8   +   7   =  

Just over four years ago, I started a blog to help pass time after an unceremonious exit from a job in the music industry. My boss was a scumbag and I probably wasn’t the best employee either. Oh well. The blog I started to pass time and fulfill a passion for travel is now my job, pays for my life and helps provide for others; and is read by many millions of people around the world each and every year. When I look back at the beginning, the sheer audacity of starting a blog is something crazy in itself. I mean, you might actually need to be kind of nuts to even consider it, but it’s the kind of nuts which can be really rewarding, even if that reward is not financial. Should you start a blog? I say yes…

You should start a blog…

That’s pretty much how simplistically my career in blogging started. I was a huge fan of a few travel blogs and also at the same time loathed others. Not much has changed ; ) I idolized the people who wrote the blogs which helped improve my travels and taught me the intricate details of savvy travel. I loathed the people who complained about the things in travel I could only dream of experiencing via these newly developing skill sets. As my blog obsession grew deeper, my wife suggested that I start my own. I’m glad she did. Looking back honestly, there were no real reasons for me to start a blog, other than a mediocre knack for story telling. So before I tell you why you should, let’s look at how improbable my start was…

  • I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable, on a professional travel level. 
  • I dropped out of college and my English teachers hated me. 
  • I had never actually enjoyed reading, let alone writing content.
  • Providing free information was not a recommended source of income.
  • Others were already doing similar styles of blogging. Plenty in fact.

Despite these obvious warning signs, which to most people would read like huge floodlights from a stadium being switched on and flashed in front of their face from feet away, I had the audacity to start a blog. And you should do the same if any of these symptoms apply to you…

  • you love organizing your thoughts, even if just for you.
  • you love documenting or chronicling your life. 
  • you have special knowledge on a subject which may benefit others.
  • what you love about something hasn’t been explained properly.
  • there’s not enough on the web about your passion.
  • you can answer the questions people ask the internet every day.

If you have no commercial goals, a blog is such an incredibly freeing way of sharing your insights, communicating and helping others. It’s the best way to start. Forget money, forget fame, just help people, make people laugh or inspire them and the other things take care of themselves. Like any good symptom list, I must also offer a counter point.

I also didn’t quite give the full picture on my background, which before giving you the negatives,  some might say is significant and worth adding, such as the fact that I…

  • signed up for my first frequent flyer account age 12, on my own. 
  • have been a semi frequent traveler roughly since the age of 12.
  • am extremely perceptive of people, service, small details. 
  • have always adored travel and always craved more of it.

Blogging isn’t for everyone. There are really hard days, sacrifices and depending on what kind of content you create, sometimes even death threats involved. Starting a blog to make money is always the wrong approach. The world doesn’t need any more “bloggers”, especially those who seek fame and fortune. The world always needs thought leaders, thinkers, great communicators and people who have a passion for helping others. You shouldn’t start a blog if….

  • you just want to make money. There are easier ways, like getting a job.
  • you can’t take criticism or feedback from people worth hearing from.
  • you don’t learn every day about the subject of blogging interest. 
  • you don’t want to grow in your passion and hone your skills.
  • that’s pretty much it really.

The boring setup stuff…

I never took a blogging course. I didn’t know what WordPress was until over a year into blogging. In reality, you should. WordPress is the best for blogging. It’s that simple. If you want people to be instantly attracted to your blog, you should also invest in a pretty theme, and maybe someone to customize it for you. To summarize the key links…

  • come up with a good name. That’s more important than everything.
  • buy a good domain name. Sorry, GodSaveThePoints.com is taken.
  • create a WordPress account and practice writing articles.
  • license a theme from somewhere like ThemeForest.
  • reverse engineer the layout, thinking of user experience.
  • share your blog loud and proud, but not until you believe in it.

Actual blogging is…

It started really simply – and it had to. I didn’t honestly know anything that the people I idolized didn’t know. I just thought I could try and explain it maybe a bit clearer, so friends of mine could understand. In retrospect, I completely failed and the writing was terrible, but I did a few smart things…

  • I specialized. I found a few areas I was above average and spent more time there.
  • I learned daily. I read, asked questions and sought feedback from smarter people.
  • I built an audience from a smaller, core market, with the goal of generalizing.

I know 10,000% more today than I knew when I started and if I could do it all again, I would – but I’d recommend others skip a few steps. To this day, God Save The Points doesn’t have a mission statement or a business plan, but for most people either of those things would help. Pick a topic, learn as much as possible and develop the skills you don’t automatically think of. For example, everyone loves food – so why should I listen to you talk about it? A good answer might be…

  • I am a farmer, or grow my own vegetables.
  • I am a trained chef and follow the industry closely.
  • I am a skilled photographer, who has an angle on the whole food scene thing.

Yeah, I started writing. This was an area in which I had no expertise, and still don’t! I quickly also realized that if I ever wanted to be taken seriously, I needed more travel skills. Not just within travel booking, recommendations, trends, but also some decent photography skills, which is yet another area I *had* no real ascertainable skill in. Sigh. How did I ever expect to win people over talking about travel without pretty pictures? Idiot! And if everyone can simply say, “oh I loved this hotel”, or “this flight was nice”, how could I add travel value and get people to notice me above the fray of wannabe’s who just want to wrangle upgrades?

  • Maybe become one of the best people for finding flight deals? That’d help.
  • Maybe learn the ins and outs of every frequent flyer program? That’s good.
  • Learn about wine, so I can recommend great wine regions? Why not! 
  • Practice explaining complex issues both in person, verbally and in text? Sure.
  • Read tech blogs, so I can learn how tech will affect travel? Sounds logical!

Write what you know, research what you don’t and ask people you respect to help with your articles. If you don’t know something, or want outside perspective, ask someone in your field if they wouldn’t mind giving a quote about your query. After all, that’s what real journalists do, so why not pretend? The next step: consistency.

It’s crucial to write consistently. Someone who blogs on Tuesday, and then again Tuesday of next month will never develop a following. You don’t need to write every single day, but you need to develop a rhythm others can latch onto. At God Save The Points you’re pretty much guaranteed at least four pieces per day. On a good day, you’ll get 9 or more. The more content and the more varied you make it, the more people you can impact. But there are things to watch out for…

  • Freebies often do more harm than good. 
  • If you do take freebies, make it clear. 
  • Balance advertorials with actual useful content
  • Try to pay your own way to keep your eyes open

Finally, be careful who you trust with the publish button. The blogger I admire the most (it’s no secret) has always been a one man operation, despite being one of the five largest in the world. I’m close behind, and I’m operating with the same number. If you put your heart and soul into this people will fall in love with you. Many people on the internet think I’m a huge prick, but many also value my candor, honesty and transparency. For example, I’ve made money from you reading this. I’ll leave you with that. And yes, start a blog. It’s really fun, whether you get paid or not.

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