As someone who has been blogging for 10 years, I find most articles designed to encourage people to start blogging infuriating.
They paint blogging as this wonderful activity that will free you from your 9 to 5 job and solve all your problems.
They show you pictures of happy bloggers working on the beach.
What bothers me is that while blogging is wonderful, it has pros and cons like any other job.
And expecting blogging to always be awesome is a recipe for disaster.
In fact, having unrealistic expectations is probably the number one reason bloggers quit.
In this article, I will share what blogging is like, and a few blogging lessons I wish I had known when I started my first blog.
#1 Most bloggers considered giving up at some point
It’s tempting to look at successful bloggers and think they have it all figured out.
But the reality is that most successful bloggers considered giving up several times.
Just read the 8 blogger interviews I published last week if you have any doubts.
Mark from the Gentleman Racer considered giving up because he was tired of brands not taking him seriously and considering him to be “just a blogger”.
Scott Young “had moments of frustration when blogging seemed like an unattainable dream.
I considered giving up on French Together when traffic was slow and I felt like my hard work wasn’t paying off.
Some bloggers like Anna from Garlic Delight even gave up at some point but then started again.
Blogging is rarely a straight journey from A to B.
It’s a journey full of obstacles and frustrations.You will most likely consider giving up at least 5 times.
You may even stop blogging for a while and then start again with a newfound motivation.
That’s part of the process.
Because the reality is that the successful bloggers of today are the struggling bloggers of yesterday.
They are not necessarily successful because they are the best writers, have the most original ideas or know lots of SEO secrets, they are successful because they kept going despite all the doubts and obstacles.
They are successful because they kept going not only when things were going well but also when they had no traffic, were struggling to decide what to write about and felt lost.
You may spend months working on a product only to get 2 sales. You may feel frustrated by the lack of visits on your blog. You may look at your competitors’ blog and wonder why they have so much more traffic despite starting at the same time.
And that’s perfectly normal.
The key to success as a blogger is to not only accept the steps forwards but also the steps backward. It’s to embrace the times when you stumble and fall.
Struggling doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you a blogger.
And as long as you don’t give up, you will always be a blogger.
Your blogging journey only ends when you decide it ends.
#2 There is nothing wrong with trying a few blog niches before finding the one
When I started blogging I had this idea that I needed to find the perfect niche or I would never succeed.
I made lists of all the things I’m passionate about, I asked my friends what I was good at. I read about the most profitable blog niches online.
I procrastinated and kept waiting for the perfect niche to appear in my mind like the first snow in winter.
What I didn’t realize was that while it’s a good idea to spend a few hours thinking about niche ideas, it’s important not to overthink.
Most successful bloggers didn’t find the perfect niche right away.
Sarah Jones from Introverted Alpha tried various niches before deciding on dating for introverted men.
Sarah Cook from Sustainable Cooks experimented with various niches such as frugal blogging and general food blogging before deciding on everyday healthy sustainable recipes.
Lia Garcia from Practical Wanderlust had a blog about cartoon dollz, a jewelry blog and a blog about fashion before starting her travel blog.
If these bloggers had waited to find the perfect niche before starting their journey, blogging would still be a distant dream for them.
Spending weeks trying to think your way to the perfect niche will only bring frustration.
The best way to find the right niche if you have doubts is to start blogging, get feedback, see what topics you enjoy writing about the most.
In other words, be like a child. Let your actions and interests guide you.
You may not find the one right away. You may even start a blog and realize there is another topic you are more interested in. But you will find the right niche sooner or later.
And when you do, you won’t be an inexperienced blogger. You will be able to use everything you have learned to get traffic and write articles your visitors will love.
#3 Success takes time
People often say that comparison is the thief of joy and I couldn’t agree more.
After talking to hundreds of bloggers, I can tell you there is no perfect blogging timeline.
Some bloggers will earn a full-time income after 6 months, some after one year…
Most bloggers I know and most of the bloggers I interviewed needed 4 -5 or even more years before earning a full-time income.
How long you will need will depend on your niche, on the number of hours you put and on your experience.
It will also depend on what you consider a full-time income and on where you live.
Blogging is hard and you won’t succeed overnight. But you will get closer to success with every step you take.
Because at the end, the most important step is the next one.
So instead of beating yourself up because you have been blogging for 5 years and don’t have the traffic you want, take a pen and paper and write down your answers to the following questions:
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What are some tiny steps I can take to get there?
And start working on the next step.
#4 What worked for other bloggers won’t necessarily work for you
It’s tempting to look at what bloggers like Pat Flynn and Pinch of Yum do and try to imitate them in the hope that doing so will make you successful.
But one thing I have learned is that there is no single road to blogging success.
What worked for some bloggers won’t necessarily work for you.
Looking at what successful bloggers do is a great idea but it’s important to try to understand why they do the things they do instead of blindly imitating them.
What works for a successful blog with hundreds of thousands of followers won’t necessarily work for a new blog.
And what works for your competitor could be a disaster for you.
Seth Godin writes super short articles and gets millions of visitors to his blog.
Backlinko dominates the SEO niche with his in-depth articles.
Lindsay from Pinch of Yum likes to talk about her life before sharing recipes.
The Spruce Eats publishes recipes without writing about the author’s life story.
Different bloggers use different strategies.
And imitating what successful bloggers do won’t make you successful.
You need to try things, see what works, see what doesn’t. Find your formula for success.
You also need to trust your knowledge of your niche and your audience and do what you believe is right, even if it’s not the strategy your competitors use.
You won’t stand out by following the herd, you will stand out by carving your own path.
Is there a topic you believe your audience would enjoy? A Pinterest strategy you believe could resonate with your audience? A link-building tactic nobody mentions but that you believe could work?
Give it a try, you won’t know what works for you and your audience otherwise.
#5 There are days when you won’t get anything done
Sometimes you will wake up and feel like going back to bed.
Sometimes you will sit down to write an article and only come up with 3 horrible sentences.
Sometimes you will feel so distracted that even focusing long enough to write an email will feel like an impossible task.
And that’s okay.
Full-time bloggers work hard but their days aren’t perfect. There are days when almost nothing happens and days when everything happens.
Being a full-time blogger means learning to embrace the bad days, and accept that they are part of the journey.
Sure, some bloggers can work 50 hours per week, write hundreds of articles per year and seem unstoppable.
But the majority of successful bloggers are normal people like you and me.
And most of them didn’t start as productive as they are now.
They learned what works best for them, figured out the best time to write, and tried various productivity techniques.
So next time you feel bad because you have too little energy to write your next article, accept that you can’t always be super productive and do a lighter task such as answering emails instead…
Or take a day off to binge The Witcher on Netflix.
Because remember, succeeding as a blogger is about managing your energy levels and making sure you don’t burn out.
#6 You need blogging friends
I considered giving up at least a dozen times.
The first time was when I felt I would never have more than a few hundreds of visitors per month on French Together despite all my efforts.
The second time was when I felt like creating a French course was an impossible task I wasn’t qualified for.
And all the other times were a mix of not knowing what to do, not feeling passionate anymore or feeling discouraged.
And one of the things that helped me the most was being surrounded by other bloggers who had experienced the same doubts and frustration.
If you want to succeed as a blogger, you need blogging friends. These can be people you meet at blogging events, conferences or meetups. Or these could be other bloggers you got to know online.
Here are a few ways to find blogging friends:
- Sign up for online communities like 5000BC or Fizzle
- Find blogging Facebook groups like Food Bloggers Central
- Use Meetup.com to find blogging events in your town
- Contact other bloggers in your niche and interact with them
Some of the best blogging friends I made were people I met on communities like 5000BC or simply emailed because I thought what they were doing was interesting.
Is there a blogger you look up to or whose content you enjoy? Reach out and let them know! A simple email can be the start of a wonderful friendship.
#7 The worst thing you could do is overthink
Blogging can feel incredibly overwhelming and lonely at times.
You will often find yourself alone wondering what to do and wishing someone could point you towards the right direction.
You will ask yourself questions such as:
- Should I blog about something different?
- Did my product launch fail because of my marketing or is the product a bad fit for my audience?
- Do I get so little traffic because I targeted the wrong keywords or do I need more backlinks?
- Should I change my blog’s design or is it a waste of time?
And while having blogging friends will help, it won’t solve all your problems.
The solution? Embrace uncertainty.
Accept that blogging is about taking the best shot even if you are not sure it’s the right one.
Because the number one mistake beginner bloggers make is to assume that they need absolute certainty before doing something.
The truth is that successful bloggers don’t always know what they are doing. They sometimes launch products that fail, they write articles nobody reads. They spend years trying various strategies without being certain they are moving the needle.
And you need to do the same.
The most important blogging lesson is to know this:
The best way to make progress as a blogger isn’t to wait to be more knowledgeable or for the perfect time, it’s to keep moving and do the best with what you have.
Because as Marie Forleo says:
“Clarity comes from engagement, not thought. Take action now, you’ll find your truth.”