Sunday, 20 March 2016

What to know before starting a blog

I'm definitely still learning when it comes to blogging but I have been receiving more questions lately on blogging tips than anything else. There's definitely a few things I wish I knew before starting a blog so hopefully this helps some of you who are hoping to start.

1. Really think about your blog name, I mean really
I think a lot of bloggers end up deciding a few years in that actually the first thing they thought of as a blog name wasn't such a good idea. I'm not crazy about 'Fresh Lengths', as it can cause a little confusion in person as usually people don't understand what I've said or don't 'get' the name as I blog about more than just hair now. Definitely take your time when thinking of yours, it doesn't need to be a rushed decision. If you're really stuck for a blog name just use your own. It sounds obvious but you're unlikely to hate your own name after a few years! Also, if you pick something fairly short and that's easy to spell you're onto a winner.

2. Research platforms and having your own domain
I chose Blogger to start a blog as it's free, easy to use and a lot of the bloggers I followed at the time were using the same platform. There are other options though like Tumblr, Wordpress or you could have your own website entirely. All have pros and cons so it really depends on your budget and what you're looking for. I would recommend getting your own domain name early on too as it instantly makes your blog look a little more professional and shows you take it seriously. I'm in the process of sorting mine out and I definitely wish it was something I did sooner as it's proving to be an awkward process.

3. Have a clear idea of what content you want to post
I knew when I started a blog that most of my posts were going to be about hair but I didn't really consider doing anything else. If you have a clear idea on your content it will make it easier to appeal to your audience as they'll know what to expect. You can of course introduce other topics you're passionate about at a later stage (like I did) but if you have a clear idea in the beginning it'll help you stay focused.

4. It's about more than just the writing 
Having a blog, especially if it becomes more successful, is like having a small business or brand. My whole blogging experience has been a learning curve from photography, html coding, video editing and even marketing. You don't need to know it all when starting, I certainly still don't, but at least be ready to learn if you're not able to rely on someone else to help you. Google and YouTube will be your best friend in helping you learn.

5. Having a blog will cost you initially 
This really depends on the individual and what you have at your disposal already. I didn't spend much money initially and I would encourage anyone to rely on whatever you have before pumping a lot of money into your blog. Eventually I purchased items like blog layouts, cameras and accessories to take photos, props, equipment to make videos and a Macbook as I knew that would be more reliable than my old tired laptop. These are technically investments which you could use for other purposes and not just blogging but you may not see a tangible 'return' on these.

6. You don't need the best or most expensive camera, but great photography helps. 
Visuals are critical. It's a fact that websites, Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts with high quality photos generate the most clicks and likes. You can take great pictures with a basic digital camera or a smartphone but for me a DSLR took my pictures to the next level. I knew nothing about using a DSLR when I started my blog so I used a point and shoot camera for a long time but I was never quite happy with the result. Lighting has always been an issue for me as I have a small space with minimal light. A DSLR is a lot more flexible when taking and editing photos. I definitely saw a massive shift in readership as soon as I started taking better photos and I've seen the same happen to other bloggers too.

7. Being organised is key 
Setting up a blog is easy. Maintaining a blog is hard. You need to be consistent in order for your audience to want to follow you and come back to see if you've posted new content. However, 'real life', working or studying can get in the way of you keeping to a specific blogging schedule. I follow so many bloggers who hold down full-time jobs as well as hugely successful blogs and they make it look so easy. From my experience though, putting together a post takes time - from drafting text to taking about 50 photos to get the 'right' shot. I definitely found organising myself difficult when I first started blogging. Writing and taking photos well in advance or at least having a loose idea of what you'll be posting about each week makes it so much easier.

8. Gifts & samples aren't really free 
When people find out I have a blog the first thing they usually ask is whether I get 'free' stuff. It's a perk of having a blog yes, but I use the term free loosely. A company rarely sends over samples without there being a tangible benefit for them and unless you're in the position where you can charge for a post you are spending your own time reviewing, photographing and in effect promoting the free product.

9. You don't have to say yes to every opportunity offered
As a blogger you will find that opportunities present themselves from a variety of and sometimes random places. In the beginning I almost felt guilty saying 'no thanks' to a few opportunities that I felt didn't quite fit with my blog but you have to stay true to yourself and your content. It's good to also know your worth. Some companies will expect a lot for relatively little in return and in situations like that it's perfectly okay to politely say no.

10. It might be years before you reach X amount of page views or followers 
Some people experience what is known as 'overnight success' but they are in the minority. The blogging community is huge, especially under the beauty, fashion and lifestyle categories, making it pretty difficult for individual bloggers to stand out. I personally follow so many amazing bloggers who make beautiful and inspiring content whilst their readership is deemed 'small'. Wanting to have a large readership is a natural goal of blogging but ask yourself is it really all that matters? I'm so grateful that anyone reads my blog and that's what you have to focus on with blogging as you can't really predict how successful you'll be at it and when.

11. Social media is an essential tool for promoting your blog
Utilising Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are the main ways I've promoted my blog and the best thing is they're free. Initially I only really used Twitter for my blog but when I started using other social media websites it allowed me to vastly expand my readership as I was able to appeal to a wider audience. You don't have to use all social media platforms, in fact I'd recommend only focusing on a few in order to stay consistent, but definitely set them all up early on with the same name/branding to avoid it being taken by someone else.

I definitely felt there were a few more tips I could add here but I didn't want this post to be much longer so as ever if you have any specific questions let me know in the comments or drop me an email.

Bloggers, what did you wish you knew before starting a blog?

Lesley x