Blogging / Et Al / Technical Writing / Training

Five Questions for Would-Be Bloggers

Before you jump into blogging, you should know that having a successful blog requires time and creative energy. Many bright-eyed and bushy-tailed bloggers create blogs only to abandoned them a few weeks or months later when they get discouraged and lose momentum. Maybe they didn’t know how much time was involved or have the money to spend. Perhaps they ran out of writing material or couldn’t get an audience or didn’t have the technical skills to get the job done. If you’ve pondered having a blog of your own but aren’t sure if you’re ready for such a big commitment, consider the five questions below before making your decision.

How much time can you spend?
When you initially set up a blog, you’ll need to devote some time to its set up. You’ll need to come up with a name and a tagline, find a layout you like, add widgets to your sidebar, and start publicizing it, and all this takes time. For some blogs, you can spend as little as an evening or two a week on your laptop while watching TV and get all this accomplished, but if you want your blog to be successful (and I use that word loosely because successful blogs can be measured in a number of ways), you’ll probably need to devote some time to your blog’s maintenance every day.

Additionally, you’ll need time to write posts. Successful bloggers post frequently and consistently. Rather than publish two or three posts on one day and then not posting for the rest of the week, create a posting schedule and stick to it. When you start, even though you might feel like posting every two minutes, pace yourself. Unless you’re writing about a subject that updates every day, try posting just once or twice a week until you’ve established a writing habit.

How much money can you spend?
Blogging tools like Blogger and WordPress are more or less free, but depending on your blog’s purpose and audience, you might need to drop some money to make it more professional. Common expenses for blogs include domain names, hosting, and original design. Domain names and hosting come pretty cheap; domain names usually cost about $15/year, and hosting usually costs around $7/month. On the other hand, you’ll pay for good design unless you know someone who can do you a favor, but for a basic blog, you can go a long way with the templates available from WordPress and Blogger.

What will you write about?
Contrary to popular practice, blogs are not about how many widgets you can accumulate on your sidebar or about a rad design; blogs are about content, which means you have to write about something. Anything, really. Some bloggers choose to write about their everyday lives, and they manage to make their lives sound interesting. Other bloggers are experts at something or another and write about a niche topic, and they offer advice to others interested in that niche. Regardless of your topic, stick to it.

For example, I have a handful of friends who live out of the U.S. and who use their blogs to update their family and friends on their daily adventures and new experiences. I also read a political blog from a local political reporter, a church-planting blog from a friend who is preparing to plant a church, and a marathon training blog from a friend who is a runner. Life, politics, church-planting, and running are the subjects my friends stick to in their blogs; they rarely stray from the purpose of their blogs.

Do you have an audience?
Some bloggers use their blogs as personal journals for the whole world to read and say they don’t care whether or not anyone reads them, but I’m a firm believer that if you go to the trouble of creating a blog, you do want someone to read it; otherwise, you would get a Moleskine from Barnes & Noble and use it as a journal.

Who is going to read your blog? Your family and friends is a perfectly reasonable answer. Complete strangers interested in your topic can be part of your audience, too. Whether you have an audience of five or 10,000, it doesn’t matter who your audience is.

What are your technical skills?
More or less, Blogger and WordPress both come no assembly required: they’re simple to set up, and they’re easy to manage. At the same time, you’ll need a general knowledge of how the Internet works, decent writing skills, and a basic knowledge of HTML to get your blog to function how you like. You don’t have to be an expert in these skill sets to have a blog, but knowing a little bit goes a long way. Even if you’re not comfortable with HTML or confident in your writing, as long as you are willing to learn and practice, you’ll be fine.

Ready to Blog
The questions above were designed to help you evaluate whether or not you’re ready to jump into the blogosphere. By looking at how much time and money you can devote to your blog, establishing your topic and your audience, and being comfortable with the technical requirements of a blog, you can make a more well-thought-out decision.

So what about you? Are you ready to start a blog? If so, post a link to yourself in the comment! I can’t wait to read what you have to say!