This post is a narrative of how somebody with virtually zero skills (and interest) in blogging went into a productivity blogger in three months with his content calendar filled for the next 12 months.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- How I built motivation to launch my own blog
- How I overcame fear
- How I got mentored
- How I built my website on top of my nine-to-five job
- What mistakes I made
- How I survived the painful first three months with the lack of dedicated visitors
- How I filled my content calendar for the next 12 months
First, we want to take a look at how it all began…
I always loved creating content, but as a scientist by degree (biologist PhD) crafting blog posts was way beyond my skills and expertise. The only blog I’ve followed for years was the blog of a DJ. I didn’t know much about blogs and wasn’t interested in, either. Later on, I fell in love with productivity, started to consume productivity blogs and books, which seeded the motivation to launch my own blog.
In 2018, I wrote and submitted five unsolicited guest posts to productivity blogs: all of which was accepted and published. This further fueled my passion and confidence to launch my own blog.
But I still was very hesitant whether I should do it.
So I identified my limiting beliefs and how I’ll conquer them. My limiting beliefs were:
- I’m an average writer and English isn’t my mother language
- My blog wouldn’t find its audience
- I’ll write clichéd articles
- I cannot address GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union) and other privacy-related regulations
- The launch of my blog will consume some 200 euros in its first year with no revenue
- It’s likely that my blog won’t be a success
Luckily I addressed all of my limiting beliefs. I then identified my goals with my blog that helped a lot later to hit the publish button. But I was light-years away from getting started. I knew I get to do my homework…
I reached out to five influential bloggers, three of whom I was a complete stranger. I wanted to get some piece of advice as to what makes a good blogger. All five bloggers shared some good practice and increased my motivation to build my blog.
After reading ProBloggerfrom Darren Rowse & Chris Garrett, I read two more books on blogging, consumed a lot of blog posts and podcasts on the topic, and accomplished ProBlogger’s free Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog course.
Finally, I reread the classic Strunk & White book, The Elements of Style, to improve my writing skills.
I then was ready to lay the foundation of my blog.
Work behind the scenes
I created a project in Nozbe (my task manager) with the title Launch my blog to home tasks that are necessary to launch and manage my blog. Currently, I have 20 tasks in it, but I’ve already completed some 50 tasks. This project is a bucket list: every task from activating my SSL certificate to installing specific WordPress plugins to creating my contact page landed in this project.
Brainstorming my blog’s name and logo was a real pain, but finally, I’m happy with the result. Although there’s a lot of paid stuff out there, I decided to do it on my own with a minimalist look.
After some market research, I bought my domain name and hosting. This was the turning point when I felt that, like it or not, I’ll be a blogger, at least in technical terms.
Another fear came from my reluctance to harness social media. But without leveraging the social media channels, one cannot build a successful blog. I then was told that using one channel of social media that I’m already comfortable with will suffice. So I started to build my presence on LinkedIn.
I learned a lot about WordPress and its plugins. I found WPBeginner, a very reliable site to master my WordPress skills. Although that time I was not yet a confident content creator, I created a content calendar in Nozbe and crafted 8 blog posts ahead. Also, I built my very own blog template in Evernote with a nice checklist to strengthen my content creation muscles.
Fortunately, it was the beginning of the new year that I finally wanted to launch my blog and that was a special period—ProBlogger announced International Start a Blog Day 2019 to “celebrate the achievements and diversity of new bloggers around the world launching their blogs at the beginning of the year.” I quickly signed up for the list to participate in that special event with 100+ fellow bloggers around the world. This participation pushed me to launch my blog despite not being perfect.
Finally, on January 28, 2019, I hit the publish button and Productivity95 came alive. I felt the adrenaline rush in my veins and was thrilled to receive the recognition…
The first three months
Although I read from the best bloggers that success doesn’t come overnight, I would check WordPress Statistics for visitor numbers at least once a week. And the numbers weren’t appealing: I had some 10 visitors per day over the first weeks.
I got my first two comments as well via the Disqus platform.
What really galvanized me was that I got highlighted in International Start a Blog Day’s Live Facebook event.
I then laid down my marketing strategy for the upcoming months: submitting unsolicited guest posts to top productivity blogs, sharing my blog posts via LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and email marketing. I published five guest posts over the first three months of my blogging journey.
Basic SEO was part of my strategy, too. What I’ve learned, though, is that crawling up into search engines takes time as you need to publish consistently.
I started to think about potential guest authors for my site and listed them on my content calendar. I teamed up with Claire Kellems, author of MyLifeInOrder, to publish a guest post reciprocally. I also happened to get another commitment from an established blogger.
I signed up with MailChimp and started to send my biweekly newsletters. It was a real pain to get my first three subscribers, but numbers increased slowly up to 15 subscribers by the end of my third month.
Visitor numbers slowly started to grow peaking at 54 visitors on a single day. At the same time, my daily visitor numbers doubled when compared to my first month. The geographical distribution of visitors was highly skewed toward the US accounting for 40% of the top 10 countries.
Nozbe, Twitter, and Google generated most of my traffic as top referring sites, despite the fact that I used LinkedIn and Facebook as my main marketing channels.
My most popular post was 27 + 1 Good Reason Why I Can’t Quit Evernote. I also published my first cornerstone content, The Ultimate Guide to Perform a Thorough Weekly Review, but it hasn’t yet generated much traffic.
I have now 49 items on my content calendar. So, I can say that I already have enough blog post ideas for the rest of the year. (I publish my content weekly.) I always work ahead so I have a buffer of some 5 blog posts ready to be published.
How did I get so far in just a few months? I simply followed the formula proposed by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan in their seminal book The ONE Thing: “Extraordinary results demand that you set a priority and act on it.” I decided that my priority is writing blog posts, at least one piece each week, and then I acted on my priority.
I don’t know whether my blog will unfold in a powerhouse of engaging content, but I’ve already set my goals for the current calendar year.
My ultimate goal for this year is to reach 10,000 visitors per month. It sounds like a lot from my present perspective but experts say it’s highly feasible. I want to find my voice, build authority, and listen to feedbacks.
By the end of the year, hopefully, I’ll be ready to answer two fundamental questions:
- Am I still passionate about blogging?
- Have I delivered value to my readers? And if the answer is yes, then did I get the feedback in numbers? (Visitors, email subscribers, comments, etc.)
Only if I get a yes to both questions, will I continue my journey.
So, what about mistakes?
If I look back, I see that I made some mistakes in the process:
- I had been for a long time hesitant whether I should start my own blog.
- I tend to be a perfectionist so I spent way too much time on choosing my domain name, polishing my logo, and worrying about GDPR compliance.
- It follows that I postponed my blog launch.
- I wasn’t pushy enough to heavily market my blog via social media and email.
It’s my sincere hope that you find value in my story and it fuels your passion to build your own blog. Blogging really is an awesome experience and I feel fortunate to call myself a blogger. It sounds so good!