Since I first started this blog several years ago, the blogging landscape has changed dramatically. Blogs have come and gone, new blogs have appeared, and yet some advice remains golden to this day. So, if I could go back to 2015 and tell myself what I know now, it would be this. Here are 10+ things I wish I’d known before starting my blog!
Invest in the tools of the trade
If there’s one thing I should never have scrimped on when it came to building my blog into a business, it would be to invest in tools of the trade. Having reliable hosting from the beginning is an absolute must (more on this later).
I would also invest in building your email list as this will comprise of people who genuinely want to hear from you! I personally recommend using Flodesk as the interface is easy to use and the email templates are particularly beautiful. Sign up using my link or the code ‘SOPHIE’ to get 50 percent off your subscription.
Remember to have fun!
First and foremost, when you first start your blog, it’s not about making money or creating something worthy of a best-selling author. Instead, when you start your blog for the first time, it’s all about having fun. After all, if you started a blog to make plenty of money then surprise: you’ve come into the wrong career.
Be PASSIONATE & put your heart into it
If you’re not passionate about something then people will be able to tell right away. This is especially true of people on the internet! While some subjects may pay more in terms of adverts and other topics may seem like they might be easier to monetise (i.e. with beauty or fashion blogs there are products you can easily sell through affiliate links/ your own products etc.), the initial focus of your blog should be all about putting your heart into things.
After all, if you’re going to keep blogging in the long run, you’ll need a passion for a subject to sustain you when you lose blogging motivation (and trust me, those days will come and go!)
Don’t worry too much about having a niche!
When I started reading about starting a blog from scratch, there was one theme that came up time and time again: having a niche. However, as people, we’re multi-faceted and enjoy plenty of different things. Amongst other things, focusing solely on one topic can quickly kill your passion. Here are several other reasons why I think having a blogging niche sucks!
Have a self-hosted WordPress account from the start
I actually had two blogs before I started solosophie. However, both lasted less than a week and I think it’s because I wasn’t really invested in them from the start. I mean, literally, I hadn’t invested anything. I started my blogs on .com vs on .org. If you’re not sure of the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.com. the .org version is where you need to pay a monthly hosting fee but you own everything on the site.
If you think that blogging might be for you, then it’s worth a small initial outlay so that you are a little invested in your new project! Now, my blog is fully managed and hosted by Performance Foundry. However, if you’re just starting out, then I recommend going with Siteground as their customer service is great and their hosting fees are very affordable!
Learn about SEO from the get-go
For the first 18 months of my blog (so pretty much more than half of the time I’ve owned and run this website!), I didn’t do nearly as much about SEO as I should have done. I’m ashamed to say that it just seemed too hard for someone who comes from a background of studying dead languages (lol). But of all the things I wish I’d known before starting my blog, having a good SEO strategy and foundation should have been near the top of the list, if not at the top.
SEO (search engine optimisation) is one of the main things you should be focusing on from the get-go. If you haven’t done, downloading the plugin ‘Yoast’ is a good start to making sure that you’re optimising each article clearly. Alt text on your images, a URL containing your keyword and placing your keywords throughout the post are all great starting point and Yoast will remind you to do this.
And while, it can take a while to gain traffic and build traction but in terms of gaining blog traffic, it’s an incredibly important piece of the blogging pie. Today, I use Keysearch to look up keywords before I even create an article. (affiliate link- 20% discount code KSDISC)
Put time and effort into Pinterest from day one
For me, like many other bloggers, Pinterest is one of (shameless plug: check out my account @solosophieblog) my largest sources of traffic. However, this hasn’t always been the case. After all, one of the biggest things I wish I’d known before starting my blog is that Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social media site.
What I mean by this is that you have to create eye-catching graphics and then optimise them by creating keywords, pinning other people’s content and making things that are genuinely useful. It’s simply not enough to do one or the other! Just like with many other aspects of blogging, content is king. Curious to learn more? Here’s a quick guide on how I make my Pinterest graphics.
Purchase a premium theme
Just like I had done by starting out on wordpress.com, I didn’t invest in a premium theme from the beginnings of having my own website. However, if you want your blog to run smoothly and appear professional from the get-go, then you simply must purchase a theme. Etsy and themeforest are full of great themes.
There are quite literally millions of blogging themes available and most are priced between $30-$50. If you like the look of a theme someone is using on their WordPress site, then you can check what theme they’re using on whatwpthemeisthat.com.
Write, write, and write some more!
If I look back at my earliest posts today, it’s obvious how bad my writing once was. Or should that be, how much worse my writing was then than it is now? And while my writing will never be incredible, or even perhaps good, it’s definitely better than it was when I first started my site over two years ago. The power of daily practice is one of the strongest ways to improve your writing skills. Need more tips? How are six ways to dramatically improve your writing!
It takes patience (in many senses of the word)
If you really want to blog, then know that it’s more of a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes time, effort and a lot of research behind the scenes to even make it to 10 visitors a day! If you want to carry on blogging for a long time, then refer back to point #2 and be passionate about what you’re blogging about, (and always write from the heart, of course!)
Today, blogging is my full-time job. However, it wasn’t always that way and I still find myself feeling nervous when people ask me what I do for a living. However, I always try and be patient when explaining what I do because, like, if I hadn’t been using the internet all my life I’d be curious too. Understand that not everyone is going to ‘get’ it and many people will still ask you ‘when you’re going to get a real job‘.
I hate to be negative when writing about a subject I love (i.e. blogging!) but the truth is that when you put yourself online, not everyone is going to like it. And that’s okay. If you want to read more of my thoughts on the subject, read “Your Blog Can’t be Everything to Everyone and That’s Okay“.
Don’t give up!
If there is one thing I’d advise anyone who’s considering starting a blog it’s this: don’t give up. Ever, ever, ever! As they often say “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. It’s cliché but it’s also true…