I want to get a little bit personal today and share with you some of my blogging experience. The House of Muses was my first ever blog. I worked hard for a long time before I saw any success, posting consistently, developing recipes (yes, I did that), taking and editing heaps of photos (over 8000) and spreading myself a little too thin across every social media platform I could. Of course, dropping by the blog now, you don't see any of that. You don't see the old, terrible layout, the many iterations of my logo, the branding changes, the uncertainty, and the struggle. You only see what's here now. You don't see the journey, only the result.
Over the past month or so I've been hard at work behind the scenes putting together the foundation of a second blog, which I'm launching on the 24th. As I was developing this blog, going through the steps of brainstorming and branding, web design, and blog post writing, I thought a lot about how different the experience was the second time around. I realized just how much I had learned in my time writing here— and how grateful I am to have this knowledge for round two.
Here are 7 things I wish I had known when starting my first blog:
1. It takes a long time. Blogging is not the path to overnight success.
When I started, I thought I knew this, but deep down I think that I was really hoping this would happen, hanging on to a secret feeling that success was just around the corner. I never quite realized until now, looking back, just how far I had to go. What looks easy on the surface is actually a complicated mix of tasks and skills that need to be balanced carefully for success. University had nothing on blogging for a living when it comes to serious organization, motivation, and prioritization.
Heading in with a plan is essential, and will save you a lot of headaches as you get deeper into blogging. When you run into the rough patches— and you will— remind yourself why you're blogging, why you started, and what it means to you to keep going. Remind yourself of your initial goals— in fact, write them on a piece of paper and tape that to your wall you so you always see your original mission when those folks come knocking promising 6-figure launches.
2. Burnout is real.
Trying to juggle every task flawlessly from the start isn't a realistic scenario— in fact, becoming a master of everything isn't ever really a realistic scenario. One person cannot post multiple times a week, take photographs, put together recipes or outfits, work a regular job, build courses or ebooks on the side, send newsletters, and engage thoroughly on five different social media platforms and a handful of Facebook groups.
It might work for a short period of time, but let me tell you— it catches up, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, distracted, and ultimately unhappy with what you're doing. You produce your best work when you're rested, refreshed, and not overworking yourself.
3. Imitation doesn't work. THERE'S No blueprint for success.
Finding your own voice takes a lot of digging. Often, it can be easy to think that if we just blogged in the way that Really Successful Blogger does, we'd have the same success they do. If only I could be more like Elsie and Emma from A Beautiful Mess, or more like Gala Darling, or Paul Jarvis— if it worked for them, it should help bring me to the top too, right?
Except it works for them because it's their unique voice. Having a powerful voice that is your own is key to building a strong connection with your readers, and standing out among thousands (millions?) of blogs. Your most powerful and compelling writing will dazzle your readers when you let your authentic voice come through. My friends? Let your freak flag fly. Your weirdness is what makes you amazing.
"Your most powerful and compelling writing will dazzle your readers when you let your authentic voice come through."
4. Less is more.
When I first started The House of Muses, I had a serious lack of directionality happening. Where did I want my readers to go? I was directing them to blog posts, every social media account known to man, Bloglovin', reader comments, my about page, other blogs I loved, and shortly after Amazon Affiliates and Google Adsense ads.
Wtf, right? How on earth is someone supposed to have a good reading experience with all of that?
I felt like if I didn't play all my cards right away, someone would arrive on my blog, read a bit, and leave— never to be seen again. In fact, the opposite is really the case. When someone arrives on a blog filled with ads, tag clouds, recent comments, recent posts, links to products, links to favourite posts, and every other kind of sidebar and footer content you can imagine, the reader gets one message clearly: you have no idea what it is you want to tell them. Just like you need a clear call to action for a newsletter or blog post, your entire blog should function as a clear call to action, directing the reader to the most important area first, and from there to the next most important place— think of your blog or website like a 6-course meal, not a buffet.
5. Posting often isn't key.
When you first start out, it might seem like blogging frequently— really frequently, as in, every day— is what will make your blog successful. After all, the ladies at A Beautiful Mess can do it, right? (Never mind that they have a whole team of people and have been at it for 8 years).
Before you have a strong social media game, your views are almost directly related to how often you post— your blog followers are notified, they read your newest post, and in between your traffic plummets, leaving you feeling as though you have to be posting something every day in order to keep your traffic up. Unfortunately, this often means creating subpar content and a few too many round-ups and favourites in order to have content each day, panicking at 11PM because you don't have anything for your next post.
This is not the way.
Consistent traffic comes from posting consistent, high-quality content and making good use of past content with social media sharing and internal linking.
6. Numbers aren't everything.
I'm a numbers gal— at least when it comes to statistics. I love looking at them, I love the game-ified feel. What I don't love? The feeling of your self worth being tied to some random statistic on the internet. That feeling that you must have screwed up some how when your daily views begin trending downward. When you're just starting out blogging, there is a certain balance to be had between following your statistics enough to understand what's working for you and what isn't, where your traffic is coming from, and where people are going after they've read your blog post and becoming completely obsessed with The Number.
Yes, to some extent it matters how much traffic your blog is getting, but what matters a whole lot more is the quality of that traffic. 100 readers who totally support you, interact with you in the comments and on social media, and eventually buy products or services from you is more valuable that 10,000 silent occasional audience members.
7. You will change your mind— that's okay.
The plan you have for your blog when you start out— whether is a vague, lofty dream, or a concrete step-by-step business plan— will almost certainly change.
And it's okay. When I started The House of Muses, I wrote about gardening, knitting, and food. Along the road, I become more interested in writing about creativity, business, and personal development and those who were reading my blog responded positively to the change. I wrote more of that kind of content, and before I knew it, the focus had shifted almost completely. There came a point when I looked back on recipes and DIY posts and realized: these no long belong here (however, some of these recipes may make a sneaky reappearance on my new lifestyle blog).
Those who are no longer interested will drift away. Those who like the new direction will stick around. New readers will come around, as they did the first time. The choppy waves of change are certainly preferable to the ocean of boring monotony that comes with writing content for years that no longer inspires you.
The message here? Don't worry too much about getting it perfect in the beginning. By the time you get where you're happy, you may not even recognize the blog you began with.
>> Want to be sure you build a quality blog the first time? Grab my Blogging Better guide, written specifically for new bloggers or bloggers who are ready to cut out the noise and build a blog that lasts. Because I care about new bloggers, and because price inflation sucks las cojones de burro (I'm Canadian, don't judge my Spanish), the guide is actually affordable.