Ever wondered how bloggers like Chiara Ferragni or Aimee Song attract so many devoted readers? While we may not have their looks, we believe with enough practice and the right skills, you too could build your own blogging empire.
We spoke with Paul Mah, one of Asia’s most renowned tech bloggers to find out his journey with blogging, as well as his best tips for starting and improving your blog.
1. What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
Most people think I am based in the office of one of the publications I write for or assume I work from home. It’s neither. I have a desk at a coworking place and I show up there every morning to write.
2. Tell us a little more about what you do?
In a nutshell: I write for publications, I blog, and I create content marketing pieces for brands, predominantly in the IT and tech space. Some of my favorite pieces involve explaining complex technical topics in a way that a non-specialist can understand, such as this: Google’s defense in depth.
3. When and how did you get started with blogging?
Everything started when I was racking my brains to supplement my work income. I chanced upon a blog post looking for someone to write some paid blog pieces. I sent in a couple of sample pieces, the editor liked it and the rest, as they say, was history.
4. How has blogging changed since you started?
Blogging was still relatively niche when I started in 2007, and something only ventured into by publications or individuals. Today, practically every brand out there have a corporate blog, either as part of a content marketing initiative, or to better engage or connect with their customers.
5. How can someone figure out what they should writing about?
You know what they say about how easy it is to write, but how hard it is to write well. All of us are blessed with differing levels of innate talent on that front, though practice does generally make you better – so keep going at it.
Having said that, it would help greatly if you are writing on a topic that you are genuinely passionate about. Don’t simply write about fashion, food or travel because it’s where you figure the money is.
Write about stuff that you love and it won’t seem like it’s so hard after all.
6. How has blogging generated income for you? How has it helped your career?
I have done the odd sponsored piece and there have certainly been clients who found me via my blog.
I do already have a robust portfolio online, considering that I am a ‘professional’ writer in that I get paid by publications and brands to write. So I’m not so sure about its direct impact on my career.
7. What are some common blogging mistakes you’ve seen?
I have seen bloggers posting entire press releases verbatim, with some even attempting to pass it off as their own work. They do so with the mistaken notion that they need to post a certain number of updates per week or per month to come out ahead somehow.
I would argue that the web is inundated with content these days and having unique, quality content is actually far more important to establish your credibility.
8. Which blogging platforms and tools do you recommend?
The most popular one out there now would probably be WordPress. If you are just starting out, I would recommend that you don’t get too hung up with getting the right plugins or themes.
And setting up your own blog from scratch can take a sizeable chunk of time for someone who is relatively tech savvy. It can take days or weeks until you get everything set up properly, and the right themes and plugins installed and configured.
I’ll recommend just going for either a paid offering such as WordPress.com’s blogging platform or a free one as a start. You don’t want to run out of enthusiasm to write by the time you get your blog up.
9. Which blogs do you read or follow?
I’ll be honest, I don’t visit specific websites any more. I pick articles that interest me from curated lists/RSS feeds – and no, it’s not Facebook.
10. What are your best tips for professionals who want to start blogging?
You need to be realistic about the kind of results you can gain overnight. The barrier to blogging is very low, which means anyone who has a broadband connection or smartphone can set up their own blog.
Moreover, your competitors have also been at it for a far longer time than you, which means that even high quality content will take a while to show up on readers’ radar.
Find your niche in terms of what you can offer that someone else can’t, let your personality shine through your writing. Keep hammering at it, and don’t give up.
11. What’s one tip you’d share for improving my blog?
The easiest way to improve your blog is to focus on quality. Write when you have something meaningful or useful to say, and put it across concisely. Regurgitating every other press release or trying to pen an opinion on an issue when you don’t really have one is a sure way to turn readers away.
(This piece was edited by Kwek Jian Qiang.)