Amateur Blogging Tips: How to Become a Pro
Most people take a stab at amateur blogging with the hopes of turning it into a full-time writing career.
99 percent of the people who try amateur blogging never ‘turn pro’ and create something that can actually become a business. Instead, they flail around and write their little hearts out for a bit and eventually quit.
There’s nothing wrong with blogging as a hobby. In fact, it’s something everyone should do. Having a place to store your thoughts has a bunch of benefits both tangible and intangible:
- Blogging teaches you how to think
- Blogging can help you make connections with smart people who love your work
- As career expert Penelope Trunk says, blogging is an excellent career tool
- At a minimum, blogging can help you become more creative and explore ideas that interest you
- In 2022, your digital portfolio is the new ‘business card’ or ‘resume’
But most people start blogging with the intent to eventually turn it into a mini-empire. If you’re one of those people, this article will show you the amateur blogging mistakes to avoid and give you the tools, insights, and strategies you need to turn pro.
I’m going to break down everything you need to become one of the rare people who gets to make a full-time living from their words.
First, let’s take a look at some amateur blogging mistakes that will get in your way of success.
Amateur Blogging Mistake #1 – Treating Your Blog Like Your Personal Journal
90 percent of writers make this mistake, so I have to mention it in every single article I write about writing.
If you want to stay an amateur blogger, make no money, and have little to no people read your writing, then there’s nothing wrong with sharing your random musings and writing blog posts with random stories and details about your life.
If you want to build an audience and turn your writing into a business, you need to write for an audience.
Look at it from the reader’s perspective. Anytime you sit down to write something, you have to ask yourself why anyone other than you would want to read what you’re about to post.
Would you want to read stories about someone you don’t know, seem to have no expertise to share, and choose topics that are of no interest to you?
Yet writers seem to have this blind spot when it comes to their audience. If you want to be successful, you have to find the intersection between what you want to write about and what other people to read. Also, if you want to make money, you have to choose a topic that can lead to someone buying something from you.
This brings me to the next amateur blogging mistakes.
Mistake # 2 – Picking the Wrong Niche
You don’t have to pick one single niche to write about and never switch your topics up, ever, but it’s important to choose topics that are viable.
So what makes a topic viable?
- There are already other writers successfully writing about that topic. You’re not so original that no one has thought about your topic before
- There are other writers who have made money writing about that topic by creating products based on it or earning money on paid writing platforms like Medium, Substack, Newsbreak, or Vocal media
- The niche is wide enough that there’s a readership but narrow enough that you’re not trying to write for everyone at the same time
In this article I wrote about how to choose a writing topic and stick with it, I listed out some of the common niches people successfully blog about. If your potential idea doesn’t fit one of these categories, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
- Personal finance
- Business & entrepreneurship
- Social media & blogging
- Current events, news, and politics
- Personal essays
There are some variations that work well, but these are the broad categories.
Mistake # 3 – Worrying About Irrelevant Details
Your number one priority as a blogger is getting words onto the page consistently. Without building a catalog of work, you can’t build an audience big enough to support your dreams.
It takes time, effort, and consistency to build a foundation that helps you get traffic, fans, email subscribers, and name recognition to stand out in a sea of average writers.
Too many amateur bloggers worry about things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of it all. They focus on little things that don’t matter and miss the bigger picture.
- Having a super fancy website. Just get your blog set up over a weekend and run with it
- Domain name. Just pick one that doesn’t suck. Or just use your name
- Writing the perfect about page
- Choosing the best software.
- Advanced topics like SEO, ads, and long marketing funnels.
Mistake # 4 – Trying to Blog Without a System
If you want to fail as a blogger, just ‘wing it.’
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked an aspiring writer about their process and they’ll say that they write when they feel like it. They say they write about whatever random idea pops in their head and just freestyle their content stream of consciousness style.
If you want to become a successful blogger, you need a system to:
- Consistently come up with ideas for blog posts
- Write and edit posts from start to finish without major lapses
- Build and scale your audience
I’ll talk about those soon, but just know that going from amateur blogger to pro requires you to do some pre-work before you sit down to write. In my blogging course, I have an entire section dedicated to research because the more you do upfront, the easier it is to consistently publish quality work that people want to read.
Without a system, you’ll burn out and quit.
Speaking of quitting, let’s talk about the biggest amateur blogging mistakes of them all.
Mistake #5 – Quitting When Things Get Hard
I can’t believe I actually read this sentence, but I did.
I was looking at posts in a Facebook group for Medium writers and one of them had a complaint about the progress of their writing career.
They were upset that they weren’t getting the money and readership they deserved after they had written…
If you want to become a pro blogger, you’re going to have to write something more like 300 articles.
People always ask me my ‘secret’ to success. How did I become a good writer? How did I learn to make a six-figure income from words?
I’ve been writing every single day for seven years.
There’s your secret. Not only that, but I had to learn a bunch of skills along the way like managing WordPress, writing email copy, blog outreach, and all of the little writing techniques I use to create persuasive work.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I always tell people, blogging for a living isn’t the most efficient or profitable way to make money online. It’s hard to pull off.
If you have an entitled attitude, you’ll fail, period. Don’t let the road ahead overwhelm you, but you’ll have to put years into the process to get it to work.
Now that we have the mistakes out of the way, let’s break down how to go from some who does amateur blogging to a seasoned pro.
Step 1 – Choose a Writing Topic to Begin Your Blogging Journey
Like I said, you don’t have to stick with one single topic forever, but if you don’t have a writing habit yet, it makes sense to choose something to run with for a trial period. 90 days is a good start.
I’ll steal a section from my free email course to show you how the process might look:
Answer the questions below. Once you’ve answered them, I want you to use those answers to come up with five ideas for topics you can write about.
What’s something others find difficult that you think is easy?
Example: I can write 1,000 words in 30 minutes.
What do you find yourself talking about with friends to the point you won’t shut up?
Example: I’m always talking about ways to create a life based on your strengths and coming up with unique solutions to create freedom and income.
What type of books do you love to read?
Example: I love books about entrepreneurship, self-help, health, psychology, creativity, and eastern philosophy.
What have you thought about choosing a subject?
Example: Profiles of 19th-century business tycoons, personal development for millennials, book marketing for aspiring authors, how to start a yoga practice, copywriting for businesses.
Use the answers to those questions to come up with 5 promising topics you could write about (if you can’t narrow down to 5 it’s okay to add more)
- Personal development
- Writing tips
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Profiles of 19th-century business tycoons
I want you to order the topics you chose from 1-5. 1 being the one you’d enjoy writing about most and 5 the one you’d enjoy least out of the group.
Next, I want you to order them from 1-5 in terms of how popular you think they are with readers.
How do you figure out which topics will resonate with readers?
I think you’re smart, and you know intuitively, but there are some questions and metrics you can use to answer the questions.
Can this form of writing be used to make a product?
There are several products based around “becoming a better writer,” and there aren’t very many products aside from books that can be made around “19th-century business tycoons.”
Why would anyone other than you care to read this?
Many people dream of becoming popular writers and published authors. I dreamed of doing it for six years before I started. I’m sure people love to learn about history, but the level of care is lower than people who want to build writing careers.
Which type of writing speaks to people’s needs and wants?
Using my example, people definitely want to learn about entrepreneurship, writing tips, and personal development. Mindfulness and meditation are on the rise, but still not quite as popular. 19th-century business tycoons come in last.
You can use tools like Google search, Amazon, and Quora if you need to do some extra digging.
After you’ve ordered your 5 topics in terms of how much you’d love to write about them and how popular you think they are, combine the scores
Whichever one is the highest can be the topic you choose to start with.
In my paid program, I go deep into the details of audience research so that you will be absolutely certain you have a topic that works.
Step 2 – Set Up Your Blog
Do you still need your own personal blog in 2022?
After all, there are free platforms like Medium and Substack you can use to publish your articles for free.
Here’s my argument for why it’s still important to have a blog:
- Platforms come and go. You should never put 100 percent of your faith in them
- Having a place to store all of your content ensures that you can retain all your work
- If someone Google’s your name, it’s still impressive to see your name pop up
- When you get more advanced, having a personal blog is great for using traffic techniques like SEO
- With a website, you can do things you can’t on platforms like Medium like displaying a list of your books and products you have for sale (which will happen down the road as you monetize)
Don’t overthink this. Here’s an article you can use to start a blog in 10 minutes for less than $5.
Step 3 – Sign Up for an Email Service Provider to Build Your List
You should start building your email list from day one. I made a huge mistake and waited for a year before I started collecting emails.
Don’t listen to the noise. Email marketing is still the best strategy you can use to build your blogging empire.
An email list helps you:
- Send traffic to new articles
- Go deeper with your audience
- Sell to them
And that’s the way you want to go about it. First, use your list to get people hooked on your work. Next, use your emails to provide the additional value they can’t find on your blog. After you’ve gotten your audience to like you a bit and you’ve taught them something, sell to them.
Building an email list is simple:
- Sign up for a service provider like Convertkit
- Create a lead magnet: something you can exchange for an email sign up
- Build a landing page to collect emails and set it up to deliver your lead magnet
- Add a link to your landing page at the end of your articles with a call to action, e.g., ‘get my free guide’
Now, if you’re really savvy and can execute quickly, I would add these suggestions too:
- Create a tripwire product: this is a simple and inexpensive product you create to get your audience used to being sold to. It can be something as simple as a short e-book. Here’s an article that goes deep on the process.
- Write a welcome series: a welcome series helps your audience get to know you. It starts with educational emails and ends with emails where you try to sell your tripwire. Here’s an article that goes deep on the process.
- Add pop-ups to your website: like them or not, pop-ups work. I use the Sumo pop up tool for both of my sites
Step 4 – Create a Medium Account
For the uninitiated, Medium is a website you can use to get traffic for your email list and get paid at the same time.
Medium has a Partner Program that pays you based on read-time from members who pay $5/month to read content behind Medium’s paywall.
Medium allows you to republish content you’ve written elsewhere so there’s zero reason to not post there.
Once you have your Medium account setup, your process would look like this:
- Write and publish an article on your personal blog
- Copy and paste the content onto Medium and publish it
- Once you publish the article, go to the settings and give credit to your original article through a canonical link
Don’t worry about the jargon. Canonical just means you’re telling search engines where the original article is. This is good for SEO because links that go to your Medium articles will get credited to your website.
Here are some resources that go into more depth on how to succeed on Medium:
- How to Use Medium Partner Program to Make a Living Writing (Video)
- How to Make Money on Medium: The Ultimate Guide (Blog Post)
- Tips to Succeed on Medium (From Someone Who’s Actually Done It)
- How Beginners Can Make Money Writing On Medium (Video)
I’ve made six figures just from Medium income alone. It’s a great tool to make money and help you build your writing business.
Step 5 – Create Your System
This is the exact system I’ve used for years to build my body of work.
Steal it. Use it verbatim.
First, you want to have a steady stream of ideas for what to write about. My primary strategy is writing 10 ideas for articles every single day. This strategy teaches you how to write persuasive headlines that people want to read.
In the beginning, you might want to spend a chunk of time coming up with a bunch of ideas so you have a reserve list ready to go. Every day, I write down 10 ideas, and I store the ones I like in a Google Doc called ‘headlines.’
Here are some other resources that talk about good ways to come up with ideas for posts:
- The One Hour Content Plan
- 17 Untapped Ways to Find New Content Ideas
- How to Come Up with 93 Blog Ideas in 10 Minutes
You want to reach a point where you have a headline bank full of ideas so you have something to work with every single time you write.
Create a Ritual
Before I get into the writing process itself, what I’m about to say next is crucial. If you don’t get this part right, you’ll fail.
You need to create a ritual. Write at the same time, in the same place, for the same duration.
When I had a job, I woke up at 5 a.m. to write for an hour in my office before I went to work. These days, I wake up and go to the same coffee shop to write.
A ritual helps you make writing a habit. It removes the need to think about what to do next. You know what to do, when you’re going to do it, and where.
Rituals and systems are key to success in every area of life, not just writing.
The Writing Process
At the beginning of my session, I write down 10 new ideas. I’ll look at the ideas from the previous day and add the ones I like to my headline bank.
I choose an idea to run with for the day that I feel like writing. Since I have so many ready to go, there’s always something to work with.
I don’t use this exact ritual anymore, but it’s great for beginners:
- Mindmap your article – Take a notebook, write your headline in the middle, create branches off of it with sub-topics, create branches off of the sub-topics for the content you’re going to put in each section
- Create a formal outline – Look at your scribbling to see what parts of the piece look good and create a document that has everything in the article laid out beforehand with bullet points.
- Shitty first draft – The goal of your first draft is to get your first draft done. That’s it. No judgment. Use this article for tips on getting drafts done fast.
- Three-step edit – Do no more than three edits of your draft. The first one is the heavy lift, the second one tidies it up, the third one adds relevant quotes, links, anecdotes, and wraps everything up in a bow.
- Publish – Publish it to your site, copy it over to Medium, and add your call to action at the end.
Tying It All Together
In this single blog post, I just showed you an entire system you can use to go from amateur blogging to pro.
You know what to write about. You have your websites and email tools ready to go.
Each day, you go through your ritual.
Want to know something crazy? I have this process so dialed in that I wrote this article from start to finish in two and half hours without any pre-work. It just came out of my brain straight onto the page. Mostly polished prose from the jump. I’m not lying.
If you want to get freaky good, follow my system.
As you write and publish work, people sign up to your list, go through your funnels, and even buy from you.
A well-oiled machine ready to go.
I was going to go deeper into other lanes like monetization, but I’ll save that for later.
If you’re a beginner, you can literally run this system for 90 days to 6 months and get awesome results.
No excuses now.