So you have an idea for a blog?
I had been brooding about starting a blog. I sat on an idea about more intentionally capturing my travel experiences. I wanted to document what was happening, who I was meeting, and hold myself accountable to follow up on the questions I had in every place. A place where I could get as dorky and emo and self-reflective as I wanted to, but also a place where other people might see themselves in the stories. You can read more about my journey to start (this blog), but as the year winds down, here are 7 Lessons from 2015 that I learned about turning a passion project into a blog. I’m still learning, but if you too are toying with the idea of starting a blog (or insert euphemism for passion project, website, club, business), I hope these are helpful! Get to it! And merry new year 🙂
Nike got it right: JUST DO IT. There is really no substitution for what you’ll learn once you go live. Publish. Don’t let it be under construction in perpetuity. What are you really afraid of? Jump in.
Oh, hey fear. Fear is a helluva hater. Seriously though. What are you afraid of? That someone will hate what you write so much and continue to read your stuff until their eyes fall out? Or that someone will judge you, accuse you of sucking at life, writing, living? Or maybe you’re afraid of your secrets being published to the internet ether. The internet streets is mean. But trust me, when you start a blog, there’s so few people who will read it that being afraid of how people react to it should be inconsequential. Starting gets you on the road to practice; and it’s practice, discipline, and consistency that will eventually get you a following that gives a damn. Worry then, not before you push publish.
Get to know the neighborhood. It’s a wild wild world out there. Gone are the days where there were only a handful of beauty bloggers, natural hair stylistas, or travel photographers. There are thousands of people in the hood and you have to put in some work to learn a bit about the space. You have to commit to getting to know the blogosphere, meeting others, enrolling in blog writing courses, doing writing challenges with others, and finding community online. There are endless resources, free online courses, tutorials, challenges, and so on available all year round. They are fun and helpful to take part in as there’s always things you can learn no matter how solid a writer you are, or competent web designer. You can have the most interesting amazing content in the world, but if you don’t know how to network online and build relationships in the blog community, your faint whisper won’t be heard among the sea of voices in the internet ether.
Your networks won’t save you; they won’t read your blog…not even your BFF!Your friends and associates will be excited that you’re excited. They will click on your site the day it goes up, but those will not be your readers. It’s not personal. They love you, trust me. Refer to lesson learned above. Getting to know the blogosphere means understanding that there’s a massive universe of people who are inclined to read personalized writing by writers and non-writers alike. Sometimes those are your friends, but most likely they won’t be. You have to go out and find these readers. You also have to go out and find bloggers you like, wanna follow, are intrigued by. Starting a blog is like opening up a pastry shop and expecting all your friends who don’t really care for pastries to show up and buy enough to keep you afloat annually. They’ll be there at the grand opening and then on holidays and special drop-ins thereafter, but it’s the people who really really really like your brand of pastries who will keep your operation afloat. You have to do your own marketing, build relationships with other writers and bloggers, develop the kind of loyalty you hope others will have for your content. In some respects it’s quid pro quo; in other ways, it’s simply understanding the audience you care to share with, if sharing widely and consistently with others is your ultimate goal. If you are blogging sincerely because you need an outlet, then this is far less important. Even still, the reason any of us share our stories is because we hope that we might provide solace to someone else who too shares that experience, or might be inspired by it.
Website 101 ignorance won’t kill you or your pet project.Maybe you’re like me and you designed a few black planet and myspace profiles in your hey day. HTML hasn’t really changed has it? *gulp* It doesn’t matter, there are platforms that take all the pain out of the equation for you without you ever needing to lay eyes on a piece of morse internet code, and then there are others that let you take the reigns into your own hands. Either way, there will be a learning curve. Don’t let this stop you. Do your research on the platforms that seem to fit your needs, ask your friends who have blogs and websites you like, and choose a simple starter template that lets you get to blogging sooner rather than later. While presentation and aesthetics are important, remember, that in the initial few months, no one will be stampeding to your content. It’s a blog, not a black Friday sale. And trust me, it’s better this way because you will have lots of time and room to get the kinks out. Even perfect websites aren’t perfect, so don’t let that perfectionist attitude hold you back from pushing publish and committing to posting consistently.
Be public, talk it up, share share share. You should be proud of yourself for embarking on this pet project that I’m sure you’ve been thinking about since before everyone actually believed unequivocally that Bill Cosby was a rapist. Look. You’ll need the support and you’ll want the practice so be prepared to articulate your blog concept with others in confidence and then subsequently, to others less close to you. It’s a passion project that people should know you put time and effort into. You don’t have to tell your local homeless friend that you pass daily en route to work, or your awful supervisor, but surely anyone who cares about what’s happening in your life deserves to hear about this thing that you allocate a lot of worry and fear and anxiety toward. Share it on your fb feed, tell your friends at happy hour when you catch up with them, tell strangers if the conversation veers into things you’re excited about in life. Tell yo’grandma too because you’ll definitely need the practice of breaking down the concept into bite-sized easy pieces.
One day at a time young padawan. Sure you might have BIG dreams for this blog joint. You want to monetize, you want it to get you freebies, you want to be featured on Melissa Harris-Perry or a viral youtube video. Don’t drown in all the possible directions this thing can go. Today, when you push public, you still don’t even have a following and you can’t even get your Mom to get pass the homepage content. While plans are great and vision is the stuff greatness is made of, there’s no time like the present. Always be looking for ways to improve and tighten up your content, find a copywriter, invest in a good camera to bolster the quality of your visual content, engage with other bloggers, experiment with different voices/styles, bookmark opportunities to guest write for other outlets, brainstorm ideas for recurring thematic content, and so on. The key to continuous improvement is consistency, regularity, discipline, and learning. Take every opportunity you can to learn and study the issues you care to write about the most. Get to know those who write well about those issues and focus on improving your writing, the look and feel of your content day by day. There’s really no substitution for this. IT TAKES TIME.
Life happens, you get busy, Donald Trump says idiotic things — all fine reasons to pick it up and put it down. But, if you’re truly looking to take this idea of yours to whatever next level you’re dreaming of (and not everyone wants that for their blog which is totally fine), I hope there’s something in these lessons that struck a chord.
A wanderlusting intellectual millennial on a journey to let my curiosity get the best of me everywhere I go. I enjoy traveling and being immersed in the unfamiliar. I love cultural anthropology, urban planning, and pretending to know other languages. A dancer by training and a social scientist by dreaming; born in Washington DC, raised in Maryland, eight years a New Yorker, and a serial hobbyist. My current obsession is hoola hooping. I even do gigs and take my hoop when I travel. Fo’reals.