*This post was originally posted last October, but after the blog crash, I felt like it needed to make a reappearance (so it’s actually part of my archives). It may be time to add more things I’ve learned since then, but not in this post. :)
I was learning about a couple of Facebook features recently, and it started me thinking about all the things I’ve learned in my short time blogging here. It made my head spin. I’ve learned so much about blogging, social media, marketing, photography, and even myself.
I thought, “I should compile a list of all the things I’ve learned from the experience.” Not so much the specifics (perhaps that wil be another post), but about the experience itself. About how I, as a person, have already gone through a gamut of emotions, successes, failures, and learning experiences. About how I have arrived where I am, even though my journey is just in its infancy.
Because I’m convinced that I’m not alone. I’m convinced that all bloggers have gone through these same things. And if you’re new to blogging, you’ll experience them, too. These general bits of knowledge are, in some ways, a collection of my learning thus far. And I want to share them with you.
But because my thoughts were so insanely long (as in over 6000 words), I’m breaking it into three more manageable parts. I hope you learn something along the way!
- You can’t do everything at the beginning. You probably don’t even know what’s out there or what your readers are going to appreciate. You hear over and over that blogging is a marathon not a sprint, and it’s true. Work your way from one element to another at your own pace.
- Blogging isn’t easy. There’s so much to a good blog, and I think most people are oblivious to the work it takes to make one. It’s worth it, but it’s not easy. You don’t just throw words on a screen and hit publish. There’s planning, creating, staging, photographing, uploading, editing, watermarking, writing, tagging, and scheduling before you can hit publish. Then there’s promoting, link parties, social media, and networking after. For one post. Just realize what it takes to do it well.
- You’re going to mess things up on your blog, but the internet is forgiving in that you can fix most things–technologically speaking. Posts will go up early (or not at all); links won’t work; you’ll have to search for hundreds of answers to things you never knew you’d need to know. Just fix it and move on.
- Work to build relationships. Blogging is a community, not a platform. If you’re up on a soap box, people won’t stay. But if you’re engaging in a conversation, they’ll feel wanted and you’ll gain something more valuable than traffic: friends.
- Work hard to not mess up relationships. Unlike technology, fixing messed up relationships is a lot harder. Make sure your message is clear and that you aren’t misunderstood. And if you do mess something up, work hard to repair it. Relationships are worth the effort, just like in real life.
- Be kind. You’ll have some crazy situations and comments that have you shaking your head or leaving you quite upset. Be kind. Give them the benefit of the doubt. It will serve you well in the end.
- Be gracious. You’ll have opportunities to shine when you’re gracious with others and with yourself. When you think about people who are gracious, you realize they have a grace and charm that’s unreal. You’re drawn to them. Be that gracious person: give sincere compliments, and don’t let any nice thought go unsaid/unwritten. It doesn’t do anyone any good if you don’t share those things.
- Be real. People like real. Nothing is perfect and pretending that they are is just a bad idea. I’m all for positivity, just not for pretending.
- Share yourself. In my short time writing this blog, I’ve done some cool stuff (I think) but the blog post that has gotten more genuine attention from those I care about most was a post about motherhood. It was only marginally in my blogging “sphere,” but it resonated with some amazing people because it came from my heart.
- Be generous. Give without expecting to gain anything. Think about your own life: those who are your biggest advocates are probably those you serve without thinking. Blogging isn’t any different. Your biggest fans and most loyal readers will be those you’ve been generous with.
- Hoping is okay. Dreaming is good. But then turn those hopes and dreams into realities through work, goals, and more work. Don’t leave it at hoping.
- Blogging is a full time job. You might have a lot of flexibility in your hours, but don’t let the time commitment fool you. You’ll need to spend hours each day working if you want great content each day. Of course, if you blog fewer times a week you will need to do less work, but realize it’s a job.
- You get out what you put in. Whether you’re talking about the actual writing of a post, the design, the publicity, or any other facet of blogging, you get out what you put in. If you refine your writing, develop a strategy, and continually improve your site’s appearance it’s going to show. If you slap words across the screen and have yellow photos, that shows as well. You get out what you put in.
- Design is key. My first design was ok, but nothing great. I knew it wasn’t wonderful, so I called for help. My sister designed a great header/logo for me, and with a lot of hard work, the whole feel of the blog came together. And people have taken notice of my blog because of it. Design is really important. And if you find that you can’t do it alone, calling in help is the best thing.
- Make sure your design fits you and your readers. My sister actually designed about a dozen headers (she’s awesome that way) from which I was able to pick what best fit me and my readers. And when I look at my blog, I see me. I feel like it’s me.
- Content is most important. Write/create/show amazing content, and people will be back in droves. Give them something they can’t/don’t want to do without. Make them feel welcome, and they’ll be back.
- If it’s not your best, don’t use it. I’m guilty of this one, but I’m working on it. No post is better than an uninspiring one. Just think: if someone came to your blog for the first time on a day when you posted an OK post and they didn’t see anything else, would they come back? No. If they saw last week’s post that was awesome, are they going to care that there wasn’t something today? Probably not. Content is your lifeblood.
- Great photos are important. Bad photos will do more to hurt you than help you. When I see a blog with small, grainy, off-color, and unfocused pictures I don’t stick around regardless of the ideas presented. But make those photos big, focused, and properly exposed, and I’ll stay all day.
- Watermark your photos. Not because you’re afraid of someone stealing your images, but because they’re part of your brand and your advertising. They’re a chance for someone to say, “Hey, that’s a great idea!” and start associating your ideas with your name, which is important in getting them to come back.
- Protect your name, your image, and your reputation. I think this is just a general life lesson, but it definitely applies to blogging. Make sure you’re associating yourself with things and people that enlarge and enrich your name, not the opposite.
- People want to learn from people they know. Just because something has been taught before doesn’t mean your readers wouldn’t learn it from you. To some, you’re the best teacher or the best resource they know!
- Do what’s best for your readers. Remember when I talked about not being on a soapbox? You’re here for your readers, not the other way around. It took me a little while to catch on to this. You don’t have a readership without them, so think about them when you’re brainstorming, creating, and writing. I don’t mean that it’s a popularity contest; we’re not in high school. I mean genuinely care about them, and you’ll gain far more than you realize.
- Set yourself a schedule, then follow it. Every morning I get up and do my morning blog routine (checking to make sure my post went up, checking e-mails and stats, linking to parties, and commenting on other blogs) while my girls eat breakfast. Then nap time is for creating, taking photos, and writing posts. After they go to bed, I usually work again for a while. Whatever you determine, stick to the schedule you set or it’ll be easy to get derailed.
- Designate a dedicated work spot. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be a place where you can have all your tools and can work. Mine is at my kitchen pass through. I can do a few things while the kids eat or while they play in the adjoining room. My camera, computer, cords, hard drive, and phone dock all live here so when it’s time to blog everything’s ready. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional.
- Have a creative space. If you have a creative blog, your creative space doesn’t need to be in your blogging space. For me, I get distracted by the computer when I should be crafting and vice versa. So having my spaces differentiated keeps me on track. But do what works best with your creative process.
- Set goals. You’ll never really feel accomplished until you set some goals and start working on them. Something measurable and achievable. Start small and work your way up. I set 6-month goals, then broke them down month by month. That gives me bite-sized goals that will help me accomplish what I’ve set out to do.
- Evaluate your goals regularly. How are you doing? Do your goals really fit where you’re at now? What do you need to do to meet those goals? All these questions should be on your mind when you are evaluating.
- Sometimes your goals have to change. Life can throw some pretty big curve balls at you, and it probably will. Be willing to reevaluate your goals to keep them reasonable, yet something that stretches you. It may be that your goals weren’t lofty enough, so you need to set them higher. Just realize that there has to be some flexibility.
- Be realistic with yourself. Is it realistic to expect thousands of visitors your first month? No. It takes time to build a readership, and even longer to build one that is loyal and committed to you, but you can do it. In the meantime,
- Be patient. Let me say it again: be patient. (I’m repeating this to myself all the time.)
- Believe in yourself. If you need to do daily affirmations, do them. Just believe in yourself. I think that was the most liberating thing for me. I played with the idea of a “real” blog (one not just for my family) for over a year before finding the inspiration to do it. And then came the moment of belief. I knew that I not only could do it, but that I was going to do it. There was belief and determination and awe all wrapped up in one ball of emotion, and I felt like I was going to explode from excitement. That day I bought a domain and got started.
- Don’t be afraid. Just jump in and do it. Set up a blog; apply for an opportunity; ask people for guest posts. It may be scary and you may get rejected, but don’t be afraid to try. You’d be surprised how far you can get on confidence.
- Creativity breeds more creativity. Don’t think that you’ll use up all your ideas in a short period of time and then you won’t have anything to write about. Don’t think that you don’t have any good ideas. Just be creative every day, and you’ll find more ideas in your head than you ever knew there were!
Are you still there? This list is insanely long, and this is only a third of it! Look for Part 2 and Part 3 later this week.