Hey friends! For this Friday roundup, I decided to finally dive into a hot topic… blogging tips! I’m always weary to post too much about blogging here, because not all of you are bloggers! That being said, I get a lot of emails, comments and messages asking for advice on the subject, enough to finally justify this post. So, here we are!
There are obviously a million ways to be a “blogger.” There is no rule book, and it can definitely mean different things to different people. Therefor, there are a variety of strategies that can help you become successful, and honestly, a lot of ways to define success. This is a list from MY perspective – take ’em or leave ’em! Let’s dive in.
Lake Shore Lady’s 10 Blogging Tips
1. Learn as much as you can.
No one has ever started a blog knowing everything. Sure, some people might have gotten great insights working in social media or PR, or they really did their research before launching. But in a general sense, whether you’ve been blogging for almost 5 years (like me!) or just getting started, there is ALWAYS more to learn. Let me repeat that: there is ALWAYS more to learn. I’ll dive into more specifics as we make our way down the list, but it’s important to put your ego aside (especially in the beginning!) and soak up as much information as you can.
My favorite resource? Blogging For Keeps! Ever since my friends Blair and Jess started it, they have consistently posted incredibly useful content – and it’s the #1 site that I recommend when people ask me for advice. Read your way through their articles, but also get on their email list and join the Facebook group. I guarantee that a ton of those random questions that pop up as you work can be answered through them. (And no, they didn’t tell me to say any of this!)
When I first started blogging, I went to almost every event I got invited to. I’ve scaled back for a few reasons, but I’m still so glad I put myself out there in the beginning like that. Even though it’s important to connect with people over the internet and social media (engage/comment on your favorite blogs!), blogging can be a little isolating. Taking it off-line allowed me to create real real-life relationships with the PR reps, restaurants, brands, other bloggers I admire! Some of the best people I’ve met in this city are the bloggers who also happened to be at those events.
But how do I find out about these things if I’m not getting invited yet?! Good question! If you’re in Chicago, start by joining the Windy City Blogger Collective. They send an email with events and opportunities out to it’s members every week. If there’s one with a brand/company that you want to work with, a blogger you love, or a PR agency you admire – get yourself there and introduce yourself! You might only awkwardly stay for 5 minutes, OR you might meet a new blogger bud/someone who can help you with your next collab. That would be a win, right?!
3. Ask specific questions when you ask for advice.
Everyone tells you to reach out to people you admire for advice, right? I did it when I was acting and when I first started blogging – but is there more nuance to this than people let on? Hint: Yes! When Jess posted “Stop Asking People To Coffee“, there were head nods all over the blogging community. Here’s the thing: bloggers have to cover a lot of bases. Which one do you want to know about? I’m over here trying to juggle all of it + a day job + a social life. So, be specific and help me help you!
There’s another reason this is important beyond just being busy though. While there’s no shame in asking for help, most of the bloggers I know and love had to learn it themselves. We had to google and attend webinars and read articles and go to workshops and figure it out. Most of us are more than happy to answer your specific questions and share what we’ve learned, but you can’t expect anyone to pass you a manual.
Yes, this means that there is a lot of trail and error, but that’s how you grow! Plus, even if your favorite blogger did sit down with you and walk you through ALL of their secrets… what has worked for them might not work for you. The beauty of blogging is that we all have a unique path and our own voices that will attract a unique set of followers.
4. Figure out how much you want to put into it and what you want to get out of it.
As I mentioned above, blogging is a LOT of work. You have to find your voice/niche, write a lot, schedule your editorial calendar, learn photography/photo editing, style shoots, recipe test, create and maintain a social media presence, make your site SEO friendly, negotiate with brands, project manage those collaborations… the list goes on and on. So the question becomes, how much of it do you want to do?
To be honest, if you want to be successful, you are going to need to learn about all of these things. Sure, if you’re blessed with a nice amount of disposable income in the bank, you could hire a whole team to help you from the start… but you learn a lot about what kind of blog you want to write and what kind of blogger you want to be, by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work yourself.
That being said, if you just want this to be a fun creative outlet, that’s AWESOME. If this is the case, you probably also have a killer career, which (again) is awesome. I still think that you can incorporate all of these tips, but you can also take some pressure off of yourself. Let blogging be that super fun hobby that inspires you and occasionally makes you some extra cash. I did that when I first started and it was a way for me to feel creatively challenged while also making a steady paycheck at work. There ain’t no shame in that game.
5. Get a DSLR camera and learn how to use it.
People respond to visuals, which is why your photos can have a HUGE impact on your traffic and engagement. I can understand why “instagrammers” might not invest in a real camera, but if you have a blog, you need one.
Think about your favorite bloggers. Do they have grainy iPhone images or clear vibrant photos that render beautifully on their site? What kind of photo would you pin? And when you’re on Pinterest, what kinds of photos make you want to repin or click through to a new site? The reality is that if you want your photos to circulate the internet, they need to be quality DSLR images.
I know I know, that’s super overwhelming. Where do you start?! Luckily, Blogging For Keeps comes to the rescue again with their DSLR Camera Guide (and tons of other great photography content!). I personally use a Canon Rebel SL1 (with a 50mm) for most of my work, a Sony A6000 (with a 35mm) for travel, and I shoot with Julie Kennedy, Ali Stone or Ali Burgoon for outfit posts.
6. Don’t use bots or buy followers on social media.
Seriously don’t. I’ve lost a lot of respect for people who have taken this shortcut and I just have to remind myself that it’s a different path! Namaste, right?! ? That being said, if you are really trying to create a blog following – not just social media, but the whole shebang – do it ethically. It might mean that you don’t have as many instagram followers as other people, or you might not grow as fast… but it does mean that the following you have is REAL. Sure, it can be incredibly frustrating, but I’m glad I’ve never caved on this front.
Beyond bots/buying followers, there are also systems that will simply “like” photos for you, as well as “comment pods” you can join that guarantee certain people will comment on all of your photos to make it look like you have more engagement than you would normally.
You can make your own judgement about these kinds of things -all I know is that if a post on instagram bombs for me, I can learn something from that. If the engagement on another one knocks it out of the park, I can learn from that, too. If it’s all fake, then what are you learning about your followers? Nothing. Then it’s just about the numbers and not as much about real people. Does that make sense?
7. Be genuine.
Deciding how much to share and how much to pull back can be really tricky as a blogger. Once I realized that you guys respond well to my more personal pieces, I’ve gotten a lot more courage in this arena – but not everyone wants to do that! And that’s okay! I don’t think you need to share every detail to be genuine – you just need to approach everything from an authentic place.
One of my favorite compliments that I get from readers/followers is this: ‘I feel like you’re my friend.’ It seriously makes my heart burst. Meeting you in person or reading comments/messages/emails in response to topics like body image, life lessons or even politics (?) always makes me feel so much better about what I’m putting out there.
8. Don’t play the comparison game.
There is a LOT of inspiration out there in the blogging world. So much so, that I think it’s silly to tell you not to pay attention to any of it. You deserve to be inspired, too! The only part you need to let go is comparison. Focus on your voice and your goals. Why would you want to be exactly like someone else anyway?
As an example, juggling a full time job and running Lake Shore Lady led to many a breakdown for me, especially earlier this year. I had to pause, take a deep breath and remind myself that I just don’t have as many hours to dedicate as other full time bloggers! That’s just the truth! Breathe in, breathe out, and keep doin what you can. That’s all that really matters.
9. It’s okay to accept free/low paying work when you first start.
I want to start by saying that I firmly believe bloggers should be compensated for their work. But when you’re just starting out, you don’t have a ton of leverage with brands. “Pay me to promote this product even though I have a teeny following!” Do you hear how that sounds? What if you also haven’t really found your voice and your photos aren’t great?
I bring this up because that was ME when I first started! A busy site, mediocre photos (at best), uninspired writing… I was still figuring it all out! And when I look back, I’m so grateful to the brands who were open to “working” with me in exchange for their product or a $50 gift card or a share on their social media pages. That’s how I made some great contacts and learned how to create better content and eventually grew my following so that I could charge more.
10. Believe in yourself!!
I had to end with a cliche, right?! It can be really scary to start a blog. So many people are doing it and we’ve ALL seen the people who roll their eyes when they hear the word “blogger.” I still get nervous that I’ll get made fun of when certain people hear I run a lifestyle blog.
That being said, the internet is a big place. If you claim a little piece of it and post quality content from a specific point of view, it is absolutely possible to find the people who will resonate with what you have to say. Have confidence in that! It’s really cool! Work hard, invest when you need to, and be proud of what you’ve created – no matter what level you’re at.
Do you guys have any questions about these blogging tips?
I know that was a lot, but I’d be happy to clarify any of it for you! Also, feel free to let me know if there is something I didn’t cover. Hopefully I can point you in the right direction ? Have a great weekend!