I get a lot of emails and comments that start with, “This is probably a dumb question but…”
Many of these comments end with a question related to blogging.
This is probably a dumb question, but how often should I blog?
This is probably a dumb question, but what is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
This is probably a dumb question, but should I create separate content for my blog and my email list?
These aren’t dumb questions.
None of us took Blogging 101 in high school—although I wish that was offered. We aren’t born knowing the ins and outs of blogging or email marketing or social media. We have to learn it.
Because I’ve now been a blogger for a decade (pretty cool, right?), I decided to make a list of the twelve things I wish someone would’ve shared with me.
If I were able to sit down with you over herbal tea and explain what you need to know to get started, this is what I would tell you. And, because I would’ve written much better blog posts in the beginning with this resource, I created a downloadable checklist for you to use when you edit your blog posts (spoiler alert: one of my tips is that you have to edit your blog posts).
1. Get a self-hosted WordPress blog from the beginning.
WordPress.org is the way to go when it comes to blogging. If you use a free blogging platform, you don’t own your blog. If you start with a free platform and decide to switch over later, it can be a hassle.
If you’re worried that your tech skills aren’t up to par, take this course, WordPress Made Easy, from Amanda Creek to learn how to set up your blog within a couple hours. There’s no excuse when resources like this are available! (Insider knowledge: I begged Amanda to create this course because so many people come to me with their WordPress questions and that isn’t my area of expertise.)
2. Stick to a schedule.
Establish a consistent schedule for yourself and your readers. Pick a day of the week to blog and publish each week on that day.
This will keep you from doing the ‘I’ll wait until next week to post’ shuffle that makes you look like an amateur.
3. Keep it simple.
The best blog designs are often minimal with lots of white space. They include easy-to-read fonts and two to three main colors. When in doubt, go with the cleaner option.
4. Write like you’d speak to a friend.
You probably don’t often say things like, “I glimpsed a gargantuan arachnid on the junction of my published document” or “My domesticated canine had flatulence and it smelled like a decomposing edible green plant.” You’d say, “I saw a huge spider on the corner of my book” or “My dog farted and it smelled like rotten broccoli.”
Give your writing the ‘friend test’. Would you say it like that to a friend? If not, rewrite it.
5. Write the blog that you want to read.
Writers are often given the advice to write the novel that they want to read. This also works for bloggers.
What’s missing in the blogosphere? What would you love to read about? What would you be really excited to write about? Start with those blog posts, because your enthusiasm will rub right off onto your readers.
6. Write with one person in mind.
When you write with a group of people in mind, it often feels like there’s a wall between you and the reader. When you write with one person in mind, you write something that makes the reader feel like you wrote the blog post just for her.
Don’t worry about alienating some readers. This technique has the opposite affect. Try it and see how it changes your writing.
7. Edit before publishing.
One of the biggest mistakes that newbie bloggers make (me included when I first started!) is that they type out their blog posts, copy and paste into WordPress, add a photo at the top and hit publish. If you’re currently doing this, let me introduce you to editing. And, I don’t mean looking for spelling and grammar errors. That’s a given.
First drafts are almost always filled with bad writing. If you want to do one thing to improve your blog posts, edit them. And, I’m making this super easy for you. I’ve created a FREE downloadable checklist for you, The Ultimate Blog Post Editing Checklist.
Use it and it will instantly improve your posts which will make it more likely that your readers share them on social media.
8. Make friends with other bloggers.
Growing your blog all by yourself will take you so much longer. The first collaboration I ever did helped me grow my blog from 20 to 800 readers a day. Listen to this interview for the details on how that all happened.
The real reason that you should reach out to other bloggers is because it makes this more fun. You’ll be more likely to keep up with it and you’ll get so much inspiration and motivation from chatting with other bloggers.
9. Keep in contact with your readers.
We’re all busy and we forget to check in with our favorite blogs. If you want people to remember to come back to read the blog posts you’re pouring hours into, you’ve got to get them on your email list.
You need an opt-in somewhere noticeable—like your header or sidebar. And, you should offer a freebie in exchange for your readers’ email addresses.
If this sounds complicated, check out my free guide on email marketing for beginners. I walk you through everything step-by-step.
10. Break the rules.
Besides the one above this (about having an email list), feel free to break the rules. The beauty of blogging is that you get to make every single decision from what your blog looks like to what kind of content you post to how often you post.
You’re probably going to learn a lot about blogging as you delve further into it, but always remember that you’re in charge. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you come up with an idea that isn’t in line with popular opinion, try it anyway. The more you enjoy blogging, the more likely you’ll still be doing it years later with thousands of readers.
11. Don’t get discouraged.
It takes time to build a readership. It’s okay (and normal) that your mom and Aunt Edna are the only ones who read your posts the first three months.
It takes most bloggers years to build a readership in the thousands. It sounds obvious, but the bloggers who keep going and keep improving are the ones who reach those exciting numbers of readers. If you keep putting in the effort, you’ll see results.
12. Always try to improve.
Take a course to learn how to improve your blog photos. Watch a free tutorial on using Canva to create branded graphics. Read a book that helps you improve your writing.
Look at learning about blogging as a privilege, as something exciting. You have an opportunity to engage with people all over the world with your content. My grandparents didn’t have that option and I try to never take that for granted.
Want some resources to learn more about blogging?
1. Take a look at my comprehensive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog. It covers everything you need to know to effectively grow your blog.
“This is probably the most comprehensive how-to market your blog course I’ve seen. Better than and with tons more content than some of the $2000 ones I’ve taken from well-known marketing experts.” -CreativeLive Student talking about my course
2. This month in Sunday Society (membership for creative entrepreneurs) we’re focusing on blogging and you can still join us: a) I added a 30-minute Intro to Blogging for Your Business course as a bonus b) The monthly challenge (that includes a 45-minute training video) is to brainstorm and schedule a year of content, and c) I answered members’ questions on blogging for over 90 minutes on a live call this week—and it was recorded and is available for members to watch any time.
“I can’t even believe how much effort and value you’re putting into this group. Not only is this workbook EXACTLY what I need this month, it’s beautiful, and you’ve clearly put a ton of thought into the challenge. Thank you!” -Janet Taylor talking about Sunday Society
3. Don’t forget to download The Ultimate Blog Post Editing Checklist–just click the banner below.
5. Take this class on craft photography fundamentals to improve your blog and product photos. It’s so good!