Professional blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme—and I’m sure you’ve discovered that for yourself. But although building a successful, income-producing blog might take a bit longer than you wanted, it’s far from impossible.
In fact, it’s just a case of slowly but surely improving your game. These are seven habits which top bloggers share. Are you missing any of them?
Being willing to learn, consistently, is crucial to success in today’s fast-moving world—but that’s especially true in blogging, where technological changes mean that last year’s top sites are this year’s has-beens.
As I’ve met more and more great bloggers, I’ve been struck how much they invest in learning. They go to conferences, they read ebooks and take ecourses, and they make sure they keep improving their skills in the two areas which matter most: being able to write well and being adept with technology.
Become a regular reader of great blogging and writing related blogs. My top three are:
Buy an ebook or take an ecourse that’ll help you take your blogging further. A great one to start with is 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, because it combines solid theory with practical exercises, and it covers a wide range of beginner-friendly topics.
Your blogging needs to be sustainable. While you might not be making much money to start with, you should aim to make enough to invest in some learning materials—and to cover your hosting, domain name registration, and other blogging expenses.
You also need to make sure that you’re being realistic about the time you can spend on your blog. Sure, you might have the energy to write all weekend when you first start out—but will you be able to do that month after month? An awful lot of would-be probloggers give up after a few weeks because their blogging schedule just wasn’t sustainable.
If your hosting and other expenses mean that your blog’s currently running at a loss, find one simple way to monetize it. That might mean finding a great affiliate product to recommend, installing a donation button, or putting up Google AdSense.
Plan out major purchases—like ecourses or conference tickets—in advance. Look for ways to cover the costs from your blogging income, rather than out of your own pocket. The first time I went to South by South West, I released an ebook which paid for the cost of my trip (you can read how I did it here on ProBlogger).
Can you imagine reading a post like this on ProBlogger?
Sorry guys, I know I haven’t updated in a month, I’ve just been really busy…
Of course not. In fact, if even a couple of days went by without a ProBlogger update, I bet Darren would be inundated with emails from worried readers asking what was wrong. Professional bloggers post consistently—whether that means once a week or three times a day.
Posting consistently shows that you take your blog seriously. It gets readers into the habit of coming back to read new posts—and it gets you into the habit of writing regularly.
Decide on a sensible, sustainable posting schedule. It’s fine if that means one post a week—readers would rather have one great post every week than seven rushed posts one week then nothing for a month.
Write posts ahead of time, so that you’ve got some “banked” for busy periods. You can schedule a post to publish in the future using WordPress, so your posts can keep going up consistently even if you’re jetting off on holiday.
The sun’s shining outside. There’s a show I want to watch. And I really should do the dishes…
It’s all too easy to think up excuses to leave your desk and your blog. Even if you love writing, you probably find it hard to sit down and stay focused while you’re working on a post. I write for a living and I still find it challenging!
That’s why self-discipline is so important for professional bloggers. You need to be able to work on your blog without checking Twitter every two minutes, and without getting distracted by everything else that’s going on around you.
Self-discipline doesn’t just mean sitting down and working, though. It also means knowing when to stop working. That might mean being self-disciplined enough not to check your emails during dinner, or not obsessing over Google Analytics.
Next time you sit down to write a post, close your internet browser first. Don’t open it up again until you’ve been writing for at least 30 minutes.
Find ways to bolster your self-discipline by changing your environment:Take your laptop to a coffee shop that doesn’t have wi-fi.Get up earlier so you can blog before work, rather than struggling to have motivation to blog when you get home.Block websites which you find yourself accessing too often.
This might seem like an odd habit to include on the list, but I think integrity is extremely important for professional bloggers. The best bloggers I know are people who I put a lot of trust in. I buy their products—and I’m confident that these will be worth my money. I buy products which they recommend—and I know that the blogger isn’t just hyping something in order to get a few dollars in commission.
I can’t tell you what integrity means for you and your blog. But I suggest that you give it some thought. It’s very easy to lose readers’ trust—and once you’ve lost it, they won’t be coming back. Worse, they might warn other people to steer clear of you.
Make sure you always disclose affiliate links. This isn’t just to help readers trust you—it’s also a legal requirement if you live in America.
Think through any moral grey areas carefully. For instance, would you run a sponsored post on your blog—and if so, would you disclose its status? Would you promote a product which you hadn’t tried out yourself—and if so, would you make that clear to your readers?
I’ve seen a few train-wreck situations in my time in the blogosphere, where comment threads have got out of hand, or where two bloggers have attacked one another in their posts. It’s never a pretty sight, and it always gives me a dim view of the people in question.
So courtesy is a vital habit. That means responding politely and pleasantly to people—even if they’ve said something which makes you angry. If your blog is still small, courtesy might also mean replying to all your comments. If your blog is too big to do that, courtesy might prompt you to explain on your “About” page that you can’t reply to everyone but that you do value their comments.
If you’re ever tempted to post a blazing angry comment, stop. Walk away for a while—at least an hour if you can.
Consider having a comments policy which encourages (or requires) all your blog’s readers to interact respectfully. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree—but they have to avoid using aggressive language or posting personal attacks. Remember that many readers may read the comments, even if they never post one.
Finally, professional bloggers don’t stay in the middle of their cozy comfort zone. If they did, they’d never have got far. They keep on growing—stretching themselves, trying new things, bringing in new readers, and launching new products.
Growth isn’t always easy. There’ll be plenty of times in your blogging journey where you’re nervous about taking the next step. Perhaps you’ve never sent out a guest post, because you’re worried about being rejected. Or perhaps you’ve not made a start on that ebook you’ve got planned, because you know it’ll be a lot of work.
But every single problogger had to write their first guest post, launch their first product and go to their first conference. I’m sure they were all nervous—there’s nothing wrong with that—but what matters is that they did it anyway. And that’s how they, and their blogs, grew.