House For Six

Lessons Learned From The First Year Blogging

Deme Crinion13 Comments
Blogiversary week continues here at House For Five!  If you missed yesterday's giveaway post (courtesy of IHeart Organizing), be sure to hop over and enter.  Another giveaway is waiting in the wings for Thursday, but for today we're talking blogging!

how to have a successful blog

The blog is one year old...that's technically a toddler, right?  Which means lots of newbie mistakes and lessons learned for me over the past 12 months!  Mostly lessons through trial and error, and sometimes through disappointment and frustration.

I know that not all of you reading are bloggers, but hopefully some of these points can carry over into other areas of our lives too. Here we go!

Channel Your Inner Turtle

So, you started a blog.  You're excited. A bajillion ideas are swimming around in your head. The door of endless possibilities lies wide open, and you are off and running!

Now, not all bloggers are this way, but I'm a "jump in with both feet" perfectionist who doesn't like to do things halfway (I'm sure you can already tell where this is going...), and a few months into blogging I was already feeling this ungrounded sense of failure.   It had less to do with the blog growing or not growing, and more to do with the expectations that I had set for myself.

I hoped starting a blog to keep friends/family updated on our DIY digs would help me to actually keep up on the work around here.  So, being a compulsive list maker, I planned out all of my projects and posts for each month.  I wish I had saved that first month's calendar - it would've given you a good laugh.  There was literally some sort of project "reveal" every other day.  Umm...Did I forget that I have 3 kids under 5??  Including a toddler that has to be UP in it and would bargain his beloved goldfish for just one "turn" with the staple gun?  Or that I had about 52 other balls in the air to juggle? 

I had set a completely unrealistic pace, and was then completely defeated when I couldn't keep up with the schedule I had imposed on myself.  Just silly.   It really took a few months to figure out what I could reasonably do during naps, nights and weekends, and what things I could do when the kids were awake.  I've had to learn how fast or slow I can literally blog (with all that goes into each post), and how fast or slow I want to blog.  More on that in a minute.

Spacing out those bigger projects and actually planning out when to do the work, has helped me set a pace I can keep up with....and I don't feel as bad if I'm not able to finish something on time because I now have a schedule that can easily flex and adjust.

I do feel that consistency is important.  Regularly posting just a couple of days a week is far better than posting 7 days straight followed by 2-3 weeks of blog silence.  There is no blog deadline driving the work on your home or hobby that you don't approve.  That's the great thing about blogs - it's no one's timeline but yours.  And time and patience are generous in slowly building up the content on your site if you keep a regular pace.

So, save yourself the burnout by letting go of your inner jack rabbit, and repeat after me, "slow and steady wins the race; slow and steady wins the race..."

Blogging Takes Time - They Weren't Kidding

Often you hear that blogging takes a huge amount of time, but you don't truly understand just how much until you do it.  Especially in the home/DIY realm.  There's the time to actually do the project, take pictures along the way, edit the pictures, write up the post, and promote the post. And that's just the post.  Let's not forget networking with other bloggers, connecting to your readers via whatever social media you use, responding to emails/questions, site maintenance, and continuing to grow and improve at what you do.

Chances are if you're a blog writer, you were first a blog reader.  In fact, it's probably those amazing blogs you follow that inspired you to start one of your own in the first place!   But here's the thing, they are like Beyonce and you're still the artist with mad skillz singing at the open mike coffee shop.  They have a "team" of people...contributors, sponsors, affiliates, followers, etc.

Not every successful blog has all these things but as you grow, you're able to vary the types of posts you publish thanks to content that some of these provide. And seasoned bloggers will tell you that even with more help and "filler" posts to sprinkle in, they still struggle with managing it all!

In the beginning, you are the only one providing the content for your site.  Some bloggers reach out and make connections quickly and easily.  Others of us take more time.  Whatever your personality, it's a lot of work that rests solely on your shoulders.  So, cut yourself some slack.  You are doing an amazing job!

Inspiration vs. Comparison
This is a dangerous line to walk.  The whole beauty of blogging is in the shared inspiration we gain from each other!  But when you start comparing what you're doing to what other bloggers are doing, that never leads anywhere good. 

I remember having this great idea but then cruising along Pinterest and discovering that one of my favorite bloggers had just done it.  For a good two pity-partying days, I felt like I couldn't do it anymore.

Well, so what someone else did it?  Consider it confirmation that you had a great idea.  Even better, go let him/her know that you were thinking about a similar idea and seeing their project gave you the push you needed to go for it.  Most bloggers would say that imitation is the highest form of flattery and would be honored to hear those words.

Moral of the story? Don't play the comparison game.  And if you find yourself heading there, stop looking at other blogs for awhile (and Pinterest!).  We can lose our own sense of creativity and style, if we are taking in so much from other places.  If that starts to happen, stay away from your blog roll for awhile, go spend some time with the people you love (live a little!) then come back to your own projects and plans. 

Don't Be A Wallflower - Put Yourself Out There

So your mom, family and BFF all love your blog.  But where is everyone else?  Well they don't know about your amazing blog yet!  If you want to welcome new readers that aren't related to you in some way or obliged by bloodlines to comment on your posts, then you have to get a little social.

A great place to start is through link parties.  I'm sure you've seen some of your favorite blogs host a virtual party where readers can link up their own work and everyone gets a chance to check out some great posts.  You can meet a lot of other bloggers who share your interests this way, and possibly have your work featured if the host chooses your project as one of their favs.

Now, I have mixed feelings about link parties.  Some people link up their projects to a slew of blogs each week.  This takes an immense amount of time and I think it can detract from your project a bit.  My advice with link parties is to test a few out.  Go visit some of the other submissions.  See if you like their sites.  Check your own stats and see which parties are bringing new traffic to your site.  You'll also get a feel for what sort of projects each host (and the participants!) like to see.  Invest your time linking up to the few parties you enjoy the most and that benefit your blog the most. 

The other way to grow your readers and network with other bloggers is to be social.  Leave sincere, thoughtful comments - don't you love getting those?  Follow along with their social media outlets.  And if they offer the chance for readers to submit their projects or contribute to the blog, submit your work! 

It takes courage to put yourself out there.  Your work is a piece of you and if people don't like it, it's hard not to take it personally or too much to heart.  But fear of rejection or criticism can keep the door closed to a great opportunity!  You will not get a 'yes' every time, but accepting the risk of hearing 'no' by putting yourself out there can also lead to some incredible 'yeses' eventually.

Balance/Shut Her Down

There will always be more to do.  More posts, more emails, more updates, more catching up, more maintenance.  For a few weeks, I stayed there.  At the computer.  Trying to get caught up and macgyver posts out of thin air.  I was so busy at the desk that I wasn't actually working on the projects on my list...and therefore had no post material.   I've learned that the more time I spend away from the computer, the more I have to write about.

I am the worst procrastinator and can be easily distracted, so I also try to create a scenario where I can work most efficiently.  I know I work best at my desk, not on the couch with the laptop and the Biggest Loser playing.  It also helps if I carve out time for specific tasks (i.e. 30 min for emails) and then stop, regardless of how much I was able to get through.  Because...there will always be more to do.  I think the systems we can set up for successful and efficient time blogging could be a whole post in itself!

Time away from the computer, actually living life, provides the inspiration to keep writing and keeps you out of the blog bubble.  I don't think anyone wants to read the words of a blogger obsessed with her own blog.  Find balance, and when there is none to be found, create it.

Give Yourself A Break

When you lose your sense of balance, your perspective, or find yourself in a funk...give yourself a break.  And permission to take a few days off to recharge.  We can all lose perspective, so don't cling so tightly.  Your blog is not everything and will be there once you've had a chance to rest or get back on track.

Pay It Forward and Give Back 

This is one of the greatest joys as your blog grows.  I'm so grateful for every blog that has given me a nod in some way.  Big feature or simple shout-out, it all means the world to me!

When I get to feature other bloggers through the Reader Spot series or giveaway prizes to all of you, it feels so great to be able to say thank you and hopefully pay forward the generosity that was shown to me. 

Look forward to this!


Remember when I said to find balance and where there is none, to create it?  This was my biggest struggle last year.  I approached blogging as a hobby trying to squeeze it in between our family time and other commitments.  We were overstretched and exhausted, and it began to take a toll on our family.  The Mr. and I talked about needing to cut back, in many ways.  We both recognized how much time the blog takes, and agreed that if I were to keep doing it we would need to reduce some of our outside commitments and actually carve out time in our schedule for that our family could remain the rightful priority.  Squeezing in blogging just wasn't working.

So, this year I'm giving the blog more attention and treating it more like a job/business (one that I love!).  No one decided to hire me, so can I say that?  Yes I can, because that's one of  the best things about blogging - you decide!