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How to Start a Successful Blog Today

How to Start a Successful Blog Today Blogging? Not Again!

Read our lips: this is the last time we write about blogging on this website. Ever.
We didn’t plan on writing anything else about blogging after publishing Who The Hell Reads Your Blog Anyway? We don’t like writing about blogging. We think that blogs about blogging are banal and vapid and they just don’t interest us 

How to Start a Successful Blog Today Reasons You Should Blog

“Why” being the key word here. In other words, he talks about the purpose of blogging, not just the “how to” aspects. That’s what all of these other blogs about blogging are missing, they are missing the purpose, they are missing the why. All of the reasons that Joshua Becker lists in his article are great reasons to write a blog; we found that they all pertained to us and to this site (W/R/T why we started this site last year).

How to Start a Successful Blog Today Reasons You Should NOT Blog

 how to start one, step-by-step, based on our personal experience, but before we give you that type of detailed instruction—which could literally save you the hundreds of hours of wasted time—we want to give you some good reasons why you should not start a blog. Keep in mind that these reasons are just our opinions and we do not pretend to offer them up as some sort of collection empirical blogging maxims:
  1. Money. You should not start blogging to make money. We need to get that out of the way first. If your primary objective is to replace your full time income from blogging, forget about it. It doesn’t work that way. Do you think that Jimi Hendrix picked up his first guitar so he could “supplement his income”? No, he didn’t. Rather, he did it for the love of it, for the joy and fulfillment he received, and the income came thereafter, much later actually.
  2. Notoriety. Don’t plan on getting internet famous right away. It’s hard for us to say this, but don’t expect for your site to grow as fast as our site did. The truth is that we kind of got lucky. Joshua (i.e., Millburn not Becker) had already made some personal face-to-face connections with some A-list bloggers—those connections had nothing to do with blogging at the time—and thus some key relationships were already established when we decided to take the plunge and start writing online. Luckily, we got a great domain name, somehow created a logo and site design that people really liked, we write fairly well, and our content connects with people in a unique way. We also have a lot of experience leading and coaching people and we believe that that shows in our essays. We didn’t start this site to become famous though. Our notoriety and quick rise to fame, as it were, came as a surprise to us, and was a result of a little luck and a lot of hard, passionate work.
  3. Traffic. Not all traffic is good traffic (as we explained here), so don’t worry about getting thousands of readers right away. We’re honored to have tens of thousands of readers each month—more than some of our favorite blogs actually—but we’re even more honored to have the Great Quality Readers that we have, the ones who are engaged and who follow us on Twitter andFacebook and who comment on our site. Perhaps Jonny Lang (the amazing blues musician) said it best with a lyric that seems to be a synecdoche for any creative endeavor (coincidentally, the song is aptly titled “One Person at a Time”):
It would sure be nice to go triple platinum
But there’s no guarantee it’s ever going to happen
And if I can only reach one set of ears
I know that I fulfilled my purpose here

How to Start a Successful Blog Today

Recommendations for Your Blog

We get emails every week asking for advice on starting a blog. We enjoy those emails. Here are the things we tend to recommend.
  1. Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. What are you passionate about? Have you found your passion? If so, write about that. If not, then you must first find your passion. And you probably shouldn’t blog about…
  2. Minimalism. Do not blog about minimalism. There, we said it. But, more specifically, what we mean is don’t just start another minimalism blog. Minimalism, almost by definition, is banal and void of substance (that sentence was painful to write). So don’t write about minimalism unless you’re certain that you have an utterly unique point of view that will add value to others in a way that other sites don’t add value currently.
  3. Define Your Ideal Readers. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to know who will be reading your stuff. For example, we write about living a more meaningful life; our ideal readers are people who are interested in exploring minimalism so that they too can live a more meaningful life, so that they can grow as individuals and contribute to others in a meaningful way. If you want to write about your newborn baby growing up, that’s great; your ideal readers are probably your friends and family, and that’s cool. If you want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool too. Tailor your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or your local community or whomever else will read your blog).
  4. Add Value. Your content must add value to your readers’ lives. This is the only way you will get Great Quality Readers to your site (and keep them coming back). Adding value is the only way to get someone’s longterm buy-in. We both learned this after a decade of leading and managing people.
  5. Be Original. Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing you want to write about. Q: So why is your blog any different? A: Because of you.You are what makes your blog different, it’s about your perspective, yourcreativity, the value that you add.
  6. Be Interesting. Write epic, awesome content. Especially if you want people to share it with others.
  7. Be Yourself. Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every person is unique and your story is an important one. The important part of story telling, however, is removing the superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.
  8. Be Honest. We determined that you can be your blog or your blog can be you. That is to say, do you really embody the stuff that you write about? If not, people will see through you. Be the change you want to see in the world, is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should be the blog they want to write for the world.
  9. Transparency. Being transparent is different from being honest. You needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being honest. Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to what you’re writing. (You won’t ever see pictures of us using the restroom on our site; it’s just not relevant.)
  10. Time. Blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as we are (we spent over 10 hours testing the fonts on this site. And see those black Twitter, Facebook, & c. icons at the top right, above our picture? We spent four hours on those). That said, once you have your design set up, don’t tweak it too much, spend the time on your writing.
  11. Vision. The reason our site design looks good is because we had a vision of how we wanted it to look, and then we worked very hard to make that vision a reality (N.B. neither one of us had any design experience prior to starting this site). It’s hard to create a great looking site if you don’t know what you want it to look like.
  12. Find Your Voice. Over time good writers discover their voice and their writing tends to develop a certain aesthetic, one that is appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing feel more alive, more real, more urgent.
  13. We Instead Of You. “statements of ‘we/our’ rather than ‘you/your’ especially when talking about negative behaviors or tendencies.” It reads far less accusatory. Think of it this way: we’re writing peer-to-peer, we are not gods.
  14. When To Post. Q: When is the best day/time to post a blog post or an essay? Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We don’t adhere to a particular schedule. Some weeks we post zero essays. Sometimes we post three (N.B. we post about one essay per week on average).
  15. Social Media. Yes, we recommend using Twitter and Facebook to help connect with readers and other bloggers, but don’t get too caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.
  16. Negative Criticism. We have an off color apothegm that we use for negative commenters on our site: screw ‘em. Sure, we get a lot of negative comments and emails from people who aren’t really our readers (e.g., “are you guys gay?” and “you’re not real minimalists” and so forth). We call these people seagulls: they fly in, shit on your site, and fly away. 
  17. Research. Spend your time researching what you’re writing about. The reason we are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in our essays is because we put in the time to research our topics. That doesn’t mean that we read all of these blogs regularly, but we put in the time reading them when we’re doing our research.
  18. Keep It Simple. This is where minimalism can be applied to any blog, irrespective of its genre. No need to place superfluous advertisements or widgets all over your site, just stick to the basics and remove anything you don’t need.
  19. Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People identify with other people. If two two goofy guys from Ohio aren’t too afraid to put there pictures on their site, then you have nothing to worry about.
  20. Live Your Life. You’re blogging about your life (or about certain aspects of your life, at least), so you still need to live your life. There are things that we always put before writing: exercise, health, personal relationships, coffee (Joshua), advanced knitting and crochet classes (Ryan).

How to Start a Successful Blog Today: Step-by-Step Instructions

Now you have a bunch of advice and a bunch of homework (i.e., links to read) and you know what you want to write about and you’re ready to get started, but you don’t have any idea where to start. Guess what, neither did we. At all. Literally. We were clueless. We could hardly spell HTML when we started our website last year.
But good news, you can learn from our pain and suffering. This is what we did:
Theme. We are using the havelockknight Theme (formerly Frugal), which made everything much easier since we didn’t know anything about coding or building a website.
Tinkering. Once we had our domain, hosting, WordPress, and theme, we spent a lot of time tweaking the theme to get the look and feel we wanted (i.e., making our vision a reality). Then we spent even more time tweaking the theme and arguing about it and tweaking it some more. We also set up a free Feedburner account so people could subscribe to our site via email and RSS subscriptions. And we established a free Google Analytics account (to track our stats from time to time). Feedburner and Google Analytics were both easy to sign up for (again, please keep in mind that we didn’t know anything about setting up a website).
Plugins. We only use a few plugins on our site: “Google Analytics for WordPress” and the “Really Simple Facebook Twitter share buttons” plugins (it’s important to make your posts easy to share with others). They take just a few seconds (literally a few seconds; it’s just a click of a button) to install once your site is all set up. If you really want to play around with some cool plugins though, check Eight Deuce Media’s 11 WordPress Plugins That Will Get You Laid.
Content. Last, we started uploading our content (via our WordPress site). We designed the logo using some free images we found online and text from a regular word processing program called Pages for Mac, which is similar to MS Word for PC. We put our picture on the site and we started writing essays. And the rest is history, as they say.

Take Me to the Why

We hope you found value in this essay. Most important, we hope you understand that real value lies within the why, it lies within the purpose of whatever you are doing. So ask yourself, Why am I writing this? and Why is this important? and Is this adding value in some way? Those are the important questions.
We would wish you good luck in closing, but the truth is that we wish you way more than luck.

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