How to Start Your Blog — Or Outsource It!
A reader writes:
“Hey Doug! Just read the advice you posted about blogging for money and I am left with a question.
What kinda number can I expect to pay out to get someone to do all the leg work for me in terms of setting it up.
I am computer illiterate for the most part and it’s not something that can change. Trust me I have tried.
I love writing and sharing my opinion and would love to get paid to do it. I also have an assortment of topics I can write about, including my family’s next chapter in life, so it should make for some neat stories.”
Literally thousands of businesses want to run their ads on your blog. Google AdSense advertisers will pay you a ludicrous amount of money for an incredible variety of blogging keywords. Amazon (and dozens of other businesses) will pay you an affiliate fee if you persuade your readers to buy that company’s products. Pundits have predicted the demise of the blogger gold rush for at least five years.
Yet every year it keeps getting bigger, better organized, and more professional. It also gets cheaper for us bloggers. I considered blogging an analogy of the personal computer revolution in 1985, when PCs were spreading across the globe. In the last year, though, the rise of mobile devices has caught the entire blogging industry flat-footed and we’re scrambling to catch up. Maybe it’s more like 1994 when the Web gained traction.
Write Stuff That People Want to Read
Ironically, content is the industry’s biggest bottleneck. Every blogger (and every company) needs someone to write stuff that people want to read. If you love to write, then blogging needs your help. You might think that there’s way too much competition, but the sad fact is that as many as 30% of North America’s blogs go dark every year due to a lack of content.
The blogging bar is not very high. In fact, it’s low enough to trip over– and I have been living proof of that standard for four years. Blogging simply requires a sustained effort to write followed by promoting your writing. If your topic generates enough traffic, then some of these businesses will pay you a lifestyle income. I personally know a dozen writers and bloggers who earn a living online, and they’ve done that for several years.
“Simple” is not easy. We all know how to save for financial independence, how to cut our expenses, how to lose weight, how to exercise, and how to eat healthily– yet most of us do not. Most of us “simply“ lack the commitment to those life-enhancing goals, and we’re not very efficient at pursuing them. Blogging is one more goal where you either have to be hard-wired or you have to be internally motivated.
There’s only one way to find out whether you have what it takes: start a blog and start writing. If you have at least a sixth-grade education, then you can start now. Your writing (and your promotions) will only improve with practice.
Like every gold rush, only a small fraction strike it rich. You should start a blog because you have something to say, not because you plan to get filthy rich. Most bloggers can earn a nice side-hustle hobby income that generates a thousand dollars annually. If your message is popular enough (and if you keep promoting it) then your income will ramp up.
Pay Someone to Set Up Your Blog?
Building a blog has been considerably dumbed down. If you want to pay someone to build your blog for you, a “blog designer” (perhaps a college student) will ask $50-$100 for the labor. If you choose WordPress.com’s free website for your host and agree to their default domain name, then you’ll never have to pay a penny for their support. Your only expense (ever) will be the blog designer.
However, WordPress.com doesn’t allow users to run their own advertising on their system and you won’t earn much revenue from their proprietary WordAds revenue sharing. In fact, if you earn money from WordAds then your traffic would generate much more revenue from running your blog on a paid host with your own advertising. I’d only use WordPress.com if I wanted a free blog for family or for a neighborhood website.
If you want more choices with your blog and its accessories, and if you want to run your own advertising, then you’ll have to use a different host and pay for a custom domain name. Before you hire a blog setup service, decide whether you’re willing to pay small recurring fees for the chance to generate your own revenue on your self-hosted blog. It will pay for itself within two years.
WordPress wants everyone to set up a blog with their free WordPress.ORG open-source software, even if it’s not hosted on WordPress.com. Bluehost or HostGator want you to use their hardware and services to register your domain name and handle your traffic. If you stick to the default setup then you can type your first post in under five minutes. In addition to paying someone to set up your blog, you’ll pay less than $75/year for hosting and domain name registration.
Bargains are everywhere. Registering your domain name costs from $5-$25/year, but some hosts will bundle that into their first-year special rate. You could let Bluehost register your domain name during your blog setup, or you could register it separately with another company like GoDaddy.
You can find cheaper hosts and domain name services, but these companies are good enough. Don’t overthink it– you can always switch later if you change your mind.
Your blog should be set up with a free theme like Twenty Fourteen, and don’t worry (yet) about advanced tools like Genesis or Thesis or e-mail subscriber lists. You’ll also want the free WordPress “Jetpack” plugin to give you all the social media and search engine optimization services. You can change these features later with no risk and no code tweaking. (I know bloggers who change their themes several times a year.) I wouldn’t buy extra services like tailored backups or search-engine optimization or link security. The host’s basics are good enough for now, and the premium services are generally sold by fear marketing. You can bolt on more options as you grow into them.
My last thousand words have tried to persuade you to create your own blog. However, if you would rather hire someone, then I used NetCrafted.com in 2012 to switch to a new host and move the database. I highly recommend the company. If I moved the blog tomorrow then I’d hire BlogCrafted all over again.
When you hire a pro to do the setup work for you, some of them have affiliate deals with Bluehost and a few will lowball you now in hopes of upselling you later. Whoever you hire may tell you “Go to Bluehost, register your domain name and sign up for a year of hosting, pick your login name and password, e-mail those to me, and I’ll log in to do the rest.”
Start Writing – And Be Consistent
When you use WordPress.ORG open-source blog software then you have a bewildering, overwhelming, paralyzing array of thousands of choices. If you’re the type of person who likes to read directions, then use the WordPress “Blogging 101” curriculum to walk you through the high points. (You’ll use their advanced tutorials a few months later.) If you want to leap right in, then ignore all of the choices and just splash around. Randomly click on stuff and use the help menu. It’s nearly impossible to break a blog, and you have an “undo” button to back out of dead ends.
The hardest part of blogging is finding your writing pace. Try to write every day for at least 20 minutes, and find a time that works for you– early morning before the family is up, or right after dinner, or during your commute (on public transport!). Don’t worry about keywords or search engine optimization or any of the other blogger buzzwords– just write stuff that people want to read. Give yourself six months to get smart on the writing part before you start running advertising. By the end of the first year you’ll learn the techniques you need to care about, you’ll know exactly how you want to handle your blogging, and you might be earning $50/month.
Turn on the Money Faucet
Your revenue depends on what you’re selling. Every blogger should build several different income streams, and the two most popular are Google AdSense plus Amazon Associates. Amazon does most of the work for you, and will even set up your store on your blog for you— for free. You may also want to sell your own products (eBooks or pamphlets) or run advertising from an affiliate consolidator or directly with a particular client. That info is all over the Internet, too, and you’ll find plenty of mentors (including me) or partners.
Do you want help with the advertising and eBook sales? I’ve worked with a couple of experts in that area too. First up is Crystal Stemberger of Budgeting In The Fun Stuff, who will run your blog advertising for you. (Last time I checked she was doing it for over 200 customers. Not only did she quit her day job to build this business, but she asked her spouse to quit his job too.) Crystal takes her cut of the gross revenue, and you keep the rest. If you want to learn from Crystal instead of just paying her for expertise, then I highly recommend her book “How I Make Money Blogging“. I earned back the price of the book several times over in the first week.
I can also recommend a high-voltage entrepreneur to help you with both setting up your blog and advising you on eBook sales. She’s very organized and highly efficient. She also just quit her day job because she makes more money as an entrepreneur.
Find Your Tribe
Not everyone can blog alone in a quiet room with no human interaction– not even me. (Well, not all the time.) Social media helps you stay in touch with other bloggers in your niche, of course, but you’ll also want to keep up with the business side of blogging. The best way to develop your business plan and execute it is with a mastermind group of other bloggers or entrepreneurs.
Join other blogging groups on Facebook and Google+ and ask how to form your mastermind group. You might be invited into an existing group, or several of you could start a new one. You might be in the same blogging niche or in totally different topics, in the same city (for meetups in person as well as online) or spread across the globe.
You’ll each have different areas of experience, and you’ll help each other figure out your own goals. Once you’ve shared your plans with the group, you’ll feel more accountable for executing on schedule– and you’ll also know that you have help for obstacles or bad days. You’ll look forward to that weekly phone call or Google Hangout for an hour of Q&A, or just inspiration and encouragement.
Along with a mastermind group, try to attend a conference in your niche. Media celebrities and rock-star bloggers will be there too, but you’ll meet even more people who have figured out the best techniques for your group. I’ve tremendously enjoyed my last two FinCons and I’m eagerly anticipating FinCon14. It’s a concentrated dose of inspiration and explanations, and the entrepreneurial spirit filling the hallways is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. You’ll get help with a few problems, you’ll learn new techniques, you’ll pick up a freelance gig or two, and you’ll come away inspired.
I’m often asked, “What would I do if I was starting over?”
I spent two years with a free WordPress.com blog just to market my book. (Readers had to click through to Amazon, yet I couldn’t even use an affiliate code to get a commission.) At the beginning of the third year, Blogcrafted moved everything to Bluehost and WordPress.ORG. A couple months later I finally fired up AdSense (and Amazon Associates). If I was starting over then I would’ve skipped the free WordPress.com part and started with Bluehost, then fired up the ads within the first six months.
I’d also use more editorial calendars and outlines to help develop products. Draft a rough book outline about your bogging niche (you’re also going to blog about writing the outline) and write posts that you can plug into the chapters of that outline.
If you follow the outline then by the time you’ve written 50 posts, you’ll have enough material to create (and sell) your first eBook of 30-100 pages. Advertise it as a PDF for $3.99 with a money-back guarantee. (You can go Kindle for the next edition.)
Along with AdSense ads and Amazon affiliate income, you’ll have three separate revenue streams to build up. Depending on your topic you could also develop online courses, podcasts, or videos for additional revenue streams. People want to browse your content, and a surprising number of them are happy to pay for their own hardcopy in case you’re not around years later.
Finally: recycle. When a reader e-mails me a question, I’ll e-mail my response and later turn it into a blog post– just like this one!
After I contribute to an interesting forum discussion, I’ll blog about it. If the military starts a new program then I’ll blog about it, advise people how to use it, and post updates every few months. I’ll even blog about an interesting surf session or family events.
Ask me your questions in the comments, or send me an e-mail. Otherwise, get to it: set up your blog and start writing.
Update to “Just Write It”
How to Start a Blog for Fun or Profit.
Bloggers from the USAA conference
“So Nords, why are you still blogging?”
Beginner’s guide to part-time blogging for money
FinCon – The Financial Media Conference
MIC – The Military Influencer Conference