Thursday, 16 October 2014

Tips for starting a blog


I’ve been blogging now for just over a year and thought this was a good opportunity to share with you some of the hints and tips I have picked up for writing a blog. I’m by no means saying I’m an expert at this (believe me, I’m not!) but I’ve got some experience and I always find these sorts of posts helpful to read, so decided to share what I’ve learnt so far. Like I’ve said I’m not an expert so please don’t take this too seriously, as it is intended to be a light-hearted glimpse of what it’s like to write a blog.

Image from Weheartit


Think about what you want to get out of blogging

So, you’ve decided to start a blog. The first question you need to ask yourself is ‘why?’ And this is important. If your answer is something along the lines of ‘because I want free stuff’ or ‘because I want to be famous’ then there really isn’t any point in going any further. Yes, some bloggers do get freebies and yes, there are some bloggers who have found fame through what they do, but neither is guaranteed. There are millions of bloggers out there, with only a very small number of ‘famous’ faces and only a certain amount of free products to go around. If you’re in it for the fame and fortune I’m afraid you are going to be incredibly disappointed. However, if you enjoy writing or taking photos, or are looking for a hobby to showcase your love of fashion/make-up/cats/the colour pink then you’re more likely to enjoy being a blogger. I’m not saying you won’t make it as a famous blogger one day, what I am saying is that it takes a hell of a lot of work and you need to enjoy what you do, otherwise it will become rather boring very quickly.



Choose your platform

Once you’ve decided you’re going to write a blog, you need to choose the platform your blog will run from. There are two main sites to choose from – Blogger and Wordpress. Blogger is fairly simple to use whereas Wordpress gives you scope for more personalisation. I personally went with Blogger, just because the simplicity appealed to me, but have a play around with both and see which one works best for you. You’re going to be spending a lot of time using it, so you need to go with what feels most comfortable! Depending on which platform you use, you will either have ‘blogspot’ or ‘wordpress’ in your blog URL, unless of course you decide to buy a domain name from a host and therefore personalise your URL. But that’s not something you need to worry too much about right now.

Make it look nice

When I first started blogging I spent a long time playing around with all the different templates and layouts, making my blog look like something I was happy with. Certainly on Blogger there are a good number of free design features to choose from, and to begin with I would recommend just using these because as you become more established you’re bound to change your mind about what you want your blog to look like. Once I’d been blogging for a few months I put the feelers out on Twitter, asking for recommendations on people who did personalised blog layouts. I went through my list of recommendations and looked at examples of people’s work before I chose someone to do my layout for me. It can also help to look at blog layouts that you like, because there is usually credit on the page for the person that created the layout. When you get to this point make sure you’re upfront about what you want your blog to look like. In my experience it’s best to keep it simple but personal. I prefer to have a white background with personal touches, like my header and social media buttons, but there are thousands of different options so spend some time researching what you like and don’t like. A good designer will work with you until you’re both happy with what you come up with.

Find your niche

As I’ve already mentioned, there are millions of bloggers out there, so it’s important that you write about things that are important to you. There is so much you could write about, but spend some time working out what your niche is. It can be as general or specific as you like. You may be solely interested in lip products or zoo animals, or like me, you may decide you just want to include a bit of everything in your posts. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you feel comfortable in the space you create yourself.

Be original

I think it can be very easy to see a blog that you really like and inadvertently copy what they are already doing. I’m not saying it’s something you will do on purpose, but if something works it can be hard not to do the same thing. My only advice on this subject is plain and simple: Don’t copy! Yes, by all means write a review about the same product, but write it in your own words. People will notice if your content is the same as others, it will get you in all kinds of trouble and you’re unlikely to get people reading your work if they know it’s been copied from someone else. You need to have faith in yourself and your ability to blog. People will be interested in what you have to say, so make sure you say it!

Image from Weheartit


Be yourself

Similar in some ways to being original I guess, but one of the biggest things I’ve learnt through blogging is that it’s so important to stay true to yourself. If you’re not into make-up then don’t write about it. If you hate chocolate but love fruit then don’t hide away because your opinion is just as valid and it makes for interesting content if you’re not the same as everyone else. It is so easy to tell if someone writes about something they’re not interested in and yours will be a better blog for staying true to who you are.

Take your own photos

This is really important because it adds a real personal touch to a blog. I’m not saying don’t use photos from other sources (just please remember to credit them!) because sometimes you find the perfect picture elsewhere. But wherever you can, try to take photos of your own. Especially for things like product reviews, it’s good to see that the person has actually used the product and it makes it more interesting to see the way someone has set up their own photograph. You don’t need to splash out on a mega-expensive camera. Most phones have a decent camera these days, or there are plenty of good value point and shoot varieties. Try and use natural light as much as you can, or there are alternatives like soft light boxes and lamps that can be found on eBay for not too higher price. I always like to see nice big, clear photos on posts as I think it makes them more interesting to read. It’s also a great way to improve your photography skills, as the more you blog the better you will get at taking photos.

Honesty is the best policy

I always think it’s really important to be honest on your blog. Now, I don’t mean you have to lay yourself bare and tell us your deepest and darkest secrets. But you need to give your honest opinions. If you try a product and hate it then say so (without being unprofessional of course). Just because a product has loads of hype from other bloggers doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws. If you happen to dislike something about it then don’t feel like you can’t be honest. Also, when it comes to products, if you’ve been sent something as a press sample then I’m a firm believer in being open about the fact you didn’t pay for it. Or if you’re writing a sponsored post, it’s customary to include a note at the end to indicate you’ve been sponsored to write it. This doesn’t mean you can’t still give your opinion; it just gives your readers an understanding of where the post is coming from.

Image from Weheartit


Manage your time

If you’re looking at taking blogging seriously, whether it’s as a hobby or a potential career, it’s vital to manage your time wisely. The majority of bloggers do it as a hobby and therefore have other commitments to contend with as well. Be it work, school, family life or other hobbies, everything needs to be fitted in and it can sometimes get pretty difficult and stressful. I find it helpful to set aside certain times purely for blogging, when I’m not going to be disturbed by other things going on in my life. I also find it helps to have a blogging plan to follow, so I know exactly what posts I need to be writing when I sit down to write. I wrote about the way I plan my blog here which you might find helpful.

Look to the future

When you first start your blog you may not be thinking about where you want to be in five years time, but I think it’s important to know which direction you are heading in. Some people are very set on making their blog the next big thing, and that’s absolutely fine, but it’s not just going to happen on it’s own. You need to set yourself monthly goals of things you want to achieve, so you can measure how successful your blogging is. How many posts do you want to post a week? How are you going to promote your blog? Will you be contacting companies about the prospect of working with them? This all needs to be set out in your long-term plan. Even if you’re just blogging for a hobby, it can be helpful to have some longer-term goals for what you’d like to achieve, so that, in those times when you’re maybe struggling to keep going, you’ve got something to work towards.

Image from Google


Get to grips with social media

As I’ve just mentioned, promoting your blog is big business and one of the quickest ways to get your blog out into the blogosphere. Set yourself up on as many different social media platforms as you know how to, and generally I think it’s better to keep your blog account and personal account separate (which I haven’t always done and am now kind of regretting!) Just as a starter you can look at making a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ accounts. There’s also Tumblr, which I’m just getting my head around and I know a lot of bloggers use Linkedin, especially if they’re turning their blog into a business. Once you’re all set up, make sure you have links on your profile back to your blog, and then every time you write a blog post you can post links to it on all your social media accounts. There are also ways to connect your accounts together, so you do not have to individually post on each one in turn, but that’s something I haven’t quite got my head around yet!

Ignore negative comments but learn from constructive criticism

If you’re very lucky you will never get a negative comment about your blog, but in reality, there’s going to be someone out there who doesn’t like what you’re doing. Whether it’s a direct comment to your blog or a post on a social media site, it’s likely to happen one day. And the best thing you can do is ignore it. I know it’s easier said than done, but remember that people are very good at hiding behind a computer and dishing out criticism, knowing there will be no comeback because they’re basically invisible. However, not all negative comments are bad. There may be some constructive criticism among them, which if you take on board may actually help you improve what you’re already doing. It can be hard to decipher the negativity from constructive criticism, but if it’s something impersonal, largely about the way you post, have a think about what has been said and if it’s something you can improve.

Image from Weheartit


Interact with your readers

I can’t emphasis how important this is! These are the people you are writing for, and if they take the time to leave you a comment then please, please reply! I’m sure we’ve all done it – you leave a comment on someone’s post, perhaps asking them a direct question, and never hear anything back. It’s incredibly frustrating and actually quite rude. Set aside some time to just respond to comments each week, and you’ll get into a routine of doing it. People are more likely to read what you write if you’re nice to them! I know it gets harder when you become a more popular blogger, and I’m not saying you have to respond to thousands of comments if you’re lucky enough to get that many. But even replying to a select few shows your readers that you appreciate them taking their time to read what you have to say.

Be realistic

It’s very easy to go into blogging with goals to get a certain amount of followers or to work with a certain company, and wanting instant results. But you need to be realistic. It’s not all going to happen overnight and you need to put a lot of work in to get anything back. As I said earlier, I’ve been blogging for over a year now and have only just started getting e-mails from companies wanting to work with me. There are loads of exciting companies I’d love to work with, but I’m going to have to put a lot more work into my blog before they will even notice me. It’s taken me a year to gain 500 readers and as much as I would love it to happen, I’m not going to suddenly have 1000 readers next time I switch my computer on. It’s that old saying ‘You get out of it what you put into it’ that really applies to blogging.

Read other blogs

Last, but certainly by no means least, it is so important to read other blogs if you’re planning to be a blogger. The blogosphere is a massive community and interacting with other bloggers will provide you with inspiration, friendships and opportunities. Reading other blogs will also make you a better writer. We were always told in our English classes that the more we read, the better or written work would be, and I’m a firm believer in this. You want other people to read your blog, so you’ve got to be prepared to read other people’s blogs too. And it’s not like it’s a chore is it?! I could quite happily spend an afternoon curled up under the duvet with my laptop, reading all my favourite blogs!

Are you an established blogger or are you just starting out? What tips would you give a new blogger?



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8 comments:

  1. my blog is very new with only two posts so this was very useful thankyou.

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    1. Ah I'm so pleased that you found it helpful :) xx

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  2. Be careful with using other people's photos as, even if you credit the owner, you can still be caught by copyright laws!!

    Absolutely love this post though! really helpful for people just starting out :) x

    shynature.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. That's really interesting to know Lauren - thank you. Glad you enjoyed this post :) xx

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  3. I've been blogging two years and I find it difficult to post updates because life also gets in the way. I agree with honesty and it's great to have stumbled upon your blog!

    http://eljovenlector.blogspot.com/

    Like our page: https://www.facebook.com/brissywebdesign
    http://www.brissywebdesign.com.au/

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    1. I know what you mean about life getting in the way Raisa Mae - it's hard to keep blogging isn't it. I'm so glad you like my blog :) xx

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  4. I've just started my blog and I'm still trying to get to grips with everything, so this was very useful! x

    EverythingElla

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful Ella :) Good luck with your new blog! xx

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