blogging tips

Four Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging

I started blogging – in fact, I started this very blog – back in 2006, when the blog world was very different. I’d be the first to admit that I basically just jumped right in when I discovered blogging: I didn’t stop to think about where it might take me, or what potential my blog could have, I just decided I wanted to blog, and within a few hours, I’d registered a Typepad account (Hey, remember Typepad?!) and published my first post. I’m like that, sometimes. I decide I want to do something, and I have to do it RIGHT NOW, THISVERYSECOND, or, preferably, yesterday.

Almost nine years later (gulp!), blogging is my full-time job, and the blogosphere, as we sniggeringly called it, is a completely different place. Here are a few of the things I wish I’d known about blogging, back when I first typed the words “Forever Amber” into an online form, and hoped that Kathleen Windsor’s relatives wouldn’t sue me…

four things I wish I'd known when I started blogging

That you don’t have to stick to one topic

Back in the early days of blogging, the received wisdom was that if you wanted to blog professionally, and to make money from it, you had to have a “niche” of some kind: so, if you wanted to write about shoes, say, you started a shoe blog, and if, down the line, you discovered that you ALSO wanted to write about makeup, why, you started a makeup blog, too!

You couldn’t write about makeup on your shoe blog, after all: that wasn’t why people were there, and it just wouldn’t work, so you picked your niche, and you either stuck to it, or you started a bunch of different blogs, to cover your various different interests.

That was then, though. Blogging, as we hear over and over again, is different now, and more than anything else, I think 2014 will go down as the year of the lifestyle blog. I’m not sure how or when the change happened, but all of a sudden it seemed that people got bored with those niche sites, and started looking for something more varied – and perhaps more personal.

Over the past year, I’ve seen tons of fashion and beauty bloggers start to widen the scope of their content, and to transition into the “lifestyle” blog – which, as far as I can tell, is just a fancy name for those “personal blogs” that used to be somewhat looked down on a few years ago. It could just be one of those blog trends that come and go, but as of right now, it’s no longer essential to pick one topic and stick to it – and, in fact, it might even be better to mix it up a bit from time to time.

Last year I decided to try to let go of the, “I can’t write about that – that’s not what this blog is about!” feeling, and just write about the things I WANT to write about, regardless of whether or not I think it’ll “work”. (Within reason, obviously: I’m not about to start writing about steam engines over on my shoe blog, for instance – or AT ALL, come to think of it – but here at Forever Amber, I’ve been worrying less about what type of content is “expected”…) I won’t say every single post has been a resounding success, but I do think that when you enjoy what you write about, it comes across in the writing, and (hopefully) results in a better blog post. And that’s all that matters, really.

blogging tips and tricks

That personal blogs can be profitable, too

Of course, this blog doesn’t have a niche (Er, unless you count ME as a “niche”…). That wasn’t because I looked into the future and foresaw a time when I wouldn’t really need one, though: it was because, back in 2006, I didn’t take Forever Amber remotely seriously. I mean, why would I? It was a DIARY, for God’s sake – basically just a continuation of my Livejournal, which had, itself, been a continuation of my old paper diaries. It didn’t even cross my mind that a personal blog could ever become a “thing”, and it didn’t really cross many other people’s minds either. That just wasn’t how the blogosphere was in 2006.

(Note: I hate that I’m using the word ‘blogosphere’ here – it makes me feel a bit like those older people who refer to the radio as “the wireless”, as opposed to “that app on my iPhone” – but it’s just easier than typing “the part of the internet that has blogs on it” over and over again, so bear with me?)

Don’t get me wrong: there were plenty of personal blogs back in 2006 – in fact, I think MOST blogs were “personal” to some degree. Those blogs weren’t the ones making money, though. Oh sure, there were a few lucky souls who’d managed to turn their online journal (snigger) into a full-time career, but they were the lucky ones. We looked at them and we thought, “I should be so lucky!” not “I wonder if I could do that, too?” Because you couldn’t, for the most part.

People liked to read personal blogs (or some people did), but they didn’t advertise on them, so there wasn’t a ton of money in writing them. If you wanted to “go pro” and turn blogging into a career, then, you’d basically just sideline your personal blog, which could only ever be a hobby, and start another, more commercial site, which was your “pro” blog.

So that’s what we did. Or, at least, that’s what  I did. I kept Forever Amber going purely because I loved writing for it, but when I decided to start a business around blogging, I launched a bunch of other sites in order to do that. What I didn’t know was that, by the end of 2014, the personal blog would no longer be seen as the poor relation of the “pro” blog. It would no longer be “just a hobby” – or not if you didn’t want it to be.

These days, personal blogging is huge. I won’t go so far as to say it’s become cool, but it has certainly become a little more mainstream. Gone are the days when the only people who blogged were the introverts and the socially awkward: the people for whom blogging was a handy alternative to actually socialising. These days, people start blogs for all kinds of reasons, including making money, or launching a career, and even personal blogging has become a viable way to do that.  It’s not an EASY way to earn money, of course: this site, for instance, doesn’t earn nearly enough on its own for me to live off, but that’s partly because, until very recently, it didn’t occur to me to even try.

I wish I’d known this would happen back in 2006, when I was registering my first domains and starting my blogging career, because here’s the other main thing I wish I’d known:

blogging advice

That one blog is enough for anyone

As some of you know, I currently have three different blogs, and used to have even more than that. It… seemed like a good idea at the time? Actually, I think the reason I started multiple blogs can be found in the paragraphs above: it was just what people did back then (yes, I’m aware I’m making myself sound ancient here. Please imagine me sitting in a rocking chair on my front porch as I write this, pausing occasionally to yell at the neighbourhood kids to get off my lawn…), if they wanted to blog professionally.

Back then, I was also writing for Shiny Media (which was a UK blog network, for those of you who haven’t heard of them…), and a lot of my own blogging was heavily influenced by what I’d learned from them. This was during that exciting stage when blogging was just starting to take off, and any time the Shiny Media staff came up with a new topic they wanted to write about, they’d just launch a whole new blog – and it would invariably be a success.

I followed suit with my own sites, because I thought that was what what you were “supposed” to do, but while there are lots of arguments in favour of niche blogging, and having different sites for different topics, the thing I was forgetting in all of this was that Shiny Media were a huge company, with dozens of writers, and I… well, I’m just me.

There’s only one of me, and while its probably a bit of a generalisation to say that one blog is enough for anyone, it’s definitely true to say that one blog would be enough for me. Last year I found it particularly tough to keep three separate sites – and their associated social media – running, and frequently found myself envying people who have just one blog, which they can pour all of their energy and creativity into. I really wish now that I’d stopped at just one, but, of course, hindsight is 20-20:  I’ve considered (at length!) various ways of merging the sites, but none of them are really workable (for various boring reasons) without me potentially losing a lot of revenue, so I’m simply chalking this one up as my biggest blogging regret, and a lesson learned!

how to blog

 That blogging isn’t going anywhere – despite what everyone tells you

When I started blogging in 2006, people were already predicting the death of the medium, and saying the bubble had burst – much as they do now.

Well, guess what? Blogging is still here, and while 2014 has seen some big changes in the industry, I don’t think the “bubble” will burst anytime soon. In fact, I don’t even think there’s a “bubble”, to be completely honest. Blogging is no longer a fad: it’s a new form of media which may well be forced to adapt and change as time goes on, but which probably won’t “die” altogether.

It’s true that not all blogs will last the distance, and that those which do will have to change with the times if they want to survive, but when I hear people issue dire predictions of the death of an entire industry, I say the same thing I’ve always said, which is that while I can imagine people becoming tired of specific blogs, I can’t really imagine a time when people become tired of other people – of reading about their lives, and hearing what they have to say. I also can’t imagine a time when people are no longer interested in fashion, or beauty, or food, or any of those other topics bloggers like to write about. Will people just all of a sudden stop using the internet? Probably not.

So I think blogging is here for a while yet, and that, above all else, is the main thing I wish I’d known when I started my first blog. If I’d known that eight years later I’d still be writing it – and still enjoying writing it – and that an entire industry would have grown up around those silly little online diaries we were all a little bit embarrassed by, I might have done things differently.

Or, you know, maybe not.

Are you a blogger? Is there anything you wish you’d known about blogging when you started?

COMMENTS
  • Hi! I think this is a great post – I’m a relatively new blogger (began in August), but I began wanting to write purely about beauty. However, even in this short time I’ve come to realise there’s other stuff I want to share with my readers such as the lovely necklace I picked up last week, or the cupcake recipe I found. I think people just have to ensure they are writing what they want to write and never feel pressured to change that! And I agree with you about the One Blog thing – there is no way I’d be able to manage more! Well done on juggling your blogs and keeping them great!
    Mimi x

    January 4, 2015
  • Such a great inspirational post! Great for bloggers that a new to blogging!:)

    thebeautyspot-5.blogspot.co.uk

    January 4, 2015
  • GaiaT

    REPLY

    Wow, this post really gave me a lot of food for thoughts! Lately I’ve really been into the idea of starting a blog. The only things that stopped me is that I have two major topics that I am passionate about, and I couldn’t make up my mind and choose which one to start with. The problem is that I feel they are so different from one another that I am not sure if put together they would work, or if it would be just a strange mix of different topics without a real logic behind. One topic would be food and travel, since I am a foodie and I like travelling and enjoy all the different recipes that a country can offer, the other one would be fashion/makeup for the everyday woman. Do you think they could work together in a single blog or given their diversity it’s best to keep them apart?
    By the way, I am loving this series of yours, it’s really giving me a lot of information!

    January 4, 2015
    • I read blogs that incorporate both those topics, it could definitely work! 🙂

      http://www.lilliputianrose.co.uk

      January 4, 2015
      • GaiaT

        REPLY

        Thanks for the tip! I’ll take your advice (of both of you) and try then. Let’s see what 2015 will bring 🙂

        January 5, 2015
  • Great post – I’ve often wondered if you’d still have all your blogs now if you could start over. But saying that, I think each of yours does work well on its own as a unique thing and likely have different audiences (with some big overlap) and I definitely enjoy all three for different reasons 🙂 I don’t think blogging is going anywhere either – it’s completely changed my reading habits; why would I buy women’s magazines when there’s the same, better even, content online?? It gives everyone a chance to be a writer and that’s the best thing about it.

    January 4, 2015
  • Such a lovely and helpful post 🙂
    Yes, I am also a blogger, a lifestyle blogger I should say. I am not new in the blogging world, but I am also not an expert. I wish I knew that blogging is such a HUGE community filled with amazing and creative people who share their thoughts and perspectives to others. I wish I could have connected with them since I first joined Blogger and tried to communicate with all of you guys.. I learned so much during my journey and I love blogging, writing, and taking pictures.The community just makes it even better than it already is <3

    xo
    colorsinmybubble.blogspot.com

    January 4, 2015
  • I loved this post, it was really in depth and really captured how much blogging has changed in 8 years, well done for keeping up with it all! 🙂 x

    http://www.lilliputianrose.co.uk

    January 4, 2015
  • LydiaGrace

    REPLY

    I love what you said about covering various topics and being more relaxed! I’ve always loved surprises so I really like scrolling down my Bloglovin’, seeing your name, and having a mix of posts from you. It feels a lot more personal.

    PS- can I ask where these beautiful pens are from?!

    January 4, 2015
    • I second this question! Those pens need to be in my life ASAP! How could I ever doubt myself when a perfect little pastel pen thinks I rule so hard?!

      PS. Thanks for this post! I’m about 6 months into blogging, and now that the shiny new excitement has worn off it’s easy to lose steam.

      http://www.dearestdarling.net

      January 4, 2015
  • I have just spent an eternity devouring this, and all your blogging tips series. So fantastically helpful, thank you. It was discovering your blog a year ago, that actually made me feel that I could write a blog, to just do it, and that I should just write what I want. Iv got so very much to learn, but your posts have helped massively. Much appreciated, and I love your blog!

    January 5, 2015
  • Selina

    REPLY

    I deleted my blog for personal reasons recently but I also wish I’d known all of this when I started, if only to make my blog something I ended up happier with. I will forward this to a few bloggers I know anyway, so they can benefit from it. Thanks for writing

    January 5, 2015
  • I am so so happy with see the lifestyle blog thing become a trend. It’s what I wanted to do in 2013, so it’s what I did… so what if other bloggers were only posting recipes, or outfits, or photography? I wanted to do it all, and really, it’s quite a bit more convenient for me to run just one site, even if I don’t do it THAT well.

    Side note: those pens! Where are they from?!

    January 5, 2015
  • I’m so appreciative and admire that the ‘lifestyle’ blog is now a thing! I’ve always been more of a ‘diary entry’ blogger and will always be that type of blogger.

    My interests are so wide and different, but some tie-in together, that if I had to just stick to one type of blog topic, I’d not be as happy as I am now, when I write and post my entries.

    Thank you for this post, too!
    Your blog really speaks out to me, the way you write is so natural!

    Have a great day! xoxo

    July 20, 2015
  • I started my blog in 2009 and for quite some time felt I could only post certain things on a “healthy living” blog. Now I started venturing into other topics, and I love it. I also realized that I personally love reading blogs that cover a wider range of topics…

    Great post!

    September 12, 2015
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