I am often asked if there is a future for blogs, bloggers, and blogging. It has been 20 years since they showed up on the scene and so much has changed by then. Can they really have a place even in 2020 and beyond? I am convinced they can, and I say that based on a number of good reasons which I’ve laid out elsewhere. But a question remains: If you want to get started with blogging in 2020, how would you go about it? It’s a great question and one I am going to answer as simply as I know how.
Pick a Theme
The first thing you’ll need to do, of course, is figure out what you’d like to write about. You might decide to be a generalist (as I am) and write about whatever is especially interesting to you. It might be better, though, to pick an area of particular interest and focus in on that. With so many blogs out there, there is something to be said for being (or becoming) an authority in one defined area, then perhaps broadening out later. What are you interested in? What are you passionate about? Where are you gifted? Where do you have a little more knowledge or experience than others? Perhaps questions like these will direct you to your topic.
Begin a Site
Once you’ve chosen your general theme, you’ll need to figure out where to write. WordPress is the best and most popular blogging tool out there. You can begin with their free option and, if things go well, look at upgrading later on. It’s often best to not get too hung up on domains and design and all of that just yet. The most important thing is to get the proverbial ball rolling.
Picking a theme and beginning a site is easy enough. Now you come to the hard part, which is actually writing. You aren’t a blogger merely because you have a blog, but because you actually write blog posts. (See: Writers Write.) You’ll need to prove that you can stick with this blogging thing. You’ll need to prove it first to yourself, then to others. So, to that end, here is what I recommend.
First, write 10 articles for you. Determine a schedule (once a week; twice a week; every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; whatever) and do your best to stick with it. Following that schedule, write 10 articles and don’t tell anyone else about them. Write them for you—to prove that you’ve got the discipline to actually write and to prove that you’ve actually got something to write about. Lots of people have enough ideas for the first four or five articles but run out after that. I would recommend making the majority of these first articles original content, while mixing in the occasional post in which you are pointing people to content on other sites (similar to my daily A La Carte articles). That will teach you to mix content creation with content curation—the two broad categories of blog articles.
Next, write 10 articles for friends and family. After you’ve written those first 10 articles, begin to tell friends and family about your site and ask them if they’d like to read it. See if they will join your mailing list to get notified when you post something new. Mention your new articles on social media. At this phase you are developing a very small core of readers while also getting their feedback about your writing—whether you have talent, whether you are covering topics others care about, and so on. Solicit their honest feedback and gauge their reactions. Try to learn what topics are of interest to them and how you might write on those topics. What questions are they asking? What concerns do they have? What knowledge are they lacking? What resources should they know about? In this phase it is probably worth writing at least one book review as a means of introducing people to other relevant resources.
Then, write 10 articles for people you don’t know. By this time you’ll probably have a small group of readers. You’ll have that little core of friends and family, and probably a few others who have found you through Google, who have found out by word-of-mouth, or who have otherwise stumbled upon your site. Write your next 10 articles with them in mind. Again, what do they need to know? What are they hoping your site will provide to them? How can you help them in life? Make sure at least some of your articles are personal—write about your own life, your own struggles, your own triumphs. Do your best to make a personal connection with people who don’t know you. You should also be looking for like-minded people and ministries and begin following them on social media.
By this time you have written 30 solid articles and gotten some good feedback on them. You’ve settled on a writing schedule. You’ve learned whether you have the discipline to stick with blogging, whether you’ve got any talent for writing, and whether other people are willing to read what you write. Perhaps 25 of your articles are original content while 5 are made up of curated content. You’ve even tried your hand at book reviewing.
If, at this point, you think you’re going to stick with blogging, it’s time to promote it a little bit. That means we need to talk about self-promotion. This is tricky because it can be done well (humbly) or poorly (arrogantly). Most of us don’t want to read people who aren’t confident that they’ve got something to say. On the other hand, most of us don’t want to read people who are convinced we must read what they say. There is a kind of confident humility that strikes just the right note, I think. It allows writers to believe they have something to say that will benefit others, but also not to think too highly of themselves. I don’t think it’s a necessary sign of arrogance to believe that others may benefit from reading what you write.
How do you humbly promote your writing? Here are a few ideas.
- Engage on social media. Find people who are writing on similar topics and interact with them on social media. If they have written something you appreciate, mention it on your blog, then tell them you’ve done so. Or write your own article interacting with it, give them credit, and then let them know that you’ve engaged with them in that way. Blogging is a personal form of communication, so make personal connections.
- Submit articles to relevant sites that accept submissions. While your main effort will be your own blog, you may want to write the occasional article for other sites. If they accept and run those articles, they’ll usually include a link to your site that may draw in some more readers.
- Let me know. I am one of many people who loves to read Christian blogs and who maintains an extensive list of blogs I keep up with. I’d be glad to hear from you if you’re writing the kind of blog that would interest me. But please don’t let me know until you’ve written your thirtieth article! That way we both know that you’re planning to stick with it.
Whether you follow these steps or others, I hope to see at least some people give blogging a shot, even in 2020. I am convinced there remains a great future for it.