Ask Stacy: How Do You Start a Blog?

Photo (cc) by chatirygirl

Here’s an email I recently received from a reader who’s interested in making a little extra money by blogging…

Thanks for your great blog and your articles on working from home! I’m thinking of starting some sort of blog myself, but I have no experience in that area. I’d really appreciate any tips you have on getting started, choosing topics, attracting readers, etc. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Cheers,
Renee

Thanks for the kind words, Renee!

I have to laugh when I think back to January 2010, the date I started “blogging.” That’s because, although I’d been writing TV news scripts for 20 years and books for 10, I really didn’t understand just what a “blog” was. For those of you similarly impaired, let’s start with part of Wikipedia’s definition of a blog

A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website that’s updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

Note that most of this definition would fit any article-driven website, as well as magazines and newspapers. So blogs are really just websites with stories. The difference between a blog and, say, CNN.com, is that a blog is often just one person, and the articles they’re writing might feature more opinions and experiences than fact-based journalism. But look at this site or others like it, and you’ll see the distinction between a traditional news site like CNN and a blog isn’t always clear.

The point of all that was that if you can write stuff people want to read, whatever you choose to call it, you can potentially earn some extra scratch.

How to begin?

I started this site as a place to provide additional information for the TV news stories we syndicate nationwide. Since that’s not the way you or Renee will begin, however, I did what I do dozens of times a day: asked the Internet. I put the phrase “How do I start a blog?” in a search engine, and in less than a second, I got 8,600,000,000 responses. One of the first was, not surprisingly, the website How To Start a Blog. It has some decent advice, and so does Wikihow. I found lots of good information at this page of ProBlogger.net, including a link to an article called 23 Questions to Determine If a Blog Is Right For You.

In short, there’s no shortage of resources to determine how to get started and whether you should. Check out as many as you can before deciding to go further.

How much does it cost?

There are lots of ways to set up a blog cheap, or even free. Google will set you up free. So will WordPress, the platform we use here. And MSN. And Yahoo. But getting a free blog can be ultimately prove costly. From How to Start a Blog

Yes, it’s free, but nothing is really free. When you start a blog with a free blogging service, you don’t get your own domain. You get something like mygreatblog.blogspot.com (where there are a million other blogs) and you don’t actually own the blog. If you ever do decide to move to your own domain, you have no way to take your readers with you, because you have no control over the site.

To start a blog with your own domain name will require some cash, but not a ton. Typically you’ll pay a company like GoDaddy about $10 a year to register the name. The only hard part is finding one you like that isn’t already taken. Then look for a blogging service that will let you use a custom domain name. Tumblr will do it for free if you’re tech-savvy enough. Or for a few dollars more, WordPress will let you register a domain and point it to a blog without leaving their site. The total cost is only $17 a year per domain.

I’m not going to go into more details about the mechanics of setting up a blog because space is limited and the process is already well-documented. Instead, let’s focus on other important issues.

What should you write about?

There’s only one answer to that question: Write what you know and feel passionate about. For example, I honestly believe that I was put on this earth to help people harness the power of money to live a more rewarding life. If I won the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn’t quit my job. (I might, however, sleep later.)

In short, pick a topic that’s so compelling that you’d happily write about it free.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, I’d also suggest choosing a topic that is relatively narrow rather than broad. While a broad topic by definition will appeal to a broader audience, it will also have more competition. Better to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

Can you make money?

I get asked this question a lot. The answer is, “Maybe, but it’s not easy.”

There are two ways to make money from any website whose product is information: Either charge your readers to subscribe or sell advertising. Unless you’re either super-famous, super-talented, or both, getting people to pay to read your work will be an uphill climb. That leaves advertising. Since Google Adsense will find advertisers for you, getting advertisers isn’t tough. What’s tough is getting enough traffic to your website to make those advertisements pay a decent amount.

Different types of ads pay different amounts, but as a very general rule of thumb, if you use Adsense and have the type and quantity of the ads you see on this page, you should make a few thousand dollars for every 100,000 visitors you get to your site monthly. That’s not that much, especially considering that getting 100,000 people to your blog every month isn’t easy. Most bloggers never achieve more than a fraction of that.

How do you attract readers?

If you expect the answer is “be a great writer,” you’re wrong. Compelling, well-written articles that connect with your audience are obviously important. But ask any great musician you see in a neighborhood bar whether being talented automatically leads to fame and fortune. Life’s not that easy. If you want readers, you’ll need to go out and find them. How? ProBlogger.net lists 23 ways in this article. But the single most effective technique we’ve used is getting noticed by guest-posting on other sites. Sites like MSN Money and Yahoo Finance now regularly run our stuff, and that’s made all the difference for us.

That being said, don’t expect to simply email MSN and start writing. Getting on these sites took years of door-knocking, and I started with solid credentials and 20 years of experience. But you don’t have to start at the top. Write some great stuff, talk to some bigger bloggers, ask if they’ll let you guest-post, then work your way up. Will everyone be nice and helpful? Absolutely not. But keep at it and, if you’re good, you’ll eventually get there.

Bottom line? Starting a blog is like starting any business. Combine passion with perseverance and, if you’ve got the staying power, sooner or later – probably later – you’ll succeed. At least, that’s always been the way it’s been for me.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place’
5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place’

These safety-conscious home upgrades can help retirees stay in their home.

15 of the Most Outrageously Overpriced Products
15 of the Most Outrageously Overpriced Products

Retailers mark up products by hundreds of times their cost — but you don’t have to pay the premium.

How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

10 Products That Will Help You Save Money
10 Products That Will Help You Save Money

Sometimes, spending a little cash right now can save you a lot of money down the road.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations
15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations

Some of the states with the highest rates of homelessness might surprise you.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.