Updated Jan. 16, 2023
I wrote the first version of this post at my one year anniversary of the first visitors to the Roostervane site. While I wrote the first couple posts in June 2019, the first visitors started in September. And that’s when I started writing constantly.
Now, I’m sitting here in 2023. I guess I’ve been blogging for almost 5 years. And — truth be told — I’ve spent a lot of that time goofing off, ignoring this blog, and chasing other shiny ways to make money online. So I feel a bit of imposter syndrome writing about how to be a successful blogger. And I kick myself now. Because if I knew then what I know now, this blog could be worth millions.
So I suppose this list is a list of some of my successes and some things I’ve learned the hard way. If you want to listen to what I have to say… YAAYY. If you write me off as someone who’s lost more than won, that’s okay too.
So a bit about my credentials, and this site. It currently gets around 50k visitors a month. I’ve pulled back a lot from writing here, and actually do more SEO consulting and work for different companies. I guess for me “successful blogger” actually ended up meaning “getting paid to do it for someone else.” Which is actually really cool! I work with awesome clients.
In terms of money-making, this blog makes some money every month — not tons. As I write this, I’ve just been accepted into an advertising program, so we’ll see what that does. But last month this blog made about $500. I’ve made as much as about $5,000/mo mixing in courses, speaking, etc. If I add in consulting I’ve gone quite a bit higher.
All that out of the way. If you still want to hear what I have to say, here’s what I’ve learned about how to be a successful blogger.
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If you’re starting a blog, try BlueHost! It’s the host I used to create Roostervane. And they let you get started for as little as $2.95/mo.
- 1. Don’t write in big paragraphs
- 2. Recognize your power
- 3. Technical chops are important
- 4. Success takes consistency and perseverance
- 5. Own your own platform
- 6. Decide what you want, but be flexible
- 7. If you blog, you are perceived as an expert
- 8. Just hit “publish”
- 9. Don’t underestimate the impact
- 10. People are kind, mostly
- 11. Some posts will fly, some flop
1. Don’t write in big paragraphs
Starting with some deep, but vitally important advice.
I was an academic once. They trained me to write in enormous paragraphs with complicated verbiage that shows off how educated I am. These voluminous mountains of text are supposed to signify my intelligence to any audience.
It doesn’t work that way.
They actually say you’re supposed to write at a fifth-grade level. (Don’t ask me who “they” are. I have no freaking idea!)
That’s what will give you something people actually can read. Remember, people read academic articles because they have to. People read blogs for pleasure. Even a guilty pleasure sometimes. Make something that’s pleasurable to read.
And add lots of spaces, like I’ve done here. It makes it easier to read on a phone, which most people will be doing. They’ll probably be on the subway, in class, or on the toilet. Make it easy on them.
2. Recognize your power
“Oh, you should know that I have a blog.”
I said that in a job interview once, just so that they didn’t google me and find Roostervane. The interviewer was taken aback.
“Oh, that’s nice,” she said. “I guess we all need a hobby.”
The thing is, blogging can be a hobby. For some bloggers, that’s all it will ever be. But for some, blogging has become a full-time income. As I said above, blogging eventually took me out of my career working for the government and towards getting paid to do this full-time (for myself and others).
For some, a blog is a way to make an extra $1,000 a month. For some, it’s a ticket to wealth. For some, it’s just a fun way to share your ideas with a few readers.
Doesn’t matter. Blogging is powerful. And you never really know where it can take you.
That’s the power of blogging.
3. Technical chops are important
I learned WordPress years ago, on my first blogging project. I’ve built a bunch of other blogs besides Roostervane, most of which were read by a few family members—that’s it.
(Fun fact. The other one that had a bit of readership was a family travel blog. While the blog is now gone, you can find the Instagram feed here.)
I have been doing this in one way or another for nearly a decade. I was studying digital marketing years ago, and I’ve always been fascinated by it.
It really does take serious technical chops to execute a blog well—especially if you dream of getting to the point you can make money off it. I don’t know what the future will hold with ai writing and all that stuff that’s apparently scary for writers. We’ll see.
But the technical chops are still worth it IMHO.
But take the time to learn the tools that will help you to be successful. Learn SEO, digital marketing, WordPress, and analytics. My work is split between the creative and the technical sides and blogging, and I love both.
If you want to blog, take the time to learn the tools. Not only is it really rewarding, it will make you a million times more successful as a blogger.
You can take Rand Fishkin’s amazing SEO course on Skillshare — that’s where I started learning it.
4. Success takes consistency and perseverance
It’s easy to get caught up in the stories of successful bloggers who make six figures a month off their platforms. But that takes a tremendous amount of work. And it also takes a lot of time and commitment.
You get to decide what you want from blogging, so let’s start with that.
But if you want traffic, readers, and eventually money, you’ll have to keep at it. For a long time.
5. Own your own platform
When you start a blog, it’s tempting to go for one of the many free platforms.
If you only have an article or two you want to share, I’d recommend using Medium or LinkedIn Publishing to create it. Both are great platforms with built-in audiences.
For serious, long-term blogging, especially if you have a blog that might turn into an asset (ie. a company), own your own platform.
This usually means learning WordPress, the platform most content sites are built on, and it’s well worth the time to learn. (P.S. Most company pages run on WordPress too, so you’ll also have a valuable skill to bring to a company if you learn it.)
Get started with Bluehost now!
6. Decide what you want, but be flexible
As you’re starting, you can figure out what you hope to get from a blog.
Maybe you want to build a business. Maybe you want to have a place to put your thoughts online. Maybe you are hoping millions of people will see it, or maybe you secretly hope that nobody will.
Whatever your hopes and dreams are, get your stuff online and see what happens. Then adapt accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to change your goals based on the results. Keep an open mind. You never know where this might take you.
7. If you blog, you are perceived as an expert
To be honest, I never thought of myself becoming a careers expert.
I just wrote a few stories about leaving Academia and how hard it was after my PhD. That’s all my blog was for the first two months, and it seemed to resonate with people. But then people asked more questions.
- “You say that networking is important. How does one do that? “
- “What kind of job can I get with a Humanities PhD?”
- “Are there skills I can teach myself?”
Amazingly, I knew the answers. I’d done the really hard work to figure it out.
These questions sparked new content, and the blog evolved through conversation between the readers and me. I never expected it to become this. I didn’t know that it would be possible.
But somewhere along the line, I became an authority on building careers. And I’ve had to work hard to study and learn what I can to live up to that expectation because I definitely don’t have it all figured out.
And when it comes to making money blogging, I haven’t yet told you about how this blog has opened up opportunities for me to speak at universities around the world or to write for major publications or to meet awesome people. All of that happened because I started a blog.
8. Just hit “publish”
The scariest button to hit on the Internet is “publish.”
It’s terrifying to put your stuff out there for the world to see.
But only by doing this will you grow. Only by having readers will you learn how to serve them.
Bite the bullet. Face the music. Take the leap. And get your stuff out there.
A few people will start to look. And your hand will hover over the “unpublish” button.
Don’t do it! Feel free to adapt the post, but don’t delete it. (I find spelling mistakes in old posts all the time.)
You had something to say that prompted you to write the post in the first place. Make it better, but never make it go away.
9. Don’t underestimate the impact
I was nervous when I looked at my analytics and saw that 50 people had read a post. I got sweats imagining those people in a room together. Dang—that’s a lot of people.
Then 100 people. Then 1000. Then 1000 in a day. Then 5,000 in a day (which has happened once or twice—not often).
In the internet world, these are tiny numbers. The biggest blogs get 1 million hits a month.
But in my world, these are huge. These are people I’m reaching with my message, and it’s made me sit up and pay attention to what that message is and how well I deliver it.
When you put something out into internet land, you never know how far it will go.
10. People are kind, mostly
People are usually pretty kind about this. My inner critics do have real-world counterparts out there, but they don’t surface often. Most people are really kind about what I do and what I say. If they disagree, it’s usually polite and constructive.
By the way, you get better at handling negativity over time too. Your skin gets thicker.
But overall, people are generous and good and give you the benefit of the doubt when you don’t explain something perfectly.
11. Some posts will fly, some flop
There’s not always a rhyme or reason to what works and what doesn’t. Some posts I thought were amazing never really went anywhere. Some I whipped off and forgot about magically took flight.
Don’t get too caught up in it. Keep going. Learn from what works and ignore what doesn’t.
There’s more that I could say about how to be a successful blogger. But that’s enough for now.
So, if you’re wanting to start a blog, the most important thing is just to start! Let all the rest work itself out.
Read the related post: How to Start a Blog.