I am a huge fan of blogging as it’s a great way to give to the community, or in my case, give back to my community. I push my teammates to blog, some have done so hesitantly, some more willingly. It’s always been a great discussion just sharing my experience with blogging. The joys. The pains. Recently, I’ve been asked more about creating a blog and I hope to help people answer that question and learn more about blogging. So read on…
A little history about blogging
The term “blog” is so common, we don’t think of what it actually means and where it came from. If you were born after 1983 chances are blog has just been a part of life. For us older folk, there was a time where there was no blog…
- In 1994, the first “blog” was created, but it wasn’t called a blog, it was a personal homepage. I was late to the game, my first personal site, my “web essence” as I called it, was built around 2001 (see it on web archive)
- Around 1997 (hey I graduated high school then) the term “weblog” was created, referring to “logging the web”
- By 1999 “weblog” was reduced to “blog”
- The rest is history!
Blogging is an internet age old practice. It’s moved from just logging the web to a way to share your ideas and thoughts. Many people do with great success, some with some success, and some just fail. I categorize this blog as a “great success” as I have readers! That’s my goal, why I blog, for readers like you.
Why I blog
I have spent a ton of time on other people’s blogs: consuming, absorbing, learning, fixing, and enjoying their content. I am a self-taught developer and architect, all thanks to the internet and others sharing their experiences via their blog posts. These helpful little corners of the internet have assisted me and many others over the years. But how did it start for me?
A long time ago (as I mentioned, I’m old…), I got stuck on an issue. I forget what the issue was, probably something Windows NT related. I searched for some help, and by golly, I found it! (I think this was before Google, on a sweet search site called AltaVista.) The post answered my problem and I was grateful to the writer.
A while back I decided to give back to the community by creating this blog in 2010. Early on, I focused my content on filling the gap I was seeing. I shared content about issues I had a hard time with and I couldn’t find a fix for easily online. If I had to search for the solution, through multiple searches and pages, then I decided to make a blog post about the solution. I figured it would at least help the next person along their journey. This worked really well for a long time, and I still do this, although not as often.
I had a secondary reason for writing as well. I started looking at it as a personal knowledge base. I have gone back to my blog posts on numerous occasions because I knew I already figured something out before. I have, on more than one occasion, searched for a problem just to find my own blog post I forgot I wrote. Love when that happens!
Side story: one day I was troubleshooting an issue with Microsoft support. A couple of days into the problem they sent me a blog post to fix it… It was my own blog post… And no, it didn’t fix it, but I was honored they referenced my work.
Today, I like to blog my thoughts and experiences, along with continuing my original topics around technical issues as I come across them, especially if Google doesn’t have the quick fix (which is few and far between nowadays). Take this post for example. There is obviously nothing technical here, just my thoughts and experiences with blogging and what I’d like others to know!
So why do I blog? My big reason for spending the time in blogging is to give back to the community that’s given me so much! I’m so grateful. Free knowledge is the best knowledge.
I also blog because I love to help others learn. If I can help them grow, learn, and better themselves (and in someways, I like to think bettering the human race), it’s a win for me!
Why do you want to blog?
If you’re considering writing a blog, why? To what end? What’s your why? Why? WHY?
Your why will help drive and direct your blogging. I find writing fun, and even therapeutic at times. I enjoy writing. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy helping others. Blogging is a great avenue for me to find enjoyment. My why helps drive what I write, how I write, and why I write.
If you don’t have a clear picture of your why, that may be okay. A little direction now can be refined and honed later into a clearer, real why, later. If you’re in it for the money, know it will be a lot of work to get to a point where it’s substantial enough to supplement your income or even replace your job. It depends on what you’ll be blogging about.
If you’re hoping to make money at blogging, do your research first. I had a conversation with another blogger a few years ago about how much he was making on this blog. He was far from matching his salary with 10,000 visitors a day! I suspect making good money blogging has to go beyond just blogging and include video and social networks, too.
What will you blog about?
This depends completely on YOU! What do you know? What is your passion? What do you think you can add to the internet to bring a little more value? What do you think you can make money at?
As you can imagine, the content of your blog can be almost anything, and it can change as you go. Your identified “why” may dictate the content you’re blogging about. My why is generic enough that I can get away with writing about almost anything. My why spans into my other blog on faith and family, two completely different topics, the why works.
If you’re looking to make a splash, and some money, try to find a niche. What is no one else doing? If others are doing it, how can you do it differently? I’m not creative enough to find a niche, nor is that why I want to blog, so I don’t bother. I share what I learn, and what I think others can learn from.
Your blog content can change over time. This blog started primarily on SharePoint, then naturally to Office 365, now I am aiming more toward modern development and general thought leadership. Don’t think you need to have all the answers now, just a direction to start is great.
Find your topic or topics and sit on it for a little bit. Google them. Are they new? Do you have an original thought? If not, how will you do it differently enough? Or does that matter at all? It goes back to your why.
Can you write?
Are you a writer? Do you communicate well in written form? If not, that’s okay! Just be aware of it. You don’t have to be an excellent writer. With knowing how well you write, you can work on your writing, and continue to improve. There are online courses and other blogs that can help you learn how to write better.
If you’re not comfortable with your writing style enough to start sharing it online, consider asking someone to help you write. I have supported many colleagues by reading, reviewing, rewriting some text, offering pointers, etc. as they write their posts. English isn’t the first language for many, writing in another language can be tricky. I only write in one language and I find that tricky enough.
If you’re serious about blogging, get into the habit of writing. Try writing every day, or every other day. Write anything, it doesn’t have to be for your blog, just write anything. Work that muscle and you will improve at it, it will come easier, and faster, with time.
Don’t wait until your writing is perfect, whatever that means. Ensure it’s coherent, and it flows. We’ll cover more on writing blog posts a little later. In the meantime, lean on your friends, family and colleagues to provide some indication on the clarity of your post.
Are you ready for the work?
Blogging takes work. Depending on what you blog about, your articles may require research, testing, proof of concepts, products, gadgets, etc. This work takes time. Are you ready for it? If you’re going to blog about what you had for lunch then maybe there isn’t much work, but if you’re going to blog about the ingredients, and their journey from the farm to your table, then we’re talking about a lot of work.
I highly recommend a trial phase. Before you spin up a new blog and share it with all your friends and family, first see if you can do it. It’ll be worth figuring this out first, rather than kicking off that new blog, sharing with everyone, then only writing 2 posts and never do it again. That’s no fun.
Here’s what you do:
- Identify your cadence of publishing. Will you be planning to publish a new article monthly? Daily? Obviously the more frequent you publish the more writing you’ll be doing. If you’re looking to make money, plan on more frequently (we’ll discuss SEO and driving readers and traffic later).
- If you’re going to write on a schedule, create a rough outline of articles for your first 6 posts. At least 6, this should give you a little buffer for thinking up content. If you’re not planning to write on a schedule and blog whenever you got something, then think up a couple of posts for now. The outline should consist of:
- A Title. This doesn’t have to be click bait worthy, just a title that sums up the article for your own reference
- An Outline. It all depends, but I’d recommend 3-6 bullets, each bullet being a subtitle under your main title.
- Go over your articles once more and add one more layer of bullets, go one level deeper. How is that feeling? Exciting or a burden? Fun or too challenging? A little challenge is great, but if it’s dreadful, maybe this isn’t for you.
- Now start writing! Get through at least your first 2 posts. Grow your bullet outline into sentences and paragraphs. Don’t publish yet, don’t even get a proof read yet. Set a cadence in your day-to-day or week-to-week for writing in your new blog. 2 or 3 posts should give you a feel for the workload. Do not rush and bang them out over a weekend, unless you plan on spending most weekends blogging. I certainly don’t. Be real with yourself. Work on creating the habit of writing for your blog.
- In my next post I’ll go more into how to think about writing your posts. For now, just write something.
How does it feel? Walking through the above should help you create reasonable expectations and habits around blogging.
Like anything, your level of effort and work will vary with mileage. I started off strong for my first few years, then I took one whole year off. I then continued to post randomly. In 2020, I kicked it off with a new drive to write a post at least once a month, then the pandemic hit and took me for a spin. This is all okay in my book because my why is being fulfilled, even without me writing new content frequently, people are finding my posts, I’m still helping others.
Do you still want to blog?
If you’re still reading, and interested in continuing as a blogger, I’m happy for you! In my next posts I’ll provide some tips on writing your posts and starting up a new blog.
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