I created this blogging tips for beginners article as a direct response to the number of people asking me about starting a site of their own. (There’s LOTS more free content coming on this, so be sure to join the mailing list at the bottom of the post if you want to keep up to date).
Blogging is fun and rewarding, and can be truly lucrative. Stories of people making six-figure annual incomes (and more) from blogging are widespread and usually genuine. However, it’s extremely important to note that a study found that 87% of bloggers make less than $1000 per month, and over 50% make less than $99 per month.
That’s all well and good if you’re only planning to blog for fun. However, it highlights the importance of detailed planning – if you have hopes of making any kind of real income from blogging.
These blogging tips for beginners were put together with that in mind. I’ve been blogging for about a decade now, for myself and for many clients.
I’ve earned good money from it. Not “buy a house in Barbados and retire” money, but a steady living. If you’re committed enough you can definitely do it too – but only if you get some very important things right.
1. Be realistic about how long things take
Of all the blogging tips for beginners here, this is the most important: be aware that nothing happens instantly.
You can build a website and fill it with great content, but the chances are that months could elapse with few people beyond your family and friends ever looking at it.
That’s not necessarily the case, but realistically, the only way you’re going to get any flood of traffic to a brand new blog is if you pay for that traffic, by means of promoted Twitter posts, Facebook adverts or similar.
When it comes to building a reputation, climbing up the rankings, being trusted by Google, and getting natural “organic” traffic, you’ll have to wait a while. It’s a hotly debated topic, but many people believe that Google operates a “sandbox” system, which prevents brand new websites from quickly gaining traction. This is to prevent people from using SEO trickery to quickly rank new sites.
Regardless of the intricacies of how Google works, the reality is that blogs take time to get off the ground.
Here’s a real-life illustration of that, from this very website. It took just under a year before gaining real momentum. If you keep in mind that this is far from being my first website, and that everything was planned pretty carefully, it shows that it’s not too realistic to expect much to happen for the first 6-12 months.
The key point here is that if your long-term plan is to make money from blogging, you’re going to need some other money coming in (or some savings) while you get things off the ground.
2. Realise you’ll need to spend some money
Starting a blog is probably one of the cheapest business ventures you could undertake, but it’s unrealistic to expect to do it for free.
There are all manner of things I pay out for monthly or annually to keep HomeWorkingClub and my other websites alive. These include domain registration, renewal and hosting, site templates and themes, tools like CrowdFire and Tailwind to help with social media, keyword research and SEO tools like Long Tail Pro and AHRefs, and premium plugins that do things like backup my site and improve its performance.
But you don’t need all that to get started. You DO need the following two things:
- Your own domain for your blog; This will cost you about $10 for a year, and I recommend Dreamhost as the place to get it.
- Hosting for your site; This gives it a place to live on the internet; Again, I suggest Dreamhost for this, and at the time of writing, they’re offering basic shared hosting – fine for a starter blog – for as little as $2.59 per month.
So, with the above in mind, you can get yourself off the starting blocks for less than 100 bucks – really not much for a new venture. Keep in mind, however, that as and when your site becomes popular, you’ll need to start paying out for some other services.
3. Understand that there’s far more to blogging than writing
Writing the content for my blogs is one of the things I enjoy most in my working life.
But in reality, only a fraction of the time I spend working on my sites is spent actually creating content.
Here are some of the other things I have to do:
- Address technical issues on my sites such as backing them up and protecting them from hackers.
- Reach out to other bloggers and industry people for guest posts and mentions.
- Constantly be on the hunt for places that will link to me and boost my credibility with Google.
- Sign up to affiliate schemes and affiliate networks.
- Study lots of reports and analytics.
- Respond to reader emails, blog comments, social media posts and – sadly – trolls.
- Maintain and promote the site on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.
- Hire writers and freelancers.
- Do a huge amount of keyword research (see next section).
- Handle all of the record-keeping and accounting, which can quickly get complicated even with only a small amount of money coming in.
- Source and optimise lots of images.
- Update privacy policies and firefight legal issues.
I’ve written this big list to make an important point: If you’re planning to get into professional blogging, it’s important to know that this is what’s really involved. If all you want is a hobby blog and you have no concern about making any money, then you can certainly skip some of the things on the list.
But if you do plan to blog as a business, there’s not a single thing on that list you can skip. Once you start to bring in some money you can certainly outsource some of it, but you’ll have to learn to do it all yourself to begin with.
The key point is that if reading through that list makes you think “oooh, I don’t fancy doing that,” blogging may not be for you.
4. Learn about keyword research
The order of my blogging tips for beginners is rather contrived, because I wanted to give an example of a fairly monotonous (yet essential) task to illustrate my previous point.
Keyword research is repetitive and – at times – frustrating, but it’s something you have to do all the time as a blogger. Keyword research crops up when you have ideas and every time you’re ready to start writing. If you don’t do it, you can just end up putting hard work into content that nobody’s going to end up reading.
Put simply, keyword research shows you how many people are looking up certain terms online, and what the competition’s like around those keywords.
Why does this matter? Because if you write an article around a term that’s already well-covered by leading websites, your chances of anyone finding that article on Google are close to zero.
My keyword research tool of choice right now is KWFinder, and Long Tail Pro is worth a look too. The links lead to full reviews that also include more explanation of how keyword research works. Both tools have free demos, so it’s well worth checking them out – if only to see if keyword research is something you’ll stick at, or something that could turn you off blogging altogether!
Keyword research is a double-edged sword; Sometimes I enjoy it, because when you find a popular search term with not much competition, it feels like you’ve won a treasure hunt.
Unfortunately, when you spend hours not finding any good terms and the research takes you as long as the writing itself, it’s not nearly as fun. But, for good or ill, it’s an integral part of blogging, and of researching whether an idea is worth pursuing.
5. Consider a course – BUT don’t pay for advice you can get free!
The learning curve around blogging is enormous. However, it’s not insurmountable. In reality, there’s rarely a situation where the answer isn’t a Google search away.
In reality though, this is a type of work where your existing level of technical knowledge and competence is going to make a huge difference to how quickly you can progress.
Having previously worked in IT, I only bought one book before I started blogging. (If you’re interested, it was the ProBlogger book by Darren Rowse). Everything else I needed to learn came from forums, free articles like this one, documentation and “how to” guides.
However, I’m not unaware of how many people sell blogging courses and step-by-step guides. (I’ve not entirely ruled out creating one myself!)
The point I’d like to get across here, in the main, is that there’s a wealth of information you can access on blogging that you don’t have to pay anything for. As such, I’d suggest working through lots of it before reaching for your credit card.
And if you really want a course – to make you accountable or to give your learning some structure – remember you don’t need to pay out a huge amount of money for one.
As an example, there’s a well-reviewed beginner’s blogging course on Udemy that’s typically on sale for less than 20 bucks. It includes nearly 12 hours of video and other material. As such, please think carefully before handing someone selling courses far more for far less.
6. Know what you’re going to sell
When you choose the niche for your blog, it makes sense to work out how you plan for it to (one day) make you money.
The possibilities are endless; You could start a blog about graphic design trends with plans to sell your own design services; You could blog about mental health and promote related books or even telephone counselling services; You could create a food blog and promote recipe books and kitchen gadgets.
The list goes on, but the key thing is that the blog itself isn’t what makes money. It’s the off-shoot books, the affiliate commissions, or the services you offer personally (using the blog as a sales tool) that really matter.
It’s also important to note that “get some traffic and slap up some ads,” isn’t a very good blog monetization strategy!
“Ah, but you have ads on HomeWorkingClub” I hear you cry! Well, yes, I do – but they didn’t start to make any meaningful amount of money until the site had tens of thousands of visitors every month. I say that not to sound conceited, but to make the point that while you can make money from Google Adsense and other ad networks, it’s only really pocket money until you get a lot of traffic. It’s best to have other ways to make money in your mind from the start.
7. Choose something you have a passion for
The last of my blogging tips for beginners is absolutely crucial.
PLEASE make sure you blog about something you’re passionate about.
Consider the fact that your blog is going to take at least a year to get properly started, and that you (presumably) want it to last for years after that. You’ll then realise that you’ll be living, breathing (and writing about) that topic for an awfully long time. If you don’t have enough passion for that to sound like an exciting prospect, you may have chosen the wrong topic.
I’ve made exactly this mistake before; I’ve been working away at my keyword research and found something “on trend” with lots of interest in it. I’ve gone ahead and created the site and got all fired up about it, only to realise not long afterwards that I simply don’t care about the topic enough to keep the momentum going.
A tactic I’ve seen to avoid this scenario is to sit and write a list of all the posts you could create around your chosen topic or niche. If 20 ideas don’t come straight to you with no effort whatsoever, you might have selected something that you’re going to struggle to sustain.
Blogging Tips for Beginners: Conclusion and Recap
Blogging is hugely rewarding.
It doesn’t get much better than building an audience around something you love, especially if it goes on to make you money. It is, however, essential to emphasise that while “six-figure” blogging is far from being a myth, it’s never easy money.
People who make money from their websites run them like businesses. A lot of work is involved, and true “passive income” from a blog is a bit of a myth. After ten years, I still have to be reminded of this myself sometimes. I often check my earnings after a weekend of “not working” and feel like I’ve made some money “without doing anything.” Then my wife says “but what did you get paid for the four hours you spent replying to reader’s emails?” She has a fair point!
If after reading all of this you still feel like you want to get started, don’t waste any time. As discussed, you can get things moving for 100 bucks or less in the first year (although I would personally look at doing some keyword research before ploughing into a niche with no preparation).
Not every blog succeeds, but I can tell you for certain that the ones that definitely fail are the ones people don’t get around to starting! So why not get your domain and hosting set up, and give yourself a reason to commit and get started?
I recommend Dreamhost, who I’ve used personally for several years, for hosting and domain registration. You’ll find them here. I still use them to host this very site.
And if you’re not quite ready to get started, maybe you’d like some further inspiration from the very book that persuaded me to get started back in 2008 – Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger, which you’ll find here.