Monday, August 20, 2012

In which I blog about blogging. Again. Sorry.

So. You want to start a blog. Or maybe you have already started a blog. Good for you. Everyone who wants to blog should absolutely do so.

I'm no expert. I have been blogging what is considered a "long time" now. That's funny to me, because I'm still pretty much just swimming in the same little pond with a handful of readers and no ambition to change that.


I have advice for you. You, the newbie. You, the brave soul looking to open yourself up to the internet and see what happens. I have some advice which I offer for free and which you may take or leave. It is what it is.

1. Determine why you want to blog before you start. That doesn't mean you have to have a business plan, an outline, or flow charts of all possible outcomes. It means that you should know if you want to be a storyteller, a memoirist, a reviewer, a tip giver, a fashionista, a cook, a crafter, a parent, or whatever else you might strike your fancy.

You can be more than one at a time. You can evolve from one to the other. You can add or subtract reasons as you go. But know when you start, what your heart's goal is.

Here's why. People want to know who they are investing their time and feelings with. If you are going to be a storyteller, then tell me stories. Don't tell me a tale of your life one day and then offer me a sponsored post about coupons the next day. I will feel betrayed and never come back. If you are going to be a cook, then give me wonderful recipes, and do tell me about your family and life and why you like to eat this. Then I am invested, but I knew from the start that you are going to teach me how to cook.

It's about the transparency. You will hear that a lot if you start going to conferences. Authentic voices. Honesty. No one likes to feel like they have been duped.

2. Determine who you are willing to let pay you for your work. Even the people who "just blog" and do so well deserve to be paid. We pay for television. We pay for music (or we should). We pay for the art on our walls. The stories we read also deserve to earn a living for their authors.

You can be paid a variety of ways in the blogging world. You can post ads. You can write sponsored posts. You can do giveaways. Or so I hear. Honestly, I don't really know how you get paid because it's not on my radar. I do know that you need to be careful about where you sign away your license though.

Here's why. Companies aren't paying you because you are a fabulous and creative writer. They are paying you because in doing so, they think they can sell more product. They are investing something in your blog because they believe there will be a return on their investment. There isn't anything wrong with that, but I'm not going to connect as deeply with a writer who sprinkles in links and advertisements as though they are just natural parts of the essay. In fact, I'm going to click away and not come back because I will feel used.

Freelance writing gigs exist. If you have the know how, then you can get them. If you don't, then hire an agent. But if you want for people to take you seriously as a writer, then don't let a product be the driving force behind your blog revenue (excluding sidebar ads, of course). Know your strengths. Not all writers are good business people. That's fine. If you want to have a beautifully written blog that earns a living for you, but you don't know how? Get help. Be patient, get help, and don't dilute your voice by becoming a brand ambassador. It will feel terrific at first to get attention from companies, but I guarantee you, making a connection with a real person and knowing that they care about you and love you? Feels a whole lot better than knowing that a company loves you. Because they don't. Not really.

3. Be alright with who you are online. You are okay. Maybe your blog is small. Maybe your blog is big. What matters is that you are getting the satisfaction of creativity or community or revenue that you want out of it.

You can have thousands of Twitter followers, but if you don't have ten who you could call up, on a real phone, and talk to when you needed them, then what's the point? Because even if you are blogging solely for business reasons, you have to have a network in order for your business to grow. So make friends. Make connections. But don't let the number be your driving force.

Here's why. If you focus only on the numbers and stats, then you will miss the value of the connections you have made. Be alright with your 19 blog hits. Connect with the 19 people who read your post. Be alright with someone else having 19,000 blog hits. They are obviously doing something to which people are drawn. Go there, see what it is. Enjoy it.

Give yourself the chance to enjoy the community instead of competing with it. It has been said frequently that there is room enough in the blogosphere for everyone. It's true. You just have to find a place to root. Then you can grow high enough to spread your branches.

There you have it. Stuff I think about while I'm cutting up fruit for the week. Or while I'm sewing. Or trying to sleep.

I'm okay. You're okay. We are all okay. Just be clear about who you are and what you want. Then go for it.

It's totally worth it.