In June of 2o17 I launched “Somewhere Soulful,” a blog that began as a fashion and style diary and transformed into a marketing, social media, and digital library. When I embarked on my blogging journey I had no idea what to expect, and along the way there were many challenges, triumphs, and lessons in-between. Not only have I learned a great deal about myself, I have also learned a lot about my readers, my writing, and my passions. 2017 has been a year of firsts in the blogging world, so I have composed a list of the top things I have learned to share a bit of insight with all of you.
1. Blogging is not easy
The number one thing my first year of blogging taught me is that it’s not easy! I never expected it would be, as writing even one post per week is a challenge with my hectic schedule, but I never imagined how much actually goes into it. Between taking photos, web design, content creation, social media maintenance, and interaction with my audience, I found myself constantly drowning in my to-do list.
2. Blogging requires constant effort & dedication
Because of the endless work needed to maintain and grow my audience, I also learned just how much effort and dedication blogging requires. Being organized and maintaining a consistent schedule is so important to stay motivated. One thing I wish I would have done from the beginning is create a schedule where I outline daily, weekly, and monthly goals. During the first few months my goals were all over the place because I spread myself too thin- I would focus on Pinterest one day, writing the next, and my mailing list the next day. By focusing on too many things at once, each area never actually improved because I was moving onto a different task before finishing the previous one.
3. It’s okay to take a break from blogging and social media
With the insane amount of time and effort blogging requires, there was a time I found myself shutting down every time I glanced at my to-do list. This brings me to another important take away from this year- take time off when you need it! There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break to regroup, gather your thoughts, and come back even stronger a week, a month, or a year down the road.
4. The blogging world is ever changing
The blogging world is constantly changing. One day Instagram is the number one social platform to drive traffic to your blog, and the next it’s Pinterest or your mailing list. It’s so important to stay up to date with the newest trends in blogging, but it is also important to pay attention to what works for you and your audience. Every blog is different so you can’t assume what works for one blogger will automatically work for you.
5. Every social media platform is different
One thing that was essential to learn in my first year of blogging is that every social media platform is different. I was fortunate to figure out Instagram fairly quickly, and learned that engaging with my audience and using the right hashtags was a game changer when it came to growing my following. However, when I tried the same techniques on Twitter and Facebook I did not get the same results. Every social site has a different audience, a different purpose, and a different algorithm, so it’s useless to treat them the same.
6. Algorithms are no fun
As with the ever-changing blogging world, social media platforms are also ever-changing. It seems that each time you finally figure out how to maximize your potential on social sites they change their algorithm and you are back at square one. Be prepared to be extremely frustrated on this front, but know that you can always find a solution because bloggers are on your side and they are blogging about every algorithm out there.
7. Instagram pods are a waste of time
This is the number one mistake I see new bloggers making, and I was one of them. Do not be deceived by the false sense of achievement boosted likes and comments gives you- it’s a trap! Not only do you get stuck in a pattern of needing to participate in them to have consistent numbers, but it’s deceiving to your audience and brands, and in the end it’s purely fake. I have a whole separate post on the problem with Instagram pods so be sure to check it out so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Related: the problem with Instagram pods
8. Don’t worry about the numbers
This brings me to my next point- don’t worry about your numbers. Numbers are bound to fluctuate in your first year of blogging and you can’t expect to have thousands of followers and hundreds of likes on every post. It’s a slow process to build a following, and worrying about numbers will only add unnecessary stress and pressure to something that is supposed to be fun and rewarding.
9. There are millions of bloggers out there
I knew blogging was a growing side hustle/career path and there were a lot of blogs developing, but I had no idea just how many are out there! There are literally MILLIONS of new blogs being created every day, but that doesn’t mean all of them are good. Although it can be discouraging to be one person in a tiny corner of the internet, keep going because what sets you apart is that no one is you. This means that it is important to find and develop your niche. This is the main way bloggers are able to succeed- because they narrow their topic, become an expert, and distinguish themselves in a sea of bloggers.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others
One of the most rewarding things about blogging is getting to know other bloggers and supporting one another. I’m still in touch with a few bloggers I started out with and it makes me so happy to see how they’ve progressed and how successful they have become. At times their success makes me feel like I am doing something wrong because I haven’t reached the same achievements as them, but it is important to stay focused on your own blog because everyone has their own journey. Comparing yourself to others doesn’t do you any good, so stay focused on yourself.
11.Web design can be fun
I use WordPress to self host my blog, and when I first began my journey WordPress was literally a foreign language to me. The layout didn’t make sense, I wasn’t able to actively see what I was designing, a lot of coding was required, and I had no idea how to set up my sidebar, let alone customize it. It was very intimidating at first, but when I finally figured it out everything clicked and all the hard work I put in was worth it because I had a beautiful, professional website to show for it! There is no need to be scared of web design if you are a new blogger, and I am excited to announce that I will be creating a free e-book that provides a step by step tutorial on how to design your own website using WordPress. This is one resource you don’t want to miss out on! Join my mailing list below to be the first to know when the e-book is available.
12. Invest in Pinterest
One thing I wish I would have spent more time on during my first year of blogging is Pinterest. At first I didn’t really understand how Pinterest works, but once I figured out it’s more like a search engine than a social media site, I noticed a jump in monthly page-views and visitors to my blog. Having organized boards, detailed board descriptions, and the right keywords on pins goes a long way!
13. It pays to have a professional website
My blogging experience has taught me just how much it can pay to have a professional website. It took me nearly a month to build my website before I started writing any content or made it available to the public, and I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the design and functionality of my site. Not only does this boost page-views, but it is a great thing to add to your resume, and it actually helped land me a job!
14. Always engage with your audience
As a new blogger, you can’t just put up a website, write a few posts, and promote them on social media and expect people to be an instant fan of you and your blog. It takes a lot of work to build and audience, and the main way to attract people to your website is by building relationships with them. Following people on social media and consistently writing genuine comments and liking posts is a great way to do this. For more info check out a more detailed post on how to boost engagement and grow your following!
15. Don’t over-do sponsored posts
One thing I went a little overboard on when I first started blogging was sponsored posts. It’s not a good look when every other post is some new product you absolutely love. You might actually love all those products but people know you are being paid to post about it and it comes off is inauthentic. Slow it down and only pick the best of the best products to share with your audience!
16. Only work with brands you truly love
This is another thing I made the mistake of doing when I was a new blogger. I was so excited that brands were reaching out to me that I jumped at every chance to work with one. I said yes to everything from lip gloss, to food, to cheap e-commerce fashion brands that I really didn’t love, yet I posted about them anyways because I had already accepted the free gifts and was required to post about them. Never agree to post about something until you’ve tried the product and TRULY love it. Building trust with your audience is so important and nothing will diminish that quicker that skewing away from your niche and posting about brands that don’t live up to your glowing recommendation.
17. Focus on your mailing list
For me, this was the number one thing that was overlooked and arguably the number one thing I should have focused on. Ever hear bloggers say, “the money is in the mailing list?” That’s because your mailing list is the one audience that will always be there no matter how often social media algorithms change, or old platforms fade and new ones take their place. Your mailing list is uniquely yours- a place where a message from you is sitting in their inbox just waiting to be opened. Take advantage of this and work on your mailing list just as often as you work on your Instagram following- it’s important!