Two years ago I was asked by my blogging friend Tara to write some blogging tips on “What I Wish I Would Have Known When I Started Blogging”. Since that time, my blog has grown by leaps and bounds and I get asked by friends and family all the time for advice on starting their own blog. The truth is, there is SO much I would do differently if I were to start over!
I started a family blog in 2006 and after spending over an hour on a simple post, I vowed to never post again because I just “didn’t get it.” Realizing that having a blog was a great way to journal and keep in touch with long-distance family, I stuck to it and kept learning. Pretty soon, I loved my blog and I loved the comments from friends and family. I even started getting comments on posts featuring fun projects and activities that I did with my kids, and while I did enjoy the virtual compliments, I did not like the idea of strangers having a personal window into my family life. The solution for this was to make my family blog private and start a blog to showcase my creative side. Somewhat Simple was launched in July 2009 and it has been a wild and fun ride!
10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known
1. WordPress vs. Blogger
I started on blogger and stayed there ’til December 2010. I LOVE blogger but WP has more features, like Plugins that make my site run smoothly and look pretty. Here is my opinion: If you plan to be blogging a year from now and you want to earn money on your blog, go with WP. If Blogging is just a hobby of yours and you aren’t trying to make anything of it, Blogger is just perfect. My family blog is still hosted by blogger.
If you are currently on Blogger and you’re wanting to switch to WP but you have no idea how to do it, save your pennies and hire someone. I tried making the switch 3 times on my own before I ended up hiring someone to do it for me and it saved my sanity. And start asking around for recommendations on who to hire. I went to Etsy and found a guy who seemed great and all his feedback was amazing. I thought it was safe and his prices were reasonable. But 6 months later I ended up firing the guy and losing money because he ended up being CRAZY! It has been several years since then and I am STILL fixing the crappy coding job he did.
If you’re just starting out, I’d get things rolling on Blogger- make sure you like blogging and that you’re in it for the long-haul. When you have saved enough money or when you start to see some consistent cash coming in, it might be time to think about making the switch. Remember, Blogger is free, WordPress is not. You will need to pay for your monthly hosting. So make sure blogging is something you really want to jump into before you take the plunge.
2. Criticism & Discouragement
Learn real fast to deal with criticism and discouragement because it happens to the biggest and best bloggers out there. I have been slammed on a message board for a project I did and it hurt my feelings. On the bright side, it was a HUGE message board, so my numbers for the day were crazy high! I don’t like mean people, but sometimes you just gotta deal with them. The best way I have found to deal with them is to avoid them.
3. Put Yourself Out There
I started having more confidence in my blog when “bigger bloggers” featured my ideas. But don’t sit around and wait for those sites to find you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Link up to link parties. All of the features we write on Somewhat Simple are ideas that were linked to our parties.
- Email the blogs that feature other people’s projects with links to your projects. DON’T be spammy though- make it personalized and email them just a few of your recent links maybe once a month- not weekly. Or daily, for that matter!
- Ask other bloggers to “blog swap” with you. Blog swapping was probably the best way I found to get site exposure. In the beginning, I set aside every Friday to blog swap with someone, meaning I would do a project for their site, they would do one for mine. It was a great way to introduce yourself to another audience and gain new readers.
- Don’t forget the power of Social Media. Let’s be honest, Pinterest has changed things- BIG TIME. I started blogging before Pinterest even existed and now Pinterest is my number 1 referring site month after month. Feel free to pin the HECK out of your stuff (as long as you’re also pinning from other sites too!) Facebook and Twitter are great ways to interact with your fans, Instagram let’s your fans to learn more about you personally, and g+ is still a mystery for me, but I am learning! Don’t feel like you have to jump on every social platform- find what works for you and go crazy with it!
4. Grow Authentically
Don’t expect overnight success. And don’t expect to get rich blogging.
5. Keep Your Priorities In Check
Set daily “business hours” and don’t overwork yourself. You will get burnt out and other parts of your life will suffer. Then comes the guilt. Don’t let yourself get to that point. I love being a blogger, but I love being a mom even more. I don’t want to look back on this time when my kids are little and regret not spending more time with them, so I set hours that I allow myself to be on the computer and stick to it.
6. Pictures Matter!!!
In the beginning, I would spend hours and hours creating something blog-worthy and then I’d quickly snap a picture and post about it. My pictures were dark and small and yucky and they did not properly showcase how awesome the project was. Stage your photographs, use bright, natural light and make you images as big and pretty as you can. I’m spending serious time now-a-days recreating crafts and projects I did years ago to swap out pictures that were horrible. Seriously, go find a post from 2009 and you’ll cringe! I have no idea why anyone would come to my site and stick around- it was that bad!!!
7. Let Your Personality Shine Without Being Too Personal
People like to know the person behind the posts. With that said, remember that being super sarcastic or blunt may offend some. Also, too much of a personal blog mixed with your creativity doesn’t work well either. Its fun to read a little glimpse into an authors life, but when the blog ramblings start to make up more of the content than the actual creative projects, some may not want to come back. There is a fine line between no personality and too much rambling- but find the sweet spot and your readers will love you for it!
8. Don’t Rely on Blogging to Define Yourself
The sooner you realize your blog is disposable, the better! I used to stress over getting a daily post up, but eventually came to the realization that my life does not revolve around a post and neither do the lives of my readers! As much as I love to blog and it is something I am passionate about, I can quit blogging tomorrow if I needed to and I like that I can say that!
9. Be True
Do what you love and stick to that. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, your readers will see right through it. And don’t compare yourself to other bloggers or try to pass their ideas off as your own. Also, getting offered compensation in exchange of promoting a company or product is always tempting, but make sure your post is your actual opinion and don’t shove something into your readers faces that you yourself wouldn’t try or love.
10. Make it Worth It
When I first started blogging, it was all just for fun and I posted whenever I felt like it and the virtual “pats on the back” from comments is what I loved. Now that I blog quite often, I want it to be as profitable as possible. Sell ad spots on your sidebar, (start at $5 a month!) join Social Spark, find an ad network and use Google Adsense. I do all of those things and it has given me just a bit of extra money that makes my time spent on the computer so worth it! I don’t have to ask my husband for money to buy his birthday present anymore! It is fantastic!!!
. . . . .
Blogging for me is fun and rewarding. As a stay at home mom, I don’t receive any pay checks and promotions for having a clean house and happy kids. Watching my kids grow and learn and laugh is obviously better than a paycheck, but sometimes its nice to have an adult outlet with a virtual high five and validation for my creative endeavors. I hope those of you who are reading this will get inspired to either start a blog of your own or keep working at the blog you have ONLY if you find joy in it. The day I decide the fun is gone is the day I will take a permanent blogging vacation. For now, I am going to enjoy the ride and see where it takes me!