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When I first started blogging in 2008, I set up a free account with Blogger, and just started writing about whatever I wanted. It was great! I grew more as a writer in a few months than I had studying creative writing in college.

Until I realized no one was reading my blog. I would publish my best writing and no one would read it. It was frustrating, even humiliating. Eventually, I decided I didn’t just want to have an amateur blog. I wanted to be a professional blogger.

From Amateur Blog to Pro Blog

It took four years, but in 2013 I finally did it. I became a professional blogger and writer (and today, am still doing it!). In this article, I want to share how you can take your amateur blog and turn it into a pro blog.

Can People REALLY Make Money From a Blog?

Yes! But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Now that blogging is so established (and most who are earning money have gone from bloggers to ecommerce experts), breaking in is harder than ever.

I do think it’s possible, but it will be an uphill climb, taking clever planning, writing and marketing skills, and lots grit!

Here’s the thing though: if I can do it, you can too. I started as aspiring blogger and now my blog earns over $100,000 a year. It might take you a while (it took me about five years to make a living blogging), but you can do it if you focus and keep trying things.

In this post, I want to share the biggest things that have made the difference for me.

10 Steps to Going from Amateur Blog to Pro Blog

What is the path to become a pro blogger?

1. Choose the Right Blogging Foundation (i.e. Self-Hosted WordPress or Squarespace)

One of the first thing I learned as an amateur blogger, was that all the best bloggers had self-hosted WordPress blogs, meaning they paid five to ten dollars a month to hosting company to keep their blog on the host’s computers. It’s kind of like paying a marina to dock your boat. (Check out, for example, my favorite blog host, Bluehost.)

Eventually, I found out that if you didn’t have one of these self-hosted blogs, experienced bloggers looked at you like an amateur. They could tell the difference between a free blog and a self-hosted blog instantly, and as soon as they did, they thought twice about reading (and linking to!) your stuff.

I was shocked. My free Blogger blog wasn’t just losing me readers; it was lowering my authority.

Today, many pro bloggers also use Squarespace, which I think is great. It’s a little more expensive than a self-hosted WordPress blog, and it gives you a lot less control, but it’s easy to use and get started with quickly. You can learn more about Sqaurespace here.

The point, though, is to create a strong blogging foundation by using the right tools. You can find out how to build a professional blog from my author website tutorial here or go ahead and sign up for Bluehost and build your WordPress blog here.

Ready to upgrade your blog? Build your self-hosted WordPress blog here.

2. Track Your Progress

When I first started blogging, I was content to just write and publish my posts, knowing that my writing was out in public for people to find.

But then I started wondering, was anyone actually reading my writing? So I installed Google Analytics to see how many people were actually visiting my blog. It took me an hour, but I figured out how to insert the hieroglyphic-looking code into my theme and opened up my analytics page.

I found out there were about seven people reading my blog. That’s it? I thought.

It was then that I decided to begin a quest to get more readers. The lesson here is this:

It’s only after you start measuring that you can make strategic decisions about how to boost that number.

3. Focus on Solving People’s Problems

One of the biggest breakthroughs in my blogging was realizing this:

People read blog posts to solve their problems.

In other words, they read for themselves, not for you. In fact, unless they’re actively following you, they couldn’t care less about you.

Instead of chasing after people’s attention, just offer excellent solutions to their problems and let them come to you.

4. Choose the Right Topics

And by topics, here I mean a group of problems (see above).

There’s a debate in the blogging community about whether you need to choose a niche for your blog or not. However, everyone says writing about whatever you want doesn’t work.

Instead, your blog needs something to tie it together, so that when people think about that topic, they think about you.

Choose a topic you can become an expert in, that you have endless curiosity about, and preferably one that doesn’t have too many people in it but also does have a few people.

For me, I started out by writing whatever I wanted, realized that wasn’t working, wrote about travel for a while, and then pivoted to teaching creative writing, which was my true passion (and a great way to learn while I taught).

Figuring out what topics to write about—and thus what problems to solve for people—may take you a while, and that’s okay. But once you choose something, stick with it for at least six months.

5. Write Great Blog Posts

Content, as they say, is king.

The other things are important, don’t get me wrong. Having great design (which we’ll touch on toward the end), building a strong network (which we’ll talk about next), creating on the right blogging platform, all of that is important.

But if you can’t write good blog posts, you won’t get very far.

By the way, here I’m not talking about being a perfect writer. Using correct grammar, avoiding typos, and having good sentence structure are all helpful, but you can still be a good blogger even if you’re not a perfect writer.

No, what you must do is write posts that effectively capture people’s attention and help them solve their problems.

Here’s a structure that I use constantly in my blogging to do that (to learn more about it, find my best blog template here):

  1. Identify the problem. What is the problem people are facing that you will help them solve in this article? Tell the reader how you can help them.
  2. Make the problem personal. How have you personally experienced this problem? Create a connection with the reader!
  3. Tell a solution story. Build your authority by talking about how you solved the problem.
  4. Solve the problem. What are the specific steps to solve the problem?
  5. Call your readers to action. Call your reader to take action!
  6. End with a question for discussion. Blogging is a two-way medium. Invite discussion with some kind of question.

By the way, notice how this post follows that same format. That’s because it works! Learn more about this blog post template here.

Also, if you’re wondering how long your posts should be, check out our Best Blog Post Length guide.

6. Make Friends With Other Bloggers

And preferably make friends with bloggers who are a little ahead of you.

Why? Because we learn from people not just from our own experience. One of the biggest reasons The Write Practice has grown so much over the years is that one of my good friends, Jeff Goins, had started blogging ten months before me and taught me everything he was learning. (And one of the reasons he grew so much is that he made friends with and learned from Michael Hyatt.)

We grow through relationship. That’s true in life. It’s true in work. And it’s true in blogging.

Go to conferences, follow other bloggers and reach out to them over email, make friends. One thing I’ve found is that these kinds of relationships won’t just serve you over your career, they can become some of the best friends you have, because they get you in ways many people don’t.

7. Be Generous

All marketing comes down to two principles:

  1. Be Generous
  2. Ask for Help

If you want to grow your blog, do book marketing, sell more books, or get paid to write, do more of those two things.

Be more generous.

Ask for more help.

Here are some ways being generous can help you grow your blog:

  • Give away a short ebook or one-page guide to readers if they subscribe.
  • Offer a chapter of your book for free.
  • Do a giveaway. I’ve given away apple watches, flights to Paris, copies of Scrivener, copies of ProWritingAid, $100 Amazon gift cards, and more. I like Gleam.io and Kingsumo for hosting giveaways, but Gleam is my current favorite. Check out Gleam »
  • Review other authors’ books or talk about other authors’ blogs to create relationships with them (see tip #6).
  • Host a free webinar based on a core topic. For example, I use Zoom for live webinars, and teach about coming up with bestselling book ideas and how to become a bestselling author. Check out Zoom »

How can you be generous today? Share in the comments.

8. Build Your Email List

Email is the number one best marketing channel for selling things online. Better than Facebook (by far). Better than Instagram. Better than Google ads.

People who sign up on email spend more money and are more likely to buy in the first place.

That means if you want to take your amateur blog pro, you need to be using it to build your email list.

How do you build an email list? Note here that I’m not talking about a Google Sheet with a bunch of email addresses you copy and paste into an email every once in a while. Here I’m talking about a list of people who have subscribed in your email marketing software to receive updates from you.

Not sure which email marketing software to choose? Here are the two I recommend:

  1. Mailerlite. Simple and powerful (but not quite as simple or powerful as the next tool, Convertkit), many of my writing students have found Mailerlite to be a great option for their author newsletters. You can sign up for Mailerlite here.
  2. Convertkit. I personally use Convertkit to host my email newsletter, and while I highly recommend it for authors, it’s a paid service. Your email list is a good place to invest, though, so this should be one of your first upgrades. Upgrade to Convertkit here.

How do you build your email list? Go back to step 7 and be generous!

9. Learn How to Use SEO

My single biggest traffic source isn’t social media or even my email list. It’s search!

Understanding how search engines send new readers to your website is one of the best ways improve your amateur blog.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your content so people using search engines can easily find it.

The best part is that if you’re following the blog writing template I talked about in step 5, you’re already doing this!

How do I use SEO?

I use a tool called Ahrefs to discover what readers are looking for in my niche. For example, here’s a keyword, a common phrase people search for, and that The Write Practice ranks highly for, “creative writing prompts.”

By knowing what problems people are actually looking for help on, you can better write blog posts that solve those problems.

Check out Ahrefs here.

10. Don’t Have an Ugly Blog

I put this last for a reason.

People worry too much about how their blog looks. And I get it. It’s easy to spend dozens of hours fiddling with your blog, thinking this is how you’re going to become famous, by having your blog look just right.

It won’t work.

You can have the most beautiful blog in the world, but if you’re not solving people’s problems, they won’t read your writing.

No, just make sure your blog is not ugly. How?

  • White background
  • Clear, readable font (minimum 16 pt size)
  • Simple image in every post (canva.com makes this easy)
  • Simple color palette (no more than 4 total colors, e.g. white, black, blue for links, plus an accent color)

Simple is better. The focus should be on your writing and on helping your reader, not on clever design.

The best tools I’ve found for my blog are the following:

If you want to make your amateur blog look like a pro blog, getting Divi to create a clean, simple look and using Canva to spruce up your images will go a long way!

Your Most Important Goal to Build Your Amateur Blog

As an author, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, your most important resource is trust. People want to know why they should trust you, why they should spend their valuable time reading the words you write.

And if you break that trust, for example by having an ugly, amateur blog, they won’t stick around very long.

Don’t let your future readers down. The world needs to hear your voice, but first you need to give them a reason to.

But if you do this right, they’ll follow you for a lifetime.

Good luck!

Want to upgrade your blog? Check out my guide: Building an Author Website. Or go ahead and upgrade to a self-hosted WordPress website through Bluehost.

PRACTICE

Professional blogs have professional blog posts! So let’s do a short writing exercise start and practice outlining a blog post, using that six-step template we talked about above:

  1. Identify the problem. What is the problem people are facing that you will help them solve in this article? Tell the reader how you can help them.
  2. Make the problem personal. How have you personally experienced this problem? Create a connection with the reader!
  3. Tell a solution story. Build your authority by talking about how you solved the problem.
  4. Solve the problem. What are the specific steps to solve the problem?
  5. Call your readers to action. Call your reader to take action!
  6. End with a question for discussion. Blogging is a two-way medium. Invite discussion with some kind of question.

Take fifteen minutes to create an outline for a problem you’re currently experiencing. Just include a short phrase for each of those steps (and if you have a multi-step solution, like I have in this post, feel free to quickly outline all the steps).

Once your time is up, post your writing practice in the comments section below. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback on at least three other writers’ outlines.

Happy writing!

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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