Her name is Mel and although I’d never met her before, she lives in the next street. She needed access to my garden which backs onto hers, to put up a fence. She recognised me from my Twitter profile and some local advertising I’d done for my makeup workshops, so we started chatting.
Until a couple of months ago, Mel was a successful blogger with over 40,000 followers. She has since sold her blog and is now writing her first cook book. I was only just starting to get the hang of social media and asked if I could take her out for a coffee and pick her brains.
That coffee turned into a long, inspirational coaching session about how I could start a blog aimed at women just like me, as a creative outlet between recruitment assignments (my real job). I admit I was attracted to the idea of receiving the occasional invitation to a launch or a product to review.
But I’m a techo-novice, where would I start?
The following week at one of my regular networking meetings, I met the rather marvellous Lucy Hall who gave a talk about the dos and don’ts of websites and social media and I knew I’d found my answer.
Lucy got straight to work on my website, creating a template with all the widgets and tools I’d need. She devoted several hours showing me how to manage it myself – overlooked by her cat Poppy.
Here’s what I’ve learnt during the last six months as a complete newbie, without any experience of blogging – just a few ideas in my head, a computer and the ability to write in plain English.
- Find a niche
There are millions of bloggers out there, so the best way to stand out from the crowd is to find a niche. I chose to go for a broad subject – lifestyle – but a narrow readership: the over 40s. The majority of lifestyle bloggers are in their teens and twenties, as are their readers. So writing for the over-40s is a less crowded market. Most women in their 40s and beyond who I talk to say they don’t read blogs, but I believe that will change. Only a couple of years ago Twitter wasn’t used for business and was barely used by my peers – and look at it now. As Google picks up more blogging sites in its natural searches, blogs are where readers will go for their product reviews, or to chat with like-minded people.
- Know your audience and write with them in mind
I may have a relatively small audience at the moment compared with DeliciouslyElla and CiderwithRosie – two blogs I particularly enjoy, but I’m not going to deviate from my course. I am approached by brands every day who would like me to write about their products, but if it’s not appropriate for my demographic, I politely decline.
- If you wouldn’t use it, don’t review it
I have decided that rather than give a poor review for a product, I’d rather not write about it. That’s my choice – to keep the blog upbeat and positive. For example I was sent some expensive skincare products which were full of chemicals. I’m not going to put those on my skin, so I just returned them unopened and with a polite note.
- Social media is your friend
Social media is quite literally my friend. I spend so much time researching and writing alone in my office, it’s great to get feedback and chat on social media. I’ve collaborated with a fellow blogger in the USA who found me on Twitter as well as meeting local entrepreneurs in the flesh.
- Get involved, network and share
It’s important to get out and about. It’s all part of the learning process. I’ve been shown great tips and been recommended websites and apps by other bloggers. Meeting people face to face is also the best way to explain what you do and encourage people to read your work. But don’t forget, it’s not all about you. Commenting and sharing other people’s posts give a great boost to your fellow bloggers.
- Be authentic
A large chunk of my writing is personal stuff – oversharing some might call it. I find it really therapeutic to have the occasional rant on the blog, or share something meaningful about health or family life. These posts make a connection with readers and I love that sense of community.
- Not all your friends will read your blog, get over it
My mum and my mother in law are my biggest fans and read every post. My best friend never reads it. She’s busy and already knows my opinion about pretty much everything. Plus, I don’t read her fundraising strategy documents, so, touché!
- Celebrate your successes
Being accepted as a guest blogger on Huff Post Lifestyle was a highlight and I did tell the world. It’s on every profile page I have and I share every post on HuffPo as widely as possible. I was also very proud to get my first paid commission. I’m working on my own so no one is going to give me a promotion – I have to blow my own trumpet.
- Keep learning
I literally learn something new every day – whether it’s how to embed a video into a blog post, or how to use my new camera. I’m constantly learning. There are so many free resources for bloggers online. Lucy’s always there too when I have those panicky moments and think I’ve broken the internet.
- Enjoy it: if it’s a chore, take a break
I’ve been asked to write a couple of posts which became a chore. I’ve learned from this and say no to brands which don’t excite me. I have several posts which are unlikely to see the light of day because my heart just wasn’t in it. If you enjoy it, that will resonate in your writing. If you don’t, you’ll just end up procrastinating and resentful.