DODReads has been in business for just over a year and has posted over 100+ articles, interviews and leadership posts. With a growing readership and a years’ worth of street cred I wanted to write out some of my tips, hits and lessons learned in order to help others start their military blog.
How to get Started
There are two schools of thought when it comes to starting a military blog, small business, blog, or other business venture. The first school of thought is what they teach you at business school. First do a market analysis and determine if there is a market for your product, gather investors, build a website, develop a product, design a logo, develop a distribution channel and then once all the structure of your business is set up then you can sell your first product or write your first article.
The problem with this Business 101 approach is it takes you months or even years of developing your business or blog before you even sell your first product or write your first article. What happens if your product stinks? Or you discover you like the IDEA of writing, but hate the REALITY of writing. Then you are stuck with hundreds of hours of work and nothing to show.
I take the opposite approach. Write your first article, or sell your first product, get feedback, and repeat getting a little better each time.
What this means for military bloggers is that you should not waste time setting up a website, designing a logo or finding stock images to go with your articles. Just write, post to your military network, friends and family on a social platform such as linkedIn, review your feedback and repeat.
By going through this cycle of writing, posting, reviewing and repeating you will learn an incredible amount about yourself, your writing habits and if your idea of being a military blogger matches up with the reality of being a military blogger.
Speaking from experience this is the point where I hit my first roadblocks with starting my first two blogs. A few years before DODReads.com I started ProjectsWithPop.com and 20YearsIn.com (both websites I no longer own) It was a fun and exciting idea but I quickly puttered out after only a handful of articles.
If you have written ten or so articles, received feedback and still want to learn how to start a military blog then read on….
My Military Blog Articles
When starting out writing blog articles the best rule to follow is “write what you know about”. I’m a guy that likes being a dad, likes philosophy, likes reading and happens to, at the time of this writing, be a Military Officer in command.
This specialty allows me to focus my articles on an audience of Military Commanding Officers, mid-career military service members, and military readers. Since I am the only blogger in this small space I am able to compete much more effectively than If I tried to compete in the much larger leadership space with more accomplished authors.
DODReads.com Back End Software and My Webhosting
Managing the back end of your blogging software and webhosting account can turn into a nightmare, and an endless web of software updates, patches, server managements, and backups.
For those just getting started I recommend the free version of WordPress which is hosted automatically on wordpress servers. For an even more “plug and play” solution I would recommend a service like Wix. For $10-$15 per month you can have a domain and webhosting which requires the least amount of technical skill thereby allowing you to focus on your product, not hosting your product.
Since I do have a bit more experience, I host all my military websites on SiteGround.com and pay $80.00 per month for their cloud servers. I have also tried Fatcow, Yahoo and JustHost, but have been most happy with SiteGround.
My Considerations for Monetizing a Military Blog
Thinking through how to monetize a blog is hard. On one had military bloggers and authors want to write because they have a story to tell and they want to help others. However, on the other hand money does provide an incentive to write, validation that your writing is worthwhile, and if successful can allow you to transition from military service into full time blogging.
Currently DODReads attempts to monetize through Amazon Affiliates and I am experimenting with selling books on the Military Reading List.
Amazon affiliates is a program which allows websites/blogs to refer a customer to Amazon in hopes that they will buy the product you are recommending. For example If I am recommending a specific product I can add a link to my site which Amazon will recognize and compensate me for the sale. We have approx. 4,000 views per month and early approx. $5.00 – $10.00 per month from our Amazon affiliates accounts.
The other common option for monetizing a blog is through google ads. These are the ads that cover most of the web and are generally the price we pay for getting information online for “free”. While I have made a decision not to use Google Adds on DODReads.com, most blogs earn revenue of $2.00-10.00 per thousand visitors.
As you can see, it takes a lot of traffic to earn even a small amount for your blog. If you want to start a military blog it is probably best to do it without the hopes of any substantial future income.
Military Bloggers Ethics Considerations
Ethics considerations is a tough one; working within the bounds of legal and ethical framework is the one challenge that gave me the most pause. As active duty military blogging is a relatively new phenomenon the ethics rules have not quite caught up with reality. In addition, choosing monetize your blog or hire other active duty workers produce additional challenges. To dive into this topic further I recently wrote an article on Military Bloggers Ethical considerations dealing specifically with DODReads.com.
Other examples of some of my favorite military blogs below:
If after reading you are still interested in starting a military blog I’d be happy to help. Send me links to 5-10 articles you have written and let’s schedule a time to chat.