For the last dozen years, I’ve been a bona fide full-time blogger and freelance writer, a passion-based career that affords me an incredibly rewarding freedom of lifestyle. But it’s not all roses and buttercups. When I got started, I had only the vaguest sense of what was involved.
Here’s how I turned my passion for writing into a full-time blogging career and what I learned along the way.
It’s Not as Luxurious as You Might Think
Back in the “pioneer” days of 2006, I had no idea of the industry’s potential. Lifestyle travel wasn’t yet a trend, and terms like “digital nomad” and “location independent” hadn’t been coined. The blogging industry didn’t exist. As little more than online journals, blogs weren’t a respected (nor monetized) form of media.
Now, a new blog launches into the “blogosphere” every few seconds, with many bloggers hoping their offering will fund a lifestyle of fancy hotels and beachside work days lubricated with umbrella-clad cocktails. Although this is technically possible, it’s largely a misconception, one of many the blogging industry is famous for.
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Blogging vs. Freelance Writing
While most freelance writers are bloggers, not all bloggers are freelance writers. Freelance writing includes all publication mediums, both in print and online. A blogger focuses on blogs, often solely their own blog.
However, the two are complementary. I defy freelance writers these days not to have a blog as well; it’s a useful promotional tool.
Blogging Is (So Much) More Than Writing
I learned this the hard way: Writing posts and taking pictures are a fraction of the work of running a blog. It requires an editorial eye, technical knowledge in website management and SEO, marketing expertise, social media maintenance and an analytical touch to understand who your audience is, and how to target and engage them. Learn from some of my mistakes in this step-by-step guide to starting a blog.
Even freelance blogging gigs require writers to understand SEO basics and content management systems. Blogging also involves an entirely different style of writing than other mediums.
Blogs Take Time to Develop
I can’t emphasize this point enough. To the dozens of readers who have asked me over the years how their brand-new blog can fund their upcoming six-month trip (and oh yeah, they leave in a month), I must impart some harsh advice: It ain’t gonna happen.
If your blog is a side hustle (and I recommend starting your blog as such — don’t quit your day job until you’re confident you want to be a full-time blogger), expect it to take up to two years to kick out a decent income. I highly recommend taking a course in blogging to reduce your learning curve.
Your Blog Is a Business …
To run a blog, you need to think like an entrepreneur. Where is the industry going? What niche can you tap? How can you monetize? What unfulfilled needs can you satisfy by leveraging what you know? And why should people listen to you?
As a former financial planner turned freelance writer, I initially wrote for financial publications about travel (reflecting my full-time travel lifestyle), and I wrote for travel publications about finance (because you need money to travel). Out of all this, I created a niche on my own blog to teach people how to travel full-time in a financially sustainable way. Everybody has a unique value proposition. What’s yours?
… And a Business Needs Passion
If you don’t love your blog, you won’t likely “make it” as a blogger. My blog started as a passion project while I focused my career efforts on freelance writing. Even though making money blogging was practically impossible in those early years, my blog remained my first passion and I spent countless hours making “my baby” what it is today.
If you are passionate about writing, have an entrepreneurial streak, can flex with an ever-changing industry and enjoy engaging with readers, then blogging is for you. It’s not easy, but perhaps that’s also what makes it rewarding.
Click to read more about why one successful entrepreneur isn’t ready to ditch her 9-to-5.