I must admit, I hesitated before writing this post. I'm not a big blogger by any stretch of the imagination, and I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm trying to offer advice on how to become one, because I'm in no position to do that. That said, I've been working on my blog for three years now, and although I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be, it only takes a quick look back at where I started to see how far I've come. You don't work hard on something for any length of time without learning a thing or two, and at this point in my blogging career, I can definitely look back on the decisions I've made and pinpoint those that have helped me the most.
So, in the hopes that sharing my experience might prove useful for other bloggers, here are the five best blogging decisions I've made so far.
1 - I started my blog - OK, so that might sound overly simplistic! Nevertheless, while the actual act of starting a blog is fairly straightforward, it's also something that's becoming more and more daunting as time goes on. Blogs are increasingly glossy and perfect. Back in the day, you could look at them and think, "I can do that!" Nowadays, you're more likely to think, "I could never do that! And where the heck am I supposed to find my own film crew?!" But the point is, no blogger in the world starts out perfect. It's just that a lot of people have been doing it for a long time. They learned as they went along, and you will too. The only way to get better at something is to practise often, and with blogging, that means writing and publishing blog posts. Don't worry about putting them out there. You will find that the blogging community is really supportive, and the sooner you get started, the sooner you'll improve. Actually jumping in and starting my blog is one of the best decisions I've ever made, so if you're agonising over whether or not you're ready to do it, just do it!
2 - I got a Pipdig template - While we're on the subject of worrying about how good your blog looks, buying a professionally designed template is a great way to take it up a notch (or five!) with almost no effort whatsoever. I can't recommend Pipdig enough for this. Their templates are beautiful, affordable and easy to install. They'll even install it for you if you're really unsure (I was really unsure!) Once it's set up, you can change your profile photo and play around with the sidebar with no problems.
3 - I joined Thirty Plus - After actually starting my blog, this has probably been the best decision I've made so far. The blogging community in general is lovely, but I've gained so much from being part of this particular group. Often, bloggers are introverts by nature - I definitely am - and being a "joiner" doesn't necessarily come naturally, especially when it comes to meeting people "IRL". However, I'm so glad I've pushed myself out of this particular comfort zone. Not only have I met some wonderful, like-minded people, but I've also learned so much about blogging through being part of the group. It's even given me the opportunity to work on a couple of paid projects, which I wouldn't have had otherwise. So, even if you feel shy, find the groups that are right for you and join, join, join!
4 - I decided my worth - When I first started blogging, I thought it was important to take every opportunity I was offered. Even if I wasn't particularly interested in reviewing the product in question, or it felt like I was getting very little out of my "collaboration" with a brand, I felt I would be missing out on valuable exposure if I turned anything down. How wrong was I?! After one too many bad experiences, I decided to stop blogging about things I didn't care about for not so much as a retweet in return. Unfortunately, there are a lot of brands and PR companies out there who seem to think that small blogs are good enough to advertise their product, but not to receive anything in return. Don't let them get away with it. Decide your worth, and assess each offer you get on its own merits. If it feels like you're not going to get anything out of it, turn it down politely. There will be other offers - better ones as you grow and improve.
5 - I didn't give up - This one is ongoing. It's easy to be full of enthusiasm when you first start something and blogging is no different. You've built something from scratch and it's a wonderful feeling. Every photo that turns out half decent is a personal triumph; every new follower is a thrill. And then all of a sudden you realise that you've been doing this for quite some time now, and that if you continue to grow at your current rate, you will need to blog for about 75 years before you have even a quarter of the following of the amazing established bloggers who inspired you in the first place. Sound familiar? I know a lot of my fellow bloggers go through phases of wondering whether there's any point continuing, and I do too. But if I had quit when I was feeling miserable about my blog at the end of last year, I would have missed out on the great collaboration opportunity I was offered in January. I decided then that so long as I enjoy creating content for my blog, I won't quit. It might feel like a hard slog at times, but there's only one way to guarantee I'll never get another good opportunity and that's by giving up.
Well, I was going to write about five ways I need to improve as a blogger as well, but it turns out I've had more to say on my good decisions than I thought I would! So I think I'll make that a separate post.
What are the best decisions you've made as a blogger?