I’ve been blogging now for almost two and a half years and like to think I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. I started to monetise the blog in the first six months, but didn’t really look at it as something that could earn me a decent income for a long time. I’d be lying if I said the blogging income I earn now is ‘decent’, but it has steadily increased with every month.
And I am starting to see that there is a definite strategy and things you just ‘have to do’ if you want to blog for more than a hobby. In my first year especially (but even until as late as last summer), I just wrote simply because I enjoyed it and, like most bloggers, became addicted to the craft. But I do wish I’d monopolised on that time a little more and been a little ‘more serious’ earlier on…
So, here’s the five mistakes I made and my advice for new aspiring bloggers…
1. Not producing enough content
When you first start out as a blogger it can be a little daunting – I know that I was worried about coming across as self-indulgent (after all, who wants to read about my life?) and I remember I’d worry that people would scrutinise my posts.
In the beginning, when my main audience was my family, friends, ex-colleagues and old class mates I’d procrastinate over every post, worry about how I was coming across and who was judging me. This meant I was only posting 2-3 times every week.
The strange thing is, the bigger your audience gets, the less you care about what people think. It’s no secret that those bloggers making a comfortable living from their blogs, blog at least every day and often more.
Being a blogger isn’t the same as being a journalist – your copy doesn’t have to be word perfect and you don’t have to publish fantastically crafted articles each and every time. The most important thing is getting your content out there and building a strong and consistent brand. As long as you stay true to yourself and produce interesting content, your posts don’t have to be worthy of a Sunday Times column.
Producing frequent content significantly improves your SEO, increases your Domain Authority and, in turn, your traffic. If you want to earn money from your blog (and it’s fine if you don’t) content most definitely is king.
2. Posting bad photography
The single most common mistake that new bloggers make (myself included) is bad photography and inconsistent imagery. It’s important to remember that in the online world (even more than in print) one photo really does speak a thousand words.
Visitors who land on your site will decide in seconds whether they want to hang around. Poor photography and a shoddy design can be an instant turn-off and you can forget anyone reading that 800 word post you spent hours writing…
In the beginning my photos were horrendous. Bad photos usually taken on my phone, edited with weird overlays (I thought cool at the time) with varying, inconsistent fonts over the top (I thought that was the ‘done thing’ for bloggers to do)…Basically I got a little over-zealous after discovering Pic Monkey.
Since those days I’ve invested in an SLR and I spend just as long taking and editing my photos as I do writing my blog posts. I still use photo editing programmes, but it’s simply to improve the images I’ve taken (making them crisper and brighter) as opposed to changing them entirely. I plan to gradually re-work my old posts with new photography one day, but it’s such a big task I never seem to have time for.
3. Not going self-hosted from the beginning
When I first set up my blog that night on the sofa 39 weeks pregnant with Taylor, I had no idea what I was doing or what would come of it. I admit that I’m pretty whimsical by nature and was well aware that it could just turn out to be yet another fad. So I of course didn’t pay for a self-hosted website for that reason (and because I had no idea what that meant).
I did purchase my own url at the start for £12 (something I would most definitely recommend), but I was operating on WordPress.com for the first eight months of my blogging shenanigans. This meant that I didn’t have my own domain and my site wasn’t being measured on its own merit until after I went self-hosted. The minute I made the leap, a lot more brands wanted to work with me.
If you want to monetise and grow your blog, going self-hosted is the first thing you need to do. It can be daunting initially, but it’s well worth it in the long-run.
4. Blogging in isolation
I think it’s fair to say that when starting out as a blogger, most of us don’t realise that blogging is so much more than posting content online and getting hits. One of my favourite parts of blogging is the support of the blogging community and the like-minded people you connect with.
I was a little late to this party and although I dabbled in the odd linky from early on, I didn’t really engage with fellow bloggers for some time. Once you discover other bloggers within your niche, you suddenly feel as though your posts are getting eyeballs and there’s a whole load of inspiration to gain from reading about the experiences of other bloggers. In short, it makes the whole process a lot more fulfilling.
I wish I’d spent less time procrastinating in year one and more time engaging on social media, joining in with linkys and attending offline events…
5. Thinking I wasn’t good enough
As a new blogger, comparison really is the thief of joy. Not only are you constantly looking to those bloggers that have gone ‘pro’ or become a viral sensation, you also have all of those blogs that have been going for a mere six months and seem to have already achieved so much. There’s always something you feel you should be doing to improve and you constantly question whether what you have to say will be of any interest to anyone.
I’m a little bit of an introvert and self-conscious by nature, so I’m not really one to ‘put myself out there’. This meant that I shied away from chasing after opportunities, attending blogging events and promoting my posts as I should have.
As I continued to blog, my confidence grew along with an increase in my visitor numbers and support from other members of the blogging community. But it wasn’t until I was shortlisted for a BritMums Brilliance in Blogging award last year that I really started to believe in myself. Winning the Family category was something else and made me realise that in order to be counted, you do have to put yourself out there. And the sooner you do it, the better.
Are you new to blogging or are you a seasoned pro? What was your biggest mistake in the beginning? What have you learnt so far?