First off, blogging is awesome. Totally do it. I’m a fan. Now for the truth: If you want to learn how to start a lifestyle blog, you need to lay some groundwork before you ever publish your first post. Plenty of people can tell you about SEO and social media (for a fantastic resource check out Fabulous Blogging) but there are more important things to think about before you begin obsessing over traffic and social shares.
1. Know WHY you are doing this
This is what will keep you grounded when you’re assaulted by yet another list of things you have to do/change/conquer. No one can decide this for you, and everyone’s reasons are different. Here are a few of the most common:
Self-expression: Your blog is your Mind Baby. You’ve got thoughts that need to be written down before they eat your brain alive. This is definitely the least stressful form of blogging. It’s also something a lot of people claim as their reason even though they REALLY want to do the next item on the list. Spare yourself the FOMO, envy, and stress that comes with lying to yourself and just admit what you’re trying to do. Unless it’s really just a journal. Then journal away!
To build a platform: You want to write a book or become an expert that’s paid to talk about something. You want to be the next Jenny Lawson, Brittany Gibbons, or Dooce. Welcome to the rat race, you crazy kid. This is about to take over your life and if you’re careful… it just might be worth it.
Internet fame: You’re brilliant, the world needs your thoughts, and it’s only a matter of time before you go viral and children want to be you when they grow up.
2. Decide how much time you’re willing to devote
A blog has the potential to take over your entire life (not necessarily a bad thing if you do it the right way). Go ahead and decide how much time you want to spend on it per day and per week. This will help you weed through the billions of potential To Do List items.
I used to spend five hours a day on my blog. That’s almost enough to be a full time job– except I wasn’t making any money at that point. I won’t list the tedium I toiled over, but let me share this one piece of life-changing intel: No one cares what your social media buttons look like. If it’s a question of having boring buttons or spending 9 hours tweaking them to perfection, then stop. Seriously. No one cares.
I suggest batching any tasks you actually need to do. This is where you group similar things together and complete them in bulk. It’s more productive, less exhausting, and saves loads of time.
There are countless time saving tools and processes you may eventually want to set up. In the beginning it moves slowly, but can quickly become overwhelming once your blog takes off. Thankfully there are smart people out there who feel our pain and come up with solutions. I’m working on a PDF of all my favorite tools and services. Sign up for Non-Asshole Blogger Updates if you want me to send you a copy when it’s available.
3. Make a Plan
Unless your blog is an online journal, you’re going to have to add some structure. I can hear you now: “But I’m a free spirit, Aussa! Don’t put me in a box.” I hear you and I feel you. I’m queen of the free spirits, okay? But your blog needs to be a hybrid of creative badassery and world domination. You MUST have a plan of attack. I promise you will thank me later.
Measure Your Progress: Determine where you want to see growth, set specific goals, and track everything you possibly can. It’s incredibly motivating to watch your numbers and it lets you know if what you’re doing is actually working.
You can use a spreadsheet, become obsessed with your stats page, or do what I did in the beginning: Write down your weekly page view and subscriber goals then track how many you actually end up with. Comparing these numbers is what kept me writing and sharing instead of succumbing to my Netflix addiction.
Establish a Posting Schedule: Consistency is key. You do not want to be a sporadic blogger. I’m not hating… but there are those who publish on a regular basis, and those who don’t. Think of it like bathing. Everyone loves a freshly washed friend. Sure, you can get away with the periodic lapse in personal hygiene but this should be the exception and not the rule.
Determine how often you want to post per week. Experiment with different posting schedules to determine which days work best for your audience but are also a good fit for your life.
Quick Example: If you have five hours of roller derby practice on Tuesday evenings, then don’t post on Tuesdays. You need to be sure you have time to respond to comments and engage on social media.
Set Some Goals: There’s nothing more troubling than feeling like you’ve peaked. NEVER PEAK. Always be climbing, pushing for more, and building. Enjoy the journey, of course, but never let it end. As frothy hipsters say, “life is all about the journey,” so be sure to put plenty of milestones in front of you.
4. Join a Community
Without blog friends, you will waste away and die. Okay, maybe not. But without blog friends you’ll be wandering alone in the virtual wilderness. No one wants that. It’s pretty much the opposite of what the internet is all about.
But how, Aussa? How?
Listen. I’m one of the most awkward and antisocial humans on the face of the planet and I still managed to find my people. So if I can do it, YOU can do it. Here’s how I networked in the fetal stages of my blog:
Search your Reader: This can be the wordpress.com reader, Bloglovin, Feedly or any reader you might use. Look for the Search option and type in the keywords and tags you’re using for your own blog posts.
Quick Example: If you’re blogging about an asshole ex-boyfriend, go search for “ex-boyfriend” or “asshole.” It will bring up results for other people who are tagging their content similarly. Then you can be like “omg me too! Let’s be besties!” Bada-bing, bada-boom, you have made an internet friend.
Please note: Not everyone will want to be your bestie. Which is fine. You didn’t want them anyway.
Find blogs that are similar to yours. Read them. Comment on them. Build relationships. There are NO shortcuts here. I still keep up with dozens of bloggers I met in the first few months of blogging. I feel like I know every single person who consistently comments on my blog. BESTIES, you got it?
Go Where Other Bloggers Hang Out: Oh yes. It’s time to talk about social media. This is all about finding your people, not self-promotion.
Facebook: I know it’s trendy to hate on this particular social media platform, but its the best option for building a community of like-minded individuals. Being on Facebook means you can join blogging groups. This is where we crowd-source ideas, complain about judgmental family members, and establish plans to promote and share each other.
Pinterest: There are TONS of collaborative blogger boards on Pinterest. You may have to do some digging, but the process is just like searching your blog reader. Type in YOUR topics and keywords + “blog.” Follow those who interest you, pin their shite (you always want to give more than you take), leave comments, and build a relationship before asking to contribute to a group board.
From there, it’s a slippery slope. I promise. Let your followers know you’re on Facebook and don’t mind them friending you (like me, heyyyy) and pretty soon the snowball will start rolling. It’s inevitable. If for some reason you’re the ultimate exception to the rule, then you can start your own group and invite others to join.
Blog Conferences: Pick wisely based on the goals you’ve established. You can read about my own blog conference experiences Here and Here. Nothing beats getting to meet your internet friends in person. And don’t stress— they’re all as introverted and shy as you are (excerpt for those rare extroverted bloggers. I love you, but WEIRD).
5. Develop a Thick Skin
The reason this guide exists is because the blogging world is full of assholes. Whether you have 10 or 10,000 followers there will be someone who doesn’t like you and wants to tell you all about it. Make the decision to not let this bother you for more than half a minute. For those 30 seconds you can work through your outrage, indignation, and shame. Then move on to the rest of us who are over here waiting for you to write something amazing.
Develop a ritual for how you will deal with any haters that come your way. Here’s mine: I take a screenshot, show it to Alex, we laugh at it, and I go on with my life. Never give anyone the power to change how you feel about yourself just because they’ve got a keyboard and an internet connection.
That’s all for now. I hope your head is spinning. JUST KIDDING. I hope you feel inspired to open another twenty tabs and get busy and make something happen.
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