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.
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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