We look up to and compare ourselves with our favourite influencers in the blogging sphere, conveniently forgetting that it took time, hard work, patience & dedication to get where they are now. The rosy portrayal of this life and work in social media definitely doesn’t make it easier for newbies. Be patient and work on your craft, even when you think no one’s watching.
Just like every other person watching from the sidelines, I equally thought blogging was a breeze. I figured all I had to do was own a laptop, take a few good photos, put a few sentences together and voila! I’ll become famous overnight. Or at least in 6 months. LOL.
This is the last post in the “Own your blog” series and I figured I’d share a few things I wish I knew before I decided to become a blogger. If you missed the first 4 posts, you can catch up here, here, here& here
I was featured in an article on Bella Naija (here), where I talked about my initial struggles with blogging, all the somewhat “silly” things bloggers obsess over and how I finally realized the book wasn’t as enticing as the cover page.
For the past 2 years, I’ve worked tirelessly to grow this platform and my personal brand into something I’ve become proud of; but here are some things I wish I knew before jumping on this bandwagon.
Not everyone will get it & that’s fine.
The initial stages of blogging where you have to convince your friends, family & sometimes yourself that you’re not just a narcissist, obsessed with perfectly curated flat lays, photos, and angles, will probably be the hardest. In my experience, I’ve found myself avoiding social gatherings with my “professional” group of friends, for the simple fact that I’m not a fan of explaining what I do over and over again. Also, there’s only so many times I can answer the puzzling question “You have 2 degrees in Engineering, why are you a blogger then?” before getting to the bottom of my cocktail glass.
On countless occasions, I’ve had to verbally remove myself from the inconsequential box that society tends to fit all bloggers in. You know the one with the notion that all a blogger has to do is look photogenic and the $ will start rolling in. If wishes were horses, I’d have taken this one for a million rides.
Life becomes as “Instagrammable” as you make it
I knew I was lost in the sauce when I captioned a photo on Instagram “I have a thing for Instagrammable coffee shops”. Who even made up the word Instagrammable?
The filters through which you view your daily life and the world automatically changes. Your favourite restaurant on the corner suddenly becomes unappealing because the food isn’t plated in an aesthetically pleasing way, a relaxing afternoon with friends turns into a struggle of trying to capture the “perfect unrehearsed” photo, etc….You’re constantly thinking of fresh ways to update your follower-ship about your life with just the right amount of pose, timing & perfection. It can get exhausting, even for those with passion.
It’s okay to take some time off to enjoy the moment & pleasures of life without the pressure of capturing it for the internet. Not every new buy has to be featured on a flat lay & not every sunset has to be shared. At the end of the day, the internet will still be fine without that extra photo.
Budget what? Your finances will be in a constant state of higi-haga
Say bye to perfectly balanced accounts and excel budget sheets. The business of blogging requires spending money to make money. Just like any other field, it involves investing in equipment, your website, random coffee meetings, props, travel/event tickets, clothes, shoes, makeup, the list is endless.
In the case that you’re a finance guru with templates on how your every $ or N is made and disbursed, skip over to the next point (also, drop your templates in my mailbox, merci) but for those of us crippled by the idea of money management, sadly, it might not get easier.
Blogging requires Patience
Bad photoshoot days? Growing an audience? Hours of researching a topic so you don’t look stupid to your audience? Chasing invoices? Collaboration rejections? You name it. Most people dive into the world of content creation thinking success and fame are attained overnight.
We look up to and compare ourselves with our most loved and popular bloggers, forgetting that it took time, hard work, patience & dedication to get where they are now. The rosy portrayal of this life and work in social media definitely doesn’t make it easier for newbies. Be patient and work on your craft, even when you think no one’s watching.
You’ll be grateful for it
After all,learnt is said and done, blogging will teach you skills that you never thought you could learn. I recently landed a high paying job at a prestigious firm because of a sklearnedsolely to develop my blog. I’ve also been opportune to meet with so many amazing people along the way and work on projects I would never have dreamt was possible.
The road might be filled with boxes of tissue and an insane dose of Advil on some days, but it’s not a journey I’ll ever regret taking.
Have you ever done something for the first time? What was your biggest fear and how did you overcome it?
Let’s talk about plugins and their importance in the blogosphere. What are plugins? They are basically bits of software or add-ons that expand the functionality of your site. They enable customization of new or existing features as well as adding extra functions to your site. In other words, plugins make your blogging work & life 10x easier.
They’re located on the left hand of your WordPress Admin panel, just below “Appearance”.
JetPack for WordPress:
This is the ultimate plugin for all bloggers, beginners or not. JetPack is a single plugin that consists of mini-plugins with numerous features. It consists of a main dashboard which shows an overview of your site statistics and analytics, i.e source of your site’s traffic, overall number of site views, total number of comments, etc..
It also has features which can enhance your media such as tiled galleries, photon and a carousel. I particularly love this plugin because the free option/package offers so many benefits.
Yoast SEO assists with optimizing your blog’s content so they’re easily findable by searchengines like Google. It simplifies all the steps that need to be completed in order for your content to be fully optimized. It lets you set a focus keyword, which is the keyword you’d like your post to be ranked for, or found by in search results. It then runs a content analysis on your post/page to ensure that keyword appears often enough and in the right places for your post to rank higher and better.
Coupled with other features like readability check (i.e how easy is the post to read, lengths of sentences & paragraphs, transition words, etc) and meta description (customizing what your post would look like on Google), etc..Yoast SEO provides a lot of benefits to content creators. For more on this, read here
This is a spam fighting service that protects your site from spam comments. This is because there’s nothing more annoying than having to filter through spam comments just to get through to genuine ones. Akismet comes pre-installed in your WordPress but it has to be activated to perform.
Essential for keeping tabs (literally) on your site’s performance. Shows analytics broken down into different categories such as Demographics, Country, Page Views, etc…Check herefor a step-by-step guide on how to install on your website.
Social Media Widget:
It’s one thing to create content and another to promote said content. Social media shares are very essential in this day and age to getting your content noticed by people all over the world. There are tons of social media widgets out there, for TAC, I use the pre-installed feature on the Jetpack plugin. I love how easily customizable it is to fit my website’s theme/layout.
I’m throwing this in as a bonus. It’s optional for beginners as you might not be sending out newsletters right away but as you grow, collecting subscriber emails for newsletters will become essential in building and maintaining a solid readership. There are tons of newsletter plugins but some popular ones are MailChimp, Newsletter & SumoMe.
Two years ago when I started The Alma Chronicle, I remember being overwhelmed by all the information I came across on the internet. I spent countless hours trying to make sense of words I had never come across and somehow never figuring out what exactly I wanted or needed to do. Over the years, I’m proud that I’ve managed to single-handedly grow it to what it is today.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing a series called “Owning your blog”, sharing pointers from how to get started as a blog/website owner to creating compelling content and even content management. There’ll be 4 engaging posts to this series published every Thursday in the month of March and I hope at the end of it, someone’s work will be made a lot easier.
Domain Name & Hosting:
This is the first step to owning your website. When I started, I remember being confused on the meanings of a “domain name” & “hosting” & why they were necessary. A domain name is a unique address to a webpage or in this case, your blog. It is essential to your brand identity as it’s what you will be known for years to come so please take it seriously. After deciding on a name, check for its availability & register it with a Domain Registrar for a fee. The most popular ones are GoDaddy & Bluehost.
Next thing is to integrate this domain name with a blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger. Luckily, the domain registrars mentioned above have a simple, free, one-click installation process. Spending on a domain name and hosting is not necessary for everyone. I recommend it if you want a more professional looking site. On the other hand, if you’re just looking to try out blogging with no intention of committing, I suggest starting with a WordPress.com(e.g xyz.wordpress.com) which is free.
(Tip: Domain registrars typically go on promotions from time to time so be on the lookout to get a desired domain name at a cheaper price)
Update: In partnership with websitesetup.org, I’ve included an easy tutorial on how to get a registered domain name with Bluehost. Watch below!
Choosing a Theme/Blog/Brand Identity:
A theme sets the tone for your blog and overall brand. This is the first thing users see when they click on your link and you want to make sure it represents you and your brand identity to the latter. Before picking a theme, do an overall blog/brand analysis and make a mental picture of what you want your brand to be known for. Think colours, name, overall aesthetics, fonts, photos, layouts, etc.
Most platforms come with decent pre-installed and free themes that I advice people to take advantage of when they’re just starting out. You know, get a hang of blogging and decide it’s something you want to do/commit to before you start throwing some major bucks into it. If you decide to go a step further to make your blog look more personal and professional, I recommend purchasing a pre-made theme from a theme developer and customizing it to your preference. That way, you don’t stress with the technicalities behind web design and focus on tweaking the theme to your taste; and creating content. You can purchase themes off a lot of websites but my favourites are Etsy, SquareSpace, & Theme Forestto name a few.
This varies depending on what your blog is centered around. Contrary to popular belief, blogging isn’t as easy as it looks. A lot of work and thought goes into creating content, especially when it’s done for a living. Overtime, analyze your audience demographic and be intentional about every content you put out. Be it be entertaining, inspirational, educational, etc. Make sure it adds some sort of value to the person on the other side of the computer screen.
Have fun & be consistent:
Just like everything else in life, consistency is key to growth; but blogging shouldn’t be a chore. It’s important to view your blog as your brand and have fun nurturing it so it can grow. For me, I’m happiest when I’m in front of my computer editing photos or creating compelling content such as this one for you guys. It’s also amazing how many opportunities and doors this platform has opened to me and I’m forever grateful.