Today, my blog makes between $20,000/mo and $50,000/mo on average—but getting here hasn’t been easy. Enter: Today’s guide to the hardest blogging lessons I’ve learned in my 10 years as a blogger.
A lot has changed about blogging over the past decade. I’ve had a lot of wonderful moments throughout my journey, but I’ve also learned some really tough blogging lessons along the way.
The frustrating thing is, if I’d known some of these upfront from the day I decide to start a blog of my own, I’d have been in for a much easier ride. I’d have avoided a lot of common blogging mistakes. I’d have wasted much less time on things that just didn’t work (and never had much of a chance of working, either). Above all, I’d have had a much clearer and more realistic idea about how blogging makes money.
The good news? I’ve done all the hard (expensive) learning so you don’t have to 😉
In this guide, I’m going to share all the hardest blogging lessons I’ve learned while building a successful blog that earns me $30,000/mo on average. I hope that, by sharing these lessons, I can inspire and help you along on your own blogging journey, too.
Ready to dig in? Here are the 13 hardest blogging lessons I’ve learned starting a blog (and making money).
13 Hardest Blogging Lessons I’ve Learned (Starting a Blog and Making Money)
- Blogging Lesson 1: You Won’t Make Money Blogging Right Away (How to Set Expectations)
- Blogging Lesson 2: You Should Pick a Topic (Blog Niche) You’re Truly Passionate About
- Blogging Lesson 3: You Need to Work Consistently on Your Blog
- Blogging Lesson 4: You Shouldn’t Quit Your Day Job Too Soon
- Blogging Lesson 5: You Can’t Succeed All on Your Own (You Need a Network of Bloggers)
- Blogging Lesson 6: Your Blog Post Ideas Won’t Be Totally Original
- Blogging Lesson 7: You Won’t Get Blogging Perfect the First Time (or Ever)
- Blogging Lesson 8: You Need to Actively Work on Staying Motivated
- Blogging Lesson 9: You Have to Find Other Bloggers Who “Get” it
- Blogging Lesson 10: You Need to Focus on Milestones Along the Way (Not Just Huge Goals)
- Blogging Lesson 11: You Need Self-Hosted WordPress(.org) and a Great WordPress Theme for a Professional Blog
- Blogging Lesson 12: You Have to Keep up with SEO Best Practices (the Best Blogging Courses Will Help)
- Blogging Lesson 13: Your Domain Name and (Blog Name) Matters a Lot
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and stand behind. When you use one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep my in-depth content (like this free guide to the hardest blogging lessons I’ve learned) free of charge for readers like you.
Ready to Start Your Blog?
Check out my ultimate guide: How to Start a Blog (on the Side) Today.
Now, here are all of the top blogging lessons I wish I’d learned (before starting a blog). I hope you can take these lessons and apply them to growing your own profitable blog without all the same hiccups and blogging mistakes I had to learn the hard way.
I don’t want to discourage you from starting a blog—but I do want to be completely honest & realistic with you: You won’t make money from your blog right away.
Even if you’ve read all my best articles here, even if you’ve done lots of planning and preparing in advance, even if you’ve written a fantastic blog business plan… even if you’re doing everything right, it’s still going to take some time for the money to start coming in.
I want you to know that upfront, so you can set realistic expectations for how much money you can make blogging (and when it’s realistic to start seeing some of that income flowing in).
It’s incredibly disheartening to pour your heart and soul into launching a blog, expecting it to make money right away, only to find that you’re barely getting any visitors… let alone earning anything.
Instead, I want you to go into blogging with your eyes wide open. Know that it takes time—at least 6 to 12 months—to start making money blogging. Recognize that you need to get traffic to your blog before you can successfully monetize it.
So, how much money can you expect to make from your blog? Well, most experienced bloggers agree you’re unlikely to make much during your first year of blogging. In your first few months, you might make nothing at all. But you’ll quickly find your income grows, year by year, after your first year of blogging.
- $10,000 – $50,000 in your first year of blogging: To be clear, it will take you a meaningful amount of time, effort and experimentation with traffic & monetization efforts to get your blog to a place where it’s generating income. It won’t happen by just publishing content, sitting back and hoping for the best. Expect that the majority of your income is likely to come in the second half of the year after you’ve grown your traffic & email list a bit.
- $100,000 in your second year of blogging: You’ll likely be blogging full-time (though not necessarily working as much as 40 hours per week). You’ll need plenty of traffic to your blog during this year.
- $200,000 in your third year of blogging: At this stage, you’ll have experimented extensively with different monetization methods and figured out what works best for you, your topic, and your audience.
- $400,000 or more in your fourth year of blogging: By doubling down on what’s working, hiring more help, and increasingly growing your audience, you should be able to make more and more money from your blog.
Now, it might not happen as quickly as this for you, depending on your life circumstances—or it could all even happen much faster if you have a lot of time to commit to blogging & you’re able to experiment with a lot of traffic driving strategies.
Above all, please don’t think that you’re doing something wrong because your blog isn’t turning a profit after a month or two.
If your blog involves other people in any way (either as contributors or just as cheerleaders), you might need to manage their expectations, too. Let them know that, while you’re definitely planning to make money in the longer term, that won’t happen straight away.
Ready to Start Your Blog?
Check out my ultimate guide: How to Start a Blog (on the Side) Today.
Some bloggers pick a blog niche that they think will be great to make money from. They blog about credit cards or gadgets or fashion or something that seems like a perfect topic for monetization… even though they don’t have much interest in it.
Because it takes serious time to start making money blogging (see Lesson 1, above), you really want to write about something that you love. Your niche should give you the chance to dig into ideas that truly interest you – ideas that you’d want to think about and even write about without any prospect of financial reward.
If I didn’t truly love writing about blogging and websites, I wouldn’t have stuck with ryrob.com for long enough to be making $30,000/month.
Struggling to figure out what niche is right for you? Check out my tips on how to pick a blog niche (there are 60+ blog niche ideas there, too).
For your blog to succeed, you need to work on it consistently. That means publishing fresh content on a regular basis, replying to comments, promoting your posts, and more.
Many bloggers start full of enthusiasm, publishing fresh types of content several times a week or even every day. But they can’t keep up the pace – and they soon end up posting much more sporadically.
I’m sure you can think of a favorite blog (or podcast, or webcomic) that’s had long gaps in new content. Eventually, you might even have given up on it.
For content marketing to work, you need to commit to a consistent and manageable blogging schedule – say, one post every week or one post every two weeks. Then, make time for blogging, maybe by getting up early a few days a week or by blocking out a weekend afternoon.
An editorial calendar can be a great help when you’re trying to stay consistent with your content strategy. Planning out your blog content ahead of time makes it much easier to sit down and write.
I think almost every blogger dreams of the moment when they hand in their two weeks’ notice, secure in the knowledge that their online business provides a good living.
But it’s a mistake to quit your day job too soon. Don’t quit after just one or two good months – your blogging income will likely fluctuate a lot.
You’ll also want to think through how to handle things like health insurance and any other perks you currently get through your day job (such as a company car).
Quitting your day job might feel liberating – but it can also put a lot more pressure on you to make your blog a success. Don’t leave too soon. Consider cutting down your hours gradually, if that’s possible, so that you can make a smoother and easier transition to full-time blogging.
When you’re working on your blog, you’re likely in a room on your own. Blogging feels like a very solitary activity – and it’s easy to think that you stand, or fall, by yourself.
But no blogger succeeds entirely on their own. Most high-earning bloggers have built a strong network around them, of fellow bloggers who support their work.
Your blogging network provides you with opportunities like:
- Having people who’ll promote your new blog posts on social media – often without you needing to ask. This can really help with your digital marketing.
- Knowing bloggers who’ll link to your posts (great for your search engine optimization).
- Learning about the best blogging courses to invest in – or even about free blogging courses that are well worth your time.
- Getting opportunities to guest blog for much bigger sites – even when they aren’t officially open to guest post submissions.
- Joining together with other creators to promote one another’s products, either through affiliate marketing or by bundling together several products from different people.
- Being invited onto people’s podcasts as a guest – or being able to invite them onto yours and benefit from their name recognition and audience.
Something I often hear from new bloggers is that, “all the good ideas are taken.”
I felt just like that when I started blogging, too. And it’s true: very few, if any of your blog post ideas will be completely original.
But that’s a good thing. If your idea was so strange and new that no one had ever written anything like it before, then it’s unlikely to be something that will find an audience.
Even though your ideas might not be unique, your content itself will be. That’s because you bring your own unique perspective and thoughts to the topic—one of the best blogging lessons that’ll keep you engaged with your content creation process moving forward.
Your blog post could stand out from the crowd in all sorts of ways. Perhaps:
- You’re great at explaining complex things in simple, step-by-step terms. You can cut through the jargon in your tutorials and get key concepts across to beginners.
- You have lots of personal experiences and stories to draw on, bringing your posts to life and forming a stronger connection with your reader.
- You’re a naturally encouraging and supportive person – and that shines through in your writing. You give your reader confidence that they really can achieve their goals.
Those are just a few ways in which your blog posts could be unique to you. Nobody else could have written them in quite the same way.
When I started blogging, I worried about getting things wrong. I even worried I might somehow “break” my blog by clicking the wrong thing.
The good news is that (a) WordPress has gotten a lot more beginner-friendly since I started my blog and (b) even though I made lots of mistakes, they were all easy to recover from.
However hard you try, your first blog post won’t be perfect. And that’s a good thing. If you started at “perfect”, there’d be nothing left to learn and no room to grow.
Spending hours and hours perfecting anything – whether that’s your blog design, your outreach emails, your posts, or anything else – is a waste of time. Instead, simply create something good, put it out into the world, and look for things you can improve on next time.
You’ll never reach perfect – but you can absolutely make your way to excellent.
When I began blogging, I was full of enthusiasm. It was easy to spend time on my blog, trying out new ideas. Every new milestone was exciting – like when I had my first day of 100 visitors, or when my email list got its first 100 subscribers.
While I still absolutely love blogging, I’ve realized that motivation doesn’t just happen. It’s something I need to work on cultivating & rewarding myself with incentives to continue moving forward—one of the most crucial blogging lessons for me, personally.
If my motivation is lagging a bit, I’ll do things like:
- Reading through emails and comments from my fantastic readers. Knowing that an article I’ve written has helped someone is such a great feeling.
- Taking a deliberate break from blogging. You’ll come back with fresh enthusiasm and new ideas, like a different approach to your marketing strategy or a brand new concept for a line of digital products.
Another option here is to use your break to learn something new. You might take a marketing course, an SEO course, or a blogging masterclass to help you get to the next level with your blogging – and that in itself can easily renew your motivation.
I mentioned in blogging lesson 5 how you can’t succeed on your own. That’s partly because you need practical support from other bloggers to help you grow your site faster… but also because you need encouragement and emotional support from people who understand your goals and ambitions.
Many bloggers don’t have any friends or family with an entrepreneurial background. You might find that people just don’t seem to understand what you’re hoping to do.
This can feel lonely – and it may lead to you giving up, especially if you face any negative comments from your loved ones.
Having a supportive network of people who really “get” it can make a huge difference. You might join a Facebook group for bloggers, for instance, or connect with a small number of bloggers by email. You could even meet up virtually for regular Zoom chats. Another great way to meet fellow bloggers is through online blogging courses.
When I started my blog, it was easy to get lost in daydreams about blogging goals like making $30,000/month.
But there often seemed a huge gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.
If you only think about a big goal – like quitting your day job or making six figures from your blog – then it’s easy to get discouraged. Each day’s work on your blog feels like nothing.
Instead, you want to focus on milestones along the way. For instance, instead of setting huge email marketing goals, you could focus on getting 50 people onto your email list.
When it comes to making money, you might think about milestones like making your first $10 and your first $100 from your blog. You can then look at ways to keep bringing in more traffic and making more conversions.
Blogging Lesson 11: You Need Self-Hosted WordPress(.org) and a Great WordPress Theme for a Professional Blog
It’s become increasingly clear to me, over many years of blogging, that one blog platform stands out as (by far) the most professional and flexible option. That’s self-hosted WordPress. If you take any of these blogging lessons to heart, it’s that you should build your personal blog using WordPress.
Pro Tip: Make sure you opt for the WordPress.org software… which is different from WordPress.com—a fact that trips up many new bloggers!
While there are lots of good blogging platforms out there, WordPress really is the best option for running a professional, money-making blog.
WordPress gives you tons of flexibility in how you run your blog or website, and lots of options for your web hosting. You can choose from thousands of third-party plugins (add-ons) for your site to add new functionality – and many of these are totally free, or have “freemium” versions.
As well as using WordPress, you want to make sure your blog looks the part. Like it or not, we all judge by appearances – and if your blog looks amateur, people won’t trust you with their money.
Luckily, you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars for a swish website design. A professional WordPress blog theme (website template) doesn’t cost a lot and there are plenty of different WordPress themes you can choose from.
Blogging Lesson 12: You Have to Keep up with SEO Best Practices (the Best Blogging Courses Will Help)
When you’re getting started with blogging, SEO (search engine optimization) can seem like just one too many things to worry about.
Maybe SEO seems very technical and daunting: I know it felt that way to me, when I was getting started.
But knowing a few SEO strategy basics, and using them in your blogging, really is essential if you’re going to get good blog traffic and become a successful blogger.
This also means keeping up with how SEO changes from time to time. Things that worked a decade ago aren’t necessarily ideal today – so you’ll want to occasionally review what SEO experts are recommending and you should consider regularly enrolling yourself in the best blogging courses taught by bloggers like myself in Built to Blog—or on platforms like Skillshare and Udemy.
Some SEO fundamentals that are always likely to form part of your blogging strategy are:
- Writing high-quality blog content that meets readers’ needs.
- Carrying out keyword research to use the right words in your blog post titles, subheadings, and meta descriptions (use my free blog title generator for that).
- Including links within your post to other (relevant) posts on your blog.
- Making sure your website loads as quickly as possible.
If you can master these basics, you’ll already be doing a lot to help your blog posts get found in search engines. And the more in-depth your SEO learning goes, the faster you’ll be able to monetize.
Finally, a lesson that it really helps to learn before starting your blog is that your domain name matters. A lot.
It can be tempting to just pick the first blog name that comes into mind, and use that. But this can cause problems and confusion as you try to build a successful blog.
Here are a few key rules of thumb to keep in mind when naming your blog:
- Your blog’s name and domain name should match – or at least be very close to matching. So don’t have the domain name “joeblogger.com” if you’re going to call your travel blog “Lose Yourself to Find Yourself”. That’ll just confuse readers when they’re trying to remember your site.
- Your domain name needs to be clear and easy to read (and spell). Numbers and hyphens can make it hard for people to remember the domain name accurately, so try to avoid those if possible. And do watch out for domain names that could unfortunately be read more than one way – one famous example is the (joke) domain penisland. That’s supposed to be “Pen Island” … but you might have read it differently!
- While it’s possible to change your blog’s name and domain name in the future, this can potentially cause issues with your search engine optimization – and it can be confusing or even annoying for your target audience. You ideally want to stick with the name you start out with.
Put These Blogging Lessons into Practice as You Start a Blog This Year
Starting a blog is easy when you follow my how to start a blog guide. Maybe you’ve already got your blog up and running – if so, congrats on taking that huge step (as I share a lot of my top blogging lessons in that guide).
Making money from your blog, unfortunately, is more of a challenge (and takes longer).
You want to start a profitable blog that provides you with a solid side income (or even the opportunity to quit your day job). That means you need to take these blogging lessons to heart and, above all, keep moving forward.
If you find your motivation lagging, check out these inspiring blogging quotes to help you stay on track.
Ready to Start Your Blog?
Check out my ultimate guide: How to Start a Blog (on the Side) Today.