Believe it or not, I’ve actually been blogging since 2009. (This doesn’t include all those high school years where I embarrassingly documented my life on LiveJournal.) And I’ve run two separate websites of my own during that time. So, I do have a lot of blogging experience, but I didn’t always know what I was doing.
Back in 2009, bloggers were really only just starting to get noticed in the press and sitting front row at New York Fashion Week. There weren’t many how-to guides on blogging. (Although, ProBlogger was my bible.) And there were only a few things I knew about blogging back then: 1) If you want it to be a business, treat it like a business, 2) Make sure your site looks great, and 3) Leave comments on other blogs. But here are a few others things I wish I knew when I started blogging:
1. Starting over is totally okay.
These days when you come to The Haute Notes, you typically see posts on blogging and business. But it wasn’t always that way. This blog started out with more of a lifestyle focus and featured posts on fashion and beauty. I thought that because I loved clothes and makeup and I was passionate about writing that it was a perfect fit. It was fun for a while, but it quickly started feeling like a chore and I knew it wasn’t the right path for me.
I actually felt like somewhat of a failure because I didn’t get it right the first time. I didn’t get it right way back in 2009. But that’s because I was a different person back then. I wanted different things. Had different interests. And that’s okay! I deleted all my old posts on my first website and started fresh. And I did the same thing with this one more than once. It has not been an easy path for me because I tried to force something that ultimately wasn’t for me.
Remember that it’s okay to change your path in life, even when it comes to blogging. If something isn’t working for you on your blog right now, don’t be afraid to rethink it and start over. We’ve all been through rebrands and starting over with a new website.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For the longest time I insisted on doing everything myself. And that included designing my own logos, when I have absolutely no design experience whatsoever. Trust me, you don’t want to see what I made for my first website and for this one. It will make you cringe. I always knew that I needed to have my logo professionally done if I wanted to be taken seriously online. I could just never bring myself to the spend the money and hire someone to do it because I wanted to be able to say I did it myself.
Fortunately, I came to my senses last year when I reached out to Kory Woodard to design my logos. And let me tell you, I couldn’t be happier with them still do this day. It’s been one of the best investments I’ve made.
Moral of the story? If you’re struggling with something or there’s a task that’s out of your skill set, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you’re hiring someone to do some work for you or you’re reaching out to another blogger for friendly advice, don’t be ashamed of getting help. I get emails from other bloggers all the time seeking advice.
3. You need to invest in your blog.
Let’s face it, if you want to be successful at blogging then you’ll have to spend some cash. When I first started in 2009, my website was on Blogger. Blogger was the most affordable option. I only paid $10 a year for my custom domain and that was it. The only other money I put into that blog was my theme so I could ensure my site looked great. (Looking back, I realize it was just okay. Ha!) At the time, I didn’t want to put a whole lot of money into the website.
Now, I realize the importance of spending the money when needed. The things you should be investing in? A great platform for your website (I prefer self-hosted WordPress), logo and web design, and a good camera (if you’re taking pictures). It’s also a great idea to spend money on courses, books, and coaching that can help you grow and get better at what you do.
4. People may steal your shit.
When I first started blogging, I knew by putting my content online there was the possibility of someone copying it or stealing it. But I never thought it would actually happen to me. I mean, I wasn’t the best blogger out there. Who would want to take my stuff?
And then it happened. I got an email from a guy I didn’t know, stating someone was using my photo for a fake Facebook profile. A photo that I took for an outfit post on my old blog. Fortunately, he thought the profile seemed suspicious and he did a Google Image Search on the photo, which led him to my blog. I still appreciate the fact that he was kind enough to reach out to me. But it was a scary! I had no idea what this person was intending to do with this fake profile and I didn’t want my face to end up on an episode of MTV’s Catfish. It took some fighting with Facebook, but I was able to get the profile removed.
The whole situation really caught me off guard and made me worried about putting myself out there. At this time, I wasn’t really posting on my old blog anymore, but it solidified the fact that it was time for me to move on.
Here’s how you deal: Don’t get upset or stressed out. Don’t let it deter you from continuing to share your work online. You can’t let something like that stop you. Handle it professionally and with class and do what you need to do to get the stolen content removed.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for money for your services.
That sounds a little dirty, but I swear that’s not how I meant it. What I do mean is that you shouldn’t always be working for free. In all the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve worked with a lot of brands and companies. I’ve gotten free stuff. I’ve been paid money for sponsored posts. But I’ve also done work for free in the past because opportunities came along and I was afraid to speak up for myself.
There’s nothing wrong with working for free if it can help build a relationship that will be beneficial in the long run. So, if you feel comfortable with it, that’s fine. But if you don’t feel okay working for nothing, don’t be afraid to speak up. You are providing a service and you should be repaid for that in some way or another, whether it’s monetary payment or a free gift. If a company wants you to write a promotional blog post and doesn’t mention compensation, ask them!
You’re providing them with publicity. You deserve to be repaid for the time and effort you put into the work you do for others. Stand up for yourself by setting rates and letting companies know what it costs to work with you.