I am a slow blogger. After almost eight years of blogging, I've learned a ton, but I'm also not where I see others are after much shorter times of blogging. I don't make full-time income from my blog, I don't have thousands of followers, and yet somehow I haven't quit. Because there's still so much value I find, and the things I've learned here are truly irreplaceable.
So, these are less get-rich-quick or grow-like-crazy tips, and more my observations and lessons from the past eight years of slow blogging. There's still lots left for me to learn, and probably you, too. If you've been wanting to start a blog, or need inspiration to keep the one you have going, hopefully these will help encourage you.
*Affiliate links used. See full note below.
1. Blogging helps you figure things out.I mean, a journal does that, too. But even after a journal, after a counselor, and after confiding in a few close friends, curating and editing content for a blog is a great way to really zero in on what you care about in this world and what brings you to life and what you think and feel about things. It kind of helps put the information aside and dive into your story. The only thing you have that's truly unique from everyone else.
2. Blogging can also be a business.It's true, blogging can make money. However, the idea that you can blog about anything with no direction and no plan and make thousands of dollars with minimal effort--that's a myth. The people that make a living wage online have generally worked on it, invested in it, put in some time with trial and error, and eventually landed on their personal golden ticket--one that we can learn from, but we likely can't replicate. Because we've gotta put in our own work, our own investment, our own trial and error. And it's possible our own golden ticket is little more than coffee money every month. If you want your blog to be a business, treat it like a business. Otherwise, just enjoy the ride wherever it leads.
3. Blogging is better in community.I blogged for a few years alone before realizing there was a whole community growing behind blogging. Since then, I've found community in my mastermind group, in our local bloggers group, and in a few bloggers I've met online and only engage with online. I likely would have given up on blogging a long time ago if I hadn't found these people that get the struggles and the joys of blogging that non-bloggers don't get.
4. Everything I learn about blogging I learn from bloggers.Specifically Amy, Regina, and Pat to name a few. They're my go-to gurus on blogging as a business. I've also done a lot of searches on how to do things with my blog and I've learned so much from whatever bloggers' tutorials pop up at the top of the Google search. So thankful blogging about blogging is a thing, one that many people do so well.
5. Practice makes perfect.Well, not necessarily perfect, but the closest you're going to find for yourself. I've designed my blog at least a hundred times and it's only gotten easier and better. I've written over 850 blog posts and through that have learned how to write a post, edit it, add a Pinnable photo, throw in some links to my related content. I still have a lot to learn, but doing the work of blogging was the only real way I could get better and develop my own skills.
6. Do it afraid.That said, don't wait until you're "good enough" to start. I heard this from Sharon at the Belong Tour. She expounded: You may never not be afraid enough to start; do it anyway. My first blog "design" and my first posts and my first photos--they were rough. Really rough. And it wasn't an instant improvement either. But looking back, I would have been so proud to know where that rough start would have led. It never could have happened if I waited around until I was where I am now. I am where I am not because I wasn't afraid of being a beginner.
7. Use images.Even if you're in this blogging world for the writing, use a photo in every post. It could be from your own images, especially from your Instagram posts since those are already filtered and ready. Or checkout free stock photos. There are things you can to do to keep the images in line with your brand, but for starters just choose something. You can put text over it or not. A photo gives a visual element, anchors the words and the title (like a magazine article), and gives readers something to Pin if they want to be able to find your post again.
8. Post sparingly.When I first started finding blogging tips years ago, they said to post often. Many were posting daily and suggested that's what readers wanted. Thankfully, that's faded out. There's so many blogs and so many people saying so many things, it's okay to post less, and readers like me are actually thankful for that. If you're excited to jump in, go ahead and post several, and maybe back date them so you have several pasts for readers to scroll through. But don't feel like you have to maintain constant posting.
9. Engage where you want.You also no longer have to feel the need to be on every social media. Choose the one or two that's natural for you, then learn how to make it work even better for you. Instagram is my favorite and where I show up the most. I even turned off comments on my blog because I'd rather engage through email or Instagram or Twitter rather than comments on my blog post.
10. You don't have to call yourself a blogger.Unless I'm with a group of bloggers, I often hear the term "blogger" with negative connotations. You get to decide if you identify with being a blogger. If you share posts on a blog, you technically are a blogger, but maybe you're primarily a writer or a photographer or in women's ministries or a small business owner. You get to choose your title.
11. Don't be afraid of branding.Everyone has a brand whether or not they're a creative or own a small business. What you care about, what you talk about, how, what, and why you share and do--it's all part of your brand. The sooner you embrace this, the sooner you'll start choosing images and design and content that fits the message you want to put out, and the easier it is for others to know if they want to listen. I love the book How to Style Your Brand for this--great starter on the basics of branding, and lots of great questions for figuring out the details of your own brand.
12. The investment could pay off.Don't be too afraid to put a little money into your blog. It can pay off simply in creating work you're proud of, but it could potentially pay off in monetary ways if you end up embracing it as a potential business. Paying for design or branding help, buying photos, and paying for a course or workshop could all help you along and even turn out to be a valuable investment. And keep all of your receipts, because there is potential to claim these as business/freelance expenses on your taxes. (I am not a tax professional and do not offer any input on that; talk to an accountant.)
13. Do work you're proud of.Even if you're not planning to turn it into a business, use your blog to create work you're proud of. Edit your posts, choose quality photos, do little things to improve your design and your brand. All of these things help it make worth your while and worth your readers' time. And you never know who could see this work or what opportunities it could prepare you for or open up in the future. It's public; make it your best work.
14. Give your gift to the world.If you were to die in one year, what is one gift you would hope to leave with the world? Maybe there's a story you've been itching to share, a ministry you've been hoping to create, a hobby you've been meaning to pick up. Use your blog as motivation and accountability to do that thing. Leave that gift for the world and yourself.
15. Stop saying you're not [fill-in-the-blank].I wasted far too many years claiming I wasn't creative. I thought it was true so I perpetuated a lie. The truth is, I am creative, just not in the ways I was comparing myself to others. Whatever that thing is that you keep saying you're not, stop saying it. You never know what you'll discover about yourself along the way.
16. Allow people to give you their email address.When you've given blogging a try and think you might be at for a while longer, start collecting readers' email addresses. There are free options to do this. I use Mailchimp and they offered great tutorials and directions to set it all up on my blog. You can use this to keep in touch with your readers and send them notifications of new posts. Or, you can let it sit and let the list grow until you know what you plan to do with it. Having an easy way to contact your "tribe" has so many benefits, it's worth setting up early on.
17. Share your stuff.Don't publish a new post and expect it to magically be found. You need to share it on whichever social media is your jam (or all of them), and even email it out to your subscribers (see #17 above). People want to see your content, but they won't know it's there unless you tell them. You put the work in, now get it out there.
18. Find yourself.Use this time of writing and sharing and planning to find yourself. Use questions on branding and niche to find what makes you tick and brings you passion. Take quizzes to find your core strengths and words that pinpoint your top values. This path of discovery will help tremendously in making design decisions for your blog and choosing what to post. But it will also impact you for the rest of your life to have assurance of who you are and what you offer the world. Whether you blog or not, knowing who you are can be so valuable.
19. Know when to quit. Or at least take a break.I have had multiple times over the years I've needed to step away from regular blogging. When I was pregnant, when I had a newborn, and when I was just plain burned out by the internet. It's okay, and even necessary, to take breaks. I've planned ahead for some and had guest posts scheduled, and other times I've simply just quietly quit posting with a simple email to subscribers that I'd be back soon or an email when I was back online. Stay in tune to your own symptoms of burnout or when more important things need attention in your life. No guilt necessary.
20. Keep it simple.Your blog posts, your posting schedule, your design. Keep it simple. Don't go too many directions, leave room for lots of white space, go in one direction with your topics. It will keep your sanity and make your job easier; and it will improve the experience for your readers.
21. Know why you blog.You'll likely want to quit at some point and knowing your why will help you decide. Your why can transition some, and it always drives what you post and when. Your why could be to make money, to keep in touch or provide information to your clients or customers, to practice writing or photography, to build a portfolio, to share your past story or your current journey, to find community around a topic, to explore a hobby. The motivations are endless, and often there's a few. Consider your why and keep it in mind as you make decisions moving forward.
22. Live first, then blog.This is true for blogging as much as it for being present on social media. Live, live, live. Go out and do things with people you care about, explore new places, grow community, enjoy your hobbies, establish your home, get involved. Live! Be present with those you love, for them and for you. Then, from the fullness of this beautiful life, share a blog post or a photo or a status update. Live at least 10x (or 100x!) more than you post. Your 2-cent opinion helps no one if it doesn't come from a place of experience and truly living.
23. Get inspired.Do the things that help you come alive. It helps keep your content fresh and interesting. Basically anything that helps you live (#23). Get outdoors, make a collage, listen to music, listen to a podcast or take a workshop, read, paint. As an introvert, I'm most inspired by the introspective side of living. Even for extroverts, inspiration can be found in these places of creativity.
24. Plan ahead.Instead of posting on a whim, plan ahead a little. I aim to post each Wednesday, so the beginning of each month I usually have an outline of the posts I have in mind to write. Lately I've started using an idea from Regina where I use a loose theme to guide my emails and posts. I plan these around my speaking engagements, so that all of my creative work goes into growing one topic (courageous living, identifying and sharing your story, growing connections, etc.) rather than trying to go different directions. It gets the most use out of my content re-purposing my work for my monthly email, weekly blog posts, and even social media updates. I use a monthly calendar to keep track of all of this.
25. Narrow in on a niche... eventually.If you're not sure of what you're blogging about yet, don't worry too much about a niche right away. It will get worked out with your posts. That's true even if you have a clearer idea of where you're headed with your posts or what you're sharing. Over time you'll figure out what you like posting and what others seem engaged with by views or shares or comments. As you discover this, narrow in that niche so that you're not spinning out on going too many directions. Do what you're the best at and people will come to you for more of it.
26. Be consistent on YOUR terms.I post weekly and email monthly. You might want to do more or less than that. It's up to you. You decide, then try to stay consistent with it. It helps hold you accountable and lets your readers know what to expect from you.
27. Find affiliates you care about.You don't have to blog for a business or to make money to be able to benefit from affiliates. Affiliates are programs businesses offer people to share their content--you get paid for any sales that come through the links you share. I wrote tutorials on using PicMonkey before they even had an affiliate program, and now these old posts bring in traffic and income without me doing anything else. I also shared my love of Warby Parker glasses in a blog before I knew they had an affiliate program. Now, those posts have affiliate links, and they make income without me having to do anything else. This might not come until later when you have a selection of posts or growing traffic. But the sooner these links get added, the better, so you don't miss out on sales through that early traffic. Keep it to products and companies you love and naturally promote so it fits in with your brand. Do searches on affiliates for the companies or products you care about and will be writing about.
28. Ask.Ask your question to a group, a fellow blogger, or type it into Google. Ask other bloggers if you could feature them on your blog. Ask people you relate well with to form a mastermind group with you or to start a local blogger's group together. Ask others how they got started or their number one lesson. So many great things come from simply asking. The worst that could happen is that they'll say no or say nothing, and neither of those is that bad. Especially when you have the potential to find solutions to your problems or grow great connections.
29. Keep learning.Read books, browse blogs, attend an online workshop or webinar, maybe even attend a conference. There are so many ways to keep learning. And they all have benefits beyond growing as a blogger; you'll grow as a creative, a worker, a communicator, and a person.
30. Get offline.It's true, sometimes you just gotta get offline. I mentioned now when to quit or take a break from blogging, but there are times even when you're still blogging to get offline. Like after you've published your post and shared it; don't stay online watching your stats or views. Get offline in the evenings and on weekends or whenever you can be present with your people. This is #22 all over again. Live! And that's best done offline.
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*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Any purchases through these links will earn me a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks!