Last week, the groundwork was laid for the blog you want to spend time creating, writing and sharing upon. The foundation has been laid (see part one here), the structure is sound and now all you have to do is know what and how to produce the content you have dreamt about.
Today, we will be discussing content, producing, and editing. This is the meat of your blog. This is why readers will return. This is how you will establish your voice in the infinite options of blogs to be enjoyed.
1. Choose an effective title
First things first, what will the focus of your blog be? What title has been dancing around in your head? But most importantly, what content do you want to write about?
One of the many questions that readers ask is what advice would you give someone who wants to start their own blog, and immediately, it is to choose a niche that isn’t too narrow and focuses on something or a way of living that you sincerely love and have an innate passion to share with others. For example, don’t choose a foodie blog focused only on grilled cheese sandwiches. While, yes, there are many ways to grill cheese between two slices of bread, after a while you may become tired of only experimenting with grilled cheese. On the other hand if you love cheese, this would be a much broader, yet still focused topic as you can teach readers about different types of cheese, share recipes that include cheese (endless) and travel to share your findings in different places of the world.
The idea being, don’t confine yourself too much, but choose a topic that makes you stand-out or allows for recognizability from all of the other blogs out there. Because as we discussed last week, there are hundreds of millions.
2. Forget about the audience
Initially, this may sound counter-intuitive, but you must write honestly. No one begins as an expert blogger. Is there even such a thing? Just start writing. As I shared my first blog post in the first chapter of my book, the post was about an experience (or should I say, experiences) that I loved. I merely wanted to write.
3. Add visuals
Beautiful images attract readers to blog posts. Along with an effective post title, the image is quite powerful, so choose it correctly. With the availability of Pinterest now, choose images (so long as you always link back to the source or give credit in a manner that pings back to the photographer) that coordinate with your topic. There are many photo editing software options available at a cost (Photoshop and Canva (a great basic version is free)), but there are also wonderful free tools as well (Picasa and PicMonkey) which are what I use.
UPDATE: Copyright law does cover many images on-line. To avoid any trouble, search for “Common Creative” images. There are millions of these so-labeled images on Flickr. Also, if an image is described as “attribution common creative”, you can use the image so long as you attribute and link back to the original source without paying a fee. Another valuable source is Shuttershock. For a monthly fee, you can access amazing images and be worry-free. And the simplest is to do what I have done above, use your own images. Smartphones have brilliant pictorial quality, although many bloggers do use digital cameras. I have a Nikon digital camera; however, I find myself using my iPhone 6 plus much more often as the photos renders are of impressive quality.
4. Blog consistently
Another answer I give when advice is sought regarding being a blogger, blog regularly. Whether it is once a month, once a week or five days a week, put yourself on a schedule and stick to it. Now, in all honestly, if you love writing, you most likely will not have to put it on your To-Do list. But when life gets busy, and you become exhausted, it may be easy to let it slide. Start off slow. Set a target of once a week, and if you do more, great!
Now if your blog is purely for you, a personal log or a hobby, forget about the consistency, but once you begin gaining a readership, your consistency will build their loyalty of returning on Saturdays if that is when you post. As someone who appreciates and sees the power and comfort in routine, not only for myself but for my students and pets, I immediately began setting a schedule of blogging. As you will see on this list, each day of the week (except Saturday) a new post and/or episode of the podcast goes live. Each day has its designated focus (Monday: inspirational, motivational; Tuesday: fashion/style; Wednesday: The English Classroom, etc.) and some readers only stop by on Tuesdays or wait for Friday’s newsletter and then peruse everything that went live that week. The take away is respect your readers, communicate clearly, but . . .
5. Keep some things private
When weblogs began they were designed to be a digitalized journal of sorts. A diary on the computer. But as we all have observed, blogs now offer news, recipes, DIY ideas, fashion tutorials and much more. No more are blogs relegated to Julie Powell’s experience of making her way through Julia Child’s first cookbook. With that said, if you are desiring to turn your blog into a business of some sort, don’t share everything about your personal life.
Granted, this piece of advice is completely up to you, but one aspect of blogging that I have held in high regard is that my personal life is my business. Everything online is business in my opinion. I am probably unlike most people as I do not have a personal Facebook or Twitter account: Everything online is business. My family, my friends and my relationships stay off-line. Now my experiences with them may inspire and be alluded to in certain posts, but other than that, I’ll keep it to myself or briefly mention it in my book.
I will say, initially, when I began blogging, I was terrified to put my name on my blog. For a myriad of what has now since been determined to be unnecessary fears, I didn’t share my full name. The key is to not put anything online that you are not ready to talk about with someone publicly. For example, I was listening to an interview between Elizabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown, and they discussed this very topic: When do I share information about my personal life, struggles, etc.? The key Brené stated confidently, is when you have dealt with it and are at peace with it. A blog should not be the place you work things out. Because when you are raw, the comments are harder to allow to slide off of your back.
6. Finding time to blog
Most bloggers are or begin blogging as a second interest, hobby or job. The reason they are able to juggle the new world of blogging and their job is because they love what they are doing. Period. Love writing, love exploring and sharing, love asking questions, love whatever the topic is you are choosing, and you will find time to write.
My own schedule has changed a couple of times. The first two years, I blogged everyday of the week, often until 1 or 2 in the morning. I simply lost all track of time, and it truly energized me rather than drained me. After two years though, I was needing a bit more balance, so I took one day off a week (Saturday). And then I threw myself into the editing of the book which took away any day off. But . . . I couldn’t have been happier. I was doing something I loved to do and had dreamt of doing. While I used to write every afternoon after a walk with the boys when I returned home from teaching, that too has evolved so that I can have my afternoons off during the day. Now, I section off half of my Saturdays and crank out most of the upcoming week’s posts along with taping of the “Au Courant Weekly”episode of the podcast. And for two hours on Sunday, I produce my Monday episode of The Simple Sophisticate. Phew! It is exhausting to write about, but believe it or not, not exhausting to do. Because I love it, and I feel fortunate to have the platform I do. I do not take that lightly, and once you find your topic that grabs your attention and won’t let go, I have a feeling you will feel the same way too.
Click here for part three of the series where I share specifics on how to network (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) as well as collaborate with other bloggers. Also, I will share my experience with monetizing your blogging business. So much to talk about, and I am excited to share. I do hope you stop by.
~Part Une: How to Create a Blog You Love
~Now, as you have probably discovered, there are many blogs dedicated specifically to helping readers create their own blogs. By no means do I expect my three part series to exceed their tutorials and detailed posts, but as I have sought out specific bloggers for help as I have been inspired by how they write, designed or run their business, hopefully, I’ve answered a few questions that you’ve had about how TSLL was created and runs.
Speaking of blogs that can help you navigate the journey of creating your own blog:
10 thoughts on “How to Create a Blog You Love, Part Deux”
I have been waiting anxiously to read this post and you hit on the two topics most troublesome for me at the beginning of my new blog. #5, I was part of that first wave of online diarists, who were comfortable laying it aaaaall out there because of the safety of anonymity and we build a community of support and friendship through our brutal honesty. I miss that connection with strangers and really struggle with the “curated life” style that is so prevalent today. I don’t feel like I’m invited to do anything other than admire or learn when I read blogs, but I understand that’s by design. The old ways of doing things are gone and I need to get with the program. (I feel ancient typing that sentence out.) I have set the boundary that I do not write about my children at all, because there is a fine line between telling my story and telling theirs, and I don’t believe being their mother gives me the right to put their childhoods on the Internet for strangers to read. I’ll leave that for them to decide. It’s a start, though, in learning how not to put everything out there. Which leads to my second issue, a mixture of #3 and 4, that I don’t want to get so caught up writing for an audience that I start doing things in my life specifically for the sake of being able to blog about it. It has been my experience over the years that blogs make good servants, but terrible masters, and I have caught myself saying “Crud! I have a schedule to keep with my blog, I need to do something worth writing about.” Those posts were always awful because I did it for the blog, not for myself. The premise of my new blog could easily fall into that trap, as I’m writing about my experience with saying yes and, as the name implies, making my life bigger. If I started scheduling things because I needed to fit a blog schedule, I’m not putting my focus on making my life bigger, just making my readership bigger, and that’s not being Authentic Nicole. So at the moment, I fit in the “blogging for myself/hobbyist” loophole, but I recognize that if someone other than my cousins and sister begin to read my blog, they’ll be grateful to not have posts coming at them at random. I need to be aware that eventually, I’ll need to find the balance. It’s these three points that you made that I can recognize as being a hurdle down the road. Thank you for outlining these, so that I can make a plan for how to cross that bridge when I come to it. My goodness, this has turned into a novel and is probably better suited for an email, but as I just typed this all out on an iPad using two fingers, I’m still hitting send. My prolific apologies for the length. 🙂
Nicole, thank you tremendously for your thoughtful comment. I especially appreciated your observation about telling your child’s story versus letting them tell their own. I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you for these good tips!
Fantastic advice! I couldn’t agree more about keeping some things private. I have just started a new blog and choose to avoid photos that identify me or any friends and family. I’m glad and impressed to see that maintaining a certain mystery and line of separation hasn’t stopped you from making a real connection with your readers 🙂
Thank you for this useful tips!!! I’m about to start a blog and I really appreciate them. I have a question though: can I really use Pinterest images without problems? Aren’t they protected by copyright? Thank you in advance for you help!
Maria, Great question. Independent Fashion Bloggers recently shared an article on just this topic. In fact, I neglected to include this and will update my post. The key is to search for Creative Common images. There are millions on Flickr that fall into this category. Or you can pay a monthly fee to Shuttershock for access to beautiful images free from copyright worries.
I visit regularly! Thank you for your inspiration!
This year, inspired by your work here at TSSL and a book, Show Your Work by Austin Kleon, I am producing a weekly blog called Yellow House Salon where I record a piece of music every week!
Thank you for this, Shannon! #4 and #6 resonated especially well with me, as consistency and finding the time to write (and in my case: cook, set a table, photograph, and cull/edit) are the skills I want to really nail down now. You never cease to amaze me with your consistent flow of inspiring, thoughtful content!
Tank you for this amazing Part 2!It’s great to receive the tips and advices from a succesfull blogger!
Thank you so very much for this! Your blog has really inspired me to begin my own. I always wanted to write to you to ask you questions but wondered if you would feel comfortable with that. I loved loved your perspective on blogging as I definitely have so much to share, but want to do it in an elegant way.