Today it’s my blogversary! Happy Birthday Becoming you!! As a way of celebrating this past year and all that I have learnt and achieved I thought I would share with you some of the lessons and ways I have grown in my role as a “blogger”.
I often get asked questions about “How to start a blog” so here are my Top 10 Tips for new Bloggers!
1. Be Yourself
The most important thing when starting out blogging (or anything really!) is to always be yourself. Let your personality shine through. Your readers, when they come, will want to hear what your opinion is on a matter, they will want to see your photography or find out what you’ve been cooking, making, crafting or where your family has been going.
2. Be Unique
This will be your little space on the World Wide Web. Stay true to who you are and what makes you, you. Don’t try to imitate another persons’ blog (or personality for that matter). Write about what interests you! By all means get ideas and inspiration from various sources around the internet and read plenty of blogs before starting one of your own but always, always write in your own voice. Think up new blog post ideas – don’t just take ideas from other sites – that constitues plagiarism! Your originality is important.
3. Be Patient
Blogging has without a doubt been a HUGE test of patience – def something I need more of! The steep learning curve of the past year has been challenging but also amazing. I have loved learning new things such as html and picture editing software, tips on writing and blog layout as well as how to use Social Media for a blog or business. But none of this has been easy. I have on more than 1 occasions (ok many!) wanted to pack the whole thing in. I am by no means technical and have had to learn about plug-ins and widgets and malware (may you never have to learn about malware!) There will be days when it all gets too much and on those days I say: Take a break! Go back to the blog after a few days and see how you feel. If you decide it is too time-consuming – because it is! – then don’t punish yourself for posting more infrequently or taking a sabbatical or giving it up altogether. Blogging is a passion – you have to LOVE it. The time it takes for each post is often a few hours so it can be incredibly time-consuming for very little reward. Don’t expect to make money from your blog, not for at least a few years. I have yet to cover my costs! But I do love it and want to press on so even during those trying times I remind myself that I think I’ve found what I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know it.
4. Be Kind
Make friends with your fellow bloggers, link to them, mention them in your blog, introduce yourself when meeting in person. Comment, comment, comment. This is so important. EVERY blogger everywhere loves getting comments and most will pop by your blog to see what you’re about. I wish I had more time to comment on every blog I read but I don’t. One day I plan to do this… Send encouraging emails to the bloggers you admire and tell them. Ask them questions but don’t push for a response. Bloggers are very busy and often still work full time so don’t always have time to respond but some do and you will find that we are (mostly) a friendly bunch! When you do make it – remember that someone helped you along the way and Pay it Forward by helping others. Share your knowledge. If you know an awesome free photo editing site – tell others, if you find a way to boost your “likes” on Facebook – let your blogging buddies know, be positive and share links or competitions that other bloggers are hosting. The more you do this the better the profile of bloggers in general which can only help all bloggers in the long run. The SA blogosphere has a long way to go to catch up to the level of the US! Always link back to a blog if they were your source for a photo, idea or info.
Do things differently. We are all creative beings but in this fast-paced life we don’t get a chance to tap into that very often. Blogging is a great forum for unleashing your creativity be it writing or illustrating, photography or creating crafts to sell. There are million different types of blogs. Think up something that no one else is doing. Don’t be afraid to showcase your talents, it might lead to a new career, you never know! If you have a passion for interior design or art or baking use that as your starting point. Remember blogging is always changing and you might start out writing about the daily happenings of your dogs’ life and end up sharing beautiful poetry. Blogging has meant that I head out into the world with a different mindset. I am constantly looking for beauty around me. I love photography so that has been a natural progression for me – to share my personal photography on my blog. I may not be a professional but I love doing it and will continue doing it for me – no one else! But be cautioned, being creative comes with a few downsides. I have found that somedays I have struggled with the vulnerability that comes with blogging. Opening myself and my inner most thoughts to strangers on the internet can be quite scary! We all have our insecurities which we tend to hide or ignore in real life but be prepared to face them head on while blogging. A biggie for me is when people post negative comments…. That really sucks!
6. Be Disciplined
This might sound like a wierd thing to write but it is one of the first, most important lessons I learnt. When you start blogging and get past the initial overwhelming stage (see Be Patient!) you will find that suddenly blogging becomes a huge force in your life. It will begin to take over. The hits on your analytics will become an obsession. There is so much to learn and tweak and write and photograph. You can forget that real life is happening all around you, all the time and get drawn into the blogging abyss! My husband was great at reminding me to step back into reality every now and again. Step away from the computer!! It isn’t going anywhere. Yes, someone might visit your site and find nothing new, but, so what! They will come back if they like what they see. Don’t get stressed about your blog – it is just another facet of your life like any other hobby. Remember to get out once in a while and enjoy living – that way at least you’ve have something good to blog about! Set times in your calendar when you will blog, read other blogs, research technical stuff, tweak layout, edit photos, make online friends via social media. I find a good method for me is to blog 3 nights a week. I don’t have time during the daylight hours as I have little kids so I also need to be disciplined about going to bed at a reasonable hour so I can be awake during those daylight hours!!
7. Be Boundaried
Decide up front how much of your personal life you are willing to share. Do you want to reveal your name and location or use a pseudonym. Do you feel comfortable sharing names, ages and photos of your children for instance? How about details of your work? Many famous bloggers over-share details of their personal lives and they are very comfortable with that. They probably get a lot of readers just because deep inside everyone of us is a voyeur – Facebook stalking for example – don’t tell me you’ve never done it! I decided to share a few details such as my name and location but I haven’t mentioned my work or my families names. I do occasionally post photo’s of my own kids doing various things or on outings but I try to limit their faces. As per my husband’s request, you won’t find any photo’s of him!
8. Be Social
A great way to start getting readers (and hits) is to set up social media accounts – the big ones are Facebook and Twitter. Start with one first and master that and then move onto the next one as they can be very overwhelming to begin with. I started out sharing a few posts I thought my personal friends would be interested in via my own Facebook profile. I then pointed them in the direction of my Facebook page if they wanted to receive more updates. Obviously it’s great to get as many “likes” as you can but more important than the final number that appears in the margin is whether they are genuine “likes” – people who really want to read your posts and see what you are up to or those who are just there for the free stuff or reciprocal “like” or link. I rather go with the latter. Facebook is a great for building a community and having conversations between your readers. Engage them with special offers or competitions but don’t bombard their news feed or they might just hide you! Twitter is another useful tool for spreading the word but to be honest I am still mastering this one. It can be tricky to keep up with the fast pace of conversations taking place all the time. An important tip is don’t feel you have to follow everyone who follows you. I tried this in the beginning but it got ridiculous. I need to filter my following file as my news feed is hard to maintain at present! Other social media sites worth taking note of are Google + and Pinterest. I have been on Pinterst for almost a year and LOVE it but as with all social media sites it should come with a warning: HIGHLY ADDICTIVE (and time-consuming) Don’t even think of opening it if you need to be productive! Google + is a new social media tool and business pages (for blogs too) have only been available since Nov 2011 so I have yet to master this one. I am hoping to learn more shortly and would love to find out a way of automating my blog posts to show up there such as with Facebook and Twitter via a system like Networked Blogs. Shout if you know of one. Right now it seems a bit overwhelming to keep up with so many social media sites so I focus on 2!
9. Be Inspired
Use blogging as a tool to inspire you to get out there and do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Go on a hike and photograph it, try a new hobby and do a post on your experience, travel to a different country and blog about the food or fashion in a new place. Don’t just do what you’ve always done – step outside the box. You can get fabulous ideas for DIY or crafts for your kids parties by reading other peoples blogs, so why not inspire those reading yours! Even if you only have one reader, write for them. Engage with that reader and inspire each other. You might even find one of your best friends through this online journey!
10. Be Fun
Pretty self explanatory. Make sure in all of this you are having fun. Blogging should not be a burden. If it is, it will show! Your readers come to your site for a bit of R & R. Enjoy yourself, laugh at yourself, share your silly stories, make your readers smile and they will come back!
I hope you enjoyed these tips – feel free to add any in the comments below. For more specific questions you are welcome to email me and I will attempt to reply when I get a free moment!
Don’t forget to let me know what you think. No negative comments mind 😉
images: Kathryn Rossiter