23+ Successful Bloggers Reveal The Biggest Challenges (And Fixes) to Starting a Profitable Blog

23 Successful Bloggers Reveal The Biggest Challenges To Starting a Blog

Every day, tens of thousands of blogs are created by people like you and me. However, most of those people never end up making any money with their blog.

Why?

Because they have unrealistic expectations. When looking at the surface, it seems easy to generate a significant income by blogging. I mean, look at Pat Flynn‘s income reports!

Pat Flynn income

The truth is – making money by blogging is far from easy, and anyone who says otherwise has most likely never tried it out for themselves. It requires a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication and most importantly, time.

The road to success is longer than you’d like, but shorter than you imagine.

In an effort to paint a clearer picture of what it takes to generate income through blogging, I personally reached out to some very successful bloggers and asked them this simple question:

Starting a blog that generates income isn’t easy and requires a tremendous amount of work… Based on your experience, what are the biggest challenges to starting a profitable blog from scratch?

The Contributors

Pictures of our experts

Tor Refsland, Matthew Woodward, Zac Johnson, Hernan Vazquez, Tom Hunt, Gina Horkey, Tyler Cruz, Andy Crestodina, Patrick Coombe, Ryan Biddulph, Ali Luke, Mark Webster, Sharon Gourlay, Dominic Wells, Nate Shivar, Erik Emanuelli, Nicholas Scalice, Brian Lang, Ashley Faulkes, Glen Dimaandal, Mi Mauba, Ron SelaEric Siu, Devesh Sharma

To view a specific response, just click on the name of the blogger!

Tor Refsland

Nowadays it has become a trend that people believe that everyone can take their passion and turn it into a business online. And it’s true. Even a chimpanzee with a VISA card and a laptop can buy a domain name.

However, what most people fail to understand is that creating a blog or website doesn’t mean that you are running a business… at least not a profitable one.

Even though it’s important that you are passionate about your online business, it’s even more important that you can deliver great value that people are not just willing to pay for, but actually paying for.

Long story short, in my first year of blogging I had been featured on 100+ blogs, won several awards and built an email list of about 3000+ people. Sounds kind of cool, right?

It was not. I actually felt like a total fraud. Why? Because my peers and the influencers I knew perceived me as a success, but I knew that I wasn’t earning the money I felt that I should compared to the hard work I had put in.

So what did I do?

I narrowed down my niche and pivoted from productivity to helping people to network with influencers and position their brand so they can attract the right clients. This included the following steps:

1. Narrowing down my niche
2. Finding my unique value proposition (why people should choose me)
3. Positioning my brand
4. Getting coaching clients
5. Building a highly targeted email list and launch my product

You might be thinking, “Okay, Tor. That sounds cool and all that. But did that really work?”

Good question. Judge for yourself. I got testimonials on my blogger outreach skills from big influencers like Evan Carmichael, Yaro Starak, Jon Morrow, Jaime Masters (Tardy) and John Lee Dumas. I built a coaching business from 0 to $3000 per month in less than 3 months. How did I do that? By using blogger outreach to turn cold leads into paying clients.

In 3 months I built a small, but highly targeted email list from scratch on about 840 people. Then I used something I call the “pre-free technique” to create an awesome free course for them, over deliver like crazy, and then sell them a premium course at the end. The results?

I just finished my launch using the pre-free technique, and it resulted in $6000+ in sales.

In addition, I managed to get featured on 158 top blogs in 14 months. This year I am going to be interviewed on the world’s biggest entrepreneur podcast, John Lee Dumas’s EOFire. And I will be featured in a book together with the best bloggers and marketers in the world, including Seth Godin, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan and Yaro Starak.

As Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Are you not making the money you want in your business? Then you need to pivot and make some changes.

Matthew woodward

The biggest challenge to starting a profitable blog from scratch is the sheer amount of time and hard work that is required to get it off the ground. Often people are under the illusion that blogging is a quick and easy way to make money online which couldn’t be further from the truth.

You typically find that people are so blinded by the illusion of riches, they very quickly get demoralized when 6 weeks in they haven’t made a single cent. Instead, it’s better to forget about the money entirely and focus on getting your first 100 subscribers, which will be nothing short of brutal hard work to achieve.

All in all, there is no substitute for hard work and sheer determination.  That is what separates the cream from the crop.

Zac Jonhson

Starting a blog is easy. Running a successful, high-traffic and profitable blog it not. The process of launching and site and making it successful and profitable is something many bloggers have to struggle with. However, the best way to find success with a blog is to make sure you have a proper foundation and focus in place from the beginning. This is something I lay out in detail in this guide and that I will summarize in 3 simple steps below. 1. Choose a very tight niche focus for your site and know your audience
2. Create high-value content that also has a call-to-action within each post
3. Focus on your content promotion once your blog is live with content The area where bloggers continue to struggle with is the monetization, traffic and outreach part. The important thing here to remember is that there are over a billion active sites on the internet, and over 300 million of them are blogs. So, why is your site any different?

If you want to compete in the world of blogging and make money with your site, you need to focus on building high-quality content on your site, that allows for high-quality sites to link back to it. At the end of the day, this is going to determine the success of your site and how it ranks in the search results.

Hernan Vazquez

I think that one of the most important part, and one that many marketers fail to do, is to set up a detailed plan and objectives when it comes to making their blogs work. Questions like:
– “Is this going to be a small niche affiliate website?”
– “Or do I want to turn it into an authority blog?”
– “What is going to be my target audience?”
– “What are their biggest pain points?”
– “How can I better segment my target audience and talk to them more directly?”
– “What are the sales funnels that I’m going to have behind the free content of my blog?”
– “Is there an exit strategy? If so, how much do I need to be making with my blog before selling it?”
All of those questions will help you determine pretty much everything you need to do from scratch. For example, if you’re planning to turn your blog into an authority website, there’s no point in registering a domain like “best-sciatica-creams-reviews.com”, but rather come up with a brand.
This will also help you knowing which tools to get. Should you go for every gadget and tool out there? Or will basic hosting, plugins, and an autoresponder do? What is your initial budget? How much time will you dedicate to your blog per day? Are you doing everything yourself or outsourcing?

Tom Hunt

The biggest challenges to starting a profitable blog are:
 1. Being consistentIn order to receive results, you must commit to creating valuable content over a period of years, not months. Therefore, you need to build a system that enables you to maintain a regular posting schedule with other resources taking on some of the lower $ value tasks that you either don’t enjoy or a not good at (or both!). This system will ensure consistency and ultimately success.
2. Picking a nicheThousands of blogs are started every day. We all have an almost unlimited amount of blogs to read. Therefore, you must select a narrow niche in order to connect effectively with your readership. Don’t just be a fitness blog, be a weightlifting blog for 35-45-year-old women based in the UK.

Gina Horkey

I think that people underestimate that a successful or profitable blog takes time and you need to treat yourself like a paying client, even when you’re not. I.e.

1. Have a high standard for excellence in the content that you put out,
2. Post new, quality content consistently and
3. Lastly, you need to promote the heck out of it!

Writing/publishing is only 10-20% – the other 80-90% involves promoting it to get eyes on your site! Then give those visitors a reason to stick around and come back.

Tyler Cruz

It really depends on your definition of profitable, as technically $5 a month could be profitable… In any case, just as with mostly anything online, monetizing a blog or website is not the challenge. That is the easy part. The hard part is always building a loyal audience.

So how do you do that? Well, for a blog it’s really all about good, refreshing, unique content and post frequency and consistency.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen try to start up blogs over the past decade, all who were extremely optimistic in the beginning, but then give up a few blog posts later when they realize nobody is reading their content.

Try blogging consistently for a year before you decide to pull the plug – if you expect success as a new blogger after only a few weeks, then you’re likely going to fail.

Andy Crestodina

Great question. Let’s break it down…
1. The biggest challenge for building revenue is building traffic
2. The biggest challenge for building traffic is building / promoting content
3. The biggest challenge for building / promoting content is having a clearly defined mission
If you don’t connect all of the dots and begin with the end in mind, you’ll never get the content that drives the traffic that drives the cash. So be strategic. The first step in the process is to create your content marketing mission. Fill in these blanks, write it down and hang it on the wall in front of you.
Purposeful content guide
Now, everything else you do in marketing will focus like a laser on the one thing (purposeful content) that gives visitors a reason to visit. Once you’ve got the visitors, everything else is possible.

Patrick Coombe

This is a great question, starting a profitable blog from scratch is not easy. One of the most important directions I would give someone who is interested in doing this is to find a niche that they are passionate and knowledgeable in. For example, I am really interested in (other than SEO and blogging etc.) PC components, networking, and technology. I enjoy doing this, so naturally writing about it comes rather easy.

Back to your question, one of the biggest challenges is overcoming that initial “hump” of being new. It is really hard to get exposure if you don’t really have a name for yourself and if your blog doesn’t have a lot of authority

With that said, my best advice is to just dive right in there and start blogging. If you don’t have credibility, start by creating some for yourself. This might come in the form of doing a few favors for people or just writing a small eBook.

Now to the income portion of things. There are a few ways to generate income:

– Affiliate sales
– Selling your own products (eBooks, actual products, etc)
– Selling ad space
– Consulting

Just to name a few. You can also use a combination of these methods. Its kind of a catch: you want to create a popular blog that people trust, but people don’t generally trust websites that have tons of affiliate links and lots of ads. So you’ll have to find that sweet spot in the middle. Always be sure to disclose this in your privacy policy or in a note at the bottom of your website.

Other forms of monetization aren’t so obvious. I monetize my blog in more subtle ways. For example, by writing about SEO and internet marketing, a lot of people looking to learn more about the industry visit my website and contact me for consulting. This might come in the form of a quick $150 job or could turn into a massive monthly recurring SEO contract.

But this didn’t happen overnight. It’s very hard in the beginning opening your analytics in the morning and seeing “zero visitors.” Keep at it, blog about quality information and people will come.

Ryan Biddulph

Making money my prime driver was the biggest challenge to creating a profitable blog from scratch. Because money responds to value. Not money. Money flows through people. People will buy your eBooks or hire you – in essence, making your blog profitable – if you provide them with value. But since I obsessed over making money with my blog for many years I was trying to communicate with an inanimate object. Not good. I turned things around by starting from scratch, deleting my old blog to create Blogging From Paradise. Except this time I was armed with invaluable experiences.

I blogged to have fun. My creativity skyrocketed. Made friends with blogging big dawgs. Promoted my blogging success and boosted my profits.  Blog for fun! The value and influential friends and profits flow your way more easily if you blog your fun.

Ali Luke

I think the biggest challenge is giving in to overwhelm. So many bloggers quit after a few weeks, months or even years — potentially not long before they’d have started to see success.
 It can feel like there’s so much to do in order to build a profitable blog. If you’re not a very technical-minded person, it’s easy to procrastinate on that side of things — and if you’re not naturally a writer, then the sheer amount of content you have to produce can seem daunting.
Over the past eight years of blogging, freelancing writing, selling eBooks and developing a membership site, I’ve done a ton of things that I once had no idea how to do! The whole way through, I’ve tried to focus on what I need to learn next — in the early days, that was stuff like “how to buy a domain name”, now it’s stuff like “how to improve retention rates on my membership site”. A dig around on Google will always throw up helpful articles and tutorials.
Just take it step by step. Make sensible, clear, time-bound plans (like writing one post a week and developing one piece of big content every three months) to keep you on track. Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers — they have a different set of skills and life circumstances from you. Just keep moving forward, step by step. And don’t give in to overwhelm.

Mark Webster

The biggest challenge is almost always a lack of focus. New bloggers should focus entirely on activities which will move the needle and generate income. Writing new blog posts, collecting emails, promoting products are all important.
Things such as logo design, page speed optimization, home page design and other such things are not going to move the needle when you are just starting out. They quickly become distractions and new bloggers should not worry about these until they have a large and profitable site. Only then does it make sense to do these 1-2% optimizations.

Sharon

I think the biggest challenge in starting a profitable blog is figuring out the right things to focus on and then staying focused on them. That might sound easy if you have never created a blog, but there are so many different options about how to go about everything that it’s easy to become overwhelmed or to focus on the wrong things.
My recommendation is to always have a strategy – and keep to it! Don’t just play around in the dark but take the time to educate yourself and make educated decisions about everything to do with blogging. Don’t work on any task unless it has a purpose that relates to your goals and strategy.
Most importantly, make sure you are learning from the right people who measure success in the same way as you do. The biggest mistakes I made was following the advice of the wrong people.

Dominic Wells

The biggest challenges to starting a blog from scratch are not knowing exactly what to do. With so many different strategies available, and so many people teaching different methods (most of which actually do work), it can be hard to put your head down and get started.
Paralysis by analysis is the biggest killer of beginners in my mind.

NAte Shivar

Staying consistent & focused on your core audience for a long (1+ years) period of time. Like any other skill, marketing a website takes time to develop. Finding channels, topics and messages that work takes time, and so many people give up right before things could take off.

Erik Emanuelli

When I started blogging, I thought I would be able to reach success without showing my face and telling my name. I was “hiding” behind a nickname. Luckily, I found out just after a couple of months that I was wasting my time. Building your online presence is among the first and most important steps to do when you start a blog from scratch. This includes creating social media profiles, interacting with your audience and creating connections with people inside your market. I find the latter as the first and most imperative thing to do while working online. The relationships you nurture can bring many benefits, such as traffic, knowledge, and mentions – and sometimes, great friendships!

Nicholas Scalice

The biggest challenge with starting a profitable blog from scratch is getting traction early on. I think a lot of this has to do with expectations.
Your brand new blog is not going to start making money overnight. You need to focus on producing high-quality, original content for many months in most cases before you see positive results. So, in many cases, we are our own worst enemies if we approach these types of projects without the correct mindset.
Focus on delivering value, and if you are consistent in your efforts, you will see success.

Brian Lang

From what I’ve seen, one of the best ways to use blogging to generate income is to start with something to sell and use blogging as a means to generate traffic and brand awareness for your business. Companies that focus on what they are selling first seem to make a lot more than on average than people who start blogging first and then figure out what to sell later.

For solo bloggers who want to monetize with advertising or info products, it takes a ton of commitment, dedication and hard work. You have to be committed enough to keep working and not quit. Most people will give up at some point along the way, but it’s the people who work the hardest and keep at it that ultimately make it. But bloggers should definitely put a lot of thought into monetization up front before even getting started.

Ashley Faulkes

There are a lot of ways to make money with a blog or website, but some take a long time (are you prepared to wait) and some are not right for you in the first place.
So, my recommendation is to figure out:
– How urgently you need to make money
– What skills you can bring to the table (and possibly offer as services)
– What interests you the most
It will be a combination of these factors that help bring you to a decision.

Glen Dimaandal

The biggest challenge in my experience is getting an initial set of readers to visit your site. It can be pretty demotivating when you’re pouring your heart and soul into articles that nobody seems to care about.
I found out that having a network of acquaintances and friends of like-minded people can really help. These are the folks who are more likely to form your initial reader base. They’ll also be the ones who’ll spread the word about your blog and share your content on social media.
In the case of my blog, I didn’t have it until I had a lot of friends in the SEO community. Instead of blogging and trying to attract readers, I built a network that demanded me to blog — so I did. These days, my blog drives more than half of the leads that sustain my digital marketing.

Mi Muba

The biggest challenge to start a blog to earn money is clarity, yes clarity. It means you must be fully clear on:
1. What to sell,
2. Who to sell to and
3. How to sell
If you are clear on these three points you can easily start a money blog and earn income with it.
The answer to the first question “What to sell” should be a product or service that is unique and has an attractive price with offering benefits more than its peers available in the market.
The answer to the second question “Who to sell to” is to those who really need a product or service you want to sell and you can access them without much effort.
The third and last question “How to sell” requires creating a sales funnel to first win the trust of your blog readers, then offering them freebies and finally premium products or services to solve their problems permanently.

Ron Sela

You could have unlimited expertise, vigor, or time you have on your hands; nothing guarantees success. In reality, starting a blog that really generates a sizable profit is very difficult and time-consuming. Because these are very real challenges, very few blogs actually make it big and provide creators enough income to use them as a career- and in the end, most bloggers end up throwing in the towel. The biggest problem by far that bloggers have is a lack of an audience to read their blog and comment on their articles: It can be frustrating to wait for blog posts that never come. Instead, try writing comments on other industry leading blogs that other bloggers can appreciate, and they might come to your blog. Then, respond to questions, ask questions and write awesome controversial topics. The second biggest issue that bloggers have is being resistant to advertising and social media marketing: Advertising puts together the pieces that you can’t, giving you viability that you desperately need to make money and build a following. Jump in on social ad platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and get your friends active too. The third biggest issue that bloggers have is when they forget about promoting their agenda or their products, instead getting sidetracked by the features that a blog offers: Your blog must be clear and to the point. This is how you retain viewership. Think about why you’re blogging before you write and post. Plan out your theme, plan out your content, and plan out your topics, and then start working. Believe it or not, blogging, writing, editing, planning, and designing are full-time jobs. Bloggers that make it to the point where they really start making income have a gift, have done their research and haven’t given up (even when success seems impossible).

Eric Siu

The biggest challenge is staying consistent and motivated. Content marketing is a 12-18 month journey to really start to see the needle to move.

Devesh Sharma

@wpkube
http://wpkube.com

Devesh Sharma

It would be to keep writing posts and pouring money for first months, even though you’re not making any money.
In order to build a successful business, you need to put a lot of hard work, even when that site / business is not generating any money.
 
There you have it!
Like most of the contributors mentioned, starting a profitable blog really isn’t easy and requires a lot of work and consistency. If you’re able to consistently produce high-quality content and promote it like crazy, you will eventually find success.
Thanks again to the bloggers who took the time to write these awesome responses!
What are some of the challenges you have run into in the past trying to start a profitable blog?
Gabriel St-Germain

Gabriel St-Germain

Canadian student/affiliate marketer who makes money online. He discovered internet marketing at the age of 16, and has been successful since then (within just 18 months of starting, he had already made over $100,000).
Gabriel St-Germain
  • Great post Gabriel.

    Thanks a lot for including me. I really appreciate it.

    Best,

    Tor

    • Hey Tor,

      My pleasure, thanks for your great response.

      Happy you like the post.

      Cheers!

  • Tom

    BIG RESOURCE!

    I wish I had this when I was starting out, thanks for producing as I know it will inspire many new bloggers over the next few months (and thanks for inviting me to get involved!).

    Just off to share with my Twitter friends…
    Tom

    • Hey Tom,

      Thanks for the kind words. Input from amazing bloggers like you is what makes this post great 🙂

      Cheers!

      Gabriel