To understanding the top blogging misconceptions
Last fall, I shared some of the things I wish I had known before starting One Millennial's Guide. Admittedly, I wasn't completely prepared for the time investment, and in the past year, I haven't been the best blogger. Womp womp. We can all agree that life happens, but when it comes to building an active and engaged following on your blog, you can't set it down for too long. Sure, one could argue that the blog doesn't go anywhere — but, your audience might. Lesson learned. 😢
I've had a few in-depth conversations since moving to Seattle with both active and aspiring bloggers, about the ins and outs of creating a lifestyle blog. Last night, as I faced my eighth straight night of insomnia (somewhere around 2:30 AM) I logged into the OMG Instagram account. After scrolling through the feed, liking pictures and leaving a couple comments, I started critiquing my own account. I noticed, almost immediately, that the text within the images I made for the Gift Guides, is off center!
My first reaction was to immediately start berating myself over the mistake. I mean, I pride myself on my "design skills lite" 😂 I couldn't believe that I missed something so stupid. After a moment, I flicked that little wannabe Lizzie McGuire cartoon off my shoulder and laughed. Solid branding, a polished presence and photo perfection is definitely something to strive for, but in the world of #bloggergoals, it's kind of nice to see a little slip here and there. We are human after all. Hell, even the big guys slip from time-to-time!
It got me thinking — in addition to the need of achieving perfection, what were some of the other things the aspiring (or even pro) bloggers need to remind themselves of?
1. It seems pretty simple… right? Right?!
Yes, blogging is easy. It doesn't take a ton of effort — you just need to login, write a few strings of text and hit publish. But if you're shooting to get that content in front of people, for brand awareness, influencing power or monetization, you're going to need to do more than blog. You're going to need to blog well.
While the content is obviously king (or queen), it takes a village to support a castle. You need a powerful content management system (CMS), a decent amount of knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, an eye for design, photo and text editing experience, a strategy for user acquisition, engagement and retention, and more. If you're not up to par, your options are either hire, or learn. I, like many of my blogger friends, have been learning as I go. I watch YouTube videos, pay for classes led by more seasoned authors, and scour the internet for tips and tricks when I get stuck.
If you want to blog, but find that you're not up for the other stuff (which is honestly 100% okay) you should consider contributing as a guest author on one (or some) of your favorite blogs. It's a great way to network, (Your network is your net worth!) get your word out there, and give yourself the opportunity to test drive the blogging experience.
2. I can’t compete with the professional bloggers
Logging into Instagram, my feed is flooded with professional-grade photography from other lifestyle, beauty or fashion bloggers. Not only do I instantly break out into FOMO hives and envy rage, it can, at times, wear me down. I, like many, work a full-time job — and after work, I take classes. I don't have a ton of free time to devote to any of my side projects (which is something I'm hoping to re-work in 2018) but it can take its toll when you harp on yourself for not being as successful, as followed, or as "perfect" as the pros.
That being said, at the end of the day, it's really not a competition. Sure, you're probably going to write something similar to someone with more followers, their post may get more likes, shares or comments than yours, but so long as you're connecting with your target audience on any scale, you're already achieving part of your goal.
After being MIA for a better part of this year, I logged into my analytics dashboard tonight and sighed when I saw that this year, my traffic was less than half of what it was last year. While this was expected, I can't dwell on the change. For my own mental health (read: sanity) I can only learn from the lesson, look ahead and plan for the future. And if one series, post or sentence resonated with someone, helped them understand something, or allowed them an "Aha moment", then all of my efforts were worth it. TL;DR: Aim for the quality of an engaged connection, not the quantity of a large audience.
3. I don't have anything to say
EEGGHHHH, wrong! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a story to tell. One of the beauties of blogging (and there are many, FYI) is that your blog is what you make it. It's literally whatever your imagination can come up with. You don't need to be the trendiest person, a business genius, tech guru, or a model to thrive in blogging.
The best (and cheesiest) advice I can give, is to be yourself. Cliche, I know, but it's so true. Find something that sparks a passion within you, and go after it. Love antiques, House Hunters episodes, fishing, or old furniture shops? Write about it! Books, travel, clothes, day-trips or cars? Write about it! What is it about that thing or activity ignites your soul?
4. But, I'm not a writer
Here's where the water can get a little muddy, in my opinion. Do you need to "be a writer" to be a blogger. Yes, you do. But, nobody is born a Hemingway, Austen or Bradshaw. Like any skill, from riding a bike to beer pong, it takes time, patience and practice to develop. While it can be frustrating that there are others that were seemingly born with the talent, you'll get there.
I remember a lesson my dad taught me as a kid. I recall being frustrated about something I wasn't picking up right away, and he used my obsession with cars to paint an analogy I'd understand. He said, "Think about it this way: It doesn't matter the car, Dave. A Toyota may not be as fast as a Bimmer off the line, but in time, it'll get up to same speed on the highway."
When you're first starting out, you may not have the fancy words, creative flair or editor's eye — but even some of the pros fall short from time-to-time. I'm willing to bet that if you put in the time, you'll become a better writer sooner than you think. For me personally, reading is how I feel I become a better writer. When I stumble across a word I don't know, I look it up, learn how it can be used, and log it away in my mind. Plus, something about reading from distinguished authors gives you a healthy dose of inspiration.
5. Nobody wants to read my story
As mentioned above, even if you're writing about something you think only you'd care about, say, your fascination with lint bunnies found underneath the couch, there's probably another weirdo like you out there. 😝 In the time since OMG launched, I found that people enjoy reading your true story. At times, we can all get a little preachy, but some of the most viewed blogs I've written are about the inner-workings of my mind, that share my story, thoughts and experiences.
People care about people — and they want to read something real. Open up, be vulnerable and find your voice. It's no easy feat, and frankly, can even be a challenge to keep, even after you've found it. I can assure you that if you pour your heart into your blog, you'll find the crowd — or they'll find you, before you know it.
6. I don't really have the time to blog
I've used this excuse before, but frankly, it's a crock of shit. Anyone that wants a blog can have one — even if you think you're as busy as Beyonce. I'm fairly certain that time management is a lesson we'll get to in our 30's, or something, but we can skim the topic! A blog doesn't need to be 1,500, 1,000 or even 500 words. A lot of millennials are swamped, between work, the #sidehustle and other obligations — but the beauty of starting your own blog, is that you can set the expectation before getting started.
For example, blog a line a day, 300 words a week, or snap a photo — those alone say 1,000 words! Do yourself a favor, and learn from my missteps: create a SMART goal, and realistic expectations on yourself when it comes to your blog. If you know your calendar is fairly full, don't put the added pressure of composing 4 new full-length posts a week. If you want to get your word out there, I say hell yes, but do it within your own limits — that way, you'll be able to enjoy it much better. Side note: your audience will also appreciate the seamless experience of consistency... hint hint to self.
7. The competition is fierce
FALSE, FALSE, FALSE. This couldn't be further from the truth, honestly! While there is competition, per se, it's not cutthroat the way you envision it being. The competition comes from the platforms in which you promote yourself, to gain the attention of an audience, not from the other bloggers themselves.
I've met a number of bloggers, in various stages of the process from undiscovered wonders to the bloggers regularly featured in global publications — and each and every one has the same mentality: Despite there being a million and one millennial lifestyle blogs, there's enough room for each of us. We may discuss similar topics on our posts, or note a resemblance in some of our tactics, bios or Insta photos, but every person is incredibly supportive of the next. There's a sense of camaraderie among the blogging community that brings a group of highly talented and creative individuals together to support one another in our goals and endeavors.
If you're thinking about starting a blog, congratulations. It's been one of the best decisions I've made. I feel that having an outlet to express my thoughts, views or even questions helps me understand my community, the world as a whole and myself so much better. If you're still toying with the idea, and aren't sure about the time commitment, which platform to use, or how to reach your audience, let's connect — I'm happy to help!