I’ve been blogging off and on for several years. In that time, I’ve learned several bad habits as well as all the stuff I should be doing, both from experience and from listening to other professional bloggers. I’ve also had a lot of time to think about all those things I didn’t do when I started! I’d like to save you all the trouble that I’ve gone through and just get it all out of the way: what didn’t I do that you should?
I didn’t have any posts prepared ahead of time
Back when I was guaranteed to be writing every day or every other day (because I was in front of a computer, by myself, all the time), this wasn’t an issue. I was active in World of Warcraft’s blogging community and spent a lot of time learning about what was going on in the game, so I had lots to write about all the time. When I started writing here, however, I didn’t quite have that sort of time.
Living at home and not having any time to yourself can really take a bite out of your writing time.
If I were to start from scratch (kind of like what I’m doing now), I’d write and have at least 3 months’ worth of posts scheduled. If you want your blog to update every day, you’re looking at about 90 posts — don’t do that to yourself! That’s an awful lot, and you’re bound to burn out before you get everything together.
Instead, assume you’re going to be posting once per week. You can always fill in as you go, but you’ll at least have four posts per month ready to drive traffic to your site. A regular posting schedule tells Google that your site is active, and an active site shows up in search results.
I didn’t set a regular posting schedule.
Troll Bouquet was an odd beast when I started it back in 2009. I posted at odd hours, once — sometimes twice — per day, whenever I had something I wanted to share or an idea bit me. Other blogs I’ve started since have either been super busy (like my private Tumblr blogs) or had spotty postings. By agreeing with yourself to have a set schedule, and sticking to it, your readers will know exactly when to expect to find something new on your site.
Anything else is just a pleasant surprise!
As mentioned above, Google really likes it when a site updates on a regular basis, which benefits you by guiding more people to your site. Set a regular posting schedule!
I didn’t show examples of the other work I can do.
I’m not just a blogger. I’m able to whip up WordPress sites and build graphics, and I can also code XHTML and CSS by hand. I may not do these things very often, but they’re still part of my toolkit, and they should be given attention. If you have a bunch of skills and examples of them it can be a good idea to showcase that stuff. You might not consider your various skills to really be related, but they can be in some pretty surprising ways.
Potential clients see that you’re capable of more than what they originally went to you for, which benefits you in the long run. It also gives people the opportunity to say, “Hey, one of your clients told me that you also do x, can we talk?”
Don’t forget to show off you other skills!
I wasn’t active on the right social media sites.
We all know how important social media is.
At this moment in time, Pinterest is a huge driving force in getting content out to the people that might be interested. It’s been that way since its inception — look at how many Google search results have Pinterest content attached, especially in the DIY niche. When I first started out, though, the site didn’t exist and it was all Facebook, Twitter, and some Instagram.
My networking was a flop. I wasn’t active enough, I wasn’t engaging, sure, I was sharing my links occasionally — but I wasn’t reaching out, and that’s what you need to do. Whether you’re on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or some other site, you have to leave your little bubble and interact.
On Pinterest that can mean something as simple as joining group boards and pinning relevant content (including your own, as you ought to be joining boards that are related to things you blog about). On Twitter that can mean following a hashtag, seeking out other people that use it regularly, and posting there. On Facebook, you might post as your Facebook Page on other Facebook Pages, like other content, and contribute to discussions.
You don’t have to be active everywhere. You just need to be active somewhere.
I didn’t have a product.
If you’re a freelancer, then the product is usually you. You produce stuff, though. You know things.
So it makes sense to have something to sell or give away.
There are all sorts of things that you can do: eBooks, worksheets, graphics, spreadsheets, DIYs, courses, etc. There are multiple vehicles for delivering them, too. If you’re a guitar blogger and you happen to be really good at playing, you can offer a video-based guitar course. If you’re a home decor blogger, you can offer your services as a consultant for people like me who just can’t figure out home decor to save our lives. If you run a recipe blog, you can sell an eBook with your most popular recipes in it.
Freelance writer? Offer the worksheets you use to plan your blogging, your stories, even your daily schedule. This stuff can be put together fairly simply — tools like Canva start off free and allow you to save PDFs. Google Docs lets you provide public access to documents that you create.
What mistakes did you make as a newbie blogger? How would you avoid them if you started over?