It’s hard to believe that I have officially been running (is that the right word?) Sassy Cat Lady for a whole year. As some of you may know, this was not my first attempt at blogging. There were several unsuccessful attempts in the past, mainly because I gave up too soon. No one was reading what I wrote about, and to be honest, I didn’t really have much inspiration. However, after I started a job as a digital marketing executive, writing blog posts, reaching out to brands and learning a bit more about SEO, I decided to give it a proper go. As they say, the rest is history. At the time of writing this I have 286 followers and over 3000 visitors in 2019. Of course that’s nothing compared to where a lot of people are with their blogs, but for me it’s a start. I still have a bloody long way to go, but I genuinely never thought people would actually read the crap I write. Anyway, for my blog-iversary post, I thought I’d put together a list of everything I’ve learned about blogging this year. I’ve tried to aim this at newbie bloggers as well as a reflection on all of the things I’ve learned – hope you enjoy!
1: Interaction is Important
The blogging community is all about interaction. I discovered blogger retweet accounts on Twitter fairly early on, and I’m so glad I did, as I think this is what helped me boost my following more than anything. However, the secret to making it work for you is to interact with other bloggers. Don’t just post your links and expect the comments to flood in. Read other people’s blogs and leave a comment, but make sure it’s a genuine one. Generic stuff like “great post” will often get marked as spam, and let’s be honest, look like you’ve not even bothered to read the post. Don’t just comment for the sake of it though. Be genuine! If you enjoyed someone’s post, comment and tell them why. Have you had a similar experience to what they’ve written about? Why not share it with them in the comments? Have you tried something they’ve recommended? Let them know how you got on.
It’s also important to take the time out to respond to the comments on your blog too. Make sure that if someone comments on your blog that not only do you reply to it, but you return the favour by commenting on theirs too. If you enjoy what you’ve read, give them a follow or sign up for their newsletter if they have one. You’ll build up a nice bank of regular blogs to catch up on and read, you’ll keep discovering new ones through retweet accounts, but most importantly, you’ll make some lovely new friends too.
2: Organise and Schedule Your Posts
Me being incredibly naive, I thought that I could just smash out a post on the day I wanted to publish it. What an idiot. While some of us may very well be able to do that, if you have other commitments (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) you’ll most likely need to prepare your content in advance. Consistency is also key when you first start your blog, meaning that regular posting is important, and if you’re writing your posts a couple of hours before you want to publish them, you’re going to get WAY behind. You don’t have to be mega organised to prepare your content beforehand, it can be something as simple as keeping a list of what posts you want to publish and when, so you know when they need to be written by. You could get a specific diary for all your blogging tasks or even create a bullet journal to help you keep track of things.
In addition, having your posts all written out is one thing, but scheduling them is equally as important. Believe it or not formatting your posts takes time, a lot more than you realise in most cases, so posting your content an hour before you want it to go live may not be the best plan. I’ve been making use of the scheduling function on WordPress since fairly early on and it’s been a godsend. I especially like how you can link it up with your social media too so that you can schedule sharing of your post too – something which I’m embarrassed to say I only discovered a couple of months in. Yes, I know it’s literally in the same menu. I’ll defend myself by saying I’m often very sleepy and I’ve had a few gins by the time I get around to scheduling stuff…which I would not recommend to any new bloggers…
3: Don’t Compare
This is easier said than done in a lot of cases, but it’s so important. By this I mean don’t compare yourself to other bloggers. Just because there’s loads of blogs out there with thousands more followers than you, it doesn’t mean that yours is crap. Just because there’s bloggers out there with enough of a following for them to do this full time as their job, it doesn’t mean that you never will. Admittedly, there have been loads of times this year where I’ve thought “I’ll never get to where they are” and to be honest, it still happens when I’m having an off-day, but it doesn’t get me anywhere other than making me feel like a failure.
What I don’t realise when I have this little cloud of negativity over me is that I need to be realistic. Blogging unfortunately isn’t my full time job and I literally spend an hour or two on it every evening before going to bed. 90% of the time I don’t get half of what I’d like to do finished and I often end up going to bed feeling stressed out and fed up. I’d love to even have a full day writing and doing general blog admin, but even at weekends, it just doesn’t happen. I’m working on accepting the fact that I do what I can with the time I have, and it’s so important to remember that there’s bloggers out there who have done this for a hell of a lot longer than I have and they’ve worked their butts off doing it. If I could give one piece of advice for new bloggers, it would be this: don’t compare. Be proud of where your blog is now, and celebrate your achievements.
4: Take a Break if You Need It
I reluctantly took a blogging break in November, and to be honest, I probably should have taken it a lot sooner. You can read my full anxiety fuelled ramblings here, but the short version is that I was getting incredibly stressed and frustrated that I couldn’t put the time into my blog, and I was setting myself deadlines that I couldn’t stick to. I ended up taking nearly a whole month off, as I ended up ill just before I wanted to come back. I was gutted for admitting defeat, but in hindsight I think it was the right decision. It gave me a chance to catch up on everyone else’s blogs, leave some comments, do a bit of admin, and even prepare for my next few posts. So I guess you could argue that it wasn’t really a break from blogging, it was more of a break from posting. However, taking the pressure off by removing the unrealistic deadlines I’d set myself made so much difference, and I’m actually considering scheduling one in properly at a couple of points in the new year.
5: Free Tools Are Your Friend
I didn’t realise how many free tools were on offer to bloggers when I first started out. There’s really no need to fork out for expensive subscriptions and fancy graphic design tools! Here’s a few of my favourite freebies I’ve discovered:
- Canva – You can make graphics for your posts, create your blog logo, headers, and loads more. There is a free version and a paid version, with some templates requiring you to upgrade to the paid one, but honestly there’s so much available on the free version you can pretty much do without it. It’s super easy to use too and their templates are lovely, especially when you need a little inspiration.
- Buffer – This is a free tool you can use to schedule social media posts for your blog. With the free version you can only schedule up to 10 posts at a time and pair it with only a certain number of accounts (I just have Facebook and Twitter synced), but if you’re new to blogging it’s certainly a handy little tool.
- Ubersuggest – I discovered this through my job and it’s great for SEO (search engine optimisation). It suggests keywords you can use in your posts and the volume of searches for a particular phrase or keyword and how easy it is for you to rank for it in search engines. You can also use it to look at your site’s traffic too, plus, it’s completely free!
- Pexels & Unsplash – I’m nowhere near talented enough to create my own flatlays and photos for my posts (I try, but it often looks like a Pinterest fail), so my fallback is always Pexels or Unsplash. They both have a huge selection of royalty free images you can use in your content. You don’t have to credit the creator, however it’s a nice way of saying thank you and acknowledging them, so I like to include a little note at the bottom of my posts when I’ve used these images.
6: The Blogger Community is a Wonderfully Supportive Place
I think the title there says it all, really. So many people talk about all the hate out there on the internet and across social media, but the blogging community is completely different. Within just a few weeks I made some incredible new friends and the support I had from them was amazing. Blogging is such a personal thing, and a lot of the time you really get to know these people without even meeting them face to face. The blogger community is all about helping and supporting each other, but over time they genuinely become your friends too, and I’m so grateful that blogging has given me the opportunity to meet these wonderful people.
7: This is What I Want To Do
I think over the last year I’ve finally discovered what I want to do for a career. Ten years ago I had my heart set on becoming a therapist when finished university, but as you will have read recently, that wasn’t to be. Through my job I’ve found something that (dare I say it) I’m good at(?) and that I genuinely love doing. I love writing. Whether I take the plunge into blogging full time or I stuck stick to it as a hobby is something I need to spend a little more time deciding on, but writing for a career is definitely what I want to do in the long run.
While I didn’t want to get all mushy at the end of this post, I wanted to give credit to some of the amazing bloggers that have supported me throughout the last year:
Ami – Undercover Superhero
Charlotte – Time to Talk
Chloe – CentreStage
Chloe – Writing the Blues Away
Hunida – Hunida’s Blog
Kirsty – Love Popcorn
Leo – Anxious History Teacher
Liz – Anxiety & Liz
Lucy – Lucy Mary
New Lune – New Lune
Nunzia – Nunzia Dreams
Nyxie – Nyxie’s Nook
Ruth – Autistic Fit Chick
Sophie – Girl Vs World
Tinkablee – Little Tinkablee
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my posts, for nominating me for blogging awards, mentioning my blog, and for the #FollowFriday mentions over the past year. I’m so sorry if I’ve missed anyone out. However, I’d also like to say a big thank you to every single person who has taken the time to read the rubbish I spout on a weekly basis, and for taking the time to comment too. It would not have been possible without you and I cannot thank you enough 🙂