Every so often I share a few tips I've learned along the way in blogging. When I started my blog in 2007, blogging was mostly something people did as a hobby. Our expectations were fairly low, we just wanted comments and conversation. Over the years, many blogs have intentionally or inadvertently turned into businesses. The idea of blogging as a career is still a fairly new concept that I know many people are curious about. When people in real life ask what I do, I often get the question “How exactly do you make money from that?” I can understand the curiosity since blogging is not exactly a well-known or long-established career path. But since it is the business I've been blessed to stumble into over the years, today I thought we could talk a little bit and share some of the secrets to successful blogging as a business.
What is considered a successful blog-turned-business?
There aren't many facts and figures by which to gauge what a successful blogger is earning or how their business functions since blogging is a relatively new industry. It's especially puzzling to people who aren't online or aware of what bloggers do or how it could be called a business. It's a new path even to many of us who have been blogging awhile.
Even among bloggers themselves, there is a huge spectrum of what bloggers might consider successful. I think that is partly due to bloggers not really knowing for sure where they fall in relation to others (ignorance can be bliss!), partly due to the lack of reliable statistics and information, and partly perhaps because the blogging experience is not a one-size fits all business model. The success of bloggers in terms of their traffic, their businesses, how much they earn and what opportunities they have currently or plan to have in the years to come is so unique to each blogger.
Some bloggers share numbers and tips, but it's still not easy to gauge what you could expect financially if you were to start your own blog since every path to a successful blog is so unique. There are some very successful home/lifestyle bloggers who work very hard to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (and more). They might eventually even need a staff to help them keep up with the growth and opportunities from their blog. But even as they earn more income, bloggers also pay a lot of taxes and have extra expenses associated with running a business and website.
There are also bloggers who feel successful to make $30,000 or $20,000 or $10,000. Potential success isn't about comparing the numbers to see how much money could be made, there is so much more to it than that. Certainly loving what you do will make a business feel successful to many of us! But yes, if you work at growing your business with the right goals in mind, you can succeed at many points along the way. You get to decide when you feel successful!
How can you stand out as a blogger in a sea of so many new blogs?
As new bloggers come on the scene or existing bloggers navigate their growth, the question these days is HOW does one stand out in a sea of blogs? While competition is always a good thing in the end, it can also be frustrating and discouraging to keep up in an increasingly competitive field. But instead of comparisons, I think bloggers should focus on creating their own really good blog content while building up other bloggers around them. We don't really need to compete against each other. Just be the best YOU you can be and succeed at that. As the saying goes, “it's all been done but not by you.”
While many of us 2007 bloggers began with very little social media tricks available to grow our influence or traffic, today you can get a lot of traffic from Pinterest alone. While Pinterest can bring a lot of page views, it doesn't necessarily indicate a blogger's success or influence as a respected brand. Most of us earlier bloggers probably didn't have fancy cameras or professional looking websites to lure people to our content. But today, it's almost a necessity to invest in those tools. So how do we stand out beyond having a fancy blog or mastering social media tricks?
Here is how I see it. We probably cannot stand out or survive if we don't grow as bloggers and keep up with what is new. But at the same time, new and existing bloggers need to remember it isn't the shiny new things, the often annoying social media tricks or the fancy websites that bring a blogger long term success and a solid reputation. Those tricks and tools may bring big traffic or even name recognition in some blogging circles, but those will only take a blogger so far. You need a bigger vision than what will bring you traffic TODAY.
What do you want to be known for?
Do you want to establish your blog as a sustainable business? Then you need an identity. If you want to succeed over the long haul, your approach should be be quite different than a blog that is striving for instant results or moments of recognition as they will quickly get lost in the sea of what's new.
Having a purpose statement for your business can really help you to focus on what you are trying to accomplish long term.
The best blogs out there have always had their own unique identity that comes from authenticity. They blog with a sense of purpose and intentionality that is clear as you read their blog. They may grow and evolve as a business but should strive to retain what made them special to begin with. Your purpose for blogging should spring from a unique philosophy that you want to communicate. Why should people come to your blog? There are thousands of blogs that could be similar to yours. Figure out what makes yours noticeably different! Share your opinions and experiences. Unique content with an authentic purpose trumps everything as far as I'm concerned. Focus on having a clear philosophy and growing a long term influence in your niche, and you'll be in a great position to thrive in the upcoming years.
It's easy to get distracted by what everyone else is doing all around you. So many bloggers fear being left behind and forgotten. If you have to sacrifice quality or authenticity in order to get the big numbers or to get attention, I think you'll find your success over time will be much smaller and less rewarding.
In blogging, your path should not look like everyone else's. If it does, you might want to rethink what you are doing. It's important to set some blogging goals to set yourself apart from others and to keep your eyes on what matters to you for the long run. You may not want to do any more with your blog than to share your life or hobbies online. And that is totally fine, there is not only one way to blog! But if you want your blog to thrive as a business, you need to set specific goals.
To stand out among all the bloggers now clamoring for attention, it doesn't necessarily work to simply grow past them in traffic or get your name out more often in front of people or mimic the best of the best. In fact, you can't really measure the success or growth of another blogger based on statistics or just what you see online.
Ask yourself what sets your blog apart once readers get to know you. What do you want to be known for and how are you going to get that message across to the world? Craft your unique message and then keep on sharing it in fresh ways!
Stick with it.
Blogs that are striving for a strong brand identity require perseverance. Overnight success in blogging is an entirely different kind of success than one that is built with years of dedication. Long term success is going to be much more significant and bring more respect to your blog as a brand.
Long term effectiveness in blogging requires you to keep growing as a person and in skill, adapting and evolving to the times and setting new goals, but never losing sight of your authenticity and voice. The path to success as a business doesn't always bring immediate recognition or financial reward, but successful businesses are built one good decision at a time.
Highly respected bloggers have offered quality content over a long period of time. Their consistency helps them stand out as a voice of influence among the rest.
What do you want your business to look like in three to five years?
Dream big about the future! It's been said that we tend to over-estimate what we can accomplish in a year or two and under-estimate what we can do in five years. Don't give up too early or burn yourself out trying to succeed too early. Blogging can be the main focus of your business, but in many cases these days it is only a part of an overall business plan. There are many directions a blogger can go, so dream up ideas that are right for you!
What steps would you need to start taking now to get to your long range goals? Of course, always build others up, stay authentic and provide quality content. But in addition to those basics, what daily steps will you need to take to get you to where you want to be? Do you need to take a leap of faith in a challenging direction? Do you need to get brave and learn a new skill? Do you need to hire help or support in order to focus on what only you can do? Do you need to invest in your business in new ways? How are your every day decisions and actions contributing to your future dreams? What are some things you need to stop doing because they are distracting from the big picture of where you want to go?
I think bloggers who set long term goals have great potential to build respected and multi-faceted brands that will far out pace those that don't.
There are many bloggers out there making big things happen for their businesses right now and much of what is happening is behind the scenes. Their upcoming success and projects may not even be on your radar for awhile. Many successful bloggers are working toward long term business goals that you cannot measure by what you see them doing online right now. That is one of the complexities of a highly successful blog. They are juggling both the content they share day to day, along with new opportunities to grow and expand their brand.
I'm proud of so many women I know personally or admire from afar as they blaze their own trails and follow their dreams through hard work, talent and persistence. These women have created a business with a purpose and message that keeps on growing, even beyond their blogs. I think it is inspiring to hear their stories!
Sometimes we don't dream big enough. I know I am living and building some dreams I never ever thought possible or even imagined. If you feel stuck where you are in blogging but want to grow a thriving business, set those long term goals and start being more deliberate about what you do. If you are doubting your direction, seek advice from trusted people around you who believe in you and see your real potential. Be willing to try things you never thought you would and make those dreams a reality.
PS. Elsie from A Beautiful Mess shared her thoughts about the blogging industry here, you might enjoy hearing another perspective!
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