I started this blog because I have so many different interests and have had a life with a multitude of experiences that run the gambit from A to Z. I count myself lucky, but I know that not everyone has had those chances, and some aren't even sure where to start when it comes to squeezing in extra-curricular activities on a budget (or with kids). I thought it would be fun to share with others what I knew to help make their lives easier.
What I really, really wish I would have known though, is how time-consuming a blog is without proper preparation. These days, my work-hours are spent in equal parts of creating new content and playing catch-up by going back to fix things I should have done differently from the start.
Blogging is a great way to relieve stress and have fun, but it can quickly turn into a chore if you fall into some of the same pitfalls that I did. I'm just starting to get caught up and situated to a place that I feel good about myself and my work. I hope that this list of 'what-I-wish-I-had-known' will help a few of you out!
Do you blog already? What do you wish you had known about blogging before you started? Leave your comments below, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Don't bite off more than you can chew.
Ah, the fun-filled life of a blogger. You can sign up for a million things, cast your lines into the ocean of opportunity and sit and wait for a bite. It's fun to think of all the exciting prospects that are out there. At least, it's fun until way more prospects than you expected come right back to you with a positive answer. If you aren't an experienced blogger, receiving twenty emails back that say 'we'd love for you to write about us' is not exactly a good thing. Especially if you are working cheaply.
The problem? As a newbie, there are going to be a lot of things that are learn-as-you-go, and some of them take time to learn. You are going to be putting tons of effort and energy into things that may not interest you, that may be beyond your HTML expertise range, and may be far beyond your abilities time-wise. Send out pitch-letters in batches and give them each about a week to respond before sending out the next batch.
Pick a theme and stick with it.
No good ideas for a background just yet? There is nothing wrong with picking a simple theme and waiting it out. Play with ideas and decide what you want your background to say about you and your blog. This is going to be what your readers associate with you. When you decide on something, don't be afraid to ask for the opinions of others before you post it live to your blog. Then make that the background for all your social media platforms to tie things together.
The positive? You will have a true internet identity, allowing your readers to recognize your 'signature' style, picture, logo, etc. at a glance. Make yourself memorable.
Don't misuse labels.
Oh, we've all misused labels at some point, and my blog is filled with bad ones (although I'm trying hard to get them all into 'standard' labels, which is taking forever). Labels are nifty little things that allow you to group your posts together by words you think might interest your readers. It's a cataloging system that is meant to make blogging easier but is usually horribly abused. If you have 400 labels and each of them only has one or two posts attached to it, you have just made your life harder. Pick labels that are general enough that you can attach a lot of posts to them (i.e. Blogger Opps, Recipes, Giveaways) instead of post-specific ones (i.e. baby stroller blogger opp, smothered pork chop recipe, green soap dish giveaway).
The problem? As your blog gets bigger you are going to want to streamline your layout so that readers can quickly find past posts that interest them. The easiest way to do this in many instances is to create a page that links to a list of a specific label. For example, if you click on the giveaway tab at the top of my page, it will pull out all the posts that have 'Giveaways!' as a label. If you have 100 different labels for a hundred different giveaways, you won't be able to do this.
Get advice from another blogger before attempting to host a giveaway - small or large.
Believe it or not, there are a whole slew of rules that go along with doing giveaways. Some countries don't allow certain types of giveaways to be won, some social medias don't allow use of their platforms in a giveaway, some giveaways require very specific wording, and some prizes can't be won in certain places. And that's just for starts.
The positive? Getting advice from a peer in the blogging world will not only encourage a good relationship between the two of you (always nice to have someone on your side!), but it will give you insights that will give you an edge. I got help only after my first attempted giveaway because I was too shy to ask, and quickly discovered that I had made a bunch of rookie mistakes. It's all water under the bridge now, but I could have had a lot more success and gotten a lot better return on my time-investment if I had just asked someone with experience for help.
Don't jump into blogging without doing a little research on being a webmaster first.
While it can be oh-so-fun and tempting to create a blog on the spur of the moment, you're going to be missing out on so much if you don't do your research first. For example, did you know that there is alternate code that can be attached to all the pictures you post on your blog? This is what helps people to find your blog when they are looking through images. You could have thousands of pictures on your blog, but unless they are labeled, they aren't necessarily going to pop up in the search engine under 'images'.
The problem? Not only do you lose site-hits when you don't know about details like image alt-code, but you could get yourself into some hot water if you aren't careful. Google has rules about posting that could result in your site being removed from their search engine altogether if you break them!
Be prepared for tax time.
Although some bloggers don't necessarily receive any freebies, it costs almost all bloggers a little bit of money to keep their blog going. If you have a cooking blog and pay for your own ingredients, that counts as a cost. If you have a fashion blog and pay for your own clothes to write about, that counts as a cost. Keep track of your costs. Even if you aren't receiving any income on your blog in the beginning, sooner or later you will - and unless you have a record of your costs to offset your income, guess what? The tax-man cometh. Even items that you receive 'for free' count as income when it comes to taxes, and that can add up quicker than you would think.
The positive? Keeping a careful record as you go (and counting absolutely everything possible as a 'cost') will enable you to pay as few taxes as possible, and in some cases, no taxes! Keep a receipt book and update a ledger weekly to make sure you don't fall behind.
Don't forget about smaller platforms!
Facebook, +Twitter, +Pinterest, +Instagram, +Google+ ... these are just a few of the currently popular social media platforms that people use today. As a blogger, you'll be expected to maintain a presence on several platforms if you want to stay connected to your readers. Sometimes it can be tempting to put a lot of time and energy into a specific platform because you see results with it, but that isn't always the way to go. Make sure you are devoting equal amounts of time to several different platforms, even ones that don't seem trendy at the time.
The problem? Platforms are owned by their companies, and their relationship with you (and the way that they allow you to promote your content) is at-will. Facebook used to be a fantastic way for me to get hundreds of site hits per status update. Now I'm lucky if I can catch 50 site hits from an update. I didn't start really branching out and heavily using other platforms until about six months into blogging, so I have a marked difference in followers on places like Pinterest - which unfortunately happens to be one of the best ways right now for me to connect with my readers!
Write about what you know & love.
Don't jump into an article on something you hate or something you are clueless about just because it is trending. Plenty of subjects trend from day-to-day, you are bound to see one that you can hop on with some good insight. If you write about something that you don't know enough about, people are going to blast you with comments that insult your intelligence or tell you that your article wasted their time. Not a good thing. And if you write about things that don't really interest you, how will you get your readers interested?
The positive? The internet is full of possibility! If you can think of a subject and love it, chances are that someone else who loves that subject will find you eventually. Writing about stuff you love will not only help you connect with the readers that you actually have things in common with but it will keep you from becoming burned-out on filler-content. Blogging is about sharing ideas and a love of the things that make life special for you. Keep that close to your heart when writing and you'll find readers flocking to your site.