UK Blog Awards 2015 – submission from Sophie Fox, Sophie, She Wrote (nominated for Best Individual/Freelance Most Innovative Blog: http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/sophie-she-wrote/ and Lifestyle Blog: http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/sophie-she-wrote-2/).
This is not a definitive guide. This isn't even really a guide. I promise you l do not consider myself any kind of expert on blogging. In fact I am the complete opposite. My blog, Sophie, She Wrote (http://sophieshewrote.com) is coming up for six months old. In blogging years he hasn't even cut his first tooth and is still in the drooling, pooping, crying phase of his life.
I need to stop talking about my blog like it was a baby - my mum is concerned enough already.
Six months ago when I started writing I really had no idea what I was doing, even less so than I do now. I had one friend with a blog but other than that I had to find my feet as I went. From getting going in the first pace to slowly becoming obsessed and rather ridiculously entering the UK Blog Awards 2015.
Over the course of six months and 33 posts I feel slightly more comfortable in the blogosphere, not comfortable enough to take my shoes off or help myself to a wine but more comfortable than I bet you are feeling right about now.
If you are just starting out on your blogging journey, here’s the seven things I wish someone had told me before I got going. Most are positive. Hopefully it helps you. If not, feel free to ignore me and get on with your lives. No hard feelings.
1. Its addictive
Be prepared for your blog to take over your life. The extent that you let this happen will depend on how often you choose to post. I have a pretty demanding day job and so can only write in my lunch hour or after work. I decided early on that I couldn't commit to posting more than once a week. If you are a beauty blogger you may find people post more regularly but they can be shorter paragraphs. I tend to write around 1000 words a week. Any longer and I think people would get bored and any shorter never feels enough. Find what you are comfortable with and stick to it. I post every Friday at around 5.30. I have found that friends can then know when to expect my post and they look forward to it (or at least that is what they say to my face).
2. Je ne parle pas Code.
Coding is a whole new language. I did IT A-Level and I really don’t understand it. When I see people talking about coding I feel like running back to 1993 where the biggest difficulty was playing Doom and not letting the teacher catch you.
Coding is the bits of computer programming that dictate what your blog looks like, the formatting and what it does. I had to Wikipedia that just so I could tell you about it.
There are great online tutorials about coding. Sites like wpbeginner.com are really helpful. They often have youtube videos and these are a great way of finding your feet.
If, like me, you don't fancy learning this new complicated language then sites like wordpress.com and blogger.com are great platforms as all the hosting and coding is done for you. You can simply type and publish. These sites are free so it can be worth having a play on a couple before picking one that you prefer. Personally I am on wordpress.com because I like the theme variety, it is simple and easy to use. The Reader function also lets me follow my favourite blogs with ease. Plus I am addicted to the stats page which shows lovely little graphs around how many people are viewing your blog.
Be warned the Stats page is more addictive than crack, or so I am told.
3. It is terrifying
So you have got your first blog, you’ve selected your name and written your first piece. All that remains is to click Publish. This is the scary part. Once you post your writing it is out there on the internet for everyone to see. There is no going back.
That’s not strictly true. With plenty of blog hosting sites you can go back and edit a post once it has been published. This is especially useful for correcting typos that you just didn't see the first time around. That said, I try not to mess with my posts once they are out there. The temptation is to keep tinkering with them but if that is the case you will never stop and you wont get around to writing the next piece.
It is important to remember that you are not going to fall madly in love with every post. You will look back and some will be much better than others. Annoyingly the ones I am most proud of didn't get as many hits as the ones I just threw out in five minutes but that is the nature of the beast.
If you are nervous about posting - don’t be. It is exhilarating. If all else fails my friend Sarah gave me some great advice - she told me to just write, nobody will read it anyway. Of course people read it but this advice does stand me in good stead whenever I am nervous about a post or article.
Word of warning here. If, like me, you do have a day job, check that your posts won’t land you in hot water with the boss. If you’ve ever been tipsy at the office Christmas party you’ll know that word spreads quickly and the last thing you need is your supervisor stumbling upon a post titled “Why I’d rather die than go to work today”. It is the same as your Facebook status or tweets. Blog freely but be aware of the risks. Personally I don’t mention my work in my posts apart from to say that I like it, which is true, but also won’t do me any harm should the boss find my blog.
4. Tweets for my tweets
How much you do this depends on the point of your blog. If you just want to write for yourself and would prefer if close friends and family read it but not the wider universe then consider having them sign up to an email list. That way when you post they will get an email.
If you have ambitions of being the next Lena Dunham (don’t we all?) and you want people to read your writing in the wider context then Facebook and Twitter are idea for spreading the news. Using key words such as “New Post!” in your updates can improve the chances that they will get read. Including a sharing option at the end of every post allows readers to share your post over various platforms. Most sites have the facility to shorten your post url or internet address if you need to squash it into to 140 characters or less, if not then Google has a facility to do this.
For beauty bloggers Pinterest is also excellent but I have no idea how to work it. I am still getting my head around Google+ so if anyone could help me with that it would be greatly appreciated.
Twitter is fantastic for getting to know other bloggers. Whatever you blog for and wherever you are in the world there will be a blog chat for you. I recently joined in to #BlogHour which is every Tuesday at 9 GMT. I was nervous at first because you feel as though everyone knows each other and you’re the new kid at the party. I quickly realised that this isn't the case. I felt able to ask questions and learnt some really useful titbits simply by including #BlogHour in my tweets. There is #lbloggers for lifestyle blogging, #bbloggers for beauty and so on. I would definitely recommend.
In addition to the blog chats there are retweet websites that some people find useful. This means that if you tweet your post to a site such as @UKBlog_RT provided it is interesting they will retweet it to the rest of their followers. I’m currently deciding whether these are worth doing or whether they just clog up the newsfeed but it’s worth a go if you want to increase your readership.
While I am on it - don't be worried if your Twitter numbers go up and down. Twitter is a very fickle little bird and there are some people who will follow you just so you follow them and then unfollow you. Don’t be offended, these people aren’t going to be the ones spreading the word about your blog so who needs ‘em.
5. Beware of the Trolls
This is a cautionary tale and I don’t want to put you off posting. Trolls have been very much in the media recently and I am sorry to say that they do exist. These are not the mythical trolls under bridges scaring goats, these are people who appear to have nothing better to do with their lives than post hateful comments on Twitter and other sites. I had one episode of trolling 4 posts into my blog. He left a comment on a post along the lines of “get your fat fingers off the keyboard and stop typing”. I was really shocked when I saw the notification. I have the comments on my blog filtered so that I have to approve every comment before it goes on the site. I was so embarrassed and upset by what this man had said that I deleted the post and decided to ignore it.
Then the more I thought about it the angrier I got. This man had no idea that it had taken a lot of courage to start writing and yet here he was trying to get me to stop. I decided I wouldn't let him get his way. I published his comment and even went as far as dedicating my next post to him (http://sophieshewrote.com/2014/07/25/are-you-there-troll-its-me-sophie/) He put another comment up but I haven’t heard from him since.
Hi if you are reading this.
Unfortunately trolls and trolling are more commonplace than ever. You may get some unsavoury comments on your posts and how you deal with them is entirely a matter for you. If they are aggressive or violent in nature then they should be reported. I would urge you not to think of these people as being representative of your readers as a whole or the internet community. Just because they think your fingers are fat doesn't mean that they are. Do not let them dent your confidence or make you give up writing if it is something you love.
After posting about my troll I received so many supportive comments from fellow bloggers that I was really pleased I had posted it. Not everyone out there is a bastard. Trust me.
6. Bloggers are a lovely bunch
The best advice I could give would be to interact with fellow bloggers as much as possible. This can be done through the twitter chats mentioned above or through following their blogs. If you find a blog that you enjoy, write a comment. Make the comment interesting and engage the writer in conversation. I love it when people comment on my blogs, especially if they aren’t related to me (hi dad). The fact that they have found it is a wonder in itself but that they like it so much to say so is just lovely.
If someone comments on my blog or tweet I will always comment back. It is common curtesy. I also would have a pop over to their blog to see the kind of things they are writing about and return the favour. I have built some really good friendships in the past few months and the community is a great source of support. Bloggers are the best!
If you want to expand your writing past your readers then look out for guest blogging opportunities. I have submitted articles to Thought Catalog and 12 Most. Sites like Huffington Post accept guest bloggers and there is some really good advice to be had about how to get your submissions accepted. I have a regular post on a different blog that I adore www.secretsofatwentysomething.com). I’ve submitted essays to be include in anthologies although to date they haven't been picked up. This can be disappointing but I got some great feedback from the author and I have a wealth of material to use should I ever need to. It is a learning curve and don’t worry if you fall at the first hurdle. I guarantee someone else has fallen there too. It is important that you keep going.
7. Write here, write now
At the end of the day your blog is for you. It is your piece of the internet to do with as you wish. Big or small, it is your baby and you know what’s best for it. Take people’s praise and criticism but know that it is your opinion that counts the most.
If you are trying to decide whether to blog or not, just do it. It is a really exciting journey. You might not win a Pulitzer but you will get better at writing, meet lots of lovely people, and you will be amazed at the confidence you gain and support you receive.
Go on. Be Bold!
If this has been in any way helpful I shall be eternally grateful if you could vote for my blog Sophie, She Wrote at the UK Blogging Awards 2015. I am nominated in the Lifestyle and Most Innovative categories.
You can vote here:
Vote here (Most Innovative)
Vote here (Lifestyle)
Feel free to pop along to sophieshewrote.com and have a look at my other blabberings on.