What do you think it takes to run a ZimDancehall website? Here are the lessons I learnt first hand.

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Many of us want to achieve great things in life. That’s where the story actually starts.

I started my first blog somewhere around 2011. It had nothing to do with dancehall, but it definitely laid the foundation for me. To be honest, I didn’t know what I was doing that time but I enjoyed conveying my thoughts using the keyboard so I just kept on writing.

The most traffic I saw on that blog was mostly from my few friends who cared enough to click on links I shared, which was never more than five per post, I got more hits from bots than I got from real people.

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Then came 2013; I almost quit school because I wanted to focus on blogging (the stupidity!). I went ahead and told my family, as most African parents would, they didn’t take it so well, it was a full debate which I lost anyway.

I never stopped though; I continued blogging as a side gig at school. This time I thought I had a plan which turned my blog into an ‘online magazine’.

I started writing stories about local celebrities as what most ‘online magazines’ were doing at the time. Again the traffic was so discouraging especially for someone who had just learned how to monetize a blog with Google AdSense. Imagine being told by Google that after posting in every Facebook group you are in, tagging every celeb you know on Twitter for a whole month, you just earned $2.37?

It was not funny, that I tell you.

Then came Zimdancehall Insider!

Worried too much, I started going through my Google Analytics (statistics from Google about people visiting your site) and I noticed something, I was literally being saved by Zimdancehall posts. Views on any Zimdancehall post more than quadrupled any other post.

“So why not just focus on Zimdancehall?” I asked myself. The next week I registered a new domain for that purpose. I know I could have just used the same domain but domains with key words usually do better so I wanted one that does that.

Zimdancehall was a niche most people overlooked and still do. Blogs were mostly reserved for other ‘fancy genres’. I knew more than ten Hip Hop blogs at that time, but not one real blog for Zimdancehall that had more numbers than the former!

Nonetheless, I went ahead and ran the website under the name Zimdancehall Insider. I did this for almost two years until I decided to rebrand it to DancehallAfrika.

So today, I’ve decided to share with you some of the lessons I learnt through my journey. These do not apply only for Dancehall websites (of course) but you might be able to apply them to whatever line of entrepreneurship you are/yet to be involved in. Be warned though, some of them may seem cliché, but it’s only because they indeed are of value

1. Just do it!

Most people I have met in life practice perfectionism a little too much. I have seen most ideas die, not because they are not worth it, but in trying to chase perfection, people tend to give up! When I started I never had plans to end up writing reviews and updates about Zimdancehall. In fact, I didn’t even know what I was doing!

Your product or idea will develop as you move; nothing ends up the way it started. 

2. Your starting point should never be about the money.

We all want money in the end, but if you love money so much then this entrepreneurship field isn’t your thing. I know it.

When I myself heard this advice back then, I ignored it because I thought that if I learn their mistakes I could do it better and money would start coming. Now I’m convinced beyond reasonable doubt; if you want to start a blog, or are thinking of being your own boss, be prepared to go for months or even years without a ‘cheque’. Actually, most of the times it’s your pocket (if you still have any) that feeds it.

3. Learn everything!

If you are going to start on your own thing then you really need to learn a lot more than your ‘focus area’. Using the example of a blog: sometimes you are going to need to be the editor, sometimes the designer, sometimes to send the emails, maintain social media accounts, make a budget, design the website and graphics, look for the stories, promote them and many other things you didn’t initially expect.

This is what many don’t like about this, most people like to specialise and specialise only that one thing. For example say you choose accounts and accounts only it then means if you need a website, you then need to be prepared to hire a website designer. If you can’t afford, well then the only option you have is to learn! DIY!

4. Start with a niche

My biggest question today is, “why did I even try to write tech, sports and hiphop yet other blogs were already doing so well in that?” Please don’t get me wrong, the fact that someone is doing it should never stop you, but in my case, I wasn’t even good at it!

If you focus on a niche, it’s going to help you gain an audience.

Today our website posts on 3 Facebook pages and has a combined fan base of plus or minus 20,000. The best thing about it is now I know what they want to read about. It doesn’t have to be about something you know already because you can always learn!

5. You are important!

When you are solo, there is nothing more important than knowing this.

See? If Strive isn’t in a good mood, Econet will run as usual, but if you are the whole company, the team itself, nothing moves if you don’t! So you have to motivate yourself daily.

Back at school you could end up studying not because you want to, but because you were constantly pushed to by parents, guardians, teachers, etc. but in the real world it doesn’t happen like that! If you don’t want to do anything, nothing moves.

However, to keep motivated you might need some support team of sorts. It will help push you on those gloomy days…

Final note; I started DancehallAfrika more than two years ago with the aim of making money obviously, but if that was my only goal, I wouldn’t be doing this right now after so many disappointments. Trust me when I say I also read about making five figures with AdSense. However, when you add the geographical factor (Zimbabwean views earn a lot less) it doesn’t add up. So I’d advice you not to quit your job just to start a blog… unless of course you have savings, but rather in my opinion if in Zim (hopefully it will change soon) start your blog but do get a job to support it.

Batanai Sandura is a young entrepreneur and founder at DancehallAfrika.com (a dancehall-focused blog) and also a self-proclaimed blogger since 2011. You can connect with him via email [email protected] or twitter @nowisnai

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