Wednesday, May 25, 2016

5 Things I've Learned About Blogging

The Internet moves at lightning speed and is always changing (sorry, Hotmail...), and sometimes, it's enough to make your head spin. It can be wild and unpredictable, but it can also be magical and beautiful. It's beautiful in unexpected ways.

At least that's how it was when I fell in love with blogging. Nearly eight years ago, I started So About What I Said, where I write about disabilities, relationships, lifestyle and pop culture. I had graduated college a few years earlier and was working part-time as a college newspaper adviser while also trying to get my freelance writing career off the ground. At the time, starting a blog seemed like the next logical step to take; having a place to showcase my writing, I figured, was the first step in the right direction. So one late-fall day in November, I found myself sitting at my computer, my hands poised over the keyboard. I knew it was now or never, so I took the plunge and hit 'publish' on my first post. It was brilliantly titled First Post.

I had a lot to learn.

Thankfully, things only improved from there, and over the years, I've learned a thing or two along the way -- everything from writing skills to dealing with haters to my surprising interest in fashion. If I could go back in time and give Melissa 2008 some advice, these are the five things I'd tell her (well, me)...

Blogging takes planning before you even hit publish on that first post
Blogging is so much more than quickly typing some missive and hitting publish, especially if you're serious about the potential longevity of your blog. I had to decide what blogging platform to use first. I've had success with Blogger and even hired a designer in 2013 to give my blog a makeover and give it a more personal and professional touch. Aside from the technical decisions, it's important to spend time planning the editorial side of your blog. Before I even chose a platform, I spent more than a month deciding on the nuts and bolts of what I wanted my blog to be. Things like: what would I name it, what sorts of things I would write about, how I wanted the design to look. My creative side enjoyed this part of the process almost as much as actually writing that first post.

Blogging takes hard work
Yes, this one sounds obvious, but blogging is about more than simply posting and waiting for readers to find you. In the beginning, I worked just as hard on getting my blog out there as I did writing each post. I commented on other posts in my niche. I guest posted for other bloggers. I maintained an active presence on social media. And of course, I made sure to post quality content consistently. Once I got into a rhythm, my blogging game really started moving forward.

Blogging success doesn't happen overnight
There are those out there who claim that they got rich quick from blogging, but that's not how it really works. I worked hard to grow my blog for a good two years before I even began thinking about monetizing it. When I did start making money, I had the most success with sidebar ads; I worked with small business owners, many from Etsy, and charged a monthly rate to advertise and host a giveaway. Each month, I worked with anywhere from 10 to 20 advertisers, and it was nice to finally see a more steady income.

Blogging about a topic you're passionate -- and knowledgeable -- about is key
I knew that it would be painfully obvious if I was writing about something I didn't care about; heck, it would be pretty boring, too. So I made sure to choose topics I loved and topics I myself would want to read. I wanted to give my blog an overall magazine feel as well, so I launched three recurring series early on, which quickly became reader favorites: Letters To My Future Husband, Love Lounge and MEMO TO MEN.

Blogging doesn't guarantee that everyone is going to like you
Here's the radical idea -- that's perfectly OK. In fact, you should even expect that. People will not agree with every post you write, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't write them. Take some time, think about their criticism and where it's coming from. If you think it's warranted, take steps to change. If not, in the words of Taylor Swift, "shake it off." Haters gonna hate, right?

The bottom line: You and your blog are a brand. If you're looking to build a successful, profitable and long-lasting blog, it's essential to start thinking in terms of being a business, but I also learned to balance that with producing content I could be proud of. I'm excited to see where blogging goes in the future. I'm sure of one thing, though: It's bound to be one wild ride on the Information Superhighway.

Are you a blogger, friends? What lessons have you learned over the years? What advice would you give to those just starting out? And, what's your blog address? I'd love to read it... xoxo

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