Sunday, 23 February 2014

5 Steps to a Career in Blogging - Focus on Research

                     Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Research. It's an ugly word to most of us. But if you want to have any success at blogging, it needs to become a vital part of your daily life. At first when you start your blogging journey it will all seem overwhelming. With time, you'll get more comfortable with it. How do you get to that point?

First make sure you're committed. Once you're sure this is something you want to dedicate your time to, it doesn't really seem like work at all. Call it a labour of love. To make things easier let's break it down into 5 steps.


Step 1 - Research

Your first step if you want to become a successful blogger is lots and lots of research. By the time you're done researching blogging your mind will be numb. It's a fact. I'm not trying to discourage you here, I just want you to be prepared for what's ahead of you. I will suggests some sites you can visit for help at the end of this article, but don't limit yourself to these. I would say set aside your first week to just concentrate on research. Go to Google, type in "How to start a blog", and start your journey.

Like any journey worth taking, you'll find yourself veering off in many different directions. This is okay. In fact it's the best part of the journey. I find the act of surfing around for information gratifying,although your eyes do start to lose focus after a while! It gets easier.

You'll find there is a lot of information out there. But after a week of sifting through web pages, you'll start to get a sense of what's helpful and what's not. At this point you should have a pretty good idea if you want to continue. If so, it's time for your blog to take shape.


Step 2 - Choosing a Topic

If you've made it this far, you're ready to start blogging. First things first though, you need to choose a topic. It really can be anything. It's entirely up to you. Consider your own interests, hobbies, causes, business expertise, and you'll soon figure out the niche that works best for you. Some people decide they have so many interests they want to write on multiple topics. So why not start two blogs, or even three? 

Be careful, it's easy to stretch yourself thin. If you want to develop a loyal audience you have to produce quality content on a consistent basis. Whether you write on your blog once a week, or every day, your audience needs to be able to rely on your schedule. Otherwise, they'll soon lose interest and look elsewhere for their blog fix!

If you do choose to develop more than one blog, I would suggest focusing on only one each day. For example, perhaps on Monday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's you'll post to your gardening blog, and on the other days you'll contribute to your marketing blog. That's fine. But don't try to write for both on the same day unless you don't have a day job. You'll soon give up all together!


Step 3 - Choose a platform

I'm not going to go into this too deeply. There are many choices out there. I've talked about this in some depth in part one of my five part series "Making sense of this Blog Writing Thing". I'll include the links to each article in the series at the bottom of this post.

The main thing to keep in mind is that once you choose a platform you should expect to stick to it for a while. I'm not suggesting you can't switch, but it won't be easy. Quite often switching platforms will require you to change your URL address, unless you own your own domain. This can make it difficult for your audience to find you.So be cautious before committing to your blog platform.


Step 4 - Get the Word Out

This is important. No matter how valuable you might think your content is, it's useless if no one knows where to find you. I've also looked at this in my "Making Sense of this Blog Writing Thing" series. See the links at the end of the article for a more in depth look at this, but the best place to start advertising your blog is the social media you already use! This might include, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many others. Get the word out!

You might also consider word of mouth. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your coworkers. If you've got money to burn, you could consider traditional media such as newspapers and radio, although this is likely a little bit much for most of us. Whatever you do, just get the word out!


Step 5 - Develop a Routine

Okay, so now that you've got your blog going and people know about it what's next? Well if you're going to do this on a regular basis - whether full time or part time - you need to develop a routine. Blogging isn't like a traditional job. If you're going to work from home, and be successful at it, you're going to need some kind of structure in your day.

It's important to keep your day manageable. While a lot of your day will be devoted to writing, you also need to set aside time to "sharpen the saw", Stephen R. Covey. Consider following several blogs on a regular basis. 

As an example, you might keep tabs on fifteen different blogs every day. This might include five blogs focused on blogging and writing tips, five blogs within your niche, and five blogs that explore your other interests. Fifteen is not necessarily an optimum number for you. You might choose to follow more or less. The key point here is not to overwhelm yourself. Pick a comfortable number. I suggest devoting no more than one hour a day to this task.

Why follow other blogs? Well first of all, it will help you to grow your visibility within the blogging community. Any opportunity for a blogger to grow their audience is a good use of time. Also, it's a great way to keep your own material fresh. Seeing what others are writing about will keep the ideas flowing. You can also learn from how they organize their blog to make your own better.

You might also want to consider devoting part of your day to guest posting. This can increase your exposure to a new audience within the blogging community, as well as helping you to develop close relationships with other bloggers.

Finally, don't forget the need to communicate with your own audience. This might be done by responding to emails, or to comments left on your blog postings. Just don't ignore your audience. What attracts people to blogging as a medium is the unique way that writers and their audience communicate with each other. Blogging is not like traditional news sites. You are expected to interact with your audience. If this is not your bag, you might be better off looking into a traditional journalism career!

Hopefully, this articles given you a little more to think about. As promised, I've included links to my "How to Make Sense of this Blog Writing" series below, as well as links to some other sites I've found useful on my blog writing journey. Let me know how the journey's going for you. Maybe you can give me a few ideas. We can all use a little help!