5 Things Not to Do When Starting a Blog
5 Things Not to Do
when starting a blog
To blog or not to blog? If you’ve answered that question in the affirmative, there are more decisions waiting as you take each new step forward on your new venture. Domain name? Web host? Niche? And when you get answers to those, there’s more to come. How do you ever know what to do next?
I’m no blogging expert as I’m just a novice here, learning along with everyone else, but I have figured out some things you shouldn’t do too early in the process. These are some things I wish I’d known at the beginning of my journey. If you can take these off your plate in the beginning, you’ll have more time for what you need to do and make quicker progress toward your goals.
Don’t spend hours
stressing over every template
1. Don’t spend hours trying every template, design, color scheme and appearance of your website.
I use Squarespace so this might be different for Wordpress users, but I have spent countless hours installing and uninstalling almost every template trying to find “the one.” I’m still not sure I have it, but I have had to force myself to set a six month time frame before I do another makeover.
All those hours spent trying to get the perfect look would have yielded more return if I had been writing more content. Instead of filling up my stash of posts to fill my pages and give myself more credibility, I thought I’d have more “cred” if everything looked good.
I am not saying just slap anything up and call it good. The “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” quote is true, so the look and style of your blog definitely matters.
But how do you know what the right look is if you haven’t even figured out what you’re trying to do with this blog? Your direction may change completely or you may find what you’re creating needs a different format than you’d originally thought.
All the Squarespace templates look great, even if some might suit a certain need better than another one. But as long as you have a clean, clear, easy-to-follow layout on your blog, leave it alone for awhile. The more hours you spend creating content at the beginning the more quickly you’ll naturally develop the feel you want your website to have. Create awesome stuff and the awesomeness you’re looking for in your website will appear to you more readily.
Don’t edit your writing
2. Don’t edit your writing too soon.
If I let myself, I will erase and rewrite and erase and rewrite before I even get an idea out of my head and onto paper. Well, usually that paper is the computer screen which is why I have started doing more handwriting for my first thoughts. My husband, Richard, is an English teacher and he kept encouraging me to do that. I resisted until I remembered an exercise he had a class that we were co-teaching do years ago.
He had us all get a blank piece of paper and pen (no pencil so we couldn’t erase) and write for ten minutes with no interruptions. No prompts, no ideas from him, just us writing down our thoughts with no way to edit them. I believe mine started with some sort of “I’m not sure what I should write about” and ended with “I want to go to a cowgirl camp to see how brave I can be.” Sure enough, I researched cowgirl camps and found one I ended up going to for what is still one of the highlights of my life. I would have missed this if I had edited out my writing and hadn’t let my mind wander to unexpected places.
When you censor your writing too quickly, you stifle your own creativity and sometimes erase thoughts that might have led you in interesting directions. When you write on paper, you can look back and see ideas that maybe don’t fit in the particular blog post you’re writing, but might be worth a post of their own. If you erase everything that doesn’t fit perfectly at first, you lose great ideas and turns of phrase that help you find your voice.
Finding our voices is a huge part of this journey because after all the marketing and pinning and social media-ing, blogging is writing. And unless you’re particularly adept at creating only visual content with no words, writing will your main content. Yes, the pictures of your food are important, but how do you tell your reader about the recipe and why it’s perfect for meeting the needs of their picky eaters? Yes, your travel photos are gorgeous, but what do you tell your indecisive reader about why they should consider that destination for their next vacation?
Give yourself time to find your voice by putting more of that voice on paper and living with it before editing. Your future writer self will thank you.
Don’t Wait to Make
your site public
3. Don’t wait to make your site public.
No matter how many fine tooth combs you run over your site, you’re going to find something to change each time, especially at the beginning. The desire for perfection is overwhelmingly strong, but also ridiculously overrated.
This “perfectionism predicament” is really the fear talking. If you hit publish and it’s not perfect, what will your friends say? What will your mom say? What will readers say?
Hold your horses. Did I say tell the world you have a blog? Post links all over social media? Nope, just change the status from private to public. Unless you have mastered SEO in some magical way, no one is likely to find you. Most likely, nobody is going to be reading your blog posts.
Changing the status of your site from private to public just starts the mental ball rolling that this thing you’re doing is real. You can go to your site and view it as it appears to the world and start to get more comfortable seeing your writing out on the interwebs.
Once you’ve done the scary part of making it public, have a glass of wine and celebrate your “realness.” Reward yourself for doing something a lot of people say they want to do, but don’t follow through and do the work. You’ve done the toughest part of getting started. Now you can work up the courage to tell the world. And that’s scary, too, but hey, at this point you’re a blogger. Congratulations!
Don’t Expect Traffic
4. Don’t expect traffic right away.
I think I may have just built you up to cut you down. Yeah, congrats on that website and being a blogger, but sorry to say, I’m not sure the world cares. At least not enough of the world yet to keep that sense of satisfaction going.
You have to do the hard work now of figuring out how to get people to see all that great content, and it’s a long, slow slog uphill in rainy downpours. I know because not only have I been there, I’m still there.
You’re going to be cranking out great content, pinning beautiful images, hashtagging your heart out and then looking at Google Analytics and needing another glass of wine, this time for solace.
My view of human nature is that most people are honest, so I’m going to give all those bloggers who post that they quickly had X number of page views in X number of months the benefit of the doubt. But I am going to say that I believe they’re the exception, not the rule.
Listen to those blogging pro voices who share realistic time frames and their knowledge about the slow build that is blogging. Those are the gurus I’m listening to so I don’t get discouraged that I don’t have 100K followers yet.
Don’t Give Up
5. Don’t give up too soon.
And that segues to my fifth point, don’t give up too early. I consider blogging my hobby, even though I treat it like a business. I enjoy writing, listening, taking courses, pinning, reading, thinking, scratching notes, etc. Some people run as a hobby (I can’t imagine why!), but I blog.
But I’m blogging very intentionally with goals of where I want this hobby/business to take my family and me. Enjoying the process and progress along the way seems the best way to ensure longevity and not burnout.
This doesn’t mean I’m not impatient and that I don’t cringe when I look at my Google Adsense account. But committing myself for the long term means I believe in what I’m doing and I’m not obsessing day by day.
We also see posts from successful bloggers and wonder if we’ll ever catch up. Don’t worry if you think you’re behind. You can catch up. And you’re probably not as behind as you think you are. We just look at others and think their lead is insurmountable.
And “quit” is not on my list of options. I hope it’s not on yours, at least not early on. If you give it a real try and discover it’s not for you, not just that it’s not successful fast enough, but that you don’t like it, then it’s fair to say so long.
But don’t quit right before the bucket tips over and all that goodness and excitement and success and yes, money, comes pouring out.
So take it from me, a newbie like all of you who’s just been doing it long enough to know what I wish I hadn’t done, and do productive things, mainly create great content. And if you need some more encouragement, read my post 3 Mindsets for Beginning Bloggers on perspectives for the beginning part of the journey.
And leave us all a comment if you have something else we should not do at the beginning. A lesson learned by one is better when we all benefit.