There’s a lot of blogging advice out there. A lot. I’ve written some of it myself. More than five hundred articles, tutorials, how-to guides, step-by-step guides, habits, lessons, case studies, books, and online courses.
But the truth is that most of the stuff I wrote, most of the advice I’ve given, it’s not going to make much of a difference.
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. When you play this game of “offering blogging advice,” you often feel the pressure to come up with some insight, some strategy that no one’s ever thought about. Most of the times, that strategy sounds clever and simple, but it’s difficult to implement, especially by a beginner.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the advice is good. At least, that’s what I’d like to believe. Sometimes the advice I share is something that’s been just at the edge of your mind’s peripheral vision, and that way I help you bring it into focus.
Eight years ago, long before I started the Art of Blogging, long before I was coaching aspiring bloggers, I wrote a post. The 7 Golden Rules of Blogging. Some five hundred or so words.
In this article I shared advice such as, content is king, format your posts, and engage your audience. This post got over 3,600 likes and 510 comments.
Even though it makes a lot of people angry, the best advice is the most obvious. The best advice is the one you actively choose to ignore, or the one that involves a lot of time and mental energy. The “read a lot” and “write a lot.” The, “if you want readers, go out there and comment on a bunch of blogs every single day.”
A lot of people don’t want that. They ask, “Is it that simple?”
It is. Blogging success can be as simple as leaving half a million comments on half a million different blogs.
But can you do it?
Do you ever ask yourself if you can do it?
Do you want to know how much time and energy a full-time blogger invests in doing those three dumb things? Reading a lot. Writing a lot. Commenting on other blogs.
That’s why I am sharing with you the tips and tricks and rules of blogging that sound clever when you read them, only to make you angry when you try to apply them.
1. Write, Write, Write
I wake up around 5am. I have a cup of coffee, sit at my desk, and begin punching those damn keys. Okay, maybe I spend a couple of minutes going through my notifications and e-mails, but never more than 10 minutes. No scrolling through Instagram for me.
I sit down and write. That’s it.
I wrote until my girlfriend wakes up at around 9 or so. I write two blog posts before most people in my neighborhood wake up.
That’s what I do.
That’s what you have to do.
That’s what everyone who’s a successful blogger does.
You have to write, write, write.
The more you write, the more you are able to write. The more you write, the better you write. The more you write, the faster you write.
When I first started out, in 2012, I’d struggle to write and edit an article in a single day. Now, if it’s a longer piece, a tutorial or something that requires a bit of research, I get it done in under two hours. Most articles take me one hour to write, sometimes I write shorter, inspirational posts in fifteen minutes or so.
There’s no way to avoid this. You have to do the work, you have to punch the keys. There’s no strategy, not hack, no system, no trick.
If you want to become a successful blogger, you must write a lot.
2. Edit, Edit, Edit
After I write my articles for the day, I edit them. Usually, it’s still before my girlfriend wakes up. Sometimes it’s after she leaves for work. Regardless, I edit my work.
Writing is mostly rewriting.
There are no brilliant first drafts.
The trick, however, at least in my opinion, is that you shouldn’t aim for perfection.
People don’t go online looking for the next [insert your favorite writer]. They want ideas, they want to be inspired, they want to relate to someone who managed to overcome what they’re not struggling with.
They want actual words written by actual human beings, not genius writing, the same people don’t go on YouTube and expect some guy to recreate the quality of Hollywood movies with a smartphone and a $500 camera.
But you must edit. Nothing’s perfect, and it doesn’t have to be, but it can be made better by at least going through it a couple of times before you share your article with the world.
3. Read, Read, Read
After my girlfriend wakes up, we eat, and then it’s time to read. I read everything. Literally everything that I find interesting on Medium’s homepage, on WordPress, on Flipboard.
I consume content like crazy.
Then I read a few chapters from a book, a short story, a novel. I spend 2–3 hours doing just that.
The more you feed your brain, the more you are able to connect the dots, to feel inspired, to get a sense of the conversation that is taking place in the community.
It’s as simple as that.
4. Network, Network, Network
After my girlfriend leaves for work, it’s time to network.
I spend an insane amount of time networking with other bloggers.
Grant Cardone calls a smartphone “a prospecting tool.”
That’s what it is, and there’s no excuse not to use your smartphone to find more readers for your articles.
Today my girlfriend decided to start her own account on Medium. Well, I convinced her that she should start publishing content.
As she was reading articles related to her topics (healthcare, skincare, beauty), I told her to comment on the articles that she read. She always tells me whether she agrees or not, or what other insight or idea she has, but she doesn’t want to comment.
That’s what networking is. If you read a lot of content, just comment on it. Add to the conversation, agree or disagree or just let the author know you liked their article.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, you don’t have to adapt strategies from The Art of War, you just have to share your opinion on something you’ve read. Over and over again.
5. Time, Time, Time
It takes time to become a great blogger. It takes time to build an audience. It takes time to make real money blogging.
How much time?
Usually a blogger becomes at least kind of popular within six months or after publishing a hundred articles. Usually. But it depends on how much time and effort they put into networking, the topics they write about, and their writing skill when starting out.
Besides, does it even matter how long it takes to become a successful blogger? Or to earn a $1000 a month from blogging?
Because it doesn’t. Because everyone tries to justify their impatience by saying, “I’m passionate about blogging.”
Maybe. But so is everyone else. But I didn’t show up on Medium and said, “I love writing. Give me my ten thousand readers.”
If you’re passionate, then you are willing to sacrifice, to suffer, to do whatever it takes, and to be patient.
It takes time. That’s all I have to say. And it usually takes longer than your most pessimistic estimates.
6. Work, Work, Work
It takes an insane amount of work to become a successful blogger. There’s nothing passive about earning money blogging, there’s nothing effortless about building an audience.
A lot of bloggers, when they see just how much work they have to put in, they whine for a while and then they quit.
If you want to become a successful blogger, you’ve got to do the work. Some days I work 14 hours, most days I work around 10. I used to work 15. I’m getting old.
Do the work. Keep punching those keys. Don’t whine. No one likes a crybaby. Just do the work.
7. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
The blank page doesn’t scare me at all.
When I am not writing, I am thinking about ideas. When I read, I think. When I comment on other articles, I think.
The blank page doesn’t scare me because I’ve been writing in my head long before I sit at my desk to punch those keys.
The blank page doesn’t scare me because I collect a ton of ideas, sentences, quotes every single day. I write down headlines, introductions, and lists of steps and tips and tricks.
I then do other stuff. I clean the house, do the dishes, go for a run, go to the supermarket. What I’ve fed my brain with sits there, just outside my consciousness, and it surfaces when it’s ready to be written about.
That’s usually when I am about to fall asleep, or when I am in the shower, but it doesn’t matter.
The good ideas never leave me, and it doesn’t even matter. There’s an abundance of ideas to be found, all over the web.
All you need are ideas. That’s all. If you want to write, think about writing. The more you think about ideas, the easier it is to write when you sit down at your desk.
8. Questions, Questions, Questions
I am always asking myself questions.
About a particular article:
What am I trying to say here?
How is this article going to help my readers?
How can I best express my ideas?
What do I want my readers to do after they’ve read my article?
I also ask myself questions about my journey as a blogger:
How can I add more value?
How can I be more consistent?
How can I create content more efficiently?
Never stop asking questions. This is not the same as doubting yourself, this means that you are more than willing to adjust your sails if you’re just going around in circles.
Blogging is a simple process. It’s the bloggers who somehow think there’s got to be an easy way, a shortcut, some magic solution that make it seem such a terrifyingly complicated process.
All you have to do is sit down, write, edit, and publish. Then you read and network. That’s it.