Are you thinking about starting a blog? If you are, be sure you know these 25 things about blogging before you get started.
As someone who has been blogging for eight years, I have a lot to share about starting a blog. Especially since I’ve had about 6 unsuccessful ones that have led me to where I am now. There are a lot of things that I’ve learned along the way that I wish that I had known when I started blogging. Plus, there are a lot of things that I wish that I would have paid attention to long before I did along the way.
My hope is that this post will highlight some of the things that you can avoid if you get started knowing some of these things.
Of course, you don’t need to know everything when you get started blogging, but it is useful to have a couple of these concepts under your belt before you ever start writing. I always find it useful to hear from people who have gone before me to understand what some of their hang ups were or lessons that they’ve learned so that I can take those things into consideration and do them differently. The hope is that with this post, I can highlight some of these tough spots in starting a blog, so you can be more successful than I was when I was getting started.
1. Why you’re blogging
Before you start your blog, you need to know your “why.” It’s important to know why you’re blogging, because you need to always be able to come back to your purpose. It’s helpful before you start blogging to know if the purpose of your blog going to be a money-making activity for you, if it is a place for you to express yourself, if it is a place for you to catalog different projects that you’ve worked on, or something else entirely.
Knowing your “why” is really important, because blogging is not something that is super easy for most people. Blogging isn’t something where success and money shows up overnight. There will be times when you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed when your success has come as quickly as you thought it would. When you know your “why,” you’ll be able to stay grounded in what you want to achieve and keep coming back to these same reasons when blogging feels tough.
2. What your goals are
You want to know what your goals for your blog are going to be before you start a blog. Why? Because then you know what you’re working towards. How will you know if you’ve gotten anywhere with your blog if you don’t know where you’re planning to go?
You don’t need to have your goals set in stone, and you can definitely change and update your goals as you get more familiar with blogging. As you learn the process of blogging and find your groove, it’s totally reasonable to reset expectations. However, it’s really helpful to know what your goals are in terms of traffic or outcomes like money making.
It’s really important to just know what it is you want to achieve from the work that you’re putting in on your blog, so that you’re able to focus on getting there. Shiny object syndrome is real, folks! Figure out what you want from your blog and start working towards it so you don’t get distracted.
Your goals don’t have to be complicated either! For my very first blog, my goal for the first year was simply to create one blog post per week. I didn’t put goals in place for traffic or money-making activities, because I knew that it wasn’t going to be feasible within that first year as I was growing my audience and growing my communities to be making money from that site. Especially when I had so much to learn about blogging itself!
I’d encourage you to write down three to five goals of what you want to achieve to help keep you focused.
3. Blogging takes effort
Before you start a blog or start doing anything related to your blog, you need to know that blogging takes effort. This is not something that you will want to get into if you don’t like to put in work.
The truth is that blogging requires time, planning, strategy, constantly learning, and being nimble. You have to know that when you put in effort for your blog, it’s not always going to be rewarded right away in terms of money or traffic. Blogging really is the ultimate slow burning ember that will eventually grow into a flame in time, but it doesn’t get sparked and grow into a huge inferno right away.
I think it’s really tempting to see people on social media platforms like Pinterest and think that starting a blog is easy, and the lifestyle of a blogger must be “so nice” because you can just do what you want when you want to. But the truth is with flexibility of work hours, you still have to ACTUALLY do work!
When you’re on the outside looking in at someone’s blog, you only see the end result and not the hard work that has gone in to what has gotten them to where they are. Know that there are hours of work behind every final thing you see on a website.
4. Blogging isn’t free
Another thing to know about blogging before you get started is that blogging is not free. You can set yourself up when you’re just getting started on a free blogging platform. However, most bloggers who end up monetizing their blogs or creating products, do eventually switch to a platform like WordPress where it is not free.
You’ll have to pay for hosting, themes, potentially some social media tools, and email marketing tools. There are all kinds of different things that you could be spending money on when you run a blog. There are definitely ways to blog on a budget, of course, and I actually have a post on how to start a blog for under $100, which might be useful when you’re just getting started.
If you’re expecting to make money without spending money, blogging isn’t going to be the avenue to pursue. Blogging does require some money up front and it does require ongoing regular expenses.
5. Blogging is not the easiest or quickest way to make money
Before you start a blog, you need to know that blogging is not a quick or easy way to make money. In fact, it takes almost 6 months to an entire year for Google to even pick up on content from a brand new website. It can take even longer for it to pick up any new content that you’ve published!
If you are just getting started, know that it will take some time to get traffic and build a community. In turn, and it will take time to turn that traffic and community into a money-making source for you.
Blogging in the beginning is very tough, because you don’t always have that feedback of knowing that people are loving what you’re creating. You’re writing into a void, not knowing if anyone will ever see it or find it useful. This is when you go back to number one, and return to your “why.”
If you need to find a way to make money quickly, blogging isn’t going to be your best bet. There are loads of other ways to make money fast, but blogging (especially when you’re just starting) is a low and slow gradual build rather than a quick cash injection. Don’t be mislead that it’s quick and easy money for anyone right away!
Read more: 3 Reasons To Not Start a Blog to Make Money
6. Knowing the blogs you love and why you love them
A great thing to know before starting a blog is which blogs you love and read and why you love them. It’s useful to take an inventory of the blogs that you visit regularly and take a few notes on the format and why specifically you love them. I think this exercise is really helpful, because if you know why you keep going back to certain blogs, then you know that others are probably doing something similar. This can be great insight into how you decide to write for your own blog.
When I did this exercise, one of the things that I loved about the blogs that I visited regularly was the behind-the-scenes aspect of a lot of them. I enjoyed reading personal stories of what these bloggers were going through. I also loved how casual and open they felt. It was easy for me to make the decision to have that casual and open vibe to my writing moving forward, because I knew how much I loved reading that style.
For you, you might love visiting sites that give very specific details on a project, walk you through a recipe or activity in a step-by-step fashion, or love the photography style they use. Writing these things down will help you see ways you can emulate that similar style in your own blog. This isn’t to copy someone else, but to gain inspiration for styles and the overall vibe of a blog that you’d like to emulate yourself.
7. Your domain and web hosting are important
When you are just starting a blog, your domain and your web hosting are important. There are a load of different options for acquiring a domain and web hosting, so don’t get too overwhelmed by this idea.
Your domain is important, because it needs to be memorable. Your domain needs to be something that is relevant, easy to remember, and maybe niche oriented. It doesn’t have to be related to your niche in a literal way. Like if you’re writing about woodworking, it doesn’t have to have the terms “woodworking” or “wood” in your domain. However, it is important that people can remember it.
Read more about how to come up with a great domain name.
Web hosting is important, because you need something that is going to be reliable, won’t shut down if you’re on a shared hosting network and another site is having a huge surge of traffic (speaking from experience here). It’s important to find a web hosting service that has great customer service, so if you have questions or need direction on how to move forward, you can be in touch and get answers that you need.
When I was just starting out, I chose the cheapest option that I could find, and I quickly realized that I was missing out on the customer service that I really needed in order to get going. Don’t underestimate the power of great customer service with any service you use for your blog!
8. You need to have a niche
Another thing that you need to know before starting a blog is that you need to have a niche. I know that choosing a niche can be extremely overwhelming. I have gone through this many many times I’ve come up with hundreds of blog ideas. I’ve done research to find out what is popular but also not too saturated. This part of deciding to start a blog can be pretty overwhelming.
Frankly, this entire site about blogging is in a very saturated market, but I felt like I had something to add to the conversation about running my blog on minimal time. Sometimes you just have to go against what the numbers say and try your hand at it. I’ve had this blog idea in my mind for years, so I’m just going for it now… Even if the numbers aren’t looking great from an odds ratio. I feel like I have something to say, and I’m going to try to make it work!
That said, choose a niche that you can focus on. Don’t choose something too broad, where people have too many options. There’s much more you can cover in depth if you decide to niche down super far. Instead of having a “DIY” blog, you might consider only showing your experience with making certain types of DIY projects. Maybe you excel at turning wine bottles into garden art. The more specific you can get, the more likely readers will turn to you as an expert, and know that your site is exactly where they need to be when they’re looking for help around that specific topic.
Read more about choosing a niche: What should my blog be about? How to come up with your blog niche
9. You need to know about your niche
Before you start a blog on any old topic, you need to know not just what your niche is going to be. But more than that, you actually need to know ABOUT that topic and niche. You should not be starting a blog about something that you don’t know about. Unless your site is all about going on a journey to learn about the specific topic, you shouldn’t be writing about it at all.
Google likes blogs who can show they have expertise in their specific niche, and if you can’t really prove that you have some sort of expertise, it might not be worth it. Whether being a woodworker for 15 years or simply showing that you have built five tables in the past will get that point across. Really, you need to know what you’re talking about before you start writing about it. Even if you’ve just learned something new about that topic, that’s great. You have to have even a basic knowledge of a topic before you can dive into writing it, and you’re even better off if you’re passionate about it or at the very least, interested in the topic.
If you’re thinking of starting a blog about something for the sole purpose of making money, and the topic doesn’t interest you at all, I’d highly recommend finding a different niche.
10. You need to be able to create great content
Before you start a blog, you need to know that you can create great content around that topic. One of the things that I like to do for any blog that I am getting started with is determine the basic content that I’m going to be sharing.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to map out your categories within a certain niche. You can write down three to five categories within your niche first. Then, after I have my top level categories decided, I start going into different ideas beneath each of those categories.
You need to know that you are able to come up with and create great content that is relevant and niche specific. This great content is going to be the key to having success on a brand new blog.
Read more about creating great content: What Should I Blog About? 7 Ways to Come Up with Post Ideas
11. You need to be a great researcher
Another thing to know before starting a blog is that you need to be a researcher. Being able to research blog content is invaluable as a blogger, so that you can make sure you’re covering the important points of a post. It can also help you to make sure that the content you’re creating is filling the gaps of other blog posts that are out there, making your resource one that is even better than other blogs in your niche.
When your blog posts are comprehensive and useful, people will share them. The ability to research, create, and share a post is what will help you grow your traffic quickly on your new blog.
12. You need to utilize social media
Before starting a blog, you need to know how to utilize social media. You need to know how to use Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or any other social media outlets that you think your target readers might be hanging out.
The more you can create great content on social media for the people who will find your blog posts interesting, the more likely they are to share that content. When people share, your blog posts spread, sending more traffic back to you. More traffic = more potential for making money from your blog.
If you don’t know how to use any of these social media platforms, or if you don’t know how to use them to promote your blog, you can easily check out some YouTube videos or paid courses to teach you these things in just a few hours.
Social media is really important when you’re just getting started, because this may be the only way that you’re able to get in front of your potential audience before Google starts picking up your website. You’re able to grow your community and traffic through social media, and hopefully be able to add some affiliate or ad networks sooner rather than later.
13. You need to be open to learning new skills
When you’re a blogger, you need to be open to learning new skills all the time. There are always new updates to social media and Google algorithms, and being able to be nimble and change how you do things will serve you well as a blogger.
As you get started as a blogger, you’ll realize quickly that there are a lot of things to learn. Understanding how to learn these things quickly will serve you well as a blogger. Since I’ve become a blogger, I’ve picked up many new skills, like basic HTML coding, basic CSS coding, decent photography skills, how to use a brand new WordPress platform when they decided to completely update the editing tool on the back end.
Most of these things are easy to learn from YouTube videos, Podcasts, or other sources online. You’ll want to be sure you know how to research in order to find them (#11), and be able to do so in a way that maximizes your time since blogging on two hours a day isn’t much.
14. Understand the moving parts of a blog
Before starting a blog, you need to understand that there are a lot of moving parts of a blog. While it’s easy to see the final product on someone else’s blog, there are a lot of things to do in order to get to that point from a creation perspective.
You don’t just write a post, then hit publish. There are loads of other parts to getting a post from idea to published, like:
- Come up with the post idea
- Research SEO keywords
- Outline the main points of the post
- Writing and editing the first draft
- Coming up with a great title
- Taking photos or sources images
- Moving your draft into the WordPress editor
- Uploading photos and images
- Updating meta descriptions and alt tags
- Setting categories and tags
- Adding email marketing forms
- Scheduling or publishing the post to be scheduled
- Sharing and promoting the post
That’s just top of mind! Each of those steps requires its own process and time. While none of these moving parts are difficult, you do have to learn to develop your own flow of being able to get through that list of moving parts in order to get a post published.
All this effort does pay off in the end, but it’s important to know as you’re starting a blog that it isn’t all super easy. It requires organization, planning, and time.
15. Know what kind of maintenance blogging requires
Another thing to know before starting a blog is the kind of maintenance that blogging requires. In my last point, I talked about how blogging really is a lot of work.
Blogging isn’t quick and easy. It won’t allow you to make money overnight. And it isn’t a set it and forget it type of project. There will be ongoing maintenance that you’ll need to tend to over time as you continue writing new and fresh content.
Here are a few things you’ll want to make sure you keep track of maintaining for your blog:
- Regularly update plugins
- Posting to social media
- Keep up with paying for your domain hosting
- Keep tabs on your web hosting and payments
- Pay for other services you sign up for, like Evernote or Tailwind
There are definitely more places you’ll want to keep maintained as you get started blogging, but this list will vary from person to person based on what services and tools you use for your blog.
16. Where you host your blog matters
Before you start your blog, you need to know that where you host your blog matters. There are a lot of different hosting services out there. Some are great, some are not. Some are cheap, some are not. There are varying levels of customer service for each of them, as well.
When you’re beginning a brand new blog, it really is okay to start with a lower-end hosting service, because you don’t know if blogging is something you’re going to do forever. I think that is fair and is fine to start with a lower priced option, even if it’s not the best of the best options out there. That said, I would recommend following up even within a few months time to decide if the service you’re using is one you’ll like to use moving forward as you grow.
It’s okay to change your hosting service as time goes on as you change and grow. I have done this multiple times over in my time as a blogger based on my different needs. Sometimes you switch for customer service, reliability, price differences, or just simply how the service is working for you. Do some research to determine which hosting service is right for you and know that it’s okay to change down the road.
17. Basic HTML knowledge goes a long way
Before you start a blog, it is useful to know some basic knowledge of HTML. Now you don’t need to know how to design an entire webpage from scratch, but it is useful to be able to create certain tags for blog posts or to go into the HTML view of a blog post to edit things.
Of course, you won’t be using this information every single day, but it’s really helpful when you do need it. I know plenty of people who hire out any needs with basic HTML, and frankly with just about an hour of research and YouTube or Code Academy, you can learn everything you need to know about HTML as a blogger.
18. Understanding SEO before you start is wise
Before you start blogging, understanding the basics of SEO, or search engine optimization, is really wise. I speak from experience, because as someone who has been blogging for a number of years, I never took the idea of SEO seriously until I had already been doing this for about 5 years. Yes, I’m serious.
It took me a long time to come around to the idea of paying attention to SEO, because it felt like “just one more thing” I needed to add to my laundry list of things to do. I felt like I just didn’t have time for it.
I will tell you that learning even the basic concepts of SEO and the benefits of it have helped me to grow my blog more quickly and efficiently since I now understand it.
There are some great paid courses out there on SEO, but there are also great free resources to help you understand just the basics, which is what you really need to know as a beginner.
When you understand even what SEO is and why you should care about it as a blogger, you’ll be able to get a step ahead from the people who are just blogging and sending it out to the internet with hopes someone will find it. Speaking from experience here…. Ahem…
19. Understand copyrights and ownership of content
Before starting a blog, you need to have a basic understanding of copyrights and ownership of content. Now we all know about plagiarism from high school or college papers, and understand the gravity of taking something that is not ours and putting our name on it. However, this is something that is very real and very serious in the blogging and online world.
It is pretty common to have people take content that is not theirs and put their name on it, use it as their own, and think nothing of it. That is NOT okay in the online world or anywhere for that matter, so you need to understand that anything that is written on anyone else’s website or blog is their content and theirs alone.
You may not take other people’s content.
You may not put it on your site without crediting their content (and even sometimes crediting is not okay either).
You just simply cannot take someone else’s content without their permission.
Another place that this is really prevalent in the blogging and online world is photography. If you are going to use photos that are not your own on your blog, you need to make sure that they are free to use under a Creative Commons License. Even under a Creative Commons License, you need to be sure of the specifics of attribution required of you if you use that image.
If it is unclear if an image or photo is allowed to be shared with or without attribution, your best bet is to ASK. Don’t take other people’s photos or content without asking!
Now, that’s not to say you can’t link off to other people’s content. In fact, that’s one of the best performing types of posts on my other blog – roundups. In a roundup, I share a ton of links, but I never take the content from their website. I create my own summary about the post, then share the link for a reader to find out more about the content.
I’ll repeat that, because it’s important: You may share links to other people’s content, but you may not share the content itself without permission from the original author or creator.
20. How to find and attribute photos and imagery properly
Before you start a blog and start loading up photos into it, it’s really important to know how to find and attribute any photos or images that are not yours. In the last point, I touched on this, but it really is worthwhile to say again.
There are a number of websites that are out there where you can use free images without any kind of attribution. While others call for needing to attribute a photographer in order to use the image.
Here are some of the free photo sites that I like to use that don’t require attribution:
It’s always important to check what is allowed regarding the use and distribution of photos that are not yours. Be sure to do your research!
The one way around photo sourcing and attribution is to take your own photos. When your images are your own, you don’t have to worry about making sure the proper person is getting credited, because you are the person. You are always safe to take and distribute your own photos as they are your intellectual property.
21. Basic user-friendly design is better than overstylized websites
Before you start a blog, it is useful to know basic user-friendly design is better than over stylized websites. It’s really important to keep things simple on new blog, because it’s easier for people to use your site and navigate around it when there’s not a ton of styling or a ton of different things to take their attention.
Less really is more when it comes to blogging. You’ll find that if you decide to start working with ad networks that they don’t like a lot of extra things on the side bar, widgets, or in footers. If you start basic without a lot of extra stuff, you can save yourself a little work later on when you decide you do want to work with an ad network.
Very overly styled websites are distracting and often hard to navigate for users, so I’d highly recommend you don’t aim to make your blog only beautiful, but make it as simple as possible to help your readers navigate your website and find the content they’re looking for.
22. Understand email marketing and how to get started
Before starting a blog, it is important and useful to understand email marketing, as well as how to get started. You don’t need to know how to do everything there is regarding email marketing, or even anything advanced at all. However, it is useful to know how to set up an account and how to place signup forms on your website.
When you’re first getting started, you really don’t need to be sending emails every week or very frequently at all as you’re building up your community. It is helpful to be collecting email addresses for people who want to hear from you in the future, even if you’re just beginning a new blog, so I would recommend determining which email marketing service you want to use first, then making sure you know the basics of how to use it.
If you aren’t sure which email marketing service is right for you, I would recommend checking out this article on ConvertKit vs Mailchimp vs Aweber. It’s helpful to go through some of their material for how to get started, and maybe even signing up for free trials to get a sense for how to use them to help you decide which service feels most natural to you.
The sooner you can get your email marketing forms set up on your blog, the better!
23. Knowing that bloggers in the same niche are not your enemy
Another great thing to know before starting a blog is that bloggers who are writing about the same things that you plan to be writing about are not your enemy. I think that a lot of people have a tendency to think that if someone is doing something and you think that you can improve on it, that there is innately some sense of competition lurking beneath the surface.
One thing that will serve you well as a blogger is to see every blogger as someone who is attempting to add their voice to a collective conversation. Whatever the niche you’re in, we’re all just trying to share our perspective on what it is we care about.
We’re all in this together as bloggers, and this idea of a competition isn’t really true. We’re all trying to share what we care about, and hopefully make a little money from it. We’re all working together to raise the larger awareness of whatever our niche is so that more people can benefit from the information.
Enjoy the fact that there are many people out there with similar interests and you, and try to make friends with them! You’ve officially found your people!
24. Be yourself
Before you start a blog and before you even find your writing voice, I’d highly recommend you decide today that when you show up to blog that you are 100% going to be yourself.
What I mean by that is to not put on this air of having to be a professional if you are not a professional. Don’t act like you are the most fashionable person in the world but if you aren’t.
People will like you for who you are – however you are!
I determined early on that I am a casual person. Therefore, my writing style is and always will be casual. I won’t ever pretend that I can write pieces that could be published in magazines or newspapers, because I’m not a journalist. I’m just a person who likes to share my thoughts – no matter how chaotic they may be.
There’s no right or wrong way to show up as a blogger, and as long as you’re true to yourself, there will be people who LOVE to come back to your blog to hear what you have to say.
25. Success comes with time
The final thing that I want to share with you is that you need to know that success comes with time. Blogging is not an overnight success. It takes time to grow your traffic and a community. From there, it takes even more time to figure out a great monetization strategy that works for the blog that you’re running. Whether that’s through advertising or affiliate marketing or selling your own products, it’s not going to be quick and easy.
Hopefully if you keep with it, it will grow over time, but you can’t force that. You can’t make it happen faster than it’s meant to. I am finally just starting to feel like I’m decently good at all of this… and I’ve been blogging for 8 years! It’s taken that long to feel like I even have a handle on what it means to be a blogger. It might take less time for you, but in the midst of trying my hand at multiple blogs, raising my son and getting him off to elementary school, this has been my path.
It will take as long as it does… not a minute faster or shorter… for you to find success. Whether that success is making enough money to cover groceries, a vacation, or pull in a full time income, success is determined by what you decide it means for you.
Go with the flow, have goals, but don’t be too attached to them, and be all right with knowing that you’re if you keep with it, your blog will be successful. Learning, growing, continuing to change, and creating great content that people really want to read… you WILL have success.
I hope that these 25 things you need to know before starting a blog have helped you. If you are thinking about starting a blog and haven’t yet, I hope that this post has been an honest account of what it’s like (and I hope you aren’t running away or second guessing yourself!). If anything, I hope that this post has empowered you to know that you’re capable of everything here, and with a little time and effort, you can make blogging successful for you.
Remember starting a blog is just the beginning. Doing the work, writing things that people want to read, and being able to grow it into what your version of success is what comes next!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Which of these 25 things do you feel like you already knew? Which do you know you need to work on before you start a blog?