Blogs emerged on the Internet as personal diaries where people would publish online their daily activities and personal experiences. As the phenomenon evolved, though, bloggers started to focus on niches, providing services or useful information for readers, blurring the line between blogs and traditional websites.
Nowadays very specialized blogs like TechCrunch or PerezHilton compete directly with mainstream media, and the people behind those ventures arrive to earn tens of thousands of dollars monthly.
Despite those success stories, however, making money through a blog is not a simple task and it will probably take just as much hard work as any other project, be it online or offline.
Below you will find a check list to evaluate whether you have the requisites to become a professional blogger or not. Bear in mind that most of those points can be developed, therefore the list should also work as an action plan to improve your blogging career.
1. Time: the first point on the check list is time, without plenty of it you will find it hard to build a successful blog that generates a good monthly income. Time is important not only for writing content but also for interacting with other bloggers, gathering information, keeping updated and so on. There are bloggers out there managing to generate money despite blogging only for a couple of hours daily (i.e. John Chow), but that is the exception rather than the rule, and most of the times those bloggers already had a lot of online expertise to begin with. If you are planning to earn a full-time income from your blog there is no reason to assume that you will not need to dedicate full-time to its development.
2. Expertise on a topic: apart from having plenty of time to blog you will also need something to blog about, and you must have some expertise around the chosen topic otherwise the blog will not be credible. Do not get me wrong here, you probably will not need a PhD in Physics to blog about “alternative energy sources”, for instance, but you must have a minimum background and you must also be updated with the latest developments on that field.
3. Passion for the topic: even if you know a certain subject inside out you will still need to write about it in a persuasive and engaging way. In simple words, if you are expecting to make money through your writing you better write some damn interesting things! People can feel whether you love what you are writing about or not, and if you do they will be more likely to become loyal readers.
4. Writing skills: are you able to write without grammatical mistakes? Do you have facility to communicate concepts and ideas through words? Those are some questions that you need to answer if you are planning to make a living out of your blog. Some bloggers might get away without outstanding writing skills, but only if the content is really compelling. Do not worry if you are not a Shakespearesque writer, though, as your wiring skills will probably improve naturally along the way.
5. Technical Knowledge: like it or not blogs are based on content management software, which in turn is backed by databases, located on web servers and so on. Hosted blogging solutions (i.e. Blogger or WordPress.com) probably eliminate the need for such technical knowledge, but those platforms do not offer advanced features and they are not completely customizable. If you are planning to create a professional blog you will want to have your own domain name and run it on some paid hosting service, meaning that you will need a basic knowledge of PHP, DNS servers, MySQL (mainly for backup and server transfer issues), scripts, plugins and so on.
6. Blogging Knowledge: apart from the technical knowledge to keep your blog up and running you will also need to understand how the blogosphere is structured and how you can leverage certain features to improve the visibility of your own blog. You will probably need to learn how to use trackbacks, ping services, blog carnivals, social bookmarking sites and the like. Secondly you also want to have a basic knowledge about search engine optimization. Some successful blogs get as much as 50% of their incoming traffic from search engines, so make sure your blog is optimized right from the beginning.
7. Web Design Skills: design plays a very important role on the credibility and success of blogs. Content is surely king but an appealing design will make readers remember your site, it will make it stand out from the crowd. Someone willing to invest money in his blog right from the start could probably outsource this part, but that is not the case with most bloggers. Make sure you study some HTML, CSS and website accessibility.
8. Business/Marketing Knowledge: if your blog is supposed to generate a full-time income you will need to treat it as a business entity. Every successful venture, be it personally or professionally, is based on carefully crafted strategies. Make sure you have goals and action plans for your blog. This will help you to focus your energy and time on important activities. Secondly you also need a basic understanding of marketing and how certain techniques can be used to promote your blog across the Internet.
9. Creativity and Innovative Ideas: are you able to think out of the box? Do you have creative ideas that other people might find interesting? Most professional bloggers were also innovators on their niche. Real value is not created by doing things better but rather by doing things differently. Creativity and innovative ideas will help you to write quality posts, to discover new ways to promote your blog and to find new monetization opportunities.
10. Network of contacts: you know what they say: “It is not about what you know but who you know”. Having a network of online contacts might make the difference between a money making website and a small blog that attracts a hand full of visitors. Contacts include bloggers on your niche, bloggers on complementary niches, web designers, web developers, advertisers and the like. One of the secrets to success is to pursue win-win situations, remember that.