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How to Make Your Blogging Dreams Come True

“ONE DAY I’ll be a full time blogger!”

‘V’ – my wife – must have heard that statement 100 or more times in 2003-2004.

Me posing for my first ever press photo in 2003. Out of shot all my neighbours were watching on and wondering why I was videoing a guy taking a photo of me while sitting in my front yard.

It would usually be accompanied by a spread sheet and/or chart in which I showed her how the earnings from my blog had grown from $9 per month to $11 per month and me excitedly talking about how if things kept growing like that I’d be full time…. in 9 years time.

Back in those days I spent a lot of time dreaming about my future as a full time blogger.

I remember laying in bed at night, hoping  it would happen and wondering what opportunities might open up to make it a reality.

Those of you who have read the ProBlogger hard cover book know the story of how ‘V’ heard me talk about my ‘dream’ one time too many  and challenged me to take my blogging seriously.

In short, she challenged me to start treating my blog as a business ‘today’ rather than hoping it might be one at some point in the future.

Note: I wrote about this in my post ‘The #1 Reason My Blogging Grew into a Business

That challenge changed my mindset and was a huge part of making my dreams and hopes a reality.

We CREATE our Future

I recently came across this quote:

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” – John H. Schaar

We don’t arrive at our future… we create it!

I wish I’d heard that quote back in 2003 when I began to experiment with making money blogging.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ‘dreaming‘ of ones future. I just keep meeting bloggers (and people in other fields too) who seem to be stuck in the ‘dream’ phase.

The reality is that nobody really gets anywhere just by dreaming. There needs to come a time to ACT.

Just Do It

Do you dream of your blog one day being bigger, better, more profitable, or bring you better opportunities?

Just Do It!

Your future isn’t something that will just magically happen to you – you make that future.

So the time is now to begin moving in that direction through action!

Is it All Too Big?

Of course, giving the advice ‘just do it’ might be the kick up the pants that some people need to get moving but many bloggers I meet feel overwhelmed by all that lays ahead in order to create their dreams.

I often here one of two things from bloggers facing this:

  • There is too much to do
  • I want to do it perfectly

Both of these statements can cause paralysis and put your future on hold. 

Here’s my advice to you… (and I’m really writing this for me as well… because I feel both of those things too)…

Start With Something Small

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

Let’s break that down:

  1. Choose One Thing – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many things you need to do, you can end up doing nothing or trying to do everything, but failing. Doing one thing well, and then moving onto the next thing, will take you further than either of those options.
  2. Do a Small Thing – if you’re currently ‘stalled’ you need to get momentum so choose a smaller thing to get the wheels rolling. Achieving that small thing will give you energy to tackle the next bigger thing.
  3. Choose something that will Move You Toward Your Dream – it’s so easy to be distracted by tasks that seem like a good idea but aren’t really important in the scheme of your goals. Choose something that is directly tied to your ultimate goal (I’ll give you some examples below).
  4. Do it to the Best of Your Ability – if you only ever do things  you can do perfectly, you may never do anything! Do it as well as you can now and perfect it later. By starting you’ll learn so much and in the long run will produce something great.

What I’ve outlined above has been a strategy I’ve used many times over the years. Let me give you some practical examples.

Example 1 – Starting dPS

I put off starting Digital Photography School for a couple of years before I actually launched it (I’ve never admitted that before).

I had previously had a camera review blog that did well but I always dreamed of starting a more ‘tips’ related photography blog. I thought it’d be more satisfying to write and would have more potential to grow a relationship with readers.

I had every excuse in the book not to start dPS. I already had too much to do. I didn’t have the money to invest into a custom designed site. I doubted my own ability to write content on the topic. I couldn’t find the right brand/domain name…

The list went on.

However, I had the dream and one day I realised that if I didn’t actually start the blog that I’d never have any chance of arriving at that dream. So I started small.

  • I made a call on a brand and domain name – It wasn’t perfect but it allowed me to start
  • I started on GoDaddy Hosting – I knew it wasn’t the best option but it allowed me to start
  • I started with a free WordPress theme – it wasn’t as professional or customised as what I saw in my dreams but it allowed me to start
  • I wrote a handful of posts – I wanted to have more in my archives but it allowed me to start
  • I started with comments switched off to allow me to focus on creating more content – doing so fell short of my vision for a ‘community’ driven site but it allowed me to get moving

The design of dPS when it launched using a free theme.

When the blog launched I remember looking at it with a mixture of:

  • Dissatisfaction at all the things  I knew I could have done to make it better
  • Immense pride that I’d actually got the ideas out of my head and had finally implemented something

With the ball rolling, I was able to improve and grow what I was doing.

I moved to better hosting (and have done so 3 times now). I moved towards a custom design (we’re about to launch our iteration of the design). I’ve since published over 3800 posts and developed a team of writers. I switched on comments and added a forum area to build community.

The site is now 10 times bigger than any blog I had at the time I started it. It is still not perfect by any means (I have a long to do list) but it is a lot closer to my dreams than ever before.

Example 2 – My First eBook

My First eBook (now no longer available as we updated it)

I shared this story at the ProBlogger Event last year but don’t think I’ve written a post about it.

After a year of starting and then evolving Digital Photography School I began to see the opportunity to create a teaching product to sell on the site. I wasn’t sure at first what format would be best (eBooks, courses, events or something else) but knew there was an opportunity there.

I gradually settled on the idea of an eBook to test the waters with my audience but procrastinated and made excuses on why I should delay doing it for another 12-18 months.

Again my list of excuses was long and I justified my inaction with things like:

  • not having time to write and develop an eBook
  • not knowing how to set up a shopping cart
  • not knowing how to design or format an eBook
  • doubts about knowing enough about the subject matter

I put off the creation of that first eBook for a couple of years but managed to snap myself out of the paralysis and decided to start.

I decided to write the eBook about Portraiture – the topic my readers asked the most questions about and the one that I knew most about.

  • As I was time poor, I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to create the eBook. I would have rather been able to set aside a week or two to work solidly on it but I had blogs to run and a newborn baby at home. I had some major sleep deprivation already so figured 15 minutes less sleep a day wouldn’t hurt! It wasn’t the ideal way to write – but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided to use some repurposed blog posts as the basis for the eBook. I’d rather have written it all from scratch but this approach allowed me to start.
  • I decided to outsource the design but kept it as simple and clean as possible to save on cost. I’d have rather had a beautiful/rich design but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided on a relatively simple and inexpensive shopping cart set up. I used e-junkie (aft) and synced it with PayPal. It wasn’t the most feature rich solution but was relatively east to set up and didn’t hold me back on launching.
  • I had a relatively simple launch. We launched it over 8 days with a pretty simple sales page and sales email to my list. I made a lot of mistakes in that launch and have a much more sophisticated process these days but I got the product launched!

I look back on the creation and launch of that eBook now with a mix of embarrassment at how simple it all was and pride at what I achieved as someone with no experience in creating an eBook.

It could have been A LOT better on many fronts but it was the beginning of something that has transformed what I do.

That eBook sold 4800 copies during its launch (bringing in a total of $72,000) which at the time completely blew me away (in the years after it sold a lot more) but the income from it wasn’t the best bit.

The most valuable part of creating that eBook was the lessons I learned in doing it.

That eBook and its launch became the template for future eBooks. I have now published a total of 12 on dPS, 6 here on ProBlogger and 1 on SnapnGuides.

The creation process of our eBooks has changed a lot (we no longer use repurposed content, now use editors, proof readers etc and have evolved the design quite a lot) and our launches are a lot more sophisticated but it all began with 15 minutes per day and doing the best I could!

More Quick Examples

This pattern of small steps towards big dreams is something that I could give you many more examples of.

Like how I got the ProBlogger hard cover Book published. It started as a draft for an eBook and some content that Chris and I had published on our blogs.

And how the ProBlogger Event was started. This has grown to be an annual event for 400+ bloggers but it started as a hastily arranged day for 100 bloggers in a dodgy suburban hotel.

Like how I developed 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It started as a series of blog posts that evolved into a quickly produced eBook which grew again into the best selling ProBlogger eBook that we offer today.

And how I developed the ProBlogger Queensland Competition. It started as a crazy idea I got while sitting in an airport. I tweeted something and it ended up being one of the biggest campaigns I’ve ever done with a brand.

I’m certain that others reading this post would have more personal examples – I’d LOVE to see them in comments below.

Choose 1 Small Thing…

Let’s return to the take home advice…

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

I can’t emphasise enough how powerful doing this has been in my own business (and my life in general in other areas).

Give it a go – I can’t wait to see what impact it has for you! Please let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you!

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Darren,

    I can’t thank you enough on how you inspired me to go on blogging with this blog post. I can feel that I am in the stage similar to where you started. Me and my wife are expecting a baby this year so I’m really looking for an additional income at the same time do the things that I really love to do.

    This is the challenge to myself. Please allow me use your 9-words motivation from V – ‘You’ve got 6 months to make blogging full time.’

    I bet my wife will be screaming that to me very soon… LOL

    God Bless You,
    Louie Sison

    • Interesting how you always come up with some curious yet effective ways to get over obstacles. Writers block is a pain and although we’ve heard and tried stories of how to get over ‘em they still come back. #27 is a real winner. But I’ll be using them all. Rest assured Louie Sison, you’re place on the “useful blogger” board is secure.
      Yari Lendy!

  2. Trouble is I have a lot of ideas that I want to run with at the moment. The chore for me is to narrow it down and then do what this post says to do. Narrowing it down to only one is the problem as I like all my ideas!

  3. Darren the same thing happened to me, i was showing my wife my first dollar online and she laughed years ago. As of today she’s asking me why i didn’t get the payments yet…. I totally agree with you and i like your 2nd example. Having your own product is definitely one of the ways to go to create your steady income, but most people don’t know how to start the journey and IM industry is full of copy/paste systems that never work. You blog is one of the few examples of great content and motivation, this is why you get the big audience you deserve. All the best.

  4. Darren,

    This is an absolutely wonderful post, really. The roadblocks that you’ve mentioned are some of the most common excuses for most wanna be bloggers. I think almost every blogger, or wanna be entrepreneur for that matter, can relate to this post very easily.

    I guess the biggest fear stopping most newbies from leaving the “dreaming zone” is uncertainty. They’re just not sure what will actually work for them.

    Thank you for this inspiring post

  5. Wow… Wow.. and wow.

    This is one of the very up close post I’ve ever read on problogger. Darren, you are a life saver. This is just my number one problem – starting small. I think I will definitely give this a try. I mustn’t start big yet. What I just have to do (like you just said) is start small, give my best to the small thing – and before I know it, it will turn out very big in due time.

    Thanks for this blogging tip. Will take my niche blog seriously from today one-wards,

    • I definitely had the same issue for the longest time Kingsley. I think it is in our nature to want to think big. Then I realized that I wasn’t making anything shooting straight for the moon. You can still get there, but I feel I am getting there a lot faster by taking one step at a time.

  6. That was one great post, and of course one that I am sure was fro Darren’s heart.

    I think working on one thing is better, but I am not going to follow this, I can’t.

    I have plenty of things to do, study , blogs , freelance jobs( for investment) , E-book I always wanted to launch,

    One thing at time would work for 100% but many things at at a time if worked , would do better, Isn’t it so

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this today! So timely for me as I sit down to work on my first “Small Thing” that I have put off for so long… I hope to one day be able to come back to you and share how this post got the ball rolling for me. Again, thank you.

  8. There is one thing we all love to do. We always want a perfect moment to start. But waiting for that ideal day will never come when one does not decide to start.
    I like your JUST DO IT mantra!
    Hi Darren, I obviously do believe I’m going to be a well celebrated blogger like you but it certainly do go along with JUST DO IT!

  9. Hi Darren, a truly inspired post! There’s a sufi saying that goes something like ‘The spiritual warrior has no outside enemies.’ Neither do bloggers it seems. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  10. Building one block at a time has been a really good step for me. I’m big at multi-tasking and now I am re-learning how not to multitask and just go really slow one little step at a time for my blog and my music theory and finale 2012 series. Yes… Thanks for the advice and encouragement!

  11. Wow Darren! This one really hit home and kinda slapped me in the face at the same time :) I’m showing this to the wife too so she knows she isn’t the only one that has to hear about the successes that will be, haha.

    I need to really take your advise though, and I am going to. You kind of just laid out what my problem has been lately. I need to just focus on one thing and become really good at that one thing.

    Thank you so much, Darren!

    Cody

  12. As someone who started both an organic farm and a blog without knowing absolutely anything about either I agree completely with you said about starting small. I used to worry about having every problem and possible situation solved before I even started and I just realized I needed to start. So I wrote one post, nothing more than that. I made and planted one bed of lettuce’s. Nothing more, no big commitment – just that first step. The magic comes when you can that small step every day – then you get something beautiful.

  13. Thanks for this good tips, i am grateful for finding your blog, my boss http://www.oracleblogger.com is the one who showed your blog to me.

  14. Darren,

    I can’t tell you how much this inspires me to keep going. When I first started my blog I felt intimidated by the other bloggers out there who had blogs filled with content and offers and email lists and all. But, I started anyway and though my blog is still a work in progress (who’s isn’t) things are really starting to shape up.

    The coolest part about it is that the more I write and do and communicate with my audience the more of these “aha” moments I’m having where it’s really starting to come together and make sense. You just don’t get that kind of insight by simply thinking about what you want to do you actually have to do it.

  15. Hi Darren,

    This is such a very inspiring post. Thank you very much for sharing this. I also do dream that my blog one day will become bigger, better and most especially profitable. I believe that most of us are also dreaming of that. Yes, our future isn’t something that will just magically happen to us – WE MAKE OUR OWN FUTURE :) So the time is now to begin moving in that direction through action.

    Regards,
    Charles

  16. Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  17. Even when you’re in it and doing it as a business, this so important to remember. Cannot believe it took me so long and all the excuses in the world not to do my ebook. Not only has that ebook generated another income stream for my blog business but it has brought my work to the attention of a publisher. Thanks for the kick up the bum last October at Problogger Event. It was timely indeed.

  18. Darren, I’ve been following your blogging advise for over half a decade now. I’ve learned a lot. But blogging is not my end game. As a freelance artist… blogging is just one tactic in my personal branding strategy.

    There seems to be a lot of blogging gurus out there. But there is very little when it comes to reliable and specific information that demonstrates effective methods on how to reach a wider audience to promote a brand, a product or service.

  19. It’s really important to just get started!

    I took a few tries with my site to understand what I really wanted to talk about and who I really wanted to talk to. Although my subject matter (Marketing) might seem pretty stuffy at times, I really love what I write about, and I’m still hoping that my dream will infect those around me, especially the students.

    I’m not earning any money yet, but hopefully that will come with more people visiting who are as passionate about marketing as me!

  20. How things have changed! Just do it! Love it! Sometimes all the excuses get in the way…. as someone has told me, enough with the excuses!

  21. Awesome Post Darren,
    “Choose one small thing to start with that will
    move you toward your dream and do it to the
    best of your ability” is the best advice anyone could get.
    There are a lot of things needed to be done and one can easily get overwhelmed with it especially if you have limited time and you engage in lots of things.
    I guess I learnt that lesson a while ago and that is why my primary purpose with my blog is to create content, I tweet less, chat less…..
    Getting started is not easy, but as we all know, A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILE STARTS WITH ONE STEP.
    SO GET STARTED!

  22. Thanks for the post Daren, I’m on the journey and enjoying it. Finally making money

  23. I’m hanging in there and moving another step forward every day. Thanks for the motivation.

  24. – There is too much to do
    – I want to do it perfectly

    Are some of the excuses that almost everyone comes up with. But a small start can really make a big difference. Its really inspiring that your new blog on Digital Photography also met success just by starting with small steps.

    But one thing that I really liked was focusing on “nothing starts with perfection”. Being perfect was the thing that stopped me several times when I was just starting. And I honestly believe many people who want to start any online business also suffer from same problem for long time.

    By the way nice article.

    Regards,
    Nrupen

  25. I started Lifestyle Updated year and a half back after reading this blog for a while. And at the beginning I thought that I knew everything. How wrong in fact I was. But starting with it rather than procrastinating allowed me to learn on the go and expand my knowledge rather exponentially in topics such as content creation, design, UX, SEO, conversion optimization, a lot and lot of useful ideas and concepts…

    Now, all those months later, we have great content on the site, ranking fairly well for some competitive terms, started building a great audience, connected wit a lot of other bloggers and interesting people, interviewed some of them, started generating a decent income.

    And once ideas get out of your head this process tends to get dispersive. It only opens up new and better solutions, new and more interesting ideas. We plan on launching an e-magazine, e-book in the near future, a mobile application after that. Who knows- maybe lot more other things too…

    Nowadays I’m launching a start-up in my country that will probably go huge after a while, and the fundamentals of blogging and thinking like a blogger lie in the very core of it.

    I rarely comment here albeit visiting quite often. But if it wasn’t for you I would have NEVER come so far. Thanks for everything Darren!

  26. Truly inspiring! You are admired sir!

  27. Such an encouraging, motivating post! I’ve been following your blog for a while now, but don’t think I’ve ever commented. Just want to say a big, big “thank you” for breaking dreams down into achievable goals. The tips I’ve read here have been crucial to making me take the plunge with my own blogging dream. THANKS!

  28. I do like these inspirational posts. They keep me going on days when I think why do I blog it’s so much effort and turns them into days where I remember why I love it!

  29. Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  30. I have noticed with most successful people online is that they have worked damned hard at achieving their goals. Most haven’t proclaimed to have made millions overnight. They have created solid watertight businesses which give them a lot of money every month by having good foundations at the start and then polishing their business to focus on the money making ideas which work best for them. This post should make people realize its about familiarity and just doing things to improve your online skill sets, finding out which areas attract you more and also looking at weaker areas and how to improve those, maybe outsourcing will help free up your time to do the thing you enjoy and keep you motivated.

    Thanks for being honest Darren.

  31. if I had known blogs like problogger is good, I might have started earlier
    pardon my english

  32. I guess a lot of us entrepreneurial type people love to think BIG and get overwhelmed.

    I have my own thought process of success which consists of consistency, persistence and action. When it all seems like too much, or the fear is overwhelming, I just tell myself that I need to do a little bit each day and I will get there.

    Top notch post, Darren, thank you.

  33. “Baby steps” are a great way to start, now how to grow that audience? Thanks, this is inspiring.

  34. Dreaming of something to become a reality in the near future is o.k., but we have to be more consistent on what we are dreaming about and setting our dreams that we can reach and is tangible. Never dream of things beyond human capabilities for it will only frustrate you.

    Dream and hard work goes together. These two are vital and a must have in any undertakings.

  35. Hi Darren,
    Thanks for this inspiring post.
    You helped me a lot start my own blog, and I’m so glad I finally started it. My next small thing is guest posting, and the next one will be writing an ebook. One day, I’ll earn money from my blog.

  36. Hi Darren,

    First, I would like to give thank you for this type of amazing post. Most of the reader will be inspired from this post and even many of them will maybe start their blogging career.

  37. One of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long time. I’ve been procrastinating about starting my own business blog for many of the reasons you’ve stated below and it’s comforting to know that somebody so successful started to small and started by making so many mistakes. It definitely takes away a lot of the fear.

  38. Thanks for sharing this post. It is true we all have to start somewhere and that is exactly how I started my blogs and ebooks. Start small and gradually work your way up is good advice. So many times we want to make it big and don’t realize it takes work. It doesn’t just happen.
    Blessings,
    Deborah H. Bateman – author

  39. I remember, I used to visit dPS when there was a blue wordpress theme. I stumbled on Problogger in October 2007 and saw the Rss Subscribers were 36000, that blew me away. I have been following this blog since then. I remember you talking about 3rd anniversary of Problogger.
    Though I rarely comment, I have read almost every posts on this blog and I’ve learned alot.
    Thank You Darren, thank you for sharing such valuable info with. us.

  40. Hi Darren,
    I’ve held back from adding advertising on my blog, choosing to not eat or buy anything because I haven’t made any money. I always thought it would diminish my blog, like I was selling out. Do you have any evidence that readers think like this, or is it just me?

    I realise I have to earn money if I want my site to eventually look the same way it is in my dreams.

    I post one good article a week. Does one have to publish every day to be a successful blog?

    All the reasons why I’m not charging ahead is fear of not being tech savvy enough. I find some comfort in reading that you had the same reservations, like not knowing how to write an ebook, or not knowing how to implement a shopping cart. I’m always wishing I had help. Hence, the attention now turns to making money.

  41. Very inspiring article, Darren. I admire your effort and determination. Doing small things well is far better than doing big things without any goals.

  42. Jennifer says: 06/14/2013 at 2:02 am

    You must be in my apartment watching me procrastinate because I feel like it’s all too big! I’m just starting my blog. I’ve spent countless hours learning, planning and dreaming. I love to write so I’ve decided that blogging is for me, but I knew there was a lot I needed to learn. I took the time to do that and now that it’s time to actually get started, I’m stuck because I feel so overwhelmed. After reading this, I can stop beating myself up for feeling overwhelmed. I’m going to just do it! Would love to comment more, but I’ve gotta go write now so I can get my blog going!

  43. Great post! I definitely dream of being a full time blogger. Lately I’ve been pulling in around $8k in blog income and I plan on making the switch next year! :)

  44. Larry says: 06/14/2013 at 2:54 am

    Well, I learned one thing here, what I don’t want my blog to look like. What a mess! And the stupid thing on the right that chases you up and down selling things. I feel like I am in a cheap clothing store and the salesman is chasing up and down trying to push polyester suits.

  45. Totally hear you on the issue of starting simple even though its not what we envision initially… This has probably been the number one hurdle for me to overcome in blogging. It’s helpful for me to hear this from bloggers like you b/c it’s easy to get caught up in looking just at the final products you turn out and forget about the learning curve you had, and the obstacles you had to overcome. Great post and thank you!

  46. Thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Inspired me to keep at it with my blog. I started writing consistently in January and I can see improvement. My dream is to create a e-book and to blog full-time. Thanks for writing this blog.

  47. Darren, it is so true what you said about looking back at your first steps with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. I look back at my very first blog post and now it seems pretty rinky dinky but I am also proud of it because it was proof that I was able to overcome the inertia and actually get a blog going. Thanks for reminding us that this is important in so many areas of life. It’s better to do something and learn as you go, than to do nothing at all and wish that you had. Once again, thanks for being a transparent kind of guy and keeping the rest of us inspired.

  48. this couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve had all the excises, too. Very justifiable ones, but I too decided a little less sleep to at least get started on my dream ever so slowly is better than hoping for someday! At least I’m making progress no matter how small. Thank you for the inspiration!

  49. Love when you write such inspirational posts. Love learning from you and your humble ways in the beginning and how much you share those experiences. Thank you

  50. Excellent piece. We can find a million reason why not to start something, but then what is the point?

    It is great that you pulled back the curtain and showed that your start wasn’t pretty but it got you going.

    Remember you don’t have to get it perfect. Just get it started.