My 16 Tips for Beginning Bloggers

Posted on
Mar 19, 2012

Spotted in Manhattan.

I don’t profess to know very much about anything, desserts and the career of Jeff Goldblum excluded (what? I have my passions). Other than being an authority on these two very important topics, I consider myself a rather middling resource. And yet, time and again, I get emails in my inbox from new bloggers who want me to share my “wisdom” with them.

I, personally, find this equal parts hilarious and misguided. You might as well ask me for driving directions or financial advice (other topics of which I am uniquely unqualified to discuss). When it comes to blogging, I honestly and truly don’t know what I’m doing. I’m still figuring things out for myself. I still make tons of mistakes.

But I have kept at it for two and half long years and for six-hundred-fifty-five posts (including this one). So for those of you who are literally asking for it, here are my tips for new bloggers.

  1. Choose the right topic. Pick one that you can write about every morning, day in and day out, until the sunset of your life. Make it something for which you are passionate, something that you love, that you can distill into one sentence. I write about travel and love. Every post on this site is about one of those topics. Usually it’s about both.

    And I hope I'll never run out of material.

  2. Throw perfectionism out the window. If I waited until every blog post I wrote was perfect, I’d never put anything up. Perfectionism is paralyzing. My blog is riddled with typos and misspellings and the occasional broken link. But it exists. A truly perfect blog does not.
  3. Be yourself. There is no way you can maintain a blog if you aren’t true to who you are. I get distracted by desserts. I owe up to when I screw up and get lost. And I once wrote an entire post about John Stamos and cupcakes. I’m able to keep it up because it’s who I am.

    I ate one of these for breakfast. And the other one five minutes later.

  4. Be consistent. This is the most valuable piece of advice I can give to anyone who is considering blogging: you must post regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily (though it’s great if you can). It doesn’t even have to be weekly. But it must be updated at roughly the same time of day, at regular intervals. It gives readers something to count on, something to keep them coming back.
  5. Find a role model. Read lots of blogs (they don’t have to be in your topic area, but it’s better if they are); find a few that you are passionate about. Analyze what you like and don’t like. Try to emulate (but don’t copy) the good, and try to improve upon the bad. (Personally, I love the Fug Girls. I want to blog just like them when I grow up.)

    No, I am NOT surfing reddit while high on coca tea. I AM DOING RESEARCH ... while slightly high on coca tea.

  6. Don’t do it for the money, because there isn’t any. The sad truth is, most blogs aren’t very profitable – definitely not enough to live on. And if you aren’t willing to put ads on your site (presently, I am not) or do sponsored posts (nope!), then it’s hard to monetize. Save for a few freelance gigs, I’ve never made any income off my blog. Between design, development, and hosting, I’ve actually spent thousands. But I keep doing it because I love it. And because life – and my husband – have been gracious enough to let me keep doing it.
  7. Pretend you have an audience, even when you don’t. I wrote regularly, knowing that no one save for my husband and a guy named Philip were reading it. But I pretended my audience was bigger than that. I’d joke about the hate mail I was going to receive for writing a post. I’d tease them. I’d write to them, as though they were a real, living group of people. And pretty soon, that audience I kept pretending was there appeared.

    For years, my blog was read by these guys. And no one else.

  8. Be patient. I once got an email from a reader who wanted to know how long before she could “expect success” (which, to be fair, is totally subjective). At the time, she had been blogging for two months. She had written eight posts. I gently told her what my husband told me, years ago: it takes years to make a name for yourself in blogging. I’ve been doing it for two and half years, and I’m still a tiny little grain of sand on the beach. Sit down. Relax. And keep typing.
  9. Guest blog. It seems hypocritical of me to write this, because my blog is now closed to guest bloggers (I got too many requests from shady folks who wanted to do spammy blackhat stuff), but guest blogging is a great way to get your work out there, make some connections, and bring more traffic to your own blog. Just be sure to bring your A-game. If it’s so good you are almost sad that you can’t post it on your own blog, then it’s good enough to be on someone else’s site.
  10. Love the haters. Oscar Wilde said: “To be popular one must be a mediocrity.” If someone hates you enough to send you a letter or leave a rude comment about it, you are above mediocrity. Congratulations. You’ve made it.

  11. Add photos. It doesn’t matter how clever or brilliant your words are – you need to break up your text with the occasional image (one that you’ve taken, or one that you can legally use). You’ll likely find that photos will make your blog much richer. Or, at the very least, they’ll provide a visual sorbet for your readers.

    In this case, said sorbet is actually a puppy.

  12. Tell your friends about your blog. This is one of the hardest things to do, but if you expect people to read your blog, you will need to be okay with telling them about it. I know. It sounds tortuous, right? But I promise, it will be less embarrassing and awkward than you think. Especially if you follow rule #13.

    They probably won't make fun of you, given all the dirt you have on them.

  13. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Fortunately, for me, that’s not very limiting. But I’m kind of an asshole. I say awful things to people’s faces. Still, this is a good rule (even for non-assholes).
  14. For the love of Pete, get on Twitter. You should be on it already. If you aren’t, get on it. Talk to and follow people in your industry. Tweet to famous folks. Tweet interesting links. Tweet your own posts. Tweet like your traffic depends on it, because it does.

    On twitter, you can pretend that famous people care about you.

  15. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. Perhaps a mindful commenter has said something that made you see things differently. Maybe time has caused you to reflect on your earlier beliefs, and you now see the folly of your ways. Or maybe you’ve just sobered up. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to write another post, explaining your change of heart. Admitting that you were wrong, or changing your point of a view is a sign of maturity – both as a person and as a writer.
  16. Don’t hesitate to kill your darlings. In other words, don’t be afraid to hit delete. Whether it’s a few brilliant lines that aren’t working, or an entire post that doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to put the whole thing in the trash. If the idea of that makes you cringe, try cutting or pasting the content into another doc for a later day. But trust me: you’ll probably just end up deleting that, too.

    At a second glance, you might find it was all crap, anyway.


So that’s it: the grand total of my wisdom as it pertains to blogging. I’ll be the first to note that I only spoke to style, voice, and tone. If you are looking for something more technical, I strongly suggest you check out my husband Rand’s tips for not-just-travel bloggers and my pal John Doherty’s blog post about SEO.

And if any of my fellow bloggers have any other useful tips for beginners, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Leave a Comment

  • Clearly your husband and Phillip have great taste! Lovely post. Please email me about when I can ‘expect success’. I’d like an ETA on that…

    • Ditto on the ETA of success, but I only want an answer if it requires not too much more blogging and a lot of fun and frivolous travels 😉

      PS I am somewhat depressed at your 655 posts in 2.5 years ratio. I just hit 600 yesterday, and my blog started in 2005. Ouch.

  • I love this post! It’s so many of the things I would say to beginner bloggers as well (particularly the bits about patience and not expecting to make any money- blogging has to be rewarding in itself or it’s just not worth it).

  • Thanks! These are very helpful, though Twitter still scares me.

  • 2-1/2 years? Wow. Nice work, lady. Now I feel extra bad for not updating my own blog in more than a month. I am clearly too busy reading yours.

  • Thank you for this — you have a really great, laid-back voice when you write, and your blog is awesome!

  • Awesome post! This is good for beginner bloggers, but I’d say veteran bloggers NEED to read it.

  • What happened with Phillip? His comments were hilarious… I’ve followed your blog for so long that I even had favorite commenters…
    OK, with that said, I’ll go out and get a life now. Cheers!

    • Felix, for you I will redouble my efforts to leave smart-ass, unhelpful comments on more of The Everywhereist’s posts.

  • The answer to “when can I expect success” is: never.

    You are not guaranteed success in anything, even if you punch the clock every day for years.

    Same is true with acting, sports, music or art. Most people will never be big success. The power law distribution (aka the Long Tail Curve) is pretty much true for everything.

    There are thousands more blogs out there now compared to when I started. Thousands of people all clamoring for attention.

    This is a harsh reality that too few bloggers are willing to face.

  • Lots of great tips! I still haven’t made the foray into Twitter. I don’t know if I can take another time sucker.

    I think another tip is to leave comments on blogs you follow. Generally, your name becomes clickable back to your own blog. Esp. when commenting on popular blogs such as yours, it often brings a few curious people in. Google stats has shown me that several “lookers” have come over to my blog from yours. Of course, my topic (as well as the quality of my writing) might not hold their interest, but hey, they still stopped by 🙂

  • I love this post too! Especially the bits about patience, photos, Twitter & letting go of perfectionism.

    Until quite recently, I used to feel quite anti-blogging because I couldn’t stand the concept of something I had written that would be permanently out there that I had to stand by – opinion and perspective is generally far more changeable than that (re: your point 15!)

    Just bit the bullet and let go of that sense of perfectionism and feel a lot better for it!

  • Great advice!

    I learned a lot of this back with my old blog, but I’m having to relearn it since I just started a new blog up that is completely unrelated to anything I had done before. To me, the best piece of advice you gave was the reminder to be patient–it really is insanely valuable.

  • Never a truer statement was made. All of them. Sage advice.

  • I’m a blog-beginner and your tips are so helpful! I’m a perfectionist so seeing that it’s “okay” not to be perfect is a relief – I’d freak out over every typo after I’ve published my post.

    Thank you SO much! I look forward to your future posts!

  • Kill your darlings! You must have read Stephen King’s memoir On Writing. Such a brilliant book. Even though I don’t write fiction novels and probably never will (never say never, right?), he outlines some wonderful ways to be successful. It looks like you took away one of the same nuggets that I did. Murdering your darlings can be hard, but when in a pinch for space and at the risk of rambling, it’s very necessary.

    Another thing I love that he advises is using the right words. When a word is merely a symbol of a meaning, at best a representation of what you mean to say, why wouldn’t you use the exact word you’re thinking of? Why use a a word that’s merely a cousin to the word that dose the sentence true justice? No flowery language, just pure, unadulterated thought.

  • Super helpful tips! I have been blogging for a few years and have started and restarted a couple blogs in that time, with a couple respites in between. I completely agree that the most sound advice is to write what you’re passionate about. Another biggie which you touched on is to listen to your own voice or to be yourself. Sometimes in the midst of being overwhelmed by so many awesome bloggers we lose sight of our own voice and what makes us tick, but that’s where the best, most delicious stuff comes from. I know my favorite blogs are those that seem to come from that very deep place from within.

    Thanks again for this wonderful post! You are an inspiration!

  • great tips! will keep them in mind 🙂

  • Some very good advice. I agree with choosing a topic your passionate about. I’ve started quite a few blogs in my day, and the one I was really passionate about is really the one that took off as I spend every waking moment of my day thinking about it (Britain).

    I also agree with not trying to be perfect, it’s just not possible. We have over 4,000 posts on Anglotopia and I’m sure there’s an error in more than a few. It’s just not possible to keep up with and it’s too expensive to hire an editor. I occasionally get an email from an angry grammar Nazi but…

    I ignore the haters using the delete button.

    As for making money at blogging – it took 2 years before we made a dime (literally a dime) with Anglotopia and almost 4 years before it became my full time job (and it only did because I was laid off and didn’t want to find another job). If you’re willing to monetize and accept advertising and willing to crunch out 10-20 posts a day, there is money to be made. But it take A LOT of traffic for that to happen. If you’re a beginning blogger looking for a magic number, it’s about 100,000 visitors a month. Large advertisers don’t want to talk to you unless you’re at 500,000. You can’t just throw Adsense on your blog and expect the money to roll in.

  • Kim

    Yes! And I would add, always tell the truth (which I suppose is the same as being who you are). These are great tips.

  • This is a good post for the likes of me. Thanks very much. And if there is any comments on my blog, please let me know. Thanks!!

  • Great read, realistic advice, and I’m so jealous of those cupcakes! They look so yummy!

  • Great advice! I am so glad I went into this as only a way for me to fill the gaps between trips. It was a hobby then, and always will be, but you are right, the audience will appear. I am flattered and shocked that as many people read my blog as they do, and it’s a small number compared to most. It does push me to try and include new content at least 5 days a week.
    I have written a few guest posts, but I don’t really look to do that anymore, I have enough trouble keeping up with new stuff for my own blog!
    Success is a funny thing- to me I already consider my blog a success because it has filled that gap I talked about above and also has allowed me to make so many awesome connections I wouldn’t have made without it.
    I love using twitter too, I think I use it a little too much 🙂 I only tweet stuff that appeals to me, or strikes a chord, but there are so many great blogs out there, and not just the one with the reputation, but thousands of smaller ones that also deserve some recognition for their hard work. I have over 350 blogs in my reader now, and i devote at least 3-4 hours each weekend, just trying to catch up on them. If figure I appreciate it so much when people recognize my work, I would like to pass it on.

  • I love 15. “Don’t be afraid to change your mind.”

    I know it’s easy for me to get a big head just because 6 people who aren’t married to me read what I wrote. (Hey, you gotta celebrate every little victory, right?) But I have to remind myself that I’m not really an expert. My word isn’t the final word on any topic, ergo it’s ok to change my mind.

  • Cam

    What I’ve found the hardest was the combination of 12&13. I started writing for my son, and so didn’t mind swearing or being too graphic (he’d spent 9 months listening to my bodily functions and now sees me with my tits out ten times a day ;). It was supposed to be a kind of a diary I could come back to once the sleep deprivation abated and sanity returned. But then family and friends kept asking how I and the baby were, and I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to write a separate letter to each and every person, so I just started saying, “Go read my blog.”
    By the time I realised I might have been a little too open about some stuff, it was too late. And I figured, my husband knows all that goes on in my head and still loves me, so maybe my family and friends could embrace it as well. Heck, this is who I am.

    Thank you so much, Geraldine! This post was an utter pleasure to read. (And made me feel excused to be rude sometimes. Yay.)

    • Everywhereist

      To be fair, Cam, you at your rudest is better than most people at their absolute best. 🙂

  • Leah

    The Fug Girls are my new best friends. I’m doubled over in my office trying to laugh silently, but instead sounding like I’m having a combination of an asthma attack and upper respiratory problems (due to the snorting caused from attempting silent laughter). Pretty sure my boss is going to rush me to the hospital fairly soon.

    Combine this blog with that one (and all the past posts I now have to catch up on…because a girl needs to be fully up-to-date on EVERYTHING) and I won’t get work done for a good month or so. Yay!

  • Great Blog, Awesome advice. #2 was the hardest one for me to get over. It was one of the reasons I never really posted with any sort of regular schedule since I felt constantly unhappy with the quality, grammar, etc. I think it is the engineer in me, always feeling that it can always be better. #13 I’ve been good about, although #12 has still been quite a stumbling block for me.

  • Yes, Everywhereist, I must say: I agree with pretty much all you’ve said. I’ve been doing it for 18 months now, regularly (and by that I mean 7AM-12 each day). The odd thing? I’ll not hear from folks for months and then, lo and behold, they’ll check in and comment. Some have said to me: “Your topic –the positive in life–is too broad. Others have offered that ‘positive’ is not the preferred medium in today’s snarky world. But I persist in that it’s important to me–there have been too many dark crises and I know others go through these things, too. So, mine is a message of hope…tho’ wrapped sometimes in ‘caustic.’

    I write for myself…I have a kicky, to die-for business card–and I gve it out everywhere (oopppss…sorry–that’s your tag line,) referencing my blog’s name, hoping to drive business…Finally, I’m a newcomer in your world of technology, at 66, trying to learn the medium. I love blogging…can’t imagine NOT doing it, but I know what you mean: There’s no money in it. Some day I may sell books via mine…I have a lifetime of memories stored up….

  • Wow, what a great post!

    It’s so nice that there are folks with one, two, three or even four “tough ones” to overcome. I think I stopped counting at 7. 🙂

    Changing our minds, for many fellow nerds with blogs, would be worse than chopping off a limb. The plain truth is it makes a tremendous difference to your character on your blog. People who grow within their work become much more valuable to me, because that says they are always learning and growing. I love that.

    As this is my first day on your blog, THANKS SO MUCH. You’ll be seeing more of me in your comments threads. 🙂

  • First, Jeff Goldblum is the bomb! Love him. He needs to be in more movies. 🙂 Thanks so much for your insight, it’s very helpful to me as a new blogger and a lot of the things I’m trying to do with my blog. It is kind of scary jumping into the blogging world, but so much fun too!

  • All excellent advice. Every single point.

    However, you’re clearly missing the whole point of giving blogging tips, which is – make loads of money from doing it. You should be charging for everything. You know? *Everything*. Tease them with intros. Don’t finish sentences until they pay up. eg. “The secret to getting people to truly fall in love with your work is [click here]” —-> PayPal content lock. Jeez. Why am I *telling* you this stuff, Geraldine? It’s almost like you’re….what?….*doing it primarily because you want to help people make better blogs*.

    That’s just crazytalk.

    Or rather, *crazyblog*.

    Please see my last post on my blog (weeks before yours, I’ll have you know) in which I dispense equally excellent advice but with the added credibility of a massive price-tag. Note how I hold pretty much everything of value back until I have the money in my actual hands. Think about this. Think about my hands. Then think about *your* hands. It’s all about the hands.

    Now, rewrite this post and start charging people. Before it’s too late.

    By the way, I’m charging you $499 for this comment. Trust me, it’ll save you more money in the long run, lady, so pay up and keep smiling.

  • Great post, and plenty of stuff I’ve learned over the last couple years. I still consider myself a newbie. And I can totally relate to the Twitter thing. Samantha Brown tweeted me once and it was the best day of the year haha…

  • You are absolutely an expert. Thanks for putting this out there. Great things to keep in mind as I move from a side project to document my travels to actually blogging.

  • Good post. Good advice. I started blogging 6 yrs ago or so, and now, 2 RTW trips and lots of travels later am SO glad to have documented those journeys even if no one else ever reads! But the fact is, they do, and feedback of any kind is always good. So I particularly like #7. I agree with #2 only partially. While perfect is unattainable, typos and misspellings are very distracting from othwrwise good content. Publish consistently, but edit and proof first. Thanks again for a nice post.

  • Great advice, especially no. 6 because it’s so true. I do very limited ads on my blog and I don’t do sponsored posts, and let’s face it, adsense is not going to make you rich. Good thing I’m obsessed about writing.

  • Nicky

    Great informative post. However looks like comment #19 is going to take over the world mwahahaha.

  • Point number 5: My blogging role model also happens to be the person who got me interested in blogging in the first place. You might be familiar with the blog, I think it’s called “The Everywhereist” or something like that.

  • I am grateful that you are being YOURSELF!

    Awesome advice. Especially about the haters. I get a lot of writers at Matador who are afraid to put up some articles because they’re intimidated by the backlash. I tell them it’s a sign of SUCCESS and all good writing usually hits a nerve like that.

  • Great post! Thanks for the tips. I still haven’t told my friends about my blog and my mum found it by accident. Think I need to grow up and show them 🙂

  • Hi
    Loved reading this. I do need to be regular in posting my random thoughts.and I am telling you about my blog.
    Never refuse good advice. see! 🙂

  • I have an on and off relationship with blogging but finally I got my own domain last month. I’m planning to be serious/faithful with my site now and this post is very helpful. Thank you 🙂

  • a&b

    great post! Thank you! I never tell my friends about my blog and it’s good to know that is common (the closest to you are your harshest critics and best advocates right?).

    thanks again,

  • This tips came at a great time for me. #2 is by far the hardest for me to get past. It’s the early days of my blog and I feel like if each post isn’t perfect people won’t come back for more – but what I need to remember is if I spend too much time on perfecting each post, I’ll fail miserably at your #4 tip about consistency! Thanks for the tips!

  • This is a lovely post and it came at the right time for me! I’m two months in to blogging and I’m trying really hard to balance my enthusiasm for wanting to write non-stop right now with pacing myself in order to maintain my long-term interest. Thanks!

  • Great advice! I’ve been blogging for a while now but my biggest issue was getting content out frequently and consistently.

  • I blog; therefore I am. I didn’t see this mentioned in the comments, but beginners could benefit from creating future content and hashing it out over a period of time that way the content crush doesn’t suffocate a writer’s creativity. However I must say, the Everywhereist is a fantastic cure for writers block. It seems you can tap into wit and humor, day in and day out. You make it seem effortless.

    • Everywhereist

      Ha – well, I’m glad I make it seem effortless. I must be doing something right. 🙂

  • Thanks for this! Just started blogging back in September and so far, I’m loving it. All your tips were very helpful. I’m still trying to do #17, but for some reason, I feel more comfortable if strangers read my blog, which is strange. I love your blog! It’s quite entertaining! Since work doesn’t allow me to travel for any period longer than a week and a half, I have to live through you! Keep it up!

  • I find your blog hilarious! I love the writing, the design, the pictures. It’s one of my favorite blogs!

  • I just received my first rude comment after almost a year of blogging so I guess I’ve made it! Do they get any easier to read after the initial shock of the first one wears off?

    PS – thanks for the advice to trash your darlings. I worked on a post all day recently and when I showed it to my husband he didn’t like it for a variety of reasons. I sat on it for a few days and realized his points were valid. Delete!

  • Delia

    This is a really helpful post thank you! I’ve spent the time designing my site, writing the content, taking the pictures and even telling all my family and friends about it. But I was feeling frustrating at not really knowing how to get word out there… But this has made me feel a bit more chilled. So I’ll just sit back, travel and write! Thanks x

  • A World to Travel

    Thanks for your tips! At AWTT we identified ourselves a lot with number 2! It took me months to actually launch it and now that is already running and looking great after just 1 or 2 weeks is like.. what a relief!
    Anyway, there is still a lot to do 🙂
    keep it up!!

  • Just when I need an injection of inspiration for my blog, I think I’ve been loosing the love for blogging in the past couple of weeks but I think I’m going to start reading again and hopefully the love will come back!

  • Love this! I fall into the frustrated blogger category, only because I’ve been writing it for over a year and the numbers (by comparison) aren’t where I’d like them to be…but I love doing it, so I continue to do it for me. Thanks for the “patience” advice!

  • Thanks for the advice! Will refer back to this if I ever feel like giving up =)

  • I’ve just stumbled across your post and I love it, I’m a newbie to this blogging world and this post has been a great eye-opener! Thanks for putting it together 🙂

    P.S. You are REALLY funny, I literally laugh out loud when I read your posts!

  • I recently found your blog through a “best of 2013” list posted by Almost Fearless Life. Accordingly I found you on Twitter and have been so pleasantly surprised to see that you also live in Seattle and are a Seahawks fanatic! I love that you mentioned the Fug Girls as your inspiration and appreciate all the self-disclosure on your blog. Thanks for the insight for us “newbies”. GO HAWKS!

  • I just started blogging, I am writing enough but not getting good
    traffic so I search for blogging tips and got to know your blog. This
    are the great blogging tips for beginners. I will definitely keep this in mind.

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