Earlier in the year I surveyed a small segment of ProBlogger readers on their blogging experiences as a way of keeping in touch with the needs of readers.
I asked a variety of questions, but the answers to one particular question stood out to me like a sore thumb, because I saw the same themes emerging again and again.
The question asked bloggers to think about the unrealistic expectations that they had when they started blogging.
Hundreds of bloggers responded, but I was amazed to see the same four themes emerge in almost every response. I thought that putting these unrealistic expectations out there might be helpful for others starting out on their blogging journey.
1. “I thought it’d be easy to come up with regular content.”
Time and time again bloggers reflected that they had never considered how hard it would be to come up with content on a daily or regular basis.
The struggle came down to two main things:
- Ideas: It’s not easy to keep coming up with ideas to write about. Many bloggers run into a road block on this just weeks after starting a blog.
- Time to write the content: Many of those who responded said that they’d expected that they could just whip out posts quickly, but in reality they found it took considerable time to write great posts.
Related to this, respondents reflected on how much time other aspects of blogging can take, including comment moderation, networking, social media, and technicalities and design.
A few bloggers also reflected that they thought that because they “write well,” they expected that they’d automatically be able to “blog well.”
They quickly realized that blogging isn’t just about writing—it’s deeper than that. It’s about communication, relationships, understanding people, and engaging with them (plus a whole heap more).
Blogs don’t just happen—they take time, energy, effort, creativity, and a lot of work.
2. “I thought that if I wrote good posts that my readership would grow.”
If you build it … they don’t necessarily come.
Many bloggers responded that they had completely unrealistic expectations about how easy it was to build readership. They’d heard stories of successful bloggers with millions of readers who seemingly had that success overnight, but found that the reality was that those blogs usually took years to grow.
To find readers, you need to do more than write great content—you need to put yourself out there and be interacting in places where your potential reader is. You need to build a presence there.
It won’t be the same for every person, but this can mean getting involved on other sites, social media, guest posting, learning the art of SEO, leveraging other networks, and even attending offline activities like conferences.
Building a great blog is just half of the equation. Then you have to get off it and meet your potential readers wherever they are.
Similarly many bloggers reflected that they thought their blog would grow much faster than it did. The expectation was that things would move fast, but that in reality they had to take a long-term view of it.
3. “I thought that engagement and reader interaction would happen easily.”
Related to the unrealistic expectation of quick and easy traffic was that when readers did come, they’d be ready and willing to interact.
Numerous bloggers reflected that they knew people read their blog by looking at their statistics, but that they rarely heard from those readers or saw them interact—particularly in the comments.
They shared that it took time for them to work out how to draw interactions out of readers and build relationships with them. That rarely happens without the blogger first reaching out and building community.
4. “I thought that making money would be much easier.”
Interestingly, some bloggers reflected that they had built good readerships and interaction with readers, but had found monetizing those reasonably successful blogs more difficult than they expected.
The expectation was that if you attract readers and community, making money would almost look after itself. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Finding the right way to monetize a blog can be tricky. In some niches it can almost feel impossible. It’s not as simple as slapping some AdSense ads on a site—each blog’s different in terms of how it’s best monetized, and there’s usually a lot of experimentation and trial and error needed to get it right.
What unrealistic expectations did you start with?
I’m sure that there are other false expectations that others will add to this list. I’d be interested in hearing your experience in comments below.