IFB is great for many things, and I believe the best thing that our contributors have to offer is years and years of experience in the industry. That being said, our experience doesn't always help when it comes to new bloggers – those of you who may have started your blog last week, last month, or within the last year.
Blogging was an incredibly different world 2 years ago, and it was REALLY different 4 to 9 years ago (when most of the IFB writers began their sites).
When I began my blog, there were thousands of blogs – and now there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The major publications didn't have their own, and brands didn't have digital media teams or blogger relations. Blogging was about creating a voice independent of magazines and providing an alternative opinion to the fashion rules. Early fashion blogs really democratic, and most bloggers were taking photos with their cell phones (or with low quality point and shoot cameras propped on stoves, tables, or rails).
Knowing that blogging has changed since we started, I reached out to some blogging veterans to hear what they think are the challenges facing new bloggers (and next week we'll talk about ways to navigate through those challenges).
1. A Much Bigger Hill to Climb…
“We were able to focus on our content first, and then grow and develop our expertise on the platform as it grew and garnered more attention and followers. For those starting out in blogging today, I think there is a certain expectation that your blog looks professional, you take great photos, you have consistent posts and branding, you know all about SEO, you're really good at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and have a huge following. It seems quite overwhelming and difficult to live up to, and that a new blogger would be very fragmented in a million directions, in order to keep up, but not necessarily excel at any of them…”
– Julia DiNardo, Fashion Pulse Daily
“They have a much, much bigger hill to climb. There's a much higher barrier to entry and of course it's intimidating! There are these changes that happen in the industry and if you don't immediately jump on board, it is very easy to feel behind. ”
–Sarah Conley, Style It
“People feel that blogging has to be so organized, professional and planned. I've heard people say they can't start a blog till they have a decent camera, domain name or can get someone to design them a site. When I started blogging I had a Blogspot blog and a camera phone, I never even thought about any of those things, and they just evolved.”
– Gemma Seager, Retro Chick
Julia, Sarah, and Gemma all hit on the same amazing point: new bloggers lose the learning curve that early bloggers had. If 3 different bloggers independently think of it, does that make it the largest hurdle new bloggers face? It can be intimidating to launch a blog expecting to know it all, and the reality is – no one expects you to know it all. The learning curve is still there, and it's arguably much more steep. But don't let that stop you from learning about it as you go!
2. Focus: Breaking Through the Noise…
“I'd have to say ‘focus' is the biggest challenge. There's soooo much noise out there right now, it's overwhelming even for ‘veteran' bloggers who are also active in social media. The ability to filter information, resources and connections is a skill that takes a long time to be even remotely good at. Even if we think we're just reading through tweets or a few articles we think are informative/helpful/useful – how much of it is actually making you a better blogger or person at the end of the day?”
– Jess Estrada, Fresh Jess
When Jess said this to me, I had an A-HA moment! All that noise that we filter through!
There's SO MUCH noise online. It's hard to filter it all, and as a blogger, I certainly don't want to contribute to MORE noise. Yet, every day, as I scan through Facebook, my twitter streams, and blog posts, and it always goes back to this: there's only so much noise I can focus on. As a new blogger, it's easy to follow the crowd and do what others are doing… but does that mean you're creating content that genuinely helps or pleases people, or are you just creating more noise?
3. Connecting With Others…
“With the over-saturation of the market now, it is harder for new bloggers to start and connect with others. I think you just have to do something that sets yourself apart from others or makes your site or your style more unique and personal, give it a bit of your own edge, and hope others will find it interesting.”
–Karen Hao, blogger to be HaoChic.com [to be launched soon]
Crosby, super-blogger and super-mentor, connected me with Karen (who is launching her first site). What Karen shares isn't unusual – I've seen many comments on IFB about about how hard it is to build relationships with other bloggers. Sometimes I'm at a loss of what to say or what advice to give, because I've always built my relationships the same way: leave a steady flow of good, engaging comments on a site. Interact on Twitter. Sending emails… and then, like any relationship in life, a blogger buddy was found. This may not be the easiest way anymore, but then… how do you do it? How do you build those meaningful relationships?
4. Growing audience
Growing traffic is always a top struggle amongst bloggers. In order to grow your audience, you need 2 big things: You need to be specific with who your audience is and you need to write content that is solving a problem or being helpful to your audience.
There are so many blogs out there that you have to stand out from the crowd. Great bloggers do this by knowing exactly who they are writing for and how they are helping them. Unfortunately, there are too many blogs out there now to just be posting about your outfits or simple photos about something. Really dig deep and think about how you can help your audience.
Once you've done this, you need to promote the heck out of your blog. You should be spending somewhere around 70-80% of your time just promoting content. So ask yourself this right now… Are you *really* doing everything possible to promote your blog to the right kind of audience? Are you utilizing all social platforms available to you? We've found that expanding our reach with platforms like Pinterest has actually helped give a major boost to growing our audience (thanks to Melyssa Griffin's Pinfinite Growth Course, which showed us the Pinterest ropes) that we weren't seeing before.
Spend a little more time catering your content to being helpful and solving problems for your audience, and then promote it consistently!
5. Finding/dedicating the time
This is a major issue amongst beginner bloggers and advanced bloggers alike. The easiest solution? Make a weekly calendar! By making a weekly (or monthly) calendar, you can totally map out when you want to sit down and work on your blog. Life often gets in the way, so it's important to plan ahead and schedule things as much as you can.
That being said, you need to be realistic with yourself or else you will probably get let down with goals not being met. Think logically and put aside the time that you can actually invest. If you only have 1 hour per week, that's totally fine! But when that hour comes around on Wednesday night, you better sit down at that desk and grind out the work. Doing this will help you set more realistic and achievable goals for yourself.
6. Growing income
Ahhh yes… The frequent question of how to monetize your blog. Since its 2017, chances are you probably didn't just start your blog to be an online journal for yourself. You probably saw that there's an opportunity to turn this cool, creative hobby into a full-time business that you can financially support yourself with. There are so many ways for bloggers to make money these days, including sponsored posts (both blog and social), social media campaigns, brand ambassadorships, digital products, affiliate marketing, consulting, and so much more.
The things that we've seen success with in the past when it comes to growing your blogger income is by having multiple revenue streams. You never want to have all of your eggs in one basket, and blogging is no exception to that rule. If you haven't tried affiliate marketing this year, give it a go! If you've been wanting to take a stab at creating an online course, get to it now! Whatever you do, just make sure you're doing something. And a lot of tasteful promotion never hurts either!
7. Converting email subscribers into customers
So you've got the email subscribers…now what? If you are savvy enough to have already started your email list, your next step is likely going to be converting those subscribers into customers. What “customers” means to you may be different than what it means to another blogger; but the most important thing is to remember to always provide value to your readers. If you're consistently providing value to your readers, they will trust what you have to say. If your readers have a developed trust in you and what you have to say, you can utilize this good rapport with them whenever you're ready to promote a product, service, or offering that you may want to share.
The key here is to making sure that your audience has built up enough trust with you (through consistent blog posts, advice, freebies, etc.) so that whenever you do have something that costs money, they will think, “Wow–if they are giving me all this value for free, I wonder what the paid stuff is like…” It's a win-win for you and them!
8. Publishing consistently
This is very similar to struggle #2 up there; but if you're having trouble publishing your content consistently, make a content/editorial calendar! Seriously, it helps more than you would think. If you have a calendar where you can easily map out the month, you will save yourself a lot of time and headache when it comes to publishing consistently.
Come up with a list of blog topics that you want to write about, and then sit down with your calendar and map out when you will be able to publish them. Again, the key here is to being realistic with yourself when it comes to how often you can really post. If you can only commit to once per week, or even once per month, then do it–but make sure you do it consistently!
Do you have other struggles that you face with blogging? Or are some of these similar to what you're seeing? Comment below with other tips or questions for your fellow bloggers!
Now that you know what we *think* are the challenges facing you as new bloggers, I'd love to hear from you! What are the challenges new bloggers face?
Next week I'll share suggestions and ideas on how to break through these challenges, fueled by some creativity, hard work, and blogging basics!