Grab yourself a cuppa, because I feel a rather long post coming on. Are you thinking of starting a blog? Maybe you’re a new blogger like me? Perhaps you’ve just stumbled across this post and want to see what this blogging malarkey is all about. Well, today’s post is a little compilation of my observations as a new blogger and all the things I really wasn’t prepared for when I started blogging.
I’m only three months into blogging and already it has been an enormous learning curve. Huge! If you’re a regular reader you will know that I’m a stickler for planning and endless researching. When I made the decision to start blogging, I didn’t take it lightly. I did several months of preparation, developing my website and brand, taking courses, preparing content and images until finally I decided it was now or never and I hit publish on my first posts.
Yet despite my best efforts in preparing, there are some things that you really only learn on the job.
As a newbie to the blogging world, it’s a bit like visiting a new country. You’re not fluent in the language, all these terms are cropping up and you’re wondering what the heck they mean. You’re not sure what the customs are either – if somebody comments on you blog do you return the favour? I spent most of my first month trying to figure out blogging etiquette and avoid accidentally pissing anyone off.
If you want to read a little more about why I started blogging you can check out this post, otherwise let’s dive in and talk more about the things I really wasn’t prepared for when I started blogging, so that you can be.
1# THERE ARE SO MANY BLOGGERS
If you’re not a part of the blogging community then you’ll probably have no idea of the vast (and rapidly increasing) number of bloggers out there. I certainly didn’t, it was an eye opener for sure. There is a statistic from several years ago, stating that there are 152 million blogs in the world and I can only imagine that there are a fair few million more now.
When I started I joined various blogging Facebook groups and started following other bloggers on social media and that’s when it really hit me. It was like I’d stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia. Only there was no Mr Tumnus to greet me, it was just bloggers – millions and millions of bloggers. Any subject you can possibly think of, I will guarantee that someone out there is blogging about it.
It is an amazing community to be part of, people are incredibly supportive of each other and always willing to give others advice. Blogging can connect you with people all over the world, that you never would have met otherwise (albeit virtually).
And while it is brilliant that so many people are inspired to write, to share information, images and anecdotes. The problem for new bloggers, is finding a way to stand out in such a saturated market.
Well, my suggestion is: you do you! You can blog about a very similar subject in a completely different way.
Use your own voice, images and branding to break away from the crowds and give a different perspective. If we had this conversation in real life, this is pretty much how I would talk to you (OK maybe a slightly more polished and edited version) – and err hopefully you’d talk back too! So be yourself, because that’s what makes you different.
2# BEWARE OF THE NICHE POLICE
Everyone wants you to be really specific about what you blog about. Like, really specific. They want you to pinpoint your target audience down to the finest detail. Are you writing for cat-owning, single, vegan, nurses, who like to wear pink (but only on a Tuesday)? That’s exactly what the niche police want.
Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, but pretty much any ‘how to start a blog’ post you read starts with picking a niche.
Part of me thinks, screw you niche police – I’m a complex person, with multiple interests. If I want to blog about a range of topics I’m into, then why the hell can’t I?
Buuuut, I can’t ignore my instincts from over a decade working as a marketing professional. Those niche police have a point, as much as I hate to admit it. Defining your audience makes it a hell of a lot easier to create content that’s relevant. It can be very difficult to develop loyal readers if they’re only interested in a small portion of your content.
If you’re too specific though, you will run out of things to write about very quickly. You need to find a balance.
As a new blogger I think it’s ok to start with a broader niche.
You’ll learn which content you enjoy writing and which you don’t and most importantly which content people are most interested in reading. You can always fine tune your niche after a few months.
3# CONTENT IDEAS WILL COME TO YOU AT THE MOST RANDOM MOMENTS
I’m not a morning person. I mean, I have to be because I have a young child – but naturally I’m really more zombie until I’ve had a cup of coffee or ten. For that reason, ideas will come to me in the middle of the night or just when I’m about to go to bed. Then I have to open my laptop back up, or at least jot something down, because I know I won’t remember by the morning.
But it’s not just limited to the middle of the night, oh no. At the dentist, at parents evening, out for dinner with the in-laws, somehow your brain never quite switches off from blogging. If I am able to and it doesn’t appear too rude, I will just make a few notes because if I don’t it’ll be gone forever.
In fact, right at this very moment I’m actually trying to write another blog post. This idea has popped in to my head and so I’ve had to abandon the other post to start writing this one. Annoying and impractical, but I find that the words flow much more easily when you feel inspired to write.
Use a notepad or your phone to write down any blog related inspiration and take it everywhere with you.
I have a notes page on my phone where I jot down blog post ideas and sometimes whole paragraphs that spring to mind randomly. The dictation tool on my phone is also very useful for quickly capturing thoughts while i’m on the go.
4# YOU CAN’T JUST WRITE
I’m a serial list maker, I just can’t help myself. If there’s a way to involve a list in the planning of anything, I’m all over it. You may be able to tell this already from the sheer quantity of list posts I write.
As you would imagine, planning 6 months worth of post for the blog has me grinning manically and mentally high fiving myself for being so damn organised.
But when it comes to actually writing the posts, the reality is not so straightforward. Sometimes I will stare at a blank page for several minutes waiting for inspiration to come and it just doesn’t. I get up, have a little walk around the house, do a little bit of housework and come back to my laptop, hoping that the words will start to flow….
Still nothing. Nada. Zilch.
You can’t force it either. I would rather not publish a post at all, than publish something half-arsed. You see, editorial calendars are all very well and good, but you have to be flexible. Imagine writing 15 ways to be happier, when your pet has just died. Not gonna happen.
If you’re really struggling to write the post that you’d planned to, switch it for something else that you feel more inspired by.
If you’re struggling to write full stop, then have a day where you do something completely different – take photographs, design free printables for your current blog post, schedule social media, network and try again with writing the next day.
5# IT’S OVERWHELMING
Whether you’re blogging as a hobby or professionally, it takes up so much more of your time than you can ever anticipate. The month I launched this blog, I was pretty much glued to my laptop and not much has changed to be honest.
You may assume that after you’ve written the blog post the hard work is done, right? Nope. What’s the point of writing the world’s most amazing blog post that nobody has ever read?
Even if it hasn’t taken too long to write the blog post, you then need to edit the post and optimise it for search engines, so that it has more chance of being read. Take photos or scour stock images for hours to find the perfect ones. Design pins for pinterest. Promote it on all of the social media platforms, via your newsletter and linkies.
Plus, if like me half your readers are in a different time zone, you need to ensure that you are promoting your content at the relevant times.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg too! You constantly need to learn new skills and keep up-to-date with changes to social media platforms and algorithms.
There are so many courses out there, so much advice about blogging and often it’s conflicting. Which is pretty baffling to a new blogger. It’s very hard to know what your priorities should be.
Don’t try to do everything at once, experiment and find out what works best for your blog.
Get yourself on google analytics, if you aren’t already, and get to know your about your readers. This helps to decipher which content people are interested in and what drives the most traffic.
Phew, that was a long one!
If you made it all the way to the end, I’m presenting you with a virtual medal.
I’m so obsessed with blogging. I could happily talk about it all day, everyday (much to the frustration of my husband). Blogging certainly isn’t easy or indeed a quick way to make money, but it’s hugely rewarding.
Over the past three months I’ve learnt so many new skills, I’ve connected with hundreds of inspiring people and I’m one step closer to creating my very own dream job.
Are you a blogger? What surprised you the most about blogging? Let me know in the comments.
Pin for later?