How to get off your ass and start blogging

start blogging

By Mark Schaefer

Every week I hear the excuses.

“I don’t have time to blog.”

“I don’t know what to write about”

“I don’t know my niche. Isn’t everything taken already?”

There is a lot of competition out there and establishing a blog may not be as easy as it once was, but for many businesses it is still an important part of a content strategy. And if you’re trying to establish a personal brand in your industry, it’s probably vital.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Let’s take each of these problems and address them one by one.

1. I don’t have time to blog.

Blogging can be time-consuming, even if you shoot for one decent post a week.

Like most people, when I started out, blogging was a “nice to have.” Sometimes I had time for it, and sometimes I didn’t. I was not consistent.

After about nine months, I realized that I had established a number of meaningful business contacts from the blog. In fact, it was probably working better than other networking activities. So, at that point I committed to one post a week. The value just kept increasing and increasing every month. Soon, I realized that the content through my blog was a critical piece of my business, but I didn’t really realize that until I was publishing consistently.

Everybody has the same amount of time in the day, so how you spend it is up to you. Here is the deal. You KNOW blogging works. But it is never, ever going to work unless you make the commitment to publish consistently.

Here is guide on how much you need to blog for your business. And here is an inspirational story about how Jeff Bullas transformed his life by becoming a consistent blogger.

2. I don’t know how to start.

This is going to seem like weird advice: Don’t obsess about your niche.

Yes, you need to have a unique voice and angle. But guess what? You might not ever know where you fit in until you actually start blogging. And if you don’t start blogging, you will never know what that might be.

So, just START. Figure out what you THINK your niche will be and go for it. You can always pivot down the road. My blog is radically different from the way it was two years and in a year, it will be different from the way it is now as I learn and grow. Feedback from my readers turns me in subtle new directions all the time.

Here’s a great resource for finding you blogging niche and a guide to starting a blog from scratch. Finally, here’s an excellent case study about a blogger who made a pivot for success.

3. I’m not a good writer

Then you’re not going to be a good blogger. I mean, let’s be honest.

So let’s deal with this. You know creating content is important but you’re not good at it and you don’t enjoy it. Get help.

I have a friend who is a major content creator who hired a writing coach/editor and he is turning out some great stuff. I can point to at least five very well-known social media stars who do not write their own blog posts. In fact, they don’t write their own books.

But they have found a way to publish. Is that mis-leading people? No, if it is done well and with integrity. When a presidential candidate gives a speech, he probably did not entirely write the speech. Is it his? Yes. When a CEO writes a letter to the shareholders in an annual report, did she write it? No. Is it hers? Yes.

I think getting writing help for your blog makes good business sense as long as:

  1. The ideas are yours
  2. You are accountable for every word
  3. You never mis-lead people, including having somebody “engage” for you or you lying about the fact that you get help.

But here is one more tip. Most of the time, becoming a great blogger is not just about writing skills. It’s about blogging courage. Here is a guide to becoming a more confident blogger plus another post with some solid blog-writing tips.

4. I’ve tried blogging but nobody reads it.

Can I share a little insight with you? Of course I can because this is my blog and you have no choice. Here it is. Last week, I had the same amount of traffic on my blog as I had in total for my first two years of blogging.

Why did I keep going when very few people were reading my blog? Because there are lots of benefits to blogging, even when nobody is reading the thing!

When I write a post, it clarifies my thinking. It forces me to learn new practices and stay up to date. The ideas I blog about show up in the college classroom when I teach, in my speeches, and in my consulting engagements.

If you’re feeling a little down about the traffic to your blog, here are 10 great reasons to keep blogging, even if nobody is reading it. I’m convinced that blogging can even make you a more effective leader.  And here are five big ideas to get some engaged blog readers.

5. I don’t know what to write about.

At one time or another, writer’s block (blogger’s block?) is a challenge for every single person.

Ideas come at us all the time, every day. It could be an article we read, a speech we attend, or something we hear on the news. Being a good blogger means always being alert to these ideas — and most important — capturing them. For me, that means writing them down wherever I am and then simply writing the headline for the idea in WordPress as soon as I can.

I have a set time to write every week. It is a quiet time when I know I can concentrate and write undisturbed. I never start with a blank slate because I have a great list of the ideas I have collected all week.

Any time I hit a dry spell, it’s probably because I swerved away from my system.

Blogging takes discipline — not just in writing but in constantly collecting ideas. Also, try to write ahead so you have a few extra blog posts put aside in case you find a week when you simply can’t write.

Here is my system for constant blogging creativity.

6.  What if I say something stupid/wrong/embarrassing?

My friend Ana Canhoto asked this question in the comment section and I realized that this is certainly a big obstacle for people so I decided to add it to the post.

In the safety of your own home, or when you are with friends, most people love to talk and debate. But putting it out in public is another matter. What you are really asking is, “What if people criticize me or are mean to me?”

That is a big fear for many people so let me address it two ways.

First, it is very, very, very unlikely that people will be mean to you or criticize you, even if you do something wrong (I am living proof of this!). In general, people who take the time to read your blog are going to be wonderfully kind and supportive … amazingly so.

I have had more than 50,000 comments on {grow}. Here’s how many I have deleted because they were either harsh or overly spammy: nine. That is a percentage so small that it is not something to even think about.

On the corporate side, I recently did an analysis for a company with the same fear. They thought people would complain all the time about their company if they had comments on their blog. Over six months, here is how many complainers they had:  one.

People might debate your point or challenge you, but that’s part of the fun. Every day {grow} is like a party for me. People leave me these little gifts in the comment section! I truly like to hear other perspectives and I love to hear the other points people make. Those points have even made it into my books and speeches!

My point is, most of the fear of criticism is truly unfounded.

Now, I want to teach you how to turn uncertainty and anxiety into your best blog post ever.

Here’s a little secret. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of ideas, and I am often uncertain if those ideas are right or wrong. Have you noticed that I end most of my posts with something like “what do you think?”  That’s because I really wonder what you think!

By taking this humble approach to blogging, and even admitting that you don’t have all the answers, it brings people to your side and enlists their help, instead of criticism. It really works.

The irony is, the more unsure you are, and by admitting it, you invite engagement and emotional connection because we can all sympathize with that feeling!

Now what?

All of the complaints I’ve outlined today are legitimate concerns for a busy person in a demanding world. But I think any motivated person willing to commit to the work can start and maintain a blog.

What other big issues did I miss? What do you think?

For answers to every blogging question from A-Z, check out the amazing book Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time.

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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