Today’s post was sparked by the fact that I get quite a few emails from you amazing people who read my blog (thank you!) and for some reason think I know what I’m doing. Enough to email me and ask for my advice. While I can’t claim to know exactly what I’m doing all the time, I do love sharing what I’ve learned along the way! Here are the most common questions I get on a consistent basis. I hope they help you as well!
Starting a blog seems so overwhelming. How do I get started?
You can research, procrastinate, and make up 100 excuses why you can’t start your blog right now. Maybe you’re in a busy season a work. Maybe you don’t own a camera. Maybe you have nobody to take your photos. Maybe you just got engaged and you’re busy planning a wedding.
Guess what? You will never run out of excuses. You make time for the important things in your life, and if this is important enough, you’ll figure it out.
Rip. Off. The. Bandaid.
Move forward. Move forward in some way every day. Maybe you brainstorm names for your site on your first day. If you get stuck, move on to setting up your blog on the back end. Then move on to researching what you’d like your branding to look like on Pinterest. Or researching the best templates to use, or designers to work with. What type of content you’ll be creating. You can make progress in some way every day. If you hit a road block, just go around it. Come back to it later! Just don’t stop moving forward, and you’ll be well on your way in no time!
I’ve been struggling with building my following on social media. Do you have any tips for that?
Think of your social media as an extension of your brand. In the case of Instagram, think of your feed as a whole, not as bits and pieces. Each photo that you post should flow with the next. For example, I rarely post images that don’t have white backgrounds. When someone lands on your feed and it looks like a pretty work of art, they want to follow you!
Also, a really great piece of advice I learned from The Alison Show was to treat your Instagram like a TV show. You are the main character. Any other characters need to be cast appropriately. If you’re posting a photo of your niece who nobody has ever seen before, you better make sure A. it’s a GREAT photo that goes along with your branding and B. there is a thorough explanation of who she is, what she has to do with your brand, and why you are posting that photo. If you don’t she’s just some random kid (again, no offense.)
Additionally, Instagram and Twitter are a numbers game. It’s all about interaction and community. The more you interact with others, the more they will interact with you. Be social, and you’ll see your community grow.
Pinterest is going to be your BIGGEST traffic driving tool when it comes to social. If you can only focus on one thing, it should really be Pinterest. I know Instagram is more fun, but Pinterest is a major traffic driver. It’s actually the #1 traffic driver I have. Plus, it’s the only platform where your content has life over time. I still have pins from a year ago that are driving tons of traffic to my blog!
I have no comment about Facebook because we all hate Facebook. Moving on.
I have all these awesome ideas, but when I sit down to write them, I can’t. How do I get over my difficulty with writing?
I had SUCH a hard time with this when I first started out. It took a long time to find my voice. I actually recently had a super old post of mine picked up by BuzzFeed (YAY!). Neal and I both went back to read the post, and were totally surprised.
The writing. BLEW.
Like, a total snoozefest. It didn’t sound like me at all. It was so bad that I had to re-write parts of it (because I couldn’t have all those BuzzFeeders thinking I was a total debbie, right?)
Also, did you notice how HORRIBLY laid out those photos are? Why are they so small? I don’t know.
(SEE. I told you we all gotta start somewhere!)
But how I got through that rut of mine was to just keep writing. Practice, practice, practice. Also, I write how I talk. That’s my other piece of advice. Just stop trying to “write” like a “writer” and write as if you were talking to your best friend.
I don’t know enough about any one subject to blog about it. How will anyone take me seriously?
I get this question SO much. And I still struggle with this myself. I mean, who am I to be writing posts about blogging? I haven’t even been blogging that long! What do I know? Do you know how many more bloggers there are that have been blogging longer than I have? Yet, (for reasons I’m still wondering) you guys choose to email me (me!?) and ask these questions.
Do you see where I’m going with this? You don’t have to be an expert on anything. You just have to be yourself.
I know because I’m an avid blog reader myself. I visit my favorite blogs and websites because of the personalities of the people that write them. There is [allegedly] always going to be someone more knowledgeable than you, funnier than you, prettier than you, more successful than you are, whatever. But the only thing you have that others don’t, is your own point of view, and your own personality. That is why people will visit your website.
If you didn’t believe me in my first example, I’ll give you another one.
I love Two Buck Chuck, it’s really my favorite. I like my wine red, and cheap. But when that’s not available I’ll stoop for the Barefoot or the Yellow Tail vino variety. So I recently went into a slightly high end grocery store looking for my usual bottom shelf suspect, only to wince when the nice man working in the liquor section asked me what type of wine I was looking for.
He was less than amused when I told him, “the one with the kangaroo, sir.” He looked at me slightly laughing yet slightly horrified and told me “I was better than that.” How embarrassing. (For those of you that live in Chicago, this was at the Old Town Treasure Island–have you also encountered this scathing man?)
Anyway. What if I wrote a blog post on wine? Would you read it?
You probably would say, “THANK GOD there’s someone out there that is just as clueless about wine as I am! And if she can learn about wine dammit, so can I!”
You wouldn’t think I was a total poser because I still don’t consider myself above a good game of slap the bag from time to time, would you?
See. You don’t have to be an expert in anything. I’m actually not an expert in anything at all. I think I’m better at cooking than I am at getting dressed. Seriously. But that’s what I write about because I also love clothes and I think they’re really fun.
185 paragraphs later, case closed.
How do I make my site look more professional? What can I do differently? What type of template do you use?
Photos are #1. Learn how to use a good camera. I’m still learning and I’ve got a LONG way to go, but I have also come a long way, too. Like, this post for example. AWFUL. Photos could not be worse. Definitely knew nothing about how to operate a camera, or how to edit photos either.
Everything I’ve learned I have self taught through massive amounts of googling, which I would highly recommend. If you’re going to take your own photos, you must get a DSLR–no ifs ands or buts. I started out with a Canon Rebel and then upgraded recently to a Canon 60D. Your lens is also key, and I would highly recommend a 50mm (it’s really affordable)! I’d recommend buying the camera body only and then buying the 50 mm lens separately. The kit lens your camera comes with is complete garbage. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Also, in terms of site design, I currently use Squarespace. But to be honest, I’ve definitely outgrown it and I’m in the process of moving over to WordPress. However, that has proven to be a gigantic nightmare, so I would VERY much recommend that you start with WordPress from the beginning. You can find plenty of pre-made blog templates that are lovely, like the Pre-Fab designs from Leap. Or, if you have the funds, definitely splurge on having your own designed from scratch.
Content might be king, but nobody is going to stay on your site if you don’t have pretty photos or a good design. (Rough crowd we humans are, right?)
What are your other blogging questions? Ask away, and I’ll gladly continue this series!