I try not to do too many “how to blog” posts because I realize (or at least assume) more of you are blog readers than writers. Also, I am not sure longevity in this “business” necessarily makes you an expert. Things are constantly changing, with new, really creative people coming on the scene who figure things out a lot more quickly than I did. But, I’m willing to offer my bits of advice and share my thoughts for new bloggers, if you want to know.
These thoughts are mostly for those that hope to turn blogging into a business. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with just blogging for fun. It can be therapeutic—and you never know just what might happen. But, if you’re going into it approaching it as a job, here are a few things to think about:
Saying that you need original content isn’t an original idea in itself but is important enough that it bears repeating. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every idea and photograph you post has to be exclusively yours (as long as you give proper credit, of course). But, if you want to stand out in a big world of blogs, you need to think about what you have to offer—as a writer, as a creative mind, as a person.
Think before you start. Decide what kind of blog you want to be in the long run. There’s a big difference in producing your own projects and just posting a pretty picture or a product round-up a couple of times a week. The work load is different. Your readership (and their relationship with you) will be different. There’s no right or wrong way to go necessarily; I think there’s room for both kinds of blogs. Just something to consider when you’re trying to grow a loyal readership.
It’s a lot different now than when I started five (short) years ago. There were fewer blogs, no Instagram (!), few blogs with Facebook pages, etc., and companies/brands weren’t looking at bloggers nearly as closely as they are now. But, while there are so many ways to get your blog “out there”, it’s also easier to get lost in the sea of creativity.
My best advice? Work hard and don’t get discouraged. Even if you’re producing magazine-worthy posts, your blog may not get noticed in the first month—or year. Looking back at my early posts and photographs, I’m not really sure why my blog grew sometimes. :) Again, I contribute some of that to getting in on the game early. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing. But, I did work hard. Like “drink coffee at 9pm after the kids went to bed and worked for the next five hours” hard, several nights a week. (I don’t do that nearly as much anymore. I’m getting too old.) I treated it like it was a job when I wasn’t making a dime—because I loved it so much. (And still do.)
Networking is also a huge part of getting your blog noticed. Get involved with other bloggers. There is always some kind of tour of homes (Fall, Christmas, etc.) going on that may bring new traffic your way. Or, link up to a popular event like Linda’s One Room Challenge, which has become a really huge thing. Submit your projects to bigger blogs or sites that match up with your target audience.
On the other hand, don’t be afraid to do your own thing if blogger events don’t feel like a good fit. Believe it or not, linky parties, giveaways, and “favorite posts” posts are not a blogger requirement by law. It may not fit the style of your blog, and that’s okay. I still say it goes back to consistent, quality content. Building relationships with other bloggers is great—and important—but providing good stuff for your readers is what matters most.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about making your life look perfect here. I’m talking about posting quality photos, every time if possible. Design blogging is more visual than it is anything else (are you all even still reading this?!), so investing in a good camera—and figuring out how to edit your photos—is super important. Even if you’re posting a picture of your heaping mound of laundry, it should be a clear, well-lit photo. Good quality photos instantly position your blog as professional or amateur. I’ve learned this slowly but surely over the last five years. (I wrote more on that here.)
As I mentioned earlier, brands are looking at bloggers as they never have before. I think it’s an exciting thing that many companies are shifting their advertising dollars from traditional mediums to blogs. And with that will come opportunities to work with all kinds of companies and to promote all kinds of things. While it might not come immediately, you’ll probably be approached sooner than later. (Speaking of that, I’ve never approached a company first. I think it’s okay to do it, though, if there’s a brand that makes good sense for your blog.) I write all of this to say—be picky! It’s okay.
I think it’s so important to protect the integrity of your blog. While you’ll have lots of people give you suggestions on what to write about or what to peddle, only you know what you want your blog to be. This might mean saying no to companies—or even friends—but everything you post should line up with your long-term vision for your site. It’s incredibly hard to write about a product that you don’t love—so don’t. Readers can smell an inauthentic post a mile away, and protecting your relationship with them is way more important than making a few bucks in the short term.
Oh yes, I know. The subject we’re not suppose to speak about. But, we will anyway. . . Yes, it’s possible to make a good income blogging—but not at first. And possibly not ever. If you approach it with that mindset, you won’t be disappointed and may be pleasantly surprised. I know I didn’t make a penny the first year and very little—if any—the second year. Making money all boils down to driving traffic to your site, which brings in ad revenue (through ad networks) and attention from companies (which can lead to sponsored post and paid collaborations). But, driving traffic to your site ultimately depends on posting good content and getting your blog name out there—all of the things I mentioned above. It’s all one big circle really. If you don’t know where to start, apply to an ad network like Google Adsense.
Another option is to accept individual sponsors (Etsy shops, smaller companies, etc.) and put their ads on your sidebar. This is a great way to make a little money and to work with other businesses. I did this until recently. The main reason I no longer work with sponsors is because of the admin time involved. Working solely with ad networks and companies on an individual project/post just makes more sense for me right now. But, if you’re starting out, I do think sponsors can be a good thing—and maybe a way to cross-promote your businesses.
I hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts if you’re a new (or seasoned) blogger.