The impact that blogging has had on our small business has been incredible. When we first started, we knew blogging would be a great strategy, but we didn’t quite understand the reaches it would have. We knew we had stories to tell, strategy to dish out and tactics to teach, so we went for it.
Over the course of our blogging career we’ve pivoted our content, cut back on the amount that we blog and have since welcomed on guest bloggers to generate fresh stories and tactics for you guys. We continue to reach people from over 189 countries, bring in over 75k visitors every month, and are able to use this platform to showcase our products (i.e. make money). We know that this outcome is the goal for a lot of you, but it’s hard to get started.
It’s hard to know where to invest your energy, how to schedule your thoughts, how to launch your blog and how to shape it in a way to bring in money. Consider this your ultimate blogging getting started guide. Browse through to see if anything sparks some ideas, garners some clarity or inspires you to keep going.
How to Start a Blog: Write Your Own Story
If you visit a website with a blog that only talks about products or is constantly trying to sell you something, you aren't going to be interested and you definitely won’t stop to read it again. So stop pulling similar tactics on your own website, it doesn't work! Instead, focus on quality content that is helpful, valuable and human.
Tell people your story. Start at the beginning, but remember that your audience is shifting and although we would all like to think the same people tune in everyday, that isn't the case. Continue to retell “your story” periodically. Add a thread of you as a constant tone throughout your writing.
We’re not trying to say that every business that has a blog needs to turn it into a lifestyle theme, we just mean that you can’t take yourself out of the equation. For many, that means avoiding narrating in the third person. For others, you may have to take a more factual “news” type approach, but there are still opportunities to add flair, spice and everything nice.
How do you keep your voice alive on your blog?
5 Challenges Every Blogger Faces
Every blogger (new or seasoned) faces very similar challenges in keeping up with blogging, especially as a business. Take a peek at these and see if one (or more) of these areas needs your attention.
1. Finding a Niche
Problem: Defining where to start is always a challenge, especially if you are new to blogging. A lot of your time is spent finding that topic that really calls to you. When we began, we really only had a spark of an idea. Over time we’ve been able to refine what it is that we actually cover. Here are some things you may find helpful!
Solution: If you are struggling to find a place to start, it’s best to go all the way back to square one. Who do you want to serve? What are they like? First define who that ideal client really is.
Perhaps you are further along in the process and really already have a topic in mind. Figure out how this topic is going to work for you and define some goals for it.
Remember: As soon as someone lands on your blog they should be able to see who you are and what you do. "People make snap judgements. It takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person, and websites are no different. It takes about 50 milliseconds (that's 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they'll stay or leave.” (source)
2. Producing Quality Content
Problem: You have developed a niche that is all your own, written in your own style and voice. Perhaps you even planned ahead and developed a content schedule that covers different facets of your topic equally and systematically over time. However, after several weeks or months of writing, you find it difficult to cover new and exciting content.
Solution: In addition to having a well thought out content calendar, keep a journal of topic ideas. We write down ideas all the time. Our ideas might be inspired by something we’ve heard someone chat about, something we’ve read, or sometimes they come from a stroke of brilliance that hits us somewhere random, like in the shower or the car. As new ideas come up, we jot them down inside a “Blogging Brainstorm” list inside our Editorial board on Trello. This list helps prevent the dreaded writer’s block. We go back and revisit it as often as we want and find it a great tool to pull from when developing our calendar.
Remember: You need to continue to stay inspired to develop awesome content. Follow your favorite bloggers on Bloglovin’, pin your favorite articles on Pinterest and screenshot those inspirational images on Instagram. Review often!
3. Battling the Noise
Problem: There are millions of bloggers in the U.S. and even more around the world. How do you compete in this sea of noise? Not only are people bombarded with other blog content, but hundreds, if not thousands, of chance exposures to advertisements and media every day. After just twenty minutes in Times Square you could be exposed to over 500 messages (source). How in the world are you supposed to stand out?
Solution: You have to be yourself before you can be anyone else. Instead of trying to blend in, differentiate yourself and your content. Read 5 Common Sense Ways to Live Your Brand for some ideas.
Remember: You do what you do for a reason. It might help to reflect on why you turned down this path in the first place. What’s your why? Share it with your readers! It will only continue to enhance their understanding of your motivation and purpose.
4. Connecting with Others
Problem: It is very easy to feel like we are on a lonely island in the middle of the deep blue sea, but we promise you are not alone. Creating connections in your niche and business are crucial to its survival. But creating these relationships on and offline can be a struggle.
Solution: We have LOTS of ideas for how to connect, which you can read here.
Remember: It’s always a good idea to forget about networking by learning how to stop networking and start creating lasting relationships instead.
5. Monetizing Your Efforts
Problem: You put all this effort into creating content and getting it out there, and for what? Well, hopefully, you’re planning on getting some kind of return for all that effort. There are tons of articles out there on how to begin monetizing your site. Everything from adding Google ads to your website to using of affiliate marketing is covered across the web.
Solution: Before you go down the road of worrying about the cash money, you really need to focus on growing your readership. And you are only going to grow your readership if you offer quality content. And that quality is really only going to come if you put the time and effort into it. We have chosen (at least for now) to be a completely ad free zone. We find advertising (especially banner ads) completely distracting, and so instead serve our readers with quality content. At the end of the day we still run a business, so we have chosen to focus our time and energy into offering tools for you to grow a profitable and sustainable business.
Remember: If you are strategically trying to monetize your blog, making your readers aware of what you offer needs to be at the forefront. Our educational courses are not hidden, but rather a dominant part of TCC’s navigation. We also explain exactly what we do on social media and on our sidebar, so it’s easy for readers to follow.
What challenges are you facing as a blogger or business? How are you battling them?
5 Things We Wish We Had Known When We First Started Blogging
We may not have been blogging for years, but we have blogged for long enough to wish that we could rewind and tell ourselves a few things before we got started. Whether you are a blogging expert, just starting out, or perhaps still in the consideration phase, we hope you find the following 5 topics helpful!
1. It Takes Time
We both knew that blogging would take time, but we had no idea that making it consistent and of the quality that we wanted meant that we would potentially spend hours writing, organizing and preparing a single post. When you post multiple days a week, all of a sudden this new activity becomes one of both the most important and time consuming things that you do. We now know that we have to set aside time to do it. Yes, we actually schedule it in our calendars. Our advice to beginners is to start with less frequency, and don’t come out of the gate expecting new content 5 days a week. Plan ahead, write in advance, and take amazing pictures to complement your post. Edit, edit again, schedule your post and share it.
2. People Don’t Notice Unless You Make Them
Blogs, as much as we would like them to be, are not Noah’s Ark. You can’t build it and expect a line of two by twos queuing out the door. You have to invite people over, invite them in and give them a reason to stay. Writing and preparing good quality content takes time, but sharing it on social media in all the appropriate ways can take just as much. If you’re wanting help with automating this part of the process to save time, be sure to check out our free resource. And it doesn’t stop online. We make sure to mention our blog to new people who we meet at every opportunity, such as at networking events and in our social circles. Promoting doesn’t have to only be done in the typical ways. Just posting the title and a link to Facebook is likely going to get you nowhere anytime soon. You have to get personal, be helpful and offer value. Try these tips for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Or perhaps you just need to know how the heck to use a hashtag!
3. You Have to Be Yourself
It is so tempting to just look at the popular blogs and do our best to mimic the content we are attracted to. But being anyone else or focusing too hard on being something you think you ought to be just wears you out. Not to mention the fact that you come across a little too shut off. The moment you are more transparent and put a little more you in your business, people will take notice. Not sure where to start? Try these practical tips in 5 Common Sense Ways to Live Your Brand. Or follow these 10 simple life commandments in Putting More “You” in Your Business.
4. Post Strategically
When we started our blog we had grand plans to make our content all across the board. We wanted to talk about business, marketing, design, home remodels, DIY crafts and so on for days. But after a week or two of random, we knew we needed to focus on creating content that attracted our ideal client. We needed to be insightful and helpful to small business owners. It was funny how the content that we knew we needed more of was the content that naturally shone, received higher view ratings, and would continue to have traffic come back days, weeks and even months after we had written and posted it. Creating content that is strategic and posting it in a way that builds credibility for you and your business is hands down the best approach.
5. It Will Open Doors
Several people have questioned why we pour so much time and energy into our blog. First and foremost, we do it because we enjoy helping people. And our mentality every day is that if it helps just one person, we have done our jobs. We’ve received countless comments that have not only brightened our days, but continue to give us a reason to keep doing what we are doing. How can you not keep going when you get comments like, “your business savvy + creativity is endless”?
We started blogging as a traffic driver to our website and to make more people aware of educational products. But what we didn't realize at first is that blogging can open doors to partnerships and exciting business opportunities you never thought possible. Keep creating and you’ll be amazed by the possibilities that come your way.
The 10 Things You Need to Know Before Making Your Blog a Business
We’ve always known that our blogging isn’t only for pleasure. That doesn’t incentivize us enough to keep going. We needed to make our blog profitable. It had to be an integral part of our business for it to work. It had to give to us, but it also had to give to our business.
Blogging hasn’t always brought in the dollars and cents, but it has served as a foundation for our readers to turn into clients and customers. When we started, we really wish someone had sat us down and told us what we’re about to tell you.
1. You have to have a clear niche (yes, we said it once, and we will say it again)
It seems obvious enough, but trust us, it isn’t. When you start, it’s easy to get caught up in being everything to everyone. But then things don’t end up working and you end up capturing no one’s attention. You have to deliberately shrink your niche down to a size that is so specific, people automatically know they can come to you as an expert on a certain subject.
We specialize in content that helps small business owners grow their business, crush their goals and create the profitable business they have always dreamt of. We focus on helping dreamers who are desperate to leave their full-time job to pursue their passion. And we create actionable tools for these creative entrepreneurs, which are functional, usable and downright awesome!
Needing help niching down? Take a listen to this episode from The Strategy Hour with our friend Jessica Stansberry.
2. You have to have a plan
Call us silly, but would you drive across the country without a map? Ok, maybe not an entire atlas, but at least a GPS? Before you begin blogging for business you have to know where you are currently located and where you want to go. Then create content that gets you from point A to point B.
We didn’t always have a plan. During Abagail’s first month blogging, she tried to post about every part of her life, by bringing it into her business. This did not work!
3. You have to be consistent
If people know when they can count on you they are way more likely to come back. When this adventure began we consistently posted every weekday with posts live at 5 a.m. CST. After publishing more than 100 posts, we scaled back to 4 and then later 3 posts a week, which makes life a little more manageable.
Now we’ve brought on guest contributors so our content stays fresh and exciting. Interested in writing for us? Be sure to fill out our guest contributor form here.
When and how often are you going to post? Tell your audience so they know when to count on you.
4. You have to know where to draw the line
What will you do for your blog, and what won’t you? Are you willing to sacrifice the look of your site for paid ads? Are you ok with affiliate links or posts? Define what is going to work for your business and stick to it. Working this out in advance makes it much easier to decide what you are going to do when opportunities come knocking.
5. You have to step back and analyze what is and isn’t working
It’s pretty easy to get in the swing of things and forget to do a little self-analysis on what is and isn’t working. Pay attention to your analytics. What posts naturally get more hits? Do some graphics perform better on certain social media platforms? What are people sharing? What stays popular long after it is posted?
To help us stay organized, we developed the Blog Boost Weekly. It helps us to plan out our week, track how we post on social media, and then analyze the results at the end of every week. Snag your own FREE copy here.
6. You have to be dedicated
Blogging for pleasure is one thing, and it can be awesome. However, if you decide that you’re going to do it for business then we urge you to be dedicated. This isn’t some crash diet, it is your business, and it has to be taken seriously. Start by making small changes. Let them compound over time. Make blogging a habit you cannot give up. Make it a ritual. Make it a time of reflection.
7. You must keep up the impeccable quality
We refuse to write chintzy blog posts. If we are going to take the time to lure you in with quality social media and rocking graphics, then we better have meat when you bite in!! Focus on fabulous quality. We know you don’t want to hear it, but you are only as good as your worst work. If you don’t think that what you are writing is up to par with your other content, it is best to wait to be inspired rather than put something out that you aren’t proud of.
8. You have to know not all readers are buyers and not all buyers are readers
Someone told us this one day, and it hurt a little. But instead of letting the sting stay, we’ve learned to embrace it. Create content that works towards converting one to the other. Ideally, your ideal reader should also be your ideal client. If they aren’t, then something is going to have to shift.
9. You have to showcase your expertise
Consider your blog your long-form sales letter. Over time, readers begin to pick up on your expertise. If you’re an expert health coach, why would you blog about social media? Or why would a DIY crafter chat about dieting? It doesn’t make sense to your reader. Your expertise, particularly when blogging for business, must directly align with your products and services. It can be a platform to introduce your readers into the behind the scenes of your business. Use it as a way to promote your best qualities and place emphasis on your strengths.
10. You have to know how to capture your readers’ information
We’ve chatted about the idea of a sales funnel. Blogging can be an integral piece of the puzzle to really capture someone and later convert him or her into a paying customer. The big piece, once they are on your site and reading, or perhaps even reading regularly, is to get them to hand over their personal information, such as their name and email address.
For all of you seasoned bloggers, what do you wish you had known when you first started blogging? And for those of you who are just starting or are hoping to start a blog, what helpful topics would you like to read more about?
Here’s the bottom line: we believe in you, your passion and your success. We want to be your biggest (and loudest) cheerleaders in everything you do. We want this world to be filled to the brim of people loving their jobs instead of hating them. We want to help new generations form of people working creatively and so freaking passionately that it runs out their eyeballs. We think you’re ready to be a part of that.
If you’re ready to see some movement in your blog and be proud of what you get to do every single day we want you inside our brand new (FREE) course Spark Your Creativity: 7 Steps to Ignite Your Business. Here’s what we’re breaking down:
- Why your passion needs a purpose
- More tools to be more productive and badass apps to help you cut the crap
- The mistakes we’ve made and the things that can totally kill your vibe
- How to plan your dream week and how it can totally shift how your business runs
- The secret sauce behind our success (and how you can totally copy it)
- The best way to make goals that get done
Hundreds of creatives have already chosen to take these steps and are ready to see big changes in their creative business. Will you be the next one?