I was recently asked what I wish I had known when I started blogging or what I would tell others who were starting to blog. Apparently, I have inspired some friends to start blogs of their own. This is the advice I passed on to them:
- Do it because you love it. Writing is hard. If you are doing it for accolades, to make other people happy or to impress others, you will give up. You need to do it because you are driven to do it for yourself, because you want to help others, and because you desire to make a difference. When I started out blogging the first time back in 2008ish, I was trying to look like all the perfect type-A blog moms –and I failed miserably. I wanted to look perfect, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t. It wasn’t honest. Now, I write because I love to write and because I love to help people. I write what I write even if people don’t like it because I am not trying to make anyone happy. I am trying to do what I think is right. I am okay being me.
- People will disagree with you. Sometimes in very unkind ways. That’s okay. Expect it. If you don’t have any haters, you’re probably not doing it right. The good news is that WordPress, as well as most forms of social media, have ways of blocking people who threaten, spam, or otherwise harass you. If you start off expecting it to happen, you won’t be quite as shocked as I was. I am a nice person, and I expect everyone else to be nice. That is not the reality of the world –or especially of the internet.
- Be honest. But not too honest. You want to write about things that you know about and that are near and dear to you. But, what you don’t want to do is come across as whiny or complaining. There are some topics that I wish to write about, but which I have refrained from addressing simply because the issue isn’t resolved enough in my life and in my own mind to be able to write it in a positive way. There are some topics I won’t address because they are too personal or it would air my family’s dirty laundry. Establish boundaries and respect those around you. This is important. For instance, I never discuss my husband or children without their permission. Too much honesty in that area could be a breach of trust. My relationships are not worth a few more views.
- WordPress is better than Blogger. WordPress wins in the blogging category for a number of reasons, but especially because they have excellent customer service. Unfortunately, Google products are lacking in the help category. For example, I am still trying to figure out why Adsense (a different Google product) has blocked my blog, and I can’t get a clear answer from anyone there about it! I actually like Google and Google products but I haven’t been impressed with their customer service. I have, however, been incredibly impressed with the quality and speed of the help I receive from WordPress. I have used both Blogger and WordPress, but in the end decided on WordPress.
- Self-host if you can. Hosting has to do with where your blog’s files are stored. You can store your files with WordPress for free with conditions, but what I learned the hard way is that when you decide that you want to upgrade (so you can make money), you have two choices: a WordPress upgrade which is expensive or another service which is less expensive. The problem is that WordPress makes it hard to transfer your blog files to another service. The transfer was so fraught with troubles that I ended up transferring back to WordPress and paying the higher prices just because the issues on the other server were so great it wasn’t worth the time to fix them –even if I had known how to fix them. You can resolve this problem altogether by starting out using WordPress’ program but not storing your files with them. If you start out hosting in a different site than WordPress, you never have to transfer your files and never have to potentially lose hundreds of dollars and thousands of readers when your blog is down and unreadable. Alternatively, if you want excellent service from a really great company, you could host with WordPress and pay their higher prices for their excellent services. It is worth it, in my opinion, but we all have budgets. I didn’t plan to pay this much, but I do think it is worth what I pay now that I know that many other hosting companies Have really horrendous customer service.
- It is best to start out with a little capital. It is best but not necessary. It takes money to make money. If you want to make money from your blog, you are probably going to have to invest some money. The first money I spent (about 6 months after I started the blog) was about $100 that upgraded my blog to a better WordPress package allowing advertising (the free package doesn’t allow advertising). In all, I have spent hundreds of dollars in the last year. I made my first bit of money this last month from advertising. It accumulated over the course of the year until it was large enough for me to receive a check. However, I am still in the hole compared to how much I have spent on the blog. Some of that was the amounts I spent on the other hosting service that didn’t work out. Some of that money I was unable to get back. Experience tax, I guess.
- Utilize social media. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, etc. What you are writing can be totally awesome, but if no one is reading it, it won’t matter. Share it –but don’t be obnoxious about it. I haven’t invested in ads yet, but I read that Facebook Ads are actually pretty successful. Most of my views come from Facebook. I share my posts on my groups and hope others will share it if they find it useful. My plan is work on Pinterest next.
- It is a lot of work. It has taken daily work for 18 months –sometimes multiple people hours upon hours– to make only a hundred dollars. I didn’t go into it wanting to make money. There are better ways to make money, honestly. This is a passion for me –not a job. Very few people get rich quickly by blogging. It is a long and arduous process. If you don’t love writing, it might not be worth it to you.
- Take a break when you need it. After October when I posted daily on social media for nearly 3 weeks, I took a 2-week break and changed my posting schedule. I was beat –and it was affecting my health. All the attention on social media was affecting my health so much so that my labs came back all askew. My doctor said that I needed to regulate myself and set healthier boundaries for myself, or she would dictate what I could do to preserve my health. Know your limits and back off before you make yourself sick. Don’t do what I did.
- Educate yourself. There is a ton of information online about running a blog, online business, ect. If you aren’t writing, I recommend that you learn about how to run a blog. It is confusing, and there is a long learning curve, honestly, but it is worth it. Knowing that I have helped others and made a difference in people’s lives makes the threats, spammers, and stress worth it.
- Don’t compare. Measure your success against yourself, not others. If I compare myself to someone who has been blogging for years or caught a break when I didn’t, I will get discouraged and stop. If I measure myself against where I was before and where I want to go, I will have a better and more realistic view of my blog.
- Stay true to yourself. Your most popular most might not be your favorite posts. I love writing about my faith and chronic illness, but my readers love reading about homeschooling and ADHD. My most viewed posts are not the ones that I poured my heart and soul into. Honestly, many of the posts that have gotten the most views are the ones that I wrote on an impulse because I thought it was useful information. Apparently, I am pretty good at writing about homeschooling and ADHD, because people enjoy reading it. However, I can still write about things that are really dear to me, like my faith, while also writing about things that are more popular. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I have read that you’re supposed to pick a niche topic and stick to that. But, that isn’t true to who I am. I decided to write about what I am good at writing about (ADHD and homeschooling) while also staying true to my passion (my faith and illness).
I hope this helps some inspiring bloggers. It has been a long journey but definitely a rewarding one!
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