“[It’s the] Best job you’ll ever have—you’ll change lives, slay dragons, love the hunt more than you’ve ever dreamed because Olivia Pope is a good as they say…. I’m a gladiator in a suit because that’s what you are when you work for Olivia, you’re a gladiator in a suit. Do you want to be a gladiator in a suit? You gotta say it.
I want to be a gladiator in a suit.” _Scandal, Season 1, Episode 1, opening scene
Exchange “Olivia Pope” to “Having a successful blog” and exchange the word suit for plane or car or boat or train and you’ll have an idea of how I feel about what I’m currently doing…
I know. I haven’t had a blog long enough to speak on starting a blog, right? I need a year of experience, sponsors, paid expenses, a few published articles in order to speak as an expert. WRONG. I’m still in the thick of it, the insanity, the whirlwind tour, the honeymoon stage, the roller coaster ride. I’m still fresh. Fresh enough to speak on this topic from a sharp perspective because everything I’m about to tell you, I still feel. I’m still in. I’m still experiencing–even drafting this post.
Disclaimer: I say none of this to discourage. I push despite all of what I’m about to reveal. Nothing worth having is easy. I want people to know everything I’m learning so you can arm yourself with truth and prepare for one of the best decisions you’ll ever make…
“What I’m about to propose to you is both highly lucrative and highly dangerous. If that doesn’t seem like your particular brand of vodka, help yourself to as much food as you like and have a safe journey, no hard feelings. Otherwise, come with me…” (Oceans 11)
So You Wanna Start a Blog, Now What?
1. Let me congratulate you…
…On admitting that you might be crazy. Admission is the first step to recovery, right? My decision to start a travel blog cracked my introverted little world wide open and suddenly, I have all these possibilities. But, not one day has gone by that I don’t sit in front of my laptop or cell phone or tablet and think to myself, what the hell have I gotten into? Not because of the possibilities, but because of all the little details involved in seriously shifting your world to creating a blog.
Now, I should add, I’m not outlining my detailed, Obsessive Planner’s steps on how to create a blog. That will come on a later post. I am highlighting some of the aspects of creating a blog that we sometimes miss.
Unless you already know how to code (in which case, I ADORE YOU), the moment you make the decision to start a blog, you become immersed in a new world:
- First, your blogging platform.
- Next, your web host (this took me DAYS to decide. I researched every major host and read countless reviews and comparisons. Even after I selected, I went back and forth over hosting plans).
- Choose a domain name–this ended up being the most frustrating thing of all, for me. I love my name though so the effort paid off.
- Select a theme; not as simple as it sounds, I took hours.
- Create a logo. Easiest thing I’ve done with my blog to date.
- Craft your theme with photos, pages, plugins (and I research EVERY plugin I use, compare them similar plugins I don’t use) until your site looks the way you always dreamed.
- Set up email lists and providers, subscription forms and follow ups.
- Write your “About” page. Edit your “About” page about 12 times.
- And finally, you draft your first post, edit your draft until words blur into each other, and publish!
That’s it! You’re done…only you’re not. Your blog becomes your brand, an extension of you. Your blog is a business. You should approach your work as such. Just when you think you’ve learned all you need to know about your blog, your brand, your pages, your posts, you turn a new corner and discover more to learn, more to research (see #3).
The plus? Now, I speak a new language. I know words that existed behind computer screens, have access clubs I never knew the codes to get into. The knowledge gained in this new world makes me smile every single day because a year ago, I would not have guessed I’d be attempting to educate on how to start a blog.
2. Say goodbye to all of your free time (and your sleep)!
When you start a blog, just wave at free time as it passes you by while you sit and labor for hours and hours and (damn where did the time go?) I miss sleep. Sleep doesn’t even get to visit on weekends. My body has had to adapt to 6 hours or less.
If you’re one of the brave ones who saved up and quit their 9-5 job, I applaud you. You may have about .2% more free time than I do. To those who choose to keep your day job (or can’t afford to let it go), welcome to 20+ hours days and sleepless nights. I’m still surprised I didn’t kick, scream, and bite the heads off of my fellow co workers from the lack of sleep. And food. I would tell myself to pack it in at 9:00pm. Then midnight rolled around and I felt like only 5 minutes had passed for how much work I felt I had gotten done.
Seems to take hours to create or change one small thing. Tutorials I read or heard continuously said in bright, chipper voices, “This is super easy.” I wanted to toss my laptop across the room. I felt stupid and lost about 90% of the time, especially if my efforts didn’t turn out the way the YouTube tutorial did. After I finished creating my blog and published my first post? I emerged from a week-long stupor, slowly climbing out of a hazy fog, eyes blurry, mind disoriented. I had missed several Netflix premiers. I even missed the Scandal Season 6 Finale!! (insert shocked face!)
I still haven’t gotten any sleep. But I see the effort paying off in little things, little ways each day. One big thing on one day. When acknowledgement happens, I smile. I remember the days I tried to work off 4 hours of sleep or skipped a meal. I remember the frustration and the curse words and the loud clapping when I needed to clear my brain and think, This is why I’m doing this. Feels like I ran 10 miles and am completely exhausted, but the endorphins kick in and I’m 2am giddy. I am giddy everyday.
3. This is about more than just your blog.
You’ve installed WordPress. You’ve selected your choice for self hosting. You’ve finally chosen your beautifully crafted theme and warped it to your general pleasure. You drafted your first post, received the green light from SEO, uploaded your photos. Your blog sings to you in your sleep, dances with you in the shower… But, you’re not done.
Welcome to social media, the other half of your job. You think you know about social media because you have a personal Facebook account, but you have NO idea. If your product, your service, your adventures comprise about half of the job, social media completes the other half. Social media helps build the other half.
Most experts tell you to pick 2-4 social media giants (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+) and devote your life to them. Ironically, each of these experts has 5-7 social media icons on their page. However, I support their advice; I only have 3. Regardless, if you create 3 or 10, monitoring and maintaining your social media presence is literally half of the job. Perhaps, later this chunk shrinks to a good third of the job; I’ll let you know. I’m on social media just as much as I’m editing the content on my site. Not surprisingly, the world of social media and blogging create a new set of topics, tutorials, and sites to research.
Get ready for Facebook groups, Pinterest group boards, Instagram business accounts, and analytics for ALL of it. Here’s the thing, when we use social media for personal reasons, we socialize more than anything else. When we use social media for business purposes, these platforms become true social NETWORKS. The references, advice, suggestions, tips I’ve received simply by being accepted into a group of similar bloggers? Invaluable.
I’ve learned things I didn’t even know I had questions about. With each new addition to my network, I prepare for the next steps in my blog journey–which, for a planner like me, definitely does a lot to ease the what the hell am I doing feeling I still have every so often.
4. Comparison is natural, but remember you’re the only YOU.
To start a blog, you need to read other blogs. I read other, successful blogger’s pages on a daily basis. Mostly on travel, but I also follow natural hair blogs and cosmetic vloggers (because I’m obsessed with both). I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, this page is beautifully simple…mine should look this way. Other times, I compare my domain name to another. Or my photos (I think I’ll do this my entire life). And each time I do this, I end up with this dark, dejected feeling coursing through my system as if what I produce needs work in order to stand next to these others. The feeling doesn’t last long, because I remind myself of the very thing I’m telling you now:
In this great, big, beautiful world, there is only one YOU. So while millions of other bloggers have tried every concept, every theme, every tone, shade and color–YOU haven’t tried them yet. Which means, you get to bring a brand new perspective to the game, perhaps one that someone else looks for in their searches.
I think comparisons, at times, help improve our own work. Other people can inspire greatness. Just don’t get so bogged down in what others so, that you dismiss your fabulousness. Especially if you devote yourself to your blog the way I’m learning that you must in order to succeed.
5. Your Blog is now the Love of your Life…so treat it well.
Love your blog. Caress it. Seduce it. Don’t neglect it for other lovers; your blog is a jealous blog. Devote your time and energy and passion to its well-being. And your blog will reward you. I believe this.
Like any other lover or spouse or significant other, they can frustrate the hell out of you. You get mad, get sad, storm out, go quiet. You may even contemplate walking away for good, but real love has a foundation that makes separation difficult. lol, I have days I want to ignore my blog, and I have now learned to give myself minutes, hours, a day if needed. But I can’t walk away–I haven’t visited all the places on my list (a list that keeps growing)!
A general rule? You get back what you put in. Your blog, your business cannot grow without you, your effort. All my crazy days and long nights drive me crazy, but then I look at the work I’ve done. I see the site I’ve created and remember the comments from others. I’m proud of this. Even at nearly midnight on a Friday when sleep is whispering to me from the bedroom.
I’m bound to have many more frustrating days and nights. Many more moments when I just want to chuck my laptop at the wall or delete my entire page. Moments when I think I could have better traffic, more likes, stronger posts. I will have moments when I want to give up, run away–but Gladiators Don’t Run. I hope you don’t either!
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The initial section of the title comes from the hit ABC show Scandal, Season 4, Episode 4.