Choose the Right Platform
There are myriad blogger platforms out there, but if you’re just getting started, I suggest you stick to the well-known free platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, or even Weebly. I’ve used all three successfully.
With WordPress, you can create a free blog with a reasonable amount of customization; also, most web hosts provide WordPress as a free single-click install. If you’ve never used WordPress, you will be a bit bewildered, but once you get familiar with the interface and plug-ins, you’ll like the amount of control you have to customize your site.
While it’s never a bad thing to write content on a blog site owned by the largest search engine on the planet, I’m a little cautious of Google’s history of suddenly cancelling a service. Regardless, I’m using Blogger for some of my clients who do not have a blog feature on their website, and need an easy way to post content I write for them.
Weebly isn’t recognized as a blogging platform, but the service is well integrated and easy to use. If you want to get up and running quickly, use Weebly’s drag-and-drop templates. You can do it for free, but it’s worthwhile to pay a few dollars a month to Weebly to have your domain name show up instead of a sub domain.
Whichever platform you settle on, be sure to keep the look of your blog clean, simple, and easy to navigate for newcomers. I also recommend you keep your blog clutter free. And by clutter free, I mean no ads or a limited number of ads.
Write in Your Niche
Writers must find their voice; bloggers must find their niche! The more focused you can be, the more your audience, and Google, will like it. Too many bloggers dilute their focus because they get bored of their topic, or their interests change. Your blog needs to be a brand. Your customers want to rely on knowing your blog will deliver on the subject you promised. If you have some different interests you want to ignore, create a different blog.
Commit Long Term
The blogosphere is littered with the corpses of well-intentioned, enthusiastic bloggers who got started only to quit a few months into it. The biggest reasons for blog failure are exhausting your ideas, losing your enthusiasm for the work involved, or throwing up your hands in frustration at the lack of audience.
I’m guilty of giving up a past blog adventure for the last reason. I enjoyed writing it, but at the time, I couldn’t figure out how to grow my audience. My mother was always very encouraging, but one fan wasn’t building my business.
Remember, even while your audience is still small, as long as you have a plan to build it, and you enjoy writing on your topic, your commitment to regularly writing will increase the depth and breadth of your knowledge and build your skill. Your content is not lost. You can repost or rebroadcast it at a later time.
Write for Yourself
I didn’t agree with this advice when I first read it, but I now find myself repeating it for one simple reason: when you write only what you think your audience wants, you risk losing the essence of your inspiration.
Today, I blog about what I want to learn, explore or research. It’s much more fun, and I’m (hopefully) more interesting to read, but in the end, I don’t care. When I write for my own blog, I write for myself. I no longer regurgitate what’s already been said. I work to bring a fresh angle or perspective…Which leads me to my next point.
Keep Your Antennae Up and Carry a Recording Device
I’m always surprised to see where my latest inspiration came from, but I’m no longer taken off guard: just this morning, I was inspired by two fantastic presentations at my Toastmaster’s club! (A shout-out to Master Motivator’s club in Victoria, BC; you are fantastic, creative people, all.)
I jotted legible notes in my notebook because if I don’t immediately write them down or record them on my phone, ideas and inspiration evaporate like morning dew in the heat of the daily distractions. At the very next opportunity, I fleshed out a rough draft because when I don’t, the excitement of new discovery soon fades away. Then I left it for a couple of days, pulled it back out, rewrote and edited it, and voila! I had two more blogs/articles ready to publish!
Risk Being Wrong
A blog can become more intimidating once you start to gather an audience. After all, you don’t want to blow it by being completely wrong about something… Or do you?
The problem with needing to always be right is it leads to the paralysis of analysis. There are times when breaking news affecting your niche requires you to immediately write and share ideas! If you wait until you are 100% certain of all your facts, you will never join the conversation. I certainly don’t mean you should make it up; you don’t want to lose credibility. Just weigh in to the best of your ability. Besides, I found out the hard way that, right or wrong, bloggers are still going to get called out on their opinions. So, thicken your skin and expect derision from your readers from time to time.
Celebrate the Trolls
They exist, and they are flourishing. Trolls are the mushrooms that thrive in the darkness of anonymity who enjoy attacking your facts, your thoughts, indeed, your very right to write. My first reaction when I found myself on the receiving end of a troll’s tender ministrations was embarrassment (Oh crap! Did I get my facts wrong?). Then came the apologies, then resentment, and finally moral outrage. None of these emotional stances from which I wrote my replies and explanations did anything to deter my troll. Rather, it delighted and encouraged him! It went on like that for months until a wise woman suggested I embrace my troll. So, I did. If my troll’s comments weren’t rude and crude, I started to have fun with him and that led to many rounds of witty repartee. What about rude and crude comments? You remember what the delete button is for, right?
Keep to Your Writing Schedule
If you don’t make your blogging a part of your daily workflow, after your initial enthusiasm wanes, you will feel like you are participating in a grueling uphill assault. It’s the same psychology as going to the gym regularly. When you go to the gym only sporadically, or “when the spirit moves you,” you feel like you are always starting over and never moving forward in your physical journey. Without developing a regular discipline, a regular rhythm, your muscles will ache, your ligaments will stiffen, and your willpower will wither.
Once you figure out your ideal time of day to write and you stick to it for a long period, you’ll start to experience the magic of sliding into the blogging discipline without the need to exert your willpower. Okay, that might be stretching the truth, but I promise you will develop deeper reserves of energy and begin to look forward to sitting down to write your blog. You will eventually start to plan your content in advance, and your blogs will grow more interesting for your readers.
I hope these tips and tricks inspire you onward in your blogging journey. Let me know how it’s going, because I, too, need a steady diet of support, good ideas and inspiration as much as the next writer!
Enjoy Your Day and Write Your Way
If you're starting out on your writing career, of course you need to pay close attention to clarity, grammar and sentence structure. And yes, it's OK to emulate the style of authors you appreciate. Just keep in mind your growing readership come back to read more about you and your own unique slant on the world. Yoko Ono said it best. "You change the world by being yourself".