I’m not the kind of person who likes to live with regret. I believe that things happen for a reason, or a lesson, or sometimes both. That said, when I started blogging, very nearly 5 years ago, there wasn’t much advice on how to start a blog, nor guidance for people starting out on this blogging caper. If there had been I probably would have done some things differently. But isn’t that the case with every blogger? If I was to Start a blog today I would be so much more prepared and knowledgeable than I was originally, but I feel like that is the case for every blogger-you can only truly learn through experience. I have learned a lot over the years, so today I am sharing with you the 8 things I wish I knew when I started blogging in the hopes that it helps those of you who are just starting on your blogging journey to be more sure-footed as you set out.
1. Start as You Mean to Continue
In this case, I am talking about blogging platforms. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of articles out there on whether you should choose Blogger or WordPress and which situation each is good for. I started in Blogger. It’s basic, it’s easy to learn, and best of all it is free. HOWEVER, if I could travel back in time, I would have started out on a self-hosted WordPress site. I’m not talking about the free WordPress.com blogs, but the kind you create yourself with your own hosting and domain name through WordPress.org. Yes, it would have been more expense up-front, and yes the learning curve may have been a little steeper, but really, it was all new to me anyway, so is there really a difference at that point? No. SO many bloggers end up making the switch to a self-hosted WordPress site due to the almost unlimited capacity it has for customisation, functionality and available add-ons. The process of transferring my blog from Blogger to WordPress was so stressful and fraught with the risk of losing readers and content, had I started where I intended to end up, things would have been much easier. Plus, I wouldn’t have had to learn how a whole new platform works, when I had just worked out the last one!
2. Be You from the Get-Go
You will hear this advice over and over if you hang around the blogging world for any length of time; be you! What ever your blog is about, inject it with a massive dose of you! This can be done through the way you write, the phrases you use, your humour, your personal story, your blog’s design, the topics you write about and so many other ways. Don’t do what I did, and get caught up writing what you think you should be writing, or covering a topic you think will be popular. It simply isn’t sustainable. If you want to write a health blog, do it. If you want to write about your favourite TV shows, do it. Unless you are being true to you and writing with passion about something that makes your heart skip a beat, then the day will come when blogging begins to feel like chore. Blogging should be fun, it should be inspiring both to you, the blogger, and to your readers. Take some time to think about what makes you, and what you have to say, unique and don’t be afraid to let that light shine right from the very beginning!
I have experimented a lot over the years with my blogging. I’ve blogged about everything from graphic design, weight loss, mental illness, weddings, design in general and small creative businesses. All of that has brought me to where I am today. It has given me a broad range of knowledge and understanding of blogging which allows me to help others! I just wish someone had told me, all those experiments ago, that this was ok. Perhaps I would have embraced the trial and error process with more gusto, and perhaps would have found my way more quickly. So, I am saying to you, dear new blogger, that it is ok to not have a firm idea of what your blog should be about, it is ok to not yet know your niche. Just start writing. Try a few topics and see what lights your fire. Trust me, when you find that thing that makes your heart sing, you’ll never want to leave your keyboard for love of writing!
4. Do It For Passion
This one follows on, and integrates with the previous point. Don’t start blogging because you want fame, or fortune or followers; do it because you want to share something you are passionate about. Perhaps, as discussed above, you don’t know yet what it is you are passionate about, but very well may be simply have a burning desire to share with others, help others, or maybe simply to write. That’s all good. This is why I started; to be creative and to share. However, I quickly felt that those desires weren’t enough, or were in some way wrong. I felt so much pressure to be gathering followers. I felt like that is what I was “supposed” to be doing. Trying to make that happen is when my blogging became more about what I thought people wanted to reader, rather than what I was passionate about sharing. Readers can tell when you are just trying to build your numbers, or if you are genuinely looking for connection with others who share your passion. Write with love and care about whatever topic it is that gets you up in the morning, and the readers will inevitably come.
5. Don’t Compromise Quality for Quantity
This was a big mistake I made early on. There is so much advice out there telling bloggers to pump out the posts, saying you should be publishing every day, twice a day, or even more! Don’t listen to it. Don’t publish a post just because you feel you are supposed to have something on your blog every day. Be generous to your readers by taking the time to compose blog posts that add value to their lives. Whether it be taking the time to take step-by-step photos of the new recipe you want to post to your blog or perhaps holding off on that post where you rant about the terrible customer service you had at a particular clothing store until you have cooled off, there are many ways to offer quality to your readers, and they will love you for it!
6. You Don’t Have to be an Expert to Have Something to Offer
Each of us has something to offer. I think we, as bloggers actually do believe this deep down, that’s why we want to blog in the first place. Yet so many of us get caught up in feeling like we aren’t qualified enough, don’t have enough experience, or haven’t been blogging long enough to have anything of real value to offer. This simply isn’t true. As I said before, we all have something to offer. We all have a unique set of life experiences that colour our world, writing, and blog differently to that of everyone else. That is a beautiful thing and it should be celebrated! If you discover a new way to exercise, then share it! If you finally worked out how to master that tricky crochet stitch, then show your blog readers how you did it! You really don’t need to be an expert to have something to offer, as you are bound to have answer to the questions someone else is asking!
7. Connect, Connect, Connect!
Blogging is about connection, so it might seem strange for this point to be included. However, as bloggers we love out little plot of the internet garden. We tend to it, prune it, welcome those who visit it, but can get too caught up in our own plot that we don’t take the time to visit other’s plots and this can make us sad little gardeners… I mean, bloggers. Take the time, even when you are super busy starting out with your blog to visit other blogs. Comment on posts you feel you have something to contribute to. Jump on social media and connect with others there. Better yet, get out to a blogging meet-up, conference, workshop or event. It might seem intimidating for those who find social situations a challenge, but the connections and friendships you make through these events and by reaching out online will benefit not only your blog, but your life! I have met some of my closest friends and favourite people through blogging! Connecting with others is also a great way to grow your own readership, and you never know what opportunities might arise through the people you meet when you reach out.
8. Avoid Comparison
This is a BIG one. I still struggle with this. I am a “compare and contrast” kind of person – I blame all my years of art history education for that (ha ha). A quote that really resonates with me is by Jon Acuff and it says “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle“. This is such an easy trap to fall into, especially when you are a new blogger. Every blog will grow and establish in different ways and at a different pace. Don’t feel discouraged because that blogger over there has the readers and the opportunities you crave. Chances are they have been working very hard on their blog for a longer time than you. Even if that’s not the case, comparing your unique gem-of-a-blog to someone else’s is futile and will only ever leave you feeling as though you are lacking, or it may even make you want to give up. Run your own race and you will be rewarded for your hard work in due time. I hope these 8 things I wish I knew when I started blogging help all of you who are just starting to avoid some of the frustrations, misinformation, mistakes and even hurt I have experienced in my time blogging. If you have been blogging for a while and there anything else you would like to add, feel free to do so in the comments below. Or if you are new to blogging and have some questions, you can do the same. I’d love to help you out, if I can! [divider] [photo from We Love Homes] [divider]