5 Hard Won Truths From My First 5 Years as a Blogger

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5 hard won truths from my first 5 years as a blogger (1)

I’ve been a business owner and a blogger for the past 5 years.

And I’ve messed up a lot.

I’ve spent too much on courses because of my desperate need to get quick success.

I’ve always, always thought things would take less time than they actually do.

I’ve let my fantasies about 5 figure launches (not even 6 figure!!) cloud my vision about what it really takes to build a sustainable, juicy business.

I’ve allowed my emotions to freeze me into inaction for months at a time.

Because here’s the sad but vivid truth: It takes a lot of time to figure things out. Period. (I’m still figuring it out. I know there will always be new things I need to learn.)

No matter what you do, building a business is hard work.

Especially building one online, where there are so many other people out there trying to do the same thing you are.

And no matter how hard you work, there are no true shortcuts.

But doing this work is still so worth it.

Here’s (some of) what I’ve learned so far. I hope it makes your blogging journey a little bit less treacherous and more fun.

1. Things always, always take more time than you think they will.

This is embarrassing to admit, but I thought I would have a 5 figure launch in my first 4 months of starting my blog. (And that wasn’t even this blog, it was one of my old discarded ones.)

That didn’t happen.

I didn’t make any money from that blog. Zilch.

It took me 7 months to make an income from this one – and that was after experimenting and doing other things for 4 years beforehand.

I hate that things take so. Freaking. Long. To happen. I really do.

But what gets me pissed off is all of the stories about people who made a ton of money really quickly. Not that I’m not happy for them. I just think that those stories set people up for disappointment. (Like me.)

When you hear stories like that, ask for the whole story.

Because things always take longer than you think they’re “supposed to” take.

It’s not because there’s something wrong with you, or you’re slow.

It’s because building a successful business and blog is a journey. And you have to walk your own path, at your own pace. Period.

Building a successful business and blog is a journey. And you have to walk your own path, at your own pace. Click To Tweet

It takes time to learn what you truly want to offer the world.

It takes time to get to know your audience so well that you can create something they truly want.

It takes time to get over all of the mind crap that gets in the way of getting to your people in a way that feels good to you.

Yes, you can hire people to help you understand the process, and who have shortcuts that will keep you from wandering around the woods for years.

But building a blog and working on your own terms is a HUGE, monumental task. It isn’t easy. And it takes time.

You wouldn’t expect a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher to decide on their profession and then suddenly be a huge success in a few months.

So give yourself time. Realize it will take as long as it needs to take. Take a breath. (In fact, take a bunch of them.) And then keep going.

2. You must take audacious action to be successful – and that means getting uncomfortable and thinking creatively.

There are loads of “gurus” out there, who will tell you that if you just do their formula, you’ll be successful.

Yeah, no.

I’m not saying these gurus aren’t smart or that their methods won’t help you.

But if you know about their formulas, so does everyone else online.

And to really stand out, you have to do your own thing and do it extremely well.

Formulas won't make your blog a smashing success. To do that, you need to be creative and push your limits.Click To Tweet

That might mean getting on video even though you don’t love your teeth.

That might mean paying for Facebook ads even though it feels like a huge risk.

And, more than anything, it means trusting your own vision and sticking to it, even if it’s different than what everyone else is doing. Scary, I know. But do it anyway.

Here’s what I’ve done to build my blog outside the box:

  • I created a free challenge and promoted it with Facebook ads
  • I made a Facebook group for bloggers to help them connect and support each other
  • I did a brief Blab show with my friend Dre
  • I did a bunch of webinars, by myself and with other bloggers

Are any of these things groundbreaking? Probably not. But they worked for me, because I did them in my own unique way.

3. Everything is an experiment. Everything.

Everything in blogging is an experiment, from your posts to your emails to your branding.

That’s not to say you’re just blindly throwing things at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Just like scientists make hypotheses based on what they’ve already researched and know to be true, you should do your research.

Get to know what you really care about and what your audience cares about. Create a hypothesis about what will work.

And then, get experimenting.

Write blog posts and see which ones get shared and seen more.

Try different things to get people onto your email list. Create a free challenge. Do webinars. Start a Facebook group. Make a PDF guide. See what people want.

Above all, realize that everything you do for your blog is just that – a test. If people aren’t into it, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that your blog sucks.

It doesn’t even mean that your post was a failed experiment. Because it gave you data about what works and what doesn’t. So use that data to improve your blog.

As you keep going, you’ll get closer and closer to your own genius and to writing what your audience wants.

4. You can only learn things when you’re ready to learn them. (And learning is just that – learning. It won’t do anything for you. Only taking action will create results.)

I used to teach 3rd grade.

It took those kids years of brain development and learning how to read to be able to read Charlotte’s Web.

And no matter how smart they were, those 3rd graders could not understand The Hunger Games. It was impossible.

Yes, your brain is fully developed.

But when it comes to blogging, you might be a kindergartner. If you’re just starting out, you probably won’t “get” things like email autoresponders and sales funnels.

You may really want to know everything there is to know about blogging, right now.

But no matter how many books you read, how many courses you take, things click when they’re ready to click, and not before.

Plus…often people learn because they are afraid to take action. And learning isn’t going to help you grow your audience or create something that matters to people – only doing will achieve that.

So be selective about what you decide to learn. And limit the time you spend on courses, podcasts, webinars, books, blog posts…(I think I’ve covered everything).

Because you will learn a lot more by getting out there and seeing what works than you will by taking a course.

Let yourself learn by taking one delicious bite at a time. The cake (or cupcake) isn’t going anywhere.

5. Knowing what you stand for is more important than anything else.

What do you really care about? What matters to you so much that you’ve decided to do an insane thing and build a blog or business around it?

Stick with that thing. No matter what. Even if it seems like no one cares but you. Because that thing is what will sustain you. And when you turn away from it, you’ll be lost.

That happened to me this year.

In 2015, started writing about defining your voice. I created a Facebook group for bloggers called Blogging on Your Own Terms. I named it that because I really care about people using their unique voices and doing something that’s important to them.

But then I got all these emails from people wanting to grow their blog following, get more traffic, attract more subscribers. They wanted higher numbers.

And even though I don’t believe that higher numbers really matter (in fact, I think that focusing on them exclusively is a recipe for overwhelm and depression), I started worrying about how to help bloggers get more followers. Instead of continuing my message of helping bloggers have confidence in their own voices, I felt like I needed to serve them in a way that just doesn’t work for me.

While blogging had been a source of joy and excitement before, once I veered from what I really cared about, it became exhausting and difficult.

But once I tapped back into my initial purpose and belief system, all of my energy and excitement came back.

Whatever it is that matters to you, treasure it. Keep it safe. It will keep you going.

My first 5 years as a blogger

No matter where you are on your blogging journey, remember:

  1. It takes time. A lot of time. (Like most things that are really worth doing.)
  2. Think outside your box and outside of your comfort zone.
  3. It’s all just a big experiment. So don’t worry too much about the outcome of one thing or another.
  4. You can only learn things when you’re good and ready to learn them.
  5. Stick to what matters to you.
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  • I love that first point, Daniela — everything takes longer than expected. Boy, isn’t that the truth?

    My wife and I talk about this all the time… “Oh, I just have to finish a short draft of my next blog post. I’ll be ready to go in an hour…”

    Meanwhile, 4.5 hours later… 😉

    This is especially true when it comes to video editing, I find.

    It’s been five years for you, huh? That’s great. Congrats on all your success, Daniela.

    Brent

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks for your comment and for your congratulations, Brent! I did a lot of video editing in high school and college, and you are so right. It takes a looooooooong time. That’s why I’m sticking with live video (no editing) and blog posts for now! (It was kind of addictive, though.)

      • Video editing is where I totally geek out.

        I like taking footage from family events and turning them into “epic” mock movie trailers… ha ha. If you want to see one, email me, and I’ll shoot you the link.

        But when it comes to doing video projects, that’s a-whole-nother story…

        I did one recently, and what I estimated would be a 3-5 hour job took me 20-30… definitely low-balled my quote on that one. 😉

        Brent

        • Daniela Uslan

          I would love to see one of your movie trailers! They sound like so much fun to make! Wow. 3-5 hours into 20-30…that’s quite a different sized project!

  • UGH thank god I am not crazy!! and someone else has the same feelings/struggles. Thanks so much for sharing Daniela 🙂 I pinned because I know I will reference this post again <3

    • Daniela Uslan

      LOL. Thanks Kara, I’m glad you resonated with this post. It’s all a big learning curve, isn’t it? Here’s to you and your blog!

      • such a curve lol but finally getting a handle on it all. right back atcha <3

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    Hi, Daniela,

    I love how honest this is. And it’s so true, blogging isn’t an overnight thing.

    I know that this wasn’t one of your 5 points, but I love that you mentioned that there will always be more to learn because I feel the
    same way. No matter how far I’ve come in my own blogging, I’m still always learning from other bloggers (like you!) and wonderful mentors and coaches.

    Thanks,

    Sue

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks for your comment, Sue! I learn so much from you every time we email or talk. I am so lucky to have you as my mentor, and I think it’s wonderful that you’re continuously expanding your horizons and learning more! Thanks for being on this journey with me!

      • Sue Anne Dunlevie

        And I love learning from you about writing and content creation! I’m so glad you are in my life.

        Sue

  • Katelin

    The piece that stuck out the most to me about this article was actually the formatting. I’ve been working on the format of my blog photos and headers to try and draw attention to the most important pieces. I love how you actually used each point itself as the header. Great idea, I’m going to be incorporating that in my own blog!

  • Love how honest you are in this post! Makes those of us starting out realize that the uphill battle is being experienced by others too! Thanks for sharing.

    • Daniela Uslan

      I always try to be as honest as possible! I am glad you enjoyed the post, Carrie and that you connected to it!

  • Jamie

    Really great advice! I have definitely had the same thoughts about carving your own path rather than following what everyone else is doing. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone. Plus, there’s less competition on the dirt road. It’s tough to overcome that desire for higher numbers, but quality over quantity wins every time.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks for your comment, Jamie! I love how you put that about the dirt road. It’s so true.

  • Erin Amundsen

    I love this! All of this is so true. I was a virtual assistant for 6 years and it took almost 2 to make nay real money from it. I carry the confidence that I had in the venture with my while I start my blog. It takes time but if you put in enough hard work, learn from mistakes and keep forging ahead it’s very worth it.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks for your comment, Erin! I totally agree. It’s so worth it – you just have to have the persistence and courage to keep going.

  • I can relate to all the points. Number 4 is so true. Thanks for always being an inspiration.

    • Daniela Uslan

      Thanks Christine! I really appreciate your comment!

  • Sara Garska

    This was very helpful with respect to keeping everything in perspective. I loved that you highlighted that it takes time to figure things out. It really does. I’m seeing things now, that I just couldn’t six months ago.

    • Daniela Uslan

      What are you understanding now that you didn’t “get” 6 months ago, Sara?

  • Beautiful! This was my favorite part, because this is something I know I can do… “And to really stand out, you have to do your own thing and do it extremely well.” ~Jeanine

  • Love this Daniela! You are so right – it’s a journey, and a constant learning process. I have learned SO much in the past 6 months, but mostly, I’ve learned that I have TONS more to learn 🙂 I appreciate all you do on your blog and your encouragement. It’s so helpful. Thanks again.

  • Felicia Flores

    Thank you Thank you THANK YOU!!! This is an amazing piece, and exactly the advice and consolation I needed to hear right now, today, as a novice interweber. Seriously, I have bookmarked this to re-read when I am feeling confused, as I so often have in the few months I have been working to establish a web presence.

  • Stella Chiu

    Hi, Daniela

    Your post just came in right time for me for two reasons.

    I was so frustrated by my progress in improving my blogging journey. I appreciate you laid out the fact that it takes longer time than we predict in advancing our blogging tasks.

    I was thinking how to stretch my blogging business to next level. You provided your action steps to bring you to next level. Those doable steps may be useful for me to expand my business.

    Thanks!

    Stella Chiu