Behind-the-scenes blogging, part 1

Fame, fun, and fortune! Over the past decade or so, a multitude of people have gone searching for one or more of this enticing trinity through the same route: blogging. Some see blogging primarily as a creative outlet; others plan to make money from their site; while businesses might hope to draw more attention to their products. Whatever your reason for wanting to start a blog, don’t just jump in without taking the time to consider the answers to these seven questions.

1. What am I passionate about?

Whether you’re setting out to blog as a hobby, have a business plan in mind, or are going to be setting up a blog for an established business, there’s a huge amount of scope with regards to topics. Think very carefully about what you’re truly passionate about. What do you talk about with friends, or would talk about with friends if only your friends were interested? What’s something that makes you really excited, or engaged, or angry? If you’re truly interested in a topic, this will show through in your writing, and the opposite is true as well.

Starting a blog is pretty exciting!
What excites you?

2. What is it about this that excites me?

Once you’ve found the general topic, narrow it down a bit. Don’t make the mistake of deciding to write a blog about “travel” or “being a mother”. Those are far too general. What is it about travel that you love? Packing? Discovering new places? Digging into the history of a place? Doing it all on a budget? Or, what makes your journey as a mother different? Do you have twins? Are you vegan? Rural? In a big city? Travelling with your family? Find a niche that expresses who you are and what you want to write about.

Chris Guillebeau“I don’t have a niche; I get bored far too easily to choose something so specific. I do have a mission, though: to help people live unconventional lives. This is expressed through lots of different strategies and media.”

Chris Guillebeau, entrepreneur, author, and founder of The Art of Non-Conformity

3. Who else cares about this?

There are certainly people out there who share your interest, or could be persuaded to! Who are they? Do you know other people in your neighbourhood who are interested in your topic, or have you seen people discussing it in online communities? In other words, are there people who would read your writing if they found it?

Fill those stands!
If there’s no-one out there who is interested in your topic, choose another one!

4. Is this group big enough to warrant writing to?

While you might find an untapped reserve of people who secretly love knitting holiday sweaters while cruising in the South Pacific, for example, the group might not be large enough to justify starting a blog for. That said, if you’re truly passionate about the subject and are primarily blogging for your own enjoyment, this might not be a problem. People might be interested in hearing your story, even if they never plan to pick up a knitting needle in their life (or whatever).

5. Who is my ideal reader?

Take some time to consider who you will be writing for when you start the blog. Sure, your main reader might be your mum for the first few months, but is she the person you’re aiming for?

Create a profile of your ideal reader, including age, location, and interests. Give this avatar a name and when you’re writing, you’ll find it easier to know what to say, as you can imagine you’re writing straight to this imaginary person. If you know your avatar well (and to be honest, he/she’s probably going to be quite like you, or a younger you) then you’ll find it easier to identify suitable topics and reject inappropriate ones.

His name is Bob.
Who’s your ideal reader? Draw a picture if it helps!

6. Do I even want to write for this person?

Okay, I know you’ve just invented her, but do you like your perfect reader? Is she someone you’d enjoy spending time with? If not, you might be better off with a different topic or focus.

7. Do I have the commitment and energy to keep writing about this?

Keeping a blog running takes a lot of time and effort. It’s not just about the writing, there’s also formatting, photo sourcing or editing, promoting, and social media to consider.

Do you have enough to say about this topic to write a post about it every week for the next six months, a year, two years? Are you the kind of person who will follow through, or is the project likely to get lost in your busy life? Speaking of your busy life, do you have time set aside that you can dedicate to writing? Can you schedule an appointment with yourself and keep it? If not, perhaps you’d be better keeping a digital journal for a while, until you have space in your life to dedicate to the other elements of blogging.

Be prepared to work.
Do I have the commitment to keep at it?

The failed experiment

I once started a blog about learning Spanish. I was, and still am, very passionate about the topic, and have a lot to say about the best ways to become fluent in this amazing language. But the blog floundered after only a few months, and looking back I realized I hadn’t asked myself many of the questions above.

I’d identified my passion, but hadn’t narrowed it down. I thought the blog could be about my journey to learn Spanish, but I needed more focus to keep me on track.  I didn’t consider what exactly about learning Spanish excited me, so I could never think of what to write.

Spanish flag
I was passionate about learning Spanish, but not about writing about learning Spanish.

Heaps of people care about learning Spanish, but I didn’t think about who they were. I wanted to use my blog to practice writing in Spanish, and who wants to read the grammatically incorrect musings of a starter hispanophone? I wouldn’t! And nobody else did either.

Plus, I didn’t really have the time to start a blog. I thought it would help me with my Spanish, but I was spending more time looking for pop songs to feature on Fridays than writing. I didn’t really want to write about learning Spanish, I just wanted to learn it! Turns out I didn’t have the commitment to follow through.

Matt Gibson“I first started travel writing because I was living abroad in Taiwan when I decided that focussing on a niche expertise would help me to establish myself as a writer. Travel and Taiwan were a natural fit.”

Matt Gibson, founder of Xpatmatt.com and president of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association

What worked

In contrast, writing for my travel blog is a lot easier. I don’t know that I’m more enthusiastic about travel than I am about Spanish, but I know who I’m talking to and what they might want to read (or hear, in the case of the podcast). Friends often ask me for travel advice, and I can write my blog posts as if I’m giving them my tips — in fact,  more than one blog post has come about because someone asked me about the topic.

So, be aware that blogging isn’t just about being passionate about a topic. You need to balance your initial enthusiasm with the interests of your ideal audience, and the energy and commitment you’ll need to keep your blog running. If you can find the happy medium between passion and commitment, you’ll do great!

How can we help you?

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Behind-the-scenes blogging

This article is part of a series about how to start blogging for success. If you’d like to receive a notification when subsequent posts are published, please enter your email address below.

Continue the series: learn the practical steps to start blogging well.