Oh, the days of being a newbie blogger — or, ‘noob’ as most people say (mockingly of course). It’s not easy, wandering your way through WordPress themes, an abundance of plugins, and yet another ‘How to Start a Blog’ article. ‘Just Start’ they all say.
Sure, okay, but where and with what?
And which hosting company do you choose?
(I went with Bluehost because of course, they are the best and I always lean towards the best)
Who’s going to read this? Your mom and cat?
I still have visions of Amy Adams in Julie and Julia excited over her first comment, only to find out it’s her mom.
When they do read it, what do you do? Are you ready for blogger success? And what does that success look like?
When you’re new to blogging, all of this and more runs through your brain. You’re terrified of getting the elusive formula wrong and fearful of never gaining a following.
Since I’ve been at this for years (and through many successes and failures), I thought I’d share my thoughts/lessons on writing, gaining a following, what’s really important (and what’s not), and ack! — your first media feature. So here goes:
Always be learning.
The blogging landscape is always changing. Things change so rapidly, it can be borderline overwhelming. But, that’s no reason not to blog. It simply means you need to be constantly learning, moving and changing as the platform and environment change.
Here are a few blogs to help you stay ahead of the curve:
Content first, then design.
Sure, we’d all love a snazzy website that’s cutting edge and represents our most creative side when we’re first starting out — but alas, not all of us have $3000 or more to shell out on a pro web designer. Nor do we have hours on end to learn HTML and CSS. Personally, I know the basics, but that’s as far as it goes for me.
I highly recommend picking up a WordPress for Dummies book — I own this one and it’s been a lifesaver in a jam.
I’m sure you’ve heard this term thrown around and it’s likely that some of your blogging motivations involve earning money and/or brand collaborations. As a new blogger, this should NOT be your main focus. Your readers will see through you. Start out by providing value first and building a community. Without a community and email list, you’ll have no one to sell to— products or affiliate sales. See the previous point above.
Write for you. Don’t worry about anyone else.
This does not mean forget about your reader! What it does mean is write what’s on your mind with your reader in mind. Don’t go with the blogging flow, trends/what everyone else is doing or what will get you the most likes, comments, or shares. Make it a conversation, ask your readers for ideas.
Develop your writing voice.
It’s all about how you say it. Er, write it? Readers come to your blog to learn from you. They want to read about your life experiences in your own words. They don’t want to see something regurgitated from another website on yours. Developing your writing voice and style takes time and commitment. You need to be writing every single day. It doesn’t need to be hours and hours of writing — starting with 30 minutes a day is plenty. If you’re struggling with writing, here are a few books that are my go-to’s to get you started:
Your first media feature — be careful!
I hate to say it, but the media is generally in it for one thing — a great story. And it’s usually at your expense. Try not to get all starry-eyed when the media approaches you for the first time and always remember that they may use a different angle than the one presented to you. On my previous blog, Budget Bloggess, I was featured in an article on a major publication’s site, and well, a lot was left out. This resulted in my life being taken out of context and over 300 nasty comments (never read these!) on how I should live my life. My first TV feature was no better. I’ll openly say I was naive and gullible. I thought I’d be helping others by shining a spotlight on spending online and well, the opposite occurred. 90% of what I said was never included, I was made to look like a way bigger shopaholic than I was, and well, the feature photo of me was less than flattering. That’s the media — everything for drama and effect.
Now, I don’t want to scare you away, because not all media is like this. I’ve had some very good experiences as well. But this was after I had learned my lesson and thought deeply about how I wanted to utilize media for my benefit instead of the other way around.
Keep your integrity, values, and beliefs.
Never and I mean NEVER sway from your values when it comes to blogging. Never lower your integrity for an ad, a sponsored post, or a free trip or product just so you can feel like you ‘made it’ or are a serious blogger. Of course you’ll be excited when you get your first opportunity to make money, but always go back to your own blogging rules or blogging moral compass and ask yourself:
- Would I use this product/service myself?
- Is this something my readers would love? Will it benefit their lives?
- Did my readers really come to my site to see this?
Take some time in the early blogging days to prepare yourself for that first media request, guest post, or paid brand collaboration. Do this by setting some ground rules for yourself: what are you willing to put on your site and what are you not willing to put on your site?
And remember, if someone wants you to break Google’s rules just to get a link on your site it’s not worth it. Google can and will heavily penalize you for not following the rules. NOFOLLOW is the way my newbie blogger friends.
Be consistent! Give yourself 3-6 months of consistent blogging (Min 1X per week) before investing in any courses.
Why? Well, there’s this little thing called your writing voice, it’s your style of conveying a story through the written word. Not only do you need to find your writing voice/style, you also need to figure out if you enjoy writing and if the topic(s) you’re writing about light you up.
If it does light you up, you’ll need a few months to get established with evergreen content, then you can invest in the courses.
Tip: Evergreen content is content that is always relevant. It’s timeless. Think of it as a pine tree whose leaves always stay green and never change — that’s evergreen content.
Extra tip: You can always go back and rework/rebrand your blog after you’ve started. It doesn’t break anything.
It’s not about you, it’s all about them.
Everyone says this 24/7 but it is the best piece of advice. You must provide value. If you aren’t, your readers won’t stick around. My first blogging mistake was treating my blog like an online diary. I’d write about a problem but rarely provide the solution. Readers want to know the problem you experienced, but they also want to know how you solved it. Remember, it’s all about your readers, not you. They’re looking for practical solutions to their everyday problems.
Trolls, haters, and nasty commenters.
We all dread the day when we get a keyboard jockey leaving nasty remarks to our heart and soul narrative that we’ve poured into a blog post. Yet, it happens. There will be someone, somewhere that will disagree with something you post at one point or another. Before you’re tempted to berate the commenter, stop and take a moment to calm down. Never reply to a nasty comment when you’re angry. Try to think from another point of view and reply diplomatically and in a classy manner. Remember, you’re building a community, not tearing it down by being a potty mouth.
And, if you’re ever featured in the media or on another popular blog, try to steer clear of reading the comments. If you have to read them, try your best not to take them to heart. Most nasty comments are a reflection of the commenters life, not yours. They’re usually taking out their own insecurities on you. Sad but true.
My last tip? Be you and blog your own way.
There is no right way or wrong way to blogging. What worked for someone else may not work for you. And with so much content online, readers are looking for new ideas, unique and inspiring stories, and your personality. They’re looking to connect, to find their community and tribe. What they don’t want is the same old thing that they’ve seen elsewhere. Yes, it can be tough coming up with new ideas when you feel as though it’s all been said, but remember this — no one has experienced life like you, no one can write it (or say it) like you can. Be you and let your freak flag wave. You may be pleasantly surprised to soon find you have your own little tribe.
Ready to launch your own WordPress blog? Check out my step-by-step guide to starting a blog right here and a list of all my blog resources right here.
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