- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

How I Became a Full-Time Blogger: Reflections on Ten Years of ScottHYoung.com

Ten years ago I wrote the first entry [1] to this blog. Since then, it’s gone from zero to hundreds of thousands of monthly readers, four books, three courses and over a thousand articles [2]. It’s also been my full-time occupation for the last five of those ten years.

Becoming a full-time blogger was little more than a fantasy when I got started. There were a handful of people who were full-time bloggers, but they were the best of the best. It took having a Top-100 blog in the world to even be making a six-figure salary. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a well-worn career path to select.

Today, the opportunities are much bigger. I know many people who blog full-time, and many more that are in a position where they could go full-time with just a little work. Nowadays, having a Top-100 blog almost certainly means you’re a media organization, with dozens of employees. Blogging has become serious business.

In this article, I want to share the history of growing this blog from the random typings of a high-school senior into a successful, full-time income. I want to try to share the behind-the-scenes which might not have been obvious, even if you were subscribed to my blog at the time.

I want to do this because starting a blog and writing have done so much for me, that I want to give back. The world needs more writers, not less. We all benefit from having more viewpoints, ideas and experiences shared instead of left silent. If reading this encourages even one person to give writing a shot, I think the world will be better for it.

An Exception to My Usual Policy

I try not to talk about online business too much on this blog. There’s two reasons for that.

First, like films about filmmaking or novels about writing, there’s an excessive tendency for a medium to become self-absorbed. Second, because in the particular case of online business, people’s online businesses increasingly become about teaching other people to start online businesses. The whole thing starts to look like a Ponzi scheme, and while I don’t fault other authors that do it, it’s a temptation I try to avoid.

The truth is, most bloggers don’t make their money selling blogging tips, and so the industry as a whole (while far from perfect) isn’t the pyramid-scheme it can sometimes look like if you venture too far into the self-referential corners of online businesses telling you how to start online businesses.

The 60-Second Highlight Reel

Here’s the quick view of the evolution of this blog as a business over the last ten years:

The future of the blog remains to be seen. While I’m very happy with the business success, and what it has enabled me to do, just making more and more money doesn’t inspire me. Instead, I hope that this success will help me tackle on more interesting projects like the MIT Challenge.

Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Blogging

Looking over the history of the blog during the last ten years, I think there are a couple lessons to be learned.

1. Things Can Take a (Really) Long Time to Become Successful

Skimming through the highlight-reel of the blog, the first half of it was far from unambiguously successful. On a strictly financial basis, the first few years of the blog were abject failures. Although I was getting traffic and readers at this time, the idea that it took me four years to break the poverty line, often when I was writing ten articles per week, is a sobering fact.

Yet, right after the moment when I had almost given up was when things turned around. Things haven’t been perfectly smooth since then, but from those inauspicious beginnings, the business has not only become quite profitable, but also fairly stable—continuing to provide a full-time income even when I’ve been engaged in non-revenue related projects like the MIT Challenge and the year without English.

2. You Don’t Need to Be an Expert to Start Writing

I started writing as a seventeen year-old, interested in self-improvement. I had no life experience, no credentials, and no reason for people to listen to what I had to say.

But, I built up experience over time. I pushed into a niche (learning and student success) that fit my life experiences more. I read everything I could about learning, memory and productivity, so that I could be more informed on those topics. Doing challenges like the MIT Challenge and year without English gave me a unique perspective to talk about those subjects.

Whatever expertise I may possess today is entirely because of this blog. This blog didn’t become successful because I was an expert. Rather, it was because I wrote this blog, I was pushed to build my knowledge and do interesting things.

3. The Benefits of Writing are Mostly Non-Financial

I’ve focused on the financial aspect of my blogging journey. I’ve done this because it’s a side of the blog I normally avoid writing about, and because it’s also the subject that interests most people who want to eventually become writers full time. It’s lovely to talk about the great experiences that have come from blogging, but those don’t pay the bills.

However, looking back, money was probably the smallest reward from writing. Writing has made me a better person—forcing me to live up to the standards I espouse on this blog. Writing here has been a kind of affirmation for me, stating my goals and values so that I’m forced to live a little closer to my ideal self. While I sometimes fall short, and I do my best to acknowledge those shortcomings, the net result has been making me into a better version of myself.