We live in an age where everything seems possible online. Famous entrepreneurs sharing their success stories. People quitting their jobs to start a business. Influencers flooding our feeds with how luxurious their life is. All of these tips, resources, video guides, extensive how-to posts, communities that promise to turn you into a bright shining star on social media are bombarding our senses. However, big data and the rapidly shifting volumes of information that aim to help, do the opposite. Instead of being clear about how to start a blog, for example, you get confused and you don’t start one. Or in other words, you don’t need more Twitter recommendations or more handles to follow. You need to apply systems thinking to your business and your blog if you want it to get more traffic and thus more sales.
If you’re looking for ways to start making money online, blogging is one of the easiest ways to get started.1
After all, what’s the point of reading a bunch of business books or large volumes of Twitter threads about how to become famous online if you’re not applying the material?
And while blogging these days is not considered as sexy as YouTubing, for example – or becoming a famous social media influencer. There is a degree of elegance to crafting word-heavy pages where you carefully consider what word should come after the first one.
Writing online, which is now mainly referred to as blogging, is still a viable way to create a self-sustaining personal business revolving around something you’re passionate about ( love books?).
When I started this particular site – in 2018. I had no idea what I wanted to create. I simply wanted to create. And even though this is my 7th or 8th site, my writing process was not at all sophisticated when I purchased durmonski.com. I just wrote about what was on my mind. I had no idea about how I’ll turn it into a business.
Now, years after I created my first site. Reading more than 30 business books. And publishing over 500 articles online, I know better.
If you want to start a blog. Don’t just blog. Don’t write a bunch of unrelated posts. If you want to succeed. If you want to have an ever-growing pile of ideas to write about. And if you want to get something in return – make money. You should apply systems thinking when blogging.
Here’s why and how to do it…
What is Systems Thinking?
In simple terms, systems thinking is a powerful approach that allows you to see the whole process. You don’t just see how a single object operates. You think about all the processes involved in creating the product, using the product, how the product corresponds with other products – and people. Finally, what happens to the product when it’s no longer needed – how it erodes and so on.
You stop seeing individual elements and you see whole parts. You see interconnections between various systems and how they work together.
If this sounds too generic or abstract, think about a simple object. Think about a plastic bottle.
A plastic bottle is simply a carrier of liquids. No more, no less.
But this is just on the surface.
When you apply systems thinking, you imagine the process of building the bottle. What ingredients are needed for the bottle to become a tangible product – something you hold in your hand? How the bottle will be delivered to the local store? How will someone store the bottle in his home? How people will use the bottle? How the bottle will be recycled? What happens when you recycle the bottle?
Of course, it’s not only about products. Systems thinking can be applying to virtually everything.
I first came across this approach years ago. I don’t remember what particular post I read on the subject – or book – but I learned to ask questions about how a product is created, which allowed me to better understand what’s the whole process behind it. A whole new world unraveled before my eyes when I adopted this way of thinking because I no longer spotted a single item. I now thought about what was needed for an item to be created. The efforts. The resources. The time needed.
To add to my knowledge, I recently read the famous book on the subject, Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows. This book actually inspired me to craft this post and help fellow creators.
Let’s see now how systems thinking applies to blogging…
How Systems Thinking Applies To Blogging?
Blogging for different people can mean different things. Some blog to share their thoughts. Others use it to create something like a digital journal. Third may use it to create ad-heavy sites that are focused solely on making money from affiliate commissions. All of these, of course, are possibilities.
However, from my experience, if you don’t have a particular higher purpose. A big, potentially life-changing goal to fix the world which will motivate you to continuously show up and blog, you’ll soon become just another blogging failure. Or, in other words, you’ll fizzle out.
For instance, don’t just start a blog to share recipes. Start a blog because you are worried. Terrified that more and more people are eating fast food and ruining their bodies. Start a blog to educate people about the best ingredients and provide them with easy solutions to maintain good health.
If you already have a big idea, but if you’re still not sure what to do next. Or if you already have a website, but you’re not really sure how to maintain it. Systems thinking can surely help.
When applied, systems thinking can provide you with the most important frameworks every blogger needs to stay consistent, keep blogging, and reach some sort of satisfaction from the effort. And most importantly, prevent you from quitting too early.
After years of trial and error, I found an easy approach that helps me keep showing up with new articles every week. A way to continuing working on this site despite the setbacks. And a way to keep my readers engaged and willing to support me.
I’ve established 3 systems that are essential to keep running my site – I’ll share them below.
What Are The Benefits of Systems Thinking When Blogging?
The main benefit of systems thinking when blogging is that it will provide you with clear guides on what to do. Understand what type of processes are needed to run a writing factory (blog). And ensure that you can keep doing it year after year.
Systems thinking when blogging can help you:
- Never run out of writing ideas.
- Stay focused even when progress is stagnant.
- Beat the competition.
- Keep productivity high.
- Understand the core reason you’re procrastinating.
- Create an easy to follow to-do list that you actually stick to it.
Many people abandon their blogs, websites, online project in general because they add a lot of parts and eventually they become operators of a complex machinery. They want to start a blog about RVs but soon start to write about traveling as well. Then, they decide to create an online community. After that, they consider that starting a YouTube channel in addition to the blog will be the best approach. And then, they start another blog on a completely different topic because why not.
Not that these things are bad. But if you add a lot of tasks to your plate, your attention will diminish. Then, motivation and productivity will decline. And the goal of getting something in return for your efforts evaporates simply because you spread yourself too thin.
People add a large degree of complexity to something that should be fairly simple: blogging.
To make it easier for you if you want to start your own blog. Or, an online project for that matter. I believe that you should focus on mainly these 3 things.
These can be useful for both if you’re just getting started or if you already have an established brand but if you want to scale.
The 3 Systems You Need to Run a Blog:
System 1: Idea-Generating System
First, you need to ensure that you can keep blogging on your blog. Yes, this sounds simple, but it’s actually not.
You need to ensure that you will never reach a place where you don’t know what to write about. As a physical store is constantly getting stock deliveries, you need to generate new content that will attract visitors.
And how to make sure that you’ll keep producing new content? You need a consistent flow of ideas that will eventually become blog posts.
I’m always amazed when I hear people complaining that they don’t know what to write about.
Personally, I have more ideas about blog posts that I can write about. For real. I’m pretty sure that I have enough notes about future posts that will help me produce content for the next 5 years. And I’m adding new ones weekly!
What’s the secret?
Simple, I read books.
As famous writers say, good writing begins with good reading.
And good writing is required if you need to create a successful blog. My articles are my stock. They attract visitors and they persuade people to subscribe to my newsletter and get my membership program. As a store selling goods doesn’t want to ever run out of supplies, a writer wants to ensure that he’ll have regular content deliveries. And I find new ideas for articles by reading books. It’s that simple. With time, a simple paragraph from a book can become an idea for a blog post.
How to approach this if you’re just getting started?
Well, first you need to pick a niche. Once you decide what your website will be about – even if you don’t consider it a blog. You need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for articles.
On my website, as you can observe, I publish book summaries. I will never run out of books to summarize simply because there are over 4 million books being published per year.2 And I’m not even counting the books that already exist!
Say, however, that the goal of my site was to publish summaries of books written only from Carl Gustav Jung. In this case, the available opportunities for publications are limited. Besides, while I love what Carl Jung has to teach us, I prefer exploring different ideas – not focus only on one writer.
Or in other words, after you decide what will be the core purpose of your blog, you then need to ensure that there are enough opportunities for blog posts. Then, you need to figure out a way to find these opportunities. Usually, the latter is the easiest part. You simply search online. You read books related to your niche. Watch videos. Visit forums. There are countless ways.
However, there is something else. Something which a lot of people who start blogging never consider. You also need to ensure that the content you’re going to produce won’t become boring for you at some point. You need to be excited about what you write about. Otherwise, you’ll quit.
Along with this, there are other two important things to consider that are also part of the idea-generating system: Take notes when new ideas appear – here’s my process of writing book summaries. And secondly, evaluate the ideas based on your strategy. Ask yourself: Is this topic aligned with what I’m trying to achieve on my blog?
Idea-Generating system includes:
- Ensuring that you have a continuous flow of ideas for producing new articles.
- Making sure that you note down these ideas before they disappear from your consciousness.
- Evaluate the ideas based on your long-term strategy before you start creating content.
System 2: Content-Production System
A list full of content ideas means nothing if you don’t have time to write the actual blog posts.
As mentioned, I have and a nearly infinite amount of ideas for articles waiting for me. Most of them will never see the light of day simply because we have only 24 hours at our disposal.
Not that you have to publish everything that seems like a good idea, but you do need to write. And for this to happen, you need time. You need to schedule chunks of time devoted to your writing system – which is another system on its own.
This step is vital. As Steve Jobs famously said: “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.”
So, you need to schedule time in advance to ensure that you can actually update your website with fresh content. Plainly, you need to have a content-production system. The simplest way to tackle this is to create a daily writing routine. Nothing fancy, simply set aside time for writing.
However, this can be tricky. Especially if you’re considering starting a blog as a side gig. If you have a job, finding time to write can be hard. Personally, I do something not a lot of people will find attractive – I get up at 05:00 every single day to write. Honestly, by now I thought that getting up so early when there is not a single soul awake will be easy – it’s not. And by now I don’t think that this will ever become easy, but it’s working. Thanks to this routine, I’m writing a blog post per week. Plus, running my newsletter.
Why I’m recommending writing early in the morning?
Mainly, because there are not a lot of things that can go wrong early in the morning. Conversely, if you decide to write before going to bed, there are a lot of things that can go wrong: you can be tired, your mind will be preoccupied with what happened during the day, you may have to stay late at work, you will want to spend time with your kid, there might be an emergency that requires your attention…
When you get up early to write, it’s just you and your keyboard. The day is just starting. Your mind is clear. There aren’t creeping thoughts that interrupt your thinking. The ones that at some point enter your orbit as the day progresses.
To simplify, when you’re making plans to write, consider what can go wrong. Life is chaotic. We don’t purposefully fail to reach our goals. We fail because we make plans without taking into account the unexpected things that will eventually occur and disturb our flow.
Content-production system includes:
- Regularly scheduling time to write articles.
- Following a particular writing process that helps you produce high-quality blog posts.
- Having a system that will help you promote your newly produced articles.
System 3: Profit-Making System
Something important to note here before we take a closer look at this third system: When you’re starting a website, don’t ever, ever start with the main goal to make money! If your goal is to make money, you’ll soon ditch the project. Or start a new one and soon find yourself preoccupied with a lot of tasks that you simply cannot handle on your own.
Why making money is not a good idea for a long-term project?
Because we, humans, want something beyond making money. We want to help others. We want to connect with others. We want to influence others. This, of course, doesn’t exclude wanting to earn an income, but if you start an affiliate site where the content is really dull and shallow, you’ll hate it. You will hate it as you probably hate your job. This will create a lot of friction between what you want to do and what you have to do.
Instead of saying, “I get to write articles for a living!” You will say, “I have to write articles for a living!” Two completely different ways to think about blogging.
So, when you approach blogging, really think about what you love doing. There is a reason people say that you should start something related to what you’re actually passionate about. Something that won’t get tedious even after working on it for 10 hours a day.
After this disclaimer about how money is not important, let’s talk about why money is important.
You may say that you’re not doing it for the money, but you need the money to keep doing it!
Non-profit organizations, regardless of how noble they are, need funding. After all, we all need resources to have a decent life, right?
You need to provide for your family. Pay the rent. Pay for food. For a car. Go somewhere nice from time to time. And besides, blogging is not free. There are certain costs involved. You need to pay for hosting, domain, email marketing software, and other things.
If you’re not making a dime from your blog, you will at some point question your commitment. A person is quite likely to quit working on his website if he’s not making a dime after 3 years compared to someone who is making a couple of hundred bucks per month.
That’s why, it’s important to find a way to make money from your blog.
But how do you approach this?
Let me tell you what I did when I started this site…
Even though my long-term vision was kind of blurry when I registered durmonski.com. I knew that I wanted to create a membership site. The main reason was simple: To get recurring revenue.
If you publish an eBook, for example. Your money-making system becomes promoting the eBook. This means that your efforts will be focused solely on this particular item. The options, in this case, are two:
- Option 1: Run ads to get more people to see your eBook. Sadly, paying for ads is extremely expensive and ineffective. It will probably cost you more to promote the book than from what you’d earn.
- Option 2: Create content that is optimized to sell the eBook. This is a better option but it’s still lacking sustainability. When someone buys your book, there is only one transaction. What about next month?
That’s why I wanted to create a membership site. A website that continuously provides value. Something people are willing to pay month after month.
When you think about making money from your website as a system, you understand that you don’t want single sales. You want cycles. You start to think about what you can keep creating that will make people keep paying you.
In my case, I created a membership program that gives access to all the book summaries on my site. It’s not rocket science. Simply put, if you’re not a subscriber, you get access to a portion of the summaries. If you want to read the whole thing (+ extras) you become a member.
The idea is to create some sort of content that people will want more of. There are countless examples out there about different ways to make a membership site. You simply need to find the best way depending on the content you want to create.
Still, what about getting people to actually become paying members?
This leads me to…
- Continuously provide value to your readers.
- Promote your profit-making system to new and existing readers.
- Maintain the whole process – keep the system running and clients happy.
How These Systems Work Together
At this point, you may be wondering: “OK. I have a system that gives me topics to write about. I have a system for writing. I have enough time to write. I also have a subscription-based business model. But what about getting actual customers?”
Well, when we combine all the systems mentioned above, we create a self-sustaining feedback loop that leads to acquiring more visitors and potential customers over time.
You get new customers thanks to the combined efforts. Your articles get listed on Google. The more articles you have, the higher you’ll rank. The higher you rank, the more visitors you get. The more visitors, the more customers. The more you keep doing all of this, the better you’ll eventually become.
On my site, I have 2 main feedback loops that are responsible for new members: My articles and my bi-weekly newsletter. My articles attract new visitors and my newsletter is showcasing why you should become a member – people see that I keep showing up in the inboxes. To simplify, it all comes from writing.
But besides making content, money, and time to write, you need to keep the spark alive. The reason you started in the first place brightly glowing in your mind (and hearth). If you have this, you will become unstoppable.
Some Closing Thoughts
Prior to writing this blog post, I thought about what else is needed to run a blog. I wanted to create an extensive guide that will help people apply the knowledge from big business books in the online world. And while there are a lot of nuances to blogging, the 3 systems above are more than enough to get you started.
Yes, you need to think about SEO. Probably read a bit about writing. Understand user behavior. Consider the technical aspect of owning a blog. But overall, the 3 systems above are the things that will consume most of your time if you’re considering starting a blog. That’s why I focused mainly on these 3 buckets.
What else to read if you want to get better?
I recommend the following books:
- Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows [Summary]
- Traction by Gino Wickman [Summary]
- Subscribed by Tien Tzuo [Summary]
The grand idea of this blog post wasn’t simply to convince you to write blog posts. It was also to help you see the whole picture. That it’s not only about writing and blogging. There are systems everywhere. The better you become at identifying them, the better you’ll see and understand the world.
“Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing ‘patterns of change’ rather than ‘static snapshots.” Peter Senge
- But by easy to get started, this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to keep doing it. Nor easy to make money from blogging.
- Piersanti, Steven. The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.