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I want to cover a few important elements that kill many beginning bloggers, sometimes before they even get started, or early on in the journey. These blogging tips for beginners should help you avoid some common pitfalls or some of the common new blogger mistakes I see.
I’ve been at this blogging game for quite a few years now, and believe me, I was far from perfect (still am!)… There was a lot of learning by error and throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.
It has taken me years to become a “successful” travel blogger who is making a living full-time, but I could have certainly cut that learning curve down had I been a little more focused, disciplined, and heeded the word of others (or at least put in the effort to learn, like you are doing).
The first mistake is one that kills most blogs before they even get off the ground…
Thinking There Are Too Many Blogs
Many people fail to take the first step in this blogging journey because they think that they are “too late” or that “there are too many blogs already.”
I understand that line of thinking. Virtually anything you search for, it seems there are already dozens or more blogs or vlogs covering that topic in depth, and it can make you ask yourself whether or not it is worth it, whether anyone will notice you within the crowd, or you’ll just be putting in all this work for nothing or no one.
It is easy to feel like you missed the train.
But starting a blog isn’t a zero-sum game, and you don’t have to be the biggest travel blogger out there to be able to make a living. I’m an example of this, believe me. I can go to a travel conference and no one has ever heard of me or my blog, but I’m still out there “living the dream”, often not even on the radar of my “competitors”.
Think of starting a blog like starting almost any other business (but with way less capital needed). Nobody complains when a new cool new store or restaurant is opening up, since there is always room for more options, and there are constantly new places opening or old ones closing (same with blogs).
You can dedicate yourself to being better, more detailed, more accurate, more interesting, more whatever, than your competition. My website is not big by any means, but I’ve been able to outrank in Google some HUGE websites like Nomadic Matt, Lonely Planet, CNN, and even the U.S. Department of State.
You can be a little blog that does it better than the big guys and win.
You don’t need to be huge to have your voice heard or to make money.
I’d highly recommend checking out Kevin Kelly’s article on 1,000 true fans — it shows the simple math of how you don’t need millions of fans to make a living online.
Failing to Find a Niche or Unique Angle
If we are being honest, there do seem to be about a million couples travel bloggers who are out there backpacking around Europe, talking about the same things, same places, taking the same photos, and it all makes it hard to tell the couples apart.
The successful travel blogger of today and tomorrow is one who was found their niche. You might think travel or budget travel or adventure travel is a pretty good niche, but it really isn’t.
You should think about the smallest box you can find, somewhere where you can quickly establish yourself as an expert by covering the subject thoroughly and in-depth. By doing so, you will be rewarded by Google in the search results, and more quickly find your 1,000 true fans.
I’m one of those bloggers that really kind of failed at this part… I blog about truck camping, climbing, road trips, Colombia, overlanding Latin America, and pretty much whatever else I’m into that is tangentially related to my current travels, life, interests.
The problem with that is that my audience interested in truck camping is not often interested in Colombia, for example.
I’ve since realized the extra hurdles this presents and have chosen to forge ahead anyway, even if it means it is more difficult to maintain the same audience over the long-term.
You could avoid this by becoming hyper-specific and identifying your unique niche or angle that will help you stand apart from the crowd. While many bloggers may have covered things to do in Paris, they probably haven’t covered it at all or as in-depth as someone writing about outdoor activities, travel for those with disabilities, etc.
Niche is good, but when deciding on your branding, be careful not to paint yourself into too small a box, like 20 Something Traveler (and then what happens when you turn 30?) or Desk to Dirtbag (whose very name may turn off brands or businesses that aren’t familiar with the dirtbag climbing term).
Not Investing in Yourself and Your Business
The fastest way to turn your blog into a business is to start thinking about your blog as a business. From DAY 1.
Blogging is an amazing business because it has super low startup costs and overhead, it works around the clock (whether you are sleeping, traveling, or whatever), and it is very easily scalable as the same initial work investment can eventually reach hundreds then thousands of people, day after day, year after year.
But again, if you are thinking about blogging as a business, you should also be thinking about how to wisely invest in your business to help it grow.
In the very beginning, this means investing in a domain and hosting at the very least (rather than a totally free blog, which isn’t a smart idea). In the near term, it will also mean investing in tools, resources, education, advertising, or countless other possibilities.
Whether you’re starting a restaurant, a food truck, a plumbing business, a web design agency, or any other business, there will be costs associated with getting that business off the ground and successful, and yet so many new bloggers try to avoid spending any money at all and often hamper themselves and their success.
The good news is that these investments don’t have to be expensive, and they aren’t anything like the costs associated with getting a traditional business off the ground.
Expecting Overnight Success
It’s true: in the beginning, you will have a much harder time getting your material in front of the eyes of readers. You won’t have much pull with Google, you won’t have many fans or followers, and you may be tempted to take shortcuts or even just give up altogether.
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. #cliche
If you’re about to embark on a year-long trip, are getting ready to launch your blog, and think you can grow the blog into something that can sustain your travels within a couple of months, you are in for a disappointment.
If, on the other hand, you are thinking about this as a long-term business with seeds that you are planting today that will pay dividends in future years, then you are on the right path.
Blogging takes time.
There are likely lots of obstacles you will encounter and need to overcome, it will take you a while to find your voice, and getting traffic, readers, and followers is a slow but (hopefully) steady growth.
Have you ever heard that quote about how all overnight successes take about 10 years? There’s a lot of truth to that, and while you certainly don’t need ten years to find economic viability with your blog, you do need to be thinking with that sort of perspective.
The Lindy Effect is a concept that says that the future life expectancy of things like a business, blog, brand, etc, are proportional to their current age. Meaning that the longer you can keep pushing through the difficult times, the more likely you are to “make it” and be successful.
Too many bloggers quit right on the cusp of being “successful” (which for most of us bloggers just means being able to make a living and put some away for the future). Maybe tune in to some of these top travel bloggers to follow to help keep you inspired and informed as you embark upon this journey?
Expecting Excellence or Perfection
Part of the reason that success eludes a newer blogger (or writer or artist or fill in the blank) is that because in the beginning you probably aren’t that great at it.
I know I wasn’t. Sad to say, but the majority of my early blog posts were pretty bad. My early blog design wasn’t exactly pretty. And of course, I wasn’t making any money.
We’d all like perfection, but it just doesn’t exist. Everything is a work in progress, and your blog is the same.
Nothing you do early on is going to be perfect, but it also isn’t permanent. You will have time to grow, to revise, rewrite, redesign, and improve. What you do today isn’t set in stone. You shouldn’t let perfection stand in the way of just getting started.
Start today on your slog to 10,000 hours when you feel more competent and confident about your skills and can create content more in line with what readers want.
Talking Only About Yourself
This is a mistake that many beginning bloggers make, myself included. Nobody is interested in reading your journal.
For every article or piece of content that you create, you should be sure to maintain perspective of who is reading and WHY they would be reading it.
Every successful blog is based on the simple premise of WIIFM — What’s In It For Me?
Why am I reading this article that you’ve written? There can be lots of reasons that someone would read what you’ve written, whether for information, entertainment, intrigue, etc. But bear the WIIFM mantra in mind when you are composing your articles.
The simplest way to do it is to try and help some specific type of person with a specific problem.
Of course, you should frame all of this advice through your own experiences, interests, insights, and so forth, that’s what makes your articles unique and important. An article about traveling with kids in Berlin is of no interest to me, but it could be hugely helpful to many people. Try to find your demographic or audience and right to them. It can help to visualize a specific friend who you would be writing to, trying to address all of their concerns, interests, etc.
Blogging Tips for Beginners
So there you have it, a few pitfalls that the beginner blogger may be facing as they start on the long road to creating a successful blog. I hope this article will help you avoid some common blogger mistakes and perhaps shortcut your road to getting there.
Have you taken my free blogging course yet?
Even if you are just thinking about starting a blog or want to figure out how to get more traffic to the one you already have, this will be useful for you.
Basically, if you want to learn the foundational elements of how I went from a desk jockey drop out to a dirtbag living in his truck to a now “successful” blogger earning enough to travel all over the place – you’ll want to check this out:
- Why Start a Blog
- How to Start a Blog
- Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic
- Why Bloggers Should Use CoSchedule
- The Truth About How I Get Paid to Travel the World
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