What I Learned From My First Year of Blogging
I am rounding out my first year of this blog life and I have learned so much about what to do and what NOT to do when starting a blog. Let me kick this off by sharing that I can be a pretty non-committed person. I get hyped about a hobby or habit but when the next shiny thing comes along, it’s like SQUIRREL-- on to the next! I didn’t start this blog with the intention to make a six figure income in my first year of blogging. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google how to start a blog. You’ll be hit with a google diarrhea of empty promises and “free courses” which give you literally no direction, but try to convince you to purchase their course that promises guaranteed success a hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual passive income. For the record, there is nothing passive about blogging and content creation.
“I learned the most from doing. Write. Edit. Post. Repeat.”
-Katie Parker, thecreativekp.com
But let’s get to the details of what I have learned in the last year. I have learned the most from trial and error. I did get caught up in the rabbit hole of reading blogs about blogging, and yes, I signed up for a fair share of those previously mentioned free courses. But I learned the most from doing. Write. Edit. Post. Repeat.
You don’t need equipment- yes you do need to have a computer so you can publish blog posts, but you don’t need a Macbook Pro, and you definitely don’t need a brand new camera. Would I like fancy equipment? Sure, and part of my struggle with showing up consistently this year was tech related. But once my laptop got a necessary update this spring, I feel like I have been able to show up more consistently and I have started to really make some traction.
Consistency! It’s so important. I knew that from the beginning but I definitely made excuses, reasons like I didn’t have time, what will people think, it’s not perfect, and the F word of course- fear of failure. I would recommend starting small. At this point, I have made a commitment to myself to publish at least one post per week, and I picked a day of the week so my content is consistently showing up and I can stick to the routine.
It doesn’t need to be perfect. I wrote so many blog posts and still have a ton in draft mode. I would get inspired and crank out some great (at least good) content but I couldn’t click publish. In hindsight I’m glad that I didn’t publish just anything because I wasn’t really speaking my own truth. But I’m learning that good can be good enough AND it’s my freaking website! I don’t need to meet a word count to anyone, I get to do what I want.
Numbers don’t define your blog. Following the advice of other bloggers, I was tracking website and social media analytics from day one. While these metrics are important, it doesn’t define you, your content or your website. Tracking numbers can be dangerous, especially when you haven’t really honed in on your niche or direction for your blog, which is an important journey in the first year. I recently heard an example related to number of followers on a podcast. It was something like imagine you had 160 followers in a room. That is not an insignificant number of people to share your message and your story with. In other words, I would rather have 150 engaged readers and followers than 1,000 who are not engaged- insert the follow/unfollow cycle.
Which leads me to time management is everything! Social media is a time suck. If you sit down to create content, do NOT look for inspiration on social media. You will just turn into a scroll zombie and then the precious and short amount of time you may have dedicated to writing is gone. I share this from a place of truth! I spent my fair share of time scrolling the insta wondering how other bloggers figured it out. While we’re talking about social media, start with one platform. I started with Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. For the lifestyle niche, Pinterest has proven a low maintenance platform and the most successful platform to drive traffic to my blog. I recommend picking the platform that suits your niche and the amount of time you have to show up in that space. For example, if I had a business blog, Linkedin may be the platform to get the most action.
Here are the deets on my current systems and tools:
I started my blog with a Wix site. Wix is a user friendly platform to design your website, especially if you don’t have experience. It took me a while to get my website to where I wanted- but good is good enough. I have experience with websites and design from my day job, but if you didn’t have experience, just pick a template and fill in the blanks. Ask for feedback from ONE person who will give you constructive, honest truth and then move on. I have since moved on to Squarespace, which I love.
Organize your work- I use google to write drafts and store photos. It keeps everything backed up from my website. Since Google syncs with all devices, I can access all of my files from mobile or desktop.
Canva- I use the free version of Canva to format images for my website and social sites. Canva allows you to format specific to the website platform you’re working with, including instagram stories. Again, super easy to use if you have limited design experience. Just make sure to save your fonts and colors so you have consistency wherever you show up, this is afterall your brand!
Adobe Photoshop Light Room- I use Light Room to edit my photos. A quick tweak of lighting and contrast can be super helpful to brighten up pictures from your iPhone. You can also buy presets to quickly edit your photos. Presets will give your photos a similar look and feel across your feed (i.e. instagram account) but sometimes they can look over processed. Use with caution!
Have a system- this is something that I just figured out in the last eight weeks or so. As I already mentioned, social platforms can be a huge distraction and if you’re already overwhelmed it’s easy to get sucked in. I try to have a task for each day of the week. For example, I work on pins on Monday, Tuesday I publish and promote a new blog post, Wednesday I map out Instagram, Thursday and Friday I focus on content creation and the weekend is for photography, website maintenance, and catch up.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, my best advice is to follow your own instincts. If you’re not sure if you’ll even be interested in blogging, just start by writing posts in google docs before you ever even consider a website. Imagine investing time and money into a website and learning that you don’t even like writing! Grow slow, building a community of followers who show up for you, not for a follow back. Last, one of the last pieces of advice I heard on a podcast was “create before you consume”... meaning you should start your day creating your own unique content before consuming others.
Are you starting a blog? Got questions? Comment below and I’ll give my best advice! If you’ve already started a blog share your best tip for a new blogger!