Blogging isn’t something that only the nerdy types or teens do anymore, and it most certainly goes beyond posting pictures of your children (or pets for the childless out there) and griping about your job.  Blogging is, for some, a business or a source of extra spending money.  It’s also a source of money, power, and satisfaction.  But as it goes in professional sports, there are millions playing in the neighborhood little leagues, but a very small minority will ever make it to the big leagues.  So how do you improve your chances of taking your blog from beyond just a hobby into something that you add to your resume and turn into cash?

1. Be prepared to pour in your blood, sweat and tears.

Very rarely does a blog go from a readership consisting of your family, friends, co-workers, and admirers (or enemies)  that have figured out how to stalk you online, to an overnight success.  Sure, if you break a big story and CNN picks it up and gives you a shout-out, you might get an instant influx of visitors, but the chances of that happening are slim.  So instead of banking on a miracle, be prepared to slave away at it for a bit.  Know that you will at times doubt yourself and your ability to go on, that you will have to force yourself to blog when you really don’t feel like it.  Be prepared, perhaps, not to know what “free time” is anymore.  This may not be true in all cases, but for someone like me that runs a news oriented blog, it’s a 24/7 operation.  A blog focusing on, say, technology might not have to be so vigilant in covering breaking news.

2. Before you start blogging, think about what you will be blogging about.

My interests are so varied that I couldn’t pick just one topic to blog about, and I knew I’d probably get bored writing about the same thing day after day, week after week, year after year. That being said, if you want to establish yourself as an expert in a field or topic area, then a more focused blog will be most suitable.

3. Avoid free blog services.

Resist the temptation to start with a free blog on Blogger, WordPress or any of the other free, hosted blogging services.  You will kick yourself later, trust me.  If you’re serious about taking your blog beyond a recreational activity, do yourself a favor and buy a domain and web hosting.  You can start with something as simple and cheap as GoDaddy, and move as your site grows. I started out with shared hosting, and since then I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been kicked off hosts due to my site’s growth and resource usage.  These days, we have our own server.

4. If you use a premade template, at least customize some parts of it.

A unique design will make your blog more memorable.  If you do use a premade template that thousands of other people have also installed on their blog, which I have nothing against, try to customize it at least a little bit.  At the very least, pay someone $50 to make you a nice logo.

5. Consider a collaborative effort.

You’ll have to share the profits, but sometimes two (or three or four…)  is better than one.  It takes some pressure off of you as you’re not the sole blogger, and if you need to step away for a few days, there’s someone else to cover for you.  Just choose your partner or partners wisely, and strongly consider getting your partnership arrangement in writing, just in case things sour one day.

6. Socialize and network with others.

Join Twitter and Facebook and start a conversation with your readers.  Make sure to reply to comments on your blog.  By talking with your readers, you’ll keep them checking back in and you’ll be at the forefront of their minds, making them more likely to become a repeat visitor.  Repeat visitors are very important in establishing your blog.  Fly-by traffic is still worthwhile, but building a loyal readership base is crucial.  Making friends with other bloggers and website owners can also be beneficial as they can help drive traffic your way.

It’s not as easy as it looks or sounds.

Many have tried and failed. It can be done, and it doesn’t take a huge advertising budget, a staff of writers, or luck.  However, it does take some degree of talent (if you are a horrible writer, I’d advise against pouring your heart into making a career of blogging) and a whole lot of dedication and drive. Having a plan also helps, although if you don’t have one you can still become successful, it just might take you longer as you figure things out along the way.  I’ve been doing this for years now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

In Part 2 – Mistakes to Avoid of this multi-part series on becoming a blogging success I’ll talk about what NOT to do, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

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