How to create an A-list minimalist blog in less than 6-months
It’s been a little over a year since I started writing on Far Beyond The Stars in October of 2009, and my blog has seen incredible growth. Since the CBS Evening News interview aired, I passed 7,000 subscribers, which is blowing my mind.
All of this happened because I did a few things that other people didn’t, this is why I thought I’d dissect the anatomy of an A-list minimalist blog so that you can come to this place.
Now, maybe you’re not aiming to launch an A-list minimalism blog. That’s fine, I’m really only writing this for the people out there who are striving to inspire the world to follow this path.
If you’re not into this type of post, I’d love if you’d skip it. Go get a coffee and enjoy your life.
If you are writing a minimalism blog that isn’t quite getting traction yet (or if you’re thinking of starting one,) maybe you need to read on.
How many readers do you need to be successful?
When I say A-list minimalist blog, I don’t mean you need hundreds of thousands of readers. 1,000 true fans will do just fine, just ask Kevin Kelly about that.
If you’ve just started blogging about minimalism, maybe this can help your blog grow.
If you’ve been struggling with obtaining traffic to your minimalism blog, maybe this will finally give you the kick you need to get your blog off the ground.
If you’ve been thinking of starting, maybe this will help solidify your plans.
Not everyone will be successful.
Now, creating an a-list minimalism blog isn’t for everyone. Not everyone is willing to live the lifestyle necessary to be a leader in this growing niche. It takes the courage of a leader, and a willingness to push the boundaries of society on a path that few seek to tread.
Are you up for the challenge?
I’ve collected my thoughts into 9 elements necessary for a successful minimalism blog. There are undoubtedly more elements, but these are the most important.
Disclaimer: Now, before you even think about emailing me asking for help making your blog a success, make sure you’ve implemented at least 80% of these rules. I get a lot of emails from people who want help, and 9 times out of 10 I’m just going to tell you one of these things.
9 times out of 10 the first element is the only thing I tell people to do, and they don’t even listen to me — and then they wonder why no one subscribes.
So listen first, then act. Repeat, until you’ve actually done some of the things that I’ve listed. Then email me asking why your blog doesn’t work, maybe I can help you then.
1. Live the change you want to make in the world.
Over the last year, a few minimalism blogs have skyrocketed way past others in popularity. This rule distinguished them all from the rest.
If you’re going to advocate for minimalism, you better damn well actually be living a minimalist lifestyle.
Simply talking about minimalism, while living in the status-quo, is not enough. No one will believe you if you’re not actually living the life, they’ll simply click over to my blog and subscribe here instead.
How do you live a minimalist life? Well, I went over that in a book I wrote. If you’re still stumped, rent a dumpster and throw all of your stuff in it. Take your car to the center of town and light it on fire (but don’t tell them I told you to do it.) Living with less than 50 things is a good benchmark for most people these days, if you’re into counting your stuff.
I’m sorry, but you just can’t have a raging minimalist fan following if you’re living like a normal person. It just doesn’t work that way.
2. Fight for freedom.
Humans weren’t designed to sit at desks until their lumbar spine fuses irreversibly to their inner thighs. Humans weren’t meant to eat meal worms (my codename for any product made out of processed corn) for breakfast. Humans weren’t meant to drive around in solitary stupid people pods. Humans weren’t meant to be popping pills every morning in a desperate attempt to find artificial happiness. Humans weren’t meant to wander around fluorescently lit shopping malls being told what to buy by huge corporations.
If you’re still doing any of the above things on a regular basis, no one will care about your minimalism blog. Is that hard to hear? Well, do something about changing your life first and then come back to writing about minimalism.
This means that the first order of business is for you to find freedom. In order to do that, see rule #1.
3. Challenge and be prepared to be challenged.
You can’t be safe anymore, the stakes are too high. So many of the newer or perpetually smaller minimalism blogs I read are tiptoeing around the issues in an attempt to make everyone happy. You can’t make everyone happy, the truth is that some people are living in a way that’s keeping them in perpetual wage-slavery and debt for their entire lives.
If you keep approaching your encouragement from the angle of ‘well, you could maybe make a box of stuff and get rid of it, if you want to.’ Then people will continue to not care about you. Why? Because we need leaders who are willing to stand up and fight for the truth that we believe in.
If you stand up for something you believe in, you better believe that the status-quo will fight back. For every “omg, you changed my life” email I receive, I get another one from a confused person with a $350,000 mortgage on their house wondering why I’m ripping on their over-extended lifestyle. Why am I? because you’re a slave to a system that originally bought you.
4. Be a human.
Every time I Skype with a blogger who wants to know the secrets of minimalist blogging success, the first thing out of my mouth is always. “Put a goddamn picture of your face on your blog’s front page.”
This is why I’m establishing a rule, as of today, that I will not Skype with any blogger who has not taken this advice.
One more time “PUT A PICTURE OF YOUR FACE ON THE FRONT PAGE OF YOUR BLOG.”
If you want to know what a picture of your face on the front of your blog looks like, scroll up to the top of my blog and look over there –>
Why? Because no one is subscribing to your blog because they think it was written by a robot, that’s why. There is so much junk out there on the Internet, and we don’t want to read most of it. The easiest way to figure out if I’m not reading junk is to see a picture of a human’s face that says underneath it. “Hi, my name is John Smith, I’m here to teach you about a specific thing.”
Because otherwise we think maybe we stumbled onto something we don’t want to read. If there’s a face, there’s a human connection.
So, before you ask to Skype with me about the secrets of blogging success, please put a picture of your face on the front page of your blog. Put your name under it. Make sure the picture of your face is actually of your face, and not like the top of your face, your face with your hand in front of it, your blurry face, or the back of your head.
No one cares about your creative use of photoshop, what we care about is seeing your beautiful eyes.
5. Link link link link, link one more time.
For those of you who didn’t grow up reading A List Apart every issue since they were 12, allow me to give you the other secret of Internet success. It’s such a secret that most of you have no idea what it is.
Wait for it…
You need to link to people. A link, as in <a href=”http://www.farbeyondthestars.com”>Everett Bogue’s Blog is Freakin’ Brilliant.</a>
It’s called the World Wide Web because it’s supported by an epic amount of links between resources. The pages with the most links rise to the top of the pile. Far Beyond The Stars has so much inbound traffic because there are a lot of people linking into it.
How did I get people to link to me? By linking to people of course! (that and saying things that matter, see rule #3 above.)
Check out the last post, I linked to Tammy Strobel, Chris Guillebeau,Karol Gajda, Colin Wright, Leo Babauta, Corbett Barr, Joshua Becker, and Adam Baker all in the same post. – oh look, I did it again.
If you take a look back at my achieves, you’ll observe a funny phenomena. I’ve been linking to some of these people, like Tammy Strobel, Chris Guillebeau, Karol Gajda, Colin Wright, Leo Babauta <– look I did it one more time– regularly since the dawn of time. I’ve of course linked to other people too, these are just a few examples.
A good rule of thumb is to include at least 5 outbound links to bloggers in every single post that you write. More is better.
When bloggers see you linking to them in every single post, they want to buy you dinner and a million beers, because they start to see traffic coming from your site. It might be a small amount of traffic at first, but small is better than nothing.
If you want Tammy Strobel to link to you in her famous traffic-driving link-out posts, try linking to her every post for the next three months. Eventually you’ll be sending her hundreds or thousands of hits per month, then she’ll look at her Google Analytics and click over to your site.
Another great way to link to people very quickly is to simply retweet their posts on Twitter and ‘Like’ them on Facebook. In fact, scroll down to the bottom or the top of my post right now and do both of those things so you can get some practice in. Thanks!
6. Establish an all star inner circle.
Did you notice the other thing about the people I linked to, again, above? Well, they’re also my all star inner circle of bloggers. Some of them, like Tammy, I’ve been working with since the beginning of this blog. Others I’ve come to connect with more recently.
I don’t ask people if they want to be part of my all star inner circle, I simply start promoting the crap out of their stuff every single time they post until they visit my site, email me, and then try their best to buy me a beer when they’re in town next.
This is where a lot of you get it wrong. When you email me saying ‘can you promote my stuff?’
First off, that’s just rude to email someone and ask them to promote your stuff.
Second off, why would I want to link to you? Have you done anything for me? Why would I want to pimp out my audience for your blog if you’ve never done anything for me?
This is a similar conversation that goes on in the heads of every single blogger who you’ve emailed saying ‘can you please promote my dumb blog post.’ So, stop approaching it from that angle before it’s too late.
Instead link to their posts until they can’t help but notice you.
7. Make this inner circle out of similarly sized blogs.
The other element of my all star inner circle is that all of the bloggers have a relatively similar-sized following. Leo’s Mnmlist blog has 10,000 subscribers, Tammy‘s blog has 8,000, Adam Baker‘s has 8,000. They’re all just around the same size, or a little bigger, as my own blog.
We didn’t just automatically get birthed into the world with a subscriber count this large. 6 months ago many of the blogs you’re reading now had anywhere from 1,000-3,000 followers. A year ago many of us had 23 followers.
If you have 23 followers, create an all star inner circle out of blogs with 100 followers. Help each other grow by pointing your readers to another similarly sized blog. Believe me, it works.
If you want to know how to send traffic to people, which is the most powerful strategy you can ever employ to make a larger blogger pay attention to you, rewind up to rule #5, read it again and then put links to Karol Gajda‘s blog in every single one of your posts from now until March 2011. Trust me, eventually he’ll notice.
8. Don’t apologize for being awesome.
You’re writing a blog, that’s an amazing thing. You’re doing way better than the other billions of people who aren’t writing a blog. Don’t apologize for being awesome, instead keep creating awesome stuff.
If you write on your blog about how much you’re a failure at life,eventually your readers are going to believe that you’re a failure.Now, I’m not a failure at life, but occasionally I mess up. I don’t write posts about how I messed up when I mess up.
Some people do write posts about how they fail at life regularly, and this really makes people stop believing in them. I’m not going to mention who does this, because I don’t read their blogs anymore.
Never show fear, never show weakness. You know what you’re talking about, so trust yourself. Fake it until you make it.
9. Support yourself by supporting others.
If you’re writing a C-List minimalism blog, there’s no reason why you can’t be paying at least your electric bill selling e-books. If you’re running a B-List minimalism blog, there’s no reason you can’t be paying your rent selling e-books.
There are so many amazing e-books that teach the fundamentals, all the way up to the hard-hitting strategies that you need to apply in order to enter the big leagues.
We’re living in the golden age of e-books, let’s take advantage of that.
How to pay your rent selling e-books: you need to recommend them in order to make money from them. One review is not enough. One interview is not enough. Your audience, which is interested in minimalism, (this is why they read you!!!!) is interested in also buying products that teach them about minimalism.
You’re doing your audience, and yourself, a disservice by not telling them about the amazing resources that are available for them to purchase at every opportunity possible.
The easiest way to do this is simple:
(Feel free to copy and paste these, but remember to put in your own affiliate links so the commission goes to you instead of me.)
“Hey, if you’re interested in delving deeper into living a minimalist lifestyle, Joshua Becker has this amazing e-book called Inside-Out Simplicity.”
“One of the best personal finance e-books I ever read was Adam Baker’sUnautomate Your Finances — it really got me thinking about my spending.”
“When you’re establishing your all star inner circle, it’s important not to come off as a douche-bag who wants to suck away all of your time and attention without contributing value. When I read Colin Wright’sNetworking Awesomely, I learned how to contribute value to networking opportunities. Maybe you can too?”
“I’m currently building my business one day at a time by doing one simple action every day. It’s super easy, but I wouldn’t be anywhere without direction from Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Builder Kit. Yes, I know, it’s kind of pricey, but if you think about the value you’re getting every single day, it’s way less than a cup of coffee. Wow!”
“One of the biggest inspirations for my continued business growth has been the amazing work that Tammy Strobel did on her e-book Smalltopia. It really got me thinking about how simple it is to start a small business, if you start small and work your way up from there.”
“If you’re a complete newbie affiliate marketing, IE, you’ve never made a single dime online and want to know how to go from zero to paying your electric bill online, you might want to check out Corbett Barr’sAffiliate Marketing for Beginners. Yes, it’s not for everyone — if you’re already an affiliate marketing rockstar, you need not apply. I learned so much from it though, now I’m making rent money from e-book sales!! Thanks Corbett!”
“Oh, and one more thing. Every single one of these e-books (with the exception of Empire Builder Kit actually) has a 100% money back guarantee if it’s not right for you. So, if you’re not happy just email the authors and you’ll get your money right back! Isn’t the internet age wonderful?”
These are just a few examples that will lead you to a place where you’re paying your rent from your minimalism blog while you’re working towards A-list blogging standards.
Yes, this means you’ll have to learn how to sell things.
But you know what, if you can’t sell someone else’s e-book, how do you think you’ll sell your own? Yeah, I thought that’d hit a nerve. Well, it’s true. Before I launched The Art of Being Minimalist, I was making a small income every month selling Leo Babauta’s A Simple Guide to A Minimalist Life. This is why I knew writing my own minimalist ebook would be a success, because I was already making a killing selling Leo’s.
How do you join an affiliate program? Sign up for a free account with e-junkie, and then follow links from the sales pages of bloggers to their affiliate programs.
Bonus rule #10: Keep working towards your destination.
Writing a blog doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t need to stress yourself out about becoming an overnight success overnight. Simply keep working towards your goal for a few hours every week.
I didn’t build an A-list minimalism blog overnight, I simply kept plodding in the right direction day after day, week after week, month after month. Eventually I got there!
Focus on the important elements of blog design that I listed above, because chances are most of you aren’t doing the things that I listed above — and they’re simple. You shouldn’t be ignoring them.
If you’re looking for a few newcomers to the minimalist blogging scene to add to your all star mastermind group, these three are doing a lot of things right.
Nina Yau writes at Castles in the Air.
Mike Donghia writes at Art of Minimalism.
Robyn Divine writes at Minimalist Knitter.