This year will mark 5 years that I have been putting my thoughts on the internet as a blogger. It's been a 5-year learning experience that I don't take for granted. Over the years, I've had many people ask for advice about starting a blog-- from the basics of finding a host domain to how to make edits to the way their site looks. I've gotten many of these technical questions, but the one that I've never gotten is, "What's it really like behind the scenes?"
Everyone sees the glitz and glamour of a finished product, but never care to know how it got there and the challenges of creating content. They don't ask if you ever get burnt out and want to quit or if you even consider yourself successful. No, most people just want a following, social media celebrity, and to somehow make it into a full time career. If that's your main desire, you're in for a rude awakening. Allow me to share the behind the scenes of blogging.
The Numbers Game
Like I mentioned before, I've been blogging for almost 5 years now. I started blogging when blogging wasn't a thing. Now, blogs and websites literally come a dime a dozen. When I started blogging, my intent was to share my random thoughts and adventures while I was living away from friends and family. It eventually evolved into a ministry for women who could relate to the issues that I was dealing with in life. I found that many women were searching for answers and were also on a faith journey. We were all trying to figure it out, but I was just brave enough to air out my journey on the internet. This resonated with thousands of people across the world, so I garnered a following. From that point on, my mission was to help people through life leveraging my own experiences. To this day, that is still my main agenda.
Somewhere along the way, the numbers came into play. If you talk to any blogger or someone who maintains a website, then you may quickly hear the terms: audience, demographics, and bounce rate, among other things. This analytical data is almost forced upon you as a blogger. You know how many people subscribed to or read your content, their age group, how long they stayed on your page, their interests, how many people read your posts, what time they read it, who opened the emails...all kinds of "stalkerish" stuff that businesses use for marketing. Ultimately, it becomes easy for one to be consumed by it all. I, like many bloggers, fell into the numbers game. What used to be about solely helping people became "how many people am I helping?"
Very soon my validity as a blogger and creative writer came from views, subscribers, and shares. I began to understand what people liked to read, which didn't necessarily align with what they needed to read. Posts like, "5 Reasons Why He Hasn't Proposed" garnered hundreds of views and shares because it was what people wanted to read. Though I was still able to integrate a biblical message in it, this is not my style of writing. Instead, I played the system and got the numbers. But the reality was, either I'd continue to compromise my content for views or I'd be obedient to what God called me to do-- regardless of if anyone read it or not.
This can be discouraging for someone who genuinely wants to help people and have ministries to share. Trust me, it's disheartening to see a post that you've worked hours on only getting 5 views. But, after five years, one thing that I've come to understand is that the right people will read and be impacted by your work. Many blog posts that have been statistically "unsuccessful" for me have been the very ones that I've gotten messages about from readers sharing the impact that it's had on their life. That's what keeps FoAlexander.com going, not the numbers or visible engagements.
The next most frequent question that I get related to blogging is, "Do you have a schedule?" The answer always has and probably will continue to be a resounding "No!" Aside from scheduling when content will post-- every Sunday and Monday at 8 AM-- I don't have a set schedule for writing. Creativity and God don't work like that! There have literally been Mondays at 6 AM that I'm writing content for the 8 AM Motivational Monday posts. That's just how God works sometimes-- He may not come when you want Him, but He'll be there right on time. Can I get a witness?
If you think blogging is a matter of sitting down at the same time everyday for 30 mins and having some creative influx, think again. I remember going months without blogging solely because I had writer's block and there wasn't anything that God wanted me to share. In other cases, I could write hours at a time and save some content for later. That's just the way it works. So, if you're type A, like me, and have to be prepared at every step, you're in for a journey.
Several years into blogging, I discovered that I could actually make money through advertisements. Now, being a faith based blog, I knew that there was a fine line. I'm not about pimping Jesus, but I'm all about using my gifts as a stream of income. As a result, I place a few, relatable ads throughout my site. Around the same time that I began blogging, I also started a YouTube channel that eventually allowed me to also run ads. Together, I use them as a separate stream of income.
It disheartens me when I see young people wanting to make social media-- primarily YouTube-- their career. I really want to grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and say, "It's not that easy!! You need a sustainable career!!" Do you know when I received my first check from ads? Last month! That's five years before I was even able to receive a dime of earnings. That's five years before I even surpassed the $100 minimum to get paid. So, if you're in this for the money, think again! It takes years of consistency and a strong following. Furthermore, it's a little more work than just sitting behind a camera or computer.
Now, as I've begun my second blog, my strategy is a little different. I'll have no issues being sponsored by brands, sharing affiliate program ads, or running advertisements because of the nature of it's content, but that's another blog post for another day.
Learning to Code
I'm not saying that you have to have Silicon Valley expertise in coding; however, I am saying that you need to know how to troubleshoot issues that may arise from your blog. I get it. Everyone isn't tech savvy. But, don't you at least know how to change the tires and pump gas for your car? Learning simple maintenance and coding tricks will take you a long way. Blogs are becoming more and more advanced, with all kinds of pop ups and gadgets, don't get left behind because you choose not to learn. If anything, you'll be able to add "basic html coding" to your resume...I sure am.
Side note, another great thing to read up on is SEO.
Friends/Family who Don't Support
Yes, I am going there! The reality of doing anything for yourself is that many of the people that you think should support you don't. Again, after five years, I can tell you which of my family members aren't subscribed to my blog or have even read a post. I can even tell you which of my friends have conveniently unsubscribed and those who haven't even read my book. Don't think I'm calling any of them out *cough*, but it just goes to show that everyone isn't going to support you. Here's a tip: Get over it!!
Realize that your assignment is bigger than reaching your 1st cousin from across the street. If God has called you to do this, then He's talking about reaching the world. One scripture that comes to mind is John 1:11-- "He came to his own people, and even they rejected him" (NLT). Even Jesus' family rejected Him as Messiah, so what do you think that means for your kinfolk? I understand that we want our own to support us, but my daddy always said, "They'll want to be your cousin when you're doing well." Extend grace and press forward with your work. They may not be subscribed or sharing your post now, but trust me they'll be telling everybody about their family member who has a website.
It's More than Just Writing
Lastly, I thought I'd point out that blogging is more than just writing-- if you haven't figured that out already. When I decided to upgrade my blog, I had to upgrade everything about the way it looked. That means that I began dabbling in graphic design and photography. Thankfully, I've been able to stay away from Photoshop (for now) and use free online software, but learning how to create attractive media is important in this age of blogging. Years ago, I could post without having a picture to depict the content. Now, it's almost a requirement to include some sort of media for when the post is shared on other platforms. It's a form of click bait. If the picture looks interesting, people will click it. Which brings me to my next point...
Blogging doesn't stop at "publish." It continues with sharing your content on social media so that you can actually get people to read it. As a blogger, you have to market your content to your audience, because as we learned before, everyone isn't subscribed to get the email notification. Some people will only click on the Facebook or Twitter link that you posted. Many blogs have auto publishing features, which are great; however, if you want to have customized thumbnails, this can be a manual process. I'll be honest, sometimes, I just don't feel like going through the work of sharing my posts on social media. Those are really the ones that I say, "God, whoever needs to read this will find it."
In conclusion...I hope that I haven't scared you away from blogging. Blogging can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful, time consuming, and down right frustrating. I thought it was important for you to know the behind the scenes truth about it so that you go in with the right expectations. Ultimately, to know that you're helping someone and impacting lives is all worth it.
I'm open to any questions about blogging if they weren't answered above. Comment below or shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help. Also, let me know if I should write a blog on publishing a book. I've seen many folks talking about writing and I can guide you through it.
Until next time!