This week will mark my four year blogging anniversary. Having a blog has enriched my life in so many ways from the amazing people I've met and finally discovering a hobby that I was passionate about.
Whilst I do not consider myself an authority on the subject and there is lots of blogging advice going around, I have quite a few non-blogging friends who I know would like to make the start so I thought I'd get a small post up to help absolute beginners get going in 2015. I'm not going to discuss anything too technical, more just some pointers if you're just starting out.
When it comes to picking a blogging platform, I would go with what your niche uses. I personally prefer Wordpress but I use Blogger because it helps my 'target audience' sign in to leave comments easily as this is the platform they also primarily blog on. Generally speaking beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogs in the UK use Blogger but a lot of American blogs use Wordpress no matter the topic.
You'll obviously want to start reading all the advice on the topic, but remember to take a lot of blogging advice with a pinch of salt (including this post!). It's a bit snarky, but blogging has become a topic a lot of people seem to offer advice on regardless of their genuine expertise on the subject. So, yes, read as much advice as you can but don't take all of it as gospel. Different niches of blogging have different unwritten rules so, if you can, head advice from people who've been successful blogging in your chosen niche. Also be aware that blogs written in different countries will have different vibes from your own (just likes countries have different cultures in general) so try and take advice from bloggers located geographically close to you.
If you're hoping to build a successful blog, you'll need a strategy. However, I can't offer you advice on what would be a good strategy for your own blog as different bloggers find different strategies work best for them. I'm a professional marketer as well and it's an unfortunate truth that you can't know if something will be a great strategy until you try it - but remember you still need to make an educated guess on which strategies you should try! In the beginning just play around (camera angles, indoor photos, outdoor photos, pinterest, twitter) and keep an eye out for what works, then roll with that!
One strategy you'll eventually need to plan out is how to brand yourself. I know the idea of 'personal branding' sounds yucky or corporate to some people but if you want to become a recognised blogger you'll need to develop a brand. Some of the biggest blogs are big not because they know more on the topic but because the person has that 'quality' or a 'magnetic personality' - they've branded themselves! However, in the beginning just go with the flow and let your brand naturally develop. When I started I didn't have a brand or a topic - I just blogged! Somewhere down the line I went vegetarian and cruelty-free (later vegan) and found a topic people wanted to listen to me on. Once I realised that I started 'polishing' my brand and tightening it.
I touched upon it above, but I'd advise not picking too small a niche when you start out. I still technically fall under the 'lifestyle' category but I'm primarily recognised for cruelty-free beauty and that's the topic I blog most about. If you really want to start a niche blog, go for it! Because even though I champion developing a niche naturally, let it be known that even if you change your mind somewhere down the line, it's never too late to re-brand. Gala Darling, Nubby Twiglet and Zoe London are all bloggers who've went through (well thought-out) re-brands even after they became popular.
You'll also need to start promoting at some point. I can't tell you how to do this as, again, what works for me might not work for you. But what I do want to talk about is privacy and the real life/blog line. Now that blogging is a mainstream hobby us bloggers aren't as weird anymore. But many of us still like to keep a firm line between our personal lives and our blog lives, the same way people like to keep lines between, say, their professional life and their family life. Personally, I have my blog listed as a job on my Facebook, but I very rarely share posts on my personal profile and instead invite the friends who I think would be interested to my blog's page and don't bombard the rest of my friends list! Some bloggers do share their posts within their personal network but in my experience it's more common for bloggers to keep a line. So don't feel you need to let everyone know in the start - it can be a secret project! I had been a blogger for almost two years before it became a widely known fact amongst my real-life network!
An important part of blogging is also the blogging community. Get involved in Twitter chats, attend some meet-ups, comment on other blogs, join some Facebook groups.You might just meet your next BFF! (you should definitely be active on twitter though!)
And my final point will be on PR, freebies and making money. I won't go into detail here as this shouldn't be on the mind of a new blogger. Freebies are a great perk of blogging but please don't make it your soul reason for starting! I was blogging for over a year before I got my first freebie and then blogging for about three before I accepted a paid opportunity. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a professional blogger (if that's what you want, go for it!) but realise - like a lot of creative career paths - it will take a lot of work. Please be realistic and understand that you're not going to be sent Prada handbags after one post! And don't bombard brands because 1) they usually use external PR firms and 2) it's the PR who comes to the blogger. All the brands I've worked with came to me (most of the time via an external PR company) and I've never pitched a brand in my blog's life, and I know quite a few people who consider it bad practice for bloggers to approach brands.
But above all have fun with it! If you really enjoy it, the above shouldn't matter too much. I know I haven't given much solid advice but that is because - as I said before - what works for one person might not work for another. Go with the flow, be patient and - if you really do want a successful blog - keep going :)
What advice would you give to a blogger just starting out?