6 Goofs I Made That Killed My Blog — and Helped Launch My Writing Career

By David Masters

Launching a blog is beset with pitfalls. I should know.

I poured my heart and soul into launching my first blog, and despite my best efforts and intentions, it flopped.

I launched Be Playful in 2008. I did many things right: I chose a niche I felt passionate about, I bought my own domain name and I created a self-hosted WordPress website.

I wrote solid content. I listened to my readers. I learned all about social networking and I plunged myself into Twitter.

But I made some serious mistakes. Big mistakes that punched me in the face and left me reeling in the dust.

Eventually, I tossed out the blog and left it to die. But, inadvertently, I’d planted a seed. That seed sprouted and grew into a full-time writing career.

My Six Blogging Mistakes

Each mistake I made caused me to lose more faith in my blog. Here’s how I goofed up:

1. I expected instant cash

I set up my blog expecting to make a quick buck. Everywhere I looked, other bloggers promised blogging=$$$ (though they rarely provided figures). I believed the money would magically start rolling in within a few weeks.

Three months down the line, my blog had cost me over $100, and hadn’t made a single cent.

Truth is, it takes a serious business plan and months (if not years) of hard work to earn a living from a blog. And to earn a living, you have to sell stuff. Whether that’s ad space on your blog, ebooks or courses, to make money you must have products for sale.

The main reason my blog made no money was my second mistake:

2. My niche was difficult to monetize

The best way to create products your readers are itching to buy is to solve a pressing problem. For example:

  • How do I make money writing?
  • How do I potty train my kid?
  • How do I fix my punctured bike tire?

These problems are all pressing because your readers want quick, practical solutions. Provide those solutions, and your readers will keep coming back for more, and in some cases even pay for what they want.

My blog, Be Playful, solved the problem “How can I be more playful in everyday life?”

Sure, it’s an interesting problem. It’s fun to write about. And some people want to know the answer. But it’s not a pressing problem.

I’d chosen a niche with no simple way of monetizing the blog, and that disheartened me.

3. I obsessed over stats

Every day, before I did anything else, I’d head to Feedburner and check out my subscriber stats. I’d stare at them for hours, sometimes delighting in a recent spurt of growth, but more often beating myself up because my subscriber count wasn’t growing fast enough.

At the blog’s height, after three month’s solid, obsessive work, I had 105 subscribers.

I felt pathetic and stupid.

I battled with myself every day to keep writing, and it was a battle I eventually lost.

4. I spent more time fiddling with WordPress than writing

With my blog, I’d try anything to avoid writing, especially tweaking WordPress. From adjusting themes to trying (and failing) to learn how to use CSS, it became a massive time drain.

Yet without killer content, a good-looking theme is meaningless.

I’ve learned my lesson now: content first, design second. And always pay someone else to do your website design if you can afford it.

5. I ignored my posting schedule

Wasting my blogging time staring at my stats and feeling discouraged by the lack of growth, I started to skip my twice weekly posting schedule.

I reduced my posts to once a week, then once every two weeks, then once a month.

This became a downward spiral. The less often I posted, the more subscribers dropped off my list. The more subscribers dropped off my list, the less I wanted to post.

Finally, I gave up entirely.

6. I let the URL go

After a year I decided my blog was a failed experiment. I let the URL expire, and archived the content on WordPress.com.

I thought I could buy the domain back in the future, but of course a domain parking service snatched it up, and it’s never been available since.

That’s my biggest regret, as it would have only cost me $10 a year to hold onto it.

How My Failed Blog Created My Writing Career

Though I didn’t make money directly from my blog, and despite the fact that I gave up on it, the blog became the foundation on which I’ve built a full time freelance writing business.

Here’s how my blog, which I could hardly have treated more badly, helped to launch me as a writer:

  • I learned to write in a niche. Though I chose the wrong niche for making money, I realized the value of choosing a niche in building readership. Stick to a niche, produce quality content, use basic promotion tactics, and readers will come. Choose a clear niche to write in as a freelancer and the clients are more likely to come.
  • I landed guest posts on big blogs. My blog provided a platform to show I could write. To grow my blog, I pitched guest posts to other blogs. Guest posts on top blogs raise your profile as a freelance writer, and provide you with the gravitas you need to land bigger gigs.
  • Friends offered me writing work. I didn’t promote my blog among my friends and family, but they found out about it. One friend, a freelance youth work consultant, knew his main client was looking for a writer. He asked if I’d be interested in the job, then hooked me up. This provided me with a steady flow of part-time writing work for over a year.
  • I landed small writing gigs. Having a blog acted as a portfolio to help me land small writing gigs from bidding sites and online ads. One of these gigs turned into a regular client. Every new gig helped build my confidence in earning my bread as a writer.
  • I networked with other bloggers (and found my dream job). When I launched my blog, I got to know other bloggers by commenting on their blogs, following them on Twitter, and signing up to their email lists. This networking eventually landed me my dream job, a gig co-writing ebooks with Sean Platt.

The lesson I learned from my failed blog is simple. Whatever you’re doing now to further your writing dreams, keep going.

If you’re determined to be a writer, you know you can write, and you grip your dreams tighter than a clamshell, you will make it.

I’m sure you’ll make mistakes along the way, just like I did. But when you come to the end of the road, your dreams might turn out bigger than anything you can imagine right now.

David Masters is a freelance writer and author of 52 Ways to Get More Freelance Clients (Fewer Headaches, Greater Profits). His new blogging home is Social Caffeine, where he teaches small businesses (including freelance writers) how to buzz up their social media marketing. Come on over and join the party.

Tagged with: , , , ,
26 comments on “6 Goofs I Made That Killed My Blog — and Helped Launch My Writing Career
  1. I could really appreciate this post because the inspiration is in the lessons. I love reading about business success (and the mistakes that lead to it), as well as stories of people. This one combined both: Your success in finding a happy place in your writing work and the story of you and your desire to make something happen.

    Blogging is hard work and building a successful blogging business takes more than desire. It takes trial and error (even those who hop out and look as if they were overnight successes had to goof up a time or two on that blog or another one). It takes planning. It takes perseverance. And it takes the ability to bounce back. Congratulations on your work. Both aspiring and established bloggers can gain inspiration and insight from this post.
    Monica Carter Tagore recently posted…So Why Aren’t You Writing?My Profile

  2. For the longest time, I’ve been guilty of #3 and #5. I didn’t realize until now that this was one of the reasons why I’m probably struggling when it comes to getting more good quality content posted on my blog. Thanks for this post, Carol. It’s given me the wake up call that I needed. It’s helped me get my focus back on track.
    Adeline Yuboco recently posted…[Interview] Chef Frank Roland Schmitt on Becoming a ChefMy Profile

  3. There’s so much bs out there about how much you can make from affiliate sales on a blog. If you don’t blog because you like blogging, don’t do it. If you like blogging, then stick some affiliate links on the sidebar and maybe work them into your blogs. You’ll make a little money, but not a lot.
    Rob Schneider recently posted…About Freelance Travel WritingMy Profile

  4. Meiko Lucas says:

    When I started had someone told me these things, I would have been a very successful blogger by now! I always used to feel that I have excellent writing skills and always wanted to start my own thing!

    Eventually I started, a nice name a beautifully designed blog and the mistake you committed I did the same.. the biggest problem was i was cray for stats and was expecting to be a millionaire in the first year..!

    After 3-4 months, the traffic started growing but the money was still far away.. I started writing what the readers wanted to read.. and that is how my downfall started!

    I am now way from blogging, I do write some, but that is just as a hobby!
    Meiko Lucas recently posted…How to Keep Your AC Repair Bills DownMy Profile

  5. Donna Spears says:

    I guess number one is one of the biggest mistake that blogger often commits.
    They expect too much in terms of blogging and that’s really a bad thing to consider!

  6. At the beginning, I was obsessed with perfecting my WP site and watching my stats all day every day. I’ve long since gotten past that, thankfully.

    I’m so encouraged by this post. It shows that the failures we have today don’t have to ruin our future chances of any success.

    Thanks!
    Sarah L. Webb recently posted…Read Like a Writer: The Importance of Close ReadingMy Profile

  7. Karen says:

    Numbers 4 and 5 are my mistakes, though it’s not just WordPress sites. Some days, I’ll fiddle with anything to get out of writing, even though I LOVE writing. I’m working on those problems. I think with my posting schedule, I started out TOO ambitious, instead of building up to multiple posts a week. I’m starting over.

    I’m also still trying to find my “niche” so I’m not yet in a position to monetize anything. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your “goofs” Mr. Masters, so we can learn (hopefully) from your experiences!
    Karen recently posted…Recruiting Insights Part 2: Mastering Your InterviewMy Profile

  8. J. Delancy says:

    Thanks for writing this article Mr. Masters. It’s certainly a head’s up for new bloggers such as myself. I’m able to recognize that Number .2 is my biggest problem which I’ll need to address if I’m to avoid failure.
    J. Delancy recently posted…Flying KitesMy Profile

  9. Isn’t there a saying: “The path to success is paved with failure”? If there wasn’t before, there is now. I feel kind of the same about my writing career. I’ve made every mistake in the book, from spending a year on article mills, to “progressing” to bidding sites. I’m still making mistakes. I offered my services too cheaply on two out of three of the most recent gigs that were offered me. I finally plucked up the courage on the third and asked for more than double what the clients used to pay me and guess what? The first word in their reply was, “Great!”
    Rob Schneider recently posted…Apps and the Social Media FrenzyMy Profile

  10. Stef Gonzaga says:

    David,

    Mistakes #2-4 really smacked me hard on the face, and it took me a long time to realize how these were affecting not only my writing but my love and passion for it. I can clearly recall the many hours wasted just tweaking whatever I thought needed tweaking on my WordPress sites (I have two), and the guilt I felt whenever a week would pass without a single fresh blog post—all because I “didn’t feel” like writing at that time.

    I’m taking steps towards improvement now. I love to write, I love my blogs, and the last thing I want is to see all my hard work plummet. Reading your post gave me the affirmation I needed to keep going.
    Stef Gonzaga recently posted…What I’ve Learned, Lost, and Aim to Achieve After Four Years of Freelance WritingMy Profile

  11. Carole Lyden says:

    I always learn so much more from my mistakes. I can relate to no. 4. I spent so much time learning how to create a website that in the end I handed it over to a specialist. And then there’s twitter, well, I’m still trying to get a handle on that. Baby steps is the way to go.
    Carole Lyden recently posted…A Really Cool Way to become an Awesome WriterMy Profile

  12. Calvin Brown says:

    Sometimes it is the mistakes that we make towards something that we like that make us perfect at it. I just started off the writing journey like you did, but right now I feel proud of myself even of the mistakes that I made.
    Calvin Brown recently posted…Kim Kardashian Ranks High on the Forbes ListMy Profile

  13. Thanks for hosting my post here Carol.

    I’m interested to know from readers: What did you learn from this post? What goofs have you made in your writing career, and what have you learned from them?

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "6 Goofs I Made That Killed My Blog — and Helped Launch My Writing Career"
  1. […] 6 Goofs I Made That Killed My Blog — and Helped Launch My Writing Career by David Masters […]