Here are 7 things I wish I knew and feel that you must know before you start a blog
Whether you’re a seasoned blogger, a new-ish blogger or have always wanted to start a blog but haven’t (yet), I hope these 7 things you must know before you start a blog sheds insight for you. The following 7 things are based on my own experience as a blogger and what I wish I had known when I started creating my blog from scratch. I encourage you to read along as I share with you the struggles, wins, sleepless nights and tears (there might have been a lot of tears shed for me, but who’s counting).
While I do not claim to be a professional at blogging, because I am constantly learning new things and coming across different challenges on a daily basis, it is my hope that you can learn from what I’ve learned, the good and the bad, and shed light on the fact that blogging is a lot of (hard) work but is incredibly rewarding & fun, which is why everyone should have their own blog.
1. Target Your Niche
Determine what you genuinely love to write and have a passion for sharing and creating because it is your love and passion for a specific niche that will be your fuel to get through this blogging world.
Choose your niche, whether that’s wellness, fitness, pets, cars, fashion, beauty, tech, etc… and research, research, research!
Target your audience AND your colleagues. What are the growing trends? What kind of information does the niche audience hungrily consume? How are your colleagues, or competitors, providing value and keeping readers coming back for more? What are the current trends in pop culture?
Get really nitty gritty deep with this because I guarantee you will come out on top by the end. Knowing your audience means knowing what they want. Are you able to provide that for them?
In my experience, bloggers who are consistently providing value to their readers, win big time.
Focus on consistently providing value and solutions. Then when you ask for something in return, your readers are likely to respond positively and favourably.
2. Have A Vision & Plan of Action
Now that you’ve got an idea of your internet surroundings and scoped out the landscape of the world of blogging, you need to determine how you’re going to go about navigating/broadcasting your message and stand out as a brand amongst other bloggers/influencers in the inter-world. You see the top of the mountain and know that that’s where you want to be, you just need to figure out how you’re going to get there. This is where having a solid plan, realistic goals and the right tools in your travel bag will get you to where you want to be.
I feel that this step is often overlooked, not that I believe most bloggers start out without a plan, but that they are often lacking in a back-up plan and are unprepared for the hiccups that inevitably do come up. I will not sugar-coat this fact. Sometimes things do not go according to plan, which is why having a back-up plan is imperative. Your patience and determination will be tested but the quicker you learn to overcome the hurdles you inevitably will come across with creativity and ingenuity, the quicker you will achieve your goals.
As for the tools, creating a vision/mood board, having a “why” statement, and mapping out goals (ie., how often you will publish, monetary goals, social media following goals, brand deals, etc…) is a great way to start this process.
Research is going to be your best friend as a blogger so it’d be a good idea to be on good working terms with your new best friend.
There are many online courses, check lists, eBooks, podcasts and Pinterest boards with tons of information and tips to creating a vision board, starting a blog, and how to form a “why” statement. Repeat after me, “Google is my friend”.
By the end of this exercise, you should have a good idea of how you and your blog is going to deliver your message to attract the right followers.
As for the “why” statement, it should also be able to serve as your “elevator pitch”. In 10-15 seconds or less, you should be able to explain to someone else what it is you do, what your blog is about and how you aim to help others.
Now that you have a plan, all you need to do is take action! Whether it’s a for an hour a day or more per day, every minute you invest into your blog is a step closer to your vision and goals.
3. Hone Your Style & Aesthetic
Admittedly, this is something I did not take the time to research before starting my blog. I was focused on publishing posts that I neglected to make my blog “pretty” to look at. In fact, my blog was a slow and clunky machine, which neither enticed nor welcomed my readers for an inquisitive gander that lasted more than 15 seconds. I didn’t have the right imagery, colour scheme and layout. My message and imagery clashed, which unfortunately took away from the value I was trying to provide to my viewership because the key is to lure your readers to your site and keep them there for as long as possible. If you sell products on your site as a business or affiliate, you understand the importance of this.
I was incredibly proud of the blog I had taught myself to create and so when I wasn’t getting the initial feedback I had anticipated, I was gutted. I knew I had to make changes so I eventually asked the right people for their honest opinion. Luckily my sister is a graphic designer so she was quick to point out very key factors as to my overall poor design, development and aesthetic. So if you know of anyone with experience in the field of web development and design, ask them for their opinion! If not, reach out to other bloggers who have more experience than you and ask if they’d be so kind as to look at your blog. There are many amazing Facebook groups and pages dedicated to bloggers so I would encourage you to find one you like and start sharing and making friends there as well.
If you’ve done your research, determined your target and brand statement, and created a vision board, coming up with a blog design board should come quite naturally. This design board should be the holy grail of your blog design and overall aesthetic, which should include your colour scheme and choice fonts. By creating content and branding that is cohesive will not only instantly beautify your blog but also encourage people to explore your website and hopefully, continue to return for more eye candy.
Here’s a design board I created for my own blog. I really encourage you to play around with this step and get creative. Select colours that are complimentary and stand out but does not take away from your message. As for the fonts, my advice is to pick 3-4 that are easy to read and are all different from each other in terms of style, and stick to them for your blog and branding.
Applying your style and aesthetic across all of your social media platforms is an added bonus and if you do that, you deserve an award because damn, that is major planning and dedication!
As part of the beginning stages of creating a blog, your research findings should yield what type of readers are attracted to the niche of your choice and the kind of value your audience may be looking to receive on a regular basis.
Know thy demographic!
Aside from your passion and creativity, understanding who your audience is another critical corner stone to a successful blog. Yes, we want to be writing for ourselves, because we are passionate about what we share, but we want to also be writing for our audience, as well. How will you attract readers who are interested in what you have to share and keep them coming back for more?
In time, tools such as Google Analytics, total shares, likes, comments, subscriptions and so on should reveal the level of interest of your readers. But till then, ask yourself, “Does this post leave me wanting for more? Did I learn something new and valuable? Did I gain a new perspective and insight which will help me moving forward?” and so on, and so forth. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes and ask yourself these kinds of questions in order to better serve your audience and your blog overall.
Growing an audience is what we all strive for as traffic is king. So I would also suggest learning and having a plan to direct major traffic to your blog. Utilize different social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, and build an email list (highly, highly, highly recommended! If you would like to learn how to do this, please leave a comment below) because otherwise, all of our hard work is gone to waste if there’s no one to share it with, right?
5. You don’t have to know how to do everything but you do need to try
I know, if you’re new to blogging or have been thinking of starting your own, you’re probably thinking, ‘how the heck do I do this?!’ It can seem daunting but believe me, it’s totally doable! You don’t have to know how to do everything but you do need to try and START! Again, working on creating your site a little bit each day is better than letting another day go by without any progress, right? You have to decide if it’s going to be one day or day one of your dreams becoming a reality.
Now if you’re like me, you may have little to no experience in building a blog; code, HTML, SEO, plugins, themes, widgets, and apps – oh my! But the great news is that depending on your level of experience, there are many web platforms designed to help you create your vision. From easy-to-build sites from Squarespace or Wix to Tumblr, Blogger or WordPress, there are a plethora of ways to claim your piece of internet turf.
There are many amazing content creators who have created courses, programs, webinars and more offering services to help with website development, graphic design, illustrations, photography, copywriting (that’s what I do!), social media marketing, videography, editing, consulting, monthly online community subscriptions, etc… So if you don’t know how to do any of it, all you need to do is ask for help, collaborate or outsource the work to a virtual assistant or company.
If budget is a concern, then I highly encourage you to learn as you go. Remember Google, your best friend? Meet your other best friend, Youtube. Youtube is a fantastic resource for learning how to edit photos and videos, create a blog post, install a theme, set up hosting and domain, learn how to use Pinterest, grow a social media following on Instagram – you name it, it’s there! What’s great about doing it yourself is that you come to appreciate the hard work, time and sweat that goes into building a blog and you learn many skills along the way.
6. Network (and do it early on!)
Network, network, network! Afterall, the internet is just one big social media fest, isn’t it? Hence, this is what you should be doing all day, every day. Make friends with bloggers whose work you absolutely love and study their work. Once you’ve established a genuine connection and friendship, ask if they would be willing to be your mentor or at least answer some of your burning questions or get them to point you in the right direction.
Remember that all bloggers once started out with zero experience as well so they know how much work it takes to build, maintain and cultivate a successful blog. Utilize your Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat or YouTube by asking questions. Hopefully the blogger responds to your comment/question. If not, there will be other bloggers/influencers who may see your query and take the time to reach out to you.
There are also many online communities and forums you can join for support and insight. There are communities through Bloglovin’, Style Collective, Blogster, Medium, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. If you’re not sure of where to start, reach out to a more seasoned blogger and ask if they could recommend some for you.
Reach out to brands and companies you love. Try and get on their radar! Because everyone should know about your amazing work, right?
Not only is networking helpful in getting your blog and social media presence felt, networking to create a close-knit community is another essential corner stone to a successful blog and readership. Network by helping other people out. Answer questions, give feedback, engage and support. I promise that all of the amazing support and interest you show for others will be reciprocated ten fold.
7. Have a schedule and stick to it (consistency!)
Consistency is key. It is an essential ingredient to the success of a blog; without it, very little can be achieved. While I have a schedule, admittedly what I struggle with is sticking to my schedule and being consistent with content creation. It’s all too easy to get busy with another project, fall behind or just slack off when it comes to consistently creating engaging content for your followers. Sometimes, it’s getting burned out and feeling uninspired which can be the culprit (this will be another future blog post).
So my advice for you is to create a schedule that is manageable for you and to stick to it. Determine how much time you are able to commit to your blog and social media posts; how many blog posts will you publish per week, how many Instagram posts per day, Tweets, Pins, YouTube videos, etc… and be realistic!
A schedule for content creation helps determine your workload, how many side projects you can take on, stay organized and streamline your work ethic because we all know how easy it is to get distracted on the internet and by life events. Find a schedule, calendar, or blog planner that works for you and begin outlining your blog schedule.
The upside of having a consistent online presence is that your audience knows when to expect your work and eagerly looks forward to engaging with you. You, as a blogger and influencer, will have created your reputation, reliability, authority, social impact and presence over time, and that is gold. You become the go-to person for all of their needs and inspiration.
There you have it, friends! 7 things I wish I had known before I started a blog and hopefully 7 things that will help you with your blog.
I’d love to know what resonated with you and/or if you have tips of your own that you’d like to share. If you have a question you’d like answered in a future blog post, please let me know in the comments below.
Forever21 top (last season) & sunnies (current)
Missguided jean skirt (current)
Bubba Bags in Mini ‘Cherry Lips’ matte (use code “GWS20” for 20% discount)
Urban Planet plimsoles (current)
Daniel Wellington Classic Petit in Rose Gold (use code “GRACEDWITHSTYLE” for 15% discount)