How to Get Started Blogging (Part 3 of a 3 Part Series on Blogs)

This is the third of a three part series about blogging based on my presentation at a Minnesota IP CLE in September. Today’s question: assuming that you want to get into blogging, how should you get started?

I have a single succinct response to this question: start out as a guest blogger somewhere. Don’t try to start up a blog from scratch on your own, at least not as a first-time blogger. Let me make my case to you why it’s better to start as a guest blogger:

1) Blogging has high start-up costs. There are various start-up costs to blogging, including:

* picking the right vendor

* configuring the blog

* generating enough content to be noticed. In this respect, blogging is like a flywheel–you need to crank hard in the beginning to get the wheel turning. You can ease off a bit after the blog is established, but a strong and steady stream of posts in the beginning is critical to building the blog and its readership

* marketing the blog

Meanwhile, by joining an existing blog, there are zero start-up costs–someone has already incurred those for you.

2) Develop your blogging skills and preferences before you commit. By blogging somewhere else, you can learn what you like and don’t like about various blog vendors. Switching after the blog is up is far more difficult than picking right from the beginning.

You can also develop your blogging voice. I stand behind all of my posts, but some of my early posts were, frankly, a little goofy, and there are definitely some posts I would handle differently now. It took me a while to establish my norms for what’s blog-worthy and how best to present that information. In the context of a multi-person blog, you’ll have some role models to emulate and some mentors to coach you.

Finally, as a guest, you can get a sense of the actual time it takes to blog on an ongoing basis. It’s easy to underestimate this time, which is why I think so many blogs quickly fail. You can assess this time commitment without incurring start-up or wind-down costs.

3) Built-in readership. By joining an existing blog, you get access to an existing audience–readers on day 1. If you decide to launch your own blog or move to another blog, some of those readers will follow you.

You also get the blog’s existing Google PageRank for search engine traffic. It takes some time for Google to assign a rank to a new blog, so your posts probably will get better search engine traffic by being at a site with existing PageRank. Further, if your co-blogger(s) has a good reputation generally, you can get the branding benefit of associating with their brand.

4) No wind-down costs. I think one of the best reasons to blog is to build a personal brand. Thus, you don’t want to do anything with your blog that may undermine your brand.

Personally, I think there can be negative brand implications from stopping a blog mid-stream. (It depends on the circumstances, but there can be a taint to stopping an existing blog). In contrast, if you’re a guest blogger, and you decide not to continue, there’s no taint–by definition, the guest stint can be time-limited, so there’s no consequence to letting the stint lapse.

How Do I Find a Guest Stint?

If you have good personal relationships with bloggers, just approach them. But if you don’t, you might consider approaching some of your favorite bloggers and asking about an arrangement. Many bloggers are looking for good guest bloggers as a way to add diversity to the blog (and maybe lighten their writing load), so bloggers may be more receptive than you think.

[Note: I recognize that some of this post could be read as an implied request or encouragement to approach me for a guest blogging stint. That’s not my intent. This blog tends to be fairly personal, so for now I don’t plan to add other bloggers to this one. My other blog does have some guests, but I’m not sure how many more guests I’d like to add.]

Conclusion

Increasingly, we’re seeing multi-person blogs, blog mergers and other consolidations. There are good reasons for consolidation: it’s hard to bear the writing and operational responsibility of being a single-person blogger, a diversity of views makes the blog more interesting, and having multiple people marketing the blog tends to increase traffic for the blog across-the-board. As a result, I think the days of single-person blogs are coming to an end.

In my case, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this blog (or my other blog) roll up into a larger structure in the future. I like blogging, but I also think there is such strength in numbers that I’ll be better off combining my talents with others. Stated in another way, based on 9 months of solo blogging experience, if I had to do it all over again I would start out in a group blog rather than on my own.

One final thought: if you do decide to invest long-term in a joint blogger as an equal participant, make sure you lay out a deal with your joint bloggers in advance. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

This post is part of a three-part series:

Part 1 of 3: How I decide which blogs to read?

Part 2 of 3: Should I blog?

Part 3 of 3: If I decide I want to blog, how do I get started?

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