Blogging is the new black. It’s the next big thing that everyone’s doing, ever since top bloggers made public just how much their blog makes them financially per month. The idea of passive income and the flexibility of making money online draws many to start a blog. But for every person it draws, there is another that doesn’t understand how bloggers can make a full-time income from their website.
At this point, everyone’s starting a blog. But what they may not realize is that blogging takes hundreds of hours of work before you see a dime. If you’re interested in making money from a blog, or even if you’re just interested in it for fun, there are still some things you should consider first. When I started my first blog five years ago, I knew nothing about blogging and have learned so much since. (If you’d like to learn more about my journey with blogging and how Sarah L. Travels was born, you can read all about it here!)
After some self-reflection, I want to share these 5 questions to ask before you start a blog. I hope my experience helps you out!
1 // what’s your topic?
What I’m getting at with this question is for you to think about your niche. What topic do you know a lot about and wish to share with the world of the internet? According to the pros, the narrower your niche, the better. All of those things you’re passionate about could make great blog topics. You could just write about whatever strikes your fancy, even if it deviates from your main blog topic every once in a while. This post is a perfect example of that.
Sure, this blog is technically a travel blog. However, I still write about topics outside of travel. I quite literally sit down with my morning coffee on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and ask myself, “What do I feel like writing about today?” Somedays, it’s about my veganism; others, it’s about a new destination. Today, it’s about my journey to blogging. Who knows what it’ll be tomorrow?
The main takeaway is that blogging is meant to be enjoyable. Write about what sets your soul on fire. The rest will fall into place.
2 // what will your posting schedule be?
This one is so important! When I first started out as a college freshman, my life was changing tremendously. I had classes, work, social life, and a plethora of other things to do at any given moment. I wanted to start a blog to act as a diary for this stage of my life, because no one read it but me! Life got in the way, and I rarely posted anything on that blog. Now that I’m out of undergrad, I wish so badly I’d posted more often. Those would have been such sweet memories.
Now that I post more regularly, I’ve played around with the ideal posting schedule. When Sarah L. Travels was first started, I had at least 60 posts in my WordPress drafts that were started and never finished, or had titles but no body content. Those first couple of months were spent just finishing, optimizing, and marketing those old, backlogged posts. I was uploading new content every business day at 10am.
After I made my way through those posts, I realized I could slow down with my posting schedule. On my most recent trip to Europe, it became clear just how difficult it is to keep up with a posting schedule while on the road. I know I’ll get better at it, but it’s a learning curve and it will take time for me to adjust. Through my WordPress portal, I’m able to see how many visitors my blog has and how many posts were published within that time frame. For example, in the month of June, my views suffered a lot because I barely wrote. I can see that my blog does well when I write regularly, but not as often as five days a week.
It’s a groove I’m still figuring out, but it’s important to choose a preliminary schedule and adjust as you see how well your blog performs.
3 // how much are you willing to invest?
For those of you that are trying to make an income from your blog, you’ll have to invest at least a little bit of $$$ first. I know what you’re thinking. It was a shock to me that it costs money to start a blog. You cannot run a blog on a free platform and monetize it. Instead, your host will run ads on your blog and make money from it themselves. I got my start with WordPress.com on a free account. That’s why Soul of Serenity, my most recent endeavor before Sarah L. Travels, has the URL thesoulofserenity.wordpress.com.
Under this account, I would only be able to enable ads and make money from them by upgrading to a paid account. But before you do that, consider switching to a hosting service like Siteground and use WordPress.org through them. I’ll get more into that in another post, because there is a difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org–and it matters.
If you don’t want to spend any money out-of-pocket to get started, then I highly recommend using a free account through WordPress.com like I did. When you decide later that you want to monetize through ads, affiliate programs, etc., then there are ways to seamlessly make the switch. In a post specifically about the money it takes to blog, I’ll share exactly what I pay month to month to maintain Sarah L. Travels and how much money I make from it!
4 // to self-host or to not self-host?
This question follows from what I was just talking about in #3, but it deserves its own point. I didn’t understand the distinction between self-hosted and non-self-hosted blogs until I got more serious about blogging and researched it like crazy. I’m very happy I made the transition to self-hosting for three reasons:
- It looks more professional.
- I have more creative license.
- I have control over ads!
It’s obvious that having your own domain makes you look more legit, so I’ll go into more detail about creative license and ads. Under a free account, you cannot pick just any theme. You have access to limited free themes, unless you’re willing to spend money separately on a theme. Sure, I found some cute themes and used my graphic design skills to make them my own. But I still had to do a lot of side work to make them look the way they did on such basic themes.
Ads are a whole other monster. I hated how ads made my free WordPress.com sites look. As an avid reader, I don’t like reading through a blog post and seeing a block of ads right in the middle of the content. I do think that ads at the bottom or sidebar are okay, but I’m still not a fan of ads on blogs. There’s a reason you don’t see ads on this blog! I could technically enable them, but I don’t want to ruin my users’ experience. However you feel about ads is completely up to you. If you want to enable them to make some money, you’ll need a self-hosted site. If not and you don’t mind your host posting them, then a free site should work just fine.
5 // what is your long-term vision?
Okay, so maybe you’re not interested in making a blog your side hustle. But would future you be interested? How long do you plan to have the blog? If you buy your own domain like I did, how would you want to name it? Will you want to sell that domain in a few years?
These are just a few of, I don’t know, about a million questions that could help you start a blog. I chose to attach my name to my blog because I wanted my own brand attached to it. It took me weeks to figure out a name, and had a list about a mile long that I narrowed down to Sarah L. Travels. I’m not interested in selling my domain, and doubt I will be in the future. If so, I would have chosen a domain name that does not have my first name in it.
Before I switched to self hosting, I sat down and developed a strategic plan for this blog. Now that I see how effective it was in the launch and preliminary months, I wish I had done it from the very beginning. Sitting down and letting my creative juices flow really helped me understand why I wanted a blog in the first place and how it fits into my life.
These are the five questions I wish I’d asked myself the first time I decided to start a blog. In the future, I’ll write more posts about how I made the switch to self-hosting, how much I spend on my blog, and my tips for success as a blogger. What tips would you like to know about blogging? Hit me up, and I’ll answer them all in future posts!
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