Blogging can be more challenging than you realise – especially if you haven’t set yourself up right first. Mr Romance at The Copy Collective, Jim Butcher, dishes out some useful tips, tricks and trade secrets to guide you through the early stages of running a blog.
Scrolling through glamorous photos of laptops and macarons on Instagram you could think that blogging was easy. What you don’t see in those perfectly styled images is the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
Blogging can be a lonely profession too as you’re working on your own the majority of the time. Once you reach out and find your tribe online you really start to reap the rewards of blogging. Not only does blogging develop your writing skills, it can be cathartic, a creative outlet and bring new friendships and community.
With that in mind, here are the top 25 things I wish I’d known before I started blogging:
- Don’t wait for ‘the perfect moment’ to start blogging. Just write.
- Get to know other bloggers online – or in person if you can. Look for local meet-ups.
- Write from personal experience, not from press releases or regurgitated news items.
- You don’t have to write 1,000 word essays. Short is sweet in ‘the bloggersphere’!
- Try to keep paragraphs to three sentences max. The way people read online is different to hard copy.
- Start an editorial calendar so you can plan your content.
- Write offline then upload into your blog. Internet connections can fail so keep a backup.
- Carry a notepad. You never know when blogging ideas will strike.
- Write your ‘about’ page first. Make it interesting and include a photo.
- Don’t over-complicate the design of your site. Don’t use too much colour, don’t centre-align your text and images, and don’t use light text on dark background.
- Use at least two images per post.
- Create your own images as much as possible.
- Format your images so they’re all the same width – match the image size to the width of your paragraphs. I use 600pxl across.
- Watermark your images, but keep the watermark small, in a corner and transparent.
- If you’re using other people’s photos, always check copyright restrictions and credit them.
- Picmonkey and Polyvore are your best friends for image editing. Picmonkey is a free online ‘photoshop’ suite, Polyvore lets you create flatlay collages of images.
- Embed Instagram videos into your site (go to Instagram, click on the three dots next to your video and select ‘Embed’. Copy and paste the code into your blog!)
- If you’re not sure which social media platform to focus on, go where your audience is.
- Don’t try and use all social media platforms – there are too many. Choose two or three, and focus on getting your voice out on them. I focus on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Though Twitter and Google+ are also becoming quite useful.
- Treat each social media platform like a mini blog that’s part of your main blog.
- Own your own domain: buy the .com of your blog name.
- There are lots of blogging platforms but WordPress offers the most flexibility – especially if you think (or hope) that your site will grow.
- Comment on other people’s blogs. They’re likely to comment back, and that starts a relationship.
- Go to blogging conferences and talks. The community is one of the best bits of blogging.
- Don’t expect oodles of traffic coming to your site on the first day. Or even the second! Just keep going – write it and they will come!
The most important thing to remember is to have fun! Blogging can be incredibly enjoyable, so don’t sweat the small stuff. You’re bound to make mistakes; just treat them as a learning curve and you’ll get so much more out of it.
Good luck and happy blogging!