7 Things I Learned In My First Year of Blogging
Do you know what today iiiiis? It's my Bloggerversary!
It's true that a lot can happen in a year. What's even truer is that you can LEARN so much in a year. So, on the one year mark of starting this blogging journey, I thought I'd throw out 7 things I've learned since starting this blog. Some are functional things while others are more personal. When you step into a new lane, there might be traffic, speed bumps and detours. Hopefully this list will help you along on your trip (see what I did there).
7 Things I Learned in My First Year of Blogging
The first step is the hardest
Regardless of what they say, starting a blog isn't exactly easy. I'm sure you can find millions of articles on line like "starting your blog in four easy steps" or "super easy ways to become a billionaire from blogging", but I'm gonna keep it real: if it we that easy, everyone would be doing in. Don't get me wrong, a lot of people are, but what I found to be the most challenging is taking that initial plunge. Whether or not you are a technical wizard, putting your thoughts out here for the works to see--and oftentimes, judge--can be scary. There's a lot of expectation involved after you launch that perhaps even I hadn't initially considered. But don't let this deter you: you can do it, too!
Maintain a schedule
This is the biggest thing I've struggled with over the last year. I started off relatively strong, but I allowed life to get in the way on many occasions. But as a friend once said (yes, Lathan's, I'll give you credit this time), success requires practicing the 7 P's: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Don't be afraid to make a plan and stick to it. I'll try to take on this advice as I move into year two. Consistency is like currency in the blogging world, so make that one of your biggest priorities.
Figure out your niche, or don't
Many of the advice articles you read out there will say to carve out your niche before you even start. I wanted to do this, but I found that aside from wanting to talk about the things I loved, I also wanted to just share stories and experiences from my, sometimes jumbled, point of view. If you are more of a Type A personality, carving out a specific niche may just work best for you. If you, on the other hand, are more or less Type B, write what you feel. The best advice I've heard along this journey is to try to provide value in some way. This could be anything from how your perspective on a certain topic may be different than what everyone else is saying to being that motivational space where others can find some inspiration or even somewhere others can turn to for some humor or entertainment. Worry less about website traffic and more about writing about what you are actually interested in. Do what feels best, niche or not.
Beware of the trolls
When I started this blog, I also wanted to get more active on social media. While I am nowhere near a Bloxilla or XoNecole, I've had to deal with my share of negative comments, on the blog itself and on my socials. At first it was confusing and a little disheartening: here I am just using this space as a form of expression just to have others spew negativity from seemingly out of nowhere. Be prepared for that. The best thing I can say is that anyone who takes the time out of their day to leave nasty comments is clearly unhappy in their own lives, and nothing you say can help change that. Kill them with kindness or the block button. Like the age old adage say, "if you ain't got no haters, you ain't poppin'."
I recently attended an event called Cocktails with Claire with extremely successful fashion blogger and entrepreneur Claire Sulmers and celebrity stylist/entrepreneur Ty Hunter, among others. It was totally an inspiring experience, but one thing Ty said really stuck out to me. I'm paraphrasing here, but he said something along the lines of "sometimes that troll that's leaving you negative comments from that fake page is sitting right next to you." Take that how you will.
This is not your college thesis
I am a self-described "grammar nazi", but even I make mistakes. TONS of them. Sometimes I just throw things out there, and it's not until months later that I catch my own mistakes. I'm pretty good at catching other's writing errors, but when it comes to myself, I miss sometimes. And that's OKAY! This isn't college: you aren't going to fail Blogger 101 if you have some typos. One thing that may help is if it's a non time sensitive piece, put it down over night and review it the next day before you hit publish. Even better, if you have an outside person that's willing to, kindly, look over your work as a proofreader, let them. There's also Grammarly, which is notoriously incorrect when it comes to certain grammatical devices, but it will catch the typos and those weird phrases spellcheck loves to throw in.
Talk to other experienced bloggers
So, you're a blogger: now what? Well, you can continue to use your blog as a space for self-expression and stayed holed up next to your laptop or you can actually get out there and network. As a less than extraverted individual, networking events used to seem daunting. Like, I'm supposed to show up somewhere where I don't know anyone and talk to random strangers? What!?
Depending on your location, there are tons of bloggers out there mixing and mingling at events and even blogger-focused networking socials. The best part about finding these events is that everyone there has had to start from scratch just like you, and typically they are happy to share information. I've actually made some, dare I say it, friends this way. We see each other out at events all the time, and it's fun to be a part of a community of like-minded individuals with similar goals and passions. If you are active on social media, don't be afraid to take the leap and slide into a DM or two: you might be surprised how many experienced and seasoned bloggers are out there willing to help.
Be yourself and have fun
You don't want this to turn into something you dread just because you are worried about this or that. The first step to really owning your blog space (and I'm not talking about the domain name) is learning to be confident in your voice. Like many, I actually started this blog to define my personal brand as well as to have an "online portfolio" of my writing. That has turned into invites to events, requests for features and even a new gig as Managing Editor for another site. But I don't think I would have had as many opportunities or even "looks" if I wasn't just being myself though my words. Others will come back because they want to see what you are going to say the way ONLY YOU can say it.
And don't get discouraged: not everyone is for everyone. You may not get the traffic you initially wished for (trust, I know), but as long as you are being authentic, someone is going to feel it. It only takes one person to change the trajectory of your blogging/writing career, so keep that in mind.
Remember: this is the internet. There are millions of places to find bad news or read sad stories, so try to have fun with what you're doing. Hey, your thing might be telling sad stories, but if that's fun for you, do it! The truth, is people can smell authenticity from a mile away. As long as you are staying true to yourself (which means owning who you are--the good and the bad--and loving all of it), your authentic voice will push through. We've all had jobs we hated going to; don't allow this to become one of them. If you're feeling tired, take a break. If you're feeling inspired, post 10 articles in a day. Just be yourself, and everything else will fall into place!
I hope this helps someone out there. If it is helpful to you, let me know in the comments. If you have some other tips to share or have any questions, leave a comment, too!