How Do You Start A Blog in 2017?
This is a new series of blog posts based on some of the emails I receive from readers. I think to myself “that’s a good question” and then I really think about my response, so why not publish my responses on here? If you have a question that you don’t mind me answering on here, send to emmaATemmagannon.com.
“Hi Emma, do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into the blogging world now? I don’t know where to start and would love to hear any of your tips.”
I received this message from a student currently studying at University and it made me think how different it must be for someone right now who wants to start a blog from scratch. It also reminded me of emails I used to send. I used to email my favourite writers asking “how do I become a writer?” In hindsight, I wasn’t asking them how to be a writer, I was asking them for reassurance, which is slightly different. I knew, deep down, only I had the answer. I wrote and wrote, until my bum was numb in my chair. It’s weird that I now receive similar emails to the ones I used to send, because you realise that no-one (literally no-one) has the answer. It’s like everyone enters a totally different maze at the fun park so everyone else’s advice is redundant. You have to figure your own route out of there.
Asking how to start or grow a blog in 2017 though—it’s a valid question. How do you do it now? How do you stand out from the crowd? Is blogging a legit career choice? Is it too competitive now? Is it luck of the draw? How does one ‘become’ a blogger?
Asking “how do I become a blogger” is actually asking “how do I become a successful blogger”? Because if you get on WordPress and write something and click ‘publish’ by definition you are a blogger and you should stick it in your bio and feel good about what you’ve started. That’s the thing though, you have to continue doing it and carry it on. In 2009, this New York Times article cited data suggesting that 95% of blogs are derelicts. Their owners abandoned them. Ninety-five percent!
And the real answer is, I don’t know. All I know is you have to have your own motivations for blogging, dancing, singing, acting—whatever it is that you dream of doing for a job that is known for being competitive. All I know is specifically how to start a blog in 2009, find *my* thing and ride the wave of the blogging boom and turn that success into other things. But that advice is of no use to anyone, regardless of whether you have a time-machine or not. I know how to do it my way, which is not the only way. I know that I wrote for 8 years on this blog which seems a long time for something to start paying off (properly) only a few years ago. I wouldn’t have a clue how to start one now. Perhaps I would be too intimidated. But I know that I would probably end up doing it anyway, because I love writing more than a lot of other things in life. There are success stories around us, of people who started their blogs less than a year ago with a very specific mission and already have a powerful brand. It’s possible. Very possible. It’s not too late to start anything, but we only know our own ways of doing things. Do that. Do it your way.
My top three tips (for blogging, but for any career move tbh) would be:
1. Have a strategy
I mean “strategy” sounds a bit fancy but all I mean is a plan of action (POA). It’ll make you feel focused and have some short-term plans. (In my opinion, there’s no point making long-term plans in this day and age, Instagram might not exist in five years, WE JUST DON’T KNOW. RIP Vine.) Your strategy should include:
a) what sort of posts you want to write about
b) what sort of blogging ‘brand’ you want to build
c) what your niche is and
d) what you actually want to get out of it.
No answer is a bad answer. Your answer to d) could be “BECAUSE I WANT ALL THE MONEY” or “I think blogging might be good for my mental health.” Find what truly motivates you and hang onto it. Then of course you also need a social media strategy. This includes content ideas, photography, writing style and ways to grow your social media platforms, just like if you were your very own magazine.
2. Have some grit
Have you heard of the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth? It’s very good. It’s all about determination and that ‘success’ is actually just based on a very unglamorous amount of grit. Grit is based on the idea that you do not deserve anything on a plate. Grit reminds me of the documentaries you watch when Hollywood actors recall their shit jobs. Grit is quite hardcore. Grit is the opposite of Instagram filters. Grit is all the late-nights that no one sees. Grit isn’t “being busy for the sake of it”, it’s hard work with an outcome. Grit is boring. Grit is sacrifice. Grit is doing the work that no one gets to skip. Grit is totally erasing the idea of an overnight success.
3. Don’t put your eggs in one basket
This is quite an important one regarding anything in the creative industries. Personally, something like blogging only works when you don’t have *everything* riding on it. I don’t know anyone who can just magically quit their job and start a blog and buy endless amounts of plants. For me, it was something that was very much a “side-hustle” for years and years which then turned into something I could properly grow and make money from. It’s exactly the same as any other creative endeavour (acting, writing, comedy), most of the time you have to have another job or means of income to support yourself. I worked in marketing and magazines for six years before I turned into a self-employed writer/blogger. I guess that’s my only advice: start it, strategise it, grow it, put some grit into it and see where it leads to.
“In love with Emma Gannon’s Ctrl Alt Delete. So funny & smart, and reminding me of some of my own cringe teen Internet exploits!”– Anna James, former literary editor of ELLE
"Funny, honest, and nostalgic!"– The Debrief
“Emma Gannon is a bright spark of light in the world. I seriously dig everything she makes”– Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Big Magic