10 Secrets to Help You Start a Blog
Why should you start writing? Sometimes in life you have transcendent moments. Moments of clarity, of levity, and of beauty. And then you reach a tipping point. Your heart becomes full, and you suddenly yearn to share it with others. The principles of personal growth and leadership that I discovered years ago, and those I am discovering on my journey now, have taken me to wonderful places. I am compelled to share them! And that’s why I write.
But why blog? Writing a book, submitting articles to a magazine, or sending emails directly to people are also all means by which to communicate your heart. Blogging, however, seems to be the simplest way to start and maintain a steady stream of your message to your tribe. People can subscribe and unsubscribe as they wish with no pressure from you. You are not forcing your message on anyone. But you definitely make what you have to offer readily available to those who value what you have to say.
But you should also know that blogging is an investment. I know from personal experience the time and energy it requires. I have written nearly 200 posts in the last two years, and I can’t believe it! Many people have helped me and encouraged me along the way to stay consistent. Writing and publishing a blog can take anywhere from one to four hours per post, depending upon your experience and who is helping you, if anyone. Currently, each blog that I write requires approximately two hours of my time. Beyond those two hours, more time is required to continue learning and collecting ideas for future posts. Like anything else though, once you have a system down, it becomes more efficient. Efficient does not mean easy though, nor does it mean that I don’t have to discipline myself to get it done.
If you think you may want to start a blog at some point, please allow me to share 10 lessons I have learned that may help you on that journey.
1. Know the core message.
Make the core message clear to your readers. My message is leadership. Why should you avoid opening your blog up to random topics? Because people are busy, and when they give you the honor of opening your blog to read it, you don’t want to surprise them. They need to get what they are expecting from your site, and get it on a consistent basis with a consistent quality of delivery. Don’t talk about everything you uncover or have an opinion on. Most people are interested in a core message, and come to a source to learn more about it. I am a medical doctor, but I don’t talk about that much in this blog. I am also passionate about the spiritual dimension of living, but I also do not talk about that here. Whatever core message you choose, you should be able to summarize it in a few words to make it clear to your readers. The core message of this blog is: Building Transformational Leaders. So, if you follow my blog, you will know my core purpose is to build transformational leaders.
2. Classify the topics.
What are the broad topics that you like to share, which will support your core message? Here you may be tempted to have fifty different classifications. I would avoid that for the sake of clarity for your readers. People can always search your site if they are looking for something specific. I like to write about personal development, productivity, and teamwork. These areas are important to me, and support my core message of leadership. If you want to start a blog about parenting, then make that your core message. A few of the topics that support your message could be: family values, setting boundaries, or raising winners, for example. When you blog, these areas will become your “categories.”
3. Build a site.
Depending upon your experience and your expectations, this can be an intricate process. But there are also many options available to novices which make it quite simple to get started. My original blog began as www.wessaade.com. I have to thank Danya Peden for starting it for me, though. I could have done it myself, but I was very hesitant. She just built it and said, “Now, start blogging.” Thank you, Danya, for starting it all. I didn’t start blogging right then, but that was the seed that started it all for me. Most bloggers recommend WordPress. I will not go into the details here of how to do that. But if you will take a few hours to do some online research, you will see that it is definitely doable. To find out if a certain domain name is available, you can search easily at GoDaddy.
4. Start writing.
A few months after Danya started my blog, I met Jen Aiken. Jen’s graphic design firm is JVO Design. She agreed to help me a few hours a month to improve the look of my blog. She does superb work. Thanks, Jen! But perhaps the biggest help she offered me came one day before I had even published one post. As I was planning and thinking and talking about blogging, she just looked at me quite decidedly and said, “Wes, start writing.” And I did. That was September of 2012, and I haven’t stopped since. If you are anything like I was, when you think about starting a blog, for any number of reasons, you may have a tendency to just not start. I encourage you today to simply start writing. Here’s the key: even if it’s not perfect, start. Even if it’s not that good, start. Even if you don’t have a logo, or the right categories, or a design you love, start. You will improve as you go.
5. Be consistent.
In the area of blogging, if you are not consistent with it, then you are not serious about it. At least that’s the perception you give your readers. When you don’t write on a regular basis, you are telling people, my writing is not a high priority for me right now. I just do it off and on when I have time. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I am going to take the time to open someone’s email on a regular basis and read it, I want to know they take it seriously. The general recommendation for frequency is at least once a week. I used to blog three times a week, now it’s two. You can blog less frequently (for example, bi-weekly, or monthly). While the impact will be less, be consistent. If you tell people you will blog the first Monday of every month, do it. Consistency communicates seriousness and a professional approach to writing. Your consistency should also be evident in the quality of your writing, the length of your posts, and the look and feel of your site. Help people to get to know you by being consistent with your style. Define who you are. Like my friend and successful blogger, Jeff Goins, says, “find your voice.” Then stick with it.
6. Fill your tank.
You can always tell when someone is writing or speaking, but they really don’t have much to say. I work hard to not be in that category. I don’t want to repeat, recycle, or simply plaster platitudes and principles I’ve heard or read elsewhere. I want to live with purpose, learn with passion, and let that flow freely and liberally through my words. If my tank is not full of substantive thoughts, I will only dispel emptiness and hollow opinions. If you want to write consistently, you must be intentional to explore and live life intentionally, search, survey, discover, learn, grow, wrestle. Then stop. Sit quietly. Open your heart, and share the riches of what you’ve discovered.
7. Capture ideas.
Even if you are filling your tank regularly, you must keep a running list of ideas to write about. If you want to write consistently, you will find as you sit down to write sometimes, that you need a spark of inspiration. Keeping a list of topics, ideas, and thoughts as they come to you, will be a valuable resource when you sit down to actually write. When I have an idea that is worthy of a blog post, I stop what I am doing and email it to myself with the subject “file – blog idea.” I go over these emails periodically and place them in a list I keep in a Word document. In my current list, I have over thirty ideas. When I come to write, I choose a topic that I am passionate about. Passion is key, whether in writing or speaking. People are attracted to passion. People don’t want to hear what you know, they want to hear what you are passionate about.
8. Don’t turn your blog into a diary.
Don’t make your blog your personal sob story to the world, unless you make it clear that this is your format. I have plenty of problems of my own. I really don’t care to read someone else’s. Unless your story reveals your heart in a way that allows you to share a lesson, a triumph, or new way of thinking, please don’t make your blog a platform from which you discover the world. Discover first, then share it with the world. It is true that people also want to hear what we are learning now, what we are thinking about and wrestling with now, and what we are living out now. That brings freshness to your message. So, find that balance. Don’t allow yourself to sound like a teenager lamenting over the difficulties of life that you are encountering. Neither allow yourself to become professorial, spouting out truths void of your humanity. Find the balance in your style.
9. Know the details.
Now for the technical part. A blog is usually recommended to be 500 to 1,000 words. Some of mine may be a little shorter or a little longer, but I generally keep them in that range. Additionally, having a photo at the top of each post is proven to improve readership. Keep the writing light, and keep the paragraphs and formatting visually pleasing. Work on the best titles possible. There are many resources and books that can help you with these features. A must read is Michael Hyatt’s book Platform. I would also encourage you to follow his blog to stay abreast of the latest trends in the blogosphere.
10. Get help.
I don’t give enough credit to Andria Bicknell. Every single blog I have ever published has been reviewed and improved by Andria. She has kept me on target and on time. She encourages me. She makes sure our blogs sound consistent and professional. Thank you, Andria. I could not have done this consistently for almost two years without you. I have also been blessed recently to have Amy Rawle’s help with posting, researching, and selecting photos. Thank you so much, Amy. Jen Aiken also maintains the site and makes sure it stays on-trend and user-friendly. If you cannot get help though, blogging can be done alone. Most bloggers don’t have help. Early on, I did not have much help at all. But if you know someone you can trust and afford, try it! Regardless whether you are posting alone or have help, the most important element is your message. You can always go back and add features, edit, and improve your blog later.
I look forward to reading about your success story in blogging. If you have something of value, share it. You won’t regret that you did.
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