Every once in awhile, my newsfeed blows up with people that seem to all simultaneously get the idea to start blogs of their own. Right now is one of those times, and I’ve noticed the New Year in general seems to be heavy on blog creation. Let me say, for the record, that I think this is fantastic. As someone who writes 95% of her life on the internet for the world to read, there is almost nothing I love more than reading about other people’s lives. Mostly because it makes me feel slightly less guilty about spewing my own. But blogging isn’t as easy as it sounds, and the vast majority of people – let’s say 9 out of 10, even though I have absolutely no idea – will not be blogging a year from now. I will not pretend to be an expert in blogging. I have a lot of readers by some standards and laughably few by others, but I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I’ve learned some things along the way. Take it with a grain of salt, but if you want to start a blog of your own, here’s some stuff you might want to know.
1. No one will read your blog for a long time.
Let’s get the tough one out of the way. In all likelihood, the only person reading your blog for quite awhile will be your mother. Your best friend might read your blog, but probably not. I remember Lauren asking me how one of my races went a few years ago, and I was all indignant, like “Um, didn’t you read my blog?” No. She didn’t. Why? Because your real-life friends want to talk to you in real life and they don’t want to hear all your stories through your blog. Back in the day, if I got 200 readers in a day, I considered that huge. I basically would have called a post viral if it got 200 readers. The reality is that it takes time to build an audience. A lot of time. Before my post about Thomas and his shirt went viral, I had like 280 likes on my Facebook page. The day after Runner’s World posted a link to the article, I had over 1200. Does that mean my content wasn’t good before that post, or that your content isn’t good if you only have 10 readers? No. It just means that building an audience takes time and you can’t expect everyone to love your blog overnight. But – if you build it, they will come. Eventually. Just be patient. Don’t be surprised if you find your interest in blogging waning when your average number of readers is 10 per day. That’s totally normal and is probably the number one reason why people quit in the first place. It’s hard to spend a lot of time on something and feel like it’s a waste, so I get it!
2. It’s impossible to predict what your readers will like, so don’t try.
I’ve written quite a few posts that I think are hilarious. I just know they’re going to be hits and probably get shared on websites all over the world. News flash – that’s happened basically one time. It never fails that the posts you guys like the most are the ones that I’m “meh” about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written a race report that I thought was terrible and it got a ton of comments about how funny it was. When I first started blogging, I tried to write things I thought people would want to read, or things that I thought were funny or poignant or whatever. That’s a waste of time. People are going to like what they like, and they’re more likely to enjoy it if you enjoyed writing it. Don’t make blogging a chore. It’s time consuming enough without hating it while you’re doing it.
3. It takes a lot of time.
Blogging is the pretty much the lowest paying, most time consuming part-time job you can give yourself. Can you make money off blogging? Sure. I don’t, but some people do. And you know how they do it? By posting blogs all the time. Posts take hours to write, edit, find images for, promote, answer comments, etc. On average, I would say I spend 4 hours, give or take, on each post. Some posts, like race reports, take more time, and others take less. One of the things I hear most from readers is that they wish I would post more blogs. Honestly, anything more than about 3 posts a week is overwhelming and exhausting to me, which can be a problem, because…
4. The best way to build an audience is to post regularly.
It sucks, but it’s true. The best way to build an audience and pretty much the only way to maintain it is to post regularly. You know the saying “out of sight, out of mind?” It applies to both blogging and relationships. Think about it – it’s great to write a compelling post, right? People find your blog, love your stuff, and are excited to read more of it, so they come back the next day, but there’s nothing new. Ok, no big deal. But that goes on and on and after awhile, they stop coming back. Some of my absolute favorite bloggers have done this, and even though I was loyal for awhile, eventually, I gave up. Posting regularly establishes a relationship with your audience and helps people feel like they know you. Some bloggers (the ones who do this for a living) post multiple times a day. A day! Can you imagine? I would say a minimum rule of thumb is one post a week, but the most important thing is to be consistent. Don’t post once every three months and expect people to react with “THANK GOD SHE’S BACK!” Doesn’t happen. (Note: There are rare exceptions to this, like Hyperbole and Half. But you’re not Allie Brosh, and neither am I.)
5. People are unbelievably generous and kind.
That relationship that we talked about building? It is amazing. I am constantly blown away by the kindness and generosity of the readers of this blog. I get emails, tweets and comments all the time asking me to meet up when I’m in town, offer me a place to stay, condolences on how I’ve been feeling lately, support on my ED recovery, etc. If you take the time to connect with people, they will connect with you. Most of the time, the emails I get start with “Hey, this might be weird, but…” and guess what? It’s not weird. If you are offering me a room in your house when I’m in your town for a marathon, it’s not weird. It’s awesome. And I’m constantly humbled by it and I’m going to take you up on it pretty much every time (as long as you let me bring Amanda and don’t mind that I’ll be slightly drunk half the time I’m there). When you reach the point with your blogging that you’ve built a community, you’ll know it, and you’ll be amazed. It’s the best part about blogging, in my opinion.
6. It’s worth it.
Blogging is fun, tedious, therapeutic, annoying, amusing, time consuming, and totally worth it. It’s like anything in life – you get out of it what you put into it. I will probably never have 50,000 Facebook fans. This is most likely never going to be my full-time job. I’m ok with that! Writing is a passion of mine, and we’ve put together a really fun community here. I’m incredibly grateful that so many people care what I have to say, but my love for blogging hasn’t increased because my readership has. The love was always there, and even though there are days when the last thing I want to do is write another post – hey, I’m nothing if not honest – at the end of the day, this blog is a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, I hope you have a little bit of an idea of what to expect of your newfound hobby, and I hope I didn’t scare you off. I believe the best defense is a good offense, and other such proverbs. I hope you love blogging as much as I do. Now, go write about all your drama so I can gobble up every last bit.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What tips do you have for new bloggers (bloggers and non-bloggers can answer this one!)? What have you learned about blogging that you never expected?