How to make money blogging - A beginner's guide to building an online business on the side
Author : Christian Lan Pin Wing
"One day you will wake up and there won't be any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now." - Paulo Coelho
This guide is for people who want to make money from their blog and create an online business. It is not for those who just want to blog for fun or write about their daily life.
If you are looking at how to start and grow a profitable blog while you’re working full time and being able to eventually quit your job, then you’ll find this guide useful.
Overview of the guide
Blogging to build your business
What really motivates you in starting a blog
Get rid of limiting beliefs
Let's talk money
Success stories for inspiration
The part time approach
The 6 steps for starting a blog and making money from it
Step 1 - Choose your market
Step 2 - Create valuable content
Step 3 - Test your content and start to build your audience
Step 4 - Build your website
Step 5 - Promote your content
Step 6 - Monetize your blog
One year game plan
Blogging to build your business
“Finding something frustrating and seeing an opportunity to make it better is what entrepreneurship is all about.” - Richard Branson
Starting a blog can be a stepping stone towards having your dream online business. It can be started quickly with minimal capital and become a learning platform to develop your entrepreneurship skills such as understanding the needs of your niche, developing solutions to solve your niche's problems, improving your marketing and sales skills as well as your personal skills like better writing, motivation, persistence.
In this short guide you'll learn how to start, grow and monetize your blog on the side while having your full time job.
We'll cover the basics and overall strategy of building a successful blog and provide you with the most important set of tools and resources to start your blog.
It is not an exhaustive guide. We tried to keep things simple in a 6 steps process.
Apply the strategy and tactics that make sense to you. Hopefully you will find a good framework for your journey in building an online business through blogging.
What really motivates you in starting a blog?
You've probably seen some popular bloggers traveling the world, blogging from cool places like a beach, having fun while earning an income that you can only dream of.
This got you excited and thinking. May be you could start your own blog and become internet famous and rich ... but is that reason enough?
If your only motivation is just making money quickly from any given topic or market, you may soon burn out after some initial excitement. The reality is that building a successful business from a blog is not easy and does not happen overnight.
You need stronger reasons for starting a blog that will keep you going especially through the hard times like when you're having hardly any visitors on your blog, having stagnant growth and you're not making any money, just to name a few.
4 reasons to start or grow your blog
1) Make money with your blog. Create an online business that gives you the freedom of working from anywhere around the world while doing things that you love.
2) Creative outlet. Have a place to share your story, your ideas, your experience on a topic you're really interested in or passionate.
3) Build a community of like minded people and help others along the way. Meet new people sharing same interests as you. Inspire others through the stories you share and help them in their journey with useful content that you'll be creating.
4) Personal development. Get better on your topic. Improve your writing skills, your thinking, your influence, your marketing skills, your sales skills, your productivity and much more. Your blog can become a learning platform to develop both your personal and business skills in the years to come.
In other words, having a genuine interest or passion for your topic, in a viable market, will greatly increase your chances of building a successful blog.
Get rid of limiting beliefs
About competition - The blogging world is over crowded
Don't be afraid of competition. Competition means that there is a market and you can provide value on that market. You should worry if there were no competition. This would mean that there is not enough demand on the market you're targeting.
The key is to find your niche, understand it's problems and expectations and find how you can bring real value to that niche. It is not a zero sum game. If there is one successful blog on a niche, it doesn't mean that there cannot be other successful blogs on the same niche.
If you look at food blogs for example, there are so many successful food blogs in various niches (Easy organic cooking, Traditional meals, Easy recipes for busy moms, Easy meals for less than 10$, Vegan food, Paleo recipes, Easy cakes, Cupcakes ...)
In the personal development space, there are countless blogs on several sub categories (Meditation for busy people, Cultivating happiness, Better relationships, Mental game for athletes, ...)
Yet, that does not prevent new blogs in these markets from emerging every year because they provide a unique perspective or a better way of solving problems.
I need to be an expert in the market before starting my blog?
No. A lot of successful blogs have been started by complete beginners. People love to see journeys, see the progress and the mistakes made along the way.
For instance, The Dan plan was a highly popular blog about the story of man who quits his job to become a professional golfer despite having never played the game.
You can be a relative expert, being a little ahead on the path. The good news is you can become a relative expert just by researching and following a couple of courses on a topic. But don't pretend you're the ultimate expert on the topic when you're not. Embark with your community on a journey.
You can do your research, interview the experts and write your story. Look at journalists or writers interviewing experts, researching and writing on topics that interest them. For example, Malcolm Gladwell, a renowned writer, has many best seller books on topics he is not an expert (ex. Blink : The power of thinking without thinking or Outliers: The story of success)
As long as you bring true value to your community, it doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an expert. What matters more is your willingness to learn and serve.
I have to produce a lot of content and don't have time for it.
You don't have to. Derek Halpern was successful with Social Triggers getting 70 000 subscribers in 21 months and publishing on average less than 3 articles per month. You can focus on less blog posts but of better quality. Think writing evergreen articles instead of blog posts that follow the latest news.
I don't have great writing skills.
You don't need to be an award winning writer. You're good to go as long as you can write simple, clear phrases that your audience can easily understand, relate to and that help them solve their problems. If you can write emails, you can blog.
This list of excuses could go on much longer but let's stop now since you are here to learn how to start and grow a successful blog.
Let's talk money
How much money do i need to start and run a blog?
If you already have a laptop, you can already start blogging for free using blogging platforms like Medium, Blogger, Linkedin, Wordpress.com or do mini blogging on a social media platform like Instagram or Tumblr
If you are going to get serious about blogging, the basic costs should be around $100 -1000 a year, depending on the tools you invest in.
As you are starting, keep things simple and to a bare minimum. You can start a professional blog with just a domain name and web hosting for around $100 a year.
Here's an article by Smart blogger detailing the yearly costs of blogging, from amateur to pro blogger.
How long will it take to earn enough money from my blog so i can quit my day job?
Making money from blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It depends on the skills you have, the skills you need to grow, your network, the value you're providing, the work you're putting in, your consistency, your marketing skills, some luck.
"If you want a more concrete answer than that, we’ve found it takes even our smartest, most dedicated students 3-6 years to make enough money from blogging to quit their jobs. And that sounds like a long time, but so what? 3-6 years to be able to work from anywhere in the world, take a vacation whenever you want, and probably have passive income until the day you die? Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, " says Jon Morrow, founder of Smart blogger.
Jon Morrow further adds, "Personally, I was a slow learner, and it took me three years to reach $1,000 a month. That’s a long time, right? Well, two years after that, we crossed $100,000 per month, and we’ve never looked back. The rule of thumb is you can expect to make $1 per subscriber per month. So, if you have 10,000 email subscribers, you should be able to make about $10,000 per month. "
Here are some facts on bloggers earnings
A survey of 1,000 bloggers by Blogging.com in 2012 found that 17% are able to sustain their lifestyle or support their family with their blogs, while 81% never make even $100 from blogging. The other 2% spend less than 2 hours a day blogging but make more than $150K.
That said, the top bloggers earn over $1million annually.
The 1000 true fans theory
Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, popularized the idea that you don't need a big audience online to make a living and be successful. You just need 1000 true fans willing to pay for your products.
If you have 1000 true fans each spending $100 on your products each year, you have a $100 000 per year business.
$100 is a realistic average amount of revenue per true fan. Think about your hobbies, do you spend more than $100 per year on them? Books, courses, physical products?
If you're living in a western world country, $100 000 per year revenue from your blog should allow you to live comfortably. In other countries, this amount may be less.
How fast you acquire 1000 true fans will determine how fast you can achieve the $ 100 000 /year mark. If you're getting one true fan per day, it will take you about 3 years to get to your 1000 true fans.
However, do not mistake subscribers with true fans. 1000 subscribers does not equal 1000 true fans. You will need many more than 1000 subscribers to get your 1000 true fans.
A study by Convert kit found that sending an offer by email to a well targeted list of subscribers had an open rate of about 30% and a conversion rate of around 10%. That means out of 1000 email subscribers, 300 will open the email and 30 will actually buy.
Also, $100 per true fan is not an absolute amount. If you're generating $50 per true fan, you would need 2000 true fans to make $100 000.
There are success stories of bloggers achieving these goals within 1-2 years but be prepared for 3-6 years. It can be slow in the beginning but once you start to get momentum your results can increase exponentially. It can happen faster than you thought or it may take longer than you planned.
Now, if your main priority is to quit your job as fast as possible, then you should focus on providing online services like digital marketing, freelance writing or group coaching programs. Providing services is the fastest way to make money online but it’s not a passive income business model.
Some success stories for inspiration
Many bloggers have successfully built their blog on the side and turned it into a profitable business. You too can be successful.
Here are some success stories to inspire you :
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner started blogging on personal finance as a hobby in 2011. She was working as a financial analyst at that time and did not think about making money from her blog. However, after 6 months she was able to make her first $100 from her blog and from then decided to turn her hobby into a business. Her blog grew pretty quickly from then on.
"Any extra time I had would go towards growing my blog. I woke up early in the mornings, stayed up late at night, used lunch breaks at my day job, and I even used my vacation days to focus on my blog", says Michelle
Eventually she was able to quit her job through the income from her blog and now travels the world with her family full time.
Pat Flynn was working in an architecture firm when he created his first blog in 2007 as a way of studying better for the LEED (Leadership in energy and environmental design) exam to become an accredited professional.
"During work (on my lunch break!), at home, and while on travel, I was studying. I was reading what I needed to know, consolidating that information, and posting it online so I could easily reference it later for the test,” says Pat Flynn
One year later after he passed his exams, he found that thousands of people who were also studying for the LEED exam were visiting his website. He decided to put ad sense on his website and soon after got his first dollar online.
"Within an hour I saw the first dollar I had ever made online—three clicks which added up to $1.08—and although I could find that kind of money between the cushions of my apartment couch, it was an amazing feeling and one I will never forget,” explains Pat Flynn
Later that year in 2008, he launched his first product, an ebook on how to study for the LEED exams.
"That first day, I sold 10 ebooks for a total of $199.90. That was the point my life changed forever,” tells Pat Flynn
He then went on to create the hugely successful smart passive income blog to teach others how to do the same.
Natalie Bacon was working as an attorney when she launched her first blog on financial planning in 2014. In her second year blogging, she made $ 30k through freelance writing, affiliate marketing and display advertising.
"It was pretty awesome for me to see that I was actually creating a solid income online while working full time when I knew absolutely nothing about how to do it just two years prior,” says Natalie
She has now transitioned to full time blogging and is a success coach.
Darren Rowse had 3 jobs and was studying part time when he first started blogging as a hobby and a way to connect with others back in 2002. A year after, he started a second blog (Digital photography school), discovered ad sense and the amazon affiliate program. He quickly made his 1st dollar online.
"Even with established traffic the earnings in the early days were not high. My first month (October 2003) saw me average about $1.40 per day (and that was with lots of curiosity clicks from my readers in the first few days – thank goodness Google didn’t boot me out) and November hit $3 per day. The money was very small but it covered my costs and I began to wonder if with the extra few dollars a month I might be able to afford one of those Apple Laptops I’d been eyeing off (up til this point I was blogging on dial-up from a 6 year old PC that worked most days),” says Darren Rose
In 2005 Darren Rowse decided to go full time blogging and has been crushing it since then with Problogger and Digital photography school.
The Part time approach
Do i need to quit my job and work full time on my blog?
No. You can start and grow your blog part time while you're working full time on your day job. Eventually, you'll be able to transition full time on your blog.
The biggest advantage starting part time is that you already have a revenue with your job. You don't need to stress out to pay the bills at the end of the month. It is more risky to go full time immediately as you would need the upfront capital to cover your expenses before you make any money. This could take one, two or more years.
On the other side, the main difficulty is to consistently work on your blog while you have your day job and when your life gets busy.
Therefore, it is better to start with a relatively low number of hours per week (an average of 5 hours) that you can fit more easily into your life. Just set one hour a day 5 times a week to work on your blog. Finding 5 hours per week to work on your project is feasible for most of those have a job. Treat it initially like a hobby or a fun side project.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" - Lao Tzu .
Each day can be the step that brings you closer to your goals. You can make significant progress by working on your blog for only 1 hour per day 5 times a week. At the end of the day, the results working one hour per day may not seem impressive and you may feel that you are not really moving forward or very slowly.
Just keep going. Take some time to reflect at the end of each week, each month, at each quarter and you'll see better the progress you're making. But commit to a minimum amount of time. Let's say at least 6 months or more. A lot of people start very strong just to fizzle out a few weeks later. People often overestimate what they can do in a week or a month but underestimate what they can do in a year.
Tips for the part time approach
"Focus on being productive instead of being busy" - Tim Ferriss. Identify and work on the tasks that have the most impact, focus on the basics. Create more targeted content and choose the most effective marketing strategy to promote your blog so that you do not spread yourself all over the place.
Try to block of one hour during the day at the most convenient time for you. You could also work 30 mins before your job in the morning before going to work and 30 mins in the evening after you're back from work. Find the easiest way to fit it in your schedule. Wake up earlier, watch less TV. Find out what works best for you according to your lifestyle and your constraints.
If one hour is too hard for you to find at the moment, start with 30 mins for 5 days per week. Everyone can find 30 mins during the day. Even busy mom or doctors, ... Khaled Hosseini wrote his best seller debut novel, The kite runner, in the early mornings before his work as a doctor.
Work 30 mins five days a week rather than 3 hours one day a week. Consciously or unconsciously, working regularly on your blog will keep your creativity going, help you build momentum and you'll be less likely to quit. It's like setting a new habit. Once you've anchored the habit, it becomes easier to keep it up.
Sometimes you'll have higher energy levels, bursts of creativity and more time available and you'll want to work more than the 5 hours a week. That's fine, take advantage of these moments. But don't constrain yourself right at the start to work 20 hours weekly on your blog in the hope of getting quicker results. You risk more burning out than achieving your goals. It takes time to learn the new skills, assimilate new concepts and stimulate your creativity.
Find your quiet space whether it's your living room or your favourite coffee shop. The right environment can make you more creative and productive.
“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.” - Henry Ford
In agile product development, developers will break down a large project in smaller projects that they will develop in short sprints. Using the same kind of process you can plan and organize the activities you need to do around your blog.
Let's say you need to create a short guide for solving your market problems. You can break it down in 3 smaller projects
Week 1 : Research and outline the draft guide
Week 2 : Write the content
Week 3 : Refine content and format the guide
Plan your month, plan your week, plan your day to focus on the projects you want to achieve and the important activities you need to do. Have the end goal in mind and plan backwards.
With experience, you will be able to better evaluate the workload needed for the different tasks of a project.
Productivity and motivation resources
How to create the perfect 50 minutes of work for an entrepreneur - Video by Ed Dale
The Pomodoro technique - How to work in blocks of 25 minutes
6 keys to motivation - Video by Brendon Burchard
The Pareto Principle - 20% of the input creates 80% of the results - Video by Tim Ferriss
Advice for part time bloggers - By Darren Rowse
The 6 steps for starting a blog and making money from it
Let's look at the 6 steps you need to follow to start your blog and make money from it.
1) Choose your Market
2) Create useful content
3) Test your content and start building your community
4) Build your website
5) Promote your content and grow your email list
Remember that your main focus is to provide value for your community and to build your email list. Don't get distracted doing activities that are not really contributing to these goals. Think of activities that will have the most impact and get you closer to where you want to be.
If you have to go to the airport to pick someone and your fuel tank is empty, then your priority task is to fill the tank and not washing your car. Similarly for your blog, working for hours on the nicest logo or the most beautiful website design are not key activities. Producing valuable content and marketing it, engaging with your audience, building your network are key activities.
Step 1 - Choose your market
Do i need to start a blog on a general topic or is it better to focus on a niche?
As you are starting, focus on a niche with specific problems to solve. It will be easier to address.
Let's look for example at the photography market . It is a big market and may be too broad to address as a beginner. You may sound too generic and you'll not be able to target the right audience. However, in the photography market there are many sub categories. And in each sub-category there are many successful blogs.
For instance, Iphone Photography school teaches beginners how to make great photos with Iphones. Retouching academy teaches how to retouch photographs. From Where I Drone teaches aerial photography with drones.
After you’ve selected a niche you’re interested in, narrow it down to single market problems or outcomes and targeted audiences.
Broad outcome: Learn how to cook, Narrow outcome: Learn how to cook easy meals for under $10
Broad audience : Moms over 40 , Narrow audience: Single moms over 40 with 2 or more kids
Start small and grow big. You can expand as you get more experience and more credibility in your market.
Uber started with a test run in New York with only 3 uber cars, then officially launched in San Francisco before expanding to the rest of the world. Airbnb started in San Francisco with their co-founders renting air beds and providing breakfast in their own apartment, then expanded in New york city and to the rest of the world. Facebook started with one campus, expanded to all campuses and then to the whole world.
How to find your perfect niche?
A simple way of finding your sweet spot is to look for the intersection of these 3 criteria.
A niche you are interested in
A niche you already have skills or where you have a burning desire to improve
A niche where there is a large audience that buys products, i.e. a hot market
A niche you are interested in
Some people will tell you don't need a strong interest or passion for the business you're creating. You just need to work on a business that makes money. But wouldn't it be more fun and more rewarding to make money while doing things that you love and helping others along the way?
For instance, $ millions are spent on the makeup market. But if you are a man, you will probably have little interest in running a makeup blog and if you did so you would end up miserable talking every day about makeup tips. Of course there can be some exceptions but you get the idea.
A simple question you can ask yourself to gauge your level of interest : Do i want to spend the next 3-4 years doing it?
Don't worry too much though if you don't pick the right niche from the first try. What matters more is that you will learn and acquire new skills that will benefit you in all aspects of your life.
A niche where you already have the skills or where you are willing to improve
Think about your current work skills. Think about your hobbies.
Let's take for example photography. May be you work as photographer or you're an amateur photographer. So you already have skills and you can help beginners acquire the basic techniques. If you are starting out, you could share your learning journey.
A profitable niche with a large audience that buys
You've identified some niches that you are interested in and where you already have some skills or are willing to improve. Next, you need to find out if your niche is viable. You can have a passion and expertise in making "Red sour goat's cheese" but if no one else is interested in, then you don't have a viable market.
If you don't know where to start, these 3 markets and their sub categories are where people often spend money online :
Health - Healthy diets, Losing weight, Fitness, Healthy lifestyle, etc
How to make money or save money - Personal finance, Starting an online business, E-commerce shop, Stock market investing, etc
Personal development - Self confidence, Relationship advice, Leadership, etc..
But if you have other interests than these 3 categories and your niche is viable, then just go for it.
Look for markets where there are many beginners. Look for markets where people are happy to be part of a community and a journey.
As stated by Kevin Kelly, you don't need millions of customers to be successful. If you have a market where you can get 1000 true fans who spend $100 a year with you, then you have a $100 000/year business, which is enough to make a living.
"Whatever your interests as a creator are, your 1,000 true fans are one click from you. As far as I can tell there is nothing — no product, no idea, no desire — without a fan base on the internet. Every thing made, or thought of, can interest at least one person in a million — it’s a low bar. Yet if even only one out of million people were interested, that’s potentially 7,000 people on the planet. That means that any 1-in-a-million appeal can find 1,000 true fans. The trick is to practically find those fans, or more accurately, to have them find you." Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine
Tip: Think about your hobbies, the activities you enjoy and where you are already spending money. Ideally, find an active market where there are millions of customers. It is easier to get your 1000 true fans from a larger market. A market that is too small may take much more time to get traction or may not be profitable enough.
Brainstorm and evaluate your target markets
List the markets you are interested in
List the markets where you already have skills or where you have a burning desire to improve
Check the potential of the markets in terms of volume/ activity/ existing products
You can collect and organize the information in a simple Excel sheet.
After listing some markets you’re willing to enter, you need to get some facts and figures to evaluate the market potential (number of active communities, number of people in the existing communities, products, courses, events, …) and gain insights on the problems, expectations and what your target community wants to learn
You don't need to do a scientific research but you need to confront your intuition with some market figures.
Here's a list of places where you can research:
Search in Facebook and look for active groups. See if there are enthusiastic communities in your niche. Check the number of members. Read the posts and comments
Look Amazon best-selling books on your niche to see what people are already buying and get an idea of sales volume. Usually, one review equals around 50 sales. If there are 5 or more books on the topic with at least 15 reviews, you can guess that your market is active. Look also for physical products being sold.
Do a simple google search to see if there are ads, courses, physical products being sold, events.
Check in Udemy if there are courses being sold. Check the number of participants for the courses. Check the course reviews to gain more insights. Find what people are willing to learn and what they are struggling with.
Go to you tube, see the channels round your niche. See if there are videos being posted regularly on your niche and if viewers are actively engaging. Look at number of views and comments.
Existing popular blogs in your market
Check your competitors in the market. Read their popular blog posts. Look at the comments to see what their readers appreciate about their posts, what questions or additional information they would love to have. Check their social media accounts. Subscribe to their newsletters.
Collect the pains, gains and jobs to be done
List the pains, expectations of your chosen market and how you can bring value. These will be a good list of topics for your future blog posts.
"Of course, as you get involved in the market, you want to become a collector of Pains, Gains, and Jobs To Be Done,” says Ed Dale, founder of Your first dollar
An easy way to find out more is to look at the comments and reviews. Try to find some trends about problems and expectations.
Look at both positive and negative reviews
Positive reviews will give a good idea of what people found useful. Look for trigger phrases such as the best thing about this course is ... for ideas you can niche down.
“This course is awesome. I am a very technical person and never considered myself as very creative in an artistical way. This course helped me to see how the videos on youtube create that dramatical, compelling feeling. Now I can just do that myself. I love the editing part because the author speaks about principles that can be applied in any software you want to use on editing.”
Negative reviews allow you to see what your audience did not like, what they have been missing from other solutions so you can come up with a better one.
“This course focused too much on the theory and did not explain in a practical way how to do the video editing”
Now that you know how to research, do it for your other target markets and choose the market that has the most appeal and potential for you to start with.
Step 2 - Create valuable content
As a blogger you'll be producing new content on an ongoing basis, but creating a reserve of initial content before publishing will be useful when life gets busy or when you're focusing on promoting your blog posts. When you'll be marketing your content, you'll spend time contacting influencers, learning how to do Facebook ads, how to setup your autoresponder, creating your newsletter, etc …and you may not have time or energy to write blog posts at the same time.
"For every blog (or other online career) that “makes it,” a great many of them fail. The excited series of new posts that jumps on the screen in the beginning fades into irregular entries before ending completely. before you know it, no new content has been posted in months, and sometimes the domain even lapses. Goodbye, blog.” - Chris Guillebeau, successful blogger and founder of Side Hustle School
Create first a cornerstone or flagship content and a set of blog posts.
Your cornerstone content can compared to your MVP, minimum viable product, and will be a solution to a problem in your market, like a guide, a checklist or a list of resources. The idea is to give away this content in exchange of your readers' email.
This could be a "How to guide" that will help them solve their problem, which you had identified when doing your research. For example, Drone photography basics for beginners if you are blogging about drone photography or 5 ways to increase your followers on Instagram, if you have a blog about social marketing.
Once you have this flagship content, you can then quickly setup a Facebook ad. Interested people would be directed to a simple landing page and receive the guide upon entering their email. Building your email list is your number one priority.
After you have created your flagship content, create a set of 5-10 blog posts before launching your website. If you'll be posting 3 times a month, you’ll have 2-3 months of content.
Posting 2-3 times per month, but better quality content, will be more convenient as you're starting out.
Producing content daily for instance might burn you out since you'll have also a lot of things to learn in parallel as a beginner blogger.
As you get better, you'll be able to produce more content in less time.
Top quality content is king
High quality and valuable content will be shared more often by influencers and get better ranked by Google. Try to have the best content or provide a unique view on your topic or a unique process to solve the problem. For example, if you're writing a guide for beginners, try to make it really comprehensive and easy to follow.
Keep in mind the different content types and objectives. If you are blogging to make money you need to have a purpose behind your posts. You are not blogging about whatever comes out of your mind. You are blogging to inspire your readers, help them solve a problem, get new benefits and build your community of true fans.
The 2 main types of content :
SEO (search engine optimization) oriented content - (Content that can be found from Google searches, that people are actively looking for) - A how to guide, A list of tips to help solve a problem or bring new benefits. For example, 5 strategies to increase your website traffic
Social media oriented content - (Blog posts that tap into emotions and can go viral on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, ...) - Sharing a success story, an interview of an expert, a success quote. For example, how did John or Jane Doe go from debt to creating a six figure online business in 12 months
You can use both strategies but one will usually be dominant over the other.
Occasionally you can also create content that helps you create deeper connection with your audience, like sharing a personal story.
How to write a blog post in a nutshell:
Identify the topic of your blog post and which problem you want to solve
Focus on the value you plan to bring to your audience
Outline your blog post (Intro, Main body, Conclusion)
Write your blog post
Edit and publish
How long should be a blog post?
Average posts are usually around 500-800 words. Longer blog posts between 2 000-10 000 words tend to have more shares and links. However, length of blog posts alone is not enough. Your content has to be in the first place top quality.
If you are starting on a microblogging platform like Tumblr or Instagram, your approach will be different. You'll produce shorter blog posts. Instagram for instance has a limit of 2200 characters, which is around 350-400 words.
In short, longer quality posts tends to have better Google ranking where as shorter posts are more suited for social media.
Some tips for content writing
Create content to attract the right audience. Have the end goal in mind. For example, if you're a post divorce coach and you're mostly writing articles on how to stay happily married, then you're probably driving the wrong audience to your website. Writing on how to get back on track after a divorce would be better targeted.
Always make sure your blog post is providing value or a unique perspective to your audience
Use your market research to find post topics. Keep a swipe file of blog post topics. It is easier to find blog post ideas when you have saved a lot of relevant and interesting topics for your niche.
Occasionally create round up posts by providing links to interesting curated articles and videos. This can be useful when you don't have time to write a detailed blog post.
Alternate between shorter and longer blog posts to see which ones have more engagement with your audience.
Keep a regular posting schedule. If you're posting 3 times per months, don't go 2 months without posting and then post 6 blog posts in a week
Resources for content creation
How to write a blog post - By Smart Blogger
10 fast ways to become a better writer - By Fizzle
How to write a killer how to article that gets attention - By Copy Blogger
The 3 purposes of creating content and secrets to creating influence - Interview of Jon Morrow
Step 3 - Test your content and start building your community
Do i need to build a website right away to publish my content?
No. You can start for free and very quickly on ready to go blogging platforms. You just need to register for a login and in less than 5 mins you can start publishing.
It is easier to get out there on these platforms where you already have an access to an audience instead of building one from scratch. You will get feedback on your content much faster and get a following before you even start building your website.
Building a website and integrating the different tools like an emailing solution, a landing page builder and other plugins require a learning curve and takes time. And writing and promoting your content at the same time can be overwhelming if you're a beginner. You don't need to become a website builder expert but what matters more is to focus first on your writing and marketing skills.
Let's see the main features of these platforms and how you can use them.
Ready to go blogging platforms :
Medium is an online publishing platform which has more than 60 million monthly readers. You can get a lot of exposure if your content gets featured.
Linkedin is a professional network platform which has built in blog features where you can publish articles. Linkedin has more than 500 millions users with more than 100 million users logging in monthly. If your blog has more of a business flavour (digital marketing, productivity tips, …), Linkedin might be the best platform for you to start.
Wordpress.com provides free blog hosting for registered users. It is run on a modified version of Wordpress software.
How to use them:
Write articles on your selected niche and publish them. Connect with influencers in your niche and share with them your articles. If they like your content and think that it brings value, they will in turn share with their audience. See the comments of your readers for valuable feedback.
You'll be able to transfer or repost the articles to your website after you've built it.
Tumblr is a microblogging platform with social networking features including following other blogs, reblogging, built-in sharing tools, and more.
Tumblr hosts over 438 million blogs. You can post quotes, links, short text, audio tracks, videos
Instagram : we think as Instagram as a mobile app where people are just sharing great pictures but not as a platform where we can blog.
However, some people are using it for mini blogging, using each image as a short blog post with the caption (less than 400 words) and have built a massive following.
How to use them:
The idea here is to engage with users in your niche, share interesting and valuable content in the format convenient for these platforms and build a following on your profile. These platforms allow you to search for users according to their interest. In Instagram, you can use hashtags # to find interesting posts and users.
You can then drive your followers to your website with a link on your profile.
Testing your flagship content.
Your first flagship content that you have created will be your main asset to getting your reader's emails at the start. This content will be your solution to a specific problem in your niche. You will use it as a giveaway to get a reader's email. It can be a how to guide, a checklist or even a simple curated list of resources that saves your readers tons of time.
The fastest way to test if your content interests people and to get feedback is through an ad.
You can create a simple Facebook ad that will target groups in your niche. The ad will point to a landing page where users interested in your free guide will enter their email to subscribe and receive your pdf guide or ebook.
How to create Facebook ads for beginners - Video tutorial by Jason Wardrop
You can use a tool like Mailchimp to create the landing page and send your email with the link to the guide. It's free up to 2000 subscribers/month. Be aware though that there are some categories of content (making money online, affiliate marketing, ...) that Mailchimp does not support. So check their rules before.
"The big mistake people make is they lock themselves away for eight months writing their epic book, or their amazing course, or their incredible video series. They release it to the world and then have the horrible discovery, nobody wants to buy it in the first place ", says Ed Dale
A better strategy recommended by Ed Dale in his Your first dollar online book is to test monetization through a simple Amazon affiliate program. The Amazon program is easy and free to join.
You could recommend through your newsletter a list of top books for your niche that are sold on Amazon. If your readers buy the book from the link you sent them, you will receive a commission from the sales price.
You want to see what your audience buys and getting your first dollar will boost your motivation. This test will also guide you in creating your own products later on.
If you've created a Facebook ad using your flagship content as giveaway, you should have some people subscribed to your newsletter at this point. Keep sending regular emails to these subscribers, provide them valuable content whether it's your own blog posts or interesting articles and /or videos that you will have carefully curated.
Once you've got around 100 subscribers, you can run a monetization test. If you have just a few subscribers you may not see any results as usually only a very small percentage (less than 3%) will buy.
Don't go overboard with promoting products. Educate more than you sell. You would be looking at providing valuable content 90% of the time and promoting useful products 10% of the time.
Step 4 - Create your website
After you've started blogging on platforms like Medium or Linkedin and you've got some positive feedback, it's time to build your own website.
How to choose a name for a website?
Don't overthink too much. As a rule of thumb, choose an easy descriptive name so that your audience can easily relate to or see the benefits.
There are popular blogs despite their bad names. Not having a perfect name will not prevent your blog from being successful.
Some examples of names :
Names based on the benefits
Names based on the audience
You can check and buy web domains at :
Choose a platform for your website
Wordpress is the most popular and powerful platform for blogging. As of 2018, 31% of all websites in the world are powered by Wordpress. There's an active developer community and you can find thousands of plugins to meet your needs (galleries, forums, analytics, mailing lists, ..)
You can also use other website building platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Blogger or many others.
For example, Wix allows an easy creation of a website though simple drag and drop features. There are already predefined templates that you can customize and you can get your blog up and running in 5 min.
There are many tutorials you'll find on the web or Youtube to help you set up your Wordpress blog or from the other platforms. The main takeaway is that anyone can build a professional website even if he or she does not have any developer skills.
Tips for choosing your website platform:
Make sure that the platform you choose is mobile responsive. More than 50% of internet traffic comes nowadays from mobile users.
Have an idea of the kind of products or services you want to sell down the road through your website so you can choose the platform that is best suited for it.
For example, if you are planning to create a membership program, then make sure your website can allow users to have logins and be connected to a user’s restricted space. You can change your strategy down the road or transition to a new platform or complement your existing website. But taking some time early on to choose the right platform can avoid you this hassle later.
If you are looking for simplicity, go with a tool like Wix or Squarespace. They provide all in one solutions for website design, domain registration, hosting and you'll get automatic software updates. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with Wordpress, which offers the most powerful blogging features.
How to choose the best blogging platform - Pros and cons of the different platforms
If you've chosen WordPress as your blogging platform, you'll then need to choose a web hosting service.
Bluehost is one of the most reliable web hosting providers for Wordpress (they are recommended by Wordpress since 2005) and allows an easy one-click installation of WordPress.
Go to Bluehost and follow instructions in the link below to set up your WordPress site. You can start with the basic plan.
If you don't choose Bluehost, other web hosting services like SiteGround or HostGator are also good options.
How to start your Wordpress blog in 20 min - By Website setup
Step 5 - Promote your content
Once you've got positive feedback from your first tests, focus on promoting your existing content massively before creating a whole lot of new content.
"If you spend time writing a piece of content, and that content only gets 1,000 readers, chances are there are one million other people in the world who can benefit from what you wrote. Why, then, would you spend more time creating content when you already have something that your ideal customers can benefit from?" says Derek Halpern, founder of Social triggers, and who recommends to spend 20% time creating content and 80 % promoting it.
Choose your traffic battles
Aside from your content being found on search engines, you need to have a deliberate strategy to promote your content.
"Most people create content and hope someone will notice them. They hope search engines will rank them highly and send them readers. They hope a big blogger finds them and links them. They hope a journalist “discovers” them. The big problem with this strategy is that people are sitting around, waiting for something to happen, " says Derek Halpern
There are a lot of ways to get traffic but there are traffic tactics that work well for beginners and those that don't. So you need to choose the ones that will provide the best results for you as a beginner.
For example, if you are thinking of creating videos on Youtube to promote your blog and you've never done videos before, then it adds another level of complexity that you need to overcome in addition of your blogging activities. So, video creation for a beginner blogger may not be the best place to start for promoting your blog unless you have been vlogging for some time and it's already an acquired skill that you can integrate seamlessly in your strategy.
Here are 5 ways to get traffic for beginners :
1) Leverage social media
Use social social media to promote your content. If you’re posting on Facebook or twitter for example, your friends can share your article and it can become viral.
Some of the popular social media for driving traffic and promoting content are :
Choose the one you want to focus on when starting. It would be a mistake to go for all platforms at once and spread yourself across. Each platform has their specific audience and takes time to learn how to engage effectively with.
Facebook is usually where bloggers start but depending on your niche and content, Linkedin or Twitter could be a better choice, especially if you already have an audience on these platforms.
2) Do interviews relevant for your niche - Interview experts or inspiring people. Ask them to share the interview with their audience. You don't need to start right away with video interviews or create a podcast. You can start with written interviews, which is easier for beginners.
3) Guest posting - Write posts for blogs in your niche that already have an audience and that are looking for contributors.
3) Paid ads (Facebook, Google) - If you have some money to spend, Facebook ads is one of the best ways to speed up the process of building up your email list.
4) Outreach - Find influencers in your niche and ask them to share your content. You need content that brings a unique perspective or that can be useful for their audience.
"What gets measured gets managed" - Peter Drucker
To measure traffic on your website, plug in Google analytics. It's free. You'll get insights like your most popular blog posts, from which countries and channels your audience comes from or what is their bounce rate.
If you're doing Facebook or Google ads, you'll have stats on how your campaigns are performing like CTR (click through rate). Out of 100 people who see your ad, how many of them click on the ad.
Review the comments on your blog posts.
And your number one indicator : See how many new subscribers you are getting every month.
“Due to the principles of commitment and consistency, the most important blog metric to track is not raw traffic, page views, or unique monthly visitors. The most important thing to build and track is your subscriber base,” says Brian Clark, founder of Copy blogger
Test a few strategies and tactics. See what is working and what is not. As you gain insights, do more of what gets you the best results and leave aside what is not.
Resources for promoting your content and getting traffic
The 80/20 rule for building a blog audience - By Social Triggers
List building 101 - By Social Triggers
How to get more blog readers - By Social triggers
Traffic techniques - By Smart blogger
Step 6 - Monetize your blog
Your blog by itself does not make money but you get paid for providing value in your niche. Your blog is the vehicle through which you bring value to your community.
There are many ways bloggers can make money from their blog but here are the 5 main ones:
1) Ads, you place Google Adsense on your website and get money every time someone clicks on the ad. It is easy to set up. However you don't control which ads are displayed on your website and you need a large audience to get significant money. You can also place more targeted ads like private ads. This should not be the main strategy to create a business in the long run.
2) Affiliate marketing, promoting other's products (books, courses, software, ...). Promote products that you have tested and firmly believe in. In your blog posts or newsletters you can recommend products and courses that will benefit your audience. You get a commission when someone buys from your link.
3) Create your own products (Ebook, Course, Physical product or an App).
4) Membership : You provide exclusive content for paid members
5) Land consulting jobs or coaching. As you are becoming an expert in your field, you can land consulting or coaching jobs. You could also start a group coaching program
Don't create your product right away. (Ebook, Course, Physical product, Group program )
“Lots of bloggers jump into creating a course or book or community of some sort, but that’s a mistake, in my opinion. Before you start selling things, you need concrete evidence those things are what people want to buy. Otherwise, you’re risking wasting months or even years of your life trying to push a product no one wants,” says Jon Morrow
A faster and less risky approach is to start by promoting other products from your niche. You'll get a better understanding of what your audience wants to buy through what they buy from others. You are at the same time doing market research when promoting products from others. An easy way to do is is through affiliate programs. You can find affiliate programs on Amazon, Clickbank, software companies or other affiliate networks.
Once you have gained market insights on what converts well, you can then create your own products. You could start with a similar product that you have improved and with your own flavour.
Don't be discouraged if you have humble beginnings. Remember that before earning $100 000 or your first million, you must earn your first 1$.
As your audience grows and you get better, your earnings will also grow.
Resources on monetization
One year game plan
Here's what a one year game plan may look like for blogging part time 30 min a day, 5 days per week. Or you can just create your own plan that suits you best.
Month 1 : Understand and choose your market
Months 2- 3 : Create your cornerstone content and initial set of blog posts
Months 4 -5- 6: Market your content and start building an audience, test monetization with Amazon affiliate program.
Months 7-8 : Create new content and build your website
Months 9-10 : Market your content and increase your audience
Months 11-12 : If you have a decent audience, start monetizing with one of your products (a ebook or a course) or services (coaching, consulting)
Provide value first.
Keep learning and improving your skills. Practice often so that you can improve faster.
Be persistent. Don't worry too much if it does not work immediately. Keep trying until you find the right formula.
Be selective, focus on the activities that matter.
Engage and connect with your audience.
Network with influencers in your niche.
Create your master mind group.
Don't reinvent the wheel. Model successful strategies.
Additional resources on success habits
10 habits of highly effective pro bloggers - By Problogger
Effective blog habits - By Copyblogger
Why 99 percent of blogs will fail - By Blog tyrant
When to go blogging full time
When you get to the point where your blog revenue allows you to cover your monthly expenses and you've got consistent results for a few months, then you may switch full time to building your blog to the next level. Or you've seen some positive trends and you know you have to go full time to be able to make it to the next level. In any case, you will know when the times comes.
"You don't have to be great to start but you have to start to be great." - Zig Ziglar
We've covered the strategy of building your blog part time and the 6 steps needed to start, grow and monetize your blog.
Now that you know how to choose a market, how to create useful content, how to test your content, how to build your website, how to promote and how to monetize, it's time for you to take action.
Don't try to be perfect when starting. Choose a market, get things going and improve along the way.
Even if you are not successful in the beginning, you will learn a lot and acquire skills that will eventually set you up for success. You'll be ahead of those who wish to start a business but don't take action. You'll be on your way to success. Keep trying until you make it.
Review this guide often, you'll gain new perspectives and understand better some of the strategies as you're moving forward in your blogging journey.
Wishing you the best!
These books and blog posts have been a source of inspiration and insights.
Your first dollar - Ed dale
279 days - Chris Guillebeau
How to write a book on the side - Hassan Osman
How to start a blog - Jon Morrow
Blog triggers - Brian Clark
4 reasons you should start a blog in 2018 - Darren Rowse
Here's why you need to start or grow your blog this year - Derek Halpern
The 1000 true fans - Kevin Kelly
Best websites for beginners to learn about starting a profitable blog
Ready to Go Blogging Platforms
Email marketing tools
Free Photos library