Professional Blogger

How to Bootstrap the Crap Out of Your Blog

It’s all on you.

Everything you’ve got is getting funneled into your blog. Unfortunately what you’ve got right now isn’t much.

You need a graphic designer, a copywriter, an editor, a web designer, and you still need to be creating great content on a regular basis. Every time you turn around, you need “this” or “that” and, the universe having the kind of sense of humor it does, you always need “this” and “that” right now.

So let’s walk through a quick and dirty survival guide to bootstrapping your blog to success when you can’t afford to hire the professionals.

Aim to Triage

Triaging means to separate out the important from the unnecessary. And the question that needs to be always in the back of your mind is “Do I really need this?”

When you’re doing everything, you will be inclined to take on too much.

You’ll want a blog, and a newsletter, and a sales page, and an eBook, and a shopping cart, and and and…But now is not the time to spread out.

Now is the time to focus.

Pick what you really need, the bare bones, and hit it hard. Put all your effort into being great at the stuff that matters and triaging out what doesn’t.

Aim For The Bottom

You’re trying to build your blogging business on a shoestring, now is not the time to get picky.

When I first started blogging back in 2006, I spent months teaching myself HTML, CSS and PHP because I couldn’t afford to hire someone and I was too stubborn to stick with a free, generic WordPress theme. What I should have done was aimed lower with my design expectations, dedicated my time to great content and waited until I could hire a real designer.

As a new blogger, you’re looking around and thinking how great it would be to have a fully customized website for your business that shows off your brand and is optimized to capture customer contacts and convert them into sales right this second. Wouldn’t that be great?

Absolutely. It would also be great to have the money to pay for that, but that’s not where you are right now. For right now, aim for what you can do quickly and easily so you can go back to focusing on the strengths that will grow your business.

Ask yourself what will get you by until you can do better.

Now do that.

Aim For Function, Not Form

Despite what any good designer will tell you, ugly isn’t bad for business.

Pretty is better, sure, but ugly won’t kill you.

Let’s say you need to design an advertisement in Photoshop (a pretty specialized skill). Instead of trying to make something pretty and professional, aim for being clear, not clever.

You’ll waste a lot of time trying to learn to be pretty, when learning to be direct is a lot easier.

Bottom line: get done what needs to be done to fulfill your goals — leave the flourishes to the pros.

Aim For Weakness First

You’re not going to want to do the things you’re not good at and you WILL procrastinate.

You’ll do the writing or the link building – all the tasks you’re good at – leaving you with the designing or coding that will trip you up and hold you back.

Trust me, that’s a rookie mistake, slugger.

Get in there and knock out the crap you don’t want to do, first.

Whether it’s web design or SEO, if you wait until it’s the last thing on your to-do list, it will take forever and you’ll have no incentive to go any faster.

It will be the roadblock that makes you say, “well, I would grow my blog, but this part isn’t ready yet.”

Get it done, aim low, and get back to what you’re good at.

I realize I’m not exactly patting you on the back and telling you everything will be okay, but that’s not what you need right now anyway. Right now you need to get to the point in your business where you can properly expand and grow.

So don’t be put off by advice like “Aim for the Bottom.” Yes, it’s weird not being told to do your best, but if you’re not a professional web designer, why spend the time learning their skill? It took them years to learn and it will take you just as long. Those are years that will be wasted not growing your blog.

Professionals make what they do look easy. That’s why they’re professionals.

You’re a professional blogger now – it’s time to earn that title.

Daniel Roach is a blogger, author, and entrepreneur from Blog to Business. Since 2006 he's built blog after successful blog in a variety of niches, including fitness, health, marketing and even boat building. Click here to watch his Problogging Secrets Video Series. (No email required.)


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{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Laura September 12, 2011, 9:05 am

    Thanks for these tips! I recently started blogging (about 3 months now) and it’s been hard. Impatient is my middle name and I’m wondering why don’t I have a million comments and a billion followers. I too wrongly focused on the unimportant because I thought if my blog looked “just so” then everything would fall into place.

    Have I learned some HTML that I didn’t know before? Yes but I wasted so much time!

    Blogging is about focusing on what’s important. Thanks for reminding me!

    • Daniel Roach September 12, 2011, 9:44 pm

      Glad you got something out it, Laura. Your first three months sound exactly like mine did πŸ™‚

  • Sire September 12, 2011, 6:25 am

    My first mistake was that I spent way too much time looking for the right free theme. Every time I thought I found one I wasted even more time trying to change it to the way I wanted it to look.

    The best thing I did was to go out and buy a professional theme and I’ve never looked back since that day. Now I’m in the process of purchasing the right plugins to free up time so I can concentrate on my content.

    • Daniel Roach September 12, 2011, 9:49 pm

      I can relate to that so much. I spent a lot of my early days as a blogger believing that if my blog looked successful, it would be successful. I was a glorified web designer until I realize very quickly that no one was coming. Things changed drastically when turned my focus to producing content and doing the work that mattered. My blog wasn’t pretty, but it was effective and readers showed their support like never before. Thanks for leaving a comment, Sire, I love hearing other people’s blogging stories.

    • Satrap September 18, 2011, 4:56 pm

      I spent weeks trying to find the right theme and even after I found one, I changed it after a few months.

      That was my first blog ever and I had no clue what was important and what wasn’t. Now, I am staring another site, and I am saving so much time by not wasting time on stuff that doesn’t matter much, at least in the beginning since nobody will even see it. Instead I am focused on creating good content, building backlinks and SEO in general.

  • Alan Tay September 12, 2011, 4:58 am

    One thing I learned from this article is that to aim to do everything even if we have to do it the ugly way. That is quite true because I do have a plan for my blog but I kept delaying because I personally think that if I have more time in the future, I will do a good one. But why not do an ugly one first and grow later? I can have all the basic things there for me to grow my blog πŸ™‚

    • Daniel Roach September 12, 2011, 5:58 am

      That’s the perfect takeaway, Alan. And what so many people never realize (and this goes for more than just blogging) is that growth is faster and easier when you start with something, even something imperfect. Ugliness isn’t the goal, but it shouldn’t be a roadblock either. Get started and do what you can do now, do it well and grow from there. Thanks for reading, Alan, I really appreciate your comment.

  • Charles September 12, 2011, 2:12 am

    Trying to learn everything from the bottom will delay my plans as a blogger. You are right about getting professionals do things such as web design since it would take a lot of my time learning them. Thinking, I have to learn everything is overwhelming. I’ll just have to make sure to learn as many as I can along the process.

    • Daniel Roach September 12, 2011, 5:52 am

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Charles, I’m glad this post resonated with you. Your comment got me thinking; maybe I should have pointed out that it isn’t bad to learn skills like web design or copywriting. I’m glad I know the web design I know, it saves me a lot of time not having to turn to a designer to tweak and fix things. And I enjoy doing it, which is a plus. The real problem is letting that learning process stand in the way of your growth. Learning naturally through the process, like you said, is a great way of going about it – as long as you don’t become the bottleneck to your own success.

  • Robert September 11, 2011, 9:21 am

    Great post Daniel, really motivates you to get up and get on with things. I’ve been putting off doing certain things on my new site for ages, so hopefully this will get me going!

    Thanks again

    • Daniel Roach September 11, 2011, 6:06 pm

      Well, I hope so too! Glad it helped and thanks a lot for leaving a comment πŸ™‚

  • Ricardus September 11, 2011, 5:12 am

    Loved the part when you explained on the triage part and it’s very true. Newbies always wasted their precious time on something which is like out of the box instead of what is inside..

    • Daniel Roach September 11, 2011, 6:09 pm

      As far as I’m concerned 90% of success comes down to being able to triage and willing to knuckle down and do the work. Creativity and a good idea will always take a back seat to someone willing to do the important tasks without putting them off. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment, Ricardus, I appreciate it.

  • Murray Lunn September 11, 2011, 2:34 am

    I couldn’t have said it better. There are far too many bloggers that get caught up in the design portion of their blog along with this sense that “you have to do X, Y, Z” (like building lists from the start). They miss the whole point which is to simply get started and wing it from there. You can read as much as you want but nothing matters until you commit it to mind through experience.

    • Daniel Roach September 11, 2011, 6:15 pm

      Absolutely. Laying that foundation is overlooked so often because too many bloggers get caught up in tactics and tricks. And those tactics do have a place (such as building an email list) but if you build that solid foundation first, they serve to grow you business and not to distract you. Thanks for the comment, Murray!

  • Brian D. Hawkins September 10, 2011, 5:30 pm

    Nice post Daniel, especially the point on procrastinating on doing the things we’re not good at. That is true even for the seasoned blogger. That and the boring, behind the scene tasks. I find it hard to trust someone for outsourcing some things so I guess I save that way too. I would never hire anyone to build links, for example. I just know they’d take the wrong shortcuts and hurt my site more that help it.

    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 9:35 pm

      You make such a good point, Brian. There are certain tasks which, for one reason or another, I wouldn’t outsource and wouldn’t recommend outsourcing. Luckily I think a lot of them fall into the categories of “fundamentals” for growing a blogging business. They do take time to learn, but ultimately they’re an aspect of your business you need to understand fully. Link building is a perfect example of that. I guess the cut-off point would be the tasks that directly effect the growth of your business. Those are worth taking the time to learn. Thanks for leaving a comment, that’s an excellent point.

  • Adrienne September 10, 2011, 3:33 pm

    Great post Daniel, I agree with everyone else.

    As for me, I keep it simple and try not to obsess over what I just am not that great at. If I can continue to crank out good content that will catch my readers attention and keep them coming back for more than I’ve done my job. Keep it simple and outsource the work you just can’t seem to grasp.

    Enjoyed this post and thanks for these tips. I continue to be a work in progress.


    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 5:13 pm

      You’ve got a great mindset about it, Adrienne. You knuckle down and do the real work that gets you results. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the tips!

  • Jane September 10, 2011, 10:52 am

    Awesome insight Daniel. I especially like the part about Triage. That’s quite true that every newbie blogger wastes a lot of time in spreading out and not focusing on what’s really needed.

    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 5:11 pm

      I know I wasted a lot of time like that it held me back for way too long. It’s something we all tend to grow out of, judging by the comments here πŸ™‚ , but hopefully this post helps speed up the process for some readers. Thanks for leaving a comment, Jane, I really appreciate it!

  • Dave Lucas September 10, 2011, 6:53 am

    Daniel, wouldn’t it be easier to simply blog for love of blogging and not worry about all that?

    • Hesham September 10, 2011, 4:09 pm

      Hey Dave,

      Many people blog to for the love of blogging, and because they just blog, and blog for fun.. They are free to do what they like.

      But.. For me, it dosn’t make sense! I blog for business since the first day of blogging!

      Just a personal opinion!

    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 5:02 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Dave. Got to give it to Hesham on this one. It’s great to blog for love if your blog is just a hobby, but if you’re blogging for business, you need more than just passion and that’s what this post is aimed at. Don’t get me wrong though, love of the game is an essential foundation.

  • Ryan Biddulph September 10, 2011, 5:53 am

    Hi Daniel,

    Keen tips!

    Focusing on function, not form, resonates with me. Why spend time on the packaging if the present is not any good? Provide really good, usable content. Stuff helping people in your niche, solving their problems. Share the content in a clear, to the point matter.

    Audiences appreciate directness, and your list size will reflect this level of directness.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!


    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 5:04 pm

      You got it. There’s a place and time to care about form, but it’s after you’ve built a solid foundation. Doing the work has to come first πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment, Ryan!

  • Suresh Khanal September 10, 2011, 1:18 am

    Very true Daniel. Outsourcing the jobs at which you are not good is the best way to grow your business quickly. If you are good at writing content, you should focus on that. Love your suggestion.

    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 1:30 am

      Thanks, Suresh, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Outsourcing is a lesson that I took way too long to learn, and it absolutely held back my progress. Focusing on strengths gets you to your goals faster, hands down. Thanks again for the comment!

  • Ming Jong Tey September 10, 2011, 12:10 am

    Hey Daniel,

    I love the “Aim to Triage”. Focus is the key to succeed. It is extremely important to determine your priority and then only do whatever it helps in your priority. It is easy to get distracted online because there are so much that you can do and diverse. You simply just can’t do it all.


    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 1:11 am

      So true, my friend, so true. Deciding on your objectives and sticking to only what achieves them is the fastest way to success in anything, online or off. Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts, Ming, I appreciate it πŸ™‚

  • Brankica September 9, 2011, 9:48 pm

    Love this post πŸ™‚ I invest money in my blog all the time and sometimes I can’t even catch up with everything I would want to buy, but I have to have a limit. Definitely adding this to tomorrow’s round up, I really hope more people read it, cause everyone keeps wanting more and more and everything without actually sitting down and writing some great content πŸ™‚

    • Daniel Roach September 10, 2011, 1:29 am

      Thanks, Brankica, I appreciate the support πŸ™‚ I know what you mean about people not wanting to sit down and do the work. Bootstrapping sounds very romantic . . . until you actually have to do it. It’s a lot of work and smart spending it totally a part of that. I’m glad you dig the post and I hope others do too, I love connecting with other bloggers that love doing the work.

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