BLOGGING INSPIRATION

How to Start a Blog (or Do Anything)

I launched this blog on December 19th, 2014 from my parent’s couch. About twenty months later, it is a very solid part-time job.

It always baffled me how people made money as bloggers, so I’ll clear that up first. I make money by writing, taking photos, and posting on my social media channels for companies and brands, mostly in the outdoor and travel industry. I very occasionally do sponsored posts on this blog– but generally I prefer to preserve this space for my voice, unfiltered. Make no mistake that I am straight up busy– I work hard at this. I am never not doing something.

These are my guidelines for doing anything successfully in life:

  1. Do it well
  2. Do it consistently (for a long time)
  3. Do it with passion (or ditch it)

First of all, you should know that two years ago, this blog was just an idea I had. I was sitting where some of you might be– scouring the internet for “how to blog” articles. I thought there was a list of checkboxes I had to tick in order to get started. But what everyone wrote about– what all the bloggers I looked up to said– was that there was no real formula.

This is the closest I’ve come to having a formula.

1. DO IT WELL

…and when you don’t know what you are doing (i.e., me, most of the time), fake it.

You have to do it well. Do a ton of research. If you want to be a food blogger, read food blogs until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. If you want to start doing makeup tutorials on YouTube, I hope you are watching them like it’s your job– because it might be someday if you do it well enough.

Learn your market. Survey the demand in that market. Ask yourself who your audience will be. Then, create stuff that really, really matters to you and cater it to that audience so they come back begging for more. Align your passion with whatever you see as the demand, without compromising. Do it like nobody else is doing it, and do it the best way you know how.

Hold yourself and your work to a high standard, but accept that your craft will be evolving forever. Do it well and always believe that you can do it better.

2. DO IT CONSISTENTLY FOR A LONG TIME

Two years ago, I was stalking travel and outdoor blogs daily to see what their new posts were, if they changed anything on the formatting of their website, how the bloggers described themselves. I paid attention to things that I wanted to click on, because I figured that other people wanted to click on that stuff too.

So I started writing. I started writing things for me and for people like me. I did it consistently– at first, I was blogging twice a week. I did that for months. I posted on Instagram daily and whenever I could, I spent hours liking and commenting on stranger’s pictures to get my name out there even though there was no promise it would ever work.

After a couple of months, I started getting questions from readers– readers that were, surprisingly to me, not just my direct relatives. I based most of my content on what my readers wanted to know about me, and if I helped one person because of it, that was enough for me (it still is). I started caring less about what people thought. I started being more real, more honest, because that’s what I wanted to see more of, and as it turned out, what other people wanted to see more of too.

I put out good work, consistently, for a long time. Because of that, people noticed. Because of that, I have a track record that I am proud of. Because of that, I can write this article and truly believe that it is good advice, because it has gotten me where I am today.

3. DO IT WITH PASSION, OR DO SOMETHING ELSE

Whatever you are doing, you better be passionate about it. Especially when it comes to sharing your story and your thoughts on the internet. People see right through the fake stuff. If you are posting something because you feel you should, that is going to come across.

Has this blog ever felt like work to me? Duh. But most days, I sit at my computer and feel luckier than I know how to describe. Writing, creating and sharing with purpose has never felt like work. It has felt like purpose itself.

I once thought I wanted to get a PhD in marine science. I eventually realized that it wasn’t the 7 years of studying that I was interested in– it was those letters after my name. It was the validation, the people-knowing-I’m-smart, the credibility and notoriety. Surprise… I ditched the PhD idea, because I was in it for the wrong reasons. Apply this here: if you want to blog just to get Insta-famous, do something else, because it’s not going to make you happy.

You have to do the work because you love the work, otherwise, it’ll feel like a chore. It’ll feel like a stretch, like it’s fake. You will know what the right topic is because it will feel right– it will feel like purpose.

 


 

But to do any of that, you have to start. People (even your close friends) will smile at you and shake their heads. They will think your project is a cute hobby. They won’t take you seriously. This is what happens when you courageously start something that you believe in. The nature of starting anything is that you have to start small. And you definitely have to start caring less about what people think, and caring more about what you think.

The hard part isn’t the technical stuff; the hard part is the creative stuff and the vulnerable stuff. Know that there is space for you in whatever industry you choose. You have a unique voice, so never think that the world is too full for you. It’s not– carve out your own niche and then fill it.

People ask me how I know all of this. I know all of it because I learned it the hard way– by just diving into the deep end and learning how to swim.

I recently heard a great analogy that I find to be incredibly true. I apply this to blogging, but it really makes sense related to anything creative. It’s like you’re paddling out to a wave. It takes a long-ass time to get to the wave, and then you’re waiting for this wave. You paddle some more. It’s hard. You’re sore. You paddle more. You wonder why you’re even out there.

But then that first wave comes. And the waves don’t stop coming.

That’s how it happened for me.

I hope this was helpful, and that a couple of years from now, you are writing a how-to guide for whatever it is you decide to pursue with passion. The reality is, you become a blogger by blogging. You become what you want to be by being that thing– by doing it.

 


 

More questions on this topic? Send me an email at info@erinoutdoors.com so I can answer them in a future blog post or video.

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Alley
    August 4, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    I am continually amazed at the universe for delivering exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it most. Today, it was this blog post. Thank you for your words and taking the time to encourage others! Xx

  • Reply
    Renee Hahnel
    August 7, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Great advice Erin! You continually inspire me to keep improving and challenging myself <3

  • Reply
    Callie
    August 7, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Loved this!!!

  • Reply
    Lexie
    August 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    LOVE reading your blog! Thanks for all the articles, advice and inspiration. I always look forward to reading the next post.

  • Reply
    Mike Revelle
    August 8, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    You’re amazing. This is exactly what I needed. I too started a blog a while back, but I keep making up excuses for not putting more effort and attention into it. It started off so amazing, and then I got busy and it just fell to the wayside. Thank you for reigniting that fire for me!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 11, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks Mike! Happy to hear that. It happens!!

  • Reply
    Kirstin Larkin
    August 9, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I loved this reminder to write real raw things and how there is always a niche for our work!! Thank you for sharing! I would love to know how you contact companies and brands to represent them or their products!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 11, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Thanks Kirstin! Most of the time, they contact me, but if I want to contact a brand, I usually write a pitch with a list of services. For me it is about finding the right companies with the right people behind them.

  • Reply
    Stasia Renaud
    August 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    You are incredible. Seriously. Somehow you always write the right things at the right time when I need them most. Thank you for writing and sharing your gift and inspiring all of us! I’d love to hear your thoughts/advice on putting yourself out there (via Instagram, blogging etc.) sharing your thoughts etc when you are also a pretty private person. This is my current struggle 😉 What does the balance/boundary look like for you?

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 13, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Thank you SO much Stasia! That’s really awesome to hear. It is really hard sometimes, but I think checking in with yourself regularly is so important. For me, it wasn’t so much that I was a private person, but more that I really cared what people thought of me. This journey has been a combination of teaching myself to care less about others perceptions of me, plus knowing when I need to keep things to myself. I wrote a short piece on this on She Explores: http://www.she-explores.com/features/blogging-and-insecurity All the best to you with this challenge! :)

  • Reply
    Laura
    August 16, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    Great blog post Erin! I recently moved to Colorado from NYC and started a new blog + instagram to keep me busy and also to document my brand new life. Reading this is really great inspiration and gives me hope that one day I too can make by blog a steady part-time job. Thank you so much for this post!

    http://newdenizen.com

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 18, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Laura and congrats on the move! I truly believe there is room for everyone in any industry – I hope you continue doing it for as long as you are passionate about it!

  • Reply
    Madi
    August 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Hey Erin,
    first off, your blog and your words are so beautiful and encouraging to someone like me. I started my own blog about a year and half ago for a school project. I am just now getting into being consistent with it and taking it to new heights. If you have the time, I would love some advice on how to make it better. Mostly, what platform should I be using to launch properly? I have been using Wix, which is great, but I am looking to have my own domain with it. Let me know!

    blessings,
    Madi

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 22, 2016 at 8:18 pm

      Hey Madi! Thanks so much and congrats on the blog. I am hosted on 1&1 but I hear bluehost is also good. I recommend WordPress, which is what my site is hosted on (and has always been hosted on). I started out with a free theme, then later purchased one on ThemeForest. Hope that helps! xo

  • Reply
    Hayley
    August 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Hello, Erin!

    I just want to let you know how much I LOVE reading your blog. Everything that you say is so open and vulnerable – I would say you have done a great job of letting go of caring what other people think of you! You are inspiring. I began my blog a year ago this month, and I think I, too, need to work on vulnerability and reading what people want to write. It’s the how-to’s and the what-to-do’s that are easy. Thanks for the encouragement!

    Love,
    Hayley

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      August 29, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Thank you so much Hayley! Congratulations on your blog– just starting can be a huge challenge. So thrilled to hear you have been following along, I really appreciate the support! Love!! xo

  • Reply
    Samantha Hager
    December 4, 2016 at 11:19 am

    First off I love your work it continually inspired me! I guess I’m confused though about blogs vs. Websites. I love your blog but it seems more like a website to me. It’s easy to use and find articles I like/info. So my question is, is this a blog or a website or both? I’m looking to start a blog or website on WordPress and am not sure which to choose!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 6, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Hey Samantha! Thanks so much! I guess blog and website are kind of interchangeable. I identify this website as a blog because it’s where I post my thoughts, but I also identify as a writer. I think it can be both.

  • Reply
    Tarin
    December 27, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Great read! I have been blogging on and off for years, really on and off though…like mostly off, consistency tends to be a hard thing for me with anything these past few years! And I think it’s because, like you’ve said, I feel like everything I have to say has been said, or will be said, so there is really no place for me to say it. However months back I read a she-explores article with a quote from you: “We so easily forget that we are the only ones who truly know our stories, because we have lived them, and they are as unique as we are. Your story, no matter what medium you choose to share it in, will reach someone. Eventually, someone will show you how hard it hit them.” I keep that on a sticky note on the desktop of my computer to remind me everyday that what I have to say is different from every one else in one way or another. Still working on the consistency thing, but your articles give me inspiration, and that’s a start, so thank you!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      December 29, 2016 at 9:03 am

      Thank you Tarin! That honestly gave me chills. I’m so glad it’s helpful. Keep going, keep pushing– what you have to say is valuable! xo

  • Reply
    Cayla
    June 8, 2017 at 9:50 am

    LOVED this Erin! I often find my self stuck desperately working towards opportunities (read: validation) to share my writing on some other blog. It feels less vulnerable when its not on my own website. But whats really happening is I sit and wait around trying to share content through someone else’s channels because I want the validation, the YES I am good enough for other people to care. Instead of just doing it for myself, and sharing my voice and standing proudly behind it. #2 resonates with me the most because of this–I just need to get over it and hit publish, people will judge me either way and its none of my business.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      July 19, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      Thanks Cayla :) Reality is that other people will care about your work regardless of what platform it happens to be on. Similarly, people will judge your work regardless of the platform too– and you are right, it is absolutely none of your business! xo

  • Reply
    Diana
    June 15, 2017 at 10:03 am

    This was such a great post, and I think you worded it perfectly. If you don’t love it, you will eventually ditch it. The main reason I continue blogging is because I’m so passionate about writing and photography, I absolutely love what I do. Knowing that your advice and help may reach even just one person is such a rewarding feeling. Keep up the truthful, genuine posts Erin, they’re so inspiring!

    http://mylovelierdays.com

  • Reply
    Emily Jensen
    September 14, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Really enjoyed hearing your podcast on she explores this morning then reading this post. As a newish blogger and someone trying to find the right path for tgis point in my life, I appreciate your advice :)

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