It’s a question that’s frequently asked by beginner and expert bloggers alike. It’s also a question I like to think I’m somewhat qualified to answer seeing as this post marks the beginning of my third blog in as many years.
What happened to the first two? Let’s just say they didn’t fare so well.
But before I tackle the question of why they failed, I’d like to reflect on five lessons I learnt from those first two blogs:
1. Hitting Publish for the first time is the hardest part
Blogging is a scary proposition. Especially for an introvert who doesn’t have much experience in the blogosphere. The fear of being ridiculed, of not having any readers, or of not being able to write as well as some of my favourite bloggers were just a few of the fears I faced when starting my first blog.
But then I went for it. I pressed Publish and put myself out there. And you know what? None of those fears seemed to matter anymore.
I quickly realized that people actually did enjoy reading what I had to write, that bloggers from across the globe were happy to reach out and connect with me, and that my writing—while far from perfect—wasn’t half bad.
Those realizations swiftly trumped any fears I had previously, and each time I’ve hit Publish since that first fateful day, it’s been a little bit easier than the time before.
2. Perfect is overrated
After finally getting the courage to write my first couple posts, I found myself spending hours tweaking, fine-tuning, and otherwise concerning myself with the most minute details of my 500-word masterpieces before publishing them. I worried about the most esoteric mechanical issues and fretted that I’d missed a glaring punctuation error or solecism even after my seemingly never-ending copy-editing sessions had run their course.
My desire to be perfect, to have an ultra-professional-looking blog, was stopping me from having any sort of blog at all.
The truth is, even the most experienced bloggers make mistakes; nobody is perfect and my blog shouldn’t be either.
I’ve learnt that the web is flexible and forgiving; posts can be updated, edited, and improved, and getting feedback from audience members—not only when I write something that resonates with them but also when I make mistakes—is a huge part of why I blog.
That’s not to say I don’t give each post a thorough review before sending it off to the presses, but after learning to put my perfectionist tendencies aside, I’ve found I can now write a post in a couple hours instead of a couple days.
3. Don’t be too focused; don’t be too general
If you look at the bloggers out there who have successfully monetized their blogs, you’ll notice that the vast majority of them cover very specific niches. A lot of beginner bloggers (myself included) attempt to emulate their success by also blogging about very restricted topics.
Case in point: the first blog I started was a budget-focused international travel blog. I quickly learnt that having such a narrow focus wasn’t a great idea because (a) I wasn’t a full-time travel blogger, so I had difficulty posting regular travel-related updates when I wasn’t actually travelling, and (b) I found myself regularly coming up with post ideas that weren’t related to travel whatsoever.
Instead of focusing on one topic in the hope of monetizing my efforts, I should have concentrated on growing an audience by blogging about the various topics I’m passionate about.
My second blog was the exact opposite. I blogged about anything and everything (I even produced two podcast episodes; one was about burnt toast…don’t ask), and as a result, my blog felt unfocused and disjointed.
I’ve now come to appreciate the advantages of the middle ground: don’t be too focused, but don’t be too general.
I am passionate about travel, but I’m also interested in entrepreneurship, remote working, and how technology influences the way we communicate. I’m looking forward to blogging about all those issues (and perhaps a few more) in a way that’s coherent and complementary.
4. Consistency and discipline are crucial
The advice on how often to blog varies from once a week to once a day (or more!).
When I first started out, I decided, instead, that I would simply blog whenever I felt inspired to do so. The problem with that approach is that I’m lazy. Inspiration hit when I was on the bus, in bed, or in the lab: anytime except when I had access to a computer. The result was that I struggled to blog even once a week. I just couldn’t find the motivation.
Then, I enrolled in a social media marketing class, and as a requirement, I was forced to start my second blog. That experience compelled me to blog frequently else I wouldn’t get the grade, and you know what? I was putting out three, sometimes four, blog posts a week and it didn’t even feel like work.
Unfortunately, once class ended, so too did my blog posts. I didn’t put in the time or effort to keep it up, and after I lost the incentive to post, I stopped.
There’s no magic number of blog posts that I need to create each week, but if this blog is going to be successful, I’ll need to develop the discipline required to blog consistently.
5. Blogging shouldn’t feel like work
At first, blogging was scary, laborious, and not in the least bit rewarding. However, about a month into my social media marketing class I finally found my groove and blogging started to feel like anything but work; it was fun!
Writing isn’t always easy, and I’m sure there will be times when I experience severe bouts of writer’s block or face situations where my other commitments place time pressures on my blogging activities, but I now know that writing can, and should, be fun.
So, why do blogs fail?
At the beginning of this post, I set out to uncover why my first two blogs failed, and after reflecting on those experiences, it’s clear that they didn’t fail because there was something inherently faulty with them. They failed because I failed them.
I set myself up for failure from the beginning because I didn’t commit.
So, here’s to learning from past mistakes and to the success of my most recent blogging attempt—they do say third time’s a charm.