I started my first blog way back in 2005. I was 15 ok. I know… Oh boy. I was weird. The blog doesn’t make any sense, so don’t worry.

I then left things for a bit, but only seriously start blogging again in 2008, with Niel Default (old personal blog) & Twindie.net. Both weren’t really focused on anything, however Twindie.net became this weird humour blog, which joked about blogs and itself. The most popular post is 10 Oddly Specific Things to Like on Facebook. I made those pages up. There is no relevance in there, yet people still liked them. I still can’t believe it.

445 people like making up voices in their heads for a lamp? WHAT!?

In fact, I won’t mind picking Twindie.net up again, because the humour is just my kind of humour. Heh. See what I did there?

Anyway, after that came Confused Laowai, which is the first serious niche blog I’ve written and by far the most successful. It has close to 300 subscribers now. Some other blogs I started were Social Smocial (think Twindie.net but just social media humour) & now recently the Polyglot Link Blog among many others blogs in hibernation.

After almost 5 years of “serious” blogging, here’s some things I learned.

 1) You build it and they will come. Ain't that cute.

But it’s wrong!

Seriously. This is a big lie. So many blogs just get lost in the big information highway. You have to talk about your blog. You have to engage other bloggers. You have to an active social media presence.

Think about it in the traditional soap box way. You can shout all you want, but you need people to listen to you & that means going to listen to other people shout on soap boxes.

2) Focus your blog. Dammit.

So many bloggers start with an idea of ‘just’ blogging.

Hey, like I can write my thoughts & stuff. Cool and people can see it.

That’s fine. But, know that you won’t get a following or interest unless you focus.

Few people will get a following based on who they are. People will start following you because of your topic. Maybe later you can become a blogger socialite. That will be cool though. Then you can talk about everything as long you’re still interesting.

You can be like that guy who knows how to play every song on guitar and get all the chicks.

3) Consuming leads to creation

Before I started blogging, I was passive in my consumption of media and my experiences.

Now I want to to share it and create digital artifacts about these experiences. It makes me feel productive, but also like I’m not wasting my time in my own head. Time & time again I ask myself, when I watched something, or listened to a song, can I share this on my blog or tweet about it?

In fact, I almost want to create a blog for all my passions in life. I would need more time though.

4) You'll never be happy with your blog design

Hi, my name is Niel and I have an addiction.

I’ve gone through so many iterations of themes and themes and themes. Look at Confused Laowai for instance:

NB: I just used Wordpress’ live preview with my current design, so things might look a bit funky.

2009 - 2011 (Pre-built theme)

2011 - Early 2012 (Pre-built theme again. Sidebar seems to missing here?)

Now (Own design)

Even the current design has gone through small changes itself, like changing fonts & backgrounds. When my girlfriend asks me what I’m doing, I say, “Busy redesigning Confused Laowai/Social Mandarin/Personal Site/Polyglot Link”.

She responded yesterday saying, “No wonder people think you are confused with Confused Laowai, ‘cause you keep changing the site design”.

5) Don't expect money

Blogging isn’t lucrative. Don’t expect people to click on ads. Don’t expect the world to herald you as the next blogging genius.

But, you can make money, but with all things be realistic and patient. Blogging takes time & effort for it to produce an income. I pay my hosting & domain names with blogging… perhaps one or two extra beers at the bar. But that’s it.

If I keep going, maybe I’ll be buying myself a yacht soon. Oh… wait. See there I go again!

6) Blogging is rewarding & fun

This one caught me. In the beginning I had big dreams: money, fame and book deals.

I got none of that, but instead I got: interaction, rewards & self-development. Yeah, I know, I sound like some life guru. But honestly, especially with Confused Laowai, I have learned that writing blogs not only helped me improve myself (Chinese in this case), but those of others.

I’ve met some great people online, and hopefully I’ll meet them in person in the future. I have gained great insight into a community & learned a lot from other others.

For me the biggest reward is when they tell me that they really enjoy my blog & that it helps them. I never knew that could happen.

7) You'll get obsessed

By reaction to point 6, I really get obsessed sometimes with blogging. I read things over & over. I can’t go to sleep, because I get blog ideas. I have notepads, to self-sent emails & numerous Google docs with blog post ideas. (Yeah I should just get Evernote).

I’m constantly trying to analyze other blog posts and what makes them great. Besides that I’m always on the hunt for new blogs in the niche that I blog. That’s why I created Polyglot Link, ‘cause I want to make it easier, but also store all the blogs I know in one place. Makes me sleep better at night.

But with obsession comes passion. If you want to make it work with your blog, you’ll have to have a passion for it. And that is probably the whole gist of it. If you are passionate it will work.

I almost want to to say to every person out there who is interested creating something, or doing something, or just darn curious about their niche to start a blog.

How long have you been blogging? What have you learned? Leave comments below!