It’s been a year since I started blogging here at From Apps to Zen. Gather There are a few posts that pre-date August 2010, but I started taking the blog seriously a year ago this month. To be perfectly honest, I avoided starting a blog for a long time as I knew just how much work it would be. I am also a crazy reader of some of the best bloggers in the world and the thought of trying to make an impact with my words was daunting.
Here are 9 lessons that I want to share from my year of blogging:
1. Writing a blog is a great way to find your voice.
Before I started the blog I wasn’t sure exactly what I had to say. I was interested in digital technologies, social media, the purpose of work, productivity and women’s issues. Could I fit that all in one blog? And if so, what exactly did I have to offer my readers in terms of new thinking on well-worn subjects? I’ll admit the early days of blogging were a bit hit and miss (go check out some of the earliest posts!). But writing a blog consistently, week in, week out has been the best way I have found of discovering my niche and honing my thoughts and ideas about my work.
2. Know why you are writing your blog.
Many people I speak to think they must write a blog as everyone else is doing it. But I don’t agree. Writing a blog takes a lot of work, so I would only recommend it if you see a clear business benefit. A blog can be useful to drive traffic to your website and to highlight what you do, but it’s only worthwhile if you have something to say. I’ve seen people try to write blogs about the most mundane of subjects such as electricity tarrifs. Not sure there is a huge readership for that.
Writing is also a skill and not everyone is a natural writer. There are other ways of getting your message out there such as video and podcasts that could work better for you.
3. Having a regular posting schedule is crucial.
I made a decision early on to post one article on the blog every Friday morning. OK, so that’s not a lot – many ‘pro-bloggers’ will post every day or 2/3 times a week, but once a week seemed manageable to me. Having a regular schedule has made blogging into a habit. It’s not something I have to remember to do; it’s ingrained in my weekly routine. If you read blogs about blogging the one consistent piece of advice is: have a schedule and stick to it. Chris Guillebeau from The Art of Non-Conformity and the author of The Unconventional Guides started by posting every Monday and Thursday. Even when no-one was reading, he stuck religiously to his schedule and he credits this as contributing to his success today.
4. Make the most of guest blogging.
When you start to find your voice and are comfortable with your writing style, get guest posting. This is a great way of building your audience and driving traffic to your blog. Most blog owners I have approached have been thrilled to have a guest post. Do some research and find out who is in your niche or who shares a similar audience and approach them with a pitch. Glen from Vipechill.com has probably written the best guide to guest blogging that’s out there.
5. You need to promote your posts.
Writing a blog is not enough. ‘Build it and they will come’ will work to an extent, but promoting your blog is essential to start to drive traffic and get subscribers. Promote your posts on social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+), highlight posts in your email newsletter, and include your latest blog post in your email signature using Wisestamp.
Make it easy for visitors to subscribe to your posts. Set up your Feedburner feed properly and make sure that you have both options of subscribing by RSS and email clearly displayed on your blog. Periodically have a clear ‘ask’ at the bottom of one of your killer posts and ask people to subscribe.
6. Have a way of capturing ideas for blog posts.
This could be as simple as a spreadsheet on your computer, a digital task manager, or a simple paper notebook of ideas. I have tried all of these options but have found the one that works for me is the Notes function on my iPhone as I always have it on me.
When you think of an idea for an article, write it down and if possible flesh out some notes. The amount of times I have looked at a note and not remembered why I thought it would make a good blog post! Inspiration can come from anywhere – reading, having conversations, or just random ideas. Ensuring you have a way of capturing them will make sure you never run out of ideas.
7. Write in a distraction-free zone.
Writing is tough. And having a multitude of distractions makes it even harder. I find my best writing comes when I have no other distractions – email and phone are off and using WriteMonkey or OmmWriter gives me a web-free writing space. Tech futurist Cory Doctorow has a great article on writing in the age of distraction.
8. Starting a blog is the best way to learn about blogging.
There are so many great resources on blogging out there from blogs such as Problogger and Copyblogger to courses such as Viperchill’s CloudBlogging and Leo Babauta’s A-List Blogging Bootcamp. These are all great and I would recommend you get as much knowledge as possible. But the best way to learn is by doing.
9. Don’t give up.
The early days of a blog are disheartening. Your only subscriber is your Mum, no-one comments on your posts and your RTs are ignored. Don’t give up! If you write consistent great work and promote it, your readership will grow. It does take time.
In my year of blogging I don’t have thousands of subscribers but my posts are read hundreds of times. Sometimes I get no comments, but when I meet people in real life they tell me how much they enjoy reading my blog. So there are they, the readers, they are just sometimes a bit quiet. So don’t give up, keep going.