Wow, I guess they weren’t lying when they said time flies when you’re having fun! It has officially been a year since I decided to start treating blogging like a business and made the switch to a self-hosted platform. Really, I started blogging a few months before that, but switching to self-hosted was like a fresh start with a fresh mindset, so I’m going with that as my blogaversary! Let me tell you, it has been a journey full of ups and downs and twists and turns. Some really amazing times, and some not so great times. With tons of new bloggers entering into the blogosphere, I want to share ten things I’ve learned in my first year of blogging that will hopefully help the fresh faced newbie bloggers out! It’s time for a little bit of blogging 101!
1. Do Your Research
Before I started blogging, I did a ton of research. I read a lot of articles like this one specifically written to help newbie bloggers start their blogging journey. There were a few free email courses I signed up for (Michelle from Making Sense of Cents has a great email course that helped me out a lot). I researched and compared companies for hosting, email management, social media scheduling, etc. I’ve made some great choices and some not so great choices. I’ve switched things up along the way.
My research has continued throughout the year (one of the best purchases I made was the Career in the Making e-book by Krista Aoki, definitely check it out if you want to make money from your blog, there’s a great section on affiliate marketing especially). Make sure you always do your research before investing in any resources for your blog.
At the same time, don’t get caught up in the “research phase”. Great things don’t occur just by reading about them. You need implementation. Focus on a few main bloggers to “mentor” you through the process and then make it happen!
Here are a few resource recommendations to get you started! Be sure to do your research on them before making any purchases to make sure these are a good fit for you and your blog.
- Web hosting: Siteground. I started with Bluehost originally and have found Siteground’s customer service to be far above and beyond that of Bluehost.
- Premium theme: Bluchic themes. I use the Isabelle theme and love it because there isn’t much coding knowledge needed, and I love the feminine vibe of all the Bluchic themes! If you’re just starting out, I recommend going with a free theme at first and then purchasing a premium theme when you start to feel limited by what a free theme can offer.
2. You Don’t Have to “Niche Down” to Start
Everyone in the blogosphere is always going on about niches. They say things like “you need a niche if you want to make money” or “finding a niche is the most important part of starting a blog”. Chances are if you’re reading this article you’re trying to figure out how to start a profitable blog. How many times have you read that in your research?
Here’s the thing about finding a niche. Yes, having a niche, to some extent, will be beneficial when it comes to monetizing. People will see you as an expert at one thing rather than a jack of all trades. Google will rank you higher in search results. All of that stuff is true to an extent. My question to you is this: can you see yourself writing about only one topic for years to come? If you’re just starting to blog, how do you know what you’re interested in writing about? You may have a definite answer to these questions. Maybe you went to school for accounting and you want to write about personal finances that will help families get out of debt. Great! Kudos to you, that is amazing! But if you’re not sure, don’t waste time dwelling on it!
Start a Lifestyle Blog
So many newbie bloggers get caught up in trying to figure out their niche before they’ve even dipped their toes into anything. That just seems like an absolutely impossible task. So, why not start a lifestyle blog? I hear stuff all the time about how lifestyle blogs can’t make money, and that’s simply just not true. I look at some of my favourite influencers who are killing it as bloggers or Youtubers, and guess what? They’re in the lifestyle niche!
Maybe you’ll narrow it down as you go. I’ve gone from a broad millennial lifestyle blog to focusing on personal development and entrepreneurship with a variety of sub-topics. And do you know what? I’ll likely narrow it down more than it is right now, but I’m not in a rush because I’m enjoying the journey and managing to make some money on the side. Sometimes broad lifestyle blogs are extremely successful. Don’t be afraid to start broad and narrow down as you go!
Related: Start a Blog: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
3. Get Involved in the Blogging Community
Hands down, one of the best parts of having a blog is meeting wonderful, like-minded individuals from all over the world. These are people I never would have had the opportunity to meet and chat with had it not been for my blog. Join Facebook groups, particularly ones that focus on community over promotion. I love Content Marketing for Creative Entrepreneurs and Reroute Lifestyle Community, as well as my own group the Millennial Dream Team *wink wink that self promo though*! Interact with your favourite blogger’s posts both on their blog and on social media. Interact with bloggers who write about similar topics to you and maybe even set up a collab. Make friends with other newbie bloggers! Being a part of the community will provide you with so much more value in this industry.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Established Bloggers
It’s so easy to look at people like Michelle of Making Sense of Cents (who makes seven figures a year from her blog) and be like “how am I ever going to be that successful?” Trust me, I’ve been there, particularly in the times when my blog wasn’t making any money at all. You have to keep in mind that these people have been blogging for a lot longer than you, and building your blog up to that level is going to take time. They weren’t an overnight success, and you can’t put that pressure on yourself. Enjoy the journey and allow yourself and your blog time to grow.
Related: How to Supercharge Your Pinterest Game with Tailwind
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Newbie Bloggers
I’ve been so guilty of this. Some of those other newbie blogger friends I made this year who started their blog around the same time as me have more monthly page views, more Instagram followers, and are making a lot more money than I am from my blog. While I’m incredibly happy for them, I also sometimes find myself feeling envious, wondering what they’re doing that I’m not.
This is a slippery slope, friends. Don’t go down this path. Stop comparing yourself to your blogging friends. Everyone’s journey is different and what works for one person might not work for another. There are so many different factors involved in why one blogger might be performing “better” than another in some aspect. Instead of focusing on how others are doing, set goals for yourself to improve what you’re not happy with. Make sure those goals are SMART so you can keep track of them. You can always learn new strategies from other bloggers and try them out, but don’t allow the success of others to discourage you!Learn from the successes of other bloggers, but don't compare yourself to them. Everyone's blogging journey is unique! #BloggingGals #GRLPOWR #BloggersTribe Click To Tweet
6. Celebrate the Wins
Here’s a tip on blogging self-care 101: when you do have success at something, enjoy that moment! I think it’s ingrained in a lot of us to always be thinking about the next step and where we want to take our business, but what’s the point if you’re not enjoying the process? Even the smallest of victories are celebration-worthy, even if that means you just take a moment to reflect on how you’re feeling in that moment. It doesn’t need to be some grand party, but enjoying the little (and big) moments of success will build your confidence and motivate you to work even harder. Take that time and enjoy it!
7. Use the Difficult Times to Motivate You
At the same time, you will also experience some not so positive moments in your blogging journey. One of the most important things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that failure is inevitable and necessary to success. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying, and that’s a much bigger problem. Use failure to fuel you. Figure out what you can do next time in order for things to go more smoothly and learn from your mistakes. Understand that you’ll likely have more failures than successes and that’s perfectly normal, and then work it to your advantage!If you're not failing, you're not trying. Learn from failure and use those lessons to fuel your motivation to succeed! #GRLPOWR #BloggersTribe #BizTips Click To Tweet
8. Your Email List is Your Squad
People go on and on about social media, particularly Instagram (don’t even get me started on that, Instagram has been the bane of my blogging existence this past year). The truth is that you don’t own any of your content or followers on Instagram. It’s like a rental rather than an ownership. Instagram can decide to take that away from you at any time without notice. This is why your email list is so important. These are your VIPs. They’re the ones who have specifically signed up because they want more of what you’re offering. They are your people!
If I can recommend focusing on one thing, it’s growing your email list. I wasn’t great about this for the first six months of my blogging journey, so I feel like I’m a bit behind. Start early! These are the people who are going to stick with you and your content and potentially even purchase from you/make you money, so don’t neglect them.
For email marketing, I recommend starting out with Mailchimp. If you’re just starting out, I strongly believe you don’t need to dish out money on an email marketing service provider from the get go. Mailchimp is easy to use and free up to 2000 subscribers. They now have automation included in their free plan, so you can create email courses and send newsletters without any hassle! Don’t know what to send to your email list? I’ll have a post on that shortly, stay tuned!
9. Automate and Schedule Social Media Posts but Remember to Stay Social
Us millennials have a lot of love for social media. We have a reputation of always being on our phones scrolling through Instagram, which isn’t totally misplaced if I’m being totally honest, at least in my case. I’ve spent my fair share of hours upon hours scrolling through social media feeds, but as a blogger and it being part of my job it does become quite draining at times. Throughout this past year, I’ve definitely taken some hiatuses from each social media platform in order to avoid social media burnout. The solution I’ve found? Scheduling and automation!
Now I know what you’re thinking. “But, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of social media? Don’t you have to be social?” Yes, I see your point, so I’ve come up with a compromise that has worked well for me.
Many of my initial posts (daily discussions in my Facebook group, pins on Pinterest, some of my tweets, etc.) are automated. I batch schedule them to go out throughout the week and then let the schedulers work their magic! The only thing I manually post to regularly is Instagram only because I don’t find it that much more work to post manually than to schedule them. Then I monitor them live as comments and engagement come in.
At the same time, I try to spend a little bit of time on each of the four major social media platforms each day engaging with other people’s content in Facebook groups, on my Twitter timeline, in hashtags related to my brand, and by pinning other bloggers’ content on Pinterest. Automation is incredible and encouraged, but remember to stay engaged and social – it is called social media for a reason!
My recommendations for scheduling your social media posts are:
- For Facebook: The in-house scheduling feature that Facebook already has. I’ve moved away from using a Facebook business page and now have a Facebook group for my email list which I schedule daily discussions to (and also like to pop into every now and then with some random posts as well). It’s free, easy to use, and in-house, so why not?
- For Twitter: TweetDeck. This is a feature that Twitter has created themselves (again, sort of an in-house situation) which allows you to manage your entire Twitter platform all at once! You can see your live feed, schedule tweets, check your notifications, and read your DMs all on one page.
- Pinterest: Tailwind. Out of all four major platforms, Pinterest is the one I highly recommend using a scheduler for. Manual pinning can become spammy if not done right, which affects pin ranking. It can also be hugely time consuming to go on every hour of every day to pin something related to your brand. Tailwind has saved me probably days of my life on Pinterest. It has an interval feature that spreads your pins out over a specified amount of time. It also features fantastic analytics features to track your growth on and through Pinterest. And don’t even get me started on how awesome Tailwind Tribes are for finding fantastic content to pin and getting your own content seen by thousands more people than you would have otherwise.
10. Don’t Get Caught Up in the Numbers
Ahh, the numbers game. We all want hundreds of thousands of followers and subscribers. We all want hundreds of thousands of monthly page views. Brands look at our numbers to determine whether we’re worthy or not of their partnerships. It can all become very overwhelming very quickly, especially if you’re new to blogging and trying to break through and build a loyal audience. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve cried over numbers this past year. My Instagram following is TINY. I’ve had between 500 and 550 followers for SIX MONTHS. I’ve tried different things, I’ve adjusted my content, and I haven’t seen a lot of growth. I know how discouraging it is (my boyfriend thinks I’m crazy whenever I cry about Instagram followers but like it does seem pretty crazy when you look at it from the outside doesn’t it?).
It’s Not Worth It
I’m here to tell you that it’s not worth your tears. Your numbers and analytics do not equal your value as a person. There are tons of horrible people who have millions of followers on social media. And then there are some of the most wonderful people who have like 50 followers. It doesn’t have anything to do with who you are as a person. It comes down to who is seeing your content and whether they’re connecting with it, and not everyone is going to connect with your message. You need to be accepting of that!
I had an epiphany the other day that people are drawn to confidence. Be confident, stay strong, and say “screw you” to your insecurities, because that’s all this is. I’ve started seeing growth since becoming more confident (maybe not as much on Instagram but we all know how much of a pain that platform has been for influencers as of late). You can too!#BloggingWisdom: Your numbers and analytics do not equal your value as a person. The numbers game is not worth your tears! #BloggersTribe #BloggingGals Click To Tweet
Bonus Tip: Keep Track of Your Finances from the Start!
There is nothing worse than getting near tax season as an entrepreneur and not having your financial situation organized. Sure, you kept receipts for everything, but they’re all over the place. Things can turn chaotic quite quickly!
My saving grace for keeping my finances organized has been Freshbooks. This, my friends, is THE small business accounting software to use if you’re a beginner to tracking finances. It has features from tracking your expenses and revenue to creating invoices for clients, brands, etc., to even tracking your time spent on a project. It does everything you could possibly need as an entrepreneur and keeps your finances organized! I’ve used other accounting software programs in the past and I can 100% attest that Freshbooks is far easier to understand and navigate. Plus it’s inexpensive and they offer a 30-day free trial (which you don’t even need to enter your credit card number for), so there’s zero risk in trying it out! If you don’t love it as much as I do, you can just stop using it after the free trial, simple as that!
You’re a newbie blogger, and you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have ahead of you. I’ve been there, and I want you to know that it’s okay and it’s totally normal! Hopefully these tips will prove useful to you as you take on your first year of your blogging journey. And if you have any questions about anything I’m always happy to answer them and help out! What’s the one thing you’re most nervous about as a new blogger? Let me know in the comments!
For more helpful blogging and biz tips, check out:
- Start a Blog: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
- How to Supercharge Your Pinterest Game with Tailwind
- How to Supercharge Your Girl Boss Mindset
Want to get a head start on making friends in this industry? Join the Millennial Dream Team Facebook group! With this, you’ll also get access to exclusive content from my email newsletters and resource library!
Or do you want to learn how to get into girl boss mode and really make the most of this first year of blogging? Check out my free five day email course to help you Get the Girl Boss Mindset!