How to get off your ass and start blogging

start blogging

By Mark Schaefer

Every week I hear the excuses.

“I don’t have time to blog.”

“I don’t know what to write about”

“I don’t know my niche. Isn’t everything taken already?”

There is a lot of competition out there and establishing a blog may not be as easy as it once was, but for many businesses it is still an important part of a content strategy. And if you’re trying to establish a personal brand in your industry, it’s probably vital.

So let’s get to it, shall we? Let’s take each of these problems and address them one by one.

1. I don’t have time to blog.

Blogging can be time-consuming, even if you shoot for one decent post a week.

Like most people, when I started out, blogging was a “nice to have.” Sometimes I had time for it, and sometimes I didn’t. I was not consistent.

After about nine months, I realized that I had established a number of meaningful business contacts from the blog. In fact, it was probably working better than other networking activities. So, at that point I committed to one post a week. The value just kept increasing and increasing every month. Soon, I realized that the content through my blog was a critical piece of my business, but I didn’t really realize that until I was publishing consistently.

Everybody has the same amount of time in the day, so how you spend it is up to you. Here is the deal. You KNOW blogging works. But it is never, ever going to work unless you make the commitment to publish consistently.

Here is guide on how much you need to blog for your business. And here is an inspirational story about how Jeff Bullas transformed his life by becoming a consistent blogger.

2. I don’t know how to start.

This is going to seem like weird advice: Don’t obsess about your niche.

Yes, you need to have a unique voice and angle. But guess what? You might not ever know where you fit in until you actually start blogging. And if you don’t start blogging, you will never know what that might be.

So, just START. Figure out what you THINK your niche will be and go for it. You can always pivot down the road. My blog is radically different from the way it was two years and in a year, it will be different from the way it is now as I learn and grow. Feedback from my readers turns me in subtle new directions all the time.

Here’s a great resource for finding you blogging niche and a guide to starting a blog from scratch. Finally, here’s an excellent case study about a blogger who made a pivot for success.

3. I’m not a good writer

Then you’re not going to be a good blogger. I mean, let’s be honest.

So let’s deal with this. You know creating content is important but you’re not good at it and you don’t enjoy it. Get help.

I have a friend who is a major content creator who hired a writing coach/editor and he is turning out some great stuff. I can point to at least five very well-known social media stars who do not write their own blog posts. In fact, they don’t write their own books.

But they have found a way to publish. Is that mis-leading people? No, if it is done well and with integrity. When a presidential candidate gives a speech, he probably did not entirely write the speech. Is it his? Yes. When a CEO writes a letter to the shareholders in an annual report, did she write it? No. Is it hers? Yes.

I think getting writing help for your blog makes good business sense as long as:

  1. The ideas are yours
  2. You are accountable for every word
  3. You never mis-lead people, including having somebody “engage” for you or you lying about the fact that you get help.

But here is one more tip. Most of the time, becoming a great blogger is not just about writing skills. It’s about blogging courage. Here is a guide to becoming a more confident blogger plus another post with some solid blog-writing tips.

4. I’ve tried blogging but nobody reads it.

Can I share a little insight with you? Of course I can because this is my blog and you have no choice. Here it is. Last week, I had the same amount of traffic on my blog as I had in total for my first two years of blogging.

Why did I keep going when very few people were reading my blog? Because there are lots of benefits to blogging, even when nobody is reading the thing!

When I write a post, it clarifies my thinking. It forces me to learn new practices and stay up to date. The ideas I blog about show up in the college classroom when I teach, in my speeches, and in my consulting engagements.

If you’re feeling a little down about the traffic to your blog, here are 10 great reasons to keep blogging, even if nobody is reading it. I’m convinced that blogging can even make you a more effective leader.  And here are five big ideas to get some engaged blog readers.

5. I don’t know what to write about.

At one time or another, writer’s block (blogger’s block?) is a challenge for every single person.

Ideas come at us all the time, every day. It could be an article we read, a speech we attend, or something we hear on the news. Being a good blogger means always being alert to these ideas — and most important — capturing them. For me, that means writing them down wherever I am and then simply writing the headline for the idea in WordPress as soon as I can.

I have a set time to write every week. It is a quiet time when I know I can concentrate and write undisturbed. I never start with a blank slate because I have a great list of the ideas I have collected all week.

Any time I hit a dry spell, it’s probably because I swerved away from my system.

Blogging takes discipline — not just in writing but in constantly collecting ideas. Also, try to write ahead so you have a few extra blog posts put aside in case you find a week when you simply can’t write.

Here is my system for constant blogging creativity.

6.  What if I say something stupid/wrong/embarrassing?

My friend Ana Canhoto asked this question in the comment section and I realized that this is certainly a big obstacle for people so I decided to add it to the post.

In the safety of your own home, or when you are with friends, most people love to talk and debate. But putting it out in public is another matter. What you are really asking is, “What if people criticize me or are mean to me?”

That is a big fear for many people so let me address it two ways.

First, it is very, very, very unlikely that people will be mean to you or criticize you, even if you do something wrong (I am living proof of this!). In general, people who take the time to read your blog are going to be wonderfully kind and supportive … amazingly so.

I have had more than 50,000 comments on {grow}. Here’s how many I have deleted because they were either harsh or overly spammy: nine. That is a percentage so small that it is not something to even think about.

On the corporate side, I recently did an analysis for a company with the same fear. They thought people would complain all the time about their company if they had comments on their blog. Over six months, here is how many complainers they had:  one.

People might debate your point or challenge you, but that’s part of the fun. Every day {grow} is like a party for me. People leave me these little gifts in the comment section! I truly like to hear other perspectives and I love to hear the other points people make. Those points have even made it into my books and speeches!

My point is, most of the fear of criticism is truly unfounded.

Now, I want to teach you how to turn uncertainty and anxiety into your best blog post ever.

Here’s a little secret. I don’t have all the answers. I have a lot of ideas, and I am often uncertain if those ideas are right or wrong. Have you noticed that I end most of my posts with something like “what do you think?”  That’s because I really wonder what you think!

By taking this humble approach to blogging, and even admitting that you don’t have all the answers, it brings people to your side and enlists their help, instead of criticism. It really works.

The irony is, the more unsure you are, and by admitting it, you invite engagement and emotional connection because we can all sympathize with that feeling!

Now what?

All of the complaints I’ve outlined today are legitimate concerns for a busy person in a demanding world. But I think any motivated person willing to commit to the work can start and maintain a blog.

What other big issues did I miss? What do you think?

For answers to every blogging question from A-Z, check out the amazing book Born to Blog: Building Your Blog for Personal and Business Success One Post at a Time.

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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  • drjrogers

    This is GREAT! This is another must read for my #smm grad students! #3 and 4 are huge. It takes time to become a better writer- LOTS of practice in any genre of writing and Blogging is no different. It took me a long time to learn that with both Phd work/writing and blogging. Also, getting a following takes time, via blogging or Twitter. Be patient and keep producing original content of value. Persistence pays off.

  • Well said Jessica!

  • Ana Isabel Canhoto

    Hello Mark,

    Another one that I heard is: “What if I say something stupid / wrong / embarrassing?”.

    What would you say to that one?

  • This is an excellent read! Very helpful tips, links and solid points. I’ve just started my blog and the biggest hurdle by far was getting over the fear and just starting to post. Number 4 is so critical and also comforting too. For me, even if no one reads my posts, for now I’m enjoying the creative outlet. This has given me an extra confidence boost. Thanks for sharing!

  • Agreed! Patience is key as well. To build a community you need to give people the chance to get to know and trust you and your content, which takes time.

  • Great read! I would say the underlying factor to all of these is fear. Fear of nobody reading. Fear of having nothing to say. When I started blogging I gave all the same excuses and they were all based on fear. Sometimes it just takes jumping in with both feet. Now I find I have so much to say and quite literally don’t have the time to say it all!

  • This is such a good question, I am going to add it to the post. Answer is above!! Thanks!

  • Good for you!

  • Love that Jacqui. Congratulations on your success.

  • MjBaird

    Mark, Thank you for the above piece. For SEO, is there a particular area of a blog (beginning, middle, end or all throughout) that an author should consider inserting those important words so they might possibly be picked up in a Google search?

  • Jamie Clark Samples

    This is a great blog post! I am guilty of a few of these, but just recently I kicked myself in the bum and challenged myself to blog for 30 days straight. I tend to overthink things, so I have inspired myself with a personal challenge to myself. To hold myself accountable, I put it out there to my fans, friends and family that I was doing this. So far, they have not been perfect blog posts, but they have been heartfelt and I have not missed a day! It feels so good to be doing something I have needed to do for months! Thanks for your encouragement!

  • Benjamin Baldwin

    >>I can point to at least five very well-known social media stars who do not write their own blog posts. In fact, they don’t write their own books.<<

    Maybe the title of this post should be: "How to get off your ass and start hiring professional writers."

    If it's not a big deal as you say, how about naming those names.

    There is a difference, Mark. The politicians and Richard Branson's of the world do pay writers, but they don't make a living lecturing (admonishing?) wannabes on how many times a week to post and how the world must now be transparent except for them. It does explain how they Facebook and tweet and YouTube nonstop, hopscotch the globe, blog daily and still have time to consult with clients. They are called figureheads. An old game. Contrary to Solis and the book he wrote or didn't write, it's actually Business as Usual, Rev 2. Thanks for letting us know only the chumps write their own posts. Rant over.

  • Consistency, effort, and time really have helped me. For about a year I contributed randomly to my company’s blog and always felt like my topics were scatter shot at a niche that I hope existed.

    For the past three months I’ve been blogging 1-2 times a week, and already I’m starting to understand my niche better and am seeing more views.

    Great post; lots of helpful articles referenced.

  • Ana Isabel Canhoto

    Ah! You are so right: it is about the fear of being publicly criticised.

    Thanks.

  • Thank you for this! Such a down-to-earth perspective. If you’re going to blog, you can’t let the fear of criticism stop you. MUST you blog? Well, no … but you certainly won’t benefit from that in any way.

  • Mark

    In parallel to your “I don’t know how to start,” I think my problem is that I “don’t know how to finish.” I have dozen of partially written blog posts. Dozens of intriguing blog titles just waiting to be written. And, numerous outlines for potential e-books.

    And, too many distractions at work and life to finish, polish and post them for all to see.

    Of course, with each of your blog posts and books that I read, I get a motivation to keep going. Thanks for that.

    Denny

  • Headline and first paragraph are most important according to conventional wisdom.

  • Awesome. Good job Jamie!

  • I appreciate the sentiment and the concerns. But really, what people do or don;t do has no affect on you. Zero. Stand tall, do good work, be kind and it will work out. The names don’t matter. I am not writing for link bait. I’m writing to educate. Thanks very much for your comment.

  • Glad to hear of your progress Luke. Keep up the good work!

  • Well said Kait.Thank you for adding your voice to the discussion.

  • That is such a good point. In my classes, I teach peopleto set a time limit. Blogging is the bane of perfectionists!

  • Marketwired

    Agreed. The bottom line is, any motivated person willing to commit to the work can (and should!) start and maintain a blog. The key is to just do it! Helpful insights on an often-pondered question.

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  • Rodger

    I like sitting on my ass and blogging. After working at a standing desk for about 6 weeks, I prefer gluing my bum to a comfortable wood-swivel chair with reclining springs so that I can lean back, rest my feet on the desk, put the laptop where it belongs — on my lap — and start pecking away at the keyboard. I think there’s something to say for sitting on one’s ass. In fact, I earned a 3.9 gpa in graduate school sitting on my ass.The only reason why I didn’t get a 4.0 was that I got off my ass. I especially like having a beer or a an Irish whiskey within reach too, just so I don’t have to get off my ass and I can keep writing. In fact, I’m sitting on my bum in that chair described above. You shouldn’t knock ass-sitting, Mark. I’d like to add that the excuse people use of saying something stupid, embarrassing, (we can fill in the blank), I always point them to some of the most powerful people in the world and show them some of the stupid-ass crap they throw out. And I say these guys are leading the world, so if you say something less stupid then they do, you’re that much better than they are. (Disclaimer: This was written tongue-n-cheek with no real value other than to add a touch of humor. Otherwise Mark makes some good points as always.)

  • ??????? ???????

    Good day, Mark

    Thank you for the interesting article !
    Do you think my blog is interesting, necessary or not
    I’ve written three pages, very few people visit it ,can not continue.
    Thanks in advance for your reply !
    http://www.step-business.blogspot.com

    Best Regards,
    Alexey

  • I looked at your site and it has quite a few problems not the least of which is that you are not writing in your native language. You need to learn the basics from scratch and I recommend you grab a copy of Born to Blog to get it started. Good luck with your venture.

  • Many thanks my friend for the most interesting and entertainging comment of the week : )

  • Thanks for commenting.

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  • Billy Delaney

    This is good. But…
    I’ve stumbled around for a while now trying to find that platform that would help me be consistent to the task: blogging. However, it has taken reading the 5 books you have written to understand what you have set out here as the minimum activity to get going.
    I’d hate to try and just follow the above plan without the books: Born to Blog, The Tao of Twitter, Social Media Explained, Return on Influence and and the Ultimate Content Code.
    Now I’m not sucking up to you here, or tossing lillie at you; just pointing out that without a broad stroke of guidance, real experienced guidance too many will fall of the end of their ass and land on their face.
    But…
    I am convinced that unless you get off your ass your can’t get onto your purpose regarding anything.
    Sincerely enjoy this blog, the man behind it and the people who support it.
    Billy

  • Thanks for the kind comments sir. Onward and upward!

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  • Great post – lots of good info here, but the number of new posts you link to sort of leaves one out of breath. Good thing it is a Saturday! 😉

  • : )

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