Blogging changed my life.
I learned how online marketing worked by building an international affairs blog in college.
Then I started a personal blog on marketing. This got me my first startup marketing job from Neil Patel.
I used that company blog to generate 8,000 leads per month for a SaaS company. Then I switched to an info-product company and used their blog to drive over 40,000 leads per month. These engines fueled multi-million dollar companies.
Then I cofounded Stone Press which manages a blog portfolio. We’ve taken multiple blogs from zero to millions of dollars of revenue per year.
I’m even building a brand new blog from scratch: HR Advice. A first-hand reminder of the anxiety-filled grind that a new blog requires.
So I know a few things about starting and running blogs.
But is this blog journey a good one for you?
Maybe, maybe not.
Before jumping in, ask yourself these questions.
Do You Enjoy Writing?
I get asked all the time by startup founders: “Lars, which channel should I focus on? Blogging? YouTube? LinkedIn? Events? Podcasts?”
And I always give the same answer: pick the channel you can stick with.
The honest truth is that all of our content sucks at the beginning. Take any youtuber, podcaster, streamer, blogging, whatever. Then go look at some of the first stuff they posted.
My stuff too. It’s so bad that I can’t bring myself to look at it anymore. I even deleted my first blog so I never had to look at those first blog posts ever again.
Whatever channel you pick, including blogging, you’re going to have to spend a ton of time perfecting your craft.
Marques Brownlee is probably the most popular tech reviewer on YouTube. He gets millions of views within a few days of publishing, it’s absurd.
Well, he started in the exact same place that we all start: terrible how-to content. His original videos are still on his channel. And there’s a great recap of his journey here.
I’ve been doing this long enough to see a ton of “thought leaders” and “influencers” go from nothing to super stardom. They all start with terrible content.
You will too. Your early content will be terrible. There’s no way around that.
Now if you enjoy the process of creating the content, you will get better with time.
That’s why a blog requires that you enjoy writing.
I don’t care if you’re any good at writing, you just have to enjoy it.
If you don’t enjoy the craft itself, you’ll quit long before you develop the mastery required to get anywhere.
Are You Ready To Commit for 3 Years?
I always tell people that they have to be willing to keep blogging for 3 years.
Why 3 years?
In my experience, a lot of folks can push through one tough year. A blog almost never takes off in the first year and people expect this.
What gets people is year 2. The second year usually sucks too. It’s a bit better than the first year but the grind is really taking a toll at this point. People aren’t prepared for a second tough year. The gain to pain ratio does not seem worth it at all. Then they quit.
Blogs start to make sense around year 3. You won’t be making a million dollars per year but you will have some traffic, a community starting, and you can see a path to the blog having a material impact on your life.
But everyone quits in year 2, they don’t make it to year 3.
This even happens at company blogs. I can easily get budget for a year. If I really fight, I can get the budget for year 2. But going into year 3, every CEO and marketing executive gets really skeptical of the ROI. Then the blog budget gets slashed or cut entirely.
Blogging and content marketing are about going long. None of the returns happen in the first few years. And if I’m being completely honest, it doesn’t get really exciting until years 7-10. Every major blog I’ve worked on had a decade of love and passion put into it.
Do You Have the Discipline to Post Every Week?
After folks start blogging, this is the biggest day-to-day hurdle.
The first 5 posts go pretty fast.
Then… it gets hard.
The grind sets in.
“I have to do ANOTHER post? I just did one!” Yup, do another post.
The worst part is that you’ll have zero validation for a LOOOONG time. No traffic, no “great work champ”, and definitely no revenue or clients.
You’ll be publishing into a void for years.
It takes an enormous amount of discipline to keep writing every week. Even one post per week is enough, that will change your life. But once you skip a week, it’s really easy to skip another week. And another week. And then… it’s been 6 months without a single new post.
It’s just like going to the gym. Do it every week and it’s fairly easy to keep going. But once you skip a few weeks, it feels like an impossible task to get started again.
For me, I have to block off 2 solid days if I want to blog weekly. Maybe not a full 8 hours each day but I have to allocate that key 4 hours of prime creativity time for two days each week. It’s the only way I can blog consistently. Yes, that’s a ton of really important time. That’s the kind of priority that it takes to build a successful blog.
Can You Say Something That Hasn’t Already Been Said?
This is the hardest part of running any content channel. No one really needs another blog, YouTube channel, Substack, email list, or podcast. There’s already a limitless supply of content.
What people need is a different take. Something unique. Something they haven’t heard before. Something fresh.
If you really want to break through, you have to be able to offer a unique take.
This is extremely difficult.
And I have no idea how to coach a writer to this level. I’ve hired and coached hundreds of writers at this point. It’s exceedingly rare.
This is why a ton of freelance writers plateau in their careers, they get stuck writing to outlines and briefs.
Your blog will also stall unless you can interject originality into it.
Here’s a few insane things that have helped me over the years:
- Read an absurd number of books in your area. How many? Start with all of them. ALL of them? Yes, all of them. I’ve read about 500 business books since I graduated college. It gives me a ton of material to lean on.
- Go do the thing. Whatever space you’re in, get active in it. The real stories and lessons only come from hard-won lessons. It’s great advice for writers in general: if you want to tell great stories, go live them first. Even before I got my marketing career going, I was building blogs and websites as a hobby.
- Lean into your quirkiness. Everyone is weird to some degree. Whatever yours is, highlight it. Lead with it. Embrace it. I generally have a hard time doing this in groups but a much easier time with writing. So blogs play to my strengths here.
Are You Ready to Build the Blog Yourself?
A lot of folks try to shortcut the pain of building a blog.
It never works.
Look, it is possible to outsource the majority of the work for building a blog. Especially a company blog. You can get freelancers to write quality blog posts for about $300 per post. So maybe $500 total when you factor in the management, uploading, editing, and writing costs. Multiply $500 by the number of posts you want each month, that’s your total budget. Then stick with that for 5 years. Your traffic will grow nicely.
There’s a catch though.
I consider that stuff to be advanced blogging skills.
If you don’t know how to write a great blog post yourself, how are you going to find the writers to do it for you? If you haven’t learned the SEO skills, how are you going to assign writers the correct topics and avoid duplicate content over time? When traffic stalls, how are you going to diagnose the situation and fix it?
I get it, building a blog is a grind.
But if you don’t take the time to learn each of these skills yourself, you’ll never be able to outsource them effectively. And you’ll waste a ton of money.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve talked to a startup founder, they started a blog, found some content or SEO agency, paid them $3-5K per month, and had absolutely nothing to show for it after a year. It’s shockingly common.
Guess how I avoid this trip?
I get my hands dirty. When I’m starting a new blog, I work on that site personally. Once it’s healthy and has good momentum, then I start to delegate it piece by piece. There’s too many little things that can derail a site in the early days. And the only person that’s going to find them is you.
4 Things That Won’t Keep You From Starting a Blog
There is a lot of bad advice on whether you should start blogging and how to decide. In over a decade of blogging myself, here are the things that didn’t matter at all:
- No one cares if you have typos. I’ve worked on blogs with millions of visitors. Most posts have 1-2 typos or grammatical mistakes. It never matters. As long as your URLs and page titles are tight, don’t worry about the rest.
- You do NOT need to be an expert when you get started. You’ll become one over time. In fact, being a beginner is a huge advantage. In some ways, my advice on blogging won’t be perfect, I’ve been doing it too long. I’ve forgotten what it was actually like in the beginning. Getting advice from someone that just learned how to do the thing can be extremely helpful. So if you’re a beginner, a lot of your advice will be better than the industry experts.
- You don’t need to know SEO. Look, the vast majority of blog traffic comes from Google (SEO). There’s a few exceptions but if you’re building a blog, you’re pursuing an SEO strategy. But you can learn that SEO stuff over time. Focus on writing great content, learn how to do keyword research, write one post per topic, and you’ll be well on your way.
- You can skip social media if you want. When folks get started, they’ll often assume that they need to do ALL the channels. TikTok, Instagram, podcasting, blogging, the works. That’s false. I usually recommend the opposite: pick the one channel that really resonates with you, then focus on that. So if you want to blog, skip all that other stuff unless you really enjoy it. If you spread yourself too thin, none of it will take off.