4 “New Writer” Traps and How to Avoid Them

  • February 28, 2013 by Guest Writer
  • 67 Comments

This post is by Alden Tan.

I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now and it actually took me that long to come this far. I’ve done over 50 guest posts, have 4,000 subscribers and even managed to earn a bit of affiliate commissions, all on my own.

Impressive? Nah. I’ve made a ton of mistakes. And failed countless times.

If you want more numbers, check this out: I effectively wasted my first 8 months of blogging. I was totally lost.

It’s not that I’m a bad writer. I actually consider myself good and even back in high school, my teachers and friends commended on how good my writing was.

But I was extremely stubborn.

Like most newbies online, I thought starting a blog was the easy way out of an average life; the answer to making lots of money. All you have to do, is write. Right?

Wrong.

Good Writing Isn’t Good Enough

Leave behind whatever you learned in high school or college.

This is blogging, and the blogosphere has a certain standard we need to adhere to if we want to:

  • Add major value
  • Create a direct response

Of course, you may have heard this before.

Now, this isn’t a typical guide on writing well for blogging, but I’m going to provide some essential tips that can help make a difference in your writing and your blog’s future.

Trap #1: Thinking a Picture or Video is Enough

This is where new bloggers post a single picture or YouTube video and call it a post.

Nope, it doesn’t work that way. Sure, the picture is probably super attractive and the video might have millions of views, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to equally convert into readers for you. It wouldn’t even make any form of impact.

Solution: Offer a unique insight. Bring up something that most people may have missed out on.

Share with your readers your personal experience and how it relates to the picture or video. Then, take it a step further and craft a strong message to inspire and create a lasting impact on your readers.

Trap #2: News Reporter Syndrome 

What do I mean by this? It means writing posts that are merely describing something or giving a commentary about some issue.

And then leaving it as that.

Blogging is way more than just writing about something. Even the most flowery adjectives and awesome analogies can only get you so far.

You’ve got to go beyond.

Solution: First off, think externally. Think of what your readers and potential audience are looking for.

Find out what they need help in, then write to solve that problem. Alleviate their pain.

Write epic shit, and then give guided steps that are instant and actionable.

Remember, you’re a blogger out to leave an impact and help people. You’re not back in school writing to be graded on the use of your language.

See how I’m not just stopping at naming about the traps? This is how I add value and literally allow you to have a takeaway.

Trap #3: The “Since the Pros Are Doing It, It Must Be Right” Mentality

Tim Ferriss writes about a variety of stuff, right? He writes about business, marketing and even teaches breakdancing.

It must be okay to write about many different topics then! Hell, you don’t even have to waste your time writing so much since Seth Godin only writes short posts daily.

Nah. Here’s the blunt truth: They can do that. You, as a newbie, can’t.

Solution: Start off with a narrowed topic, niche and focus. You should also define your audience early and decide who you want to write for.

Then write about that, for them only.

It may sound paradoxical, but you’ll grow a lot faster this way. You’ll have more focus and people will take notice of you faster.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

It is only when you’ve mastered your topic and become recognized as an expert that you can broaden your focus and cater to different crowds. By then, you’d have also built an audience who will be eager to listen to what you have to say, delivered bite-sized or epic-sized.

Trap #4: Writing Too Much and Then Too Little

Ahh yes, the evergreen newbie problem of how often they should write.

I was a major victim of this.

I thought more meant better. I once blogged everyday for a couple of weeks. I thought it would produce good results, but it didn’t at all.

After that I wrote too little because other bloggers said not to write so much.

Solution: Only create your best work and keep doing it.

I’m not going to teach you how to schedule your posts or balance the amount you should write.

I believe you should always push yourself to come up with new and great ideas. You have to keep pushing yourself to constantly practice writing.

Do your best work ONLY. When you’ve given your best, you’ll know it, and then you’ll be inspired to write an appropriate amount for your blog and your audience.

There is no excuse for hard work and taking action.

This is how you grow quickly as a blogger. You may be a newbie, but don’t let that label judge you on your degree of awesomeness.

Go Forth and Write, It Isn’t Really That Hard

It isn’t.

Maybe I came down hard on the many things newbie writers do, but it really isn’t that hard.

Follow the solutions I gave above and write out the best content you can when you feel inspired.

Avoid the traps. You’ll not only grow, but also develop your own style. Pretty soon you’d be the one teaching others how to write.

***

What were some of your biggest mistakes when you started writing online? Let us know in the comments below this post.

Alden Tan is a passionate Bboy and a breakdancer. After his dad died, he quit his job to pursue his dream of being a writer. Check out his free report about how to wake up in life and start living the life you want.


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Siegfried February 28, 2013 at 6:24 am

good points Alden!
very often people forget that blogosphere is COMMUNITY and as every community it is made of other blogs and people! so to exist in community you have to create some CONNECTIONS – just writing stuff is not enough

Best Regards!

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:15 am

Hey Siegfried!

That’s true.

If I were to add one more: New bloggers think that it’s hard to get the attention of the big guys up there.

No doubt that they’re very busy people, but they do take the time to actually reply and connect with everybody, literally, 100%. That’s how I got to know Corbett.

Greg Jeffries February 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

Just start writing, like you say you don’t have to be a stellar “copywriter” to create epic content. You’ll get better with time, but you have to start first.

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:16 am

That’s true Greg. The writing itself will help you learn and even create your own style.

I average at 4 posts a week now, 2 at my own blog, and 2 guest posts. It’s always a learning journey, but developing your own style is definitely important.

Billy Murphy February 28, 2013 at 6:49 am

Alden, what was your goal with starting your blog?

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

Hey Bill,

It has always been the same.

To get myself know, write according to my own terms, help people with it and make a living from it.

Both a spiritual and business journey.

Christopher Walker February 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

Great advice Alden. #4 is the one I’ve been trying to dial in. It’s funny because it’s actually come to the point where I get a big, positive response when I release a post about once per week, sometimes even less often, but when I release two posts too closely to each other (within a couple days) the response is mediocre, even if I think the post content is still very high.

Like you’re saying, it seems to be all about predictability and your “best content” together, and not necessarily one or the other.

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:21 am

Hey dude glad to see you here!

Yeah I think when people recommend or give a schedule of sorts, it still misses out on the idea of doing your best work.

That’s why I say, simply keep pushing yourself to write your best work and best content.

I’ve tons of ideas and I come up with them easily (one of my better gifts I must say), I always take note of them instantly on my Evernote app, and then I make sure to write about them weekly, with my best intention and effort.

If ideas can be unlimited, so can be your writing.

Christopher Walker February 28, 2013 at 10:47 am

Yeah that reminds me of what James Altucher says about practicing your idea muscle.

As long as the ideas are flowing there are going to be endless articles!

Ernie Dempsey February 28, 2013 at 7:20 am

Good commentary. The part about impact resonates particularly with me. When you impact someone’s day, it can impact their life. That is stuff they remember, stuff they talk about at the water cooler.
I also enjoyed the things you said about posting schedule. I’ve done weekly posts and monthly posts. Some readers say they want more posts. Others say they want less emails. It’s all about finding that groove that feels right and at the same time delivering only great stuff.
Thanks for sharing this.

Christopher Walker February 28, 2013 at 7:34 am

Yeah Ernie I feel like it’s usually the “less emails” that people are looking for. Everyone loves great stuff but I find too that even when I find a killer blog with lots of epic posts I still get tired of lots of emails after that ‘honeymoon’ period.

Not sure if anyone else feels the same, but it seems like email rhythm is the quickest way to gain or lose readers. Probably because email ends up being the ‘gatekeeper.’

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:30 am

Hey Ernie!

I love that, “stuff they talk about at the water cooler”. The little things eh?

Yeah, write with impact, push yourself, keep coming up with ideas, pretty soon your schedule will be full, but of course, you publish them timely.

With your best work, for the best impact, that’s the timely way to grow.

Ernie Dempsey February 28, 2013 at 8:33 am

Glad to see other people feel the same, Chris. One of the things I am trying is writing a post every other week and only sending one email a month that refers to both posts. This could be a mistake. However, I won’t know until I try it out. Also, it could be dependent heavily on one’s niche or readership needs. Some niches really probably need more emails. People come to my site to see my thoughts on life and to see my books or get new info about upcoming projects. So, I don’t need a weekly newsletter going out.
I guess the lesson is, it depends. lol

Christopher Walker February 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

That actually sounds like potentially a cool idea. I guess depending on what your monthly goals are in terms of traffic or how you normally drive traffic aside from email (social media, etc). I know I personally prefer getting emails with a couple high quality links every now and then over one every couple days with a “click this link right now” feel to it.

Peep Laja on ConversionXL does this 2-3 articles per email every month or so kind of thing and it’s pretty cool. Also, Dukeo has a weekly email with like a ton of interesting articles in it (but obv they have lots of writers) but I still appreciate the “more than one link” approach as a reader.

Idk – I guess it all comes down to just experimenting like you said haha.

Dean Deguara February 28, 2013 at 7:47 am

I’m probably still making mistakes, but I’m beginning to figure it out. I think my topics were to broad initially, but I seem to have found my niche. This month my posts have been featured on two major sites for my niche…but then ran into another problem. They didn’t drive much traffic to my site. So I gained a victory and now have to figure the next step out.

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:32 am

Hey Dean,

Ahh yeah tell me about it. Last year I wrote just to “make people feel better” or “become happier”.

With that, I was blogging about random stuff with zero focus.

That’s okay. It’s learning process. Aim for the big blogs :)

Dean Degaura February 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Thank you… I will! Love your downloadable package called REVIVE. I do a conference in Sacramento called REVIVE.

Sarah Russell February 28, 2013 at 7:53 am

Great tips, Alden! The one that I’d add – and that I still struggle with – is posting regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day (damn Seth Godin for setting the bar so high!), but your readers should know when new content is coming so that they’re able to check back regularly. Letting huge stretches of time pass without updates is one quick way to kill off a promising site!

(Having said that, I’d better go write some more posts to get on a schedule with my own site…)

Thanks for sharing :)

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:39 am

Hey Sarah,

Indeed. That’s why I say to push yourself to come up with your best work.

What I like to do now is simply write 2 posts a week for my blog. One post is an epic one I push myself to write well, giving value, solving a direct problem.

The other post is something that offers a unique insight and a glimpse of my own life.

It’s a good balance for me!

Joy February 28, 2013 at 7:55 am

Hi Alden ,

I have seen many blogs dying just because of writer traps you mentioned in your post. The solutions you have offered are very practical . I will only add one more thing to your list of solutions – Experience. Just keep writing , the more you write the better you will become in dealing with occasional traps

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:13 am

Hey Joy,

Indeed! It’s the practice itself that’ll make the difference, a simple tip that goes ignored unfortunately.

Too many people want the easy way out. Even my own tips are just little additional supplements to what is most important, good writing.

Mike Manciel February 28, 2013 at 8:01 am

Alden,

This is truly a nugget worth chewing on. I am at the point where I am looking to revive a few things with my desire to write so I can relate to your four traps. Keep it up. Mike

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:15 am

No prob Mike!

Yeah it happens. If I were to sum it up, it would be: Push yourself to be as original as you can.

And it’s not that hard, because you’re the only you in this world, and by writing about your real life experience, you can easily come up with something good.

Mike February 28, 2013 at 8:18 am

Alden, it is awesome to see you guest post here! I’m pretty sure I only commit #3– my blog does have a wide range of topics–but I’ve been okay with that because writing on a variety of topics will help me to focus on one or more when the time comes for me to really pounce, but also because that helps me enjoy blogging, which, despite the fact that I’m now making money, remains my primary motivator!

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:45 am

Hey Mike,

Thanks for dropping by!

That’s awesome. Go with it! What’s your blog anyway?

Mike February 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

http://livetheneweconomy.com and I’m always happy to welcome visitors!

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:18 am

Looks great!

Angie Schaffer February 28, 2013 at 8:21 am

Ah, to be a newbie again. When I first started blogging seriously several years ago, I posted every day, thinking that it would drive in tons of traffic and a high rank in the search engines. But it didn’t. I rarely created anything of real value.

I wanted to rebellious and “niche-less”. If I wrote about everything, I would be more interesting. WRONG. All that did was create some serious blogging burnout.

I also had a serious problem with #2, the news reporter syndrome.

Now I am writing something I am truly passionate about (the 1920s and 1930s), and generally only post when I feel that I am going to deliver something unique and of value to my readers. I write a lot about German silent cinema, so I know I am in an extremely small niche there, and what I write about isn’t going to bring in HUGE numbers, but I love it. And I have introduced a lot of people to things that they weren’t aware of before they landed on my blog.

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:29 am

Hey Angie!

That’s awesome man. As long as you love it!

Hmm well I think news reporter syndrome is okay when you blog to entertain people, like many online magazines. They work, but when it comes to actually starting an audience-based business, it’s got to be more than “about”.

Oh and I think everybody posted everyday at some point.

Sapna February 28, 2013 at 8:22 am

HI Alden,

What if the person is not an expert in any of the niche, do you think he should consider opening his blogging shop?

~Sapna

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:48 am

Hey Sapna,

Can you elaborate on “shop”?

Matt Beglinger February 28, 2013 at 8:48 am

Alden, great write up! This resonates perfectly with me. I’ve been blogging for about two months now and can totally relate to these issues you’ve raised. I’ll admit, I came out of the gate loaded for bear with many articles pre-written only to find that as the weeks went by I wasn’t able to keep up with writing consistently. So lots of content up front and then almost a month with no posts. I’m beginning to hit my stride and equilibrium is setting in, thankfully. I’ve recommitted myself to the cause and March will be a great month where I will be launching my Podcast (finally… planned to do that right away as well… that didn’t happen!). My traffic slowed while I wasn’t writing, but now that I’m more consistent it is picking up again. My next step is to begin connecting with other bloggers similar to what you have done. Thanks!

Alden February 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

That’s awesome Matt!

Haha cool. I think there’s no right or wrong, or fixed schedule in blogging for yourself.

Do what’s comfortable, yet don’t mistake comfort for your best work. You have to put in the effort and push yourself to come up with your best work!

With that, you’d surely find your own pacing.

Atom Millionaire February 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

Absolutely right, I have been making mistakes 3 and 4 all this time. Need to keep a schedule.
Adding to Trap 1, post that have an analysis and come out with a conclusion provides deeper impact on the reader as you have done on your post. The main motive of the post is to help the reader and the conclusion or solution gives him satifaction.

Lastly, how to I get my picture to appear on my comments :)

Thanks

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:19 am

Haha thanks for dropping by man.

Indeed. Provide more than just a picture or a video.

Even if you want to let them do the talking, I suggest compiling a WHOLE LOT of them with a compelling headline. Act as the useful resource instead.

Sophie Lizard February 28, 2013 at 11:09 am

Alden, this is brilliant – I wish I’d had your advice a few years ago when I first started blogging. Pretty sure I made all 4 of these mistakes at one time or another, especially #3. I’ll send my newbie blogger friends to read this when they need some starter tips!

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:20 am

Hey Sophie!!! So happy to see you here.

Thanks!

I was in all traps myself haha. And it my was my stubborness for not wanting to learn.

AfricaInside February 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Hi, thanks for the info. I love to write. Part of the reason I started my blog was to have a venue for stories about Africa. But I have come to the conclusion that good writing (for publications) is very different from writing for posts. Writing a post while keeping SEO words etc in mind changes my writing. Does anyone agree?

Alden February 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hey,

Are you inserting keywords on purpose? If you are, that’s not really the way to go itself for you’re writing for Google when you should be writing for humans.

I’m not an SEO expert, but there’s a way to conduct a bit of SEO to be ranked on Google yet not compromising your content and style.

You should look it up. Google is getting smarter anyway.

AfricaInside February 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I used to write and not think of getting noticed by Google at all. Then I read about being a better blogger and started focusing more on using my keywords scattered in my posts. Only then did I see a bigger audience and huge numbers of shares. But it also changed the feel and focus of my writing. From what you are saying it sounds like I need to find that perfect balance.

Alden February 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm

That’s cool.

Yeah find that balance. I’m not an SEO expert, like I said.

But for real, you definitely cannot escape the core fundamental of good content.

Sajan Jacob February 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Hey Alden,

Thanks for this post! I can sure tell you that I’ve been falling into trap 3 and 4 quite a lot recently. You’ve given me the insight to re-evaluate my blog posts to write my best for the right crowd. I realize the idea that blogging should be little building blocks stacked on top of each other is really important to consider when starting out and not many people notice this.

One of my biggest problems is also creating a sense of unity with in my posts but I think that will come with time and practice :) .

Thanks for your help, I really appreciate this post!

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:22 am

No prob man!

Hmm what do you mean by a sense of unity in your posts?

What is it you want to achieve yourself in your writing?

Yep, for sure, building blocks. The practice and experience are definitely needed. There’re many great tips out there and they do work, but they must be placed on top of a strong foundation, which is good writing.

Sharon March 1, 2013 at 6:17 am

Great post! I like how you listed the 4 mistakes and explained in such a detailed way. There are certainly lots of takeaways!

Started blogging 5 months ago, like you said Alden, it isn’t that hard, even though English is not my first language. But I do feel that creating content is not enough, creating a community is equally important. As a total newbie, I do have ideas and can come up useful stuff to write about, but I am also debating if I should continue writing before people start stopping by and grabbing useful info from my site. I am considering to stop writing for a bit and just do some promotion, hopefully to get some feedback from the readers, then focus on solving their problems… Any advice would be much appreciated!

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:24 am

Hey Sharon,

Hmmm I think you should do both at the same time?

You don’t have to write everyday anyway. Write your best stuff, a couple of times a week, something I adhere to myself.

Then yes, you got to promote it.

But again… make sure it’s your best stuff :)

Ani March 3, 2013 at 1:10 am

Unfortunately all points were soooo familiar :)

Alden March 3, 2013 at 6:24 am

Haha in the traps eh?

Ani March 4, 2013 at 6:26 am

yup :( but I am not planning to give up !

Nikki Elledge Brown March 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Thanks for this, Alden!

Since deciding to move to my own domain (which I haven’t set up JUST yet…), I’ve made a practice of being more consistent on my personal (original) blog. Instead of randomly posting three times in one week when the spirit moves me, I’m posting once a week, regardless.

Sounds so simple, but what a difference it has made! I consider this transition time as an opportunity to train my consistency muscles ;)

Quick Q: When it comes to defining a niche – how specific do you think you have to be? For example, I’m building a platform for fabulous women (mostly new moms) based on the stories I tell, but the practical advice will also deal with my personal expertise and pro background: effective communication!

I’d like to incorporate a refreshing spin on communication coaching sprinkled with everyday mom tips and applications. Think that’s focused enough, or should I pick one area to grow first?

Thanks again for sharing your newbie mistakes so the rest of us could learn from them!

Alden March 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Hey Nikki,

Sounds great! Work what is best for yourself too.

I was struggling myself in trying to find out how specific your niche has to be.

I think somewhere in the middle is good, so not too broad (like “making moms happier”) and not too specific such that there’s zero competition. That being said, competition is actually important.

All in all, I also follow this rule: Your niche is you.

So follow your passion, follow what your heart says. You should blog according to what you love and what you’re good at.

Clayton Elliott March 4, 2013 at 8:20 am

Great points Alden! I’m still working to develop my blogging voice and style that is not only interesting and engaging, but provides great value and insights that readers will appreciate and want more of. I’ve always been called a good writer, but good writing and great blogging are not synonymous.

Mostly, I’m guilty of #3 and #4 on this list.

Thanks for sharing your experience-based insights, Alden. Greatly appreciated!

Alden March 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Hey man,

No prob!

Your blogging voice + style = you!

I say always keep it real and be true to yourself, but stick to formats that works so your message doesn’t get lost.

Sapna March 5, 2013 at 4:22 am

HI Alden,

Shop = Blog

Thanks

Sapna

Diane Clark March 6, 2013 at 6:44 am

You made me smile – thank you for this. Like many of other newbies, I am guilty for some of these sins. (okay for most of them). Sometimes it’s pretty hard to understand how readers see what you are writing. This post gives important hints on how to avoid the common traps. Thanks

Alden March 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

No prob! Go for it. Avoid the traps, do your best work, and bam, you’re a real writer.

Jim Liston March 7, 2013 at 4:17 am

Thanks for an interesting article. I’ve started blogging about 8 months ago, and the major mistake that I made was not focusing on a single topic. I spread out my interests into several blogs, and of course I couldn’t keep up with all of them. I currently have 3 blogs and will probably be ok with that amount, but maybe I should cut back to just one.
I have too many interests, what’s your advice?
Thanks,
jim

Alden March 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hey man,

Yeah that’s kind of a lot.

Focus back on one.

More importantly, what’s your blogging goal?

Sheldon Blake March 18, 2013 at 7:09 am

Hey Alden! I am still trying to develop myself as a blogger. I have fallen prey to #3, I follow big sites and because they are doing some stuff are using a certain style I try to incorporate it into what i’m doing.

Thanks for sharing!

Iris Barzen April 19, 2013 at 7:49 am

May I add another newbie mistake: Pitching your audience on too many affiliate products. Unless you really love the 14 affiliate programs you’re trying to sell, don’t do it. And even if you think all of them are life changing, it might be a good idea to be careful with how often you sell. Selling too much and too early are some of the surest ways to piss your audience off.

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