One of the top two questions I get asked over email is about blogging. How do I get started blogging? How do you become a blogger? What advice do you have for women wanting to start a blog? I wish I had time to sit down for coffee with each and every amazing soul behind each of these messages and emails and spend hours chatting back and forth about this crazy medium we call "blogging" and share all the little things I've learned along the way! I am by no means a blogging expert, but I was at the very cusp of blogging when it began. "Back in the day" when I started a blog, about 4-5 years ago, most people didn't really know what a "blog" was and even more people thought starting one was (whether they said it aloud or not) a little strange? Nerdy? Outlandish? And maybe a little big-headed? I lost some friends I really loved because I quit my job, moved home with my parents (at age 24) and started a blog because I dreamed of writing, ministering to women, and felt called to step out and start sharing my voice and heart on the Internet because they just didn't quite understand what I was doing and thought it was pretty weird. But my sweet parents and family supported me 110% and I am over the moon grateful that I followed the Lord's whispers to "start a blog" because it is the reason I met my husband, has led to two books I have had the privilege writing and publishing, and led to so so so many amazing opportunities of every kind: business, ministry, opportunities for the Lord to use my story to touch lives, and to build real friendships! Today, though, blogging is cool. I wandered into Forever 21 the other day (even though their clothes don't currently fit me... lol #preggoprobs) and noticed a white top that read in bold font: "BLOGGING ALL DAY."
It's fashionable to blog, now. We all acknowledge and see the "viral" bloggers on Instagram who make millions of dollars blogging. It's trendy and fashionable and something many people want to join in on. And they should! Everyone has a voice -- a unique voice -- everyone has a special passion, a precious story to tell, and if starting a blog is something on your heart, do it girl!
Because I so often get asked blogging/social media related questions, I thought I'd finally compile a little post with some thoughts and tips and links I have learned from in my experience. My years as a blogger have been so rich and beautiful -- and yet full of work and sacrifice, too. Before Squarespace made everything super simple, I just used blogger and spent many frustratedly tearful nights Googling "how to's" and learning HTML coding (which made me feel like a crazy person!)
1. Don't be caught up in the follower game, just be a friend. This one is haaaaard! It's so easy to just want to "go viral" and gain followers fast -- and I don't think it's wrong to want to build a following and desire to connect with people, make money on the Internet, and just let your voice, talent, or message be heard! But, I've found that the most organic, strong, and lasting growth of followers is to be a friend and truly take time to care about people. Spend time really taking time to leave kind, encouraging and thoughtful comments on people's photos (even if you do not follow them, because we can't follow everyone) Take time to reply to your follower's comments in a real way. And be kind. I am so grateful for my followers and readers. Meeting true friends on the Internet has been a blessing in my life and so much more important than just becoming "Insta-famous."
2. Squarespace is an easy platform to use for blogging! It is the platform I use here and I love it's ease.
3. This link is a good way to learn how to use Squarespace.
4. Learn some graphic design skills if you plan to become a blogger. There are tons of fabulous graphic designers out there that you can (and should!) hire to set up your branding. But, learning the basics -- just by Googling and looking up specific how-to's on Pinterest, taking the time to teach yourself basic photo editing skills, photography skills, writing skills, and social media connecting skills will pay off!
5. Be creative and don't copy. You are uniquely gifted, and we all have something to bring to the table. It may not look exactly like everyone else's Instagram, blog, or style. But that is ok! You have something to offer the Internet world that no one else does. How amazing is that! It can be easy to slip into comparing your style or blog to your peers. But, keep on doin' you. It's easy to find someone you wish you were more like -- and I think it is so wonderful to be inspired by other gals! But it's also easy to slip into copying and trying to be just like someone else's successful blog or Instagram page -- we all have such beautiful things to offer, so let's fight to be original. That is what will draw other likeminded people to follow along with our journey!
6. A good post on how to grow your Instagram following.
7. 50 tips and tricks to starting a blog.
8. My favorite iPhone editing apps are: VSCO, A Color Story, Afterlight, Facetune, Over, and A Beautiful Mess.
9. I edit my "real camera" photos on my computer using Lightroom and Photoshop. And a good website for photo editing: www.picmonkey.com
10. How to write the perfect "contact" page.
11. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard" and "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are" are two quotes I often recited when I first started my blog. In my experience, confidence and hard work are the two most important things to focus on while starting up a business on the Internet. Being kind to others and "networking" -- not by asking people for favors, but just genuinely trying to make friends, following likeminded bloggers, and just putting yourself out there with the gifts and talents you have. Write, take photos, create original art, make videos, design products! Be yourself and use what you have -- even if you don't have the best camera, the laptop you'd like to use, the money to buy a nice blog design. Start with what you have, work hard, and build from there.
12. My thoughts on haters: Haters gonna hate, so shake it off, right? ;) Sometimes, it's harder than that, though, to deal with mean comments, bullying, and hate mail. My heart on the whole subject: my blog is a space of GRACE. Of encouragement and inspiration. Of kindness. I barely have time to reply to my kind-hearted, well-meaning, wonderful friends and sisters. I certainly don't want to use my time arguing, defending, or wrangling it out with hate-mailers. Basically, I feel the same way as Kelle Hampton in her post on trolls and haters: here : "I appreciate meaningful conversations and differing opionins about everything from religion and politics to parenting, but personal attacks, demands and general 'you're doing it wrong, you suck!' comments simply aren't tolerated here. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Kissy emoticon. Handclap emoticon...... After years of allowing people to anonymously leave snarky comments-- because 'you put yourself out there, you should be able to take it.' -- I now adhere to the same rules I have in my home: if the dog s**** on the carpet, I clean it up." I am so thankful for the 90% of comments, emails, and words I receive that are life-giving and kind, and that's my focus. I pray for those who spread hate, though -- it's such a sad waste of a precious life and harms others significantly. Let's all be brave and kind, like Cinderella, mmmmkay? ;) Something I have honestly found even harder than dealing with typical "haters" is people I thought I'd made a friendship with through the "blog world" who suddenly "unfollow" me, stop connecting, and just drop off. Or, "real life" friends from college or church or even family members who don't follow along or support in any way. That's honestly been a struggle for me. But, I have had to realize and "suck it up" -- not everyone is gonna like you and me. Not everyone is going to relate with us. Or feel inspired by what we share. Or "get it." Some people may laugh and judge, think you and I are corny or silly or over-the-top, or just completely misread and misunderstand where we are coming from in general. Oh well! You can't please everyone and your brand won't be everyone's "thing." And that is okay. Focus on the friendships and followers you do have, invest in them, and ultimately -- focus on pleasing God, honoring Him with all you do online, and shakin' it off: the haters and the people who are just not interested in what you have to offer!
13. 50 Marketing Habits every business should have.
14. My Pinterest board on Blogging and Business with tons of great links I am learning from!
15. Periscope is a fun social media tool that many people love. I used it for a while but have decided that at this time, it's not something I can include in my schedule. But here is a great post with basics for beginners and good tips.
16. Implement "The Funnel." I attended Influence Conference a few years ago and heard a very wise concept from some of the speakers there (I literally cannot remember who spoke of this concept, so if someone does, shout her out!) The discussion that day was based on the truth that so many women decide to "quit the internet" because it just becomes way "too much" to handle. And I have to say -- after years of blogging and utilizing almost every form of social media at one time or another -- it can be a full-time job to "run" and juggle even one or two arms of social media. And it can be totally overwhelming. At the conference, the speakers shared the concept of not just going cold turkey and signing off all social media and blogging, but to "funnel" down to just one or two or three elements of social media, and not worrying about the rest. If Facebook stresses you out? Let it go. If running a YouTube channel is your thing -- do that instead of writing a blog! If you adore Instagram and the community there, focus your energy and time there and let Twitter go. Delete your Twitter account and don't worry about it! Choose just a few to focus on: maybe that looks like a blog, Pinterest, and Instagram. Or perhaps for you just a presence on Instagram is enough. Or just writing on a blog. Or simply posting on Snapchat. Do what works for YOU and don't compare, get stressed out and try to do it all. We just can't. Utilize websites, blogs, and social media to serve your business, ministry, passions and creativity. Not the other way around. Your time, family, relationship with the Lord, and calling is the most important thing. Not being on a website or social media 24/7. Take control of your online life and constantly reconsider and re-evaluiate what works and what doesn't. And if something doesn't work for you, then cut it out. Even if it works for everyone else!
17. I love this quote on taking good photos.
18. A helpful book on the business of blogging.
19. 4 steps to freedom from being addicted to your iPhone. My favorite post on something that is so difficult to control and manage for literally all of us who own an iPhone.
20. Be confident, be real, be authentic, be fearless, be YOU. And have fun! If blogging and social media drains you, stresses you out, steals your joy and peace.... if your iPhone is attached to your right hand, if your best friend is a screen and it's eating you alive, if you look at your "likes" and "views" instead of talking to your husband or enjoying your babies, if you find yourself waking up in the morning and spending mindless time on a social media app instead of in quiet conversation with those you love or feeding your soul in His word and peace, if a hater or unpleasant comment completely ruins your day, if you obsesses on unfollows or follows, who likes you, who ignores you, or "that girl" who is so much like you and even seems to copy you or simply just does "it" better than you and you just can't stop talking about it and letting it rub you the wrong way, and if your happiness and mood, joy and peace is based on how many likes, social media, sponsors, etc etc you have gotten -- seriously, make some changes. Take a break. Step back for a season. Delete apps. I am in a season of re-thinking my blog and social media, because I am about to have a baby boy and I want to continue (and feel led to continue) certain aspects of my business/ministry on social media and blogging, but I also don't want a moment stolen away by mindless scrolling or out of control screen time. So, I am prayerfully deciding how to move forward in a whole new life season! When I started my blog, I was 110% SINGLE! And I had so so much time to reply to emails, build a following and business and ministry, and blog without a schedule, even. Now, my time is limited and is becoming more limited. Having boundaries and recognizing the season you are in currently is so important. And can be really blessed and such a good part of life if handled correctly. I hope and pray we all can glean joy and good things from this crazy things called the Internet, blogging, and social media and use it for His glory!