Everybody wants to start a blog and be an online writer these days. Many people do start blogs — a few with success, and most with none.
If you’re in the beginning stages you have a ton to learn.
If you stay the course, you will learn, and you’ll be amazed by what you know.
Before you gain momentum, however, you’ll questions your progress, wonder if you’re headed in the right direction, and get frustrated with the process.
Without a roadmap telling you how well your online writing career is going, you’ll stay stuck, confused, and stagnant.
There are a few definitive milestones that let you know you’re on the right track, what to worry about, and when to move into the next phase. I’ve derived these milestones based on years of experience, observation, and experimentation.
Consider this your checklist to see where you are on the spectrum of “total newbie” to “professional wordsmith.”
Milestone 1 — Regularly Published Content
Most people who start blogs about the wrong things like the design of their website, about page, and social media presence.
None of these matter in the long run. Without a consistent publishing schedule, your blog has no foundation to stand on.
Before I even considered moving on to writing books and starting my own website to help other writers, I wrote more than 100 blog posts each containing 1,000 words or more.
I wrote so much because I love to write. I never had to deal with a lack of motivation once I started, because it felt right.
Does writing feel right to you?
Do you want to be a writer or do you want to write? They sound similar but are in different universes.
Writing isn’t about living in a cabin and smoking a pipe while you stare into the wilderness. It’s about banging your fingers against a keyboard daily, for the rest of your life.
That’s what it takes. Are you willing to pay that price? Be honest with yourself. If you are, get to work, and commit to writing every day.
I’ve created a few guides that’ll help you stay on track
- The Ultimate Guide to Building a Writing Habit (That Sticks Like Superglue)
- How to Destroy Writer’s Block For Good
Consider this milestone reached once you’ve published one blog post per week for 90 days.
Milestone 2 — Your First 100 Email Subscribers
You’ve probably heard you need to build an email list to be successful in the blogging world. It’s true.
The ones at the top — the type who publish a book and sell 10,000 copies in the first week — have hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Then, there are a handful of people like me who reside between the spaces of the unknown newbie and the aforementioned mega author. We have a few thousand subscribers under our belts, and can consider ourselves pros because we’re committed to the long haul.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of writers and aspiring writers have little to no subscribers. I set 100 subscribers as the next milestone because most aspiring writers will never reach that point.
The sad part? It doesn’t have to be that way. I see many aspiring writers spinning their wheels, getting upset over their lack of fans, and ultimately quitting.
If only they’d follow through the simple pieces of advice that work.
I’ve shared these strategies over and over again. They work. But until you follow through with them, you’ll stay stuck where you are.
To grow your email list, you need three things:
- An email provider — I use convertkit. You can connect an email provider to your website as well as landing pages to collect email addresses from fans.
- A landing page provider — A landing page gives a visitor two distinct options — join your email list or leave. I use leadpages to create landing pages. It’s simple and easy to use. For a landing page to be effective, you want to offer something in exchange for a potential fan joining your email list. It could be a manifesto related to the mission behind your blog. You could provide a simple checklist that simplifies how-to steps. The guide I link to in the next point shows you how to create a landing page and offer an inventive.
- A way to get people to visit your landing page — Guest posts and republishing are the one-two punch you can use to drive readers to your landing page. I explain the process in detail here. This is the one key that seems to elude most aspiring writers. It is impossible to succeed by publishing work solely on your website.
Once you reach your first 100 subscribers, you’re off to the races. Reaching that seemingly small amount already puts you ahead of 99 percent of other aspiring writers.
Milestone 3 — Your First 1,000 Subscribers
Once you hit 1,000 subscribers, you’re in the rarified air. At this point, you can begin to focus on more advanced techniques to grow your platform online including things like SEO, paid ads, and influencer marketing.
You shouldn’t allow “shiny objects” to distract you whatsoever until you reach 1,000 subscribers because before that point you haven’t mastered the basics.
How do you reach your first 1,000 subscribers? By doubling down on what already works.
You continue to guest post and republish, but you do it more often. In the beginning, you’re trying to focus on being consistent and becoming a better writer. Most guest blogs won’t want to publish your work until you’re a decent writer. Once you crack 1,000 subscribers, the ratio of publishing on your own website vs. other websites should favor other websites more heavily. At my most rampant, I published 4 guest posts per post I published on the website.
Your blog is important, but getting readers onto your email list is more important. Your blog serves the purpose of informing the reader and letting them get to know you. You then get them on your email list and use it to build a deeper relationship, which should ultimately lead to selling something to them.
What should you sell?
Milestone 4 — Your First Book
Books are the new business cards.
Books demonstrate your expertise, increase your clout, and when done correctly help you earn money.
I made the mistake of writing my first book without an email list to speak of and the results showed. I profited from it, but the second book I published with an email list behind it is on pace to sell ten times as many copies.
If you’re patient enough to wait until you have a solid email list, write a good book, and market it properly, you’ll do well.
Some guides I’ve written on publishing books are:
Regardless of how well your first book does, the process of publishing it gets the monkey off your back. Your first book is the hardest. If you can write, publish, and market a book, you’re in a very small class of people.
But it’s only the beginning….
Milestone 5 — Taking the Next Step
You’d think writing your first book would assure that you continue on with your career as an online writer, but it doesn’t.
I’ve seen writers fail miserably with their first book. It demoralizes them so badly they quit — I’m talking zero sales outside of their immediate family and friends.
You can find these books in the graveyards of different Amazon categories. Most self-published books fall into this category because the authors go about it the wrong way.
I went about it the wrong way at first. Fortunately, my book had mild success and perhaps I was delusional enough to think better things were ahead.
Now I’m two books deep. I’ve built some back-end ways to earn behind my writing. I know I’ll never quit because I have enough proof and money in my pocket to know a career as a highly successful online writer isn’t only possible, but inevitable.
Once you reach the milestone of knowing you’re never going to quit, you keep experimenting with new ideas. You write more books, find products you can promote, and dive into tangential careers like speaking.
You’ve done enough and earned enough to know you’re not just kidding yourself.
That’s where I want you to be, but you’ll never get there until you listen and apply what you’ve been told.
As far as what it takes to follow through, it’s a bit of a mystery to humankind.
What I do know is that once you make that breakthrough, nothing can stop you.
Just do it.