Are you just tired of living a life where all you do is go through the motions? Nothing you ever do is exciting. Your life is fine but you wonder about your life purpose. You are curious about whether you can pursue a location independent lifestyle. You want to know if you can become a laptop entrepreneur. Don’t know what business to start? Learn why you should blog instead!
Are you someone who is fascinated with the idea of running an online business but just don’t know if you can do it? Maybe you are a young mum who took time off to raise children but now the thought of going back to your 9-5 or more like 9-7 job frustrates you to no end? Perhaps you are stuck in a job you don’t like very much and can’t wait to escape your cubicle?
Today I have a proposition for you. You don’t have to leave your job, you don’t have to do anything drastic like taking out a 100,000 dollar loan. I want to help you find meaningful work, to become an entrepreneur, if that’s what you want to do, and the easiest way to do this is to start a blog. Allow me to explain.
Why start with a blog
Firstly, I want you to understand this one thing: If you want to run a business you need something to sell – a product or a service, you need to find people to sell it to, and a place to actually conduct this business, like a brick or mortar store or a website. Since we are talking about an online business, it makes sense to kick things off with a website right?
Wrong. Right, if you know exactly what you want to do. For example:
- It’s fine to invest in a website when you want to leave your corporate job and start a consulting service.
- It’s ok to do so when you have been training to get certified as a coach, knowing fully well that you want to build your coaching practice.
- It’s good to do so when you have been creating party supplies for friends and want to set up a party supplies shop.
In this post I am talking to those of you who haven’t figured out what you want to do yet. Sure, you have some idea of your interests and passions and probably can pick a niche but after that, you are clueless. You don’t even know who your ideal client or customer is, let alone create a product or a service. If this is you, my advice is to start a blog. Here’s why:
Blogs are inexpensive to run. Although you can start with a free wordpress.com blog, I won’t recommend it. It looks amateurish and tell people that you are a hobby blogger which is not true. You may not know what you want to do but you are most definitely not blogging just for fun. You should get a self-hosted WordPress blog (you can secure a domain name and annual hosting for around $100 a year).
You don’t have to invest in expensive design or branding. It would be foolish to do so when you aren’t even sure what your offerings are at this stage. Just install a decent looking free theme or get a premium one if you are feeling adventurous.
You can make all sorts of mistakes on your blog and be grateful for the fact that only a handful of people know you are doing it. You get to fail a couple of times but take solace in the fact you didn’t do it on a grand scale.
You can make changes easily and on your own. Want to shift direction? No worries, add the information on your about page, your tag line and take your content in a different direction. You don’t have a million followers at this point so relax – it’s all good. Your blog can evolve with you.
You will figure out what business you want to be in. Through blogging, you will figure out the products you want to create or services you want to offer. You will identify your target audience and you will learn to market yourself and build credibility. This will happen naturally.
Google will reward you. You will learn to create high quality content that people will find so useful that they begin to link to you. Your stuff will start seeing better search engine rankings and you will enjoy social media recognition for your blogging efforts.
Most importantly, you can start building an email list using email service provider from day one, even if this list goes through many transformations it is crucial that you learn how to get email subscribers and nurture them.
Get your basics right
Let’s say you have started a blog because you hate your job inside a big corporation. It doesn’t feed your soul. What does? Food.
Yes you are a big foodie at heart and watch all the big celebrity chefs and the not too big local cooking shows. You cook for your family and friends. Not only you are a great cook, you are passionate about using food to connect with people. So you start a food blog. Now what? Don’t panic, I am here to help.
Get the right mindset. Many people want to start a blog but don’t do so because they feel paralyzed with the expectations they create for themselves. In order to make this as painless as I can, I will debunk the two biggest myths that stop people from blogging.
Myth#1. You have to become a popular blogger.
You might already be following the influencers and the thought leaders in your industry – you can easily spot who they are in other industries as well. They are the Internet megastars – the celebrities. They have larger than life presence with huge audiences and have the personalities to match.
Understand that you don’t need to be like them, nor do you need to attract huge audiences. Your purpose is to figure out what you want to do, test that your idea is profitable, and attract a decent audience. Don’t worry about anything else.
Myth#2. You have to publish content every day.
You are not Huffington post, or Mashable, or Social Media Examiner for that matter. You don’t have a team of content creators at your disposal. You also have a job and a family to look after. In this content saturated world, quality is far more important than quantity. Blog as much or as little as you want. Once you find something viable then stick to a once-a-week schedule for optimal results.
Where to begin
1. Choose a professional theme. You don’t have to hire a designer to make it look professional, invest in a clean-looking theme. Don’t use flashy, distracting graphics or bombard your visitors with 10 different colours. Your aim should be to have your new visitors focus on the content and become an email subscriber.
2. Pay attention to the blog title. Go for a very general name because you are not sure in which direction the blog will go or get a URL in your own name – this is a very smart thing to do.
3. Craft an effective tag line. A tag line basically informs your audience why they should care. It tells them what’s in it for them so put some thought into it. You don’t have to rack your brains coming up with the most original or creative tag line. As long as it is a clear descriptor of what you do to help people, it should be fine.
4. Brainstorm topics for your blog and arrange them in categories. Now you have a blog that is functional. The next step is to figure out what to write about. Before you can create a content plan for your blog – and I will talk about that in the next post – you need to make a list of ideas you can write about. The easiest way is to just brainstorm a list of ideas you feel compelled to create and the simply look for common themes to create categories.
5. Turn to popular bloggers you already follow for inspiration. Start creating an idea file. By doing this exercise, not only will you be prepared but it will also give you a clue as to how you might monetize your blog.
6. Learn how to write on the web. While looking for material for blog posts, also pay attention to how popular bloggers write. You are not writing academic essays or marketing collateral. You have to be yourself when it comes to writing – write like you talk, only better. Infuse your writing with your personality and be real.
7. Learn to format your blog posts for the virtual world. Make them screen friendly by breaking up your paragraphs and using short sentences. Use sub-headings, bold, italics, numbered lists and images to break up chunky blocks of text. Incorporate lots of white space to make it easy on the eyes.
8. Start using social media. Once you become confident in writing blog posts, it is time to start getting attention. You don’t have to become active on every single social media site out there but choose one to two platforms that most resonate with you. For most people it is Facebook, for you it might be Twitter or Pinterest or Google+. It really doesn’t matter as long as you start building your presence consistently.
9. Start connecting with your about page. When people visit your site for the first time, they are curious to know who you are. For this reason, pay attention to your about page as it is a second most highly visited page of your blog.
Now here is the tricky part. Your blog is an experiment. You have no idea how you want to help people so what are you going to write on your about page? I highly recommend being honest. Tell them your story, tell them what you are personally struggling with but also the cool things you have accomplished in your life. Talk about your passion and your intent to help people and figure this out. Your message will resonate with a lot of people and they will follow you on your journey.
10. Start collecting email addresses. If you want to run an online business, you need to build your email list (more about that in the third post). Ask people to become an email subscriber from day 1. You will get people who are not your ideal target audience but don’t worry – think of it as practice.
Goals for the first six months
Most people start blogs with the goal of attracting 1000 people in their first year or making a thousand dollars every month to start off with. There is nothing wrong with these goals but when you don’t even know what it is you want to do, you can set much better, more effective goals.
You should aim to figure out these things at the end of your six months:
- What is the topic I am passionate about? So much so that I can talk about it for the next two years. Can I do a better job than most people based on my unique experiences and perspective I bring to the table?
- What is the thing nobody seems to be talking about? Is there a gap in the market I can fill?
- How can I start to differentiate myself from others?
- Based on the topic I want to talk about, who are my most ideal readers? Who are the people I can serve the most?
- What is the easiest path to helping people AND generating income for my efforts?
- Can I create a minimum viable product (MVP)? What would it look it? Would it be a coaching offer, an ebook, an online class or an e-course?
Remember the very reason you started this blog: to figure out how you can help others and what kind of business to start. So instead on focusing on numbers like traffic and social media mentions and email subscribers, develop a deeper understanding of how can monetize. You can do it.
Now that you have all the basics taken care off, I want to talk to you about something that most people don’t pay any attention to. But if you want to use your blog as the foundation to start a business, you must take it seriously.
Two words. Content strategy.
Do I see a yawn coming? Creating a content plan doesn’t have to be boring. In fact once you understand the crucial role your content plays in moving your business forward, you’ll thank me for it.
Stay tuned for part two in this series where I take you through the process of looking at your content creation process in a whole new light. In the meantime, share with us in the comments below what you think about blogging as a business!