Want to learn how to be a blogger? Here's how I went from being a computer illiterate to a blogging success in just a few months.
Editor's Note: This post originally ran as a case study for the A List Blogging Bootcamps.
Your blog can and will grow.
But just like a garden or a relationship, you have to tend to it constantly to make it take seed and bloom. Are you willing to do that? If so, read on.
Four months ago, I didn't know beans about blogging income. Now I have over 2000 subscribers. It didn't just happen. I had to be bold.
I'm a personal and career coach, and I wanted to promote my business. A friend suggested I create a blog with Blogger and use it as my website. It was easy to set up, even for me. So I started writing articles about personal development and coaching. My best friends and family obligingly subscribed. Maybe three other people subscribed too.
In spite of my small audience, I loved writing posts, finding photos and all of the creative aspects of blogging. I was serving and coaching in a way I'd not intended. I loved it and felt my entire psyche shifting toward wanting to do this more.
One happy day I found Leo Babauta's blog, Zen Habits where I found info on the A-List Blogging Bootcamp. I put my name on the wait list and emailed the administrator (Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen and Write to Done) saying how much I wanted to participate, but that I was a blogging nincompoop. Mary e-mailed back the kindest of notes saying I was exactly the type of person they wanted for the Bootcamp (not the nicompoop part).
~LESSON #1: Reach out and make yourself known right up front. Be the nice, but noticeable student who makes sure the teacher knows her or him. Hanging back never gets you anywhere.
I took the Bootcamp in February 2010 and soaked up every bit of information, feedback and advice. I followed Leo's and Mary's instructions to a T about setting up the blog, choosing the domain name, creating a brand, choosing photos, and of course writing great content. They know what they are doing. Without them, I simply wouldn't have succeeded in creating a strong blog.
~LESSON # 2: Enroll in the The Blogger Club and Bootcamp and trust the experts. Leo and Mary have integrity, plain and simple. They shoot straight about what works and what doesn't. They give you more than you expect. They want their bloggers to succeed because it reflects well on them. Their personal philosophy guides their business decisions. I trust that.
As I went through the Bootcamp and later enrolled in the A-List Blogger Club, I often felt completely overwhelmed. There was so much information, and it was such a huge learning curve for me. Once my blog was up and running, I often e-mailed Mary asking her where I should put my focus. She always directed me back to building my readership through great content and creating my brand.
~LESSON #3: The number one most important thing you can do as a blogger is create useful, interesting posts that serve your reader. I'll repeat that — serve your reader. It's all about them. What can you give them today that they can use? Establish your credibility as a useful resource and an interesting writer. That happens through practice and research of other great blogs and writers.
As I was writing tons, I was also reaching out. It was easy to spot people in the Bootcamp and the Blogger Club who were knowledgeable and serious. I glommed on to them like white on rice. I connected with Mary and offered to help her for free. I made contacts with other big bloggers, just to say hello and compliment their blogs or posts. As I've gotten older, I'm not afraid to contact anyone. We all put our pants on one leg at a time, right?
~LESSON #4: Make connections that serve you while you are serving them. Reach out to big bloggers. Offer to give something without expecting anything in return. People remember and appreciate that. Send a personal email or even an old dinosaur like a hand-written note. This has to be genuine though. Don't get weird on them. As a result of my efforts, Mary offered me several fabulous opportunities, including serving as editor-in-chief for The Daily Brainstorm, a blogazine that brings together the best posts from the best bloggers around, including Leo, Mary, Darren Rowse of Problogger, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project and more than 100 more.
The next thing I tackled was writing guest posts. Mary offered me guest posts very early. I focused on my successful posts with her in my pitch letters to other bloggers and followed Mary's tutorial about pitching a guest post. Then I researched the blogs (all much bigger than mine) that I wanted to pitch. I spent one morning sending out a bunch of pitches, and sent them a really strong post in a timely manner.
~LESSON # 5: Don't be afraid to pitch for guest posts, but do your research first. Know the blog's content, style, number of words, color scheme, type of photos, size of photos, and any guest post guidelines they have. Make it easy for the blogger to accept your post and pop it into their blog. Write your very best for them, and follow through in a timely way.
To help build my subscriber base, I wrote a short e-book called How to Live A Meaningful Life. I promoted that on my sidebar, after my posts, in e-mails, social media, and in guest posts. In order to get the e-book, people must subscribe to my blog. Lots of people want something for free that is useful and well-written. They will subscribe to get it.
~LESSON #6: As you are building your blog, start working on a free product to offer on your blog. It can be an e-book or course or anything useful. Make it good enough that subscribers feel they are getting valuable stuff for free. Work on this a little bit every day so that in a few months, you'll have something to offer in guest posts. Have it professionally designed so that it looks really great.
Once I had a few strong guest posts under my belt, I went for the big guns. I wanted to pitch Leo at Zen Habits. I must add a disclaimer here. I had help with this one. Mary mentored me through the pitch and the post. Having a mentor is a great part of learning and growing as a blogger. Everyone should find a mentor. I would have pitched Leo anyway, but the odds of success were greater with Mary's input and advice.
~LESSON # 7: Think big. Most big bloggers were once small bloggers. You have nothing to lose by pitching them. When you have been successful with other guest posts, go for the superstars. If you can find a mentor who has done it before, you will save yourself a lot of time and increase your odds of success. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
In four months my blog went from O subscribers to over 2000. I didn't expect success so quickly, and some of it was luck. But mostly, it was patience and daily effort. Blogging is like any start-up business. You invest time now for future rewards.
If you want your blog to bloom and your subscribers to grow, remember these tips:
- Join the A-List Blogging Bootcamp and Blogger Club.
- Be an active learner and do what the teacher says.
- Reach out to others, connect, communicate and serve.
- Write great posts, write great posts, write great posts.
- Give something valuable to your readers all the time.
- Think big. Now think bigger. Don't be afraid.
- Have patience. Your work will pay off.
If you are interested in having me review your blog, please contact me at mybloomlife at gmail.com.