What the hell am I doing? Why did I start Million Dollar Hacker? At first, I simply wanted to create something new. I wanted to build something from the ground up and watch it grow.
I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never created a successful blog. When I think about it, the longest I’ve ever committed to writing was no more than a few weeks.
Here’s what this post is about. It’s a post about how I started a blog. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, you’ll probably learn something. If you’ve never thought about starting a blog, you’ll find out what it takes to start a blog from the ground up.
Finally, if you’re already a successful blogger, you might find it hilarious to read about all the mistakes I made. You might think back to the past and find a little bit of yourself in me.
I’ve never created a successful niche blog, but I’m trying anyway
As we head into February, I’ve been writing for three months now. Yes, that’s right – I stuck with it for more than 60 days. Some successful bloggers say that’s the magical point. If you can stay consistent through more than two months, you might have a chance.
I’ve been busting my butt writing almost everyday. If you look at my drafts folder, it reminds me of my messy room when I was a kid. There are posts I’ve started and thrown away. I even have some good ideas I just haven’t had time to finish up and schedule.
Three months is not the greatest streak. Most bloggers fizzle out before they hit the one year mark. That’s what I’m working toward next.
Even though I knew nothing about blogging when I started, I know a helluva lot more now. I’m not an expert by any means, but I think I’ve had a little bit of success.
The hard part for me is writing for the blog, but the easy part is working with the world wide web.
And I do know quite a bit about the web. That’s what I call the easy part. I work with the web everyday, so that part comes easy.
Looking back at my career so far, I’ve been writing software for years as both a full time job and on the side. I’ve built software that thousands of people use every month.
If you have a technical problem with your blog, I can probably help you fix it. If I can’t, I’m confident I can point you in the right direction.
That’s the beauty of creating this thing. I don’t consider myself a great writer – I’m still learning. I would benefit greatly from a writing coach or editor.
There’s a ton of information online about blogging. I couldn’t tell you how many blogging lists I’ve read over the past two months. It’s a lot. Most of the time, if you have a question, you can find an answer out there somewhere.
Most of the time, you aren’t the first person to run into a particular problem.
Learn from me. I do a lot of things wrong.
Here’s one thing I’ve noticed.
There are a ton of lists about how to start a blog. These step by step guides tell you everything you should do. They’re usually written by people who have been blogging for years. If you follow their guide and stick with it, you’ll start to have some success.
However, it seems like some of them have forgotten what failed. How many things did they try that fell flat on their face? What are some things you should not do when starting a niche blog?
That’s what I want to solve here. I’ve been keeping a diary of everything I’ve done since day one. I’ve tried my best to record every single detail.
Using the diary, I want to make this a series of posts. Think of it as “watch this guy who knows nothing about blogging start a niche blog.”
Here’s what you’ll find as I write about each week since starting my blog:
- How I waste money buying things I don’t need
- Things I did to waste a bunch of time
- Stuff I did that I call successful
- Articles I read along the way to help me out
- My opinion on some of the things you shouldn’t do
Basically, there will be a ton of details about starting a blog from the perspective of someone who’s never started a blog before. You’ll also learn what it’s like to run a blog week to week. Better yet, you can learn from someone who works during the day and blogs at night.
Yeah, this blog is a side project. I’ve been doing all of this stuff at night. Maybe that’s why I make so many mistakes.
With the right tools and the right mindset, you can do it too. You will mess up – just read these posts and laugh at me. When you eventually run into these failures and start doing some dumb things yourself, you can share them with me.
Week 1: Watch this guy who knows nothing about blogging start a niche blog
1. Picked a WordPress host and theme
Don’t think too hard about this. You can always switch hosts later. Here’s how I think about it: chances are your blog won’t grow fast enough in the beginning to need an outstanding host.
You can solve those problems when you have those problems. High amounts of traffic are good problems to have.
If you notice your site going down all the time, contact support. If the problem doesn’t go away, then you can switch hosts.
I chose A Small Orange. I’m still with them after three months. I don’t get any affiliate money from mentioning them. I also won’t tell you to go sign up for Bluehost.
I’ve heard many bad things about the company that owns A Small Orange and Bluehost. You will never see me pushing hard for affiliate income from these two companies.
When I started, I had no idea A Small Orange was owned by the same company as Bluehost and many others. With what I know now, I would have likely chose a different host. At some point, I’ll be moving my blog to a new host.
Although I haven’t had any problems with A Small Orange, your mileage may vary. If you ever need help with your host, send me an email and I can try to help you out.
You don’t need a premium WordPress theme to start a blog
As for your theme, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a premium theme when you get started. Here’s why:
- If this is your first time, you don’t have an audience anyway.
- Your writing and consistency is more important than your theme.
- There are suitable free themes out there.
Once you get started and prove to yourself that you’ll continue blogging in the future, buy a premium theme.
The most recommended premium themes are from the Genesis Framework. Take a look at their themes and pick one that suits you. As far as price, the themes range from $99 to $129. Many great blogs out there use a theme based on Genesis Framework.
A premium theme gives you a good starting point. You can customize the theme a little bit if you want. Then if you really want to go crazy, you can hire a designer to help you truly make your blog’s design unique.
2. Started an editorial calendar
If you read any of the great bloggers like Neil Patel, they recommend keeping an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is a place to store ideas for blog posts and keep your schedule.
By using the editorial calendar, you’ll develop a discipline to keep writing. It’s a list to keep you motivated and fresh.
There’s no special way to make an editorial calendar. Oftentimes, you can simply use Google Docs or Excel to create a list of post ideas.
If you’re starting a blog, you should try to develop an editorial calendar full of ideas. You may find developing ideas is something you struggle with. That’s good – before you start your blog, find better ways to brainstorm.
Start writing down ideas whenever you they come up in your head. Honestly, that’s harder than you think. Learn to use the notes app on your smart phone. An idea may pop up in your head when you’re lying in bed – write it down.
Also, try to think about everything in your life and how it relates to your niche. For example, I write about personal finance and sometimes think about which characters in The Wire are most likely to be closet millionaires.
For example, I don’t think Omar is likely to be a millionaire because he gives so much to the poor. Also, he has an appetite for destruction. He’s more like Robin Hood than anything else.
On the other hand, Stringer was focused on building for the future. Sure, he got burned along the way, but he knew blood and violence wasn’t the long term answer.
You can do the same in your niche. If you’re writing about board games, The Big Bang Theory might be a good start.
3. Setup Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel
This is something you can do immediately. Google Analytics is simply the best way to track visitors to your website. When your blog grows, it offers more advanced reporting on referrals and how much time people are spending on your site.
Don’t use anything else. Don’t use the built-in analytics of your blogging software. Just install Google Analytics and stop worrying about it.
When I started, I installed both Google Analytics and the Facebook Pixel. The Facebook Pixel is a way to track conversions from Facebook ads and things like that.
I thought I was going to do a bunch of stuff with Facebook ads and boosting posts. After two months, I’ve stopped worrying about Facebook. So for me, messing around with the Facebook Pixel was a waste of time.
It’s perfectly OK to try a bunch of different things at first. As soon as you realize it’s not worth it, stop. For example, in my 4th week I boosted a post on Facebook. The results were terrible and I decided to focus on Twitter and Pinterest.
If you’re just one person, you’ll have to pick and choose what works for you. You can’t do everything.
4. Published my first two blog posts
My first two posts on this blog are just turrible. I had no idea what I was doing.
However, I still think it was worth it. I took an approach to crank out as many posts as I could when I started. This approach worked because I’m not a great writer – I simply don’t practice it much and I still have so much to learn.
Forcing myself to write was one of my strategies to get better. The strategy was simple. Sit down in my chair and write about a topic in my editorial calendar. Put time into it. By doing so, I feel like I improve a small amount each week.
To write a good blog post, you should be reading too. You can read other blogs in your niche or stay in tune with what’s being shared on social media.
That’s basically what I did to get started. I built my editorial calendar by researching what people were reading about. Take a look at what people are sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
Train yourself to become a good writer by writing for your blog everyday
Starting the writing process was my training and I’m still training everyday.
But here’s the best part. Even though some of my first posts weren’t very good, I started. That’s all it takes – get off the lazy train and force yourself to do it.
I put my hat in the ring.
To be honest, I didn’t expect anyone to read any of these posts. Why would someone want to read what I have to write? I still don’t know that answer, but I do know one thing. Each and every one of us has a plethora of life experience.
Share those experiences with the world. Always be thinking about how your life relates to what you’re writing about.
ABP. Always be publishing.When it comes to blogging, ABP. Always Be Publishing. Click To Tweet
5. Setup a simple Trello board to plan my blogging to-do list
I’ve used Trello in my day to day life for years. Turns out, it works great for bloggers too.
And hey, you could even use Trello to create an editorial calendar. I haven’t moved my editorial calendar to Trello yet. However, it looks awesome and I’ll be using Trello in the future.
I do use Trello to keep track of my blogging todos. Everything you read in this post was once a Trello card. If you looked at my Trello board right now, you could see all kinds of things:
- Bookmarks of great articles I’ve read related to blogging
- Things I tried but gave up on
- Notes about goals and what’s working
- Some things I want to try within the next week or so
- What I thought were great ideas and later decided to not work on them
However you plan your to-do list, check your list every week. You don’t have to look at your to-do list every minute. When to-dos are completed, mark them as such.
It sounds simple, but tracking what you need to do in the future and what you’ve done in the past is hugely important. Later on, you may find yourself referencing something you’ve done in the past.
That’s the advantage of using a tool like Trello. It’s easily searchable and saves everything you do. With a notebook, you’ll have a much harder time digging through to find that key piece of information.
6. Created social media accounts
This is easy. Just create your accounts on Twitter and Facebook. You can worry about Pinterest and all those others later.
I didn’t worry about posting anything during my first week. There was no content on my blog and nobody knew I existed anyway. When you’re setting up a blog, try not to waste time on things that aren’t working.
I knew I was planning on being a part of the community in my niche, so I wanted to get this done as soon as possible. I wanted to join the conversation so to speak.
There’s two reasons for joining the conversation in your niche:
- You want to get to know other bloggers writing about the things you’ll be writing about.
- Taking an active role in your community will help you stay consistent.
For example, let’s say you join Twitter and start following people in your niche. Your followers will be posting about things people in your niche are interested about. This will keep you informed.
Certain posts will come across your feed and you’ll be motivated to respond. You might have something to add to the conversation. Take advantage of those opportunities.
Finally, people will start to take notice. They’ll notice your interested in the same things and they might even mention you to ask for your input.
Doing this builds up an accountability factor. You’ll be active and people will count on you for input. Don’t let them down.
7. Reading material
- How to Grow Your Blog to 100,000 Visits a Month Within 1.5 Years
- Types of Blog Posts That Are Easy To Market
- The Uncensored Guide to Promoting a Blog Post
8. WordPress plugins I installed in my first week of blogging
- Custom Share Buttons with Floating Sidebar
- Image Widget
- Insert Headers and Footers
- Ultimate Social Media PLUS
- WP Limit Login Attempts
- WP Smush
- Yoast SEO
More Articles in This Series
I’ve never created a successful blog, but I will. That’s one thing I know about myself. If I put my mind to it, I will get the job done. Learning to blog might take me awhile, but I’ll get there someday.
If you’re starting a blog, don’t get discouraged. The 10,000 hour rule is a real thing for a reason. You have to put in the hard work to get the job done. You won’t become an expert overnight – overnight successes simply don’t exist.
Even though I’m three months into blogging already, I’ll be writing about my first weeks blogging every month. This is only the first week.
Sign up for my mailing list and stay tuned for the second week of blogging, the third week of blogging, and the fourth week of blogging. Those weeks will be filled with a bunch of things I did wrong, money I wasted on this blog, articles I read, and plugins I installed.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, what have you learned. If you’re a successful blogger, do you remember your first weeks of starting a blog? Let me know in the comments below.