Three questions I ask myself everyday...I'm guessing you might have a few of the same questions floating around in your mind too.
The moment when one decides to become a blogger is different for everyone. For me, it took a suggestion from an almost stranger (my sister-in-law's sister, whom I'd met only once before) before the thought of blogging even took root in my brain. In fact, the closest thing to a blog that I knew were the About.com articles that would always pull up whenever I Googled something. I didn't read blogs, I didn't follow blogs, I didn't get blogs or bloggers! So for me to be sitting here after one full year of blogging is pretty surreal, if you ask me!
Now that I've blogged a time or two, I've come to realize that no two blogs are the same...and there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to managing your blog. However, I've also learned that taking on blogging is not just about a playful outlet...it's a lot of work! Because of that I think it's good to know what you're getting yourself into before taking the plunge. Here's my take on what it's like to start a blog, common obstacles to overcome, and setting realistic expectations for yourself.
Starting a Blog: What's Your Motivation?
All bloggers will tell you that before you ever start a blog you should find a subject you are truly passionate about. You won't see me disagreeing with that, but I'd like to add a sub-header (if I may)...before you ever fire-up your laptop, you should know what the purpose of your blog is.
There are many different reasons for starting a blog. Some start blogs to keep in touch with family, some start blogs as a personal journal...and then there are those who start a blog with hopes of turning it into something bigger. If you're considering blogging, first determine your motivation for doing so.
Your motivation will determine every aspect of your blog. It will determine if you'll worry about site statistics, page layouts, or posting routines. It will guide the lengths of your posts, details of your content, and the steps you'll take (if any) to promote your blog. Blogging for personal reasons leaves you a lot more flexibility than blogging with the intent of attracting followers. If you want people to view your site as a resource within your niche, then that's exactly what it's got to be.
I'm certainly not implying that there's a one-size-fits-all scenario that everyone must fall into. Sometimes the way followers respond to the content you submit can be unexpected, but overall it's helpful if you know the direction you'd like to take.
When it comes to finding your niche, keep in mind interested and passionate are two completely separate things. You can be interested in something without being passionate about it. For example, I'm interested in going green, but I'd go crazy if I had to write about it every day. Instead, I'd rather write about the things that make me happy...like telling your mom Happy Birthday...
...or hauling home sweet Craigslist finds when you don't have a truck...
You don't necessarily have to pigeon-hole yourself into just one topic, but if you're driving...you should have a general direction you'd like to go. So if you ask me, I'd say the first thing to do is pin-point why you want to blog and what you'd like to blog about. Everything else will be a product of those two choices.
Common Obstacles: What'd I Get Myself Into?
There are so many things that could be deemed as obstacles when you're starting up a blog, but for me one of the largest challenges was changing from an interior design major to an IT/Web Design major. I didn't know jack-squat about HTML, CSS, Flash, Java, etc., etc., etc...but everything you see on my page I built with my own two hands (well more like my fingers and a mouse).
My challenge was that every time I learned more about web design I started to get new ideas for the site layout, features, themes, and ways to improve the presentation of my content. I've spent this entire year taking two steps forward, then one step back when it came to my site design...and I'm happily getting to where I want to be, but I'm still nowhere near being finished! In fact, if you click through each page on my site, you'll probably stumble upon things that seem like they don't belong...and that's because they don't. If you've checked-in with me far enough back, you might remember that my site used to look like this...
...and there were many changes along the way before I finally arrived where I am today. In fact, I'm pretty sure you all thought I was crazy each time you visited and found a new background & theme...which is why tomorrow I'll be spending time talking about developing your brand (haha, plug!).
This flip-flopping around was something that I actually tried to avoid when I started this blog. You see, I actually started posting to my blog in December of 2010, but it was incognito. I wanted to build some content and figure out my site design before I ever released my link to anyone. But truth-be-told, you won't ever know exactly what you want your site to be right when you start out. It's something that will change over time...and you should probably expect a fair share of flip-flopping. My best advice would be to keep it simple, then add as you go...which is something I'll dive into more in tomorrow's post as well.
Overall, when it comes to obstacles...plan on your first year being a bit of a whirl-wind. You'll be juggling life as it was before you started blogging (aka, work , family, extracurriculars, etc.), plus taking on the roles of web developer, IT customer service, research & development, public relations & marketing...and most importantly blogging with unique content! It's a lot of hats to wear all at once...so make sure you've got your head on straight.
Realistic Expectations: I'll Go Viral
When I started blogging, realistic expectations were nowhere in my vocabulary. In fact, I pretty much thought all I would need to do was share my link on Facebook, get a few "likes" and the rest would be history...I'll pause now to allow anyone who blogs a quick chuckle...
Truth be told, my first year has been anything but viral. I haven't had that magic moment where something I posted caused time to stop and everyone to put my site at the top of their blogroll. Maybe it happens that way for some, but I'm pretty confident that I'm not the only blogger out there who's had humble beginnings.
But here's the thing...I've come to find that I'd keep blogging even if nobody was reading. It's worth it to me, even if I'm not pulling half-a-million page-views per day. Overall, I've seen growth from where I started and I simply find it flattering. I'm completely honored when even a few of you visit my site, let alone a few hundred!
So when you think about diving into the blog-o-sphere, make sure you look before you leap. Chances are you'll put in thousands of hours, only to watch your blog grow at a slow (but steady) pace. Personally, I'm anxious to see what my next year of blogging will bring. After a year of blogging, I've learned to push all of my expectations aside and simply focus on blogging for the love of blogging--everything else is just the icing on the cake!
So that's it! When starting a blog, be sure to know what you'd like to achieve through blogging and what you'd like to blog about, plan to encounter a whirl-wind of obstacles, and don't forget to have realistic expectations along the way. If you focus on those things, you'll find your blogging experience to be enjoyable and completely worth it!
Here's a quick reminder about the agenda for this week. Be sure to check back in tomorrow for more details on developing your site, creating your brand, and balancing life as a blogger!
Words with Friends
I promised that this series would consist of more than just my personal take on what it's like to be a blogger, so take a look at these posts from some of my favorite bloggers. I call them "The Mentors!" Enjoy!