Behind the Scenes
10 Top Tips for Beginner Bloggers
Following our out of control 2nd Birthday Blogoversary earlier in the week (if by out of control you mean eating 3 cupcakes and having a nap in the middle of the day), I knew I wanted to share some tips and insights for bloggers who may have just started and would like some hints on how to make it to one, two or ten year blogoversaries.
Blogging is a path of amazing highs and some lonely lows at times. Most people only want to share the good stuff (because that’s what the internet is for isn’t it, putting the best photos up so everyone thinks you have the most awesome life in the world), but I want to share with you today Blogging 101: Warts and All. Because, for me, blogging has been an amazing ride – one that is totally worth all the hard work, time and effort. But with these handy hints, you may just be able to chase your dreams a little faster and reach that anniversary with a big smile on your face…
1. PICK YOUR GAP. Most blogging tips and guides will tell you to blog about something you’re passionate about. This is totally true. Every topic is fun for the first 20 blog posts, but if you want to be writing about a subject matter in years to come, you need to genuinely be interested in it. But I’m here to say today, passion is not enough on its own. Your need to hone in on what your speciality is. Say you love baking, honestly another blog about generic baking is really not what the world needs. But the world may need a blog about baking where each recipe teaches a specific cooking technique. Or a blog that’s all about gluten free baking. Focus where your expertise is, look for what the world needs and go for it.
2. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. One of the biggest disappointments I see every month are fabulous new blogs where people post awesome new content for about 3 weeks and then you never hear from them again. To avoid this, preparation is key. Very few people (including myself) have the luxury to blog full time. So you need to set aside time devoted to creating posts for your blog. To keep a good mix of content I’ll plan out my blogging schedule up to 3 months in advance. This allows me to prepare for big photo shoots, holidays and special promotions. Then I usually blog a week in advance. This way, my blog is never left by the wayside when I fall sick, put in overtime at work, or general life gets in the way. If you’re just starting out, I’d suggest having 2-3 months worth of content written before you launch, and then form a weekly schedule so you are creating new content on a regular basis.
3. EDIT. Starting out, I fell into the trap of feeling I needed to post everyday to be taken seriously. While I do feel consistency is important, I would warn against putting up posts just for the sake of it. Make each post count. If you’re not proud of a post, if it doesn’t excite you, inspire you or make you smile, why would anyone else want to read it? Edit your posts. Post only the best photos, the best words, the best ideas…If you’re stuck on how to do this, when you’re about to put up a post ask yourself “If a new reader was coming to my blog for the first time, would I be happy that this post is what they would judge my blog by? Would this post make them stay?” If the answer is yes, post away. If the answer is no, edit.
4. MAKE IT PRETTY. I’m talking blog design here. Now by pretty, I don’t mean every blog has to be the inside of a Ted Baker store. By pretty I mean, clean, easy to navigate and in line with your blog’s brand. Less is always more. Don’t fall into the trap from adding every widget, award and blogging badge in your sidebar. They will just compete for your content’s attention. If you are serious about blogging and want to take it to the next level either take a design course or hire a designer. It needn’t cost you the earth, but your page needs to be on brand and professional to be taken seriously. Along that same vein, start working on your photography skills. You don’t need to be perfect to start, but great photos make a great blog, so make sure you devote time to improving your photography. Case in point? In the last two years, I’ve gone from this to this.
5. CREATE DON’T CURATE. When I started blogging, nearly every second blog post around was a wrap up of gorgeous images or fabulous products to buy. People would create inspiration boards of their latest finds and trends. But with the advent of Pinterest, this kind of blogging is becoming archaic. To stand out as a blogger you need to CREATE your own content. By all means, share products, content or images you find inspiring; but by focusing on what you have to share and create, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s great writing, creative projects, styling your own shoots, personal photography – whatever you have to share, just give people something they haven’t seen before. Your readers will get something new and you’ll enjoy the process.
6. TAKE A BLOGGING COURSE. In my first year of blogging, I took the Blogging Your Way e-course by Holly Becker and can’t rave about it enough. From content, to design, to dealing with advertisers, inspiration and growing reader numbers, I still look back on my notes from that course to this day. I also met some amazing blogger friends through BYW that formed a supportive community during those early, lonely days of blogging.
7. STOP READING BLOGS. I learnt this tip from the above mentioned course and it was a game changer. Now, I don’t mean stop reading blogs entirely, reading and sharing other people’s work forms community and is just good blogging karma. But set aside one or two times a week to look in, comment, and share posts from your favourite blogs. Any more than that and you can find yourself immersed in their blogs rather than your own. To put it simply, if you’re constantly bombarded with inspiration from other blogs, you have no time to inspire yourself and your own content. This leads to copying, comparison and disillusionment. Instead, surround yourself with a healthy variety of inspiration – books, magazines, nature, friends, and every day life.
8. FORGET THE NEGATIVE. While so many people in the blogging world are positive, supportive and kind, there are some people that…well, are the complete opposite. There will be times where your hard work is stolen, or negativity creeps in through comments or social media. My advice for this is that for every second you worry about what someone else is doing, you’re losing a second where you can be thinking about new ideas and content for your blog. While someone may be able to copy your ideas or hate on your content, the fact that you are able to keep thinking of new ideas means you’ll always be one step ahead.
9. GET OFF YOUR BLOG. And by that I mean get on social media. My favourites are Facebook and Pinterest, but I also use Twitter and Instagram. Share your blog content on these pages, but also use them to strengthen your brand, share exclusive content and generally connect with your readers. I love discovering more about the Pretty Fluffy readers through our social media accounts. A word of warning: DO NOT get obsessed by follower numbers. Don’t buy fans, or spam other pages for followers, just focus on connecting with your audience. Whether you’ve got 1, 10 or 1000000 followers, they are all there to hear what you have to say. Don’t treat them like a number.
10. KNOW YOU’RE NOT ALONE. Blogging takes sacrifice. It means time away from your friends and family, it is hours attached to a computer dealing with IT problems you never knew existed, it means failed projects wasting your time and money (oh I’ve had some major FAILS when it comes to DIYs!), you may spend weeks on a fabulous post only to have no-one comment…Blogging certainly comes with its fair share of loneliness and disappointment. There can be days when you just feel like giving up. But know this: We all started somewhere. One of my tips to beat the blogging blues is to go back and read the archives of huge blogs like Style Me Pretty and Decor8 – see where they started, in those early days…and then look at what they are today. Keep faith that with hard work and commitment you’ll get there too.
11. GIVE SOMETHING EXTRA. Just like this extra point, you always have to be giving more to your readers. To do this you have to know why you’re here. What do you want to get out of blogging? Do you want to earn income? Connect with like minded people? Become an expert in your field? Develop a portfolio? Have a creative outlet? There are so many reasons why people blog. You need to decide why you are blogging and how to measure your success as you go along. Compare your stats from one year to another to see how much you’ve grown, think of the lovely emails or tweets you’ve received from fellow bloggers, be happy in the knowledge that there are others like you out there and give back. Celebrate your wins, enjoy your successes. If you know in your heart what you love about blogging, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Do you have a blog? What are your top tips for beginner bloggers?