I spent two years following my dream of becoming a successful blogger. It got me nowhere.
But I have learned many lessons about blogging and I’m going to share them with you!
Maybe you are reading this article because you’ve been blogging for a while and you haven’t seen any results yet. You’re wondering what is it that you’re doing wrong and what you should change. Or maybe you’re thinking about starting your own blog, but you aren’t sure what to do to ensure your success. Whatever your situation is, I think this article will answer some of the questions you have about blogging. It will show you what mistakes I have made so that you don’t have to make them too. I will also share my lessons and advice that can help you become more successful at blogging!
You know how all the motivational speakers tell us to “Follow your dream!” or “Do what you’re passionate about and you’ll be successful!” and all the other clichés? Well, I believed them and I decided to follow my dreams! I spent two and a half years working on a blog, hoping to build an audience and eventually make money. And all that time and hard work got me…almost where I was when I started it in terms of results.
I’d like to tell you what my journey was because I think you’ll understand me better. And then I’ll share all the mistakes I have made and how you can avoid them.
I first started blogging in September 2016. I had a blog called The Sunshine Review and I started blogging about insights I had, personal experiences and personal development. My blog posts were short and quite random and I wasn’t really skilled at writing, photography and design. So I wasn’t really surprised that people were not flocking to my blog in the first 3 months.
Then I tried to improve and choose a specific topic, so I started writing about depression and happiness. I was struggling with depression and I learned many things that helped me feel better. I also discovered scientific facts about happiness that can help us all find more meaning and happiness in life – and who doesn’t want that?
Well, even though we all want to be happy, people were still not reading my blog. And if you don’t have an audience of people that come to your blog and read your articles, then you can’t really make any money. But I kept working on my blog, trying to improve and hoping that one day more people will be interested in what I have to say.
I also had a period where I tried to focus on Instagram more, hoping that the people who follow me there and see my posts will eventually read my articles.
However, my blog still didn’t take off. I was doing my best and improving my skills, but the number of people visiting my blog in a month barely increased. So I was starting to feel more and more discouraged. I believed in my mission to share good information and help people find more happiness. But when I failed to get any results in about two years, I thought that maybe this was a lost cause.
I was still motivated to become a successful blogger and I didn’t want to give up on my goal completely. I discovered I can be creative and I enjoy writing and creating content for my blog and social media. Plus, my skills improved a lot so I knew I had a better chance to succeed now than I had in the past.
So I decided to start a new project. I created this blog and I focused on my personal Instagram account. I let myself try new things to enjoy working again. I have written articles about different topics that I cared about, even though they were not related to happiness or what I learned in the past.
I tried working on both for a while and I recently started focusing on my personal blog and profile only. And this has helped me feel inspired and motivated again. I still did not forget about how much I worked on something just to fail, but I also learned a lot in the process. In hindsight, I have to say that it makes sense why I did not succeed. And that’s why I wanted to write this article to share the big lessons I learned. I hope that you will find them useful and you’ll be able to improve and reach more people with your content.
Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned
Blogging Mistake #1: I did not have a clear plan
When I started blogging, I did not really have a clear plan in mind. The plan I had looked something like this:
- Have a blog
- Write articles
- Find some way to make money
I thought that all I have to do is start writing articles. Eventually, more and more people would read them and then I would find a way to make money. But it usually doesn’t work out that way since blogging is not that simple – at least, not for most people.
There’s this idea that is popular in entrepreneurship that also applies to blogging: “If you build it, they will come”. This refers to the idea that you just have to create something (a blog, a YouTube channel, a book, a service, a company) and then people will just come to you. They will want to read your blog, watch your videos, read your book, pay for your service or support your company. Well, this is not true. People won’t just run to appreciate whatever you create. Yes, there are some exceptions. But in most cases, you need to build something and then you have to work hard to make sure people find out about what you have created.
And you need a plan for that. You need to have a clear sequence of events that need to happen, how you need to make them happen and how you can improve along the way.
Lesson #1: You need to decide what you want to build and how you will do that
I think that many of us have no clear plan when starting a blog, online business or other creative projects. We usually start because we have something good to say, we want to express ourselves or we want to see if we like a certain type of work. That’s how I started – and many other people did. That’s normal.
But if you want to focus on making your blog a success, you need to have a plan. Sooner or later, you should sit down and think about what you want to do and how. Write everything down: your goal, your mission, your milestones, your daily/weekly/monthly goals. How detailed this plan will be is up to you. It depends on your personality, level of knowledge and clarity. It’s more important to have a plan – any kind of plan – than it is to have a clear or great plan. So just aim to have a plan!
If you see that your plan is not working after a few weeks or months, try to think about what you can improve. Adjust, track your progress and keep doing what works. Try to improve or change what is not working. But you can only do this if you have a plan to begin with.
Blogging Mistake #2: I didn’t really know what I had to say
Right in the beginning, I was writing a blog post a day about…anything. I’ve read some interesting pages in a good book? I wrote about that! I thought about an idea that seemed cool to me? I wrote about that. And as a result, my blog was all over the place. I think that I wouldn’t even read that blog now.
I did not know what I wanted to talk about and what I wanted to create, so anything was good enough. And I’m not the only one. You can see this on other blogs and mostly on social media. There are so many people who create content without actually having anything good to share – or maybe they have yet to decide what they want to focus on. They seem to have no opinions, no passions or big topic they talk about. So they post irrelevant content that sometimes looks great, but has no substance. Some people still follow them, but I don’t think they get a lot of value from them. And I’m not sure if these content creators will be around for a long time.
Lesson #2: Have something good to say or create
If you want to build your own blog, my advice would be to think about why you want to do that. What do you want to talk about? Why? Are you very passionate about traveling? Talk about traveling! Are you frustrated because there is a lot of corruption in your country? Talk about that!
You choose your own topic or niche, but I think you should choose something you care about or are knowledgeable about or want to learn about. It may be hard to find a topic when you are starting out, especially if you are young and you don’t know what your skills or passions are yet. But try to find a good topic and then create content about it. In time, you will see if this is the right fit for you or not. If it’s not, you can always make a change or start a new blog. It’s up to you, but always know what you want to talk about.
Blogging Mistake #3: I underestimated how hard it is to make money blogging
I now realize that I underestimated the effort and skills I needed to reach my goal. Right in the beginning, I thought that having a blog and making money would be easy.
After all, I’m a smart person and I always achieved my goals, so I could definitely make money blogging in 6-12 months! Plus, every success story tells us that many people stated blogging and they became very popular in a matter of months. Surely I can be one of those!
But in time I realized that becoming a successful blogger is not easy! Even though for some people it seems that their path to success was like a straight line to their dreams, I am 100% sure that there was a lot of work behind that. Or maybe the people who became successful very soon and very easily already had some of the skills and talents that others need to develop – like I had to.
Being a blogger takes much more than having a blog and writing articles. To be a good blogger, you need to be able to write great articles in a way that captures people’s attention, know SEO, create good content on various social media platforms, do email marketing, collaborate with other bloggers or companies and find sources of income. It’s not an easy job!
Lesson #3: You don’t really know how hard it will be to reach your goal until you start working on it
When you set a goal for yourself, it’s easy to underestimate how hard it is to reach it. And if you have easily achieved other goals, it’s easy to think that you will achieve others just as effortlessly. But some goals are easier to achieve than others and some fields are more clear and transparent than others.
When setting a goal, you can do a bit of research to get an idea of what you need to do to achieve it. Of course, what you will get are some general guidelines or different stories. You cannot really know for sure how your journey will evolve. But at least you may gain a bit of clarity.
And while you are working on your goal (be it to become a successful blogger or something else), in time it will become clear to you if your expectations are realistic or not. Don’t worry if you underestimated what it would take or how long it would take – just like I did. Focus on adjusting your plans and keep going. You shouldn’t give up if it takes longer than expected, just be patient and keep working!
Blogging Mistake #4: I did not expect to fail and I couldn’t accept failure
As I said before, when I started blogging, I thought I could easily create content and reach my goals. But on my quest for success, I have experienced failure a few times. Here are some examples:
I wanted to post every day for a year and I only did that for about 2 months.
I wrote a book and only a few people bought it.
I created a free 30-day email course on gratitude and only a few people signed up for it.
I wanted to have great pictures, but I never felt comfortable while posing.
And every failure crippled me for a while. Every time that I tried something and it didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to, I felt disappointed. So I would take a few days off to stew in my despair and feel more and more depressed. Why? Because I thought that I should be able to get things right every time, even when I was trying new things. And when they didn’t deliver good results, I felt terrible. After all, I was working to make my dream come true and I could not accept failure.
Lesson #4: Expect to fail. And when that happens, just get back on track!
When you are starting to work on a new project, you should expect to make mistakes. This is true especially if you are doing something you’ve never done before and you have big goals – like I did. You will fail because you are not skilled enough, not disciplined enough, not good enough. That’s normal – we all start like that!
You shouldn’t be ashamed that you are not good enough. And this should never stop you from doing the work that will help you become better. It’s like learning to walk or ride a bike. You fall down several times, you skin your knee, you get up and start going again. We should have the same approach. And when it comes to doing creative work, there are no clear rules so let yourself experiment with the content you want to create. Sometimes it will be bad, sometimes it will be very bad and sometimes it will be good… The point is to keep going and keep creating!
Blogging Mistake #5: I quit my job too soon
When I started blogging, I was doing an internship. But after that was finished, I stopped working. I had worked while doing my studies and this was very demanding. So I couldn’t wait to have more time to devote to blogging!
This freed up my schedule completely. In the beginning, this was great! I loved the freedom of having my entire day at my disposal. But it was also not good for me. In the beginning, I did not work a lot because…frankly, I wasn’t good at making content so I had no idea what to work on for 10 hours a day. And I had a lot of free time that I often used to ruminate and think about what went wrong. I kept asking myself why people were not reading my blog and why I was failing. As you can expect, this made me feel terrible.
Also, if you give up your job to work on your dream, it can sometimes be more of a nightmare than a dream. If you keep working on something that does not work, your confidence will suffer. And as time goes by and you still have not found a way to generate enough income every month, you will feel more and more pressure to find a way to make it work – as soon as possible. This stress is enough to suck the passion and creativity out of you and to question your goal. So I realized that I have quit my job too soon.
Lesson #5: If you want to start a blog, start it as hobby and work on it in your spare time
This obviously depends on who you are as a person. If you are very motivated and very disciplined, maybe quitting your job will work for you. But honestly, I thought this was the right thing for me too.
I expected to work on my blog for many hours every day! And I did – on some days. I was excited to learn how to make simple designs, to write a bit better and so on. But this was something I could do in a few hours every day. I did not create content that took many hours to research, write and design as I do now.
I think that quitting your job too soon can have a negative impact on yourself. And if you experience a lot of stress or depression like I did, this will also affect your blog and it will hurt your chances of success. It may also be the pressure you need to work hard and make progress quickly, but stress usually has a negative effect on creativity and motivation.
My advice would be this: start to work on your blog in your spare time. If you see that it is gaining attention and people love your content, think about ways to make money from it. And when you are making some money or you no longer have enough time to work on your blog, you can resign from your job. Then you can focus mainly on improving your blog and making more money from it. Whatever you decide, try to keep a balance in your life and reduce the stress you experience. This way, you’re more likely to be excited about blogging for a long time!
Blogging Mistake #6: I kept looking for the magic formula
When I realized that my audience was not growing, I thought that I should learn more about blogging. So I would often read articles written by successful bloggers, trying to find what works. I was looking for a magic formula, a surefire way to do things and get guaranteed results. I thought that if I just found it, I would apply it step by step and finally reach my goal of becoming a successful blogger.
But I couldn’t find it. And I think that success stories often have many things in common, but they never seem to follow the exact same pattern. Plus, people can achieve success in many different ways if everything works right.
I now believe that there is no magic formula. I think that there are many factors that determine whether you will be successful as a blogger or not, such as: your chosen field or niche, trends, people’s interest, your skills, your tone of voice, the type of content you create, the platforms you are using and so on. And I also think that luck is also involved in some cases. Otherwise, normal people with no skills and no experience couldn’t become very popular in 2-3 months. They must be doing something right, obviously, but they may also be lucky to create the right content at the time without even knowing it.
Lesson #6: Stop looking for a formula and create your own!
Don’t waste a lot of time trying to find a magic formula. Yes, it’s very useful to take your time and learn about blogging. This will help you improve your skills and find tools that can make your work better and easier. But once you understand the basics, I think that you should focus more on creating content and becoming better than on trying to find a magic formula.
It’s also important to keep in mind that nobody can tell you how to be creative and put out the work that you are thinking about. When you are trying to be different and innovate, nobody can tell you how to do that. You just have to experiment, track your progress and improve!
Blogging Mistake #7: I was not always consistent
This is a really BIG mistake and I think this one affected my chances of success a lot. I wasn’t always consistent because of many reasons: I was changing several things in my life, I did not have a clear plan, I did not always know what to talk about and I often felt discouraged. So I had some periods of time when I would let months go by without posting any new articles.
And many times, I would only work when I would feel like it. I was waiting for the perfect day, when I had a great idea to write about and I felt motivated and inspired to do it! If I was feeling down or too stressed, I wouldn’t work that day. While it sounds great to only work when you feel motivated, it’s a really bad system. There will be many days where you’ll feel stressed, tired, bored, restless and so on. You can always find reasons not to work. But if you want to be a successful blogger, you need to work every day – even when you don’t feel like it.
If you read articles about blogging, you’ll see that consistency is mentioned a lot! When you are consistent, you create content often and people are more likely to remember you. If you don’t post anything for 3 months, there’s a big chance that they will forget about you – especially now since there is so much content out there.
Lesson #7: Build your habits
You should be consistent in your work. And if you want to be consistent, you need to develop habits. Get in the habit of writing, publishing articles once a week and sharing content on social media often. You decide how often you want to write articles and what channels you want to use to distribute them, but it’s very important to build your habits.
Once you get used to writing every day or every Tuesday, you will do that even on the days when you don’t feel that great. Habits are hard to build, so you will need a lot of willpower at first. But once you have built them, they will help you a lot!
Honestly, I still have to work on my consistency too. Now I work every day, but I don’t have regular posting schedules since I focus on different tasks and I try to split my time between them. But even so, I aim for posting a new article every week. And I’m now positing every day on Instagram.
Try to find your own routine and make it pleasant. But it’s very important to work on your habits, not just on your goals. That’s what will help you keep going for a long time!
Blogging Mistake #8: I was always afraid to promote myself
My attempts to make money were the following: promote my book “Happy by Choice” and offer coaching calls to help people manage and overcome their depression and find more authentic happiness in their lives. But honestly, I was always afraid to promote myself.
I have always struggled with this impostor syndrome and kept thinking: Who am I to teach people about happiness? How can I help people with depression if I’m still struggling with it? So what if I know more than the average person about the science of happiness? I never felt like I was ready or good enough to teach people and to ask for money for my work.
But I know that this is mainly a problem that existed in my head. And you may be struggling with it too. I think that this is normal until you assess your skills and knowledge and find a way to promote your work while being yourself and sticking to your principles.
Lesson #8: Promote yourself in your own way and be real, authentic and fair
I think that you will need some time to get used to the idea that you have something valuable to teach people. If you have never done this, maybe you need time to accept that you can be a teacher that people would be happy to pay. And you will get used to this by analyzing yourself and finding a way to see your value. Ask for feedback from friends that know you and support you. Ask for help from a mentor or a person you look up to. Or follow people who inspire you to see what they have to offer and how they promote themselves.
I think there are good ways to promote yourself and bad ways to promote yourself. You shouldn’t promote yourself by misleading people. If you are not a certified coach/therapist, don’t claim to be one. If you have no experience in coaching, design, social media, fitness and so on, tell the truth. Also, don’t sell people illusions by claiming that you will help them live their dream life in one month when you cannot do that. There are so many people who lie about who they are and make bold claims that they cannot keep and this makes the online world a terrible place for everyone involved.
But with that said, I think that you can promote yourself in ways that are authentic and ethical. If you want to offer services without being qualified to offer them, tell the truth! Tell people that you are not an expert, but you do have experience in that or you learned how to do something on your own. Tell them what you can do for them, but make sure you can deliver everything you claim. Don’t try to oversell yourself. Sell the real you and work on becoming better!
And I think that many people struggle to promote themselves because they feel like they have to be pushy and misleading and use all kinds of tricks to fool people that they have to buy what they offer. But you don’t! You can promote yourself in your own way – while letting people get to know the real you, while being honest and while telling them why you want them to pay you. I think that once you find a way to promote yourself that you are comfortable with, it will be much easier to get used to the idea of promoting your products or services. It will still take time to feel like promoting your work is normal or enjoyable, but as it goes with anything else, you will get better with practice!
So my advice is this: create a great product or service and promote it because people will benefit from buying it. Keep reminding yourself that you and your clients will both get value from it. Just do it your way and the right way!
Let’s talk about failure
As you can see, I’ve made many mistakes in my two and a half years of blogging. But at the same time, I also learned many lessons. This was probably the time in my life when I learned the most. Along the way, I have acquired and developed skills in many areas such as photography, writing, design, social media, self-discipline, goal-setting, general knowledge and more. And this is one of the reasons why I think blogging can be great for you – as a hobby or as your full-time job. It allows you, and sometimes forces you, to constantly become better!
If I could go back in time and change something about my journey, I honestly think I wouldn’t change much. Maybe I would want to become successful sooner, but not right from the start. I believe that instant success often does not teach us much and it can also lead us in the wrong direction.
Even though I failed to reach my goal and become a successful blogger, I’m still glad I’ve made the decision to go for it. I sometimes feel bad because I haven’t reached my goal and I often feel proud because I did my best and I grew so much. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed that we worked on something we loved and we failed. We learn so much more from failure than from success.
I wish we could establish a movement that makes us feel that failing is normal. We shouldn’t be ashamed to fail if we worked hard on something we wanted. We shouldn’t feel bad for not being good enough from the start. We shouldn’t feel this pressure to be an overnight success and a billionaire by 30.
When reading someone’s success story, it’s easy to believe that this will be your story too. We all think we’ll be the unicorn. But since people usually don’t talk about their failures, we don’t see how many do fail and we don’t see that failing is common and normal. And because nobody talks about how they have failed, we can never learn from them. As I said, we would probably learn much more from all the mistakes people have made than from a success story that never accounts for all the factors that lead to that success. So if you want to achieve a certain goal, don’t just read the success stories of the people who’ve made it. Also read about the failures and mistakes of the people who have yet to make it.
To be honest, one of the reasons why I wanted to share my story is because I have failed. People talk about failure so rarely. It’s no wonder we feel terrible when we do fail! We live with the illusion that nobody else is failing because everyone else hides their failures all the time. But I don’t want to do that. I failed to reach my goal and even though I haven’t fully accepted that, I am so proud that I worked on my goal for so long, I persevered when it was hard and I grew and learned so much!
What about you?
Strangely enough, even though I talked about failure, I definitely don’t want you to fail. I hope that if you want to be a successful blogger, you will learn from my mistakes and reach your goal! I honestly believe it’s possible with enough hard work and determination (and some other things)…Don’t let this article make you feel scared or worried, let it make you feel empowered to try. If you’ll fail, write your own story about failures and lessons. You’ll make other people feel better about themselves. And who knows? Maybe that article about failure will the one that gets you the results you’re aiming for. You never know…
I would love to hear from you: are you a blogger or do you want to become one? What was your experience with blogging like? And what is one failure that you want to brag about? Let’s start to share our failure stories and feel great because we’ve done that. Our failures prove that we have tried to achieve big goals, so shouldn’t we be proud of that?
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