The number one question I get asked as a blogger is how I got started.
People are often equal parts amazed and amused to hear that I sort of fell into this gig by accident. Truly, if it weren’t for a friend who recognized my writing skills and some pretty amazing “right place, right time” moments, I wouldn’t be pounding away on my trusty laptop right now. And, after four long years of proving myself, screaming into the internet void and achieving a modicum of success, I’ve learned a thing or two about the blogging/freelancing business.
And that leads me to the number two question I get asked as a blogger.
“So, I want to start a blog. Got any tips?”
Now, I don’t want to minimize someone’s good intent in asking about how they, too, can scream into the void and fight to get their words noticed in an internet system that is jammed with thousands of others just like me, but let’s just stop right here for a minute.
Blogging is hard work. No joke. Since this little gem was started four years ago, I’ve worked my ass off day in and day out to build this tiny little empire. In the beginning, I’d spend hours reading about HTML code and plug ins that were unrelated to the Glade ones I stuck in my bathroom. I’d pore over other people’s blogs, looking at their styles, their fonts, their layouts. And I pretty much learned most of my web building skills from the University of Google. Seriously. I’d type “I want share buttons at the bottom of my blog posts” and “how do I make those tab things at the top of a blog?”into the search bars. I’m a real professional operation up in here, folks.
I spent hours on end writing, editing myself, blasting my work out on social media channels followed only by my mom, my best friend and one faithful follower from Branson, MO. And I wasn’t getting paid a dime for my efforts. But, I kept plugging because I knew that someday, somehow, I’d find someone who’d pay me for the crazy thoughts in my head.
This brings me to my point: My success didn’t happen overnight. And, if you are about to take the plunge into the blogging world, you need to be comfortable with the fact that, for a while, no matter how amazing you think your writing is, it’s gonna be a while until anyone but your grandmother sees it. Real talk, bitchachos.
So, if you are still reading and want some tips on how to get started, I’m happy to oblige.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.
1). Make Some Decisions Up Front So You Don’t Have To Undo Things Later.
One of the biggest complaints my blogging colleagues lament about is that they didn’t think through some of the decisions they made early on in their blog development. Ask yourself the following:
How Public Do I Want To Be? This means deciding whether you’ll use your real name or a pen name, revealing pictures of your kids, and determining how much of your real life you want an underwear clad stranger reading from his basement to know (more on him later).
Is My Blog Focus Sustainable? Don’t get me wrong, we all love North American birds that primarily reside in Pennsylvania but, let’s face it: you’ll run out of material pretty quickly if you pigeon hole yourself into a narrowed topic (see what I did there?). Make sure your blog focus will allow you a broad scope in which to write and that there’s actually an audience for your material. (No disrespect to lovers of North American birds that primarily reside in Pennsylvania).
How Much Time Do I Have and/or What’s The End Game? Are you blogging for fun? To share recipes you love? Or, are you looking to build a lucrative freelancing career? Be honest with yourself about your current time constraints and how much patience and time you have to build your blog. Honesty. It’s the best policy, I mean it.
2). What’s In A Name?
Your blog’s name is a pretty damned important aspect of this little endeavor. The name of your blog tells a potential reader what they are getting when they click over to your page and it has to be catchy enough to entice them to want to read your stuff. And, do us all a favor: do a little research before you settle on a title. Make sure you aren’t accidentally poaching someone else’s blog name or that the one you’ve chosen isn’t too similar to another blog. Your blog name is the only chance you get to make a first impression. Just as you spent some time deciding on your kids’ names, put a little effort into naming where your word babies will live.
3). A Word About Branding
No one has a blog these days. Rather we all have BRAAAAANDS (rolls eyes unironically). And BRANDS have logos that are universally recognized across all social media channels. Ideally, you want to have your blog name match on all of the social media channels you are using. So, for instance, my blog name is Keeper of The Fruit Loops, my Facebook name is Keeper of The Fruit Loops, my IG handle is @fruitloopkeeper and my Twitter handle is @FruitLoopKeeper. I use the same profile picture for my accounts so that when someone is trying to search for me, they can easily recognize my face from seeing it elsewhere or because they know my blog name. Go ahead and check them out. And follow me. I’ll wait.
Trust me when I say, this step is NECESSARY. Often, editors will want to get in touch with you about your writing and they will GIVE UP because your blog name doesn’t match your social channels and editors just don’t have the time to search for you, no matter how much they like your writing. Trust me on this. TRUST.
4). “If You Wanna Be Taken Seriously, You Need Serious Hair” (fist bump to anyone who gets the “Working Girl” reference).
Think about your favorite blogs. What do you like about them? Is their layout easy to use? Is their font nice and readable? Is their format clean and fresh? Do any of them look cheap, fourth rate and like a third grader put them together? NO THEY DO NOT AND SO YOURS SHOULDN’T EITHER. Hire a web designer or elicit a knowledgeable friend to help you with the backend basics of blogging. AND FOR GOD’S SAKES DON’T USE GOOGLE’S FREE PLATFORM BLOGGER. Buy your domain, become self hosted (that means you pay a company to give you a tiny little space on the internet that’s just yours instead of using a free platform), and spend a little money up front to make your new word home pretty and spiffy. You’ll be glad you did.
5). Internet Trolls Exist And They Will Shit All Over Your Writing. Write Anyway.
If you are going to put your thoughts and dreams out into the inter webs, you need to be prepared that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. And they won’t be nice about it. At all. I’ve had some vicious things said to me both publicly and via IM/email and every single negative comment stings. But I keep going. Because that underwear clad dude eating Cheetos in his mother’s basement doesn’t know the first thing about you and he never will. Besides, he’s a total loser. You are not and you should keep writing.
6). If You Don’t Expect A Single Person In Your Life To Read Your Writing, You’ll Never Be Disappointed.
If you think that by starting a blog, every person you know will read every piece you write, you need to get your head out of your ass right now. I have dear friends who have no idea that I’ve continued blogging past the conversation we had about it four years ago. Seriously. If someone mentions my writing to me in a social situation, either favorably or with criticism, I am genuinely grateful that they’ve taken the time to read my stuff. But I never expect ANYONE to read my words. Because I’m not doing it for them. I’m not writing for approval or for status or for anything other than the fact that I have to get my thoughts out of my head or I’ll explode. If along the way, someone decides they’d like to join me on this little journey, great. If not, their loss. And, people don’t read blogs or freelance articles for a variety of reasons and it’s almost never because they think you suck as a writer. So, write your ass off and be happy if someone other than your best friend reads your writing occasionally.
So, still want to start a blog?
Blogging is challenging on the good days and soul sucking on the days when the trolls are out in full force. But I love every single aspect of my career. Well, most days. So, good luck, Godspeed, joyous writing and all that happy horseshit. Go forth and blog.
But don’t forget about mine when you become rich and successful from all of this sage advice I just gave you, m’kay?