How to Start a BJJ Blog: Foundations

Hello friends! After receiving lots of mail asking for advice about how to get started with BJJ blogging, I decided to do a series to answer all of your questions. Truly, there are a bazillion subtopics that could be explored, so if anything comes up for you in this 3-part series, please feel free to contact me and ask away! I will be sure to answer everything for you the best I can.

I've learned a lot in the past couple of years about blogging, and I'm here to share it with you.

Let's go!

why i know what i'm talking about

I started the blog in February 2015, because I had just started jiu jitsu. I didn't have friends who trained, I was the only girl on the mats, and I felt like I didn't have anyone to talk to about all this new stuff! I went looking for blogs that would speak to how I was feeling, but I couldn't find anything. So, I started writing about my experience. I thought maybe fifty people in the world were ever going to see this. Within ten months I had over 100,000 views.

I freaked out! I didn't know what to do. Sometimes I would go to a gym and people would ask, "Are you the girl with the blog?". Sometimes I would say no because I didn't know what to say. I was embarrassed! (I don't usually say no anymore). 

If you want to know what I did, read on...

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
— Simon Sinek

#1 Get Clear on Your WHY

Before you do anything else, the WHY is your foundation. 

For instance, I started the blog because there was a "blue ocean". They say if there's a lot of competition in a certain area, it's called a "red ocean", where everyone is fighting over the same stuff. But it was a blue ocean. Nobody else had a blog that was dedicated specifically to women that was actually done well and had high quality writing, good branding, and good promotion (at least I couldn't find it!). So, I created it. That was my why - because I wanted to create a platform for new white belt women who were scared, because I was a new white belt woman who was scared. 

It's okay if your 'why' is not what mine was, about fostering a conversation or sharing your story or sharing an opinion. It is absolutely valid if your goal is to increase your visibility so that you can get a sponsorship or somehow monetize. I am really sick of hearing people in jiu jitsu talk about how there's "no money in jiu jitsu", but then they don't market themselves and don't bother to learn marketing skills. 

#2 What is the Best Platform For You?

Be self-aware. Are you actually meant to be doing what you claim you want to be doing? Are you actually a good writer? Is a blog the best platform for you? Is it appropriate for your goals?

Truth be told, if your goal is to increase your visibility, I would recommend you do vlogging instead - Start a YouTube channel. Google owns YouTube; Google loves videos. You will rank really high in a search if you have videos on your website or a popular YouTube channel. If visibility and sponsorship is your goal, do videos. You don't even need to have a blog through which to promote your videos; you can just have a YouTube channel! 

As a matter of fact, I know a black belt in Florida who has multiple sponsorships and he doesn't even have a personal Facebook, nor a blog. He works solely through Instagram. He does live videos on Instagram, and posts several times daily. His academy has a drone where they film some of their rounds, and it's pretty cool. He has this profile online that does well for him, solely through Instagram. 

This goes to show, you can gain visibility in several ways, and you are best off having your main platform be something that resonates with your personality and your goals.

#3 define your niche

Your Niche.png

Learning BJJ has always been geared toward women who are new to the sport who are scared to start in jiu jitsu, because that was me. 

Know your niche - this is really going to direct your writing or whatever content you are creating. It makes it way easier for you to figure out how to talk to these people.

Google "brand avatar" or "brand personality". This is envisioning your niche as an actual person. For instance, I personally know a woman who embodies my niche, who would love to start jiu jitsu but is terrified. So when I write, I imagine I am writing to her specifically, and it helps me make decisions about how I say something and what I write about. Knowing the Learning BJJ brand personality allows me to know tons about my target reader. Thinking about your brand personality will make your life so much easier, do not pass up this step!

#4 branding

Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
— Jeff Bezos

A lot of people get intimidated because sometimes the concept of "branding" seems like a giant mountain, but really, the simplest way to describe branding is: your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.

In deciding anything about your brand, not only are you asking if it is authentic to you, but also, what do you want it to be? What is your vision? What do I want people to say about Learning BJJ when I'm not there? You need to know this, and you need to direct it, because if you don't control your brand, other people will. 

You need to be communicating your brand and communicating your 'why' all the time. This is part of your brand consistency across multiple platforms, which is really important for your online presence to make sense to your audience. Think about color, fonts, voice, perspective, and purpose. 

Is your brand:

  • Informative? [such as Stephan Kesting who shows and explains technique]
  • Lifestyle? [such as Joe Rogan, or Jiu Jitsu Para Mulheres]
  • Specialty? [such as Learning BJJ which focuses on a specific segment of the culture]
  • Other, such as Aesthetic

#5 visibility

Visibility issues are something a lot of people end up dealing with that they don't anticipate. This might be less of an issue for you if you go into blog creation with the goal of visibility in creating an online presence in order to get sponsorship. 

Cool. But, if you were like me, and you just wanted to read and share some stories...

I wasn't ready to have people know who I was online. I wasn't prepared to have my face shared in numerous articles on the internet. At the beginning, I just put up a picture of myself because that's all I had. I definitely didn't have any jiu jitsu pictures! Little did I know, these articles started to get shared. One day in my school's library, I signed into Facebook and saw a post I had published being shared by a bunch of different outlets, with my face everywhere. 

I ran to the bathroom and proceeded to have a panic attack (for real), because I was so freaked out and I didn't know what to do. I was terrified. 

Hence, if you are like I was - visibility issues are likely going to come up for you at some point.

You probably know on some level that people on the internet aren't always the nicest. I don't want to freak anybody out or tell you not to create a blog; but do know that if you put yourself out there, it is license for people to say and do whatever they want, with you, your content, your opinion.

It's not always bad. Probably 90% of the feedback I get is great, friendly, or neutral. There's always a little bit that isn't so nice. However, the thing is, if you are doing your job properly, whatever you put out is going to polarize. You are always going to have the 10% of people who - it doesn't matter what you do - they think you're freaking amazing. There's always going to be the 10% of people who think you're the dumbest thing, who loathe the day you were born. 

You're always going to have those polar opposites. The 80% of people in the middle, truth be told, they don't really care about you. So just know that you're going to have your brand advocates - the people who are your cheerleaders, who are awesome - who you really need to remember when the other people get kind of mean. 

I'll give you an example:

There was an article I wrote, something about me not having a very good experience. Someone shared the article, and a girl commented something along the lines of, "why doesn't this girl just get off the computer and go train". And I knew who she was! She didn't realize we were connected (she trained with my boyfriend at the time). I responded and pointed out our connection. She felt so bad after that! She apologized profusely, and said, "I think it's great what you're doing and I invite you to come train with me anytime". So, people are going to say what they're going to say. There's something weird that happens to people's brain online. Almost every time when I've actually responded to a not-so-nice comment, the person comes back and apologizes. So people will say and do stuff online that they normally wouldn't.

So just remember that - people get psycho online.

There are a bunch of comments on Reddit that aren't so nice about me, and that's okay! I wasn't very upset when it happened, because of jiu jitsu. I had internalized the whole, You Win or You Learn thing. I realized, I wasn't going to die! Just because a few people don't like what I wrote - that's okay! Can I learn something from this? Do I need to look at my opinion, or what I wrote?

When you press "publish", you don't know what's going to happen. You can't really control it, so allow it to grow you. Use the bullshit as fertilizer, and stay focused on why you started in the first place.

#6 which blogging platform to choose?

I use Squarespace, and I have a few websites that I just use Squarespace for, all for different things. I passionately hate Wix. If you don't know what it is, don't even bother going to look it up. 

Wordpress is okay if you don't mind a bit more hassle, in my opinion. Or, if you anticipate desiring lots of customization in the future. I just don't like Wordpress because there are 500 billion plugins and 500 bazillion updates. I find it harder to make Wordpress sites look as clean as a Squarespace site just naturally does.

I am obsessed with Squarespace because it's just so simple. You literally just put the words in, a few pictures, and you're good! I have people contacting me all the time asking about the design of the site. So, I love Squarespace, it's affordable, I pay about $10 USD per month for it. 

So, there you have part one of the How to Start a BJJ Blog series focusing on the foundations you need to get started! Stay tuned for Part 2: Content Creation

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