So, you're thinking about starting a blog? Me too! Well, obviously not now. I'm already writing it. But a few months ago, I was.
My personal website was well overdue a refresh. It was really starting to show its age. The design wasn't completely horrible, but it didn't have the professional look I was going for. As the years go by, you grow more experienced as a dev and can see where you went wrong and what you can improve.
I was still manually grabbing files and uploading them to my host like a heathen, for crying out loud!
Look out for a future post talking about the process of actually creating this site, but for now, let's jump into the blog side of things.
Is Blogging Right For Me?
This is a decision I had to make when I was contemplating adding a blog to my new website. In the end I decided that it was, but one of the main reasons behind that was that I enjoy the process of writing, creating and sharing something! Let's face it, if you hate writing you've already got an uphill battle.
No matter how much you start out with the best intentions in the world, you're not going to keep up with something you can't stand. If the thought of sitting down to write a blog just fills you with loathing and a desire to crack open a beer instead, you can probably just stop reading now. Except don't do that, because you'll miss all the other brilliant stuff I have to say!
What Are Some of The Benefits of Writing a Blog?
You're More Inclined to Keep Learning New Skills
I'm saying this specifically with web development in mind here, but this can probably be applied to any of the niches you choose to write in. In web development in particular, things never stand still. You can't ever really stop learning, or you'll get left behind and the things you know are out of date! I'm not saying this will happen immediately, but one day after a number of years you'll look around at all the frameworks, tools and code snippets and realise you don't really know any of it.
By keeping a blog, you have that incentive to learn new cool stuff, because you can then write about it. I also find actually writing about a subject I've just learned helps embed it in my mind. Also the process of writing it in a way that is clearer for your users, also makes it clearer for you to understand and reinforces what you've already learned.
It Could Lead to New Opportunities
If someone finds your blog and can see you've written all this great content, they can clearly see that you know what you're talking about and might be a useful person to reach out to. This could be for any number of reasons. They might have a job opportunity, they might also just be really interested in the subject matter and want to chat about it with someone, and you make a great new contact in the process.
Getting people to actually find your blog in the first place is a whole different ball game (as I'm just starting to discover) but that's a whole blog post on its own!
It's Useful to Refer Back to in Future
If nothing else, and if no one else ever even visited your blog, it can be really useful to have as a personal resource to look back on. For example, you learned a new, complex bit of code at work last year and wrote a blog post explaining all about it at the time.
Time passes by, and you've been working on other things in the meantime, when something crops up that calls for you to use that bit of code again! Problem is, you've completely forgotten how to use it. Well, who better to explain it again, than you?!
It Will Set You Apart From Others
The way I look at it is, having a blog can only help my cause, not hinder it. What do I mean by that? Just imagine a scenario where a recruiter has two potential candidates for a role. They both have portfolio websites, but only one of them has written a blog. I'm no recruiter, but I'd wager that chances are they would put the person with the blog slightly ahead of the one without.
My point is, it's just an extra distinguishing feature that can possibly give you that edge that you're looking for.
It May Have The Potential to Generate An Income
This is another huge topic that you'll find thousands of articles about online, but in certain situations a blog will also give you the opportunity to earn an income from it. Generally you'll need to have a regular stream of visitors to your site before you can even think about monetising it, and that can take years to accomplish. Don't look on this in any way as a get rich quick scheme, but it can possibly earn you some pennies in future if you keep it up and promote it in the right way.
What Are Some of The Drawbacks of Writing a Blog?
If You Want to Try And Get It Noticed, You'll Need To Post Regularly
Something I've learned while investigating the best ways to promote a new blog, is that in order to rank highly with Google and stand any chance of your blog becoming popular, you will need to post regularly. Of course, if you're only really keeping this as a reference for yourself, that doesn't matter in the slightest. On the other hand, if you want to have a go at driving more traffic to it and climbing the search page ranking in Google, you'll need to decide a posting frequency and stick to it.
This can be whatever you like, daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc. The key is keeping up to that schedule. This shows Google that your site is active and frequently updated, and this helps your cause. I do think having a shorter frequency will make things happen sooner, but obviously you'll only want to choose something that works for you and your lifestyle.
If You Don't Enjoy Writing, You'll Find It A Chore
Seriously, don't even try it. There are better things for you to focus your efforts on than doing something you hate. Also, I'm pretty sure it would come across in your writing. If you're disliking it, then subconsciously that will probably affect your words and people just won't engage with it.
It Can Take Some Time To Write If You Value The Quality Of Your Posts
This is something I'm already learning with the weekly frequency that I've chosen. You'll probably need more time than you think you will, especially if your posts require a fair bit of research and learning by yourself, before you even begin writing. Make sure you give yourself a realistic amount of time for the type of blog posts you intend to write.
How Do I Decide on My Niche?
Niche, niche, niche, niche. So many niches. You will constantly come across this when you do any kind of research into blogging, monetisation, promotion etc. Basically, it's choosing what you want to write your blog about.
From what I can tell, it basically boils down to whether you're treating this as solely a money making endeavour, or simply as another string to your bow in your existing role.
Obviously for me, it makes absolute sense to write a web development blog. I'm a web developer, it's what I know. Money isn't the driving factor for me, so it doesn't really even matter what my niche is. I enjoy coding, so I'll probably make a good job of writing about it.
For others, if money is the main motivation, you'll need to choose a niche that has less competition so you'll have a better chance of generating income from it. But, will you enjoy writing about goat farming in the Outer Hebrides?! That's another question.
Who is Going to Read my Posts?
Well, in all likelihood, at first not many people unless you actively take measures to change that. I'm sure some recruiters might occasionally have a look (although whether they'd even take the time to do that is questionable). The other one is... yourself! If you write this as a reference for yourself to look back on then you're the only target audience you need to worry about!
I'm assured by the Internet that if you do put some extra work in, and keep on posting consistently then you will slowly see increased visitors to your blog. You just need to have the determination and will to keep with it.
The decision to start up a blog can be a tough one, you'll need to weigh up the pros and cons outlined above and see if it makes sense for you. It can be incredibly rewarding, and yet at the same time incredibly disappointing if you are expecting to immediately receive thousands of readers for your content.
Sadly, it just doesn't work like that. If you are really keen to get your content out there and consumed by people on a regular basis, you'll need to be very patient, consistent and patient some more! You'll need to put lots of hard work into writing your posts, but also in promoting your blog.
Eventually your hard work should pay off and you'll get some of those sweet, juicy page views.