Should you really blog these days? Five years of active blogging and what they brought

Like many ‘cool’ things in life, blogging has this unbelievable veil of attractivity and immense freedom. In fact, nowadays the trend that seems to prevail is that if you don’t blog you are probably crazy because by the looks of it everybody should blog, right? I am also sure that most of the aspiring bloggers, like me, for example, have fallen into the trap because they relied way too much on the abundance of overwhelmingly encouraging information online. So, after almost five years of Travelmishmashing, I am now offering a perspective that so many bloggers out there don’t. Ready? Let’s dive in!

If I can do it, so can you!

Let me start by getting one of the worst blogging cliches out of the way. Many of the full-time bloggers are incredible hypocrites and skilful liars doing a really good job at convincing you that blogging is a breeze. Just start a blog, keep writing and then the money will roll in, eventually.

Their mantra is If I can do it, so can you! But can you really?

Well, starting a blog itself really isn’t that difficult and I can honestly tell you that if I can do it, so can you (pun totally intended). But making money out of it? Holy mishmash, that’s an entirely different matter! People say this about absolutely everything. ‘I could write too, you know!’ Well, of course you could! Everyone could do it. Almost everyone. The trick is that only some get down to it and a tiny fraction from those becomes successful with it.

Forget the glamour

The ugly truth

Sadly, what many successful bloggers say about the ease of blogging is not true. You see, it’s blogger’s work to sell if they are to be successful. This is what blogging is about. Selling a product, an idea, anything really to boost your profile. Most of them will spread this nonsense, posting photos of themselves stretched out in the hammock on a beautiful beach typing on a fancy laptop, making you believe that blogging is just a quick buck idea where you’ll have lots of fun, be independent, free, and successful, escaping the 9 to 5. Some will be reasonable enough to admit that it takes time to monetize your blog but if you do, returns can be insanely high.

How high though?

That can definitely work for some, but it won’t be as glamorous as it sounds. This is for sure. Blogging like any other pursuit aimed at generating profit is work. Hard work. So, before you delve into it with all the strings attached, here are my figures. In 5 years of blogging and about 50 blog posts I currently have a little over 100 subscribed readers. To add insult to the injury, only a fraction of those are active, and this is what my blog has earned so far – a whopping 0$. The ugly truth is that aside from the fact that I haven’t made a dime, it costs me quite a lot of money. Smart, huh?

What for?

Logically you might therefore wonder why I keep at it if it’s not financially successful. Well, I guess that what I said in my first post on Travel Mishmash is true after all. I am passionate about writing and so instead of a money-making vehicle and a side hustle that rocks, my blog has become a journal and a personal space that I’ve enjoyed cultivating. The satisfaction this has brought also means that I don’t mind paying for it. For now. Though, truth be told, I might need to explore cheaper options.

If you are thinking about blogging, perhaps start with using free platforms to see if you are cut out for that.

 

Lovely vista and fat bank account

Think business from the start

The piece of advice above, however, clashes with another widely accepted truth about blogging.

If you’re starting a blog to make money, then you should treat it as a business from day 1.

This is where I failed too because I essentially launched Travel Mishmash for the love of writing, photography and travel and only entertained the thought of potential income as a secondary one. I had the let’s see approach which really isn’t great. Coupled with a not so business-like personality

I am a blogging disaster at its best.

Flinging paint on the wall

Based on Chris Dreyer, a SEO expert offering services to lawyers, I am ‘just kind of flinging paint at the wall‘. Meaning I run a blog aimed at no particular niche, targeting no particular customers, offering no particular services. In other words, from a marketing point of view, I am basically practising the worst blogging strategy out there. And you know what’s even worse? I am fully aware, and I actually don’t care! Or maybe it’s the best thing after all?

Be a drop in the ocean

The sick side hustle culture

Of course, originally, I bought into the naïve idea of blogging and thought that the money will somehow, out of thin air, generate itself. It’s an easy trap to fall into because the online space is filled with hundreds of successful side hustle stories. ‘This 400$ hustle now brings six figures!’ or ‘She makes 50,000$ from her bedroom!’ and loads of similarly enticing stories.

I honestly believe this is possible,

but I don’t think it’s possible for everyone. Today, we are constantly bombarded by the success stories. Everyone out there tells you to do more, be more, create more and work more. But do you really have what it takes?

Can you sacrifice your well-being for this? 

Knowledge alone won’t do the trick

Technically and practically are two different things

I will use Chris Dreyer again – you can study all you want but if you don’t apply this knowledge, it is practically useless. Or, to put it more mildly, it is idle. I am a great example of this. When it comes to knowledge, I would say I am really far. I have read so much about blogging, affiliate marketing, monetizing a blog and all that jazz that if theory turned into cash, I would be rich by now! Now I even know quite a lot about niching. Technically, I am perfectly prepared. But the practical side of it? The application? I guess by now you know where I stand since I already revealed my success in numbers.

Trying to figure out the blogging conundrum

What it really takes

So let me try to paint a realistic picture. To turn your blog into cash you’ll need to first generate a lot of content. Mind you, quality content of course so that you attract many readers. Now if you think that content only relies on writing, you are fooling yourself. You need to do research, find visual material, draft, edit, redraft and so on and keep posting regularly. The more, the better, as this helps with Google ranking. In the meantime, you’ll need to become a SEO expert to drive audience because without a proper SEO strategy you are just again

fumbling in the darkness of the online space without the lights on.

If your blog doesn’t rank high, don’t expect miracles in the form of huge audience either. I don’t even want to know how low my blog ranks.

Are you still here?

Once you’ve figured all the above, you’ll need to engage with other bloggers too and build a community. In other words, you’ll need to make yourself known, contribute, share, participate and be out there. Then, you might also need a social media account to promote your blog. That practically means creating another content strategy – one for your blog and one for the social media account. This means figuring out content, editing content and all things online related. Simply, get ready for a steep learning curve. In addition, with merciless algorithms and fierce competition, as every Tom, Dick and Harry is a photographer or a videographer nowadays, good luck!

You can’t see all it takes at first

Get ready to turn into an online zombie

But even you somehow manage to get through this unbelievable mess, you are still barely scratching the surface.

The list goes on.

You will need an emailing list to send regular newsletters to your audience (again, something to do with reach and ranking), offer freebies or, even better, create a product (more of them, if possible), ideally for free at first (e.g. a downloadable guide) and explore ways of affiliate marketing. This means selling products on your website and gaining commission. It would be good, if by now you had found your niche too. Are you still here? Good, if I were you, I would have left already. Want more? Here it is.

Niching Up

If all this is not enough let’s add even more. The guy Chris Dreyer that I quote a lot here is the author of Niching Up which is the first material I have come across in 5 years that was honest about this whole blogging business. Of course, that’s because until then I relied solely on the internet and never read a proper book about online business. You see, most sites advertise blogging as a profitable side hustle that is easy to launch and manage.

Just find your niche and that’s it!

I am really laughing here. Firstly, at my stupidity when I believed that myself too. And secondly at the incredible degree of superficiality. Any idea why? Well, it’s simple – finding a niche is a long process that will take most likely years and lots of failures, fresh starts, and rebranding.

Would you like to try plumbing?

Even if you are unbelievably smart and hard-working it takes time. A lot of it! Or are you expecting that you could spring up one bright day and suddenly figure out ‘I am going to sell plumbing valves!’? I doubt it. Although, you could do that and all your life from that point on would be one huge plumbing valve because if you want to be successful with plumbing valves, you simply can’t even think of switching to something else. At least not initially. After all, switching niches in a way reminds me of switching careers. It’s a helluva ride.

Are you still reading? That’s great as you probably really don’t want to start a blog!

Time is money

Is that what you want?

So now try to translate all the dos and don’ts that I have written above into time. For example, ‘create a product’ are three words that you’ll probably read in under a second.

But have you got any idea how much time that will take if you were to materialise it?

And again, we talk quality stuff. And if not quality then it must be somehow useful at least to a small portion of your audience. Chris Dreyer says his first website was a shitty one, but he could never replicate the same success with any other website that came after that. Until he started niching in SEO for lawyers. Chris’ first money making site was called ‘Losethedoublechin’. He claims it was a terrible site but an awesome idea. Excellent niche that brought money. Well. I don’t have a double chin but even if I had I guess it takes a good deal of skills to make something like this work. Chris, on top of his IT skills is also a nerd who loves maths and is good at becoming an expert at anything. So, if he figured out things out, that’s also because he spent hours learning, calculating risks, and applying knowledge. What about you? Can you do that?

Do the real math. Seriously do it!

Now stop for a moment and think – do you have any real idea how much time, effort and energy this will all require from you? Saying it’s a lot of work is clearly an understatement and if someone claims they can do this as a side hustle, they are either exceptionally talented, business oriented, IT skilled, sleep resistant or all of these combined.

I personally don’t think it’s possible unless you want to push yourself to exhaustion.

It also means that you will need to be glued to your phone and laptop practically non-stop and if not, then you will need to be chasing content, so you have photos (though you could buy them too) and some experiences to write about. Frankly, this is a full-time job and much more. Therefore, before you start a blog to make money, be sure that you don’t mind going down the rabbit hole of the internet because it won’t be as easy as they say.

Your relationship with the online world matters

I have personally made it my mission to disconnect. You won’t see me with my phone in public. In fact, even much at home. I mean there are exceptions. Sometimes I need to write an article, like this one, or plan a trip, or find a piece of information. So obviously phone is the go-to device. But that’s it. Generally speaking, I try to avoid my smart phone as much as possible as I don’t want to become just another drop in the vast ocean of dumb looking, disengaged faces of doomscrollers. I have even become mildly allergic to being surrounded by doomscrollers. Therefore, it is clear to me. With this attitude I don’t seem to be cut out for monetizing anything online. By now you surely understand that if you want to make anything online nowadays work, it means being online and connected basically all the time.

AI

Of course, most of my above text might soon become obsolete.

Correction – It already is obsolete.

Holy mishmash, I am so behind! Nowadays with AI you can create posts and technically products too within seconds and use the remaining time to focus on generating income. It’s already happening. Bloggers and YouTubers are not only creating content and videos, but they also heavily advertise bulletproof (or so they believe) strategies for using ChatGTP to earn money. That leads me to one thought -as a blogger

I am indeed colossally screwed.

Firstly, for not having the business acumen to monetize myself and secondly for actually enjoying the whole process of writing and creating and therefore not being able to leave that to the GTP.

Forget about sleeping

Impressive results

I mean AI can create awesome stuff. Reid Hoffman’s book Impromptu is really full of examples of brilliant GTP4 results. It’s just that they are not yours. Reid claims that if you use GTP4 correctly, you can become more creative and innovative and

especially more productive.

For example, by asking smart questions and combining the results GTP4 gives you in a new, unusual way. He might be right. The thing is bloody smart as it can retrieve, organise and select data from the whole online space in nanoseconds. But my concern remains. Are these ideas yours or not? And does it matter? Are you the creator and is your brain generating something? Or are you just adapting artificially created information?

To hit it big one day you will need to be more than 100 times as good as what is out there today

Beat them

It’s not only the AI though. Alysia Edith Silberg, the author of Unemployable, a terrific book about a journey from rags to riches, aptly points out that to hit it big one day you will need to be more than 100 times as good as what is out today. And since things are developing so fast, this number is only going to exponentially increase.

Of course, as a blogger you don’t need to hit it big.

You might just want to make a living or do it as a side hustle, as is often advertised. But that means beating tens of thousands of successful bloggers in their game and cutting through the noise quicker than anyone. I agree with Alysia on this one but what I don’t like about this book is that it is selling the concept of 24/7 work scenario where to become successful, i.e. beat everyone else, you will need to sacrifice your well-being. At least temporarily. Sleep less, create more, do more, be relentless. It’s a cut-throat competition so you’ll need to compete whether you like it or not.

Accelerate, accelerate, progress at a rapid rate, but beware, in the rush, sometimes we meet our fate. ChatGPT 

Increased creativity, innovation and productivity – the new prison

What is even more worrying about AI is the fact that the big IT gurus promise us significant improvements in many areas. From education to medicine to any field out there you can imagine. Well, really? Weren’t washing machines, dishwashers, TVs, walkie-talkies and ultimately mobile phones promising the same thing? And look what happened. For many people life is getting worse. This sick culture of doing more, increasing output, working more, earning more, becoming better.

How far can that go?

Wouldn’t say it better

Some development is certainly great and useful but I am not so sure about AI’s positive impact on humans and their work. I can imagine a teacher with suffocating amounts of marking using AI. I can imagine AI saving lives in diagnosing early stages of diseases. But I can’t imagine anything good coming out of AI if it is used by the majority. Look how they are handling mobile phones. Do you really think that they will suddenly become smart and use AI for all the good things? For example philanthropy or humanity-encouraging purposes? Some may and will. But those without the adequate know-how and capital for sure won’t. Most people, as we’ve seen with social media, will use AI selfishly and mindlessly. That’s for sure.

Does that mean that with AI I don’t need to read, write, or think anymore? How awesome!

Going back, Slowing down

I personally feel that the development is too fast, and we humans are not matching it up. In fact, we are becoming more detached, isolated, and essentially dumber. The damage can be already seen in technologically highly advanced countries such as South Korea or Japan where the hunt for increased productivity has created highly robotic and homogenous societies where your life is for the most part prescribed by societal conventions. In Japan, if you can’t match it, you may become a hikikomori, or worse karoshi.

It is not a coincidence that suicide rates in these countries are so high.

As someone who is largely trying to educate themselves and cultivate mindfulness as well as other mentally beneficial practices I doubt increasing exposure to technology, even if it’s as smart as AI, is what I need. And I don’t think it’s what the world needs either. I feel that instead we should learn to return to certain practisess of our anscestors and be taught to learn to slow down.

Unplugging

In fact, I believe that soon there will be even more people who will seek help of psychology and psychiatry as they dive deeper into the realms of the online world and realise that

their brains and emotions have simply atrophied.

All the unpleasant and dangerous aspects of the online world will become even more burdensome. And I see that more and more people in fact try to disconnect from the system. Ideas for unplugging start emerging and it seems to me that many people seek to disconnect, leading alternative, off-grid lifestyles. Hopefully, something of a reverse trend is developing as well. Hopefully, we will see more of this. It may even become the new trend!

Fast, fast, fast, technology moves at a lightning blast. ChatGPT

How do you like the rhymes I created with ChatGPT? They are cute, huh? I love them. But I didn’t think of them. I wish I could say they are mine, but they are not. Also, I think they would sound better with a real name to them. Call me old-fashioned, call me old-school but I guess I refuse to give in anyway. For the time being . . .

Motivation matters

Question your motivation

My principal belief is that if money is the primary motivation in your pursuits, you are pretty much screwed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with monezing your skills and passions. On the contrary. It seems to be the way to go and I have done this in my career as a teacher.

But it tends to work the other way round.

First you are truly passionate about something. So passionate that you are willing to invest the time and money into developing that passion, no matter how insignificant or small the contributions are. Only then, as you progress, can you shape certain skills and find out whether they can truly be monetized or not. Unless of course making money is your passion but then you probably shouldn’t blog and just get into investment.

Don’t listen to other people. Most of them have no idea what they are doing

Do it your way

You see, most people will be quick to tell you what to do and how to do it. ‘Yes, and then you could have a YouTube channel too!’, they would say when I told them about my blog. Well, it’s crystal clear that I couldn’t. I suck at taking videos. Which is only logical because I don’t like taking videos. And I hate reels on Instagram more than anything. How a person like me could possibly become a YouTuber is therefore beyond my grasp.

The point I am making is that people, especially amateurs, had been, have been and always will be spreading nonsense.

Without knowing you and your skills or even character they will make recommendations about your life, career, or future path. I say amateurs need to be silenced and this can be done by not listening to them and essentially listening only to yourself or someone who really knows the ropes and is honest enough to share that without hidden agendas. But that means skipping the superficial and reading quality stuff. This again takes time.

Do you really think that highly successful people would reveal their money-making strategy so easily to everyone out there?

So should you do more? Should you blog?

As with everything, it really depends. Personally, I am immensely grateful to be a teacher as this too is my passion. You know what they say.

Find three hobbies you love: one that makes you money, one that keeps you in shape and one to be creative.

Based on this life wisdom I guess I have done relatively well. But I feel incredibly humbled and blessed too because it is my passion for languages which led me to where I am today. Without venturing out, exploring, being restless and trying different things and failing multiple times I wouldn’t have understood that teaching is my superpower that I need to nurture because this is what essentially provides me with everything that I have ever dreamt of. This understanding is liberating and powerful, but it took long years to come to that. Short cuts really do not exist.

So why don’t you make extra cash on teaching?

Diversity is key

Of course knowing my superpower – teaching – offers a great potential. I can almost hear you say, so

why not do this as a side hustle or monetize it beyond your full-time job?

True! It could work. I am an expert by now, finding a niche wouldn’t be difficult at all and neither creating a product would. It seems that the best money-making idea is just right under my nose. But I don’t think I can go down that path. That’s the paradox of mine. You see, I show my passion for teaching at work. When I come home, I don’t want to think about my work. Instead I like to nurture my other interests. As a polyglot, an amateur photographer, an avid reader, an aspiring writer, a keen culture explorer and a life enthusiast

I really love to nurture the diversity.

I also need to find a balance in everything. This is what essentially makes me happy. If I started blogging about teaching or English as a side hustle, I would need to do all that I described above. Potentially, I could amplify my passion exponentially to my success or I could also become sick of it. You never know until you try. So, for now I am putting the idea on the back burner and will enjoy cultivating myself while pursuing endevours that make me happy.

The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. Howard Roark

Connect with true biorythms

Like Howard Roark

Based on my new hero and also a secret crush Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, who created only for himself, I too blog for myself.

I write what I want, when I want, how I want. 

Sometimes I question the meaning of my own actions too. I totally do. That is especially because I feel that if I hadn’t started the blog, I would be free from the pressure to write and create. I would have no financial obligation and I would have time for other things that I like doing too. But I console myself that creation is indeed an incredible power any human being can demonstrate and if nothing else I am training my brain, my skills and everything that I once claimed I was so good at.

Do I like to write every day? Hell no! Do I always enjoy the process? Oh gosh, absolutely not! Do I love seeing the results? Hell yeah!

However bad or mediocre some of them might be, they are still a trace of hard work and passion. Not for money but just for the sheer beauty of satisfaction brought about by creation. This may change in time but until then Travel Mishmash hopes to continue creating and perhaps inspiring some of you to pursue your endeavours.

The ugly truth again

The worst realisation, however, was that once I essentially thought I wanted to write for people, I realised how collosally wrong I was. I mean yes, I would like to have readers. But let’s be honest here. Do I bring some extraordinary value to the outside world for which they are forever grateful to my blog? It hurts but I am willing to admit that I probably don’t. And that’s fine I guess.

Cultivate yourself

Staying positive

After all this pretty self-deprecating outpour of how I suck at blogging as a side hustle I still think it’s bloody cool that I have kept going, I keep writing. Putting stuff out there. And I know that there are some people who might now and again lose themselves in them too. Through all this process I realised, however, that

while it is nurturing my passions it is also a minor burden.

Especially since I am practising a simple lifestyle and try to become as minimalistic as possible. This involves parting with possessions and paid subscriptions. So, I often try to picture my life without my blog. I wouldn’t need to sit down and write, select, and edit photos. I would be free from all this. But then I quickly stop myself right there and think how sad and empty it would feel without Travel Mishmash. Instead of ‘business’ I remember once calling it my baby. It is growing and developing and perhaps it might be unwise to abandon it right now. So, let’s see what the future brings.

 

Hopefully, I have been able to shed some light on blogging. While I haven’t really become successful in the usual sense it doesn’t mean the same would go for you. Just be aware of the pitfalls, think about your goals and if you think you have all it takes, then dive in! And if not, then perhaps don’t. After all, giving it a shot never hurts. Nobody says you need to pursue it forever.

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