Blogger School: 5 Things I Wish I’d Learned My First Year of Blogging

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A couple of months ago, I celebrated my 5 year blogaversary. Though I know 5 years still doesn't put me anywhere close to some of the longer-running fashion blogs, it still feels like forever in internet time. When I started my blog, it was purely as a hobby and I knew literally nothing about how to blog, professional or otherwise. It took a couple of years (and a bunch of IFB articles!) for me to get a decent knowledge base, but even then, I wasted a ton of valuable time and energy. While I'm grateful for my more roundabout blogger journey and the lessons it taught me, I don't think every blogger needs to make those same mistakes. Here are 5 things I would have said to myself back in April 2008, when I was first starting out.

Monetize early.

Even if you're not sure if you want to be a professional blogger, monetizing your blog does two important things: 1) it gets your readers used to seeing advertising from the very beginning, and 2) it gets you used to thinking about your blog in more commercial terms. The latter is especially important because thinking about your blog as a business is a gradual process for most people. Unless you come from the world of fashion, marketing, or PR, it's something you have to learn to do. Implementing advertising, even if it's just a few Google Adsense spaces, is an easy first step in that direction. Of course, if you know you always want your blog to be a hobby, that's fine. Not everyone desires to make money from their blog (I didn't put up my first Adsense ads until I'd been blogging for over 2 years), but this is just a suggestion to start now if you think that's the direction you want to go.

You have to invest in your blog.

Many new bloggers are afraid to invest in their blog, and I totally understand why. When you're broke, and your blog isn't making any money, just buying your own domain can seem like an unnecessary expense. But it's important to set yourself up for success early on, and some of that will involve spending a little money. You can do a lot with a free Blogger or WordPress blog, but eventually, you'll want to be able to control your site (not to mention that free services often come with strings attached, like removal of your blog at any time for any reason). I didn't move to self-hosted WordPress until I'd been blogging for over 3 years, and it was a huge headache because there was so much to move (and therefore, a lot of room for mistakes). I also didn't buy a domain until I'd been blogging for over two years, and I'm incredibly lucky that it was still available (Pro-tip: Also buy up the domains close to your domain. It really matters). Put some money into professional looking business cards. Pay a little extra for a custom design or signature theme. These things cost money, yes, but none of them have to be outrageously expensive. The important thing is that they set your blog apart and identify you as someone who takes blogging seriously. Anything that helps you get a second look is worth doing.

Remember that there are no shortcuts.

Yes, some bloggers have high level connections that will enable them to jump ahead and get mad publicity from the start. It's not fair and it's frustrating, but it's the world we live in. If you don't have the luxury of knowing people who know people, get ready to buckle down and work hard for a long time. I wrote in obscurity for over 3 years before people began noticing my site, and even then I'm still not what you could call a “popular blogger.” The most important thing you can decide to do for your blog is to keep going. Refuse to get discouraged when things don't happen as fast as you'd like, because the truth is consistency is what will eventually set you apart. Be the blogger your readers can rely on, and you'll win. And remember this about shortcuts: when things come easy, they go easy. Do the hard work of building your audience gradually, with people who genuinely enjoy what you're doing, and that audience will stick with you.

Understand that you will probably never be famous. Ever. And that's okay.

I see so many bloggers who make it their goal to become famous, but fame isn't the only (or even the best) metric of success for for a blog. For the most part, the big names in blogging are already chosen, and they've been more or less the same since before I started blogging. I'm not saying this to get you down or depressed, but understanding what's realistically attainable is all part of setting good goals. Fortunately, you can still be an amazingly awesome successful blogger even if you're not sitting in the front row of fashion week. Center your goals around being a better blogger for your readers, not a famous blogger. And remember, even if do become blog-famous, the vast majority of people outside our little community still won't know who you are. My parents have no idea who Susie Bubble, The Sartorialist, or BryanBoy are, for example. Neither does my husband.

Don't be afraid to go outside your niche.

You can learn a lot about being a better blogger just by being more open-minded to what's around you. Read books on history, business, and storytelling. Check out blogs on photography, food, or home improvement. Be willing to attend conferences and networking events, not just for bloggers and fashion people, but for tech people or game people or anyone really. Read copy descriptions on menus to get an idea of how language is used to influence decisions. There are lessons on refining your craft everywhere. Be open to learning. Always.

Which lessons do you wish you'd known when you first started blogging? Share them in the comments!

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96 Responses

  1. Victoria

    Great tips, I think investing in your blog is important. If you want it to be a business you have to put in a little cash from the start. It’s annoying to have to fork out on these things, but it pays off in the long run πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Hannah

      I agree! I’m getting ready to pay for a redesign of my site; I realized that while my basic HTML skills are good enough for posts, it’s no where near what I need to create a beautiful website.

      Reply
      • Cora Harrington

        Good on you for realizing that! So many bloggers try to do it all, and wind up with substandard work (and a lot of stress) as a result. Knowing when to outsource certain things is important.

    • Cora Harrington

      Absolutely! There’s an upper limit to the quality you can get with “free.”

      Reply
  2. Hannah

    excellent article! you guys always publish the most helpful stuff. its like you’re in my head!

    xo

    Reply
  3. Shammara Lawrence

    Great points provided in this article, especially the investment point. Although I am a relatively new blogger, I realized from early on that in order to show my personality through my blog, aesthetic and branding has to be everything.

    FashionPopQueen

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Absolutely! And it’s a good thing you realized that sooner rather than later.

      Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Milly!

      Reply
  4. Victoria Antoine

    Awesome tips! I have been blogging for 10 years now. I learned so much once I start blogging. I do not want to be famous for my blog but I would like to attend any exclusives events so I have something to talk about and also make a little income for my page

    msvictoriaantoine.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      That’s a good goal, Victoria! Keep working towards it.

      Reply
  5. SaΕ‘a

    Thank you for this amazing post! I will definetly keep this in mind while blogging!

    -Sasha

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I’m glad the last tip made an impression on you. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

      Reply
  6. Hey Mishka

    “Remember this about shortcuts: when things come easy, they go easy.”

    So true. And even when they don’t come easy, they can still go away easily! Never get comfortable or slack off on providing the good stuff.

    As for fame, it’s a pretty ridiculous reason to reach for ANY goal. Providing value to the world in some capacity, or exercising your passions are reasons that won’t leave you burnt out after 2 weeks.

    Thank you for these tips, they’re awesome. ;}

    xx

    Mishka
    http://heymishka.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Sooo true! I’m glad you said this. I appreciate the insightful comment. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  7. candiceantoinette

    They say timing is everything and the universe responds to your every need. I’ve been blogging for 10 months and decided that while this was a total passion project, I have what it takes to really monetize off my site and purchased my domain name yesterday!! I wrote about my struggle in today’s post:

    http://allthatglittersla.com/2013/06/07/highlights-22/

    please check it out and let me know your blog links – i’m looking to spread link love in a post next week – it’s all about helping each other!

    Great post, Cora!!!

    Hugs from LA,
    Candice
    http://allthatglittersla.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Congratulations on purchasing your domain name! That’s a big step.

      Reply
  8. Laura Yazdi

    I am confused, is buying your domain different than registering it? If you buy it, do you have to host it somewhere?

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Buying a domain and hosting your website are two different things, yes. It’s like the difference between buying property and building a house on the land you own.

      Purchasing and registering a domain aren’t the exact same thing, but they usually happen at the same time (i.e. immediately after purchasing a url, you register it), so many people use the words interchangeably.

      Reply
  9. Donna

    Really good info. I like the point that it probably won’t happen as soon as you’d like and to have patience. I needed to hear that right now. I get frustrated by the lack of solid followers and that gets me in motivated.

    I also think your point about getting your own domain early is great. I didn’t do that, and now it’s not available.

    And the part about always learning is so great. I’ve always believed that – it’s good exercise for the brain!
    Donna
    http://Www.prettysparklythings.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I’m glad you were able to get some info out of the article! Have you been able to come up with an alternate domain? Sometimes it take a few tries if your first choice is already gone.

      Reply
  10. Nasreen

    I love that last point about learning and reading ANYTHING. I agree that it’s so important to be open-minded. Also, investing in your blog is so hugely important, as you said. When I see someone has purchased their own domain it does make me think that they’re serious about their blog and that maybe they’re here to stay, and someone I can rely on to produce content consistently.
    Is there any equivalent of self hosted wordpress for blogger? What should I switch to then as a blogger user?

    http://lazyobsession.blogspot.ie/

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, Nasreen. A self-hosted site (most people choose WordPress as their content management system, but you don’t have to) is the opposite of a hosted (i.e. a free site that you can get from Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.). The equivalent for Blogger users is the same as for any other user.

      Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Good! These are *major* steps as a blogger. Congrats on moving to the next level.

      Reply
  11. Rabitron

    Amazing, absolutely amazing article. Very helpful. Not that everyone wants fame, but a significant amount of traffic will suffice! This was so useful and encouraging, thank you!

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  12. Jessica

    I think these are some of the best tips I have heard about blogging.
    Thanks for the tips. And i’ll start using some of these tips, since I’m just starting to blog.

    Thanks,
    Jessica

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Happy to hear you’ll be starting your blog in a better place than I did, Jessica! Thanks for the comment. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  13. Mira

    I totally agree; I wish this article existed when I started blogging! I’m on the same boat, I didn’t move to self-hosted blog until 2 – 3 years, and all that reorganizing of content (especially photos) and redirecting took me a full month and a half to do. I almost threw up out of sheer frustration and madness, especially when my daytime job was really busy.

    But it’s totally worth it in the end πŸ™‚

    And even though I’m still on the fence about re-introducing AdSense on my blog, I certainly haven’t ruled it out.

    Thank you for the article and good luck, fellow bloggers!!
    Musank

    http://www.fafafoom.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Your move to self-hosted sounds like it was as bad as mine! But the good news is it’s behind us now.

      If Adsense isn’t a good fit for you, there are lots of other networks you can try too. Different things work for different blogs, after all. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  14. Musank

    Great article that I wish existed when I first even tried my hand at blogging.

    I totally agree with the investment part; switching to self-hosted blog 2 years into blogging is a pain; I almost threw up several times when moving the content over and re-organizing them (especially the pictures) out of sheer frustration. It was worth it at the end, but it was a bumpy hill to climb.

    And I’m still on the fence about re-introducing AdSense into my blog (updating the blog theme is first priority now), but I definitely haven’t ruled it out.

    Thank you again for the article,
    Musank

    http://www.fafafoom.com

    Reply
  15. jaclyn

    When I saw the title for this on bloglovin’ I had to read it!! I am majorly obsessed with bloggin’ tips. It’s like my thing! however the tip that got me the most is “Understand that you’ll probably never be famous….” all I have to say is OUCH! lol

    check my blog: http://stylevolver.blogspot.com

    I need to work on all your tips!!

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Sometimes the truth hurts! ;-D

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  16. Nadya Helena

    This article literally made me chuckle all the way because I definitely can feel the reality in this.

    “Remember that there’s no shortcut” really cut into me. I’ve seen other blogs who had a head start because they know people or because the have fund investments. Sometimes it frustrates myself when I think of how insignificant my blog seems compared to them. But as you said, being successful is not the same as being famous, and there’s a long way of working to do.

    At least now I know I’m not alone, so thank you!

    Nadya
    eyeshadow illustrator
    http://thedillychic.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I appreciate your honesty, Nadya. It’s totally okay to admit when something frustrates; we’re only human after all. And, like you said, it helps to know when other people have felt the same way. Thanks for leaving such a thoughtful comment!

      Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Exactly!!! You’ve hit the metaphorical nail on it’s metaphorical head. πŸ˜€

      Reply
  17. Michelle

    Great article! Thank you. I use blogger and have been toying with the idea of switching to the self hosted WordPress. Will look into that. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Awesome! Believe me when I say it’s well worth doing. You’ll wonder why you stayed on Blogger as long as you did once it’s done. πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  18. Juliana

    I’ve only just started blogging a few months ago, so these things have really helped me set my goals and make them realistic. Thank you so, so much for sharing. This was definitely one of my favourite IFB posts of all time.

    – Juliana
    http://cocoandpicasso.blogspot.ca

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Setting realistic goals makes all the difference between success and failure. I’m glad this article was helpful to you!

      Reply
  19. Meg

    Another great heartifb article. Even though having a blog makes me happy and is really good for me creatively, I’m still looking for that additional inspiration to stay out there and keep going. Thanks for continually providing that inspiration (and practical advice to go with it)!!
    Meg
    Treasurefull.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I’m happy IFB is helpful to you, Meg! Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  20. Kayla

    Great article! Very helpful. I am now looking into redesigning my blog to make it more me. Anyone know who I can contact to help redesign my blog? Not too expensive, this girl is on a budget. Thanks πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Why don’t you take a look at blogs you like and see who designed them? What constitutes a “good” designer for your particular blog has a lot to do with the kind of look you’re going for. And expensive is in the eye of the beholder. The best way to get started is to 1) figure out what you want first and 2) how much you want to pay for it.

      Reply
  21. CynthiaCM

    I think I started blogging too early and didn’t invest enough at first. My now-defunct site, Shorty Stories, launched in 2007, and while it did get some readers, it never ended up like, say, Extra Petite or Alterations Needed as a “known” petite blog – not even in Canada. Prospere Magazine didn’t, either. DelectablyChic! (successor to Prospere Magazine) is doing much, much better, especially in terms of PR contacts, thank goodness, but I have a feeling that some PR people don’t really know where to put the site! It’s not 100% fashion/beauty, but it’s not “lifestyle” in a more “traditional” sense, either. I’ve turned down opportunities from PR because their proposal was too “relationship” or “self-help” oriented (topics that I avoid like the plague).

    Cynthia
    http://www.delectablychic.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      It’s interesting that you say you’ve turned down PR opportunities. Knowing what *isn’t* a good fit for you is just as important as knowing what is. Thanks for leaving a comment!

      Reply
  22. Petya

    When I saw the title of this article I was so excided, because this is still my first year of blogging and I am still learning about everything. And by everything I mean EVERYTHING. From writing style to photo editing. And this is great, I love learning new things, especially from other bloggers.
    The other thing is that I tried to put some ads from Adsense on my blog and after a week I was able to put them, but everything was so confusing and I just drawn back. If anyone is able to clear the things for me I would be so greatful!
    http://peysoul.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      Have you tried searching for any Google Adsense tutorials or how-tos? Adsense has been around for a LONG time; I’m sure whatever issues you’re having have been answered by someone at some point. πŸ™‚

      Reply
    • Cora Harrington

      I’m happy to hear it was helpful for you, Sarah! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  23. Athaya S

    Great post!! It’s so true I have been blogging since 09 and in the reent 2 years I have been really focus and know a lot from IFB. I joined the Indonesia Fashion Week as the journalist and now I joined a competition, hopefully you can help me make my dream come true!

    Click here and vote for me.

    http://m.fimela.com/fimelahood/profile/athaya-shakyna

    Thank you!!! I’d be the happiest girl on earth.

    Love, Athaya

    Reply
  24. Shweghna Gursahaney

    Amazing article.
    I personally believe all bloggers understand how important it is to invest in your blog in order to get a presentable outcome.

    Reply
  25. choolee

    thank you soo much for that article <3 i read your tips every single day! and i learnd so much from this website IFB <3

    come and see my blog and tell me your oppinion πŸ™‚
    glad to hear your feedback
    chicchoolee.blogsot.co.at

    Reply
  26. Alecia

    very great advice… I’m just starting out with my blog and it sounds like I’m on the right track. I definitely dreaded dishing out the few coins it costs to get a domain, buy similar sounding domains, designing the page etc. I’m glad I did it in the long run because I already know the direction I want to go in with my blog. thanks for the post.

    Alecia T.

    Reply
  27. Julz

    I love how encouraging you are!! (: I’ve been blogging for bout 4 1/2 months now and I see a big difference when you are always consistent! I get discourage sometimes when it comes to finding sources on how to make money off blogging and also being able to be contacted from your favourite store brands! But I know that time will come soon, as I faith in it! (:

    Thank you for this amazing article!! You really know what to say when it comes to encouragement in blogging!!

    Reply
  28. Kacie Trimble

    Good article. I’ve had a tumblr blog for about 2 years, but I just started my blog on WordPress a couple months ago. I’m like really new at this so thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  29. Celina Bonifacio

    Really insightful article I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve only been blogging for a little over a year and it’s true that investing money and time into it pays off. I also wish I had realized how important quality photos were when I first started, I do this as hobby so I wasn’t really concerned with quality. I shutter at thinking about my old posts full of crappy iphone pictures. The second I got a photographer to take pictures for a little while and now that I have my own DSLR I’ve noticed a significant difference and that makes me happy. I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned over my 1st year as a blogger is that even if it’s just a hobby you should do your best and produce a quality blog because it’s a representation of who you are.

    Reply
  30. Hope Howland

    Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate the tips, I’ve only been blogging for like 9 months… and honestly it’s become something that I love doing… more than I ever expected! However the learning curve is HUGE… such a help!
    Hope
    hchdesigns.blogspot.com

    Reply
  31. sarah

    thank you, this is a very helpful article. I loved the part where you talk about things that come easy, go easy.
    styleandcreations.wordpress.com

    Reply
  32. Barbara

    When I first started blogging here in Nigeria there was no one to look up to or learn from and so I had to learn on my own and by myself. I wish I knew everything in this post in my first year of blogging but still I am glad I learnt them all now as I see that it was all for the best.

    Barbara
    http://www.barbara1923.com

    Reply
  33. Hayami

    Thanks IFB for all that you do! I just started my baby of a blog and you’ve really helped point me to the direction I need to go. Thanks for the tips on purchasing your domain early – I just might do that soon!

    Reply
  34. Peet

    It really threw me off that you said monetize quickly… But you do make sense, a lot of sense!!:) And I like that you said that the world isn’t fair, get used to it. There really isn’t any point in complaining about that, is there, because it’s pointless? Bill Gates said that too actually.:)

    Reply
  35. Jemma Taylor

    I appreciate your sharing about blogging, I totally would have said myself. I keep reminding myself that if I am honest and thoughtful and giving and true in all I do with my blog- God’s plan will take its course. Thanks for shring this usefull article!!

    Reply
  36. Adela

    I’ve learnt that it’s important to engage with other bloggers to get engagement. I’m building my community by commenting and loads of blogs daily, taking part in twitter chats and so on. Commenting on other blogs (for example) is a good way of getting comments back, gaining followers and even making friends.
    Adela x

    Misspinkstyle.net

    Reply
    • Barbara

      I didn’t know how important that was until recently and I can already see it paying off big time.

      Reply
  37. 13 covet street

    Very informative and helpful. As a new blogger its always great when i come across useful tips not only about getting started but building and maintaing as well, thanks

    Style and love, jamaica
    Dania

    Reply
  38. Joana

    Thanks for this article!!
    I have my blog for less than a year, but now seems like an eternity. I started putting ads….. but earnings are still very low. But reading this article I understand that it will take some time until I can earn something.
    Until now, I only invest my time …. but I think that just using the blogger I can completely customize my blog the way I want, so I donΒ΄t need to buy a domain, at least for now.

    Reply
  39. Bunny

    This is by far the greatest article I have ever read on IFB. Especially the bit about “You will never be famous” and you have to work hard before you get notice unless you know SOMEONE! So true….. However I still love to blog. Thank you x

    Reply
  40. A Leather Bound Journal

    Thank you for this article. Just started my blog at the end of March, and I continuously look to IFB and your amazing team for tips and tools to take away. It’s always great to be a part of a likeminded community that shares with each other.

    Great tip on the Ads and doing it early. I’m already on AdSense researching.

    C

    Reply
  41. Jennifer Kang

    I’m currently on WordPress.com, should I switch over to Blogger or WordPress.Org? I would like to start running ads on my site, although it’s still quite early…

    Thanks!

    http://www.girlcanshop.com

    Reply
  42. Josie Reeve

    I’ve been blogging for a couple of years and recently began a new venture into fashion and beauty/lifestyle/whatever-i-fancied blogging instead of endless rambles. Though this transition IFB has really encouraging me as i take these steps into a field which i’m still finding my feet in.
    Also, i was really unsure of applying for adsense this early on, but you’ve sold to to me! thanks for the tips, they’re so appreciated!

    Have a lovely day,
    Josie xo

    Reply