Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Finding your place- tips for new bloggers.
I get emails almost everyday asking for tips on blogging, how to start blogging, ways to grow readership, etc., so I thought I would take a few of these questions and post about them every so often.
The first thing you need to know about me and this blog is that I never, ever intended for it to grow as it did. I started out with four or five readers just a few years ago, and it just grew and grew as I invested more time into it. By nature I am a writer; most of my readers know this, but my undergrad degree was in English Literature and my Master's is in English Education. I taught high school English for close to six years before stepping away to become a full-time stay at home Mom, but even so, reading and writing are still a huge part of my life and I end each day doing one or the other.
For me, my blog is my creative outlet. I enjoy having a space to write in everyday, and the fact that people want to read it is just a really fun bonus. As time has gone on of course having readers changes the shape of blogging a little- if this blog really was just for me I definitely wouldn't have giveaways or link posts- but they're fun. And giveaways are my way of saying "thank you" to my readers and offer them a chance to win something awesome that I've either used before or can totally endorse.
But when it comes down to it, this blog is still about me. I post about my life, stories from my past and present, hopes for my future, things I love, etc. I try and stay true to that. It's hard to not get caught up in the competition aspect of blogging; so-and-so has this many more hits a month, this many readers, so on and so forth. But the moment I feel that way I yank myself right out of that mentality because at the root of it, it's ridiculous. How on earth could I compare my blog to someone else's? This is about my life and that's where it is unique. I am me, and you are you. Comparing it to another is like apples and oranges (see my post on "blog-petition" here). So I step back, I remind myself of my reasons for doing this, and get back to the basics. I want to enjoy this space and feel like I am creating something tangible from all of our little moments, putting something out there, and using my brain on a daily basis. I don't want this to be a negative place by my own creation.
It's taken me a few years to get to this point though. And I still get those feelings every so often of not measuring up. Although I'm still not sure who or what exactly I'm measuring up to- I think at times in anything creative it's possible construct this ruler in our minds that we hold ourselves to. It's silly though, because if you're blogging for you, the rest of it should just fall to the side. Luckily now I know that this disenchantment I feel is only a passing mood and if I just get back to what's important and take some time to work on a personal post or something from my heart...I feel a-okay. Because like I said above, that's the reason I do this.
With all of that said, here are a few tips for new bloggers. I'm by no means an expert, but I think some of you may find this helpful and at the lease it's a good reminder for myself!
1. Blog to blog.
Such simple advice but so important. When people ask me how to "grow" their blog, I usually don't know what to tell them outside of this. I feel like when you start a blog and try and gain readers and followers and what ever else, that is so obvious to other people. And don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for doing that...but to me, that isn't considered a blog, it's considered a business. In my case, my blog became a business in a way when I started accepting sponsors, but that was only after I had many readers, and at the root of it I am still doing what I love 100%. The sponsors are an added bonus and make me feel so lucky every day that I am able to make money doing what I love. I do believe that if I would have gone into this trying to get to the point of having ads, trying to make money...I would have failed. But instead it took me a few years, writing and writing everyday, meeting other people, putting myself out there...and it happened very naturally. I blogged to blog. So that is my best advice to new bloggers. Just keep doing what you're doing, and keep your purpose at the front of your mind, be it a creative outlet, meeting new people, or finding a community you feel a part of.
2. Don't get discouraged.
This follows along with number one. So great, you're blogging to blog. But no one's reading it. You feel like you're putting yourself out there, creating these awesome posts, but all you hear are crickets. Oh gosh. Let me tell you- I know how rough it can feel to try at something (and try and try again) and to feel like you're just staying in the same place. And in blogging I think it's so much easier to be really aware of this because it's simple to look and see a lack of comments or numbers or readers. But seriously, do not give up if it's something you really love doing. None of that stuff is important and everyone has to start somewhere. When you feel discouraged, remember that there is always at least one person who is reading what you have to say, valuing you, and enjoying it. The more you interact with others, the more you will be able to meet people who "get" you, and get what your blog is all about. And if you are just blogging to blog, that will radiate out. Like attracts like, so if you put it out there, you're bound to meet others on the same wavelength.
3. Find your place.
Everyone has something they love, something they excel at, something that makes them really happy. The best part about blogging is that you are able to put it out into the world and make friends with like-minded folks. There are all sorts of blogs from fashion to lifestyle to mommy blogs, cooking blogs to religion-based blogs. And this isn't to say that you need to choose an identity and stick to it, in a blogging-tunnel vision sort of way. By "finding your place" I mean finding what works for you. Sometimes Sweet is considered a lifestyle blog, and I like that, because I like to post about anything and everything that I want. I've tried out all sorts of posts, and when I feel like I'm most me is through posts like this, my Journal Day posts, or my random posts about my day. I feel proud of the posts where I've written something I can stand behind. Posts I hate doing? Fashion posts, outfit posts, etc. I tried (and tried again) to get into them, but I feel no joy putting on an outfit and taking photos of it. For some people, this is what makes them happy and it's totally a part of what makes their blog theirs'. But for me, no. Figuring this out was an important part of figuring out my blog's identity. I tried for awhile to get into it, accepted clothing from companies and sponsors, but found myself getting incredibly stressed out and pressured to blog about these items. I felt like it wasn't me. This past year I stopped doing things I didn't enjoy or felt that pressure to do. I took a long look at my blog and decided what direction I wanted it to go into, and then did that. For me that means things like Journal Day, more daily posts, and enjoying going out and taking quality photos when I can. If you are having trouble figuring it out what exactly you want out of your blog, try giving yourself a schedule, and try out all different types of posts. Maybe Monday do a music post, Tuesday, inspiration. Wednesday an outfit post, Thursday talk about something important to you. So on and so forth. By the end of a couple of weeks you will have figured out what works for you, and what doesn't. Or maybe it ALL works for you, which would be awesome too.
Overall, remember that whenever you are creating something original and putting it out into the world it is truly perfect, because you created it. And when you are being your 100% true, authentic self, nothing is more attractive. I promise that if you keep doing what you're doing, eventually you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded people.
But one last thought before I go...and this one is the most important of ALL...
4. Remember that a blog is just that, a BLOG.
It's so easy to get sucked into this crazy, social media-fueled internet world. If you wanted to you could spend hours reading blogs, commenting, writing, going back and forth, clicking and clicking and clicking on link after link. Things might start to seem more important than they are, you might get caught up in feeling sad about comments or numbers or readers, like I mentioned above. But guess what? Real life out there, that's what's important. All of this stuff is actually really silly. And that's not to downplay everything I said up there, because hello, I LOVE blogging and it does hold importance in my life. But to me, this space here is supposed to be a little supplement to my world. An add-on. Something that brings me joy, a hobby, a way to put a little bit of my creativity out there. So if you feel crappy more than happy (total unintentional rhyme) about this whole thing, than take a step back and ask yourself why it really matters anyway. Because it doesn't.
Happy blogging! xo