I am thrilled to death to have Stephanie Sprenger from Mommy for Real today on my 1st year blogger series. The first time I read her blog, I was sucked in. Her writing is fantastic! A few months later she hired me to move her blog since she was outgrowing the other one and well wouldn’t you know – she’s hosting a fabulous blogging giveaway today so be sure to check her out!
I am beyond excited to participate in Julie’s First Year Blogger series. I started my blog, Mommy, for real, in June 2012, which puts me in roughly my 9th month as a blogger. Wow- if starting a blog was a pregnancy, I’d be about to give birth!
All jokes aside, I had no idea how invested I would become in my blog. The spectrum of feelings I have about blogging is truly expansive, and I have experienced quite a few highs and lows in my first year. To say I have learned a lot is an understatement. Today I’m going to share with you some of the things that I have found to be the most important in my first year as a blogger.
1.You cannot blog in a vacuum. Well, you could, but it would be pretty lonely and boring. I think we all aspire to have a vast readership of primarily non-bloggers, people who are interested in what we have to say, no strings attached. But when you are getting started in the blogging world, that isn’t exactly the way things work. One of the things that significantly changed my experience as a blogger, including increasing my traffic, was finding other bloggers to connect with.
I was fortunate to find another blogger whose work I connected with, and she in turn connected me to the Facebook group Bloppy Bloggers. All of a sudden, I was part of a community of bloggers who read each other’s posts, commented, and asked questions. I found a place where I belonged. This new blog pal and I, along with a few other friends I have made, continue to keep in touch on email and Facebook, sharing our struggles and frustrations as well as our successes. We hold each other accountable- feeling like your blog matters to somebody else is really helpful.
I was also introduced to the world of blog hops, or link-ups. When you find someone hosting a blog hop, some of which have weekly themes, you can link up your post, hop around visiting other blogs, and enjoy the comments you get in return. That’s the thing about blogging- if you want to have other bloggers read your posts and comment, you must return the favor. It’s a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of world in the blogosphere.
2. Try to find a balance between being realistic and optimistic. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed when you realize how many bloggers are out there doing the exact same thing that you are. But, don’t forget- your voice is unique and only you bring exactly your perspective to the world. Try not to have delusions of grandeur that you will become rich and famous off your blog right away (or ever). Unless you hit the blog jackpot, it’s probably not going to happen.
In my opinion, success is a rare combination of high quality content and good luck, perhaps mixed with a timely connection. On the other hand, try not to be discouraged, and keep your eye on the reason why you started blogging. (Unless it was to make money. If that’s the case, time to find a few new reasons.) In my case, I fall into the vast, nebulous camp of “Mommy Bloggers”. With this type of blog, it is highly unlikely that I am going to make a lot of money running ads. I started this project as an outlet for my writing. I am one of the many bloggers who wrote a book, got discouraged, and decided to start a blog instead. It is my greatest hope that the opportunities that have opened up to me as a blogger will help advance my writing career. As a blogger, you can submit your writing for publication on plenty of different websites. You may not make a lot of money, but submitting posts to BlogHer, Mamapedia, Huffington Post, Power of Moms, BonBon Break, and others may be a worthwhile endeavor. Put yourself out there!
3. Overcome your insecurities. One of the things that was most uncomfortable to me when I began blogging was the concept of self-promotion. In fact, I found it icky and it made me squirm.
I felt very awkward whenever I tried to “market” myself. But you know what? It’s a necessary evil. If you’re not putting your work out there, nobody is going to read it. Get someone to help you (ahem, Julie) navigate the tricky waters of social media and promotion. Get comfortable on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Believe me, I dragged my feet on the last two, but it was time. Another thing that helped me out was broadening my technical horizons. I, a blatantly technically un-savvy gal, now know how to make a “grab-my-button” code, create collages with PicMonkey, work with SEO, and add plugins to my sidebar. I know, right? Try not to limit yourself by feeling that these skills are beyond your reach. There are plenty of resources available (read Fabulous Blogging lately?) to make things very easy and manageable.
4. Maintain focus. As I mentioned earlier- try to be mindful of why you started your blog. To market and sell your craft projects? To provide gluten-free recipes to families? To connect with other frustrated parents? Another important tip is to set limits for yourself in terms of time spent blogging. You may need to set a timer, or write out some strict parameters for how much time you spend at the computer. It’s not all about writing. There is also editing, photo editing, linking, reading and commenting on other blogs, promoting on FB and Twitter, Pinning, linking up….the list goes on. It can be a veritable black-hole of a time drain if you don’t get a grip on how much time you want to devote to blogging.
I have learned so much in my first year, and I fully intend to keep learning. One of the things I did not see coming when I began was just how much I would come to love blogging. It is such a satisfying outlet, and I have connected with many people that I would never have met otherwise. Stick with it!
You can follow Stephanie on Twitter at @Mommyisforreal.