“I want to, but…” is probably the single most frequently used comment I hear when I speak to friends, family, and crowds when it comes to starting something new. Whether it’s about starting a new business, going on a diet, planning an evening, or writing a blog, everyone seems to have an excuse for why they shouldn’t do it.
We’re all smart people, so let’s not tell ourselves stupid lies.
It has been six years since I started writing (my first post was in January 2010), so I want to share with you the processes, struggles, mistakes, and successes that I’ve had since starting this blog to help illustrate that starting something is NOT easy, but if you want to do it, the best way to do it is to just start.
If you read nothing further, and/or have no interest in publishing, this is the key take away: The best way forward, is forward. The best way to start something, is to start it. Click To Tweet
Or as Nike says, “Just do it.”
For the longest time I said I wanted to start a blog, but time and time again I asked myself, “What am I going to write about?” “Are people even going to care?” “Can I make money from doing this?”.
Then people would ask me why I write and spend money on sending the blog posts out, and if I even profit from writing.
Then it hit me: Those are the results of staying true to to your values, even though it may not come to fruition immediately. As you may have read in the past, I’ve always been big with setting up goals, but what I’ve discovered to be even more important is having value-based goals.
Value-based goals are aligned with how you live, what you want in life, and how you make your day-to-day decisions. Mine are simple, and that’s why this blog and my motivation to write exist today:
- Make a Mark: I want to leave a legacy behind, and I want my family, children, and friends to know who I was and how I lived my life in case one day, I am unable to pass on my very little knowledge and wisdom to future generations.
- Lead and Inspire: I get the most satisfaction when I see that I’ve been truly able to help someone else. If I can change the way someone sees the world, then together we will change the world we see.
Below, I’ll be providing my tips and tricks for writing a blog from my own personal experience. Feel free to skip to whichever section is most applicable to where you are:
- Choosing Blog Topics/Knowing What to Write About
- How to Start Writing (Brainstorming Techniques)
- How to Launch Your Blog
- Choosing Proper Marketing Channels
- Do I Make Money From It?
- Secrets to Following Through
Choosing Blog Topics/Knowing What to Write About
Everyone has a story. Yes, even you. I discovered what to write about by writing about my passions: golf, fatherhood, and entrepreneurship.
At first, I wrote about golf because I was (and still am) on a mission to become a scratch golfer (“becoming par”), and it gave me a way to hone some of my writing abilities. My first few posts were not my finest.
While I have not published anything about fatherhood, it’s mainly because I’m still conducting a few experiments and sharing some of these experiences on Facebook, but I feel like I’ll need another few years before I can start writing about it.
Later, I started writing about entrepreneurship because I’ve been involved in it since I was 14. I felt quite comfortable sharing my experiences as an entrepreneur and hoped my blog could help other entrepreneurs.
Remember, writing is just the format I chose however you can choose to record podcasts, make videos, or livestream. Choose the medium you feel most comfortable with that best conveys your message.
How to Start Writing (Brainstorming Techniques)
One of the hardest things to do is to write your very first piece. You want to put your best foot forward. You want your first post to be spectacular. However, it’s not always the case. I often look back after several years of writing and say to myself, “This was my first post!?”. This is because we continue to grow and learn as we challenge these obstacles.
In order for me to start writing, I contracted out a team consisting of an editor, virtual executive assistant (EA), and a ghostwriter. My team and I often brainstormed for two hours in one session. I figured listing out potential blog topics would make it easier to write (and it did).
I booked a web conference, had everyone working off the same Google Spreadsheet (to enable live and collaborate editing) and laid out some ground rules:
Rule #1: There are no dumb ideas. Based on my experience in chairing creative brainstorming sessions, if you tell someone they have a bad idea, they tend to shut down internally and not contribute any further. I have found that more often than not, the best ideas come from the individual who considers him or herself to be the least creative person.
Rule #2: Ask people to do research ahead of time. I asked my ghostwriter and EA to do research on the top ten entrepreneurship articles around the world so that we could take a look at trending topics. In our brainstorming sessions we used those article topics as starting points.
Rule #3: Believe in the process. It takes at least 30 minutes for people to get warmed up and comfortable. At the beginning, my team and I had many topic suggestions and we were all moderately engaged. After 30 minutes of energy (yes, you need to bring it), we became a powerhouse of ideas!
At the end of the two-hour session —and I highly recommend at least 2 hours because the best ideas usually come later on— we had over five years worth of posts (if I were to write one article a month). While I haven’t and may not use all them, they are there in case I ever need some inspiration.
After the brainstorming session with my team, it was then up to me to decide which article topics would make the most sense to write based on the level of my experiences.
I finalized the list, let the team know, and we coordinated the content schedule.
What I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made.
Lesson: Write valuable content
Being the entrepreneur (a.k.a delegator) that I am, I had my ghost blog writer actually do all the research and come up with the first draft for my first few posts. Then my EA would do a quick edit, and I would go in and add my own experiences within each heading where it made sense. This was a mistake— the engagement on those posts was quite low, and the quality of the posts wasn’t as good.
As time went on, I started actually writing the post first, then had my ghost blog writer finish it. Alternatively I would also have the writer create a first draft based on a short summary or bullet point list of my ideas.Then, I would have an editor do the rest. This cost me about $100 per article but the quality of my posts improved.
Lesson: The best is not the best
I first debuted my articles on the social media platforms I thought would have the best impact, but what you think will resonate with people the best on certain platforms is often times different from the reality.
So, don’t get too hung up on what platform should really be first. I never thought my 3-Step Approach would get as much attention and shares as it did. I thought my When All is Lost, Trust is Your Only Currency was my favorite piece and the home-runner but it did poorly compared to some my other articles.
How to Launch Your Blog
Yesterday. Nothing is ever perfect, so stop waiting for the perfect moment because it doesn’t exist.
Here are some of the questions I asked to decide which blogging platform was right for me:
- Am I able to use my own domain name? (i.e. jeremychoi.com versus jeremychoi.[websitename].com.).
- Am I able to own all the content and not be at risk of another service losing it? (Wix, Squarespace, Blogger, and all these other blogging platforms were ruled out.)
- Is it easy to use?
- Does the platform have built-in marketing or social media plugins, and other advanced features?
- Is it cost effective?
Therefore, there was only one winner for me: WordPress (25% of the world’s websites are on this platform, and they own over 59% of all CMS market share). I downloaded a soft copy of WordPress at WordPress.org and installed it on a web host. I paid a developer to customize my theme and install all the necessary add-ons in order for it to function to my liking.
Then it was time for blogging! In the beginning, I never promoted my posts until a friend of mine inspired me to do so. I decided to use Mailchimp to send my posts out to my contact database.
Over the years, I’ve met many people but only in the last five years have I started really collecting contact information. I highly recommend you start collecting good contact information today if you have not done so already. There are tools like Brewster that help with this, but I personally just update contact info in Google Contacts as I meet people.
I started with 1,200 subscribers at the beginning which came from my email contact database, and grew it from there.
What I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made.
Lesson: Test your campaign, twice.
I made the mistake of not checking the subject line and sent out my very first campaign as “testtest”.
You can probably imagine my feeling at the time my article went out (*heart dropped*). About 10% of the list unsubscribed because of that, and additionally I probably lost a lot of readers as my email address was caught in multiple spam filters due to the subject line.
Lesson: Nothing great is ever free
I’m frugal—I’d like to spend very little considering this was me spending money to help others. However, I’ve tried many free plugins and add-ons but they yield for little results. The tools that are free usually require you to spend more time on it (and is your time really free?). However, here is the list of both paid and free tools I’ve worked with.
Choosing Proper Marketing Channels
There are many ways of marketing what you are publishing. If you are truly serious about it, you can follow some experts in the fields of online funnel marketing, relationship building and list building. If you don’t know any, just ask me and I’m happy to recommend some.
Keep in mind, I don’t blog for a living and I don’t desire to be a Tony Robbins. With limited time and effort, here’s what I’ve been able to accomplish with great results thus far.
This is by far the most effective way of marketing your blog regardless of what anyone says. However, there are a few things to consider:
1. Deliver Valuable Content
When you are e-mailing someone, treat it as it is a privilege to be in their inbox. Your content has to have value. I hate making people click out of the email to read the entirety of my blog post while delivering no value. Reputation = gone! And chances are, they won’t be reading any more content from you.
2. Let Them Go
Not everyone is your target market. You’re going to have people unsubscribe, not open, nor read, or care about what you have to say. Let them go. Purge your list. I used to be unhappy when people unsubscribed… “What? They don’t want to hear from me!? But that’s my friend!”.
Then it hit me again: Why was I allowing this to annoy me? I’m spending money to send these out wholeheartedly to inspire/help them, and I should be focusing on the ones that care about what I have to say.
Your attitude is everything. I even added this to the bottom of each email because every email cost money, and if you aren’t interested, I shouldn’t be spending money on you either:
“You received this email because you’re either: a personal friend of mine that I value, or opted in at my website. No spam, No selling. Don’t want to get these anymore? Just unsubscribe it won’t offend me, I prefer an engaged readership that benefits from this rather than the quantity of subscribers.”
That was also the pivotal moment when I stopped caring how big my list was. I removed all unsubscribe notifications. In fact, the bigger the list, the more I have to spend on a monthly basis. So if you are not getting value from my posts, feel free to unsubscribe.
This is a tricky one, and one that I am still learning about. When I first started, I just cross-posted everything from my blog to my social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, in most cases I waited about seven days before I did it because I wanted my blog and subscribers to be able to get the information first, then the rest of the world would have a chance afterwards.
When I posted on social media, I always did my best to include the entire post because I did not want readers to have to leave their environment to consume valuable content. While this may not be your strategy or objective, I didn’t care about making money or increasing my subscribers, so sharing entire blog posts on various platforms was okay with me.
And it’s powerful. While readers don’t always go back to my site, I have more people looking and consuming the content I’ve published. Take a look below screen shots.
Together, that’s over 5,000+ people who have seen these article that would never have otherwise. And that is just 3 pieces out of many.
Your content needs to be seen. So I spend at least an hour a week pitching editors and journalists because I want to establish myself as a thought leader the space, and no one has better distribution other than the media itself. It takes a lot of work, but here are some key things to remember:
- Make great content. Great content brings readership, and publishers make money with ads through higher readership.
- Don’t talk about yourself. Talk about how you can deliver value to their readership. You want your piece to do well? Make sure you write to the right audience.
- Don’t write it all. Journalists take pride in their work, they want to create the piece, this is their art. But help them with your experience, your insights, your views, but let them do what they do best.
Here is just an example of the power of syndication – this brought me a lot of subscribers and followers on social media.
New Subscribers Over Time
I typically send the entire blog post in my emails (except for this one, because it was way too long) and don’t have subscribers click out of the window.
It’s only been about two years since I started my first email newsletter and my list now consists of 2,100+ subscribers starting at from 1,200. I average an open rate of 38% now versus 27% when I first started which is still more than 2x the industry average (16.6%).
On my website itself, here is the graphic and wording that I used to gain additional subscribers that came from other sources other than directly from me.
But as of last week, I have taken this down. I actually want fewer subscribers, I want my articles to seem less “spammy” by removing that pop-up, and I want to start cleansing my list. I’m going to start by removing people who have not opened an email from me in the last year, then start narrowing it down even more until I have a list of fully engaged people. I want my open rate to skyrocket.
Day to Day Communication
I promote my articles in my email signature as it provides proof in your day-to-day communication that you are a thought leader.
I use a free service from Google called the Google URL shortener for these links because it allows me to track how many clicks I get. The results will surprise you. In six months of doing this (I started in July 2015), there has been well over 1,000+ clicks since (probably goes to show also how many personal emails I send out daily!).
Do I Make Money From It?
Yes, I do. But not directly. If you follow my blog or are a subscriber, you will know that I never sell and I always give full disclosure if I share an affiliate link to a product that I personally use. So how do I make money from it?People do business with people they like. Click To Tweet
I think that is an universal truth with pretty much anything. I believe that because I’m delivering value, being open, transparent and vulnerable, people can relate to me. The ones that like me are more likely to work with me, and the ones that don’t, no matter even if I sell, it will likely not work.
Over the years, I witnessed over $250,000 worth of business flow through because of my blog articles and easily over $2M worth of opportunities. This is an accumulation of clients to my ventures LPS Athetlic Centre, WPUP Inc., Athlete Activation System, Dyma, and private consulting & investments.
Because of writing, I was also able to strengthen relationships with people which is something that money can’t buy.
Secrets to Following Through
First you can try just removing the dates from your writing so that there is no commitment and see how well you do. However, I do recommend putting together an accountability group so that you follow through. The more you do it, the more it becomes a habit. Try my good friends UJ and Alex’s Five Minute Journal, which can help you build some strength in habits & practice gratitude at the same time.
Always refer back to why you are writing. If it is for money, forget about it. You might as well just quit now! Dig deeper and find that value-based goal that you have.
My thinking is that when we die, the only thing you will be remembered for is what impact you had on people & the world; not how much money you made, or the cars, houses, and jobs you had.
Boldly go, and create your legacy.