Post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess
Don’t you wish that when you first started blogging that someone had pulled you aside and whispered, “Here are a few things I think you should know before you decide to jump in.” I imagine that even if someone had done that for me I still would have taken a chance, after all writing and blogging is who I am and there is no stopping the fact that I have words that need to get out!
Here, though, for you my pet loving and pet blogging friends are some things you can take to heart (or not) as you focus on growing your blogging business:
- Treat your blogging as a business, not a hobby. When I decided that I needed to be a writer, but also needed to get paid for writing I knew I had to research and find ways to make moolah. To do that I took various writing classes, I learned to craft a killer query letter. I pounded the pavement at the local newspaper until the editor hired me. I not only took my craft seriously (by taking classes to hone it) but I took the idea seriously that, “I should get paid for this” just as seriously. I set goals, I worked toward milestones. I treated every day in my writing office as a job. Even when I was working full time and saving money that would allow me a cushion to quit that job and pursue a writing career, I worked my fingers off. When I had a lunch break at work, I was working on my freelance writing. Nights and weekends were devoted to crafting queries, blogging and pursuing leads for potential writing outlets.
- Keep current with what your competition and your colleagues are doing. You cannot be so immersed in your own writing world that you don’t know what the chatter is in the outside world. What is going on in your niche? Is there a newer, better, faster way to do something? You want to be either on the curve or ahead of it if it’s happening in your niche. Read blogs and newspapers (yes, those printed documents that are delivered to your home!) regularly. Listen to podcasts. Read magazines. You cannot operate your blogging business in a vacuum. If you find a blog you love, link to it and share it on your blog. The blogger will love you and just might return the favor!
- Speaking of which… get out of the house. You need to network and take seminars and attend conferences. Why? To meet new potential clients and business contacts. To hone your ability to share your elevator speech. To learn what’s new and exciting in the world. To simply interact with others who may be facing the same entrepreneurial struggles that you are. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are also great sources for inspiration and to find out what the industry chatter is.
- Always, always, always keep an idea journal. Once you start blogging the last thing you want to do is run up against writer’s block (which personally I feel is a cop-out. Ask me why). If you keep an idea journal and it could be in a physical notebook, in Evernote, in a note in your Smartphone. I implore you to write down any idea that comes to you. Even if it may seem an off the wall thought, you never know when you will hear something that will spark your imagination and that you can turn into a blog post. Chances are, your audience and those with whom you are friends, will be a wealth of inspiration. Listen to what they talk about, what their problems are and you have an idea for a blog post right there – offer solutions to what they’re discussing!
- You need a good looking blog. “Good looking” is subjective and is predicated in the topic you cover. Good means that it is easy for a visitor to navigate and that clearly spells out to a visitor who you are and what you do. Look at blog designs that you love and if necessary, reach out to the blog owner and find out who designed it. Design it yourself if you have the coding knowledge. WordPress and other platforms make it pretty easy to get started. You can start small and simple and work your way up to a more intricate design once you have the funds for it.
- Learn how to use a camera or make graphics. I admit that photography is not my forte – why? Because with all of the animals in this house, not a one is a willing subject! Maybe I need to adopt another who loves the camera? HHhmmm I will run that by the family! I also admit that graphics aren’t my forte either. But you can use PicMonkey and Canva –and they both have free options to make graphics. Poke around in the sites a bit and you might be surprised at just what you can do!
- Be social. If your potential clientele is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest, then you need to be there as well. BUT you do not want to be constantly selling to them. Start conversations. Offer advice and hints and tips in your area of expertise. Answer their questions. Slip in a sales pitch occasionally.
- Be prepared for skeptics. When I announced, “I am never going to work for anyone else again” to my family they kind of shrugged and said, “um, okay.” No one in my family – not even extended family – had ever been a business owner. E.V.E.R. Making that announcement that I was going to be an entrepreneur brought with it all of the horror stories of friends and acquaintances who tried but never made it. It brought comments of, “Why do you want to do that when you have a perfectly good job.” It brought raised eyebrows that there must be, “something wrong with her if she can’t have a ‘real,’” job. Oh, it was enough to make me doubt myself at times. But I persevered and here I am, close to 20 years later, still self-employed. Hhmmm perhaps it wasn’t a “phase she’s going through.” You need to have faith in yourself and your abilities and you need to take your business endeavor seriously – if you do, eventually your family will come around.
- Be who you are. When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to want to be like “XYZ Blogger” or cover ABC topic because EFG blogger is sooooo good at it. Stop. Be yourself. Find and claim your own niche. Work on your own voice. It is you that will sell your business and it is you that clients will want to work with.
What do you wish you had known when you started out?