I’ve been feeling super guilty about not responding to follower emails lately. I always thought having strangers email me for advice would be cool and empowering and make me feel like I “made it,” but in reality it just gives me more email anxiety!! The thought of writing out a blog post’s worth of advice for like, five people a day sounds horrifying. So I’m gonna do what I always do when I have something to say but don’t want to deal with the feeling of directly talking to people: make a blog post about it!
95% of the emails I get from readers are new bloggers asking for advice on starting their new blog. Nothing in particular, just, helpful tips or encouragement. It’s hard for me to figure out how to answer these types of questions because I’ve literally written over 100 blog posts on starting a blog and making it successful, so how do I decide what of that info should go into this response?? I realize though that some of those posts aren’t quite as personal, and everyone wants whatever “secret” advice I don’t give out on my blog. So, I’m going to attempt to write out what I would tell someone in person if they asked me for advice about starting a blog.
Disclaimer: I spent a lot of time trying to be sweet and encouraging and give everyone the opinion they wanted to here in my blog advice posts, trying to avoid sounding to harsh or discouraging. I’m gonna avoid doing that in this post and hopefully from now on, because this is what I would tell a friend if they asked me for help!
No one is going to care about your new blog. Not yet.
New bloggers have one thing in common: they’re fearful about launching a blog that isn’t perfect. Maybe they’re not quite committed to its design, or aren’t sure if they’ve narrowed down the write topic. They don’t know whether they should have 5 posts or 15 posts done when they share the URL. They can’t hire a logo designer for a few months, so they just wait to launch their blog later. They wait and wait and wait until everything feels perfect, and by that point they might already be burned out or discover after their launch that this actually isn’t what they want.
I personally feel like prioritizing this “perfect launch” is the wrong way to think about starting a blog (in most cases, obviously if you have an established presence or a business or whatever then I’m not speaking to you!). Having a successful blog takes time, and I don’t just mean your personal time writing posts and designing your blog. I mean, it’s going to take time for your blog posts to gain views, for them to show up in Google or Pinterest search results, and for people to take you seriously as a blogger. People will follow you and your blog because over time, they’ve discovered that they like what you have to say. They want evidence that it’s worth their time keeping up with you, and that type of committed relationship takes time to form.
So don’t freak out about setting a launch date and having a blog full of posts in one niche and perfect graphics. Just start writing. After a while, you’ll discover that you really like what you’re writing about or that you want to switch topics. And that’s okay! That’s the point of not launching: you get to play around in this space of yours without judgement. Create your social media accounts, follow some other bloggers in your niche or people that you think might like your blog, and interact with them. You don’t even need to be sharing your posts yet, because no one’s going to follow a new Twitter account that exclusively tweets about their new posts. Eventually, you can start sharing your posts naturally and your current followers won’t be shocked to see them because they fit in with what you’ve been tweeting about anyway.
The amount of money you spend on your blog has very little effect on how successful your blog will be
Don’t think you need to buy a $50 blog theme and a $100 logo design to have a successful blog. You can spend literally no money on your blog and still be successful. Find yourself a free graphics tool like Canva and mess around with it. Try out a bunch of the free themes and change up the colors and fonts. Later on if you decide you know what you want things to look like, you can start investing some money. But give yourself that time to explore other blogs, see what you like, and define your brand!
For reference, I didn’t spend any money on my blog for my first two years blogging. At this point, I’ve probably invested $200 into design (I bought the Genesis Framework and a couple themes) and pay around $10 a month for hosting.
What you blog about doesn’t matter that much.
Blogs are cool because you can share about whatever you want, to a degree. Unless people are subscribed to all of your posts, they won’t know whether you’ve shared about a topic they’re not interested in unless they’re looking for it. By that I mean, you could have a blog about two completely different topics, and if you organize your blog well enough, people interested in topic A can avoid topic B and vice versa without much conflict. So if you’re having a lot of trouble picking a single topics…just don’t. Blog about whatever you want to blog about and just learn how to market each post to the right person.
Now, if your goal is to work with a brand in a specific niche like fitness, you’re going to need to show that brand that you have a lot of content about fitness and that your readers are interested in that content. If only 25% of your posts are about fitness and your readers aren’t interacting with those posts, the brand might decide that it’s not worth working with you. That said, you don’t have to know this from the beginning! If after a few months you decide you want to go for a specific niche, just start writing about it. It’s like starting a new Instagram theme. You don’t need to delete all your old posts, just start posting new content and eventually people won’t be looking at the old stuff anymore.
If you want your blog to be “successful,” write content that genuinely helps people.
You don’t have to blog with some goal of success. It’s totally fine to just write for the sake of writing. But if you’re a new blogger that wants to work with brands eventually or be at the top of search results, you have to write content people actually want to read.
So many bloggers question why brands don’t want to work with them or why their views aren’t going up, but when I look at their content, it’s all just…generic “life” content about what book they read last night or what they did this weekend. And there’s nothing wrong with writing about that! But as a new blogger, it’s not going to get you anywhere beyond just a few readers.
I think the problem is that there are a lot of very successful bloggers who do write about that kind of stuff, so it seems like that’s what you need to do to be successful. But what you don’t see is all the years of content they produced before that that garnered all their views and made them recognizable. Once people know who you are, they become more interested in hearing about your life. They feel like they’ve known you forever through your content, so it’s not a stretch for them to want to read about your weekend trip to the beach. But if your blog is 2 months old, I don’t have a reason to want to read about your weekend trip, because I don’t know you. A lot of those successful bloggers started out writing advice about a specific topic and over the years gained their 10k followers on Instagram, so now that they have that foundation, they have the freedom to write about what they want knowing they have 10k followers that are interested in their life.
If you’re just starting out, you have to establish that foundation first. That means writing content that people want to read, despite the fact that they have no idea who you are. My first viral post was a college shopping list. It performed well because it was helpful, not because I was a famous blogger (I was getting maybe 100 views a day at that point). I started writing more college advice posts, and that’s when the readers started pouring in.
Figure out what topic you know a bit more about than the average person, and start writing about what you know. Over time, you’ll establish yourself as an knowledgable person in that space and people will trust your opinion. But you’ll only gain that trust by writing genuine, transparent, and unique content (writing a bunch of 300 word posts about how you need a notebook and pencils to succeed in college isn’t unique). Make yourself stand out, and ask yourself whether you would read the entirety of your own post if you found it on someone else’s blog.
That’s all I can think of right now but I’ll add more thoughts if they come to me. I really hope that helps some of y’all, and it means so much that there are readers out there who actually want my advice. That’s crazy. So if you have other questions, don’t hesitate to let me know. I might not respond, but I do take into account everything a reader asks me and try my best to turn it into a blog post like this. That’s the point of this blog!