At a recent Christmas party a friend asked me a series of rapid-fire questions about blogging.
“Do you think I should start a blog in 2018? Or have I missed the boat with blogging? If blogging is still relevant, how could it benefit me? I guess I’m trying to work out… why should I start a blog?”
My friend isn’t the only one asking these kinds of questions.
At the start of every year a lot of people ponder whether a blog should be a part of their plans for the new year. And every January we see a spike in our Google Analytics where people are arriving from Google to articles such as ‘How to Start a Blog’ and ‘Is a Blog Right for You?’
Which is why we’ve decided to put together our most comprehensive resource on the topic of starting blogs – our free Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog Course (which kicks off next week).
Thousands of people have already claimed their spot in the course, convinced a blog should be a part of their plans for 2018. But I know some people in my friend’s shoes who are still trying to work out if a blog is right for them, and what the benefit would be to start one.
As I consider the question of why someone should start a blog in 2018, I can’t help but return to the beginning of my own blogging journey in 2002.
Why I Started Blogging
My decision to start a blog came very quickly. Within 15 minutes of seeing my first blog I wanted to have one.
When I talk at conferences about my start, I often talk about two things I found attractive in the first blogs I saw:
- They gave normal people a ‘voice’ to share their story, experience and ideas.
- They created community, and a place for others to come and interact around the ideas, stories and experience of the blogger.
The other thing I loved about the idea of having a blog is it could be a place for me to express myself, think out loud and record different aspects of my life and what I was doing and learning. It also looked like fun.
Ultimately, I had a hunch that blogging could be good for me. I had no real vision of where it may lead. And I suspect that most bloggers back then started in a similar way.
Things have changed since 2002.
I still meet quite a few bloggers who start for similar reasons – wanting to express themselves, make connections and have fun. But many now come to blogging with more formed ideas of the benefits blogging might bring to them.
Blogging has evolved (and was already evolving before I started). The earliest blogs were usually hand-coded, as no ready-made blogging tools existed. Tools such as Blogger, MovableType, TypePad and WordPress followed, and today there’s an entire industry of blogging tools.
Similarly, the ways people use blogs has changed. When I started, many bloggers described their blogs as online diaries where different topics sat side by side quite comfortably in a myriad of different categories.
While this approach still exists today, more and more bloggers have narrowed their focus to ‘niche’ topic blogs, or write for certain demographics of readers.
Finally, we’ve seen an evolution in the benefits and outcomes people hope to achieve with their blogs. While self-expression is still why many people blog, others want to make a profit or use their blog to land other opportunities that will bring them financial reward.
Which brings me to one of my friend’s main questions.
“Why should I start a blog?”
4 Reasons to Start a Blog in 2018
There’s no single answer to this question, and I don’t believe that every person should have a blog. But there are some really good reasons for starting a blog today, which I’d love to explore for those considering starting one.
Of course, this isn’t a definitive list. And keep in mind that many bloggers start for more than one of these reasons.
1. Self-Improvement and Personal Development
While blogging unexpectedly became the basis for my business, and has opened up amazing opportunities for me to earn an income, one of the biggest benefits to getting into this space is the same reason I got into it.
Blogging has given me a place to express myself.
Something very powerful happens when you get into the habit of ordering and writing down your thoughts, ideas, stories and opinions.
People have been doing this for centuries in private diaries and journals. But to put some of these things into a public forum for others to interact with has been a very positive experience for me.
Having a place to express myself has given me many personal benefits. In researching and writing thousands of articles over the years I have:
- learned so much about the topics I write about
- identified, sharpened and deepened my ideas and opinions
- refined my voice
- grown my writing and communication skills
- built discipline
- found a creative outlet
- confronted fears and doubts and grown in confidence.
This list could go on. But the bottom line is I’m much better as a person for having a blog.
It will come as no surprise to regular ProBlogger readers that one of the reasons I’m giving for starting a blog is it can be financially profitable.
I’m not saying every blog will be profitable. But many bloggers have grown income streams from their blogging, both directly and indirectly.
This isn’t the place to go into depth about how to make money blogging. (I’ve written many articles on the topic, and recommend reading my Make Money Blogging article as a starting point.) But I’m amazed at how blogs have provided an income for my little family over the years.
I blogged for 18 months without knowing you could make money from blogs. And then I started experimenting with Google’s AdSense and Amazon’s Associate’s program in 2004.
It started very slowly. Despite having a decent audience, my first month with AdSense brought in around A$60 (around US$45). My first month of Amazon’s Associates program made even less – around A$7 or US$5.50. My first month of earnings wouldn’t even get me a coffee a day.
Still, it was a start. And as I slowly built my traffic and got better at using these programs, the income grew.
I don’t typically share my income. But to illustrate how it’s grown, here’s a little insight into these two income streams.
- My total Amazon Associates earnings since 2004 is around US$670,000.
- My total AdSense earnings since 2004 is around US$2,400,000.
I hesitated about sharing these figures, because I don’t want to build false hope that anyone who starts a blog will reach this kind of income level. Not every blogger who sets out to make money blogging reaches a full-time level.
I should also point out this income is from 13.5 years of blogging. It’s certainly not an overnight thing.
But it is possible to build significant income from blogging. And these are just two of my income streams (and by no means the biggest).
Since 2009 we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of eBooks, courses and Lightroom Presets on my main blog – Digital Photography School. And just as many sales of other people’s products as an affiliate.
I’m not the most profitable blogger around. But the fact I’ve achieved this level as a result of starting to monetize in the early days is quite amazing to me.
Of course, monetizing blogs through advertising, affiliate marketing and selling virtual products is just one way to make money from blogging. There are many more, such as using the profile a blog can bring to promote your existing business or to sell your own services as a freelancer, coach, speaker, etc.
Blogs allow you to:
- grow your profile
- be found via search engines and social media
- (most importantly) build your brand, credibility, authority and trust with potential clients.
And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen bloggers use their blog’s profile to land more traditional employment. (In these cases, their blog became their resume.)
Note: I explore reasons why businesses should start blogging in this podcast.
The other aspect of growing profit from a blog is it can also become an asset you can potentially sell at some point.
I mentioned earlier that one reason I wanted to start a blog is those first blogs I came across has a sense of community on them.
While the bloggers were using their blogs to amplify their own voices, those blogs were also a place for other people to find their voices too. A community was forming in the comments. Bloggers were linking to (and building relationships with) each other. And there was a lovely sense of inclusiveness between bloggers.
While blogging can sometimes get a little competitive these days, I still believe it’s a remarkably welcoming and open community in most cases and can open some wonderful opportunities for relationships.
As I look back over the past 15 years I’ve been blogging, many of the highlights have been about the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with.
Years of creating useful content, growing your brand, building an audience and establishing trust with that audience opens the door for many friendships, collaborations and other opportunities.
You never quite know where these relationships might lead you. Some may lead to financially rewarding opportunities. But more often than not it leads to lasting friendships, and a real sense of belonging in dynamic and supportive communities.
4. Giving Something Back
This is my final reason, but it’s by no means the least important. In fact, for me it’s probably the most meaningful.
One of the big benefits of blogging is the potential to make the world we live in a better place. And while not all blogs do this, many do in their own small way.
My blogs are about photography and blogging. They’re not topics that will make a major difference on a global scale. (I din’t see a Nobel Peace Prize in my future.) But I know that after publishing content every day for 15 years my blogs have made a difference to the lives of many.
Late last year I shared a post here on ProBlogger about how a person came up to me recently at a conference and credited ProBlogger with saving their marriage. And others shared how they’d build significant businesses through coming across things we’d published.
Blogging can change your life as a blogger in many ways. But the experience is even more meaningful and rewarding when you realise it can be also used to inspire, educate, and give others a sense of belonging.
It also provides lots of opportunities to shine the light and lend your voice to other worthwhile causes. One of my own highlights from blogging came when I had opportunity to travel to Tanzania and see the work of an amazing organisation working with people with disabilities in that country.
Being able to use my blogs to give a voice to this worthy cause was an amazing opportunity.
Should you start a blog in 2018?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question for you. But I can say that, on a personal level, starting a blog was one of the most amazing things I’ve even done.
Blogging changed the trajectory of my life in many ways.
- It helped me grow and develop on a personal level.
- It helped me start and grow a business that has given our family income we never expected to have.
- It opened opportunity for community, friendship and collaborations with wonderful people.
- It gave me ways to do something meaningful that in small ways allows me to make a difference for others.
I hope this inspires you to join us in starting a blog in 2018. Reserve your spot in our new free Start a Blog course that kicks off on 10 January.
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