I’ve been blogging for over three years. I’ve always had it in my mind that “someday” I would take it to the next level. “Someday” I would move from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site. “Someday” I would try to make some money off of this thing that I spend so much time on.
For those of you who don’t know, when I say “self-hosted” I mean: I basically rent Internet space from a provider like BlueHost, HostGator, or GoDaddy, so that I can have more freedom to do what I want with my blog. In contrast, most free blogging services, like WordPress.com or Blogger, host your site for you for free, but they set limits on what you can do with your blog. For example: you can’t put ads on your blog and you can only customize the appearance so much. You have to work with what they give you.
After three years as a very happy WordPress.com user, I was definitely feeling antsy to escape some of the limitations. I saw all of the beautiful self-hosted sites and I thought, “That is what I want for One Little Library.”
But I was nervous. Do I know enough about websites to run a self-hosted blog without breaking it? I do have some experience with that, and I’ve messed things up before. Can I afford the hosting fees? Do I have enough time to continue to work on it and improve it?
The thing is, moving to a self-hosted site is an investment. It can cost decent money, and it definitely costs quite a bit of time. I knew that if/when I went self-hosted, I would want to do it right. I know just enough about websites that I have high expectations. And if I was going to invest so much time and money into this, then I would want to be in a place where I have the capacity to really build the blog so I can see returns from it. I needed time, money, and discipline.
And for a long time, I wasn’t sure I had those things.
But then serendipitously I happened to meet someone, who happened to be a blogger, and happened to have gone through exactly what I was going through. His name is Dave Stuart Jr. and he’s a fantastic educator. Dave and I had a phone call, and he asked me straight up, “What are your goals for One Little Library?”
I was a bit flustered because blogging is just a hobby—right?? Sure, it’s something I really love, but no one has ever seriously asked me where I see this whole thing going. I usually say it’s for fun, and people usually accept that and leave it be. They don’t expect me (or anyone!) to be a “professional blogger,” let alone make money off of it, and I haven’t really expected it of myself.
But I shared my dreams for One Little Library with Dave, and he took them seriously. And he made them seem attainable. What I was most worried about was moving my entire blog—my history, all of the comments, all of the different media types, all of my followers—and making money.
The whole “making money blogging” thing is still fuzzy for me—because as of right now I still haven’t made any. But what convinced me to give it a try was that Dave talked about having realistic expectations for the kind of money you’ll make.
He told me not to expect to quit my day job—which is fine, because I love my day job. I’m not trying to make a living off of this. The money I make from One Little Library can be for small, extra expenses. It can pay for date night one week. It can contribute a bit to our savings for a downpayment, or our adoption fund.
For some reason hearing all of this was a huge relief. I think I felt like if I was going to go self-hosted, I needed to devote myself to OLL 24/7 and I had to become a professional blogger. But that’s not true.
And with regards to moving my site, I asked Dave about this as well. He did it all himself, which I was considering because it’s free, but he recommended that I just pay to have someone else do it. The peace of mind that comes from having everything moved properly is well worth the money.
So I did it.
I took the plunge.
I decided that it was time—probably past time. I had enough money to make the investment. I do have enough time to work on it, considering that I’m no longer commuting three hours a day. And I’m a pretty disciplined person when I want to be. (I decided that I do want to be.)
So that’s the start of my journey to take my blog to the next level, to hopefully start making a little bit of money, and to really devote myself to this craft.
In the past few weeks, I feel I’ve already grown so much as a blogger. I learned a lot of technical skills. I’ve found a few mega-bloggers to follow who continually inspire me. I’ve grown in confidence, and I don’t feel quite so shy about saying, “I’m a blogger.”
If you’re wondering about taking your blog to the next level, here’s what I can recommend based on my very limited experience and lots of advice from others:
- Know your limits. What can you afford? What can you handle? How much time do you have?
- Set realistic goals for yourself. How much do you want to make? How much do you want to grow?
- Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Trust yourself. You’re one smart cookie, and you can do this. And if you can’t, you can watch Youtube videos that will teach you.
- If you’re on WordPress.com and you’re thinking of moving to a self-hosted platform using WordPress.org as your content management system, just pay for the WordPress Guided Transfer. It’s cheaper than the competition (trust me, I looked) and they did a fantastic job. I paid for the transfer on a Sunday and it happened the next day. All day long on Monday, I received updates from their “Happiness Engineers” letting me know how things were going, and patiently answering my 1,000 questions. My happiness was certainly engineered.
- Follow some of these amazing mega-bloggers, who do this professionally:
- Join Fizzle. This website provides tons of awesome videos helping you through important lessons for growing your online presence: defining your audience, building your email list, figuring out analytics, writing great content, and others. It’s also a community of online entrepreneurs, so you can read others’ stories and learn from each other. There is a monthly cost, but you can just try it out for one month and see how it goes. (That’s what I’m doing.)
Like I said, I’m just starting out on this crazy train. I’ll be happy to share more of the journey as it comes.