I started this blog on 6 December 2022, and I think it's the best personal project I've ever started. This is my 40th article, and I've somehow managed to gain 500 subscribers (thanks to all of you!) and accumulate 700+ monthly pageviews (not bad!).
It's been a great experience, and I want to share some words of advice with you (if you're thinking of starting a personal blog).
Choose a platform that fits you. I use Ghost, and I have a (very) strong opinion that it's basically the best blogging platform out there. Why? Well, it's all because Ghost basically offers unlimited customization.
Most who start a personal blog choose Substack, and that works fine if you're looking for a free platform to put your thoughts out there. But if you care about website customization, code injection, or subscription fees, Ghost wins across the board. Plus, if you care about a custom domain (more on that later), it costs $0 to add one to Ghost vs. $50 to add one to Substack.
And of course, there's classic WordPress, and Medium, and Blogger, and the other 80 million blogging platforms out there. But Ghost is (1) designed for creators, specifically writers, and (2) is continually shipping features quickly. So I'd recommend Ghost, and even though it costs $9/month, I think it's 100% worth it for the bulk of features and practically infinite customization you receive.
If you want people to read your stuff, you can't just write on your blog and expect people to magically find it. I made this mistake for my first few months of blogging, and I got around... 50 page visits a month! (Most of which were from myself.)
In order for people to actually find your blog, you need to post links to it – ideally on social media. You can do this on Twitter, Reddit, Hacker News, Facebook, or your favorite social media platform.
I would highly recommend you make regular backups of your blog. It's all too easy to become complacent and then lose all of your content if something goes wrong.
I like to backup my blog posts in .txt files (and use markdown formatting). As Derek Sivers points out, plaintext files will practically always be useful. If you have images in your posts, you can just download them into a folder and then back up that folder with Dropbox or a flash drive.
If you want your blog to become successful (in terms of pageviews, subscribers, ad revenue, whatever), you must:
- Publish on a consistent schedule
- Share those posts on social media
Here's an analogy I like to think about: you've just been hired at Cake Heaven, a sit-down restaurant that only serves cake to customers. The manager tells you that you'll be working as both a baker and a server. But Cake Heaven has one key twist you didn't read when you applied:
You are required to throw the cakes onto the small customer tables from 5 feet away.
You think that's a bit crazy, but Cake Heaven is paying you $30/hour, so you aren't complaining. You make your first cake (a strawberry shortcake) and take a deep breath as you walk up to two customers sitting at a table.
You take three steps back and absolutely hurl that strawberry shortcake towards the table. And you miss by a foot. The customers, shocked, leave immediately. And... now you have to scrub cake off the floor.
But you continue trying. You bake and throw five cakes every day. Sometimes you get close, and sometimes you miss horribly. The customers never seem to be impressed, even when you scrape the cake off the floor and offer it to them. It's demoralizing, and you feel like quitting.
But finally, finally, on your fourth day at work, you nail the throw and the cake lands smack dab in the middle of the table. The lone customer seems pretty impressed, and you are ecstatic. You finally did it!
- Baking cakes = writing and publishing blog posts
- Throwing cakes = sharing your blog posts on social media
- Having a cake land on the table successfully = your blog post goes viral or otherwise goes well
If you don't consistently bake cakes, you won't have any to throw on your restaurant's tables. And if you bake cakes, but don't attempt to throw them, you'll never have a cake land on the table. And most of your thrown cakes will fall on the floor and perform terribly. But some of them will land successfully.
If you want to have a successful blog, the key is to bake and throw a lot of cakes.