Based on the news that I was pursuing a career in “blogging”, I naturally got a lot of emails from individuals who asked about how to start in blogging, how to build traffic, and similar plans. I promised them I’d post some thoughts here.
I guess the first thing to note is that describing what I do as “blogging” isn’t entirely accurate — in that it’s not all I do. It’s the accepted term, of course, and one that I adopted because it best describes my business.
The “blog” term has become so broad that it now encompasses a small site like this, but also applies to MacRumors.com. The act of blogging is simply writing a story and posting it to your site. Just by filling in a few blanks and clicking on a few links, you can easily set up your own blog on WordPress.com.
The trick to being profitable in blogging, of course, is a combination of finding a large enough audience and being able to make money off that audience. Trying to extend your blog into a business will require you to become familiar with ad sales and ad networks. As traffic in your site grows beyond the confines of your current web hosting account, you may have to become familiar with the intricacies of web hosting and dedicated servers.
These problems, though, are good ones to have, because it means you’ve grown large enough that they matter. Most hobby blogs won’t ever have to worry about these issues.
For those of you who are already blogging or have established sites, this advice is not for you. Once you are familiar with the markets, you can make strategic decisions to start a site on whatever topic you want.
For those of you who were inspired by the story about someone who was able to turn their hobby into their career but don’t know where to start, here’s my advice on starting a blog:
Things change over 8 years. I moved apartments/houses four times. I went from medical school, to residency, to fellowship to private practice. I got married. Had a child.
Few things stayed constant during those 8 years, but my interest in the site did. If you choose a topic you don’t really care about, the first time you take a break from it, you may never come back.
2. Pick a topic other people care about. This should be obvious. You need an audience. Seemingly “niche” markets are ok as long as there’s a loyal following. In many ways, I got lucky that Apple has done so well over these past years, but it was no accident I chose a topic so seemingly addictive. Apple rumors were already a phenomenon prior to MacRumors.com
3. Get a domain name. Buy a domain name. Pick a good one. You can get one for $9/year. Your domain name is your brand. It’s ridiculous to not get a name from day one. You can read my previous thoughts about it.
4. Just Start. There are always reasons not to do it. There are always bigger and better plans just on the horizon. But you may never get started if you keep planning.
I think I’ll stop there for now. I’m sorry if it seems like such a basic and obvious list, but I think those are the essentials.
I also don’t think people should be discouraged by my 8 year figure. I’d said before I think many people could and would have made the switch after 3-4 years. Recently some blogs have been able to rise to prominence over the course of only 1 or 2 years. Of course, competition can be tougher these days with the many corporate-backed blogs.