As I reflect back on my first year of blogging, I can’t believe how fast time has flown! I thought I’d share my experience with you, and a few revelations I’ve had about blogging. Everyone’s blogging paths are so completely different. There is no one secret sauce or blogging success plan that will work for everyone. It’s not easy, and it tests you emotionally, but it’s so much fun!
How often do you wash your sheets?
I took about a month between when I first had a thought to start a blog, to actually making my website live. It was March of 2018. One of my girlfriends had her second child so we met for lunch at her house with a few other friends to meet the baby and catch up. It was during this visit, that the idea for the blog was born.
I never once thought of blogging or documenting my crazy money saving antics up until this point.
It was literally a conversation about how often my friends and I wash our sheets that sparked my desire to start writing and sharing. Somehow we got to discussing this topic in detail and we all shared how frequently (or infrequently) we washed our sheets.
I had mentioned to my group of friends how every Sunday was sheet laundry day. So all beds were stripped and washed and put back on. I then went on to explain a few other ways my husband and I keep our household and finances organized. Nothing was earth-shattering or groundbreaking, my friends seemed intrigued (at least that’s how I felt). One of them said the next time we all get together, we should share the tips and tricks we have for keeping our lives together.
Couponing was my first love
I’ve been a couponer for a long time, a lifetime frugal saver and generally speaking felt like I had good tips to share in that regard. But I had never considered writing or documenting any of it until then.
But when the idea struck, much like most ideas I have, I run with it full steam ahead without really thinking it through. I knew nothing about blogging.
- About choosing a domain name.
- About buying a domain name.
- About how much time it would take.
- How much money it would take.
- How long it takes to build an audience.
So today I wanted to share a few anecdotes from my first year of blogging. Maybe you’ll be inspired to start one of your own.
1. Everything will take more time than you think
Like everything. You buy a domain name, but how in the heck do you set your site up? It takes time to write, research, and create an outline for each blog post. Understanding user intent and why someone would want to read your post, to begin with. Then proofing the post, adding images, adding affiliate links, etc.
Then once the post is completed you have to try and drive traffic to the post. Organic Google traffic can take a while, Pinterest requires pretty graphics and boards and group boards and tribes. Let’s not forget about Facebook and Twitter and many other less popular traffic drivers.
And then once you think you have it down and are getting decent traffic, an algorithm changes and you feel like you’ve taken a big step backward.
It’s seriously exhausting but so rewarding to learn and grow.
2. Blogging is not free
Blogging is one of the least expensive businesses to start. You can technically start with next to no money. Although I would not recommend it.
Things I spent money on in the first year:
- Purchasing a domain (many times you can get it free with your hosting)
- Hosting platform (Bluehost)
- A theme for the blog (I chose Genesis)
- Images (Deposit Photo)
- Tools (Canva and Tailwind)
- Facebook ads (tried a few)
- Courses/learning – various ebooks and courses to school myself on best practices.
My thought is I’m wanting to learn how to become a blogger, which is similar to going to school to learn any other skill. While there is a lot of free information out there, sometimes you need to pay and invest in yourself to really learn and be a student of blogging. That can be difficult financially, especially if you’re just starting out or started your blog with the belief that it will cost zero dollars.
How much you spend is truly up to you, but I would recommend setting some type of budget. Either initial seed money or money you plan to invest each month. There are things that simply will cost money, or will make your life easier if you can purchase such as automation tools.
If you don’t already have one, try creating a zero-based budget and add a line item to your budget for blogging.
3. You will have information overload
There is a wealth of information and tutorials that can help guide you in setting up and starting your new blog. If you’re a new blogger and you’re like a sponge. You want to soak up as much new information as you possibly can as quickly as you can.
But then the information starts to feel overwhelming. There is so much information, you’re not sure what to do first. Or when information or tips conflict or contradict each other, what do you do? Which advice do you follow? Do you write more content as quickly as possible, or spend more time promoting the content you have?
I become so consumed by the free information out there. My personal Facebook feed was pretty much only posts from new blogger groups. So much so that I become paralyzed by the information and become less efficient. Rather than spending time writing, I was spending more time researching how best to write.
It’s really a double edge sword. If you’re trying to build an audience, you have to write something that others will be interested in. And they might not be as interested in your stories as you think they will be. Or you’ll make bold assumptions about what type of content your reader wants to read and pour your heart and soul into an article that barely gets any views.
Or, like me for a period of time, take too much time digesting information that I would go weeks without posting at all.
My advice would be to limit how many other bloggers’ free advice you follow, and use your intuition. Choose a few other bloggers you admire and join their groups. But joining too many, especially in the beginning can distract you.
Once you’ve consumed as much free information as possible you’ll start considering paid information. You’ll sign up for a free webinar series where another successful blogger will guide you through how to best utilize Pinterest to drive traffic. Then at the end of the webinar where you have just spent an hour and may have taken in a nugget or two of actionable items, they’ll try to sell you on buying their course.
They have the magic strategies that will give you the traffic you so desperately want. But you’re not making any money from your blog so you don’t feel like it’s wise to invest money. But you really want traffic and the course seems legit. So you may spend money on a course or two, and not all of them will give you a return on your investment.
This is where the blogging budget comes in. If you have money you intend to invest in yourself, and ultimately move your blog forward, paid courses can be extraordinarily helpful. But it’s really hit and miss with the value you’ll get for the money.
If you are in a few Facebook groups or other blogging mastermind groups, ask about the course before you buy. You can get guidance from others who have taken the course before about what value the course brings. Or, reach out to the course creator. Ask questions about what the course covers and or what you are hoping to learn to ensure the course matches your expectations.
4. Prioritization can be a challenge
Should I write more frequently, or try to promote more frequently?
I just bought a course so should I spend a week or two diving into the course and push off writing more? Or what should I give up as I don’t have more time to spend on the blog, but want to keep putting the time in.
I know I should be on all social media accounts, but which one will give me my biggest bang for my time?
Do I create a few more Pinterest Pins, or post more on social media?
I know I need to create a freebie opt-in and start working on my email list, but I haven’t found the time to start when I’m working on new content all the time and I have a full-time job.
Especially if you’re working a full-time job, finding time to work on all facets of the blog can be a challenge.
Use your intuition and find what are the highest payoff tasks and challenge yourself to tackle those first.
Related: Ways to make the most of your time
5. The emotional rollercoaster is real
Your traffic is up, your engagement is up, you’ve had an increase in subscribers to your newsletter. This is awesome! You’re feeling really good about where this blog is heading.
Silence. Crickets. Traffic plummeting, and you don’t know why.
Algorithms change on social media. Google changes how they rank content. You go from being on top of the world to wondering what in the heck you’re doing. And you don’t know what to do to change course.
You know you need to stop doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. But you’re not sure how to change your strategy to get the results you want.
6. Creating a schedule for consistency is so helpful!
Especially as a new blogger, it is so important to get new content out there. I spent a long time blogging without a plan. My post schedule was inconsistent. Social media was hit or miss. I’d post 2x times a week for weeks, then get burned out. Then I’d move to one post per week, eventually become lax and post one every-other-week.
There is always more work to be done that you’ll have time to do. Creating a schedule for when you do certain activities will really help your productivity.
For example, maybe Monday and Tuesday are quieter days for you and they are your writing days. Wednesday is your editing day. Thursday is your media/pin creation day. Friday is your social day where you plan our content and schedule for the future. Whatever a schedule looks like you to, create one. Try excel or even get a physical calendar or planner.
7. Other bloggers want to help you!
Even other bloggers in your niche, view them as helpers instead of competition. I was blown away by how helpful other bloggers are. I’m a member of a few blogging groups on Facebook (some free, some joined due by purchasing a course) and everyone is there to help everyone else.
There is so much positivity and celebrating each other’s wins. I wasn’t expecting that. I guess I was expecting more competition or more a sense of keeping information to yourself to get ahead. But that is not the case. Other bloggers can be your biggest cheerleaders in wanting you to succeed!
8. You may want to give up
At some point during the year, you will have poured your heart and soul into your blog and not see the traction you thought you would. You may begin to question what in heck you’re doing. You’re spending all this time working for free and not seeing a dime, on top of not seeing much traffic.
The key is to remain focused on why you wanted to start your blog to begin with. Is it your way to connect with other like-minded people? Is it a side hustle you are hoping will bring in some money? Is it a creative outlet? Remind yourself of why you started your blog, to begin with when you feel like giving up. Stick with it!
9. That first dollar earned will feel like much more
Maybe it’s your first affiliate sale. It could be your first dollar earned through advertisements on your site. Maybe someone redeemed a referral code for an app you recommend. Or someone purchased a course you took and can’t say enough good things about.
When you earn your first dollar it may feel like magic. Like the stars have aligned. It will give you the first taste that your efforts are worth it, and will give you the encouragement you need to continue moving forward.
10. It’s more rewarding than I thought
I still have highs and lows, but overall blogging is feeding me positively vs. depleting me. It stirs up something in me creatively, and even though I have a small audience and haven’t been growing as fast as “I thought I would” a year ago, it’s still so incredibly rewarding.
It’s a challenge that I’ve taken on myself and am determined to crack. So if you are at all questioning whether or not you should start one, stop talking yourself out of it. Come join the group and start your blog today!
Free resources I use consistently:
- Grammarly – goes beyond spell check to look for grammar issues
- Moz for SEO
- Mailchimp for email (free less than 2,000 subscribers)
- Facebook groups (A few of my favorites are Breaking The One Percent, Pinterest Ninjas, and Start a Mom Blog)
Paid resources I couldn’t live without:
- Bluehost to self-host your site (a must)
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course
- Stupid Simple SEO Course
- Canva to create graphics
- RelayThat (to create graphics)
- DepositPhotos for affordable stock photography
The advice I’d give my new blogger self:
- You’re not going to be a blogging expert overnight, so don’t try. Take your time.
- You will have setbacks, but power through and learn from them.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help (ask questions in blogging groups)
- Humble yourself – blogging is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
- Create goals and take at least one small action every day to move one of those goals forward.
I’m so happy I took the plunge a year ago and started on this journey. It has been a humbling experience filled with ups and downs. But it’s been so rewarding. I’ve learned so much, fulfilled something creatively that was missing in my life. Wherever this blog journey goes, it’s been a great start and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.
Have you wanted to start a blog but haven’t yet? What’s holding you back?