18 blogging lessons

Darren Rowse has created a list of things he wishes he had known when he started blogging: 18 Lessons I’ve Learnt about Blogging. Here’s the list:

  1. Be Lucky
  2. Work Hard
  3. Use the Power of Exponential Growth
  4. Differentiate Yourself
  5. Provide Value
  6. Target a Niche
  7. Diversify
  8. Don’t Spread Self too Thin
  9. Have a Backup Plan
  10. Be Light on Your Feet
  11. Relationships are Key
  12. Establish Boundaries
  13. Don’t read your Own Press
  14. Beware of Hype
  15. Get a Life
  16. Make Mistakes
  17. Be Yourself
  18. There are No Rules

Several items on that list are pretty specific to pro bloggers (bloggers that make a living from their blogging), but there are many things on the list that are just as important to amateur bloggers, and that I wish I’d known and thought about when I started.

Some of the lessons on Darren’s list are lessons that I have learned myself:

  • Work hard: If you want to be successful you have to work hard. Harder than you think. Unless you get very lucky.
  • Get a Life: You have to have something outside of blogging (and web development in my case) or you will go nuts or burnout. It may take a while, but eventually it will catch up with you.
  • Make Mistakes: Allow yourself to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and putting all that pressure on yourself is not good for you in the long run.

What about you?

Posted on January 7, 2006 in Quicklinks


  1. Yes, I still need to learn what to learn before I learn my lesson.

  2. That list reads like a list of chapter headings from a book on how to be a better middle-manager. Possibly a book that was given away at a management training course in some grey, godforsaken office complex in Slough.

  3. January 7, 2006 by Christian

    I’ve just “installed” a blog on my upcoming site, so this list will be handy. One thing Roger, check the CSS for the list in IE.

  4. My lesson would be: stay focused. If you’re going to write a blog about web design, then only write about that topic. Save all your personal stuff, movie reviews, etc for somewhere else - for example, another personal blog.

    Staying focused (like you have done Roger) is how you build up an audience and a name for yourself.

  5. Kudos to you for point #1 which many wouldn’t admit to.

  6. January 7, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Christian: Oops. Guess I never made an ordered list with more than 9 items on this site before. I added a little padding-left to ordered lists. Thanks.

    Christian Watson: Yes, I try to avoid personal stuff here. On the other hand I want the site and my writing to have a bit of personality. But I really try to avoid writing about movies, cats, dogs, kids, that kind of stuff. The music recommendations (which I have been neglecting, I know) are about as far as I go.

  7. Is it just me or are most of the items on that list contradictory?

    • Work hard vs. Get a life
    • Target a niche vs. Diversify
    • Provide value vs. Make mistakes
    • There are no rules (uhm, so what of this list?)


  8. Roger - I for one, appreciate your focus on your area of expertise. There are a number of blogs by other talented web designers that I don’t read because only about 1 in 5 posts are on the subject.

    I’m afraid I have little enough spare time as it is to be reading about what people did at the weekend.

  9. 18 There are No Rules 19 Expect More Rules
  10. Thanks for the link Roger.

    Ara - yep - it’s all contradictory in many ways and I think I mention that in the extended version of the list. But that’s life, full of paradoxes and contradictions!

    Paul - might read like chapter headings but it’s all from my little head (which could be a sad reflection on where my head’s at :-)

  11. January 7, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Ara: The items you mention may seem contradictory, but I’d say it’s all about finding a balance.

    Christian: Thanks.

  12. I’d also add that blogging, like any form of writing, should truly follow the old adage, “Write about what you know.”

  13. Most of the points are very valid, although some of them really seem directed at professional bloggers.

    Maybe going off-topic here, but Christian Watson’s comments are pretty interesting (maybe just because I find myself to be one of the bloggers that doesn’t solely write about web developing).

    To me, my blog symbolizes my personality and who I am. Part of the Get a Life-point is to me exactly that: share your life with your readers.

    Then again, if you’re only after web development posts, but you find a blog that sometimes might write about something else, just make sure you subscribe to that blog’s feed. Then you can just read the posts you find interesting and skip the rest.

    I would have missed out on many interesting blogs if I had forsaken them for the only reason that sometimes a personal post might occur (Molly’s blogs are one of those that immediately spring to mind).

    But maybe I’m totally off-target here and that’s the reason why Roger’s blog is so popular: it’s focused on web development but the writing is nuanced through his personality.

    Sorry, I’ll stop now… :-)

  14. January 8, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Darren: Hi, nice seeing you here :-).

    Robert: I don’t mind the occasional off topic or personal post, and you’re absolutely right that staying subscribed is a good idea. But I usually skip personal posts. Too little time.

  15. Interesting.
    I’m gonna see if I can use these points - just a couple of hours ago started my blog after meaning to for about a year. And it’s rubbish already, ha!

    I’m a long-time reader, first time commenter here btw - love the site :)

  16. I’ve often commented that people start websites with the same lack of foresight as some people buy pets. They think there’s no work or responsibility involved (responsibility might not apply to a lot of websites, but I have seen important community websites run poorly which did effect a lot of people).

    I’m impressed that anyone was honest enough to put Luck at the top of the list. Let’s face it, there are so many blogs out there - we have to be lucky, get a break somewhere along the line. Some post that is perfectly timed and does the rounds; which does not coincide with a server outage or some such thing. Most of us wait somewhere on the D or E list, hoping to get a link off an A list site ;)

    You certainly lead the way in hard work though. High volume, high quality. The journalist in me is impressed (I studied journo before wandering into a web career).

  17. Yes, YOU MUST enable yourself to get away from your work. For those of you guys who work from home, it is a bit worse.

  18. I find that my blog is a space where I am taking baby steps towards better working methods. The process of describing and documenting what one does helps one to understand it better. If you can explain a concept, technique or subject to another person then it clarifies it for yourself.

    I suspect that like many people the model of self publishing can spur one on to produce documentation that might otherwise not get done

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