Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Hardest Part of Blogging is Getting Started

From Jeff: This is a guest post by Caleb McNary. Caleb is a blogger and Director of Communications and Advocacy for Numana, an international relief organization. Connect with him on his blog, Twitter, or Facebook.

Tom Petty was wrong. The waiting isn’t the hardest part; getting started is. At least, when it comes to blogging.

Patience

Photo credit: spawn_hmmm (Creative Commons)

You have a voice, an idea, and some level of ability — that is really all you need to start a blog. But instead, you wait. You have a number of excuses, but really, you are just scared to start.

I know I was.

Intimidated by “rock stars”

When I first stumbled upon the blogs of power users with huge audiences, I was immediately intimidated. These bloggers had subscribers, newsletters, and even, dare I say it, advertisers! Maybe you’re thinking the same thing. If so, here’s my advice: Get over it.

These are normal people, just like you and me, with their own fears and insecurities. In fact, the point of many popular blogs is to share the wisdom people have gained, and equip others to accomplish those same goals.

At some point, these super-bloggers made the decision to leave their fears behind, and they started working. So I decided to do the same.

If you are like me, you may have tried your hand at blogging before but failed to persevere. Now, that failure factors in to your hesitation. And you’re scared to start over.

If this is your, I have good news for you: The hard part is actually quite easy. How do you get started with blogging? Here are five lessons I’ve learned:

1. Take your time

The ideas you have aren’t going anywhere, so take the time to mature them. Find something you have expertise in and a passion for, and start creating content around that idea.

The time from when I started developing ideas to actually launching blog took about nine months. During that time, I wrote posts and analyzed them to see the direction in which I wanted to go. As a result, I refined my direction, and enhanced my writing.

2. Build before you start

Find others that are doing what you want to do and follow them. Push out links from others in your genre. Soon, you will start developing a following that is interested in the same stuff as you.

Comment on the blogs of people that you follow, and get on their radar. When you are ready to launch your blog, you will know you already have an audience that trusts you and will give you a shot.

3. Learn from others

The blogs you admire didn’t just happen. All the lessons those writers have learned can be found in their blogs. Study not only content you read, but also the form and function.

One way I did this was to save articles about blogging and social media and later pour over them, gleaning ideas to shape the nuts and bolts of my blog.

4. Plan your launch

It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just something that will inform your actions leading up to, and during the first couple of months of your new blog’s life.

Gaining a small audience is important to ensure that you keep at it. Write guest posts, and look for opportunities to get on the radar of the bloggers you admire.

Become familiar with tools like Buffer, Time.ly, or dlvr.it, that will help you push out your content to your followers consistently.

I set a goal for my launch week, but because I had a plan that gave me the best chance possible, I doubled it. It was still a small start, but exceeding my goal gave me a lot of energy.

5. Just do it

The only thing holding you back from getting started is you. It’s not your schedule or your lack of ability; it’s your lack of action.

The great thing about taking your time and being patient is you can make changes as you go. Nothing is published, no one is expecting anything of you. No pressure. Why not give it a short?

The time for waiting and excuses is over. Do something, anything. Just get started. (To find out more about starting a blog, go here.)

What’s the hardest part of blogging for you? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • JTuck4400

    Hi Jeff, thanks for the great post with helpful ideas. I’m in the planning stages for my blog right now so this post of yours couldn’t have come at a better time!

    • Perfect! I couldn’t ask for anything more! Good luck putting it all together.

  • Brent Minter

    Boom.  Perfect timing for this post. 

    I have started and failed multiple times at blogging, so I am now taking my time truly find my voice before I launch again.  It has been a difficult process.  I have close to a lot  completed posts… I want to launch, BUT the discipline of refining my passion and the voice to serve others is a difficult journey, but very good.

    • There is definitely a pressure to just rush things to the light of day as quickly as possible. On the other hand, you can get in your own head too much, and delay it unnecessarily.  I just picked a date and decided I would stick with it whether or not I was completely ready.

  • Thanks for posting. It’s 5:30 am here and the sentence “It’s not your schedule” was like a bucket of ice water being dumped over me. Just what I needed!

    • That was one of the biggest realizations for me as well. If I didn’t make writing a part of my day, it simply wouldn’t happen. There is always fluff that we can cut and replace with writing time. Thanks for commenting!

  • And all this time, I thought YOU were the blogging All-Star, Caleb! 🙂  Nice work.  I’m thankful for you, your voice, and your blog.

    • Ha! Nonsense, I’m super honored to be hosted by Jeff today. Thanks, as always for the encouragement!

  • Consistently coming up with good ideas. Sometimes I post less than stellar content, but it’s because that deadline is looming and I need to get it done. Trying to push myself to write good posts is difficult.

    • That is definitely a big struggle, but there are times I’ve been less than excited about a post, and then it gets a ton of traffic and comments. So, I’ve learned to let go of that side of things a bit, and just view it as a small bet. 

      • Very true. I’m learning that my mediocre is often someone’s big inspiration.

        • Jamie —

          Great way to think of it!

          I’ve been surprised to see which of my blog posts, often quite old ones, make the rounds via Pinterest. 

          Or which posts I find other bloggers have linked to.

          My main reaction is “Who woulda thunk?”

          I know I’m supposed to write just for myself. But knowing that what I write today may help someone days, weeks, months, even years down the road is a huge motivator!

    • Good call Jamie. I’d recommend the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon and I think that would help you come up with some new ideas. 

      • Thanks Jim. I think you’ve recommended that one before. 

  • Five great points. On #5 Just do it, you can have some goals for your blogging effort, but the unintended benefits of simply making it happen are a delight once you discover them. I was intimidated by writing about my thoughts and passions until I started blogging (and responding other’s blog posts). Imagine the pleasure when I started finding other bloggers telling me how much they loved my thinking. The confidence to speak up has now transferred to stating my perspective more effectively at public events. So, my #6 would be, ‘Prepare for pleasant unintended consequences’.   

    • That’s great, Allen, I’m experiencing that right now!

  • Michele E

    Once again, just the inspiration I needed.  You are a much-appreciated resource, Jeff!

    This month will officially mark one of THE busiest months in my life. Part of me thinks that if ever there were good reasons to delay my blog, this month provides many.  But, it’s been delayed for far too long as it is…

    “The only thing holding you back from getting started is you. It’s not your schedule or your lack of ability; it’s your lack of action.”

    No time like the present!  April 29th is my launch date.  This has been – and will be – an incredible month. What better time to launch something so meaningful (to me)?!

    Thanks for the inspiration! 

    • I love it. One of the positive outcomes from buckling down during a busy month is that from now on, you will know that no matter how crazy your schedule is looking, you have the ability to work it out. On the other hand, it is losing a pretty big excuse, but that’s all for the better anyway. Good luck on your launch month!

  • The hardest part of blogging for me? How much time do you have? NO, in all honesty I love writing my blog. The hardest part for me is the not knowing. Not knowing if my words are having an impact, or not knowing if around the corner, today or tomorrow or maybe never, it will grow to what I have in my heart. When I start focusing on these questions instead of just letting go and enjoying the process the neurotic trauma is too much to handle. So inevitably when I become the head case I tend to be, I walk away from the keyboard and find something else to do. I have to live life before I can blog about it. 

    • I feel the same way. I’ve worked hard to make sure that there is as much opportunity for feedback as possible; the biggest was setting up Disqus commenting system and making sure that I ask my readers questions, and responding quickly.
      Have you considered writing about that tension? I’m guessing you have a few people in your tribe that feels the same way.

      • I have thought about it, but worry it will come off whiny, so I haven’t. Poor Jeff, I just come here to whine!

  • Greatly needed encouragement.  Thanks!

  • Same here, how to start. You already have an idea, the whole story is running in your mind and you have already imagined the look… but when it’s time to start, to write… kaboom! you can’t. for so many reasons. but mainly, you become insecure if it pleases your reader / follower (oh, if you have any! hahaha)

    But hey, this article / blog is good help! thanks! 🙂

    • Thanks! Jeff’s writer’s manifesto freed me up a lot from worrying too much about relying too much on how it will be received. For it to be sustainable, you have to write for you. Like Sophie said above, “anything can’t be worse than nothing.”

  • Sophie Novak

    Do something, anything. It always comes down to this and these three words make all the difference. Anything can’t be worse than nothing. Love the post!

  • Do something, anything. It always comes down to this and these three words make all the difference. Anything can’t be worse than nothing. Love the post!

  • Mike Zserdin

    You know Jeff, patience and start are interesting contrasts. The thing you and others have helped me with is peace…”the ideas you have aren’t going anywhere.” I like that. It helps me with with a sense of calling rather than being driven in an unhealthy way. I like the idea of goals and incremental progress while working toward a deadline. Just a few passing thoughts. I trust all is well.

    Mike

    • Mike Zserdin

      Caleb, thank you very much! Great thoughts. I appreciate your insight.

      Mike

    • Mike, you are right. For as much as I have encouraged patience, there is an equal amount of emphasis on shipping. At some point, you just have to pull the trigger. Thanks for sharing!

      • Mike Zserdin

        I appreciate the patience part in your post…so much is said about shipping. But, without a degree of confidence and patience, I think I would lose my mind.  thank you.

  • Wanda Fittro

    The hardest part for me is blogging on a regular basis. It’s pretty haphazard. I get an idea and I blog it. No ideas, no blog post.

    • Wanda, that was me too! I’ve learned to capture ideas rather than just let them come out of the blue. I use Evernote to house ideas for further development. Another thing that helped was creating a self imposed schedule of posting 2-3 times per week. I was surprised at how ideas will come when you set up a situation where they must come.

      • I also have a self-imposed at least twice a week rule. I have found that works well with my life and with my readers. I started blogging for that reason – to have a “deadline” to stay in the creative process. Even if I don’t have “great work” 100% of the time, something is better than nothing and it is good practice to try and take the pressure of performance off my shoulders. 

        • Couldn’t have said it better myself, thanks for the wisdom.

  • At the beginning, the hardest part was starting. I was scared no one would listen, my writing skills were not up to par, and that I really had nothing to say. That fear has subsided but others still pop up.

    I’ve learned it’s all about slaying these dragons as they appear. Take it down and move on. 

  • Great post Caleb. A lot of wisdom in this. 

  • My fear….The ADD of ‘WHO’ to USE! Blogger…Tumbler…wordpress.com…omyword. Maybe you can create a write up on the ‘Who’s Who’ of blogging platforms…and who’s best suited for which? Or maybe you already did that? However… I asked this via your page………”BLOGGING. The {UNANSWERED}
    burning question? While I have attempted to ‘Create’ a blog, my time is
    limited. HOWEVER. I LOVE {FOLLOWING} blogs, but can SOMEONE please tell
    me WHY I have to join EACH bloggers platform to follow? Instance. Must
    JOIN blogger to follow…Must JOIN wordpress.com to follow and MUST join
    TUMBLER if I want to follow…WOWZER. No wonder a lot of folks never
    follow bloggers, because if I’m correct, you must sign up for whichever
    PLATFORM they used to create the blog to follow??? :-/ Me head hurts….
    any help???

    • Jennifer for reading blogs, one of the easiest tools to use is an RSS reader. I personally use Google Reader, because it’s linked to my Google account and I like it all connected. Once you set it up, it’s as easy as copying and pasting the address of the blog/site you want to follow into the subscribe box. Do this once, and everything new posted will be delivered right to your Google Reader page, no matter what the platform is. Happy reading!

  • Tammyhelfrich

    So true! Thanks.

  • Rhonda Ransford

    You are so write – oops! right!!! Need to DO!

    Rhonda

  • c-kwommack

    Hardest part of blogging for me is getting my ideas actually written down and posted. They are zooming through my mind (usually at 4:30 am or driving down the road) and it takes me a little while to get them into a form that makes sense to the rest of the world.  

    • I know how that goes. Usually they come spilling out quickly. So, I’ve learned to to capture them as concepts, let them mellow, then come back and fill them out when I’m not in manic mode. Thanks for sharing.

  • I think my hardest part was believing I could.  That I had something to say.  Thanks for a great post.

    • Polly that is great, I think everyone has something to say. It’s just putting in the work to get better at saying it, and creating opportunities for people to hear it. 

  • The hardest part for me is overcoming the feeling I’m just repeating what has already been said a million times. The feeling that even if they do read my spin on it, no impact will be made because they’ve heard the content so many times before.

    This all, of course, just gives way to anxiousness about… you know… getting started.

    • See Polly’s comment just below this…

    • Cathywrites

      I once heard that the world does not need a different message.  It needs a new messenger.  Keep the faith.  🙂

  • My hardest part lately has been finding good pictures to use that are free. 

    • I have that problem too, even Creative Commons can be a dead end. So I have to get creative with search terms, and if all else fails, go to iStock.com.

  • The hardest part of blogging is dealing with ALL THE LADIES

    • Ha! You really have to count the cost on that one…

  • Deanna Morono

    I have plenty to say and plenty of time. I can even motivate myself to sit down and just do it. The hardest part for me is finding a good design/layout/website host that will give me everything I want for free. 

    • Free is definitely the hold up there, but would you consider cheap? There are plenty of great designs that are cheap.

  • The hardest part has been sticking with my instincts and writing with my own voice when so many bloggers tout the self-help and SEO models of blogging. Those things do build readership, but you have to do it your own way and with your own voice. Blogging shouldn’t be about blogging, it should be about life. 

    I’m a story-teller, and somewhere along the line I got worried about my analytics, so I became a blogger that wrote about writing, too afraid to actually tell the stories I was living and witnessing daily. I’m thankful for the faithful readers that kept encouraging me to write what I know. I may not have a zillion followers and a book deal yet, but I’m trying to stay true to who I am as a writer and as a person, even if some people say that it’s going against the grain of blogging. 

    • So good, Bethany. That was one of the reasons I took so long to develop my direction. When I first started, I was really influenced by Jeff and Michael Hyatt, etc., and I was writing about what they were writing about. So, the months spent in development helped me clarify what I like writing about, and informed the direction that my blog would eventually go. Great thoughts.

  • I’m a relatively new blogger and this advice is a great help, thanks for sharing

  • I’ve been blogging for one month. The most difficult aspect has been the technical side. I’ve spent countless hours struggling with style sheets, activating/deactivating plugins–all I want to do is write!

    • Find a tech ninja! DM me via Twitter, I would be happy to give the name of the one who helped me. He’s available and affordable.

  • Shan

    The hardest part is getting started and it has been me.  Your blog inspires me, and it is your blog that I learn from everyday. thanks Jeff

  • The hardest part for me is patience. I’m the kind of person, that once I start something I want it up and running at full speed. I’ve been encouraged, just wait, it will grow, you will get there. But I want to BE THERE now. If patience is a virtue, I’m sorely lacking!

    • Haha, I definitely relate to that, there is something to be said for viewing the development time as a gift. Jon Acuff actually had a great post about it a few days back (sorry to send them elsewhere Jeff), https://www.jonacuff.com/blog/people-ignoring-your-dream-awesome/ 

  • “It’s not lack of ability, but lack of action.” Love it.
    Thanks, Caleb. I really needed some encouragement/kick in the pants this week!

    Thank for doing both in this excellent post.

    • Thanks Skotty! I hope your new work schedule is working out.

  • Thanks to my most wonfrous daughter-in-law, I got my own blog started last September and very realistically developed its growth slowly but surely.  I learn so much from so many other bloggers and continue to pull out writing projects I abandoned years ago and fill them with new light and new colors from my current observations.  Blogging is just FABULOUS!  What a source of artistic renewal!

  • Inspiring post. I am a blogger and although I didn’t do all of what is mentioned in this post, I did do the last one. I just did it. I wrote my first post without thought of anyone or anything because I love writing and therefore I felt compeled to do it. In the end it was passion that propelled me forward to blogging. Just get started, you can learn all the other “nitty, gritty” stuff as you go.

    • Perfect! I just outlined what I did as a take it or leave it, depending on your situation. I hadn’t really read anyone who gave permission to work on it for a while (not that they don’t exist), so I wanted to put that idea out there.

      • Working on it a while is great advice. I wish I had planned out my blog and followed the steps you outlined. Where were you when I started? lol…I also know I tend to procrastinate and over think so I had to just jump right in. This was my point. I highly recommend your method. Thanks for the post 🙂 and reply. It’s great when other bloggers can offer a tested system. 

  • The time from when I started developing ideas to actually launching blog took about nine months. During that time, I wrote posts and analyzed them to see the direction in which I wanted to go.

    Just one simple question, where was you write the posts, and how can you analyzed that if it not yet launched?

    • Great question. I used Evernote and pretended it was live. I would write “posts” and come back in a week or two and see if there was a common thread, and if it was consistent with what I knew I wanted to talk about. It is easy to get sidetracked, or write outside of your sweet spot, so having the ability to do that in anonymity is a positive.

      • Cheryl

        This is a great idea! I had no idea how to get started. (Still don’t. :-)) I will try this and see where it goes.

  • Great article. I wish I had this before I started blogging!! I just jumped in, completely blind. Of course you can learn as you go… but there are certainly things I’d do differently had I known. I often get people emailing me asking for tips before they start their own blog. Now I have a great article to point them to. Will pin this to remember! Thanks. 🙂

    • Wow! That is great. I have a whole Evernote folder called “blog inspiration” that I collected for 9 months (and still add to). It’s an honor to know that I made it into somebody else’s folder/board. Thanks!

  • Hardest part…er, PARTS:  Fear of disclosure; letting too much time go by feeling like I have to “catch up”; fear of not having something to say (of importance); not knowing how to maneuver through the technical part of this and feeling very inept; and the list can go on. 

    I need to find a mentor who will kick my butt (aka encouragement and accountability).   🙂

    Thanks for an excellent post.

  • Hi Caleb,

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    I guess the reason for my procrastination is perfectionism.  “Perfect never starts …”

    Btw, shouldn’t it be “later pore
    over them” (instead of “pour”)?

    • Thanks Rohi, well said, I will be using that in the future to remind myself to pull the trigger. And thanks for the typo catch, my bad!

  • William Mann

    Thanks for the advice, Caleb.
    I do have a question though:
    – Did you/ How do you get over feelings of inadequacy on your topic? (The feeling that someone has already blogged about this, my blog would just be redundant.)