Starting a Blog – The Lies Every New Blogger Believes

Though every blogger is an individual, many of us begin our journey bobbing in the same boat, adrift in a sea of misinformation.

Not unlike parents and their children, we have lofty goals and great expectations for our fledgeling blogs. Perhaps we want to be the next ProBlogger, Copyblogger or Dooce. Maybe we’ve seen the subscriber numbers at Zen Habits and dare to hope our voices could achieve such reach. Our blogs are our babies and the sky is the limit, right?

Not quite.

Somewhere between dreams and realizations, reality intervenes.

Birthing a blog and raising it through its infancy and awkward, initial growth are two different things. Just like nearly anyone can have a kid, anyone can create a blog. It’s what comes after that first post which determines the success of our blog. And just like many parents, many of us stumble our way through the learning process.

As we said, anyone can start a blog. Want evidence? As of this publication, there are hundreds of millions of blogs worldwide. However, millions of these blogs are now inactive, abandoned, and orbiting cyberspace like a forgotten satellite.

Most blogs never see their first year birthday.

Why? The short answer – blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. Many of us bought into a false dream of easy internet success and riches. More on that in a bit. First, we want to tell you a bit about how our blogs were born.

Last summer, we were strangers on opposite coasts, who happened to both be dads and writers, both searching for Internet Success.

David was part of the Great Journalism Layoffs of 2008 and was searching for a way to keep his writing tools sharp and sate his creative desires while also feeling as though he were doing something productive. He decided to start a humorous blog about his experiences as a father and figured magazine and book offers would soon come pouring in.

Sean was running a preschool with his wife, but feeling restless. His brick and mortar business had grown as far as it could and his recent discovery that there was a writer inside him begging for attention, only encouraged him to find a way to amplify his voice and spread it as far as he could.

Soon, we joined forces, instantly complimenting one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

Neither one of us was quite sure where we were going, or how we would manage to get there, but we both knew taking our dreams online was the one surefire way to strip them of limits. We both believed, rather naively it turns out, that things would naturally fall into place. We thought if we worked as hard as we could and never failed to look our audience in the eye, we would eventually discover the magic alchemy that turned words into dollars.

This is just one of the lies the beginning blogger believes.

Here are three more.

1) Subscribers will eventually equal dollars. It is all too easy to see the blogs with their five-digit subscriber counts and assume that with an audience so large, the authors must have trouble counting all their money. But this is Los Angeles and the truth is Helsinki. Your blog might be the car and a hundred-thousand subscribers your full tank of gas, but you have to know where you’re going in order to get there. That is, if you expect to mine value from your vehicle. Subscribers are nice, but they don’t automatically equal anything. It is extremely difficult to make money simply by being liked or appreciated. The professional blogger must think like a businessman and not only be able to harness their popularity, but also lead it toward profit.

2) Content is KING. We still agree that quality content is an essential ingredient to success. Neither one of us, however, in any way buys into the argument that it is the most important element. The chances of breaking out and making it BIG are nil if you are only putting out garbage or faded echoes, but they are still better than if you put out premium grade copy and do absolutely nothing to promote it. Content may be king, but it is worthless without a couple of jesters in the court.

3) Publishing to a blog is easy. Yes, WordPress makes it simple to gather our scattered thoughts and place them online for all to see, but the budding blogger must also quickly realize that their posts are a reflection of them. This prompts many an inner perfectionist to tweak and re-tweak their posts, spending far too much time in search for the perfect image or digging to the deepest root of what we want to say, all for content that will spend a day or two on the front page and then be mostly forgotten forever.

You probably believed one or all of these things. Most of us do. We were both convinced we knew what we were doing and that it was only a matter of time until it paid off. Fortunately we met in our first month blogging and have used our early momentum and many mistakes to figure out some of the best ways to move forward without falling down.

Stay tuned. Wednesday we’ll be publishing the next part in our series looking back at our first year online.

14 responses to Starting a Blog – The Lies Every New Blogger Believes

  1. Iain Broome - Write for Your Life

    Permission to add posting every day of the week to that list. I’ve posted little over 20 times in 10 months and gathered over 550 subscribers. Now that’s not going to make me a millionaire, but then that’s not what I’m after.

    I’ve built an audience without sacrificing other parts of my life, including my fiction writing. And that’s really important, I think.

    • Sean

      That’s a great one, Iain. And I totally agree. I’ve adjusted my schedule all over the place and have seen no difference whatsoever in how quickly subscribers are gathered.

      I have sacrificed other parts of my life, including my fiction writing, and in many ways that’s been a mistake. However, I’ve learned from it and that means my second year will be undoubtedly better than the first.

  2. Jeffrey Tang

    I don’t think these are so much lies as they are oversimplifications. And to some extent, it’s good that new bloggers believe them. Take “blogging is easy,” for example. Why raise barriers to entry by telling everyone how incredibly difficult blogging can be sometimes? I mean, yes, some people will crash and burn, but isn’t it better to have more people try it than to discourage them at the outset?

    I guess there’s a fine line between simplifying advice for beginners and being misleading. How close are we to the line? I guess it depends. What do you think?

    • Sean

      That’s a great point Jeffrey. Though I would’ve liked to have known the truth, as it wouldn’t have deterred me so much as detoured me, I think many people would never start and that’s not a good thing. I would agree with you, these points ARE more like oversimplifications than lies. Thanks for making your point. I loved it. : > )

  3. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Ah, yes. While I never believed the first lie for a minute, the second lie you mention is the one I swallowed whole when I was starting my blog. In my mind, there was so much weak content and bad writing out there, quality content would naturally find its way to the surface, if given some time.

    That’s not how it works, as you point out. And good promotion can take as much time as good writing—even more, in my case, since writing comes as naturally as breathing while promotion is about as natural as breathing under water.

    Your third lie is one I continue to tell myself, particularly on days like today when the post is written and I think I’m mere minutes from publishing. An hour later, I’m still hunting for the right image, struggling with a captivating headline, and inserting links. 🙂

    • Sean

      “writing comes as naturally as breathing while promotion is about as natural as breathing under water.”

      HA HA HA! I Love it Kristin. I totally feel you!

      Yeah, the second lie I swallowed and then asked for seconds. I truly believed that if I wrote my heart out every day with the most honest voice I had, that it would be enough to get me where I needed to go, or at least give me the pad to launch from. Little did I know it only gave me a tricycle to ride to the pad. : > )

    • Sean

      We’re hoping so. There are 13 posts in the series and I feel they all have something valid to say that can help noobies and struggling vets alike.

  4. Keith Wilcox

    Found you through writerdad’s pingpack. You make some really good points here. Very few bloggers make any money at what they do. Some of us are striving for that elusive success while others seem to be content with 50-100 visitors per day. And, you’re right, visitors do not necessarily equal revenue. Also, maybe one that is implicit in your other points but not mentioned directly, SEO is a major factor that people don’t seem to understand. Writing content, like you say, is not enough. We need to promote. But bloggers don’t typically understand the power of SEO enough to get seen. In writing content is king, but in blogging I might say linking is king. You’ve struck on a great topic. Thanks for adding to the collective knowledge of the world. definitely NOT a flaky useless post. Thanks.

  5. Sean

    Hi Keith, nice to see you here!

    You couldn’t be more right about SEO. It’s a topic we cover, I believe next week, but if not then it’s the week after for sure. SEO and promotion are both critical factors and something that doesn’t necessarily come too naturally to either Dave or myself, though we do get better and better as days go by. The thing about blogging is that you really have to know what you’re in it for. If it’s fame and fortune, then you’ve got a very different road to walk then if it’s simply to maintain an online journal. To each his own for sure, but knowing where you’re going is the best way to understand the right road to get there.

  6. Hayden Tompkins

    Did you know that I have been blogging for over 2 years? It’s a long time but it started as a place for me to rant about stuff that bugged me and evolved as I did. I write about things I care about, and have always cared about, so I have never found blogging to be a chore.

    I passionately love the process and what I have created in that time!

  7. Sean

    2 years! Wow, that’s impressive. I’m only just finishing up year one. Unfortunately, I can’t say I only blog about things I care about. Though I try to care as much as I possibly can when writing blog posts for clients, there is only so much I can genuinely care about lawnmowers or barbecues. Even with my personal niche sites like Potty Training Power, I write more out of duty than passion. However, I do see it as a means to an end rather than a standard set for myself that I must adhere to forever.

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