Read on Medium.
That’s a decision that any blogger — or, more in general, a writer — ponders on, at some point.
Is it time to create my own website? Is it difficult? Is it worth it? Will anybody visit it?
Let’s say it plain clear. If any of those questions are still in your mind, the answer is easy: don’t waste time on your own blog. Believe me. It’s wasted time, and I’ll explain better here below.
I just built my own, and it took three years to make that step.
You need certain conditions, for it to be worth. Let’s see.
Learning the ropes as a blogger
You might have been the best writer in your class, but you still don’t know blogging. Nor how to attract and keep readers. Nor the online world.
I know, you don’t believe it, but it’s true. After three years of intense blogging, I still get surprises, and learn something new about blogging every day.
When I started blogging, I thought that readers would say: “Wow! How lucky I discovered him!” But the truth is that they said nothing because they don’t even saw my writing. And when they saw it, better not to know what they thought. When I read my first pieces, that looked great offline, I not only realized that they looked someway “weird” online, but they also weren’t great pieces at all. They lacked clarity. They lacked attractiveness. They required too much effort from the reader. Apart from a few exceptions, they had to be completely reworked. Having a single piece in front of strangers makes its gaps shine. The friend that read and appreciated the piece previously is not an audience. You need feedback from strangers too, and to see your writing in the same arena with other writings.
But to start getting feedback, keep writing, and being read, you need visibility.
Nobody can get visibility with an independent website as a novice, nowadays, independently of what you can offer. You need excellent skills for that. Or good skills combined with fantastic content and other favorable factors (like offline popularity, or a special profile, for example).
So, the best way to learn the ropes is to start blogging on platforms like Medium. When you have learned the ropes, able to attract attention and provide value, you’ll certainly know by results. Before that point, you’re a novice, however much you think otherwise. Accept it and keep trying.
Of course, there’s the possibility of learning by setting up your own blog. When you discover that nobody finds it, that’s certainly a lesson and maybe you can improve a bit from there. You’ll maybe learn something of SEO, but how about learning to blog? Either you have outstanding talent, or you need a community for that. The entire thing will go nowhere (I’ve walked that path myself, and I had to retire), and you’ll have wasted the opportunity to grow as a writer, the fundamental asset for your writing future.
SEO can be learned anytime, but you need to learn blogging outside an isolated blog.
The body of work
Whatever you will decide, you need something of value in your blog. You can’t expect people to appreciate the nothingness or triviality just because it comes from you. If you want to attract readers, and maybe Google, they must find something in your blog.
Unless your blog is exclusively a links-to-money machine, you need a body of work. A handful of pieces can be enough, but you need them.
While learning the ropes, you’d better put your best in every single piece, or you’ll never be able to do your best. Someone will tell you the contrary. If you prefer the easy way, go with it and good luck. Anyway, only a few pieces will deserve a “wow” out of your production. And that “wow” is necessary to turn your occasional reader into a fan, a subscriber, a customer, or a client. Without that “wow,” your blog is just nothing, and nothing will remain.
So, keep trying and, on your way, keep track of your best pieces. When you have a solid offer, however minimal, this part will no more be a problem, at least to start.
Clarity of purpose
But the most critical factor of all is what you could have imagined yourself. You need clarity of purpose and the related goals.
Most novice bloggers think that it’s okay to write about anything. And it is! But the only thing that this can bring is learning. This never translates into an audience or a business.
Even when you see successful bloggers or writers write about anything, look with more attention. You’ll see a line. There’s variety around solid reasons for their being followed.
You must find your line, and the container for your line.
It’s not required to see the future, nor to know precisely where you are going. You can’t see it anyway. But you need an idea of where you want to go, what you like to do, and why people should follow you.
Then, you have to translate this awareness into a practical process. You need an identity, however fluid it is, and a container — and this should be less fluid.
You need to be sure that you are prepared to be read by your dears, your friends, or your colleagues. That blog will define you, so you need to want it enough to accept its consequences. You need to want it in your life.
You unavoidably need commitment and hard work around a purpose and progressive goals. And even so, probabilities are against you. How can you imagine to be able to put in that constant and coherent effort without clarity of purpose, and some process to help you stay on the path? Blogging — like most significant achievements — is not done of occasional efforts, but of daily commitment, even if you don’t publish daily. Outside that, there is absolutely no life-changing result, now or in twenty years. There’s so much around, and so many skilled bloggers in any area, that’s impossible to make through without outstanding commitment. So, if you’re not motivated enough to provide that commitment, better to spend your time elsewhere, or to keep publishing in a third-party platform until you’re ready.
That’s tricky. You can’t know in advance if your blogging life will succeed or be sustainable. Probably, it won’t. It’s a bet in any case. A decision.
But it will certainly absorb a massive part of your time. Either you can afford it, or you’ll fail for sure. It’s that simple.
Don’t hope that doing it in the spare time will eventually lead to somewhere. It won’t. Unless you keep pushing, before reaching massive popularity, time can only subtract attention from your writing. The fate of your writing is disappearance — if ever really appeared –, unless you take it out of the void by force, constantly.
If you don’t need money, or can live with very little, you’ll still need time and consistency. It needs to be someway compatible with your life (or your life made compatible with it). That’s necessary anyway.
If you also need money, that’s a big problem. Either you get them somewhere else or you have a plan to resist for long, because before learning how the money machine works — and eventually building it — you’ll have to bang your head into the absence of it. You need at least a leeway, and you can bet that it won’t suffice. Turning your writing into a business is not a joke. If you’re a poet, it’s just impossible.
Did I mention that you need plenty of time?
Ready, set, go
If you now know how to blog, you have some impactful pieces, you know what you have to offer to your audience (you know who your audience is, right?), and the whole thing seems “affordable,” you could be ready for creating your own blog.
And I’d say that at this point you also should.
You’re ready to start that journey, and — unless you write exactly what third-party platforms want you to write — you need your own land, a reference place. It’s not necessary to abandon other platforms. On the contrary, you’ll need republishing for a long time. And communities. But you also need your place, something to build on.
However, that’s only the beginning. There’s much more than what I mentioned, but you can learn and choose on the road.
WordPress, Squarespace, whatever, it won’t be easy, and that’s even the simple part.
The hard parts will be visibility and sustainability. And to keep writing. It’s a long and hard road.
Only you can know if it’s worth it. If it’s your way, go on, but — do yourself a favor — not before you know that you’re ready for it. If you’re unsure, the answer is no. If you know it’s worth, go on and trust yourself.
It will be just the beginning, and you’ll need plenty of confidence.