blogging: 13 things I wish I’d known sooner

all-the-things-I-wish-I-had-known-when-I-began-blogging----bring-joy

Dear new blogger,

Congrats! You have a blog.

Though you might not admit it to your parents or friends, you want to make money from it. You want to be “big.” You may want a book deal someday. Fabulous.

I thought since I’ve been around for awhile, & I’m really one of those late bloomers, someone who it’s taken five years to finally *get* blogging, I thought I’d share a few insights I’ve gleaned.

Blogging is the wild west of the business world (one of the many). It’s uncharted territory, & the fact is, all of us are DIYing it. We’re writing the rules as we go along. And that’s exciting.

Awhile back, a friend discovered I had a blog.

“It’s really nice,” she said.

I chuckled. I don’t like talking about my blog with others. I’m a little sheepish–it’s as if we’re talking about my journal or something.

“No really, it looks professional,” she continued.

Ha! I’d hope so. After five years, 10,000+ hours, it better look nice.

“Well, thank you. But believe me, it didn’t start out that way,” I said.

And it didn’t. For the few of you who’ve stuck around since the early days of this blog (Joya, Melissa, LFWFV, Sabrina, & others), you can attest to this.

I began as a free blogspot blog, posted whenever I had a free moment (which was sporadic, at best). I shot pictures with an 5 year old $300 camera (nothing special–you couldn’t remove the lens). I was on no social media of any kind. I didn’t connect with other bloggers. I posted & went on my merry way.

About two years ago, there was a moment, where I was like, I need to decide what I want to do about the blog. Either I’m in or I’m not.

After staying away for several months, I felt I had hit a crossroads. I felt like I should stick with it. Then the next day, I was like, NOOOO, I really don’t want to blog anymore. Then I’d have a moment of inspiration & think, “No, I definitely need to keep doing it.” And ultimately, that was my decision. I’d go forward with the blog but, it had to be in a calculated deliberate way. Intentional, let’s say.

After I made that decision, I remember perusing Angela’s site (of Oh She Glows). I broke down & cried. Joseph, my husband, was there. It was late. The kid’s were in bed. I remember saying, “I cannot compete with this.” My photos will never look like this, I can never churn out the amount of recipes she does. And since she’s done it all (she really does have an arsenal of fantastic recipes), I figured, well, there’s no point in me doing anything. It’s already all been done.

Fortunately I’m married to a man who believes in me.

“You don’t have to be anyone else but yourself,” he told me. “You have something to offer. You’re unique & people will want to hear what you have to say.”

See, through all of this, the reason I still have a blog today is because of Joseph. He’s been my biggest supporter, cheering me on in the sidelines. When I was ready to quit blogging (oh, only about a dozen or more times), it was Joseph who quietly said, you should stick with it, it’s important to you, &  you will help somebody in the process.

Since that conversation, I’ve moved forward. I redesigned & streamlined my site. I focused the content of my blog. I honed my skills & learned a thing or two about design, photography, time management, & social media. While there’s not enough time to explore all these topics here, I thought I’d share some of the many things I wish I’d known sooner.

 

13 things I wish I’d known sooner

 

1. There’s room for us all.
If you want to “make it” as a blogger, you can. You need to be willing to work hard, to prove yourself (which usually means very little to no monetary returns for awhile, while you are establishing your credibility & work), to be generous & humble.

I know there are some that say–there just aren’t enough readers.

It is true, there aren’t enough readers for us all to have a half a million readers or page views a month. But, as I explain in point #5, you can still make money, even if your readership is small. I don’t believe that success is like a pie–if you get a big piece, that means mine is smaller. No, I believe in win-win-wins. Your success is my success. I build you up & at the same time I’m built up. I believe that anyone who wants to be a success (which can be defined in a number of ways), has learned the right set of skills for marketing & delivery, & is willing to put the time & effort in, can “make it” as a blogger.

 

2. Cut the entitlement attitude.
No one owes you anything. If you’re not making money, it’s your choice. I realized this a while back. Instead of waiting on someone else to make things happen for me (you know that book deal, those sponsorships), I began creating my own opportunities–publishing a few ebooks (like this one & this one), working with affiliates, getting on an ad network.

Don’t gripe about lack of reader comments–be honored that anyone reads your blog, let alone takes the time to comment! There are so many things vying for our reader’s time these days, that if someone lands on your site & especially if they take time to leave a note or send you an email, be thrilled & tickled. Your readers are your customers. Give amazing customer service by responding to comments when appropriate. Remember, gratitude & humility go a long way in the blogging world.

 

3. Negativity is the quickest way to chase away readers.
What you put out is what you get back. The online world is a great experiment in capitalism. If a reader doesn’t like your vibe, they’ll just move on & never come back. Nobody (really) wants to be around a sour puss in real life, & online is no different. Exude the type of energy you’d love to be around yourself.

 

4. Honesty is key.
But don’t mistake over-sharing with honesty. TMI applies to the blogging world just as much as it does in your convos with your girlfriends.

Apply a discerning filter over everything you put out–on your blog, emails, & social media, & of course, in real life. At the same time, realize, that after awhile, your “real self” will come out no matter how much you’re trying to hide certain aspects of yourself. Bloggers can try & portray a certain image, but inevitably, the sum of all your works will create your real image–for good or bad.

 

5. You can make money, & you don’t have to have 100,000 readers to do so.
But, unless you blog as hobby, you need to treat your blog like a business (something I learned from my friend Bonnie, who I’ll talk about in a moment). Otherwise, you’re just going to be frustrated, cranky, & resentful. There is no easy money in any profession, & you’ll have to work just as hard (& just as smart) online as you would in the “real” world, if you want to get paid for your work.

I know, I wrote a post awhile back, “Why blogging is bad for business but good for people,” in which I described how making money from blogging seemed like such an enigma to me. Something that was out of reach, something that I couldn’t do because I wasn’t a money hungry sell-out (not to say that other bloggers who made money from blogging were, only that I would feel like I was, if I made money from blogging–silly, I know).

BUT, I discovered a long-lost acquaintance Bonnie (we were church summer camp counselors together, about a decade ago), who is now a blog consultant & coach. I began following her blog & a light bulb went off. I realized I was going about blogging the wrong way. I could make money, if I wanted to. The choice was mine.

Since that revolutionary thought, I’ve begun generating revenue from this blog, more than just pocket change. I’m taking Bonnie’s “Rock Your Blog” e-course (affiliate link) & I’m so excited to learn more from her (she’s the energizer bunny, that one). From her, I’ve learned that with the right approach, I can continue to grow my blog & even make a good income from it.

(If you’re interested in Bonnie’s course, check it out, here–it’s a killer deal considering how much time & energy it will save you, plus help you get paid for all your hard work as a blogger!).

 

6. Figure out why you blog, & realize that reasons why you blog may change over time.
When I first started out, I blogged because I wanted a place I could direct friends who were interested in my choice to be vegan. Over time, this morphed into more of a blog about my family, our frugal approach to life & goals for getting debt-free, as well as vegan & gluten-recipes & issues related to body image, weight loss & fitness. I know, a lot of themes to juggle, but I like it this way. I always have plenty to talk about & I never think to myself…”I have nothing to post about anymore.”

 

7. Focus on your niche.
Everyone has one. You can’t be the blogger to all people, all ages. Figure out your target reader. Mine is a thirty-something mom with young kids who is trying to feed her family healthy, plant-based meals on a budget. This is not to say other readers who fit a different demographic don’t read my blog. It’s just that a good chunk of my readers fit this description, & so when I’m creating content for the blog, I have them in mind.

 

8. Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers.
Know that you have something unique, that only you, can offer the world. There are so many styles & ways of approaching blogging, and the good news is, there is no “right” way to do it. Sure, there are principles of good design, of awesome content, but there’s an infinite number of ways to achieve these ends.

 

9. Marketing is crucial, in fact, it’s everything.
Just because you’re a “small-timey” blog, doesn’t mean you can’t make money. You just have to apply some key marketing techniques & be smart about your use of social media & other outlets. Again, I recommend taking Bonnie’s course if you want to learn everything you need to know about marketing your blog & yourself so that you can make money from what you do.

 

10. Constant improvement.
Take blogging courses. Follow other blogs & make blogging friends with whom you can collaborate & connect with. Realize that because of the nature of the www (which is ever changing), you will have to keep yourself on your toes if you want to stay competitive & relevant. There is no such thing as “arriving” in the blogging world (at least for 99% of us).

 

11. There are no shortcuts.
Work, work, & more (smart) work. Coupled with time & consistency & lots of wise business decisions. After reading Twyla Tharps The Creative Habit, I realized creativity is much more of a learned discipline born of consistent, thoughtful work, than a “gift” bestowed on someone.

 

12. Your photography & writing should be simple & focused.
Hone in on what you’re passionate about & what your readers are interested in, & focus on that. Also, realize some of the best photography (whether it be of food, people, or things), has little embellishment, lots of natural light, & is simple & focused.

Your writing should be effortless to read. Don’t make your readers have to work to find content (use links to other posts when appropriate) or have to wade through unedited writing.  Also, remember readers read online print differently than they do physical print (primarily a lot more scanning), so don’t be afraid to use shortened paragraphs & bullet points or numbered lists.

 

13. Be of service in some way.
With each post, ask yourself the “so what?” or “so why?” question–

Why is this content important or valuable?
Why would anyone, other than myself, want to read this?

If you can answer these questions with a solid response, chances are, your post will be helpful to your readers.

I’ve realized in my years of blogging that this is my dream job. I love being the writer, editor, & publisher of my work. I love the interaction I have with my readers. I love the community that exists here on bring joy. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I am making a difference in someone’s life in some small way. And, for the first time, I love that I’m being compensated financially for my work.

Hopefully, in my sharing these things with you it won’t take you five years to figure these things out. Hopefully you can streamline the process & cut the learning curve in half by learning from me & others.

Hang in there, & remember, you have something to offer. You are important.

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P.S. You may find my “Why I blog” series & my “10 things I’ve learned from 5 years of blogging” helpful. Read them here, & here.

Thanks for coming to bring joy today!
Did you know I’m also on twitterpinterest, & facebook?

You can follow the blog via feedly or subscribe via your fave blog reader.
Have a question for me, or just want to say hello,
send me an email.

 

FYI: This post contains affiliate links. You know I only promote those things I can only 100% endorse. You purchase anything via these links, I earn a commission. Thanks for supporting bring joy!


Comments


  1. Lorette - White Charm
    on January 22, 2017 at 1:45 am said:

    Cool tips! I will use them to growmy blog : whitecharm.ro

  2. Candice
    on September 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm said:

    Thank you for putting this list together! As a new blogger (my blog’s been live for a whole 5 days now), whose goal is to monetize my blog one day, I am definitely taking your tips to heart.

  3. Kenita James
    on January 21, 2016 at 7:06 pm said:

    Good evening my name is Kenita I have been thinking about doing a blog for a few months now idk where to start or what topic to talk about I have different ideas but don’t know what to do. Please any one help

  4. Cheryl
    on November 23, 2015 at 3:30 am said:

    Thanks so much for post, it’s always good to find encouragement when you are starting out on a new project.

    Point No 8 is the one I get stuck on, the double edged sword. You want to look at other blogs and make connections, but you can’t help but feel a little inadequate when you see other bloggers amazing sites.

  5. Dreamer
    on July 11, 2015 at 6:59 am said:

    To be honest,I agree with the readers part.But as long as I love what I’m doing,I don’t mind talking to myself lmao.Love your blog and thanks for the tips♥

    mypastel-world.blogspot.com

  6. Aziza Zayn
    on June 28, 2015 at 12:30 pm said:

    Um dos melhores posts sobre dicas para blogar que já vi. Parabéns! amei ler foi super inspirador.

  7. Katie
    on March 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm said:

    Hi – enjoyed reading this. My blogging has morphed over the years — began as a blogspot way of journaling through building our first home, to then being the blog for my photography to now I want it to be more of a blog about me — life, fitness, personal training, photography when I shoot, etc. and it has been in the back of my head — what if, just what if I could earn money from blogging like so many do that I follow…and now reading this I’m inspired to put in the hard work to make it happen. Thank you for sharing — I look forward to following you and learning more.
    @kate_figures_fitness
    katieturner1424 (twitter)

  8. Jennifer
    on March 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm said:

    I took in every word of this post. I’m new in the blogging world, so I’m taking in all the information I can, and this was so very helpful!

    Question, have you gone to any blogging seminars/conventions? If so, which would be a good one to go to for a beginner Lifestyle blogger?

    Thanks so much!

    xx, jen
    @jensav11

  9. Krista
    on January 11, 2015 at 9:08 am said:

    I’m coming up on the two year mark and just realizing how true each and every one of these things are. This is an awesome post for anyone who has a blog or is thinking about it. Thanks for laying it out so clearly, I know I always need a reminder!

  10. Risse Redmond
    on January 10, 2015 at 10:16 pm said:

    Thank you SO much for this post! I’ve been super discouraged and having lots of doubts about my blog for the year 2015, but this is a GREAT post. Super inspiring! Thank you! www.risseslittlepieces.com

  11. Shauna
    on January 7, 2015 at 2:00 am said:

    I always had the same thought process as far as ” someone else is already covering that topic , what am I going to discuss ?” This has truly helped me because for some reason I didn’t think that maybe I could bring something different . I’m really new to blogging , like only days in lol and I enjoyed reading your blog very much & I will definitely use your tips for the future ! Thank you !

    www.bellenbeesliving.com

  12. Lenora
    on January 2, 2015 at 1:52 pm said:

    Thanks so much for your tips! I have just been struck by the blogging bug and am really overwhelmed with the starting process. Other bloggers are my number one resource! Thank you for sharing and opening up to others so that they may learn from your experience!!

  13. Hannah
    on December 1, 2014 at 1:03 pm said:

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips! I’ve found them all to be true so far and I am just at the beginning of my journey.

  14. Holly
    on December 1, 2014 at 12:32 am said:

    There are so many what I learned posts about blogging but yours has some really fantastic advice & reminders. Way to go for making such a go of it. Lots of hard work ahead for me still 🙂

  15. Feathermoon
    on November 16, 2014 at 6:52 pm said:

    Thanks heaps for these tips! im just starting out blogging to share my life and style with others who share my mixed interests and to promote my new jewellery/ home & clothing business ( Feathermoon Byron Bay). im staring to see a little movement, but now, with these tips i hope to get much more exposure =) thanks again. keep up the awesome work =)

  16. Katherine @ Everyday Celebrations
    on November 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm said:

    I have been following blogs for years and have just gotten the courage to take the leap and start my own. This was incredibly helpful for a (VERY) new blogger. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. Your insight is greatly appreciated!

    Katherine
    EVERYDAYCELEBRATIONSBLOG.BLOGSPOT.COM

  17. Camilla
    on August 29, 2014 at 1:14 am said:

    Thanks for this and all other posts. I am thinking of writing and publish an e-book and you have kicked my butt today 🙂 Love to read how you put veggies on your table and how good you and your family feel. Lots of love from Sweden, I´ll pop back here soon again to check out new recipies later.

  18. Jeannie Switzer
    on August 27, 2014 at 12:04 am said:

    What a wonderful post, I have been wanting to start a blog but keep telling myself that I really don’t have a lot to write about on a regular basis that would be interesting to others. You have certainly changed my mind. Thank you!

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  20. Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    on July 13, 2014 at 8:29 am said:

    This is just a flat-out great post! I’ve been blogging 5 1/2 years and your intro to the “13 things” could have been written by me. I connected to every sentence. The “13” are great advice. And I’m heading over to Bonnie’s site to check things out. Thanks.

  21. Rebekah Murphy
    on July 12, 2014 at 11:06 am said:

    Hi,
    I found this piece very encouraging – thank you. We (5 sisters + mom + me) have a family lifestyle blog that we’ve been working on for 3 months and it’s been very hard. We have reached a point where we need more motivation. I’m happy to have read your writing because it helped with just that. Again, thank you so much.
    Rebekah

  22. Kristie Hill
    on July 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm said:

    Hi! I’d love to feature this post on an upcoming article I am doing, is that alright with you? thanks!

  23. Laurie
    on July 5, 2014 at 10:07 am said:

    I love this post! I could have written it myself…well some of it anyway…not the part about Joseph, or making much money, but I started like you and have been blogging since 2009 and have had to decide my focus and direct my attention. Thanks for writing!

  24. Pingback: Links I’m Loving – Blogging Tips | Girl on the Move

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  26. Garage Gyms
    on April 9, 2014 at 10:53 am said:

    Good post. I’m relatively new myself… maybe six months in. I’m gonna look into this course. I have a feeling I have a lot more to learn than I think.

  27. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on April 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm said:

    This is so wonderful. I have recently decided I want to start making some money off my blog but I’m feeling lost. I will keep Bonnie’s course in mind!

  28. Sara
    on April 4, 2014 at 8:45 am said:

    Great post! Just signed up for Bonnie’s e-course based on this post! Thank you!!

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  30. Calvin
    on April 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm said:

    Nicely laid out. I enjoyed it.

  31. Melissa
    on April 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm said:

    Happy 5th anniversary! That was back when you were half the family size you are now… when you had “tons” of free time… right? Ha!
    Anything that isn’t fun anymore feels like work. Glad you’ve been able to hold on to that fun aspect. Congrats on another year of blogging!!
    And, more importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

    • Melissa
      on April 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm said:

      Oh, and I’m might-y pleased to see my name on this post. Without you breaking down that initial “vegan, huh?” barrier, I can’t say I would have my little man. 🙂
      Whole Foods Vegan Momma to Bring-Joy — all love and awesomeness!

  32. Emma
    on April 3, 2014 at 2:21 pm said:

    Great post Janae. I have a lot to learn in terms of blogging. Blogging is just a hobby for me but I would like to figure out how to earn a little money through it since I spend so much time doing it!
    I definitely agree with you on self-improvement too. Sometimes it feels difficult to keep up with posting let alone finding time to improve my photography/marketing/research affiliates or how to make money. Hoping to spend some solid time on these things over the summer though.
    I’ve had many moments of thinking “What’s the point”. “Everything’s been done already” “There’s no room for me in the blogging world”. But ultimately I blog for pleasure and to connect with like-minded souls.

  33. lfwfv
    on April 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm said:

    I fell in love with the fact that you seemed genuine, and shared many of the same values and lifestyle traits as me so many years ago. I have also always enjoyed reading your take on family life, healthy eating etc. Your blog has certainly changed over the years, but all of that, to me, is just “extras”. I realize it might be necessary to keep attracting new readers and to make money at this, but it (improved site, pictures etc.) doesn’t keep me here (please don’t hear that as a criticism of any of the improvements…the blog looks gorgeous!) You do, Janae. You are sincere and honest and growing and I love following your journey through life.

  34. Laurie
    on April 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm said:

    I’m so glad you mentioned “The Creative Habit”! I’ve had a post-it on my computer screen for months to remind me to check that book out of the library. Today I’ll finally do it.

    This is really lovely, practical advice. It almost makes me want to start a blog.

  35. Kelli
    on April 3, 2014 at 1:06 am said:

    Ha! How many times I’ve thought all these same things…. mine will never be as good, look as good, have as many recipes or as much content… And forget about ever writing a cookbook – everything has already been done! We can criticize ourselves endlessly, can’t we? 🙂

    But yet, there are lots of people who ask me when the cookbook’s coming out, or mention a niche in vegan blogging that they feel is missing, and I think “I can do that!” So clearly, there is much more to be done and so many more people we can reach.

    “Don’t gripe about lack of reader comments–be honored that anyone reads your blog, let alone takes the time to comment!” Oh, so true! I find myself often getting caught up in the numbers game, and this is such a great reminder of what’s important….

    Thanks for the pep talk! My blog has been an empty wasteland of late, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that there are many more great things to come for it. I’m definitely not in your target audience, but I love your blog and get so much from it, so that’s yet another lesson how important it is that we do what we do! xo

  36. stacy
    on April 2, 2014 at 8:34 pm said:

    I’m so glad your husband convinced you to keep going. I love your blog! as well as your recipes, wisdom and overall common sense approach to blogging.

  37. Meredith
    on April 2, 2014 at 6:56 pm said:

    Thank you for this post, Janae! For months, I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide if I should start a blog or not. One of the main reasons I’m hesitant is because I feel like I don’t have much to contribute. Still, the fact that I keep thinking about it makes me lean more towards saying yes. Your post gives me hope! 🙂

  38. Alanna
    on April 2, 2014 at 5:24 pm said:

    This is brilliant, Janae. I love how you share your knowledge with people so freely. Joseph was spot on with his encouragement and I’m super happy you listened. 🙂
    Thank you for the tips!

    • Janae Wise
      on April 3, 2014 at 8:44 pm said:

      “Joseph was spot on with his encouragement and I’m super happy you listened. :)”
      Ah, you are so sweet Alanna.

      “Thank you for the tips!”
      Of course. I hope others can learn from my mistakes–it doesn’t *have* to take 5 years to learn everything that I did. I wish I would have taking a blogging course sooner & just overall paid more attention to what I was doing. But, really, in retrospect, I’m grateful everything has played out as it has. I’ve gained perspective & insight, so that’s something!

  39. Ileana
    on April 2, 2014 at 5:12 pm said:

    Super illuminating post. I enjoyed reading it.

  40. Erica House (@Erica_D_House)
    on April 2, 2014 at 4:26 pm said:

    You have the most incredible husband!

    I can’t believe you’ve been at this for 5 years. I mean, I totally can since your blog and photography is amazing, but I feel like I’ve missed out on so much being a relatively new reader! At some point I may have to sit down and be a total creeper and read some of the entries from a few years ago.

    • Janae Wise
      on April 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm said:

      Thanks Erica, I do. I feel like such an empowered woman with him by my side. He’s a feminist in the ultimate sense of the word & I love him all the more for it.

      “At some point I may have to sit down and be a total creeper and read some of the entries from a few years ago.”
      And have a good laugh at my *very* rudimentary photography skills! And I’m serious, I was a total hermit the first 3 years. I don’t think I so much as looked at any one else’s blog. In my defense, I was kinda busy, what with having babies, supporting my law school husband, & working part time :).

      Thanks for your sweetness.

      (And, saw your PUMA love post–will have to check them out!)