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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.
~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: