9 Facts I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Writing Online
This article is a bit special. It is my 100th.
Looking at the stats, I have written about 160 000 words since February 2020. I am proud of myself. I didn’t know I’d get this far.
I have discovered through this adventure that writing didn’t solicit much effort. I am used to speaking a lot and the quarantine didn’t give me the occasion to do so. So, I started writing.
I have noticed writing calms me, actually. It enables me to think deeply about the topics I write about and to gain knowledge thanks to research.
Thinking about it, I’m not sure I have ever done any other activities as satisfying as writing.
However, merely “writing” is not enough if one wishes to become a successful writer. I have learned this the hard way through making several rookie mistakes.
Had I previously read about blog making, I could have avoided all of them, which would have saved me probably a month or so of work.
To help others avoid making the same mistakes, I thought I’d throw a shortlist of all of the things I wish I had known before I started writing online.
If you do decide to create a blog yourself (and you should), I hope these can help you.
1. No One Cares About You
I started writing because I wanted to write. As a result, nobody reads my work.
Writing taught me that successful people (understand: people that produce successful work) are successful because what they produce speaks to others, not to themselves.
You don’t enjoy a story because the author was passionate about it. You liked it because you were passionate about it.
Writing online taught me that if I hoped to be read, I had to write about what others wanted to read.
I had to help people. I had to give value. I had to make my writing about them. Not about me.
My mindset completely shifted when I understood that other people were what successful businesses were all about.
They weren’t in business because they “love what they are doing”. This is a corporate lie. They were in business because customers love what they are doing.
There is a difference.
2. No One Reads Walls of Paragraph
My articles used to be split into three paragraphs. I started thinking something was wrong when a friend told me that “it felt too long”. She subsequently admitted not having read the whole article I had sent her.
As I started reading other blogs, I realized my typography was bad.
I edited all of the articles I had written – I must have had 60 at the time.
The text felt suddenly much better.
I got this confirmed when the friends I sent the articles to read them to the end.
3. Grammarly Is Free
It had never occurred to me that maybe, I was making grammar and syntax mistakes.
I first started using Grammarly around my 90th article when I read that one of the most Medium writers was using it too.
When I saw what a blood bath I had made, I quickly edited all of these articles in 3 or 4 days, hoping no one had noticed the million typos Grammarly kindly highlighted.
If you want to write professionally, you have to produce professional content.
4. Write Short Sentences, Avoid Passive Form, and Delete Adverbs
I am a French native speaker. I learned English in Australia at 19 but was never taught how to write it – and didn’t bother to learn it.
When I created the blog, I approached writing in English how I had learned to write in French.
The thing about French is that we weren’t given any guidelines or tips for writing. We were never theoretically taught how to do it. You whether knew how to write well, or you didn’t.
I got lucky because I was good at writing French. I knew what sounded beautiful, and what didn’t.
This is how I started writing in English. Halfway through my blog though, I found out that as similar as the two languages were, there were still some minor differences.
There were guidelines to respect in English. Tips and tricks that made the writing “better”.
Among the most famous pieces of advice I learned was the importance to write short sentences (all of my sentences were extra long), avoid the passive form (we love it in French), and avoid adverbs (we also love them).
I thought my writing was good. When I re-read myself with the new guidelines in mind, I realized how horrible it was. I subsequently spent one week or so editing my sentences to make them more “English”.
That was fun.
5. SEO Does Matter
I didn’t want to hear about SEO at the beginning because it sounded complicated. I had also convinced myself that faith would lead my potential readers towards my blog.
It was delusional.
I began reading and learning about SEO when I heard that people were making money as SEO experts. I didn’t know such a thing existed. So I began to learn it thinking that if nobody read my blog, I could at least help other people getting traffic.
The truth is that SEO matters – a lot. Websites fight to rank first on Google because they know people are lazy, and seldom click on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th link they are presented with.
I learned it very late and downloaded an SEO WordPress plugin around my 40th article. I spent days editing the articles, writing snippets, and selecting keywords.
6. Having a Blog Is Mostly About Promoting It
I thought the main job of a blogger was writing. I later discovered it was in fact marketing.
Writing is not enough. There are millions of writers on the Internet. If you don’t actively promote and share your writing, no one will ever come to read it.
7. “Build It and They’ll Come” Is a Lie
I don’t know who said that, but it’s a lie.
I don’t know of any companies that didn’t promote in a way or another their services.
It is the same for writing, as we said above. Writing in itself is not enough. You need to share your work to find your audience. Good writers would even tell you that you need to have an audience before you even start writing – so that you know what and who to write for.
I’m not there yet, but slowly getting there. I’d say 75% of my blog was written for myself – it’s time to change that and start writing for others.
8. Apparently, You Have to Build an Email List
It helps you as a writer to keep in touch with people that are interested in your work. It also allows you to build your “1000 true fans” following which will buy your paid digital products like courses or e-books.
I haven’t built an email list yet and this is definitely something I’ll have to look into for articles 101 to 200.
9. You need to use Medium, Quora, Linkedin, and Twitter
I have discovered Medium in November 2020.
As for Quora and Linkedin, I knew about them but didn’t know you could gain readers on them.
I have since shared 4 articles (that I deemed suitable) on Linkedin and got 67 views. Yahoo. At least I am not alone to read my work.
I have 50 articles shared on Medium and plan to keep on sharing everything I will write in the future. I still need to learn how to use Quora.
The Bottom Line
One piece of information I was happy I didn’t know before writing was the fact that many people…already wrote.
Had I looked at the competition, I may have been discouraged and never started altogether. This would have been foolish.
Writing is not the equivalent of selling cars. There can’t be “too much content” online because consumption capacity is near limitless due to the dematerialized form of content.
Furthermore, as society evolves, so do problems and opportunities, and the world will always need writers that can make sense out of them.
Writing is a beautiful activity. I deeply believe it helps both the writer and the reader. It brings people together. It connects them. It makes them smarter. It solves problems.
I didn’t think I would go past 20 articles when I started my blog. Celebrating my 100th is a bit crazy.
Now that I have proven to myself I could write, it’s time to start hustling and write…something people will read.