Realities of a Blogger’s Life and Tips for Bloggers
Table of Content
- Why I Became a Blogger
- My Blogging Journey
- 11 Tips for Bloggers
- Tips for blogging from around the internet and resources that help me blog better
- Books on writing that help me write and blog better
- What’s Next in my Blogging Story
Why I became a blogger
It doesn’t seem like yesterday when I started On My Canvas.
Two years ago (Update 2022: now almost five), I returned from a nine-month solo trip through South America. Constant itch to write, events such as quitting my job and taking writing workshops prior to the journey, and a deep reflection of what I wanted to do next brought me to the conclusion I should write full-time.
I love writing. Stories liven me up. Whosoever read my earliest work told me I write about simple and natural things which make my writing profound.
I had worked hard to achieve many desired and serendipitous goals: cracking the joint entrance of engineering colleges in India, dragging myself through a Computer Science degree, juggling corporate jobs. I braved a lifestyle unapproved by the Indian collectivist society. 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 small-town girl from a middle-class family of North India.
I knew if I worked hard I would be able to make something of my own with writing, too.
I wanted to share the cornucopia of my experiences with others who might be running some of the hurdle races I had jumped through. So I took up writing as a career at 30.
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 life experiences and travel stories.
The idea was to tell the world, and fellow Indians, that it’s okay to ask why. And compromises aren’t better because they make everything more melancholy and theatrical.
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 mostly exist in our minds. That marriage is not the end goal. That a desk job isn’t for everyone. That the world is to be seen. But travel is not the only thing in life, for the universe has many other dimensions — human connection, communicating deeply, helping others, and learning about our own emotions.
My blog is a platform where I want to give that everlasting itch that I can do anything if I just give myself a chance to everyone else.
But how would you know if you got what it takes?
Sometimes you know you will make it before the journey begins. At times, you figure out during the work. Even if you don’t realize anything, you still make it to the finish line.
Have I got what it takes to run a successful blog? How’s my blogging journey coming along?
In these two years of blogging, I have seen a lot of ups and downs. I’m afraid these lows and highs would continue to sway me through this thing called life. (Update 2022: Standing at close to five years of blogging, the only thing I can testify to is the continuous uphills and downhills.)
One thing is for sure — I cannot see myself not writing. In the end, 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 and inspiring me in your own way. My writing is becoming more fluent. 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 the last two years, and I see myself falling and getting up every day.
Growth and learning — these seem to be the two constants on the blogging path further down the road. I cannot speak about the pace, but if speed breakers come, highways wait, too.
Related Read: Highlights of 2018 – Blogging, Writing, and Living as a Digital Nomad.
Let me share some tips for blogging that I collected from these two thrilling years I have survived as a blogger. Some of the points I have written below are popular blogging questions from beginner bloggers and readers.
Blogging tips for Beginners: Things I’ve learned from two years of blogging
1. Should you become a blogger? ( Must ask for new bloggers)
Becoming a blogger is not like waving the magic wand, but it is nothing less either.
My most important tip for those new to blogging is that please ask yourself why do you want to start a blog. Answer honestly.
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 scenarios, you will stay close to writing — and editing — all along your blogging journey. So make sure you have a love for written things or you’re planning to hire someone who does.
Blogging could be your escape from a 9-5. But if you don’t like to write or read, blogging for beginners can seem like a horrible 5-12.
There are more questions to be asked and answered which I tackle on further.
I now have a guide on writing about traveling where I share my 9 secrets to travel writing. If you are a travel writer, do read.
2. To become a successful blogger you need high-quality content, and a lot of it
Millions of blogs exist on the internet, but the most successful blogs have the best stories and brilliant ideas — and a lot of them.
In 2015 I started working on my writing sincerely. Then my grammar stank more than rotten mushrooms. I spilled stories for people to put them together. But after returning from a busy corporate office, I wrote at the end of every day. Instead of lazying around or spending all the time sightseeing, I wrote after teaching English to Spanish students in Chile. I signed up for writing workshops and got cursed for writing horribly. I started many 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 friends say my blog reads professional. My stories connect with readers. I get emails from clients who want to hire me to write because they find my blog well-written.
And I’m still learning.
Give what it takes to write great articles. Wake up early. Sleep late. Go out. Read. Grow mushrooms. Curl up in your bed and cry. Blame yourself. Then get up and write. Edit. Write. Read. Laugh. Dance. Edit some more. And then repeat. Let yourself become who you are, as Nietzsche said.
Your best will improve with time. Until then, keep perfection aside and let the world read what you are writing and improve constantly. (Here are my 27 tips on writing better for new writers.)
Insider Tip: Use your titles carefully, in real life and blogging.
3. Write for the people, not for yourself
You should always write for yourself, first. Write what feels true. Write what aches you. Write what makes you laugh. 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.
My most popular blog articles are the ones in which I have laughed upon myself and the world while telling a sad or unfortunate cultural or solo travel tale. When I wrote narrative pieces on how one should never quit, readers applauded. If I published the incidents I was most scared to talk about, everyone related.
Spill out everything. Read the draft to see if someone else would also find it interesting and informational. If not, rewrite. Cut. Edit until you feel others would gain something from your piece.
Write for others. Focus on good writing.
4. Write often
If you want your blog to take you somewhere and not the other way around — you need to publish your best articles frequently.
I still have a hard time publishing an article every week (even after five years). Most of my articles are more than 2,000 words long and go up to as much as 16,000 words. My travelogue on Spiti was more than 6,000 words and this post on healthy and purposeful living is almost 11,000 words.
I don’t limit myself by the length of the article. The right people always read. But writing such long pieces 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 process would take even longer if you publish infrequently.
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 new to blogging, focus on writing good content even if you publish one article per week. But make that article count.
I started this piece on blogging for beginners yesterday. After working on it for an hour I felt I won’t be able to 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 when I opened up the piece today morning, I started typing as if 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 the 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.
Readers enjoyed my blog and came back for more. But the same people asked me why my readership and social media followers were less while my content was 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 work alongside Google uncle. I had to share my content on other platforms, too.
Irrespective of how much you hate talking about yourself, you’ll have to share your ideas and writings with the world unabashedly. Writing them down isn’t enough.
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 isn’t a lottery system. It’s a simple system with its (more or less) well-defined methods and best practices. So ignore all those emails you receive with subjects: we will grow your blog 100 times in 10 days. Study how SEO works.
I followed SEO rules even 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 and used his tool UberSuggest to find keywords. I 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 thanked them for their content. Most of them never replied. Pitched to the most popular magazines and websites while ignoring the great blogs right in front of me.
I also started an email list and that’s one of the better things I did during those innocent times.
Now when I look back I can see I was trying my hands at a lot of high-level stuff. As a new blogger, I first had to 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’ve ranked for. I should have taken an SEO course for new bloggers. I should have joined Facebook blogger groups who help each other when you pull your hair out at 2 in the night alone.
But better late than never. Now I do all of these. I use SEO methods, and my readership is growing. I’m grateful for my blogger friends and their blogging tips.
Find yourself a good keyword tool (I use KeySearch) and invest in a simple but good “blogging tips for new bloggers” SEO course. Ask for blogging advice. Join Facebook groups.
Apply the science of SEO 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 — first, you have to give honestly and consistently. Then with time, you will get a return.
Depending on your blogging niche your social media requirements will change. For me, Medium has been a better tool for personal growth content, and travel pieces have done better on Facebook and Instagram.
Social media is a choice. I know friend bloggers who write good searchable content day and night while never caring about followers and spammers.
Some content creators are more Instagram-based and don’t have a blog.
Bloggers versus Instagrammers is the most viral debate on the internet now. Instagrammers create fast content that needs a low attention span. Bloggers write 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 herself a blogger.
Leaving that debate for later, my best blogging tip is that social media platforms are important for your public presence as a blogger. Even though your blog is your priority, you shouldn’t ignore your social media completely.
Because not all readers read blogs anymore. Also, social media is a good tool to get discovered.
Some journalists might find you from your tweet. A popular account might tag you one fine morning bringing you in front of the eyes of many interested readers. Your article might go viral if Incredible India likes it on Twitter.
There are all kinds of things.
How to manage social media? Even keeping two social media accounts active is enough.
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. Appreciate others’ work. Connect with people.
If you aren’t active on any kind of social media, 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’m also on a social media learning curve, and I will keep this space updated with my findings. Update 2022: Four and a half years of running this blog and I’m on the same page. Social media isn’t essential but putting out something every now and then doesn’t hurt. Two active accounts are enough. Scheduling posts work best for people like me who focus on writing day in day out. Those who read your blog or discover you suddenly find the profiles relatable. And many people who come through social media end up becoming loyal readers.
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 by blogging? Yes.
Making money from blogs takes at least two years and mostly longer. And to make money out of any endeavor, you have to treat the thing as a business.
Bloggers are passionate people. But to survive as a blogger, you would have to feed your passion while putting on a business hat.
When I started my blog, I knew I have to be patient. I still don’t make enough money from the blog but I do earn from here. I earn revenue through affiliate links, limited collaborations, and freelance projects which come to me through my blog.
If you are a beginner blogger, I would suggest keeping your job while blogging. Or do freelance work along with blogging. (Now in 2022 remote job options are also rampant.)
Save enough until your blog generates money. Make a business strategy as soon as you start your blog and keep evolving it.
One of the most undervalued tips on blogging for beginners: Only if you are financially stable or have a smart plan, you would be able to blog and have fun with it.
9. Blogging is a lot of work
Like Uncle Scrooge, bloggers are buried deep in work throughout the year. The difference is that bloggers might be smiling upside down.
A typical day in a blogger’s life start from anything to writing, editing, guest posting, learning about SEO, daring social media, connecting with other bloggers, trying to revive a dead site, cleaning up broken links, editing pictures, finding new topics to write, to fretting over the unfinished drafts 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, a software engineer, a planner, a communication expert while having a full-time job or freelancing (until you start making money from the blog).
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 tire out soon. (These 9 creative writing techniques I employ in travel writing makes my travelogues shine.)
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 answers to these questions on your journey.
On rough days, when you would have to push yourself (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 got lonely while writing alone all the time.
I wanted to talk to people who might be sailing on the same ship. And only bloggers can understand the pain and the joy of being a blogger.
Then I was browsing all over the internet for good blogs and blogging tips. 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 that the blogging and travel industry works through networking. Bloggers cannot survive in solitude. They need help and they should help others.
So as early as you start 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. (here are some 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 everything when I started blogging. I compare myself to other bloggers and blame myself for not being up to speed, whatever that is.
Please don’t do the same. Move towards the future, for that is the only way to succeed. (Update 2022: I don’t regret anything anymore. I’ve realized that putting my head down and writing is the best way to live.)
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 share your experiences.
Tips for blogging from around the internet and resources that help me blog better,
- Backlinko’s list of Google’s 200 ranking factors
- Writers Write (I sign up for their challenges often or look for prompts when I can’t write at all)
- Ruskin Bond’s online writing course
- Grammarly for editing
- Pexels, Unsplash, Pixabay (and many others) for stock pictures
- Smartblogger’s Proofreading: 7 Editing Tips That’ll Make You a Better Writer
- Smartblogger’s 298 Filler Words & Phrases That Rob Your Writing of Its Power
- Hemingwayapp (I use this to check if I’m back to writing the long snaky sentences I write.)
- Make Traffic Happen Facebook group to connect with bloggers and ask questions
- Legal Nomad’s guides on blogging (I’ve yet to read this social media one.)
- Keysearch tool to find keywords
Books on writing that help me write and blog better,
Now go get them.
I still have a myriad of things to know, understand, and implement.
I’m 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 my social media profiles, connecting with fellow bloggers and the media, and sourcing more work as a freelancer.
(Update 2022: I don’t pitch to travel agencies, I’ve made peace with the bite of social media I’ve got, I travel indefinitely, and most freelance work just comes to me.)
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’m 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, laugh, and run.
Are you new to blogging? How did you like my beginners’ guide to blogging? Let me know in the comments.
Like this post? Pin away!
Want similar inspiration and ideas in your inbox? Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter "Looking Inwards"!