Don’t start that blog until… You answer these 3 questions.
In 2002 I got on an airplane for my first ever business trip. I was 23 and working as a receptionist for a small wholesale confectionary, heading from Seattle to Atlanta to work our booth at the Gourmet Food & Gift Trade Show. I was giddy and feeling super grown up.
A man I didn’t know had the window seat next to me on the flight. He seemed quite a bit more grown up than me. We exchanged names and a few pleasantries as the plane took off. I told him about my company’s fancy chocolates and cookies. He told me about this revolutionary thing he was working on called the internet.
“It’s capable of much more than what we are currently using it for,” he said. “Pretty soon we won’t need to pay for long distance phone calls, we’ll all be using this massive data network. Imagine what it will be like when we have a free exchange of information and ideas from all over the world.”
You guys, we are LIVING IN THE FUTURE!
Right this minute we have access to all of the information and ideas. Sure, we use this massive collaborative data network mostly to share hilarious cat videos and bathroom selfies because we’ve still got some evolving to do. But, some of us outchea want to use this futuristic tool for the greater good. We want to share our expertise, to encourage and inspire, to teach others how to take better photographs or to run or to enjoy our children or to #staymarried. Starting a blog is a great way to do that!
I’ve been sharing marriage ideas and resources freely since 2012 at staymarriedblog.com. So, sometimes I’ll get a text or an email like this…
“Hey Michelle! Can I take you to coffee or dinner sometime? I have an idea for a blog and I’d love to pick your brain.”
Being an introvert-ish mother of three, I’ll only sneak away for so many coffees and dinners. So, in this series I’m going to share with you everything I’ve learned and the strategies we’ve used to see our blog go from less than 1,000 views per month to over 70,000! I’ll tell you everything I’ve told my friends and you don’t even need to buy me a margarita! I’ll even tell you the things I wish I’d told them, and I might have if not for that second margarita.
If you’ve had this burning idea for a blog and haven’t yet started, I want to help! If you already have a blog but you’re in a rut and it’s not growing the way you hoped it would, I want to help you, too! This series will be full of all of the things we did before we launched #staymarried and all of the things I would do differently if I could go back. It won’t be a step-by-step, you can certainly skip around from topic to topic and I think you should. I’m going to share a lot and you get to decide what your process will be once you have my brain dump in your hands.
Here’s the catch, and it won’t likely be the only one: If you’re interested in starting a blog so you can make a living, I can’t help you. Not because you can’t make money by having a blog, but because I don’t care. I can help you with a lot of aspects of getting a great blog up and running, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if what you want is to use your blog to earn money. Go ahead, Google “Monetize my blog.” You’ll be overwhelmed with advice. That saves me from trying to talk about something I’m really not interested in. Okay? Okay. Let’s get started…
Don’t start that blog until…
You answer these 3 questions.
1. Are you serious?
I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but… are you? Anybody can start a blog. Really. Anybody. That’s a good thing. But because a blog is so easy to start, I’ve seen lots of people get off to a great start, lose direction, and fizzle out. Is your blog something you’re willing to commit to, or just a hobby you might get around to every once in awhile?
You might not know how serious you are about your blog idea until we get further into this series, and that’s OK. I’ll be sharing tools and assignments that will help you figure out how to answer this question for yourself.
2. What will your blog be about?
The way you answer this question will direct most of the decisions you make. If you say, “I want my blog to be about EVERYTHING!” then you might not actually have a blog idea. What you have is an online journal idea and, I hate to break it to you but, nobody outside of your friends and family are going to care about what you have to say about “everything.”
Get focused. Make a list of titles and subtitles for your blog. Don’t worry yet if the URL is available. Just try to answer this question in a word or a phrase, and then a complete sentence. You don’t need to commit to any of this, your answer may change a little or a lot before you launch. You still need to answer the question so that you have a place to start.
3. Who is your blog for?
If your blog is an online journal or baby book or dumping place, that’s fine. The answer to this question then is that this blog is for you. If not, maybe your blog is for…
- Kindergarten teachers who have a tough time finding resources
- Beginning photographers who would like to run their own business
- Singles over 30 navigating online dating with a sense of humor about your cautionary tales
- Millennials who want to get involved in our political system but feel intimidated and overwhelmed with too much information that feels condescending
- People who like to read funny true stories about life as an ER nurse.
- Would-be bloggers looking for advice, direction, and tools to get started This one’s mine, but you can borrow it
Think this through. Your blog may be for a few different groups of people. You still need to identify who they are. Unlike the fresh Moleskine you keep all of your brilliant lists and ideas in, a blog on the internet is meant to be public and shared. Communication, which is what blogging is, is only effective if the intended audience is able to receive it. So, in everything you write and publish, you should have your reader in mind. You should be regularly asking yourself, how will this help the people I’m writing for?
One question you do not need to ask yourself is…
“Are there other blogs out there doing what I want to do?”
The answer to this question is “Probably.” You can’t let that be a factor. You will definitely want to learn from others and not steal or copy their work, we’ll talk more about all of that. But just because someone is out there doing work you also want to do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a stab at it. To quote the famous Dr. Seuss, who by the way called himself a doctor without any formal degree, when he said
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
What you bring to this work will be unique because you are unique and your voice matters. You won’t know how very much your voice matters until you begin to speak in a way that others can hear you. Don’t disqualify yourself before you’ve begun.
So, that’s your homework for today. Answer these three questions the best you can. Answer them in a lot of different ways if you need to. Imagine and hypothesize and dream of all of the best case scenarios.
Next, we’ll get into the writing.