When clients reach out to ask me how long it will be before they can earn money from their blog, I turn around and ask them another question:
“That depends. How long do you think you can keep blogging without money?”
You see, this is a bit of a trick question, because the truth is there is no clear answer to it.
The only clarity I can give you, as a coach, is that you have to have three important qualities in order to be a successful blogger who will stand out in a crowd.
- You must be passionate about your topic.
- You must willingly be persistent when it comes to learning new things.
- And most important of all, you must be very very patient.
In other words, money cannot be your primary motivation or your WHY when it comes to blogging. Because the truth is that making a full-time income from your blog will take a very long time. I’m talking anywhere between 18 months to 3 years. That’s again only if you’re doing all the right things.
Why is it that I ask people to be patient as a blogger? Because blogging is a very long game and there are no shortcuts to the top.
For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
This may be one of my most favourite books on the topic of both running and life. Because, in many ways, it mirrors what it is to be a truly patient writer, blogger, business owner or heck, just a patient person in general.
How do you play the long game? It feels insanely difficult and impossible in a world of instant gratification. Plus let’s not forget that every other blogger seems to be breaking records and jumping over milestones whereas you appear to be stuck in the same rut. Am I right?
Here, then are some important blog secrets on the path to becoming a successful blogger.
Secret to Growth: Create a 3 Year Plan
I’ve been called many things but the most important of them is being a realist.
Nothing happens overnight. Unless it’s the dawning of a new day, literally.
So, here’s what I want you to do when you create a vision of where you want your blog to be and how you want to make it happen.
Dig in your heels and create a 3 year plan.
Long term goals are fabulous but the critical thing to remember is how you’re planning to work day in and day out to make those goals a reality. Once you’ve set your end target, break it down into steps such as:⠀
a) What I need to do this month to make it happen⠀
b) What I need to do this week to make it happen⠀
c) What I need to do today to make it happen⠀
d) What I need to do in the next 4 hours to make it happen⠀
Remember the power of the compounding effect. You won’t see results right away but they are happening in the background. ⠀
As they say in the fitness space, in 2 weeks you’ll feel good; in 4 weeks you’ll see the difference and in 8 weeks you’ll hear about it from others too!⠀
Enjoy the day to day process and focus on your behaviours. That’s in your control. Forget about the results. Those are out of your control.⠀
Track your progress. Use a simple calendar or use a tracking app. Whatever works to get the job done. Show up everyday. At the same time. At the same place. With the same mindset.⠀
Matt D’Avella explains it eloquently in this video
Secret to Goals: Focus on things you can control
By nature, most of us are very results and outcome driven, have you noticed?
People are more worried about losing weight than working out regularly; winning marathons without training every single day and having successful blogs without writing and studying diligently. In other words, we’re focused more on things we cannot control.
What, in your opinion, are things that you can control as a blogger?
You can’t control how many people will read your content or even how many people will see the content that you painstakingly create.
You can, however, focus on things within your purview: That means showing up everyday to blog or to learn more about how blogging works. You can work everyday on content that you already have published and upgrading it as per SEO standards.
Reggie Rivers explains how to achieve your goals by not focusing on them and hits the nail on the head.
Secret to Writing: Build your Content Base
Don’t be swayed by the ones who already have an audience or who appear to have built up a large following. That didn’t happen overnight and they didn’t set out to make it happen.
It was a byproduct of a larger effort: consistent content creation. In fact, the first thing I tell people to do, especially new bloggers, is not to worry about purchasing hosting and setting up a self hosted WordPress blog.
Does it have benefits? Absolutely! You own your space on the internet and you have a lot of scope for growth but it’s not the most important thing; not yet.
Rather, start by creating content consistently and do it on a free platform like Medium. I used to recommend doing it on free WordPress, but migrating all the content from free WordPress to self hosted is rather a convoluted path and I now recommend Medium because it’s easy and SEO optimized from the word ‘go’.
Start off by writing daily or at least 3 to 5 days a week. Envision what you are truly invested in, as a writer. Find your audience’s pain points and learn to deliver.
Ensure you back up your Medium posts to Google Drive or One Drive or Dropbox so that you have your content readily available.
When ready, think about moving over to a self-hosted blog and start by publishing your most popular Medium posts on your blog. Why? Because you already have an active audience for that content.
Usually, this will happen after a month of consistent writing. If you think this is something you’d truly enjoy doing on your own, invest in a basic and reliable hosting plan. The host I use and recommend is ChemiCloud for their valuable service, impeccable customer support and lightning fast servers.
Read: 9 Reasons I believe Chemicloud is the Best Host for your WordPress Blog
The Secret to Audience Engagement
Find out where your audience is already active in your niche and go there. Is social media becoming too overwhelming for you? No problem. Focus on SEO instead.
That’s what Saranya Ramanathan of One Fine Wallet did when she grew her blogging business to earn more than $5000 every single month from her second blog.
She did the research, identified her audience’s pain points and set out to deliver the answers to those questions. The most important thing, however, is that she continues to do all of this because she’s personally interested and invested in the topic.
Her niche? How to make money online while staying at home.
Focus on building an audience first.
You’re not going to get phenomenal traffic in 6 months. Nope. Nada. Those who do are always the exception rather than the rule. They are the ones you see on social media, talking about ‘making it’ in 3 months.
They’re also not talking about other things: What they tried and what failed; how long they’ve been working on their blogs behind the scenes; what niche they are in. Those are secrets you don’t see talked about online. Why? Because it isn’t glamorous.
Related Reading: The dirty truth about blogging that the make money online experts don’t share
The Secret to Make Money from your blog
Shortest secret ever: : Don’t start a blog in order to make money.
A lot of bloggers started their blogs in the last year or so with the explicit aim of two things: Traffic and Income.
While there isn’t anything wrong with either of those things, they leave out a very fundamental principle that drives blogging: Passion.
Do you know the only bloggers who survive and stay afloat when their core focus is income? It’s because they actually need it to survive.
Debbie Gartner, the SEO expert I look up to, worked off a massive debt through blogging. Any idea how she did it? By putting her head down and working on the field where she was an expert: Flooring and home decor.
How long has she been blogging? 9 years
How long did it take her to pay off the debt? 3 years.
How many years was she blogging before she chose to monetize her blog? 6 years.
Any wonder that so many bloggers don’t survive beyond the first year of blogging? It’s because they have grand expectations thanks to people promising them 20k page views and oodles of income in 3 months.
Please listen to this bit: Those people are the EXCEPTION rather than the rule.
Pretty much every successful blogger out there today is a success because they stuck to their chosen path and showed up every single day.
Ben and Jeff Proctor of Dollar Sprout launched a blog, went broke, went back to paying jobs and then started over before seeing success.
Read how they grew their personal finance blog to $2M/year.
The Most important Successful Blogging Secret
My core focus is always one important thing as a blogging coach:
Teaching you how to build a slow, steady, engaged audience whether that’s on your blog or your Instagram account. I don’t promise the moon because it’s ridiculous.
So what then is the absolute secret to blogging success?
Passion and a driven desire to share your expertise with your audience.
Here are examples of people who thrive and survive with their blogs/social media channels purely fueled by passion/interest and creating content because they believe in it, with all their heart. (Note: This isn’t an exhaustive list)
Resh of The Book Satchel
Rinkel of Dine Delicious Food
Saranya Ramanathan of One Fine Wallet
Ophira Bastekar of Easy Mommy Life
Vaishali of Amma Today
That’s the power of authentic storytelling. Ask each of them how long it actually took them to get where they are today. Ask them how long it took to build an audience from scratch. Then ask them what they did when they felt like giving up because it was exhausting.
They rested. They took a break. They came back stronger and more determined to see things through.
But (and this is important), your WHY has to be so powerful and so compelling that you should be ready to walk your chosen path even if it’s not glamorous, not making you enough money yet and not showing you the fame and riches you see others making in your niche.
An entrepreneur whose journey I personally love following and amplifying is Meera Kothand. She actually refers to herself as an accidental entrepreneur and explains this in her 15 lessons on the road to six figures
It was a special joy to interview her in my private Facebook group and it was abundantly refreshing to hear her take on everything from audience building to the power of diligence and focus.
Catch the hour-long interview here:
My Personal Secret: How I Found my Voice
I blogged for 6 years (2007 to 2013) without an audience. Don’t believe me? Go check out this post on my blog or this one. I’ve deliberately not touched or changed anything about those posts. Of Teddy Bears ; The Gift of the Gab
When I started sharing my blog posts on social media(my personal Facebook page), I had 3 regular readers. Additionally, I had zero presence on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest and of course, no newsletter.
It was only in 2015 February, when a post I wrote about my depression/bipolar disorder got way more views and comments than I’d expected that I began to see what an audience actually was.
Trivia: I actually don’t blog about mental health otherwise, except on my other hobby blog now and then.
So, in 2018, when I rebranded my blog, I was doing it after building an audience for my content over the past decade. I already had an idea about what my audience was looking for and how I could help them break free of their limitations.
More importantly, I had 10 years of experience building my brand and finding my unique voice online.
Today, nearly 3 years after I switched gears, I am making a steady and decent part-time monthly income from my blog. That’s right. It’s not yet a full-time income and I’m being open about it. I still have a long way to go and that’s what 3-year plans are for, remember?
Blogging is a long game. It requires patience, diligence, perseverance and being open to growth and learning.
If you are a beginner blogger, it’s both a very exciting time to be blogging and very challenging.
Exciting, because it’s all fresh and new for you and you’re starting off with the enthusiasm reserved for something novel.
Challenging because it can seem like what you blog about may sink in the online space without a trace.
But to be truly and deeply passionate about something means that you find the energy to do it anyway. Even if it means it will take a while to show you the results you envision, I can assure you that blogging is here to stay and it’s something that will help you reap rich rewards the longer you are ready to do it.
So now the question that actually matters is this: Do you believe you have what it takes to be a blogger? The kind who will show up every day, put in the hard work and make a difference with what they write? Then you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.
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I’m a blog & content coach with over 13 years of writing, blogging and social media experience.
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