Some thoughts on starting a blog

Blogging has been, without a doubt, one of the most amazing aspects of my career and creative life. I started a blog way back in about 2007. My first blog was on the Google blogger platform and was all about communication and testing.

The site has since been removed – I’d forgotten my password and it seems the inactivity lead to its demise. I did manage to find it using the ever useful Way Back Machine. Here’s a screen shot of my very last post on that blog in 2009.

Screenshot of Pac Testing blog from 2009

Screenshot of Pac Testing blog from 2009

 

I started the blog because I liked to write and express my ideas – I didn’t expect anyone to read it. That little old blog, then the bigger one after, The Social Tester, and now this one have had a tremendous effect on me, my career and my creativity. There have been lots of highs, plenty of lows and lots of stuff in between.

Writing a blog has lead to jobs, landed me consulting gigs and allowed me to share my message with my audience. It’s also scratched an itch, been a therapeutic device and got me in trouble. At one time I spent a year trying to monetise it – that lead to misery. I lost my voice. I lost my reason to blog. It became a chore.

What follows in this article are some ideas on how to start a blog and why you should. These are just ideas – other people have plenty too – seek as many as you can and experiment. But I would whole heartedly recommend starting a blog. Even if no one reads it.

Why Blog?

I’ve covered a few reasons above but here are some reasons why blogging is good for you and your career:

It makes you pay attention
If you know you have a new post due next week, or tomorrow, you’ll start observing the world around you more intently and discover things to write about. This is good. You’ll start to think about what to write about and whether your audience will appreciate it. You’ll study more, observe more and take more notes – this is good for your mind and your career.

It helps to clarify your thinking
Writing requires clear thinking. Thinking is a powerful thing to do and writing forces you to do it. It helps you get clear about what to write and what you’re trying to say. To write, you have to think and then translate your thoughts in to words that other people will read. It’s a skill. And a very useful one for work too.

It’s therapy
My blog is a place to get things “off my chest” and to work through problems. My blog is MY BLOG. Although I write for everyone else it’s primarily a place to write for my own sanity. As mentioned, I once tried to turn my blog in to a business. It was having none of it – it resisted, I pushed, I failed. I know why – I blog because I enjoy it. The stuff that comes from it – that’s a side effect, feedback, guidance and serendipity. That’s not to say you cannot make money from a blog. It’s just my blog serves a different purpose than just a direct revenue generator.

It’s a career builder
Without my blog, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had. People find me through the blog, they hire me, they hire me to speak at events. The blog helped with that. And through blogging I’ve also built a wonderful audience (thank you all) who have helped me and shared in that success too. So although my blog isn’t for direct revenue, you can see some of the effects it can have.

It’s fun
It’s brilliant fun blogging. Writing is a real joy for me. A day without writing is a wasted day, so blogging is a powerful way to have fun. Not everyone enjoys writing though, so maybe podcasting or vlogging are more suited for you. If you’re not having fun with it, be done with it. Saying that, there will be days when you don’t want to blog – discipline is required. Just remember the bigger reason of why you’re doing it.

It keeps me grounded
There is nothing like posting something and then receiving feedback or criticism. It keeps me grounded and keeps me in check when my ideas outweigh my competency. It also gives me validation that people are reading what I’m writing and enjoying it. Don’t let the fear of negative comments hold you back though, but be aware that there are angry people out there.

It’s a teacher
The best way to get good at writing is to write. Write. Write. Write. My blog has taught me to write clearly and quickly. Most posts take only a few minutes to write now. They used to take me all week. As an example, my post 10 Reasons Why It Sucks to Be a Scrum Master is my highest ranked post on LinkedIn and it took just over 20 minutes to write. Years ago, that would have taken weeks to write, and weeks of me hovering over the “publish” button. The more you write, the faster your ideas will come to you and the quicker you will be able to get those ideas down.

It’s my little space on the Internet
In this crazy and noisy world of the internet my blog is my own little space. It’s a space I own and have carved out for myself.

It’s a legacy
I have three kids. When my time is up on this planet and the craziness ends, all that will be left are my words, books, photographs and the life long memories of me in the minds of those who love me.

I want my legacy to be of good writing, insightful thoughts and memories for future generations of my own family. I want my boys to read my work and be inspired. I want to leave knowing I tried.

It requires discipline
The discipline required to create a new post, newsletter or article every week or every month is insane. We are all capable of more than we might first imagine and a blog is a very powerful way of building discipline. I’ll be blogging a lot about discipline this year as it’s the difference between good and great, between agile and not agile, between promotion or not. Discipline leads to freedom. Discipline is required to be a good blogger.

How to get started

Getting started with blogging is easy or hard. Depends how you choose the get started. The hardest part is clicking publish.

But don’t worry about that.

Nobody will read your first few posts anyway, or maybe even your first handful of posts.

It might be years until someone reads something. Sure, your friends, partner, colleagues or mum might read it, but a wider audience is notoriously hard to build. That’s why there are so many growth hackers, SEO experts and Blog wranglers – growing an audience is really hard.

To get started find something you feel compelled to write about. It might be work, or life, or a hobby, or testing, or development, or agility, or politics, or donkeys, or cars, or food, or cows.

Write it from the heart. Don’t worry about Search Engine Optimisation (ever) or creating an avatar to write for, just write what’s on your mind. Get your words down on paper. Get in to the habit of publishing.

Write like you speak and use informal language. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar – just write. You can tidy these things up later.

Writing and editing are two different activities. Don’t try to do them both at the same time. Just write.

Start small, don’t worry about writing hundreds of words each day. Don’t compare yourself to others who’ve been doing it for years. Write a handful of words each day. But try to do something each day. Discipline is good. Don’t set deadlines for publishing, or try to post every day when you’re first starting out, or apply too much pressure. Although, as you progress, pressure and constraints are beautiful things. Constraints always lead to more creativity. When you’re starting out – just write.

Turn up and write. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.

Pick a blog platform

For a long term blog, I would always choose a self-hosted blog running WordPress. WordPress.org not wordpress.com.

A wordpress.org blog is something you host and run yourself. A wordpress.com blog hosted for you by the people that build WordPress.

It’s fine to use a hosted service like wordpress.com, it’s your choice, but know from the start that you’ll have to pay to use your own URL and remove adverts, and more importantly,  the content is not yours to own and do as you like with.

Blogger, Typepad, Ghost (also available on self-hosted), Medium, Postachio, Posthaven – all good platforms – none of them give you total control of your content. All of them are considered hosted. If they chose to close you down, you lose. But they take away the friction. They are easy to use. They are powerful. The choice is yours.

By hosting your own blog though, you maintain control, you keep your content, but it costs money and is a little trickier. My good friend Helen Lisowski swears by GoDaddy. I swear by TSO host. Each has one click installers that will install WordPress, or Ghost or any other self-hosted blog platform.

Don’t fret too much though – just go for it and choose. Grab a domain at the same time as hosting. Don’t worry too much about the domain but if you can, grab your name. My name was taken so I chose The Social Tester – then I didn’t do testing anymore so I had to switch and start again. I run that risk this time with Cultivated Management too.

Put a simple blog design on it, add some security plug-ins and some social icon links and start writing. Here’s an article from TSO host on how to get started. If it makes you feel ill thinking about installing and running your own blog – choose a hosted one. Just decide.

Simple Writing Tools

I’m writing this very post in Bear-Writer for MAC. It’s a beautiful, simple, elegant writing tool that stays out of the way and lets me write. Before that I used TextWrangler on MAC. I always copy and paste to Word to spell check and run a Flesch Kincaid analysis (tells you how old your readers must be to understand what you’ve written). This article is 80.9. This article explains how it works. Try to write so kids can read it.

If you’re on Windows try notepad++.

Keep it simple and clean. A full screen version is useful to minimise distractions.

Close everything else down. Do your research before writing and don’t procrastinate by researching when you should be writing.

I write outside of the blog editor normally. Then copy and paste in to publish. Do what works for you.

Don’t worry about word count or length of post. The goal is to write something and ship it. Posting it is the really hard part. Focus on getting to that point.

Include an image with each post if you want to social share (images stand out on Twitter etc), but don’t get distracted with finding the perfect one. Use Unsplash.com – licence free images of superb quality. Or take your own. Or use pictures with creative commons licenses but be sure to attribute every image you use. Always note your sources for images and information. Give kudos to other writers and bloggers, hat tip people for sources of information – share love when you blog. Share and it will come back around tenfold.

Don’t write to cause fights, or argue, or belittle people unless you like angry people trolling you in the comments. Blog with helpful posts that people can use to be better. Education Based Marketing is the technical term and it works – it’s essentially about helping people achieve growth, learning or education – and in return they read your posts.

There’s already enough anger and hatred in the world – we don’t need more of that. But have an opinion, stand for something – have a point of view. Learn to write in a way that gives your posts enthusiasm and edge but not controversy and rage – unless of course that’s what you really want.

Remember you are always a brand ambassador for every company you work for. Even if you don’t think you are, you are representing yourself, and those you may work with. Be careful, but don’t let it put you off.

Keep your sentences short, or long, write long posts, write short posts, write what you want. It doesn’t matter – just write. Test it, keep tweaking but don’t be obsessed with reader counts and metrics. Just write. And keep writing. Be consistent.

Capture Ideas

Use Evernote, or a notebook, or the back of your hand to capture ideas. Capture every single thought and write it down. Store it, save it, keep referring back to it. Mash ideas together to create new ideas. Always carry a notebook and pen, or Evernote on your phone. Document the world around you. Ideas for posts come from everywhere, everyone and everything.

Fear

Fear held me back last year. More on that in future posts. The more readers I’ve amassed the more I’ve found it harder to publish. I’ve broken through the fear (more on that too this year).

Try not to be afraid of publishing. Easier said than done. Just remember why you’re doing it. Discipline. Keep posting. When everyone else stops blogging and closes their blog – you’ll still be at it.

Make the most of your lack of readers in the early days. Post and get in to the habit of shipping before you get an audience. The world needs your ideas. There are plenty of blogs, for sure, but none of them have your voice all over them. Nobody else sees the world in the same way as you do. Remember, it’s your blog.

Share It

Tell people about your blog. Share it on social media. There is little point posting something and not letting the world know about it. Over time you’ll be immensely proud of your blog. Remember why you’re doing it. Don’t try and monetise it unless it makes sense. You’ll turn the creative act of blogging in to a business. You’ll make it hard work and it might not be the sort of work you want to do.


Blogging is a brilliant, powerful and a fun way to grow as an individual. Your readers will follow you and grow with you. They will share good content. They will let you know when it fails to hit the mark. Don’t expect brilliant success from blogging in the early days, if at all. Do it because you want to. Embrace a schedule, but expect it to change over time. Add more discipline to your routine as you get better. Don’t stress.

Blog because you want to. Because; you want to get better; share your stories; learn how to become a better writer.

Blogging has been the highlight of my career. I will never stop blogging.

I hope you get the blogging bug too – I look forward to reading what you’re writing.

Email me your blog and I’ll add it to my reading list.

Rob..