6 Lessons I Learned in the First 6 Weeks of Blogging

I started my blogging career with lofty expectations: I wanted to secure freelancing gigs, connect with industry experts and make enough money to buy a ticket to Thailand. Yeah.

What I discovered is that blogging is a slow-going process, and it takes time to build relationships and generate revenue (more on that later). Here is what blogging has taught me so far.

1. Blogging isn’t the writing you learned in school.

Blog posts are not the formulaic, joyless, five-paragraph essays you churned out in high school. You must hone your writing skills as well as develop your own (preferably humorous) voice.

Some of the biggest bloggers have very identifiable writing styles: David Lebovitz quips sarcastically, Everywherist pokes fun at herself and Nomadic Matt tells it like it is.

As I blog I have to remind myself to show more of my personality through my writing. Readers don’t want a list of tips, they want to hear your story and learn more about who you are. Bottom line? It’s a blog, not a guidebook.

2. Twitter is the best way to connect.

In the past two months I have gone from having two Twitter followers to more than 225. The New York Times Travel section retweeted one of my tweets, which resulted in lots of new followers and blog hits. GotSaga sent me an offer to publish an article on their site which I happily accepted.

I now understand why so many social media experts extol the benefits of Twitter; it is truly the best way to connect with other people in your industry, and to score anything from a job interview to a free lunch.

In my very, very limited experience, not all social media is effective up front. StumbleUpon hasn’t done anything for me yet, and my Google+ account lies untouched. And generating my Klout score (of 10!) was just discouraging.

3. Monetization is impossible, apparently.

Out of all topics related to blogging, blog monetization seems the most disputed. This blogger loves Google Adsense, this blogger hates it.

After an unsuccessful three-day stint with Google AdSense, I decided the ugly ads weren’t worth the meager income. I then began thinking about installing an advertising page. Private advertising doesn’t just fall into your inbox, apparently. And when will I start getting emails for these elusive sponsored posts?

4. There’s a lot of information out there, but it’s not all in the same place.

To blog well you have to boast competency in so many different areas: photography, photo editing, writing, internet marketing, social media, web design, SEO, site monetization, pitching and WordPress.

I have visited a variety of websites to develop these skills, including Improve Photography, SEOmoz and ShoutMeLoud. In addition to countless articles and blogs I have also read ProBlogger: Secrets to Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income and Nomadic Matt’s e-book, How to Make Money with Your Travel Blog.

I found that while there are countless resources on the interwebs, you have to go looking for it. And despite the best efforts of many, there is no decisive guide to creating a successful travel blog.

 5. The blogging community is like a family.

Before starting a travel blog I thought that all bloggers were in competition with one other. I never dreamed of how connected and supportive the community actually is.

Most of the comments you will see on blogs are in fact made by other bloggers. It turns out most bloggers not only write prolifically, they also read voraciously. And the majority of bloggers I have reached out to have been so willing to give me much-needed advice.

6. WordPress is super confusing.

There’s a lot to know about WordPress, and it first it can be overwhelming. I found myself googling, “What’s an alt tag?” “What’s a hex code?”

After only six weeks of blogging, I have installed over 30 active WP plugins. This involved sending out lots of awkward emails to other bloggers along the likes of, Um, so what plugin did you use to install that cool scroll-bar social media thing on the left side of your website? Thanks! 

And after using a few blogging platforms, I’ve learned that WordPress is undoubtedly the way to go. But that doesn’t mean that it’s simple to use.

What did you learn from starting a blog?

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21 and has been traveling the world ever since. She's usually in pursuit of yoga, languages and perfectly ripe cheese and her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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26 Comments

  1. Let’s see if this comment works! Sadly, I think you may have missed all my insightful original comments… :(

    Reply
    • Hi, Jack! Thank you so much for finding this problem. And it looks like I did miss the other comments which I’m sure were very insightful, I apologize :(

  2. It’s a slog I’ll give you that… I get super frustrated at times but I still get a kick out of being RT… so that makes it all worthwhile:p
    Margyle recently posted..A Little Rain Never Hurt Anyone?My Profile

    Reply
    • Haha it does kind of brighten your spirits. And blogging is a lot of work but it’s great to connect with other like-minded individuals :)

  3. Great post Ashley, I’m new to the blogging scene as well (Only been blogging for 5 weeks) I have to say that I too have encountered alot of the same things you are mentioning. I totally agree about trying to let your personality shine through in writing. I have to constantly keep reminding myself to try and loosen up when writing. I’m guessing its one of those things that comes over time :).

    I agree twitter is amazing. I’m still getting the hang of it but found that the more people that I follow the more that follow me haha.

    Your right about wordpress I almost pulled all my hair out the other day trying to get a header image centered on my site by mucking around with css code. I swear i’m going to be a css coding wizard within a year haha.

    From my short bit stint in travel blogging I think its just about consistently putting out quality content, being active in community and connecting with other bloggers and the numbers should slowly keep going up. Atleast that’s what I’m hoping anyway :D
    Brendon Of Nerd Travels recently posted..Awesome New Business CardsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wow that’s great you’re getting better at coding, I still am too scared to mess with css! And I’m hoping the same; I met up with an experienced travel blogger the other day, Susan from Traveljunkette.com and she said to ignore the numbers and just focus on putting out good content and reaching out to others via social media. Wise advice I think!

      Good luck with your blog, I’ll follow along with your journeys!

    • Thanks Ashley :)

      Sounds like solid advice, I try not to think about numbers or making money from my blog because If I do I get too bogged down worrying my posts arent good enough. I’d rather just do it because I enjoy it and if it becomes popular and makes money that’s an added bonus :)

      I am getting slowly better at coding, That still didn’t stop me from crashing my entire website for 30 minutes the other night because I was messing with the functions.php file haha
      Brendon Of Nerd Travels recently posted..Awesome New Business CardsMy Profile

  4. Hi Ashley! I’m not sure whether my comment went through yesterday, but I wrote that as a fan and a fellow blogger, and an intern in marketing for a study abroad company, I would send your blog to my manager just to see whether he’d be interested. The update is that he loved it! So if you are interested in sponsored posts, let me know if you’d want to talk?
    xx halie (@halieEF)

    Reply
    • Hi Halie, sure that would be great! Just send me an email at ashleyabroadx {at} gmail {dot} com. Send me the link to your blog as well.

  5. Keep writing, experimenting, and connecting with others… and be patient! I’ve read a lot of successful blogger stories and most of them didn’t really start to see significant financial results until 18 months to two years in.

    My personal blog isn’t monetized, but my English-teaching blog is (www.espressoenglish.net) and it’s taken me 10 months, 300+ posts, active marketing, and a ton of hours/week to begin to see some decent income.

    BTW, I too believe that selling products (either your own, or an affiliate’s) is way more lucrative than AdSense – if you consider earning about 40 cents per click from Adsense, and if 1% of your blog’s visitors click on the ads, then your blog needs about 250,000 visitors a month just to make $1000 from Adsense. However, if you sell products and let’s say earn an average of $20 from each one you sell, then you only need 50 customers a month to hit that $1000 mark.

    Of course, a lot of successful bloggers use a combination – products, affiliates ads, sponsors, etc.
    Shayna @ Adventurous Soul recently posted..re[frame]My Profile

    Reply
    • Hi Shayna, thanks for the advice! I’d be happy to make any amount of money in order to keep traveling and doing what I love to do anyway – writing and photography. I didn’t have luck with AdSense but I’m hoping some sponsored posts will come along – fingers crossed!

  6. I agree. We are all like a big family. We understand each other, support each other during our travels and we speak like friends despite the fact we have never met :) AMAZING. I also agree that Twitter is the best way to connect. WordPress isn’t confusing, easy peasy for me :-P
    Agness (@Agnesstramp) recently posted..Sri Lanka Budget Travel Guide: $20 a Day or LessMy Profile

    Reply
    • It really is amazing, I love the community and have so much fun participating in it.

  7. Hi Ashley!

    Love this post – can really relate to it. I only started blogging about 6 weeks ago and it feels like such a steep learning curve! It’s exciting and daunting at the same time and I just find myself researching and learning constantly at the moment. I hope if I always keep the writing as my main focus, I’ll put all the other pieces together in time. Fingers crossed!

    Holiday Addict
    Holiday Addict recently posted..Andalucia: Don’t forget Jerez de la FronteraMy Profile

    Reply
    • Hey, thanks for commenting! At the end of the day content is king, so it’s important to keep the writing as the focus like you said. I’m sure your site will do great, and I’ll be reading :)

  8. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing Ashley! I have been blogging for less than a month and so far so great. I am focusing on having fun with it and working on the content. I am moving to South Korea in February to be a first time expat. So I will be following your expat adventures and counting down to mine. :-) Safe travels!!
    wintersundays recently posted..MUSIC IN MY EARSMy Profile

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you liked it! And that’s really exciting you’re going to be Korea, have some bibimbap for me :)

  9. I think the one of the most important when we are writing a post on our blog or web is, we must focus on giving the many information about our topics.

    The monitize of the blog/web isn’t a primary focus on it, but to share what we know to other people and to writing what we “love” is the primary focus.

    And one thing that i am sure is, we must writing with our heart..:)

    And having a many friend in our blog, that is mean that we was “monitize” our blog

    Thank you for sharing about your story…it’s fun article…i am sorry if my english isn’t good..but I try for it…:)

    okky

    http://www.natural-heritage-indonesia.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Hi Okky! Thanks for writing in. I’m glad you liked the article, and I will try to continue writing from the heart :)

    • You are welcome…:)

  10. Hi Ashley,

    I’m just starting out too, and I can identify whole-heartedly with the upward battle of trying to build a readership. In the first month of blogging (back in June) I had 58 unique visitors (most of whom were family and friends).

    I then wrote like crazy (using SEO techniques I pulled from around the web to target specific key words) and also used pretty much every social platform you can imagine (Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook fan page, Delicious, Reddit)…you name it.

    Last month (October) I got to 1900 unique visitors. So I think it just takes lots of time and patience to grow an audience.

    Google always talks about how all you need to do is just write unique content. That is just the first part. You have to write unique content then market the he*! out of it…otherwise, how will anyone notice you?

    Great post, and looking forward to tracking your progress. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Addison! It helps to be social media savvy like you, I definitely need to get more involved in Digg, Delicious, Reddit… I don’t even have accounts there yet, haha.

  11. I’ve been blogging for years now, but I think these are all still really relevant. There are so many social media outlets and profiles to have, too… I feel like attending to those is a job all on its own in addition to creating new content and having your day job (at least for me). Blogging definitely is not the silly little hobby some people think it is!
    Erica recently posted..The Cats of EphasusMy Profile

    Reply
    • I totally agree! A well-done blog is basically a second (or first) job!

  12. Hey. I found your blog using windows live messenger. This is the very well prepared content. I will be sure to book mark it and are available time for get more information of your tips. Thanks for the posting. I am going to undoubtedly come back.

    Reply

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