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.
Thanks for coming to bring joy today!
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