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.

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