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, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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