10 Things I've Learned About Blogging

Blogging has been a big part of my life in the past year + and I've learned alot from the time I've spent here on this space and in our community.  It's been such a rewarding and fun journey. I'm so very thankful for it. And though I'm really no expert and in many ways I'm still a rookie, I've lately had a few conversations with friends about blogging and received some e-mails asking for blogging tips so I've decided to share 10 things that I've learned about blogging - through trial and error, teaching myself, and learning from others. May you be inspired!
1 // Be true to yourself. Sounds cliche, I know. But it's OH SO TRUE. Be yourself. Don't copy anyone else. Don't try to fit into some "blogger mold." Write about what you wanna write about; write what God has put on your heart  - even when no one else is talking about it and even if it's controversial (like when I wrote about "50 Shades of Grey" and when I talk about sex, pornography, & virginity.) Be upfront about what you believe. Don't be shy. Be fearless and brave. And you will go far, I promise. Also, I have learned to be accepting and grace-filled. Not everyone will agree with you. You will encounter other bloggers and readers who are on a totally different page. Blogging has helped me learn to embrace differences, and to love and be friends with those who disagree with me. Love wins, grace is necessary. And we are not here to judge everyone all the time, we're here to love. I pray that my blog never comes off "judgy", legalistic, or harsh - I want my words and the things I share to be seasoned with passion, grace, and kindness. 

2 // Don't focus on "getting followers", just be a friend. There's a big, beautiful community in this blog world and it's one of the absolute best things about blogging. I have truly made some very close friends through blogging. So, don't just try to "get followers" - meet friends and be a friend. Read other blogs, really read them - and leave thoughtful comments. Show them you care, that you really read their post. Even if you only have time for a few words. It can be a huge turn-off when people comment and clearly just want to play the follower game - when they say something generic like, "Here's my link! Wanna follow me if I follow you?" I've followed lots of bloggers this past year and I try to always share something I genuinely loved about their blog, to use blogging as a way to encourage others. But I usually do tell them if I followed them and sometimes I include my link so they can find me if they like, and so they know who I am. I personally never mind if someone tells me they followed me! When they do, I always try to follow back. It can be a fun way to help each other build readership, and to be true friends and readers! The main thing to remember is to be real and genuine. And to treat others how you would want to be treated. Just 'cause there's a computer screen and miles between us, we should still treat people right.  
3 // You CAN teach yourself how to be a blogger. Just do a little research.
When I made an account on Blogger, I dove headfirst into blogging with absolutely no knowledge or skill in graphic design, HTML, or photo editing. Through trial, error, lots of mistakes, some tears and frustration - I taught myself how and you can too! If I didn't know how to do something, I literally Googled it until I found an answer. For instance, when I didn't know how to make a blog button I simply Googled, "How do I make a blog button?" and sifted through shady "How To" websites and random blogs until I found and answer, and then walked through each step until I got it right. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Trial and error, but usually I figured it out. 
To help a sister out, I want to share a few links to tutorials I've found helpful 
4 // Content is what keeps readers coming back. I really believe this. A cute header is great, pretty buttons are awesome, and a well-designed sidebar is helpful. But it's not what hooks readers. Content is the main reason people will continue coming back, add you to their blog roll, subscribe, and follow. I go back to a blog because something about it moves me, inspires me, encourages me, makes me laugh, or just helps me somehow (whether that be that it helps me learn how to make a fabulous DIY project or it helps me work on a serious heart issue or helps grow my faith in the Lord.) Don't underestimate your content, and fight for it. Your blog is your baby - be careful with the integrity of it, don't sell out, and stay true to your heart! 

 5 // You will have writer's (or blogger's) block at some point. Here are some tried & true cures. According to your's truly, in no particular order ;) 
  • Drink some strong, sweet coffee. 
  • Turn on James Taylor music.
  • Eat some chocolate (actually, do that when really anything goes wrong!)
  • Light a candle. 
  • Spend some time with God, read your Bible, listen to worship music.
  • Get out and take a walk, breathe fresh air, or just experience real life.
  • And if all else fails, go to Target.
And if it doesn't go away, walk away. Don't post that day. It's okay. It's better to not post one day than to force it. Readers smell forced posts a mile away. (At least I think so.)

 6 // Use big, full pictures. My friend Heather taught me this last year in this post on blogging. I love thinking of my blog as art and like to lay it out almost like a magazine - big, full, pretty, inspiring pictures. I personally have a hard time reading blogs that have teeny-tiny pictures. I think big pictures help readers get to know you and help you make your point in writing. I don't have the best camera because I can't afford one right now, but that doesn't stop me! I use my iPhone alot of the time, and make it work. Don't feel like you can't post photoshoots or pictures because you don't have all the things you "need" - all you truly need is a little creativity and inspiration. You never know what might come of it! 
 7 // Haters will probably hate. Yep, sometimes people come outta the woodwork who don't like: a.) What you say, b.) What you look like, c.) What you believe, and d.) Who you are. It's just a fact. Sometimes, people will hate on you because they're just plain mean. And sometimes, they will simply misunderstand you and not "get" who you are and what you're saying. And let's not lie, that hurts. When you put yourself out there on your blog, you must have a sense of fearlessness. You have to be brave, even if you don't feel like it. When the fear of being criticized is surpassed by the passion to speak out about what you love and believe, then you will be fine. 

When haters do hate, listen to this: click here.

And remember what my man Paul Newman said, 
 And how can we not listen to him? Classy guy. Yes, I do love that quote. But I also wanted an excuse to add a picture of a classy man in a tux. (sorry, not sorry ;)

Anyway, let's just be sweet to each other, okay? Mmkay.

8 // There's no "right time" or "right way" to do sponsorships and advertising. I really think it's up to you and there's no hard and fast rule as to when you should start advertising. Or if you should do it at all. Making money on your blog does not mean you've "arrived" and it is not the definition of blogging success. I currently use Passion Fruit Ads, which makes it all super easy for everyone involved. I also love Adproval, a similar service. Whatever you choose, pray about it and do what feels right for your blog. 

9 // Be honest and real but set boundaries. The very essence of blogging is sharing your personal life, thoughts, heart, passions, beliefs, dreams, style, story, faith, struggles, creativity, and/or thoughts - blogging is a public affair, without a doubt. Be careful what you share. Respect those around you. There are parts of my life and story that I have and will not share here in this space, because, well - they involve other people and some of the stories are not mine to share. And that's okay. Be discerning. Never compromise a relationship by sharing too much about someone else. If you do talk about someone on your blog, ask them to read over the post first and OK it with them. It is a constant balance of being real and honest, while setting boundaries and keeping certain things sacred. I'm not perfect in this, but I try to pray through all the content I post and share. Once you publish something on the Internet, it's out there for the world to see. So be careful, and have firm boundaries on what you will and will not share before committing to blogging.

10 // The key to failing is.... trying to please everyone. You cannot please everyone. Be true to yourself. Have integrity. Be kind. Be gracious. You will make mistakes and have certain regrets, even in blogging. Pick yourself up and keep on going. And remember - stay true to what you are, believe, and to God and you'll be okay! 

So friends, what are your blogging tips? What have you learned?
Please share in the comments below - I would love to learn from you!

All my love.