TO BLOG, OR NOT TO BLOG? MY THOUGHTS + TIPS ON STARTING A BLOG

I often get asked about how to start up a blog, or if I have any tips on where to get started, and although I would in no way class myself as an expert (HTML still scares the hell out of me), I’d like to thing I can offer a little advice for people wanting to dip their toes in the blogging world. First, let me tell you a little about how I got on the blogging bandwagon…

In 2009 I was in my first year at uni and loving life studying Fashion Promotion with Styling. Any fashion students out there will know that courses like this one are all about research, documenting your findings and even more research, so I started up this blog as another way to record my findings. Needless to say it didn’t really last that long as how I intended it to, and became more of a personal blog, or I suppose you could say a diary (which is what blogging started out as all those years back – shock horror!). When I started out I had no followers for a long time and I’m not even sure any one actually read it for a good year or so. I changed the name a few times before settling on Sitting Pretty, and even now, although I love it and see it as my online ‘identity’ so to speak,  I actually wish I had picked something else. I guess my first tip would to be to do a bit of research on blog names. If I had taken the time to google a few of my ideas I would have noticed that Sitting Pretty is the name of a LOT of other things, from chair companies to coffee shops. It’s taken four years of hard work to get the name recognised on google, and even now it still only comes up at the bottom of the first search page. That’s something that I’m actually pretty proud of, coming up so high in google’s search pages, however if I had just taken the time to pick something more original, I could have been top! 

Some of my very first outfit pictures. Don’t even ask me about those poses. I’m as horrified as you are! Cringe…

As I said, I was writing to myself for the best part of a year before anyone started to follow, which can be a little disheartening as you are working hard on something you’re proud of, but what most people seem to miss is that blogging isn’t an overnight success sort of thing. Yes there are some people who have been incredibly lucky and have gained followers at the speed of light and are doing some amazing things, but it doesn’t happen to everyone, and trust me, followers don’t mean everything. Don’t get me wrong, it still makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside when I see I’ve had one or two new followers one day, or even when someone leaves a comment, but it honestly doesn’t bother me what the number is. All I know is that I am doing something I love and I’m just happy to know that people are reading it and enjoying it (I hope), however many people that may be. 

This leads me on to goals. When I started, and still to this day, my goal as a blogger is to keep up a website that I can call my own, and hopefully it will be helpful and enjoyable to somebody out there. It’s my hobby and I love it. Some people may think I’m a bit sad or maybe even a bit of a loner, spending most of my weekends updating it and making sure I’ve done the posts I had planned for the week, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes I get gifted items and for that I am utterly overwhelmed, every single time, but that’s not what keeps me going. I’m so lucky to be able to work with some brands that I genuinely love, but for me that it just a bonus to a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy. Do not start a blog thinking that you are going to get showered with gifts. I’ve seen so many people start blogs with this as such an obvious intention, and then disappear after a few months. If your heart isn’t in it for the right reasons, don’t bother doing it.

So many bloggers and Youtubers are pretty much household names nowadays, and some I’d go as far to say have celebrity status, which is amazing to see as it goes to show that finally blogger’s voices are being heard and people trust their opinions. I used to blog way before 2009 (Live Journal, anyone?) and back then it was a bit of a hush hush sort of thing, where I’d be embarrassed to tell anyone about it, but now, bloggers are being applauded for their work and it has become more of a mainstream (I hate that word) thing. I will say that I think the community is changing though. There seems to be a lot more hate and jealousy about than there used to be, but you are putting yourself, your thoughts, your photos out on the internet for all to see, and odds on somebody out there isn’t going to agree with you, or just plain like you. Don’t get disheartened by it. You have to be pretty thick skinned to not let it affect you, but nine times out of ten it will happen – be ready for it! (Notice my comments form – I moderate my comments and delete all forms of hate before they are even published. Out of sight, out of mind!).

A selection of my (many) old blog headers. I used to change this as often as I changed my clothes as I get really bored easily. I still do like to freshen it up now and then but I’ve managed to create a layout that I’m really happy with and will (hopefully) stick with for a while now!

I guess what I’m trying to say, above everything else, is to be yourself. Spend those first lonely months of blogging finding your voice, your writing style, your niche. Find what sets you apart from the rest, and what makes you feel comfortable. Post as often as you like, and write about what you want to write about, not what you think others want to see. I would rather read someone’s blog who has something different to offer than the same old same old that everybody talks about. It has taken me over four years to where I am now and I’m so happy and content with my blog. I’m no big shot in the blogging world. I don’t see it as a career for me as I juggle it with a 9-5 job (amongst many other things!), but I work hard at it and I do class it as ‘work’ in a sense.

I’ll finish with a few more tips that I’ve seen success from myself, but these may not all work for you…

– Once you’ve settled on a name, stick to it and use it for your Twitter and Instagram handles, too. This makes you easier to find!

– If you’re not in the mood to write, then don’t! Have a break for a day or two and come back to it refreshed and with new ideas.

– Set yourself up on Bloglovin. I’ve found that a lot of my newer readers are on there rather than Google Friend Connect. People find it easier to use as they can see all their favourite blogs in one place.

– Chat to fellow bloggers! Don’t be scared, bloggers don’t bite! (None that I’ve come across anyway). Strike up a conversation with someone on Twitter. Leave a comment on someone else’s blog if you loved their post. Throw yourself into the community, as it’s a pretty great one to be part of.

– Don’t spam!! There’s nothing worse than seeing comments pop up with bloggers begging to be followed. Odds on, I won’t even look at your blog. It may sound mean, but I don’t like to be forced in to anything. If I want to read your blog I will! By all means, leave a link. I always check out the blogs that leave me a nice comment and a simple link, but tell me to follow you back because you followed me, with a whole paragraph telling me why I should, and I won’t do it! 

– Share the love! If you’ve found an amazing blog, tell people about it! Some of my favourite blogs have come from other people’s recommendations. You never know, you might be on to the next best thing! 

– Join in with Twitter chats. You’ve probably seen them flying around with the #fbloggers/#bbloggers/#lbloggers tags. Have your say in these! They are a great way to find new blogs, learn some hints and tips and just generally be a part of the blogging community. You can follow a couple of the chat Twitter accounts here and here to find out more about when they take place and what the topics are.

– Enjoy it! Do it for you and no one else, and by your own rules.

I really hope this didn’t bore you to the soul, and I would love to think that it will be helpful to some of you who are thinking of starting a blog, or have just started and aren’t sure how to kick things off.

I’d love you to send me all your links so I can check out your blogs and find some lovely new reads!

Have you recently started a blog? What advice would you give to someone getting started in the blogging world?

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10 Comments

  1. February 7, 2014 / 7:04 pm

    Hi Claire, i've started a new blog recently, and I read that you liked to changed your lay out quite a lot. To be honest, I've been struggling with that part of my blog. I can't seem to find how to put a follow button for bloggers, and Instagram etc. Can you help me? x

  2. February 7, 2014 / 7:08 pm

    This is such a great post!
    I've sort of hit a little stale part of my blog at the minute.
    I had to take a few months out to focus on my degree and I find a lot of followers have left me, I'm struggling to find new followers and my stats seem so much lower! So disheartening but I remember that I blog for me and that's why I carry on 🙂
    It's such a great thing to do isn't it? Watching something you create grow.
    It is scary putting yourself all over the internet – some mornings I love my outfit, go out, take photo's and when I look back at them I think ew, did I really look like that? Hahaa!
    But that's the brilliance of being a blogger.

    In terms of a voice I defintily know what you mean – although I haven't come out of the "blogger closet" yet to my friends. To scary! I don't think my blog is "big" enough yet, and I often feel like a bit of a poser in my pictures. To be honest, I still don't know if I feel like a "blogger", I constantly think oh, I must photograph this to blog about, but I still worry I don't fit the profile. I don't feel like I'm pretty or fashionable enough to blog. I just do it for me really!!

    Great post 🙂

    (PS – Loving the old snaps ;))

    Kelly from |Day Dreams & Daisy Chains

  3. February 7, 2014 / 7:50 pm

    Hi Claire, I've just set up a blog and I read that you freshen up your layout with your and change your blog headers a lot. I'm having difficultly in changing these and making them eye catching to the readers. Can you me any advice?

  4. February 7, 2014 / 8:15 pm

    Thank you for this post – I have just started my blog and it can be intimidating seeing so many other bloggers who have so many followers and comments (including blogs that actually started after mine), but I just remind myself that I started my blog as a creative outlet to write about the things that I want to write about (even though it is still nice when someone comments to say hello!) I work 9 – 5 and have a few other hobbies, but I'd like to keep blogging up if possible – it is a nice feeling to press that little orange Publish button and see my writing go live!

    (and well done for sticking to blogging for five years!)

    x

  5. February 7, 2014 / 9:52 pm

    I have been following your blog for a while now, and have been admiring yours posts and fashion sense. I love that your blog stays true to who you are and it comes through in this post (even if you do change your layout a lot, i do to!) I enjoyed reading this post and it has given me more confidence in not giving up on my blog and writing for myself 🙂
    Thankyou x

  6. February 9, 2014 / 12:41 am

    I love the outfits you've put above. You've a real knack of putting outfits together. Thank you for all your tips as I've recently started a blog so this has been really useful.
    http://www.lornamai.co.uk/blog

  7. February 9, 2014 / 8:55 pm

    Some great advice here for newbies. It's so easy to get disheartened as a new blogger, but it's important to remember that everyone started somewhere!

  8. July 29, 2014 / 1:11 pm

    All good advice. I run a fairly successful blog already, which is very specific to one subject, but just started a second one which is more general, 'lifestyle-y', and gives me the chance to do some proper writing. I'd forgotten about the awkward bit at the beginning where you're basically just writing to an audience of yourself!

    -Nicola
    http://www.andyetsofar.com

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