Even though this is not a blog about blogging (there are plenty of those already), I do get quite some questions about blogging from people that read my blog. This page is not a “how to” guide to blogging, but an answer to many of the questions I get that are specifically related to be an original.
Just click on a topic you want to know more about and the section will expand automagically.
Where to get your domain name
- If you want to get serious about blogging, you need to have your own domain name. That’s what I found out even before starting. It’ll cost you a couple of bucks per year to register one, but it’s worth it, since you own the domain and all the traffic that you’re going to generate.
- I use Dreamhost to register all my .net and .com domains, GoDaddy for the exotics like .biz and Argeweb (a Dutch host) for all my .nl domains.
Where to host your blog
- In the early days I hosted my blog at Typepad. It was a hosted blog at the Typepad.com domain, but I opted for the option to use it under my own domain name (which cost me a couple of bucks).
- About two months later I switched to self-hosted WordPress. My host at the time was Argeweb, and I needed to do the WordPress install myself. It takes some technical skills, but it’s not very scary. As far as design was concerned I used one of the many free themes that are available for WordPress. I did tweak the design a little, but only as far as my limited knowledge of html and css allowed me to.
- Another year later I switched hosts, and moved the blog to Dreamhost. Dreamhost is a low-cost host that has a lot of features, even on their cheapest plan. Unlimited domains hosted, email, one-click installs (also for WordPress) and much much more. I still have this blog hosted on the cheapest plan (and quite a few other sites as well). I pay about $10 a month for all my hosting. The cheapest plan is not sufficient anymore when you get heaps of visitors, but right now I get about 500 to 800 visits a day without any trouble.
Should you decide to sign up at Dreamhost, you can use the promo-code BEANORIGINAL. This will get you $25 to $50 discount, depending on the hosting plan you choose. And to stress the importance of having your own domain, I decided to include one free domain name in the package.
How to start blogging and how to keep going
- Besides all the technical stuff that I address under the other questions, blogging is mainly about writing about something you love and about engaging with readers and other bloggers.
- The most important thing is to get started. The second most important thing is to keep going.
- The latter is harder than the former for most people. Among the most common reasons why bloggers stop blogging are:
- they find out that they said all they had to say after a couple of weeks or months
- they get discouraged by the lack of readership, they feel like blogging in a void
- they get distracted by other (social) media and build their presence there instead
- they find out that blogging takes more time than they’re willing or able to commit
- One of the things I learned quickly was that having connections with other bloggers and exchanging experiences and helping each other out is very very helpful. This really helped me in the beginning, and I was lucky to get in contact with Leo Babauta from Zen Habits when we both were in the early days of our blogs.
- Most of you know that I took an extended break from blogging (for reason nr. 4). By the time I wanted to get started again, I happened to see that Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch (of Goodlife Zen) joined forces and started A-List Blogging Bootcamps. Knowing Leo already helped in making the decision to sign-up for 10 days of bootcamp, with bootcamp meetings at midnight (for me anyway). Since Leo managed to grow Zen Habits to 150k subscribers in the time I got to about 1.5k subscribers, I was convinced that I would benefit from participating.
- Besides learning a lot (and revisiting a lot of stuff I already learned along the way) I also got to know a great group of other bloggers, motivated and committed to grow their blogs. All of them had paid up the fee to participate. The interaction on the forum was great, but the monthly follow-up meetings of the club are super valuable as well. It’s like a support group working together to get ahead.
- If you’re serious about your blog, check out A-List Blogging Bootcamps. Download Leo’s free report and read the case studies on the site, and maybe sign-up for the next bootcamp.
Getting a good design
- Good designs for WordPress are available for free by the thousands. You can have your blog looking pretty sweet in a matter of minutes. The free designs do have a little problem, because the popular ones are used by lots of other bloggers (that’s why they became popular in the first place) and there’s hardly any support for the theme by the theme authors. The latter is not a problem as long as nothing changes or goes wrong, but WordPress itself needs to be upgraded every now and then. And that might cause some problems with a theme.
- For be an original, and its predecessor How to be an Original, I have gone through a series of design changes. The first theme I had was free theme. I tweaked it a little at first, but as my experience grew I wanted to change more and more and got stuck in the code.
- At that point I picked up a book HTML and CSS the basics, and learned how to use proper code. I even got in deep, as I decided to build a new theme from the ground up. Quickly I learned that you need some PHP knowledge as well, but most of what I needed to know to get WordPress working was available in the codex on WordPress.org.
- But … for most people this is way too technical, and in the end I wouldn’t recommend doing it. When I switched over to the new domain for be an original, I also switched themes. Be an original runs on Thesis, a professional theme that’s not for free. The benefits for me are that I don’t have to worry (much) about upgrading WordPress and about cross browser compatibility. Thesis is also very versatile when you want to customize it yourself, but you do need to understand how WordPress works and how the pages are built.
- And then there’s the option to get a custom theme built especially for you by a designer. I have no experience in this, so I won’t advise you about it. I haven’t done it, and I don’t see it happen anytime soon.
Using Social Media
- I’ve tried many different social media services, but I have seriously cut back on the number I use. I did that to protect myself really, because it can take away massive amounts of time to “be someone” on any of the social media sites. And that time is spent on things that are not your blog.
- Nowadays you can find me on twitter where I have two accounts, one in English and one in Dutch. Besides that I sporadically use StumbleUpon and Delicious, but that’s really not worth mentioning.
- My conviction is that there are better ways to spend your time if you’re trying to create a successful blog. Focus on content, design and interaction (between you and your readers and between you and other bloggers). Social media is nice, but easily converts into a trick to get unfocused traffic really.
Making money with blogging
- This is probably one of the most asked questions about blogging, and one of the most overhyped aspects. There are a lot of blogs about making money with blogging, but those blogs are there to make money on people trying to make money. And there’s a lot (I mean a LOT) of crap and bogus products out there.
- I’ve tried many things myself and I don’t shy away from making money from my blog. I’ve tried many different things, but discarded most of them too. No more Google Adsense (besides some ads that come with the custom site search feature), no paid link ads, no shady ClickBank products and so on.
- The strategies I use to make (some) money from this blog are:
- Selling the Personal Core Values ebook that I wrote a while back
- Promoting (e)books I have read and like
- Promoting products and services I use or have used and like
- That’s it really. A lot of the links on this page are affiliate links too, as they link to products or services I use(d) and like. They don’t make me a fortune, but they cover the cost of blogging and then some.
How to sell your ebook
- This is also a topic that you can find a lot of resources about on the internet. There’s also a great variety in ebooks, ranging from free to massively expensive and ranging from utter rubbish to great value. Price is not necessarily a good indicator for value. There’s great stuff available for free and there’s rubbish that costs a fortune. Finding out whether something is of value is best done by finding reviews by bloggers that you qualify as trustworthy.
- So if you want to sell ebooks you have to tackle all these hurdles. First you have to write an ebook with enough value that people will be ready to spend money on it. Second you have to set up a way to sell your ebook, and third you have to get reviews by trustworthy bloggers.
- So first brainstorm about topics you want to write about and see whether or not you can fill an ebook with it. Writing an ebook takes up considerable amounts of time to get it from conception to sellworthy. You want to spend enough time on it to make sure that you’re not getting labeled as “crap” or “not worth the money”.
- When your ebook is ready to be put up for sale, you want it converted to pdf. Both OpenOffice and Microsoft Word 2007 offer this functionality out of the box. You then need to find a place that will handle your transactions. I haven’t done research on providers lately, but I use e-Junkie in combination with PayPal and I’m very satisfied about it. I pay $5 a month for e-Junkie, and a small fee per transaction at PayPal. All of which I have earned back on every first sale every month (and thankfully I have had sales in almost every month).
- E-junkie also offers all functionality to setup an affiliate program for your products too. And this is also an incentive for bloggers to promote your product. I have a program for Personal Core Values too, and this pays 50% of revenue. That means effectively that affiliates earn more per sale than I do, but they reach audiences I don’t reach myself, so it’s really a win-win situation.
- And that makes a nice bridge to the last activity, which is getting reviews of your ebook by trustworthy bloggers. To get these kind of reviews you should prepare a list of bloggers you’d like to get reviews from, prepare an email introducing your product and asking for a review. Give an outline of the affiliate program too, including links to where to sign-up for it. Attach your ebook so they can look into it right away. And send each and every blogger a personal message. If you want to take it a step further, make the link to their blog topic and their audience already and give an outline as to why your ebook will be valuable for their audience.
- Of course it helps if you have already established contact with these bloggers already. Signing up for A-List Blogging Bootcamps is one of the ways to get familiar with other bloggers, but there are many other ways to get to know them enough to ask them for a review.