In this Chapter we are going to learn what you should do BEFORE you start a blog.
These are the crucial things that you should not ignore.
Doing these crucial things will make a BIG difference in your blogging!
Let’s dive right in.
Get clarity (get precise)
This is the most crucial steps of all. If you skip this step you will end up wasting a lot of time and resources.
It is very important for you to get clarity about everything related to blogging.
Be it your goals, plan, expected outcome, the market, your ideal audience, how you want your website to look like, what content you want to publish, what do you want your blog to accomplish, so on and so forth.
Clarity is the key.
Without clarity, you will be busy all the time with your business, but won’t achieve anything.
I am not trying to discourage you here, but I don’t want you to make the same mistake I made when I started out. And, as a result of that mistake I ended up wasting 2 full years!
That’s a lot of time, hard work and money that went wasted. No joke, right?
Sit down with a pen and a paper, or use a mind mapping software, or use Evernote to write down everything to get clarity.
Start asking questions to yourself and see if you can come up with clear, actionable, interesting enough answers to those questions.
If you have to think long for an answer to any of those questions, you have to look for an alternative.
Don’t start anything unless have clear answers and a clear goal.
For instance, ask yourself why you want to start this blog?
If you can answer with all clarity, go ahead. Else, try to come up with an answer by taking your time.
Even after a week, you don’t the answer, skip starting a blog. Yes, I said that.
Rather than wasting your time and resources on something you don’t know where to take, you can devote that time and energy on something else.
Know what it takes to start and run a successful blog
Blogging is not a one-time thing that you put some money and effort and hope it will work on an automated basis for lifetime.
You have to be prepared to put in “real kick-butt” work consistently.
I am not saying that you should become a slave for your blog. But there is no such thing as “passive income”. That’s what I’m trying to emphasize.
You have to work and keep working on your business (blog) even if you think you have succeeded.
Once you achieve your goal, you should not settle. You have to aim higher and keep going.
And, even to achieve one simple goal, you will have to put in real, hard work. There is no magic button or a software that will make you rich.
Again, I am not saying this to scare you or discourage you. Or this is not about painting a picture that blogging is hard.
But I am trying to bring you to the right mindset.
Of course you could outsource certain boring and time consuming tasks with blogging, but you have to keep going.
Make sure you have the physical and mental strength to keep going.
You will be distracted. When you don’t achieve your goals, you could get motivated. And think about quitting.
Remember, when you are about to quit, success is just around the corner.
Prep yourself for whatever is necessary
Not only it is important to know what it takes to succeed with blogging but you have to prep yourself.
Here are certain things that you need to take care of, prep and make plans.
Starting a blog requires money (if you are thinking about doing it all free, I assume you are going to start a blog for fun and not for business).
If you are having a full time job, I’d encourage you to continue with your job. This will give you the necessary financial freedom.
I did continue with my day job for as long as it took for my blog to start earning consistent income.
I was able to cover my initial blogging expenses (I mean, investments) using the income from my day job.
It was not easy to keep up to a day job and blog. But I did it anyway and it made a big difference.
Similarly if you can get financial support from anyone in the family (as a loan, preferably interest free), or from any funding agencies, so you can cover your initial costs.
At the same time, be cautious about getting loans – you don’t want to get into debt and get stressed about paying it back. You have got a business to run.
Plan your finance and prepare yourself. Only make plans based on what you have. Do not buy every software or every tool that you don’t need right now.
Just because a popular blogger is recommending something it doesn’t mean you absolutely need it.
Only invest on stuff that you actually need!
Explain to your family (if they are financially dependent on you) that it will take X months to start seeing consistent income. Meanwhile make plans to pay your bills and feed those mouths 🙂
Physical and moral support
You need this. If you have a loving family, which I really hope you do, avail all the possible support from them.
I am blessed in that case. I have a very supportive and understanding hubby who is by my side with all my efforts and motivates me all the way.
Sit down and have a conversation with your family and explain your business to them.
Let them know what you are doing so they can be helpful (or be less interrupting).
Let them know about your blogging schedule and ask them if it is OK. If not, make adjustments so have no problems with establishing work-life balance.
How are you going to deal with distractions
Distractions come in all forms and sizes. And they are everywhere.
If you are working from home, everything around can be a distraction.
Screaming kids, the washing machine that beeps, the phone that rings (or beeps), people who interrupt you casually, the dishes that need to be done, so on and so forth – all these (and many more) contribute to distraction when you work from home.
And while you are online, I need not explain to you how a distraction can hit – you have mindless browsing, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) feeds, blog hopping and many other activities that can easily take you off your focus.
If you think this is not a big deal and that you will simply start and finish working on your blog everyday, just like that, think again!
It is not that easy. You have to have a plan.
What kind of plan?
If you are going to work full time on your blog, from home, you have to establish a working schedule – and let your family and friends know about it.
Make no compromises on your working hours.
Similarly you should set aside specific time for tasks like social media management, email etc. so that you are not spending the whole day on time killing stuff.
Time management after you start a blog?
Now that you are your own boss (or going to be soon), you should not take advantage of that fact.
You have to have short term and long term goals and keep up on them.
You cannot be casually working on random tasks and passing time. You have to have strict goals.
And pursue your goals.
As and when you achieve those small and big goals, keep track on your progress. Make plans.
This is not a one time task, but you have to be doing it on a regular basis.
If you have no clue about what you are working on (which is why having clarity is highly crucial – refer to point #1 above), you will be wasting your time on pointless tasks without tracking (or even paying attention to) your progress.
Identify your target audience
This is an old school business advice which most bloggers choose to neglect. Without choosing your target audience, you cannot succeed with blogging, period.
The reason is, you will be wasting time on stuff that doesn’t reach your target audience, or that doesn’t manage to gain attraction of your target audience.
If you don’t know who your target audience are, you won’t know what kind of content should you create, what kind of products you should create, what should be your blog’s UVP (more on this later) and so on.
When you are defining your target audience, you have to be very precise. Going for a broad audience is just equal to not defining your audience at all.
If you are going to start a blog for “everyone”, your time, money and energy will be literally wasted – you cannot please everyone. So you better focus on your target audience and help them out.
It is not enough if you define your target audience, but you have to emphathize with them – you have to know about their problems and pain points.
Collect necessary information about the market, the audience and the demand
In relation to what I just said you have to clearly know about your market, your target audience and the demand in the market.
It is not just enough if you know about it, but you have to take notes and keep record of all you find out.
Information about the market – How profitable your market is, how popular your market is and how much demand is there for your particular topic/product/content is the information you need to collect.
Even if you have not yet thought about a product or service, you should think about the possibilities and find if there is demand for that topic in your market.
You can do this research by visiting sites where your target audience hangs out – like specific Facebook groups, Q/A sites like Quora, comments on blogs in your niche and so on.
Collect those questions that reflect demand – what people are looking for.
Find out their problems and pain points.
These questions will help you come up with content ideas for your blog, product ideas and service ideas.
This is not just for profit – although that’s quite important too – but this is to equip yourself to serve your audience better.
Write down your UVP (Unique Value Proposition)
The very next step (after you have done market research) is to decide on your UVP.
What is a UVP?
UVP, which is the short form for Unique Value Proposition, is nothing but your mission statement.
It should clearly explain what your readers will get from you/your business. UVP is not about you. It is about them.
- How are you going to solve their problem?
- What problem(s) are you going to solve?
- Why should they seek your advice (while there are many others doing a similar thing)?
- What sets you apart from your competition?
- Why should your readers buy from you (rather than buying from one of your competitors)?
These are the questions that need to be answered in a UVP.
But you are not going to write a page long UVP – it should be short, punchy, to the point, and deliver its message.
The answers to the above questions should help you come up with your UVP. Write as many versions of it and pick the best one.
Do NOT skip this step. Once you have your UVP, make it the tagline of your blog.
Create your blogging plan
Once you have the necessary information it is time to make a plan. You need to make the following plans for your blog:
Content marketing plan
How are you going to use your content to market your blog, the products and services that you are going to launch? What kinds of content are you going to publish?
Text blog posts, videos, podcasts, are some of the forms.
What platforms are you going to use to distribute your content (apart from publishing it on your blog)? Youtube, Slideshare?
How much content are you planning to publish (say in one year from now)?
By the way – do you know how to write a blog post?
Make a plan for these kind of things.
You cannot do it all by yourself. You need connections. Not just for the sake of promoting your blog, or for other benefits, but you certainly need nice people to back you up!
Create a networking plan. How are you going to reach out to people?
Make a list of people that you’d want to connect to and the preferable mode of contact. Some people prefer to be contacted via email, while others prefer a tweet.
Also make a note of their corresponding websites too. You might want to closely monitor their works.
Email marketing plan
NOW is the right time to plan your email marketing strategy. Most bloggers wait until they start to get a certain amount of traffic to their websites.
This is so wrong.
You need to set your email capture entities right in place as soon as your start your blog.
Of course you will need some tools to take this forward, which, I’ll discuss later.
What kind of freebie are you going to provide your readers to entice them to subscribe to your blog? A free report, a free e-book, a free e-course?
Make an outline for that freebie now itself – and it should be aligned with your UVP. A random freebie will not convert.
And even if you manage to gain some subscribers, they will not be interested further in your content or products.
Plan your autoresponder sequences that you will send to your subscribers for a few weeks after they’ve joined.
Affiliate marketing plan
Do you plan to have affiliate marketing as part of your income streams? Then you should plan it right now!
You should hunt down for affiliate products that you can promote.
But don’t just jump in and promote any product that you come across. With affiliate marketing, trust is much more important than the commissions you are earning.
By trust, I mean the trust that your readers have in you. They should believe that you will only endorse high quality products and not just promote any product for the sake of commissions.
And you have to live up to their belief!
Product creation plan
Of course, you need not create a product immediately after you launch your blog. You need to gain some readership and subscribers before you launch your product for a profitable reach.
But you should plan your products well in advance.
What kind of products are you going to create? In what format are you planning to deliver them? E-book? Kindle e-book? Premium content behind membership access? Courses? Videos? Audios?
How are you going to deliver the products? Are you going to sell them on your own site? Or on a marketplace?
Think about these!
Set long term and short term goals
With blogging, there have to be goals of both kind – the long term and short term ones.
You cannot get busy with the little short term goals and forget about the long term, big picture.
At the same time, you should not completely indulge yourself in big projects (pertaining to long term goals) and forget about little everyday tasks.
There has to be a balance.
Your short term goals help you to move forward with your business. While your long term goals help you achieve big things with your blog (and measurable too!).
Make sure you set both long term and short term goals and as well as work on both of them.
Keep yourself off these silly mistakes
When you are starting out, you are bound to make a lot of mistakes because you are new to things. You lack experience. And you might not know much about the game.
All these contribute to your mistakes.
Also you will have to learn certain things by trial and error. While the trials are OK, your mistakes will cost you!
So it is better to avoid them by all means.
Here are a few serious mistakes you should avoid making at all cost.
- Refusing to invest in your business (and hence going for free products like hosting, website design and so on).
- Trying to do it all by yourself.
- Trying to please everybody under the sun.
- Focusing on tasks that are not so important, especially when you start with (like changing the font, color of your website, checking Adsense income or traffic and so on).
- Neglecting tasks that are very important (like content creation, networking, promotion and so on).
I can go on adding to this list, but you get the idea.
Conclusion: What makes a successful blog?
Please take note of these crucial steps and complete them before you start to do anything with your blog. These are highly important tasks – not to be skipped – if you really want to succeed with blogging.
In the next Chapter let’s talk about the technical aspects of starting a blog!