How to Start a Blog in Six Simple Steps (The Smart Start Blueprint)
—The New Jersey Version
Stories from the bottom of the pit and the top mountain. One email a quarter. No B.S.
The last few years I've noticed a trend in online marketing directed at budding solopreneurs that's really begun to get my goat. It looks somewhat like this: a person figures out there is money to be made with affiliate marketing. They do research, find a niche they want to promote, and they go all in. Nice hustle. If they're fortunate, and work their tails off, they do well. And, that is fantastic. The next part, though, is where I've started to find myself getting more than a little uncomfortable.
Navigate the Article!
- The Problem With Affiliate Marketing
- What's a better way to earn a living while staying honest about our recommendations?
- Why You Should Wait To Spend Money To Market Online
- Making a Living Blogging Requires You To Start Blogging
- The Smart Start Blueprint.
The Problem With Affiliate Marketing
Because affiliate marketers like myself can earn an income promoting the services and products we write about, a large number of marketers have begun to promote things people really don't need simply because they produce a commission. These suggestions are driven by highly profitable commission structures that reward affiliate marketers for their efforts. Again, this is generally a good thing. But what's happening though, is instead of helping one another by recommending methodologies and their supportive products, people have devolved into simply recommending the highest ticket item, and things people often just do not yet need. When I was selling lift trucks, the last thing I would want to do was to recommend a $30,000 forklift to someone who was going to end up just looking at it sit in his warehouse doing nothing because he wasn't ready for it. A $99.00 hand truck was enough for many, many new manufacturers, shippers and sellers. Selling beyond the need of the customer is anathema to professional business selling, and its driving me crazy seeing how endemic its become.
What makes it worse, is as a copywriter I see the manipulative sales techniques at play in written form that are often hard for people to pick up. Subtle cues to encourage us, to get us imagining ourselves in this magical place where passive income flows into our homes like a natural hot spring, bringing with it everything that is good in the world. Its dangerous. And its dangerous not simply because people are manipulating us, but because when we fall for it, our entrepreneurial spirits can be crushed preventing us from actually making a difference in the world. Or, possibly worse, it can lead us to pursue an idea long past its experiration date because others have made the nearly impossible seem all too possible. The idea that if we just “keep going” can be a recipe for disaster.
A good consultative salesperson, which is what affiliate marketers should aim to be, should not be pushing things their readers don't need.
What's a better way to earn a living while staying honest about our recommendations?
Simply by talking about products and services within frameworks. In other words, if you're here, then you might need this… if you're here, then you might need that—basic consultative sales. Its simple, its transparent, and that way everyone wins.
So, I want to help reduce these maladies from tying up solopreneurs and dreamers from fufilling their goals.
If you want to make a living online, realize first it is F'n hard. Very F'n hard. I work my ass off, and I do see results—but, at this point, nothing on the grand scale promoted by others. I've been working at this for just over a year now, with a short break of a few months in 2020. Things are happening, but not like lightening. I beleive there is room to grow, though, and my twenty years of marketing, sales and copywriting experience have taught me enough to konw that I'm on the right course. So, I just keep my head down and hustle. But, not everyone has these advantages, and because of that I see a lot of people getting taken advantage of, and it makes me sick. So let's change the balance of the game together why don't we?
If you have the time to start a side hustle blogging, you'll see some momentum over the course of a year. It takes very little money… less than $500. There are only four things you need to spend money on in tht first year: a domain name, managed WordPress hosting, a highly supported WordPress theme, and a good graphic design program. That's it. The rest is all you.
If you're wanting to test the blogging waters, if you're wanting to see if you can indeed make money blogging, and earn enough to call it a living, that is where you start. With four tools. The simplest, most empty online marketing toolkit there is. Mailchimp, not required. Lead Pages, not required. Bluehost, not required. Convert Kit, not required. If you are just starting out you need NONE of these things.
But, Doc, I see people promoting these things everywhere… they must be great. Yep, you're right. They are promoted everywhere, and they can indeed be great. If you use them when you need them. Far too many of us will sign up for an automatically billable subscription with companies like those mentioned above, and do nothing with them aside from stroll through the program for a few hours that first week, because we're not yet ready.
SaaS trials aimed at budding bloggers and solopreneurs are designed to suck you in and then siphon money from your pocket each month for half a year until you finally succumb to the idea that you don't have the time to do anything with them. In the SaaS world, they call this eventual “churn.” It's the number of people that will leave a service each month resulting in lost revenue for the company, and serving as a reduction in their customer base. You are churn to many shops until you're ready. The way they combat this is by offering reduced “monthly” pricing by getting you to sign up for a full year. SaaS companies are learning from gyms. And, we all know how that works out in the end for the vast majority of us. Don't fall victim to this pitch until you are absolutely ready for it.
Why You Should Wait To Spend Money To Market Online
If, instead, you saved that money and spent it on the only services you really need to launch a new blog, you would be much further ahead as a result. Speaking of that, my first and most important role is to not spend one dime unless you already have content ideas, and the time to write. Better yet, you've already done some of that writing.
Because you will spend hours upon hours just learning how to use your WordPress theme. All the drag and drop sales pitches you will read make it seem far easier than it is. Free page builders about, and so do three-page deep “websites” build using those free tools.
I've been in the tech world since 1994. I used to hand code HTML, and I have been a marketing and sales guy for over 20 years. Learning how to design a website is a skill that will take you months to get good at. Divi, the tool I use, is like Excel. There is so much more to it than you can, and will ever use, unless you're aiming to be, or already are, an Excel consultant. Keep that in mind. Building a business takes time.
Okay, enough of that. Ready for the list of things you actually do need to start your first blogging venture? Or, maybe your second (but one you actually want to succeed?).
Let's do it.
Below, I recommend the four products I use for every single website I run online. Many of the forty websites I have been building since 2020 are in various states of undress as I ramp up these side hustles in 2021, and each stays alive using only these tools. Over the past 15 years since Amazon first came out with its affiliate program, I have used a vast number of tools, and spent an ocean of money on training and online marketing tools. The four that have stood the test of time I list below. Two are brand new to me, and they are worth every penny.
I recommend each of these services only because I use each one of them every single day (except the domain registration, which I only interact with once a year). If you go on to purchase any one of the below services, I'll earn a few bucks. But, I ain't gettin' rich just yet, that's for sure.
Oh, and what's all this about the “New Jersey Version?” Well, you've already caught me swearing once. Expect more as I work at cutting through the crap. I like to joke that in New Jersey, we come out of the womb swearing. You'll get a tiny version of that in this post. Sorry, Grandma.
Okay. Let's get to it.
What You'll Need
A Fast Website
If you want to make a living blogging, you have to spend money getting there. Hardly as much as you think, but free will not cut it. Your first and most important concern is speed. Without a fast website you will hate life, visitors will hate you, and you won't make a dime. Spend the money.
If you have been around the internet as long as I have you will remember animated “under construction” gifs. They were cool in 1994. Today, having a websitte that looks like it was designed in 1994 makes you look foolish. Please don't look foolish, and spend money on a good WordPress Theme.
Domain Specific Content
If you have something to say and advice on things people might want to buy, whether it be services or products, get to writing, and get selling. If you have advice to offer, but nothing people will buy, that is wonderful, but a nearly impossible way to make a living blogging. Producing content that sells is your number one job when blogging to provide an income for yourself and your loved ones.
Wordpress & Tech Support
Managed WordPress will save your sanity. Spend the money. It is worth EVERY penny.
Making a Living Blogging Requires You To Start Blogging
(There are only six things you need to do to get started.)
Howdy, all, I'm Doc. I live in the beautiful port city of Kobe, JAPAN. I launched this site to help others interested in working with, or starting, a business in Japan.
We all wear different hats, my job is to help you find the one that fits you best. Thanks for reading, and go get 'em!
For less than 50 bucks a month you can have a web presence superior to that of most companies—definitely most bloggers. This is how you do it.
Last updated: February 11, 2021 (JST)
The Smart Start Blueprint.
1. Register a Domain Name. It Doesn't Really Matter Where.
I use Media Temple to register all my domain names and have done so for probably close to a decade now. I'm considering a few others like Hover, simply because they're cheaper than most domain registrars. But, even though Media Temple is nearly double in price than some other domain registrars, I feel the support I get through their hosting package (I host everything in development on their shared “grid server”) is well worth paying that little extra for each domain name I register and re-register each year. I have something like 76 domain names with them!
2. Host Your Domain on a Fast Server that offers Managed WordPress Support
This year I discovered the wonders of Managed WordPress support through WPMU. Oh, my. I have saved so many hours of my life since working with them, and I can't recommend them enough. The WPMU support is incredible, and worth every single damn penny. And there aren't a lot of pennies to add up.
Even better than their managed WordPress support (which comes with a ton of premium plugins that will help you speed up your website, optimize your images, get your SEO in order… everything you need to run your website in tip top shape), at the tail end of last year I discovered the WPMU hosting package. Holy bejeezus. It is blazing fast and integrates with everything on the WordPress end of things as well. My speed scores have improved dramatically, and I am no longer wasting hours trying to incessantly tweak my sites to get a C or B rating from GTmetrix. I now happily pay the $30 a month for hosting and support.
If you have the cash, and have the content to put up on line this week, then you can't go wrong hosting with WPMU.
Have a look see and see how they compare to a number of hosting competitors out there, so you can make the decision that's right for you.
What else? Oh, they don't have an affiliate program. Just a measly points program which can earn me free hosting if I refer enough people. So, in the end, I might end up with something like $400 in hosting credit. But that's where it stops there are no residuals, nothing like that. So, I'm not booking any flights to Europe for vacation at this point. I just want you to know that I love them, and if you want a fast site with great support, I don't think you can go wrong with WPMU. If I recommended Bluehost, I could earn $65.00 per lead. But, I don't recommend Bluehost. I'll tell you why over coffee some day if you're ever in Japan.
Ready to get your blog humming without the frustration of tech troubles? Sign up for WPMU DEV's 7-day trial, then pay only $15.83 a month after that for 24/7 WordPress support!
3. Purchase a Scalable, Heavily Supported WordPress Theme
There are really only two WordPress Themes you should consider investing your time, money, and energy into learning. First, is Elegant Themes', Divi. I'm an affiliate. I also use it on every single one of my web properties.
The other is Oxygen Builder. I literally discovered Oxygen last week (the first week of February, 2021). It is supposed to be super fast, lightweight (as far as WordPress design elements go) and a true competitor to Divi. Since I'm not in possession of the time to learn a new theme at this point, though I haven't given it a shot yet. But, it's affordable, and probably later in 2021 I give it a test run on one of my domains. Oxygen Builder does not currently run an affiliate program, so my recomendation earns me not a single yen.
Why these two themes? For these reasons:
- They're fast.
- They look amazing design-wise.
Why Divi over Oxygen?
- Elegant Themes' support for their Divi WordPress Theme is top notch and omnipresent. They are available 24/7 with response times that average about two hours. Ogygen suggests it's response times are between 24-and 48 hours. That would honestly be too long a wait time for me, and likely for you, especially if you're learning from scratch and using it on your one and only website. WPMU can often help with many WordPress related concerns, and they have superior support for Divi, but I'm not certain as to how many of their techs know all the ins'n'outs of Oxygen Builder.
- Virtual assistants the world over have learned how to use Divi. LIkely this is not the case for Oxygen. So, if you're ever planning on outsourcing even WordPress updates to a VA, you will want to keep this in mind. Which WordPress theme you choose will dictate your blogging business life. Choose wisely, my friend!
4. Get a Canva Pro Subscription
If you don't already know about Canva Pro, you're in for a treat. With Canva Pro, you will look like a magician of design. If you can't draw, you will with Canva, if you can't layout a margin correctly, you will with Canva. If you don't know where to find royalty free pictures, photographs, designs, icons, templates for your website, you know have them with Canva. And, I'm talking about Canva Pro here. It's 13 bucks. Drop the coin. If you really want to get your website off the ground this year, Canva Pro will help you get there in no time flat. Is Canva Pro worth it? You bet your bottom dollar it is. Yep, you can also bet that I'm an affiliate. Rock on Canva Pro.
5. Write Your Ass Off
Okay! The most important step. WRITE. If you can't write, or don't want to write, you can't make a living blogging. Yes, you can read about outsourcing your writing to freelance writers who charge pennies on the dollar. You can outsource to writers overseas who write for even less. Do not waste your time. The only writers you should consider outsourcing to are professional writers who will cost more money than you have in the beginning.
So, unless you're sitting on a pocketful of cash and can spend about $500-$1000 on a well written, and well-researched blog post, don't waste the time and money trying to outsource your writing. You will be sorely disappointed. Why does it cost that much? Actually, it often costs much more. To write the kind of posts you see here on Nihon Hustle, posts that teach people how to make money online like my post about military spouse jobs and active duty side hustles, come in at around 15,000 words and literally take me weeks to write. Fifteen thousand words, is basically a 60 page book!
This post comes in at around 4,000 words and only took me a few hours to write because it's off the cuff and about a subject I'm familiar with. If you were to hire a professional freelance writer to write a post like this for you it would likely take them about half for the research, and another half a day for the writing. So, a full day's work just to get the draft out the door.
Then there is the fine tuning, the editing, the writing for SEO, all the back end meta tagging… it's a lot of work. That's why professional writers cost more than the writers you will find on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. They need to eat. They need to feed their families, just like you and me. And so, they cost an appropriate sum.
Why do you see people talking about how they found writers on Fivrr, and Upwork? A few reasons, Fivrr is one of the highest paying affiliate programs out there. That's why you see it recommend all over the damn place. The second reason people promoting the idea that you can outsource the content creation are trying to convince you making a living blogging is easy. In suggesting you outsource the writing, they're suggesting you don't even have to do any of the work! Wouldn't that be great?!
The only person I have ever seen take an honest approach to this and paying writers what the'yre worth while suggesting you outsource the work is Adam Enfroy. In two years he managed to earn a million bucks on a brand new blog. He has good hustle. He still probably doesn't pay as much as he should to writers, adn sometimes the writing quality shows, but he is making money. So, pick your battles, I suppose. I ride high on paying well for quality work. For me it takes priroity over earning insane amounts of money. There is enough to share.
My advice? Do the writing on your own. Find out what it's like. IT IS HARD. Learn by doing. Then outsource it once you can apply some redundancy to your process and are already earning enough to justify the expense. And, pay writers what they're worth. Better yet, offer them a peice of your earnings in the form of a shared residual. It's the only way I work, because it's the most fair. Writing for the web is a sales gig, and sales people are paid a base plus commission. If a writer helps you earn a milion dollars a year, don't you think the right thing to do is to reward them for that effort?
6. Spend Time And Money Making Your Side Hustle Sing
I've been online since 1994. My first job out of college was with an Internet service provider (an ISP) when people didn't even know what the hell the Internet was. We used ICQ to chat with one another in the office way the hell before Slack became a thing. We took advertisements out in trade magazines, and advertised on A.M. radio for God's sake. I remember my Dad asking me five years later in 1999, what those “names” were on the bottom of television ads he was starting to see all over the place. Those were domain names.
A lot has changed since then. What's changed most, it seems, is how much people want to take advantage of new learners. Back in the early days we offered everything up for free. The Internet was cool, and we were eager to share and learn from one another.
These days, there are very few people who do just that. I don't even do that, per se. I do right now, but I don't want to keep giving things away forever.
In 1994 I started a Music Business site that was so fresh, if you will, that it was listed in a book sold in grocery stores nameesd “The Web's top 100 websites.” Ad in… the world. I'm not kidding. I didn't earn a dime off it in the beginning. When Amazon's affiliate program rolled around I made a few bones, but hardly anything, really.
This will take a LONG time. People who say they earned money quickly are leaving things out. Help from others, connections, questionable ethics. No one mentions these things in their winnings. They talk about revenue, but don't mention profit or expenses. They end up being interviewed in the press who perpetuate the same success story over and over again, and fuel the message with copyrighting and marketing tricks I can see a mile away that others miss because they haven't had the twenty years of experince I have seeing that sort of thing every day in my career.
Work your hustle for at least a year. Learn from the experience. Go all in and hustle. Have a quit date. When will you turn off the lights? When will you try the next idea? Don't beat yourself up forever over the same idea. Move on after a predetermined point.
If you follow this general blueprint, by the end of the year, you should spend no more than $500 USD. That's not a lot of money to get a side hustle off the ground.
Knock em out, and knock em dead.