My Blogging Story and 12 Lessons So Far
My blogging story started about 18 months ago. My 3rd baby had been born and I really had a sense of wanting to do something different to stop my whole life being consumed by being a Mum. Don't get me wrong I love being a parent but I wanted something separate that was just for me. This is why I don't write much about my children here, its a space for making not for mummying. At around the same time I had become hooked on one blog in particular. I had been reading it for a while but I was really starting to catch a part of the writers enthusiasm for blogging about a handmade lifestyle. I knew their skills were different to my own so I didn't want do the same as them but I would say they were definitely my inspiration for wanting to start a blog. However at first I was too heavily influenced by them. I would be sketching out ideas for projects and for my blog design and I realised it was so close to what they already offered. Apart from the fact that they are the professionals and I can't compete with them I realised that if I wrote the same things as them I would be copying (which is both immoral and illegal) and I would be writing a boring blog that was the same as many others out there. So I wrote down all the things I was passionate about that came under the heading 'craft and lifestyle' and I settled on some themes that I wanted to write about. My first lesson in blogging I learned months before I even started my blog. Lesson #1: Don't Copy, Be Yourself.
Over the few months I wittled down my ideas to a more defined, but not too defined, set of topics that I wanted to write about and started thinking about what to call my blog. This was a tough decision. Using my list of topics I played around with words that sounded good together and would come up with several great names, only to discover that someone (or sometimes several people) had beaten me to it and the blog name was gone. It was very frustrating. One day I thought of the name Tadpegs. It wasn't just a random thought that came into my head. The word 'Tadpegs' was a nickname my Mum and her family used to call their house. It felt nice to have a name with sentimental value. It also sounded to me to suit a craft blog some how. So I googled it and there wasn't a lot to find. Most importantly there wasn't a blog already called 'Tadpegs'. So I made the decision to go for it. I registered my blog with blogspot and Tadpegs was born. Lesson #2: Take Time Choosing Your Blog Name.
I registered with blogspot because I knew that this google hosted blogging service was free and simple. Something that worked for me as a beginner and amateur blogger. I also had read that you can switch to another host at some point in the future. I hear a lot of people argue that wordpress is the only way forward. For someone just starting out and testing the waters I think its a good idea to try something free first, then to invest later if you outgrow it. I haven't outgrown blogger yet so I have had a whole year of free blog hosting. I also know of few professional blogs that are not hosted by wordpress. So Lesson #3: Don't Be Pressured Into A Blog Host That Doesn't Suit Your Needs. (Just to be clear it is possible to have a free wordpress blog, but to get the most out of them as a host you have to invest some money)
Once I had a name sorted and an outline of what I wanted to write about I finally got down to writing some posts. This was about 5 months into the planning process. I played around with a few different post layouts and experimented with the look of my blog. Eventually I came to posting my very first post and I had a couple more ready to go. For the first few months each post would look a little bit different. I soon settled into a particular format and now my posts are more consistent. I would say this is fairly important when you write a blog if you want to look professional. If you change every time, it looks messy. I am even tempted to take some of those early posts down because they don't meet my minimum standard for a post I would write now. I have decided to keep them up though. They don't drive much traffic but they are a reminder to me of how far I've come. Lesson #4: Choose a Format and Be Consistent.
As I mentioned above I had set myself the goal of posting twice a week. I wanted my blog to be regular and I knew if it wasn't I would give up. Two posts a week was actually a pretty reasonable target. I managed to meet it and after Christmas I even went up to 3 posts a week for a while. By posting according to a schedule I had a plan of what I needed to write about next and how often I should make something new. It works for me having this schedule and I would recommend any new blogger deciding on a planned schedule of their own. Lesson #5: Decide on a Posting Routine and Stick to it.
As I became more particular about what my standards for posting my workload for the blog went up and up. I asked Cassie if she would write a regular feature on food. This helped me by lightening my load but it meant I had someone who was really passionate about food writing the food section. It was really nice to have an extra pair of hands writing with me. Lesson #6: You Don't Have to Work Alone
I know what you are thinking, 'but Cassie is stopping so how are you going to carry on?'. This is a good question. The answer comes in two parts. Firstly I have become a lot quicker at writing a post now than I was when I first started. I think about it more carefully before hand so when I sit down to write it, it is almost all done in my head and just needs to be typed out. Another reason for this is that now I have a particular post format I don't have to think too much about what it will look like, I have done all the prep work before I start. Lesson #7: You'll get quicker with practice
Secondly I have scaled back. I have mentioned already that at first I had a fairly wide subject to cover but now my aim is to be more focused. This has meant I have scaled back on the number of projects I am juggling at a time. Also I have cut back on the number of posts I write. Writing three per week was too much, especially when I started my new job (not blog related) so I scaled back down to 2 posts a week and I took a week off blogging to get things back on track. That is two lessons for you there. Lesson #8: Be reasonable about how much you can get done and Lesson #9: Take breaks when you need them.
Over the year I have realised that my main passion for handmade is for sewing. So I am going to be focusing much more on this aspect of handmade from here on in. I think this is a very important lesson and one that I need to keep reminding myself. While it's a good idea to have a focus for you blog and not just write about everything that goes on, it is ok to let your focus evolve. My focus started out as quite a large subject area but has slowly become much more 'niche'. This is playing to my strength and my interests. However I think it is also ok to let your blog become less focused. I'm not saying open the gates so wide than anything you fancy writing about becomes acceptable. But maybe allowing a few streams of interest, that are somehow related to your original theme, to come through is alright. After all blogging should be fun to write as well as fun to read. This is probably my most subjective lesson though and I can hear some people disagreeing already. Lesson #10: Let your blog evolve.
I have not finished learning about blogging yet. You'll notice I haven't shared any tips about growing your audience or about perfecting any area of your blog. I read articles and other bloggers posts about these areas and I find them interesting. Be careful though, sometimes I see a link that says something like 'How to earn £10000 from your blog' or 'Increase Traffic to your blog in 3 easy steps.' At first I would click on these and read them. It doesn't take long to realise though that most of these articles are written by complete amateurs who want to get as much traffic to their blog as possible. Don't fall into the trap of following their advise, they often don't know what they are talking about and have no authority to write about it (just as I do not). It is very difficult to find the good advise amongst all the nonsense. So I would suggest you spend your first year in blogging, or at least your first few months, improving your writing and establishing you style. Whats more, you may find in your first few months you don't get much response when you post something new, no comments and no new followers. Thats ok and I would guess normal. Just keep writing and learn as you go, the followers come later. Lesson #11: Focus on your content, not your followers.
However I can share with you one small lesson I have about how to network your blog. There are hundreds of places to share your content in the hope that some one new might read it. If you look outside of the ones your probably can think of easily (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+) there are loads of others. Commenting on other blogs, answering question in forums, sharing your links on Reddit or StumbleUpon. The list is long and very time consuming. If you really want to make an impact though you need to spend more time on writing good stuff than on sharing it in as many places as possible. I would say pick 2 or at most three places you are going to focus your attention on sharing it and stick with those. Then you can make a real impact in those places and you might actually get some genuine followers who will come back again and again. These ones are much more valuable than the people that click on a link once and never see it again. Plus you probably won't have the time to promote yourself on all of them! #12: Limit yourself to 2-3 social networks to promote yourself (for now).
This post is by far my longest I have ever written. So much for sticking to a particular post format. I wanted to share a bit more about myself and my experience so far. I am still learning though and still enjoying myself. If your thinking of entering into the blogging game I hope this helps. Zoe xx