I’ve recently embarked on my third year of blogging here at “Legally Redhead,” making connections I value and creating content I’m proud of. It’s been an immensely fun, rewarding ride- and one that I hope I can continue with for many more years to come!
Prior to “Legally Redhead,” I had a handful of older, less focused blogs that spanned my mid-teens through my early twenties- and although the content was all over the place (and predictably more embarrassing to look back on-) they served as rough drafts of sorts to this blog. Through them, I got a feel for how I wanted to write and what I wanted to write about, who I wanted to be as a blogger, and the types of connections I hoped to create.
I also gained a lot of perspective and experience from those older blogging endeavors- and continue to do so even now. While I wouldn’t call or consider myself an expert of a guru in the blogging realm- I do have some tips and tricks for those who are taking to their keyboards to express themselves in an ever expanding world of writers!
Whether you’re new to blogging or are a seasoned veteran- I hope some, if not all of these pointers I’ve learned over the years can help in some way, shape or form!
1. Find your audience (and help them find you!)
Once you’ve created your blog, chosen or designed a layout, and have started to put together your content- it’s important to seek out your audience and make it easier for them to locate your blog, too. When I first started writing, one of the biggest mistakes I made was failing to tag each of my posts and never even attempting to promote them on social media or message boards/forums- so it was essentially like I was writing for myself and no one else. Whatever your posts are about, be it travel or food or video games or even basket weaving- make sure you tag them with keywords! Not only is it a great way to organize your posts by content, but it enables people searching for those keywords to find your writing so much easier!
And message boards/forums are a great way to put yourself out there, too. You can connect with so many people with similar interests and who post similar content and share posts/blog links, collaborate, get feedback, etc.
There’s also great (and free!) sites like StumbleUpon, where you can type in your interests and be directed to blogs and posts about them- or submit your own posts for other users who are browsing. I really have “stumbled upon” some fantastic blogs since I started using the service that I would have otherwise missed, and have seen my own share of referrals when I check my stats.
2. Network! Network! Network!
This one goes hand-in-hand with finding your audience, but is more about the benefits of having a presence on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram- each website offers it’s own unique perk to a blogger looking to connect and expand with different settings and tools. I like to connect with readers and other bloggers alike using Twitter and Instagram- where I share previews of upcoming posts or photographs of things I’m working on.
Whether you use your personal account(s) of create new one(s) specifically to sync up with your blog activity- I can’t recommend staying active and in-touch on different social media platforms enough. Like the aforementioned message boards/forums, it’s a great way to stay in contact with with readers and other bloggers and keep people informed about what’s happening with/on your blog.
I also recommend looking into Blogger groups in or around where you live. Planned events and meet-ups are a lot of fun and can help bloggers- old and new- connect on a local level, make friends, and promote themselves in a bustling, positive setting. I’ve been a part of the “Boston Bloggers” group for a couple of years now and have never regretted attending any of the scheduled meet-ups or social groups. I’ve made a lot of empowering, interesting and intelligent friends- and have both given and received feedback on my work which has been so helpful- all while enjoying great food, a couple of drinks, or even getting pampered together!
3. Get organized and plan ahead.
As someone with a pretty hectic work schedule, I try to stay as organized as possible for my own sanity. It’s a practice I’ve since introduced to my blogging, too- and it’s been really helpful in keeping me on top of my posts, my planned posting schedule, and when I can put time aside to curate content/take necessary photographs/etc. I’ve managed to cut back on stress and late night-typing sessions while simultaneously creating posts that I’ve been really pleased with.
For example, I use a planner to note what posts I want to create and what date I want to publish them a week in advance. I draft the posts in the evenings after work for a half hour-an hour at a time (so I don’t burn myself out,) and put aside a little time on the weekends to take the necessary photographs (when I won’t feel pressured to get it done quickly and can adjust my lighting and settings accordingly at my own pace,) do some editing, and/or travel to any desired locations. This method leaves me with enough free time where I can still maintain a healthy social life and go on spontaneous adventures (because those types of posts are fun, too!) My posts go up in a timely manner, as scheduled, and by that point- everything is edited and spell-checked to satisfaction. No last minute scrambling required!
4. Seek out your inspiration.
One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced when blogging is drawing inspiration in the midst of a packed schedule. That’s not to say I’m incapable of finding any when I’m swamped. It’s everywhere- in music, movies, books, photographs, and scenery- but it can be easy to forget certain things that inspired you when you have a lot of other stuff on your plate. That’s why I carry a pen and notebook with me at all times and utilize my voice-to-text notebook app. on my phone. When I get an idea or am feeling inspired for a post- I write down what I was doing, where I was, how I felt and what my ideas were at the time so I can refer to it later when I sit down to write.
I’ve heard of many bloggers making “inspiration boards,” as well- which include photographs, drawings, writings, recipes, etc. to use when curating content. Sites like Pinterest make this even easier and are a great tool when comprising or drafting posts since there are thousands upon thousands of ideas and photographs to browse and draw inspiration from.
5. Set the mood and your environment to write the way you need to.
When writing, it’s important to feel comfortable and relaxed in your space to ensure you’re putting together the most focused and wonderful posts you can. Sometimes I like to listen to music, and other times I like to write in silence. Sometimes I can have people in the room with me while I’m typing away- and other times I prefer to be alone. It all depends on my mood and the type of content I’m writing. Before I begin to blog- I make it a point to set the mood- whatever it is at the time. I clean and organize my writing space (which in turn clears my sometimes cluttered mind,) get the audio- if any- at the volume I’m okay with, and relax.
Lately I’ve found that a little background noise actually helps me be more productive- but if I can’t get to the local coffee shop or there’s no rain falling against my window outside- I turn to sites like Coffitivity and Rainy Mood, which offer adjustable and soothing white noise (like the sounds of early morning murmuring you’d expect to hear in a café or a Spring rain shower,) to break up the silence without breaking my concentration. Make your space your own- and the words are bound to come to you as you type!
6. Utilize the free tools available out there.
The internet is a vast and endless source of information- and can be especially helpful to bloggers who might need a little help but don’t want to break the bank while seeking it out. Sites like Pixlr (which I use often) is a completely free photo editing site that offers users- no membership required- access to a ton of quick filters or advanced editing options that rivals Photoshop in terms of ease of use and quality- and doing basic (or elaborate, depending on what you need) YouTube searches can turn up detailed and informative tutorials to assist you with anything from coding to photography to marketing- and anything in between.
Long story short: there are plenty of business-savvy bloggers out there who can (and will) market personalized classes or seminars to help you bring out the best in your blog while validating the often staggering price tag of those classes/seminars with a lot of fluff and fancy words. If you don’t mind spending the money and truly feel it will benefit you and your writing- then by all means go for it- but I recommend doing a little bit of browsing around free sites like YouTube (and even other blogs!) first- because some of that very same information you’d be paying for can be found at no cost to you at all!
7. Do your homework- especially when opportunities come knocking.
A brand representative approaches you and asks you to review a product in exchange for promotion for your blog. It sounds exciting, right? It is! Collaborating with a brand or company can be a lot of fun and is a great way to get your name and your blog out there to an audience you may not have otherwise connected with- but before you agree to anything, as is the case with any business transaction or agreement- make sure to do your homework. Does this brand/company share similar values as you (cruelty-free, no history of scamming customers, etc.?) Have they worked with anyone else before like this- and if so- did they hold up their end of the bargain and provide the promotion they promised in exchange for the review?
I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with a few different companies here at Legally Redhead, writing reviews for goods and services that were generously provided to me free of charge- but on more than one occasion- I’ve had certain brands/companies not do what they said they would in return. As a result, I’ve since pulled the posts from my blog. because at the end of the day, while receiving free stuff is fun- I still put time and effort into my writing and/or photography- and not having the other party respect their part of the agreement is not only frustrating- it’s insulting.
I’ve also had a few different companies approach me about “reviews-in-exchange-for-promotion” agreements in which I would have to pay for their products/services with my own money. I’m not saying that every company that does this is looking to scam eager and unsuspecting bloggers- but just be cautious about what and where you invest your money! You don’t want to hand over your hard-earned cash, use your time to write a review- only to not get the promotion you rightfully deserve and were promised. Always, ALWAYS– do a little research and never feel ashamed or intimidated about asking questions. You have the right to be informed and they should have the decency and professional courtesy to be as transparent as possible when answering those questions!
8. Writer’s block is normal (and nothing to get discouraged about!)
I fully admit that I’ve had my days (and weeks) where I just hit a wall in terms of creating content or drawing inspiration that I can translate into a post I take pride in. I’m not one to put a fraction of effort into something, either- which can make my inability to write even more frustrating. Listen- don’t beat yourself up if you have a bout with writer’s block. Everyone does. It’s completely normal. Don’t struggle or strain yourself trying to think of what to say or how to say it. The best thing you can do for yourself when the words just aren’t coming to you as easily as you would like is to take a step back and do something to decompress. Watch a movie, eat a good meal, go for a walk, or even just get some sleep- anything to take your mind off of your writing for a little while.
I guarantee you, when you return to it after you’ve rested and recharged- it’ll be a piece of cake to pick up that pen or take to your keyboard and get back to work.
9. It’s okay to take a break if you need to.
Blogging is supposed to be fun- whether it be a hobby or an earnest career endeavor- you should be enjoying yourself while you do it. If there ever comes a time when you find that the very idea of trying to come up with a new post or networking is so endlessly frustrating or depressing- it’s absolutely necessary that you take a break (and for as long as you need to get yourself back on track.) Life is far too short and uncertain to be doing something that makes you unhappy or causes you unnecessary stress- and if it has a negative impact on the writing in which you’d previously prided yourself- then all the more reason to take a vacation or a hiatus to clear your head and take care of yourself.
Your readers will miss you while you’re gone, sure- but just remember that they’re human, too- and they’ll understand! If and when you’re ready to come back to blogging- they’ll be ready for you and all the new, refreshed content you’ll bring them!
10. Be yourself!
Yes, I know the “BE YOURSELF” mantra is a little contrived and more than a little cliché- but it’s really important in blogging and if I had to choose just one piece of advice from this list to give to anyone- this would be it. The world and the blog-o-sphere is filled with so many individuals, each with something unique to offer. Being inspired by or enjoying someone’s writing is one thing- but don’t model yourself or your own blog after someone else and their work. You’ll only fall flat and end up disappointing yourself. Write about what you want- your passions and interests, connect with others through honest and meaningful dialogue- and do so in a way that reflects your own individuality.
Trust me- you’ll be satisfied with yourself when you’re done publishing your post and your readers will appreciate it even more than if you tried to be a carbon copy of another blogger/blog.
And that’s it- the ten things I’ve learned about blogging over the years that have helped me stay focused and create content! If anyone would like to share their own blogging tips/tricks, feel free to share! I’d love to read them!