It doesn’t seem like yesterday that I started On My Canvas.
Two years ago I returned from South America after a nine-months-long solo trip through the continent’s most stunning places.
A constant itch to write, events (quitting my job, taking writing workshops, and applying to creative writing programs) prior to my trip travel, and the time I spent contemplating during the journey brought me to the conclusion that I should write full-time.
I love writing. Stories bring me to life — so why not write something that adds value to others?
I had worked hard to achieve many desired and undesired goals (cracking IIT, dragging myself through a Computer Science degree, juggling corporate jobs). I braved to live a lifestyle unapproved by the collectivist society of India. I was almost 30, unmarried, had quit my investment banking job, and traveled the world alone — that’s not a typical scene for an Indian girl from a middle-class family of a small town in North India.
Now was the time to put my journey and struggle to someone else’s use.
After brainstorming through a plethora of blog names, mostly related to some funky animal for god forbidden reasons, I launched On My Canvas to share my science-backed personal development ideas and travel stories.
The idea was to tell the world, and fellow Indians, that life can be lived on our terms. No compromises.
I wanted to show people that wishing to live a meaningful life full of zest and passion doesn’t make you a bad person. That fears only exist in our mind. That we can achieve what we want by setting goals and slowly working towards them. That marriage was not an end to the world. That a desk job isn’t meant for everyone. That the world is to be seen. But travel is not the end of life, for the universe has many other dimensions — human connection, the art of communication, creating a unique legacy, helping others, pushing boundaries.
But how would you know if you got what it takes?
Sometimes you know before the journey and, at times, you figure out during the work. If none of these happen, you make it to the finish line.
My blog is a platform to give you that everlasting itch — that I can do anything if I just give myself a chance.
But have I got what it takes to run a successful blog that reaches at least a fraction of people?
How is it going?
In these two years of blogging, I have seen a lot of ups and downs. I am afraid these lows and highs would continue to sway me through this thing called life.
One thing is for sure — I cannot see myself doing anything else. In the end, if nothing at all, I will at least have a story to tell.
But maybe I will have more than a story.
The blog is doing good. You — my readers and subscribers — are joining me every day. Inspiring me in your own way. My writing is becoming more fluent. I am gaining traction on social media. My travel scribblings read more like stories now. My self-development ideas are more mature.
As a new blogger, I have learned a lot during these two years, and I see myself fall and get up every day.
Growth and learning — these seem to be the two constants on the path further down the road. I cannot speak about the pace, but if speed breakers come, highways wait, too.
Related Read: Highlights of 2018 – A Year of Blogging, Writing, and Living as a Digital Nomad.
Let me share some blogging tips and tricks from these two thrilling years that I have managed to survive as a blogger. Some of the points I have written below are popular blogging questions from readers.
Blogging tips for beginners: Things I’ve learned from two years of blogging.
1. Should you become a blogger?
Becoming a blogger is not a magic trick, but is nothing less than that.
A serious tip for new bloggers — Only start a blog if you like to write or can hire a writer while managing the rest of the blog work yourself.
In both cases, you will stay close to writing all along your blogging journey.
Blogging could be your escape from a 9-5. But if you don’t like to write, blogging for beginners can seem like a horrible 10-12.
2. To become a successful blogger you would need a lot of high-quality content —
Millions of blogs exist on the internet, but the most successful blogs have the best stories and brilliant ideas — and a lot of them.
When I started writing, my grammar sucked more than rotten mushrooms, and I spilled stories for people to put them together. This was when I started working on my writing more sincerely about two years ago before starting this blog.
During those two years, I wrote while working in the corporate world. I wrote while traveling. I signed up for writing workshops and got cursed for writing horribly. I started a few blogs on cooking, life, and travel, and let all of them die a painful death.
They rest in peace (hopefully). I have moved on.
Now people say that my blog is professional. My stories connect with people. I get emails from clients who want to hire me to write because they found my blog interesting and well-written.
And I am still learning.
Give what it takes to write a great article. Wake up early. Sleep late. Go out. Read. Cultivate mushrooms. Curl up in your bed and cry. Blame yourself that you suck. Then get up and write. Bring out your best — that is good for now.
Your best will improve with time. Until then, keep perfection aside.
Insider Tip: Use your titles carefully, in real life and blogging.
3. Write for the people, not for yourself —
Actually, you should always write for yourself, first. Write what feels honest. Write your experiences. Write down what makes you cry. What scared you on that long flight to Santiago should be in an article. How you came over a breakup is a good personal story. Waking up every day at 5 am and running makes for an inspiring read.
Let everything spill out. Then read your draft to see how it can help others.
My most popular blog articles are the ones in which I have laughed upon myself and the world while telling a sad or an unfortunate cultural or a solo travel tale. When I wrote narrative pieces on how one should never quit, readers applauded. If I published the incidents that I was most scared to talk about, everyone related.
Make your life’s most embarrassing story a fun read or a life lesson.
Write for others.
Must Read: 27 Writing Tips for beginner writers
4. Write often —
If you want your blog to take you somewhere and not the other way around (for your entire life) — you need to publish your best articles frequently.
I still have a hard time publishing an article every week sometimes.
Most of my articles are more than 2,000 words long and going up to as much as 12,000 words. My last travelogue on Spiti was more than 6,000 words.
I don’t limit myself on how long the article should be — the right people always read. But writing such long articles is nothing like an evening walk.
Also, those right people only come back to your blog if you publish often. If I don’t write for months, who would remember what On My Canvas is?
You lose readers if you don’t publish regularly. Google doesn’t take you seriously. Numbers go down. You need a lot of articles on a topic to create authority and that would take even more time if you publish less-frequently.
But writing good-quality, long-form, well-thought-out content that adds value isn’t easy. You will stumble in the beginning. Words won’t come out. The story will play hide and seek. There won’t be enough time ever.
Don’t give up. Call it a day. Do something else. Wake up the next morning and continue.
When you are getting started with blogging, focus on writing good content even if you publish just one article per week. But make that article count.
I started this article on my blogging journey yesterday and after working on it for an hour it seemed impossible that I could ever finish it. I wasn’t inspired. I questioned if it even made sense to write an article just because the blog celebrated its second anniversary.
But today morning when I picked it up again I typed like I had drunk a few cans of red bull.
That red bull will flow in your veins, too. Give it time.
5. Only writing isn’t enough
You can curse me, but I have also learned this a hard way.
When I started publishing on On My Canvas, I didn’t worry about SEO or publicizing my content on social media.
Hey — I love to write — that should be enough.
I guess not.
The people who were reading my blog enjoyed it and came back for more. But the same people asked me why my readership and social media followers were so less while my content was so good?
After a year of starting On My Canvas, I realized that even if I scream from my tiny corner, the world might never find my blog.
I had to get under the bountiful hands of Google uncle. I had to be popular on platforms that provide content that could be read at the same time an instant coffee is made.
Better late than never.
I now focus on both these and let’s talk about that more.
6. Google Uncle has his style, but he supports you if you follow a few rules — In short, SEO will save your ass down the road.
SEO or Google search engine optimization could be a black hole but it isn’t a black box anymore. You can rule the game if you try and play it rather than saying repeatedly SEO is tough and I can’t do it. I will just write.
It’s not that I didn’t follow SEO rules in the initial days of this blog. But I followed incompetent resources and wasted time. Or maybe I didn’t utilize those tools well.
I read Neil Patel’s blog. Used his tool UberSuggest to find keywords. Signed up for Warble alerts and tweeted to people who cared about the topics I wrote about. Emailed other bloggers to leave comments on my blog. Even put a Facebook ad out. Just one. Reached out to bigger bloggers saying I had linked to their blog and thanking them for their content, but most of them never replied. Tried finding titles in magazines and from popular articles around the world while ignoring the blogs that were right in front of my eyes.
Started an email list that is still growing strong and is one of the better things that I did during those innocent times.
Now when I look back I can see that I was trying my hands at a lot of high-level stuff. As a new life inspiration and travel blogger, I had to first get some basic stuff done right.
I had to get the right tool to find keywords. For as much as I could be thankful for a free tool like UberSuggest, it never got me the keywords I should try to rank for. I should have a taken an SEO course or a “tips of blogging” guidebook from other fellow bloggers who had learned by making mistakes. I should have joined Facebook blogger groups who help each other when you pull out your hair at 2 in the night alone.
I should have stopped relying on my friends and company to make my writing go viral. I should have asked more questions when I felt that my SEO techniques didn’t work.
Better late than never. Now I do all of these. I use SEO methods, and my readership is growing. I am grateful for my blogger friends out there and their blogging tips that save me when I am clueless.
Don’t be like me. Don’t be adamant. Find yourself a good keyword tool (I use KeySearch) and invest in a good blogging for beginners SEO course. Ask for blogging advice. Join Facebook groups. Watch your numbers.
Apply SEO techniques and let the system work.
7. Do you need to be active and successful on Social Media to succeed as a blogger, especially as a travel blogger —
Social Media was another beast that I knew was out there but I preferred to ignore it. Hell, I wrote a whole article on how poisonous social media is.
Now two years later, I think you can manage social media as you like. But if you want to make anything out of social media, you would have to stay consistent.
People will connect. They will praise you. Some of them will like your pictures and a few will give a thumbs up. Some will find your content inspirational.
But no one would care about you on social media unless you provide value. Remember — you have to give first to expect a return, if at all.
Your need of social media depends on the type of blogging you do. I have lesser social media traction for the personal development part of my blog as compared to the travel blog section. Medium is a better tool for niche-based personal growth content.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are good tools for promoting your travel blogs. Pinterest is like a social media Google.
But Social media is also a choice. I know friend bloggers who write good searchable content day and night while never caring about who is following them, or rather unfollowing them.
Some content creators are more Instagram based and don’t even have a blog. Bloggers versus Instagrammers is the most viral debate on the internet now.
Instagrammers are Instagrammers — they create fast content that needs low attention-span.
Bloggers are bloggers — they create long-form content that needs more time to write and read.
Bloggers can have active social media. Instagrammers can have a blog. But an Instagrammer who never writes a blog post shouldn’t call himself or herself a blogger.
Leaving that debate for later, my best tip on social media is that these platforms are important for your public presence as a blogger. Even though you can keep your blog as priority, you should not completely ignore your social media presence.
Because not all readers read blogs anymore. Also, social media is a good tool to get discovered.
Some journalist might find you from your tweet. Facebook might give you new readers. You may gain sudden popularity on Instagram because popular accounts in your niche might tag you one fine morning. Your article might go viral if Incredible India likes it on Twitter. You can work with brands who assess a blogger’s popularity and reach by her social media followers.
There are all kinds of things.
You want to only crack the niche of people who read blogs and don’t care for the rest — go.
How to manage social media? If you can take out some time to work on your two social media accounts — just two accounts — please do.
If nothing more, create your profile. Post regularly or use a scheduler. Write short and relevant messages at times when people read. Put yourself out there. Share your worst moments, along with the good ones.
Sell yourself. Find your strengths and use them or showcase them.
Reach out to people. Appreciate others’ work.
If you aren’t active on any kind of social media accounts you would miss out on people who depend on these tools to stay connected with the world. But at the end of it — you are the boss. Decide what works for you the best and what keeps you sane. Experiment.
I am also on a social media learning curve, and I will keep this space updated with my findings.
8. Blogging is a business —
If you want to blog full-time, you would have to make money out of it. Can you make money Blogging? Absolutely yes.
To make money out of any endeavor, you have to treat the thing as a business.
All I am saying is — bloggers are passionate people. But to survive as a blogger — you would have to feed your passion while putting a business hat on.
Making money from a blog takes times.
When I started my blog, I knew I have to be patient, and I still don’t make enough money from it. I am adding affiliate links, building audience and social media numbers, strengthening my portfolio, planning my strategies to make money as the blog grows — all of this along with experimentation will put me on the right earning path.
Now I earn my living as a freelance writer — though some of the writing projects come to me from the blog.
If you are a beginner blogger, I would suggest you keep your job while blogging on the side. Or do freelance work along with blogging. Save enough until your blog generates money. Make a business strategy as soon as you start your own blog and evolve it as you understand more.
Only if you are financially stable or have a smart plan, you would be able to blog and have fun with it.
Be patient. Making money from blogs take at least two years and mostly longer. But once you start collaborating with the right people in your niche or magazines start publishing your work, no one can stop you.
9. Blogging is a lot of work —
Bloggers are mostly buried deep down under work like Uncle Scrooge is buried under his gold coins. The difference is that bloggers might be smiling upside down while looking at their watch.
A typical day in a blogger’s life start from anything to writing or editing or guest posting or learning about SEO and social media tricks or connecting with other bloggers or worrying about a technical issue that has brought her site down or cleaning up broken links or editing pictures or finding new topics to write or fretting over how the unfinished lists of articles are piling up while ideas sprout up like mushrooms in her head day and night.
I didn’t even mention the money part.
In short — blogging is a job of multiple professionals — you have to be a writer, a critique, an entrepreneur, a marketer, a photographer (depending on your niche), a software engineer, a planner, a communication expert while having a full-time job or freelancing on the side until you start making money from your blog.
Even though it is your personal choice, I will give my two cents here — If you are wondering how to start as a blogger and you don’t like writing, please think a bit more before starting your blog. Realize that blogging involves a mountain of work, and like in all jobs, someone has to clean the shit, too.
For all those who want to get started with travel blogging — If you want to have your personal travel blogs to get free travel and earn money, let me tell you it isn’t that easy. You would get there but that shouldn’t be the aim. You should start a travel blog if you like to travel and enjoy clicking pictures and writing and doing this repeatedly. Free and paid trips would be the byproduct of a successful travel blog. But if you aren’t passionate about travel blogging, you would soon tire out.
But don’t let fear stop you from starting a (successful) blog. You might not be clear on what you want to write about or how to monetize the blog — but you will find the answers to these questions on your journey.
On rough days, when you would have to push yourself — and believe me those days will come — you should have the right reasons.
Helpful Read: Practical tips on learning how to learn with Josh Waitzkin
10. Connecting with other bloggers is important.
When I started blogging, I only focused on my writing desk and my pen. But soon I was browsing all over the internet for good blogs and blogging advice. Also, I got lonely while writing alone all the time.
You need others to talk to— especially the ones who are sailing in the same ship. Only bloggers can understand the pain and joy of being a blogger.
Once I understood this, I wrote appreciative emails to other bloggers. Commented on their articles. Followed them on Instagram. Stalked my favorite writers on Medium. Started going to blogger meetups. Thought of ways to collaborate with my favorite female bloggers.
I realized later that the blogging and travel industry work on networks. For at the time of need or reaching out to a brand or a publication the same bloggers will come and save you.
Bloggers cannot survive in solitude — they need help and they should help others.
So as early as you start on building a blogger friends group, the better it is. Instead of just following the pre-existing groups, you can also start a group related to your niche on Facebook. Become a leader.
Helpful Read: Practical tips on working from home productively and staying social.
11. Never regret for the time gone —
I still agonize and overthink about not understanding a few things when I started blogging. Or I compare myself to other bloggers and blame myself for not being up to the speed, whatever that is.
Please don’t do the same. Move towards the future, for that is the only way to succeed.
An article that always helps me when I worry: 15 things to think less about.
Have fun blogging. When a long task list awaits you on a Sunday morning and you wonder what happened, remember why you started it all. To be your boss. To tell stories. To help others. To find your own path.
Don’t get lost in lists that seem to take you towards a destination. Focus on the journey. Enjoy the process. Be patient.
Now go get them.
I still have a myriad of things to know, understand, and implement.
I am still learning about pitching to corporations and travel agencies, pitching articles to newspapers and media to get published, still getting a hold of my digital nomad’s lifestyle while I travel for months and work on the go, building up my social media profiles, creating relationships with fellow bloggers and the media, and sourcing more work as a freelancer until my blog starts making enough money.
Every day I am setting new goals and achieving them. All while having fun, being my own boss, working hard, and not regretting it.
Taking it day by day, you know.
I am grateful to all of you who have supported me on my journey and continue to do so by reading my work and sending your heart-warming comments and emails. Thank you. I hope I haven’t disappointed you.
Of course, tonnes of stories and ideas coming your way to make you think and laugh and run and live.
How did you like my tips on blogging?
Have questions about blogging or freelancing? Wondering how to get started blogging? Shoot away your questions in comments.