A friend recently asked me for some advice for setting up a writing blog. After laughing for three days because someone thinks I can advise anyone, I wrote some pointers for her.
Then I realised I do know some things. Who would have thought it?
If I could visit my previous newbie blogging self, this is what I’d tell her.
Note: this is advice to myself. I’ve never claimed to be a guru. Make of this what you will.
Playing the Long Game in the Wilderness
Writing blogs are often wilderness blogs, unfortunately.
Sure, you can be Chuck Wendig and get a massive following but it takes a lot of work, social media engagement, and churning out books. This may sound cynical but it’s universally known by writing bloggers.
It’s taken me a few years to build a following on my blog. You don’t get lots of comments, apart from the faithful few. Again, this isn’t just based on my blog but on speaking with other writer bloggers.
You have to do this blog gig for the love of it. The initial lack of engagement while you’re building it up will feel rubbish.
You may want to give up because no one comments, shares or mentions your posts.
Remember the long game. You will get there if you’re prepared to engage with others, promote, and keep blogging for yourself.
Do it for Yourself
When I first started blogging I did it because I was told all writers should have a platform before they publish. This is true to an extent. It helps.
I decided after blogging for months and not getting much of a response to change my viewpoint. I used blogging as a writing tool. It helped me to write concisely and find my writing voice. Any interaction was a bonus.
Food, Fashion, and Parenthood Aren’t Us
Writing blogs aren’t always as popular as food, parenting, and fashion blogs. These reign supreme and some (note: some, not all) of these bloggers will be snobby about writing bloggers with their ‘little blogs’.
Ignore blogger snobs. There’s room for everyone. Every subject under the sun can be covered and someone will be interested.
You may not get the thousands of hits a ‘food porn’ post gets but you’ll be helping and engaging with the specific audience that needs and appreciates what you do.
It’s Not All About the Money
There’s nothing wrong with not monetising your site. It’s hard work and because writing blogs are so niche, the income for a small blog is minimal.
If you’re a dedicated, hustling blogger who gives writing tips, freebies, and publishes lots of ‘How to’ writing books you may just make a fair bit of cash. It will take time to get there.
Do not feel bad if you blog just for blogging’s sake. Not everyone wants to make money from it. You’re not a failure if you don’t.
Guest blogging on other people’s sites doesn’t necessarily draw in more of an audience to your blog.
If you want to guest post and get someone to do it on your site, go for it. It’s a good way to interact with other writers and bloggers. You can learn a lot from each other and show solidarity.
Just don’t expect guest blogging to bring in a lot of traffic, unless you’re lucky and get to do it on a very popular blog.
Social media is key.
The best advice I can give is to have a few social media sites and concentrate on them rather than join lots and not engage much on them because of lack of time.
You will gain quite a few followers on Facebook but Facebook will hammer you with its need to make money.
You will have nearly 2000 followers and Facebook will only show 20 people your posts, if you’re lucky. Even less usually when you share a blog post link.
Don’t pay to boost your posts on Facebook. It doesn’t work.
Even though you can choose who they show your post to, Facebook still often target the wrong audience or people ignore another advert they can easily scroll past.
Many writers and bloggers will tell you never to pay Facebook for advertising. There will always be people who insist it’s a great idea. Fair play to them if it magically works.
Twitter is good for finding other writers and readers. You will like it for finding important people like agents and those who can help with the writing process.
Post daily on social media. Keep up the engagement.
Spend time following other writers and bloggers who inspire you and have good content in their blogs and social media. You will make some great virtual friends who will want to help you.
Right from the start of this blogging and writing venture, you’ll gain some really supportive allies. They will regularly share your posts, comment, and encourage. Do the same for them.
What am I?
Decide right from the start exactly what your blog is, your intended audience, and what you’re offering.
Just like the elevator pitch when you should be able to tell an agent in the time it takes a lift to get to your floor what your novel is about (excruciating), you should be able to tell people exactly what your blog is about.
If you don’t know, you need to refine it until you do. This is probably obvious but it’s important.
Start with a clear purpose for your blog. Later on you can diversify once people become acquainted with your blog.
Previous newbie blogging self, you began this as a writing blog, alongside writing your first novel.
Later, you will write about reading, books, mental health, and Feegle has an occasional writer’s cat blogging spot.
People who follow your blog don’t seem to have a problem with it because you made sure everything still made sense under the banner of being a writer.
If you’re able to, store up some blog posts. There will be times when you’re feeling rubbish or life stuff gets in the way.
You’ll be extremely grateful you have posts already written.
It also gives more time to concentrate on working on your novel without worrying about getting a blog post done.
Have a dedicated day for when you post. You will decide on every Monday. People who follow you will come to expect this.
Make potential followers aware from the start when your posts will be published. People like to know what to expect.
Be consistent. If you don’t blog for weeks, you’ll lose followers and interest.
Be honest with your followers. If you’re poorly or life has dealt rubbish cards, tell them there’s no post today but you’ll certainly be back.
By the way, previous newbie blogger self, you’ve been a pro with bringing out the posts every week.
I know I use the word ‘engage’ a lot. It’s so important.
It may feel time-consuming at first but if you spend time conversing with people on social media and replying to the comments they make on your blog posts, you will gain dedicated followers and friends.
It doesn’t have to take up your whole day. Set aside times throughout the day when you’ll check social media and your blog. It will become an easy and pleasant routine.
Focus on people first and then your blog when interacting on social media.
You don’t want to be viewed as just another blogger or writer who only cares about showcasing their work. You’re better than that.
Add in cats! Seriously, people bloody love a mention of cats. It’s standard.
Feegle’s posts will often be more popular than yours. Because. Cat.
Have fun with it. It doesn’t have to be a chore.
Write about what you’re passionate about.
Write about subjects that mean something to you.
Don’t force yourself to write about topics that are writing standards. It will show in your writing.
Check what other posts are out there. Follow lots of other writing bloggers. See what they do but most of all, be yourself.
Find your unique voice and use it.
Over to You
What advice would you give to your previous newbie blogging self?
Did you make any mistakes?
Do you have any great tips for newbie bloggers or the more seasoned type?