux. As a consequence you’ll need to be able to adapt to changes in search engine algorithms, blogging platforms and tools, cultural shifts and even laws. This means you will always have to learn about something.
If you’re a new blogger there are a ton of things you’ll have to learn about, from the blogging tool you use to blog, to promotion and marketing.
It may be that marketing techniques evolve in line with changes in reader habits. You might have to learn about modifying your blog to adapt to new devices or platforms your readers use. Perhaps a totally new technology disrupts the current landscape and you’ll need to adapt to it to keep your blog relevant.
Whatever the reason, you have to accept you’ll need a growth mindset and be prepared to learn.
But learning is a good thing, right? Learning keeps us interested, challenges us and helps to move us forward in our lives.
4. Blogging Can Be Truly Boring
I’m sorry to say it, but blogging can be extremely boring! Perhaps not on day one when you have a full head of steam, but after day 90 it can be a very different story.
There is a commonly accepted theory in the blogging world that the urge to quit blogging can kick in around 3 months in. The initial luster has worn off, you’ve realized it’s not as simple as you thought it was going to be and you’re finding it difficult to remain enthusiastic about what your blog topics.
The truth is blogging can be very boring sometimes, especially if you’re publishing posts 3 – 4 times a week and working hard to promote what you’re doing. It can feel like you’re on a treadmill, doing the same things over and over again.
I get very bored sometimes and it’s a tough nut to crack. When I hit a bored streak, I simply step away from my blog for a day or two and I don’t beat myself up about it.
Although I’m committed to SideGains and I’ve pledged myself to a blogging schedule of 3 – 4 posts per week, I sometimes have to shuffle my blogging days around when I’m fighting boredom. This is easier than done, because SideGains is not my only responsibility, but to date it’s worked for me.
Leslie Becker-Phelps Ph.D tells us:
To break away from boredom, you first need to embrace it.Source: Psychology Today
I’m not sure I embrace it, but I certainly acknowledge it and shuffle my schedule so it doesn’t get worse.
5. It’s Frustrating
If things are not going the way you want, and they likely won’t for a good while, you’re going to get frustrated. It’s extremely frustrating to commit to your blog, work hard and not see the exponential results you’re looking for.
Some of the blogs you might have read only ever focus on the positive and err on the side of inspirational posts. While there can be a huge motivational benefit in reading posts like this, there is a downside.
Blogging can be extremely frustrating and for bloggers to ignore this and focus only on the positive does a disservice to everyone and sets you up for failure.
For me it’s important to tell the truth about blogging, since only focusing on the positives is not fair to any of us. Emphasizing the fact that blogging is frustrating at times does not sell the dream I know… but for me, acknowledging the negatives means you are better prepared when you experience them.
6. Blogging Burnout is a Truth Some People Don’t Speak About
Blogger burnout is really a thing! It sounds pretty ridiculous I know but I also know it’s something that will hit you at one point or another if you blog for any length of time.
Most of us hit points where our blogging motivation tanks. You feel like you hate your blog and can’t stomach the thought of even looking at it let alone dragging yourself in front of a screen to start writing posts.
I’ve said in the past that blogging is like long-distance running, and like runners in a marathon, you’ll hit walls you’ll have to overcome to reach your goal.
It’s a challenge to commit to a blog over many months, regardless of how successful it is and even successful bloggers experience burnout. Pete from Do You Even Blog acknowledges it in this super post: Blogger Burnout: 12 bloggers give their top tips.
An important truth to remember is that blogger burnout is not uncommon and there are steps you can take to overcome your blogging wall. As Pete advises:
- Be patient.
- Pace yourself.
- Write about things that interest you.
- Take time off.
7. You Have to Write… a Lot!
Nobody will engage with blogs that don’t have a lot to say or that don’t say very much very often. There are millions of blogs in every niche and people are quick to judge… if your blog doesn’t satisfy their needs, the back button is never far away!
Search engines too won’t give too much love to blogs that aren’t updated regularly or those built upon thin content… the depth and quality of your content is VERY important for search engines.
If you don’t enjoy the writing process, you’re not going to enjoy your journey since its your blog’s raison d’être. Researching and writing substantial articles that create real value for readers takes time. You also have to commit to this practice for as long as it takes your blog to grow… and beyond!
8. You Have to Promote Yourself (Even if You’re Not Comfortable About It)
This one’s a personal bugbear of mine. The truth is I don’t often don’t feel comfortable to put myself out front and center. This is a problem in the blogging world because promoting what you do is the only way to get people to notice you.
All successful bloggers know that promoting good content is way more important than producing the best quality content possible and doing nothing.
You probably already know that effective social media marketing, advertising and link building all help to get your blog in front of an audience. But there’s knowing about it and there’s doing something about it.
One thing that many bloggers struggle with is outreach. I’m used to be extremely uncomfortable about reaching out to others to try to get help promoting SideGains. I found the following article from RankXL packed with really useful information to help do just this and I urge you to read through it as it’ll help you too.
How To Build White Hat Backlinks (With Outreach)
After writing your high quality content you’ll need to promote it or your blog will simply flounder with all the other blogs that fail to promote what they do. Put RankXL’s outreach techniques into place and this should help generate links for you.
But you’ll need to put yourself out there a little to do so!
9. Search Engines Can Wipe You Out!
Another highly painful truth about blogging is that search engines are very important for driving traffic. Your blog will need to rank highly for search terms so people making searches find it.
I discussed blog promotion above and one of the primary reasons for outreach is to generate links. Search engines use links to assign a value of importance and relevance to blogs… you need links pointing to your blog from other sites to give you blog more prominence in search results.
I think we can say that link building is important!
However, you need to be careful about the links you build and the sites that link to you. What search engines determine as bad links can get you a penalty, which knocks you out of the search results entirely.
Earlier on I mentioned change being something you have to get used to. Search engine algorithms, the things that help determine how and where you appear in search results, change all the time.
The techniques that work to rank your posts in high positions today might not work when an algorithm gets a big update tomorrow, the day after or whenever. This can have a dramatic effect on your traffic as a consequence.
This has happened to me before and it’s depressing to say the least!
The moral of this part of the story is never to rely on organic traffic. Of course we all want Google love, but if truth be told you need to work on other traffic channels too to protect yourself.
10. You Might Not Even Make 1¢ as a Blogger
Just as there are no guarantees that any business will be a success, your blog too might never earn you a bean.
This is a hard truth about blogging and one that is difficult to accept if you’ve been sold the dream. It’s my belief and experience that you CAN make money through blogging, but as with any leap into the unknown there’s a risk it won’t work out for you.
The big risk for any new blogger aiming to make money is… you might not earn anywhere near what you’ve read is possible. Blogging is hard work and commitment and you’ll likely not see any real progress for many months. If you quit when the going gets tough, it’s obvious you’ll not make a cent.
Likewise, if your expectations are unrealistic you’ll give up when they’re not met.
The truth is you need to stop thinking of your blog as a potential money machine. You have to provide something valuable for others before there’s any monetary value in it for you.
Which leads me rather neatly onto…
11. To Receive You’ve Got to Give
You have to give to people before they’ll ever give back to you. I don’t mean putting your hand into your pocket, so hang on to your hats!
Your blog has to give real value for people to encourage them to come back willingly. This might mean:
- Offering your help.
- Giving your time in creating information content that truly sings and makes a difference to people.
- Creating tools you give away.
- Passing on discounts that only you get.
- Awarding prizes.
- Being authentic, honest and open.
Obviously some gifts are more compelling than others. No matter. The point is people won’t give you love if you expect something of them first.
Connect with your readers, be authentic, look for what people need help with and be grateful. Let’s be honest, if everyone payed things forward the world would be a much better place and if you adopt this approach to blogging your blog will be much better for it.
However, this is another tough blogging truth to overcome: when you’ve started a blog as a side hustle, it seems counter-intuitive. But this approach pays off in spades when you think about building relationships.
This post began as potentially something negative but the intent is not to deter you from starting your pet blogging project.
Quite the opposite in fact.
The purpose of this post is to highlight some of the things that might prevent you from continuing with your blog because you hadn’t considered them before starting out.
It’s super important to be excited about starting anything off, but this can blind us to the potential problems we might encounter. In a way this is good: enthusiasm can get you started in the first place.
Even better still is appreciating the reality and truth about blogging that most people experience so you’re prepared when you encounter them yourself.
Thanls for reading.
What do you think? Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said and let’s have a “chinwag” about it!
Sam @ Financial Samurai says
Good stuff man. Blogging is indeed a grind, but I think if people can get through the first one or two years, the rewards really start coming.
Best of luck! I just finished my 10 year anniversary on July 2019.
Hi Sam. Thanks for your comment… and a happy 10th anniversary to you!
SideGains is coming up to its 6 month anniversary at this point and it’s making steady, but slow, progress. I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s at in another 6 months time though!