On July 16th, 2011, I wrote my very first post. It was a super short post (more like a journal entry) that I didn’t put much thought into, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about SEO. I was tempted to delete it when I rebranded but I decided to keep it. It represents my beginning as a blogger and I never want to forget how far I’ve come. Ironically that post sums up my “WHY” in 3 short lines.
RELATED: Why I Blog
As I reflect on my 5 years as a blogger, I’m a grateful and humbled by how far I have come and how much I’ve been able to accomplish. What started as an impromptu decision to start a blog (as a way to get out of my comfort zone and share my natural hair journey, ) has led me down the path of becoming a full time entrepreneur. Along the way, I have built an online community, won an Award, spoken at numerous events, co-authored a book, started both a product based and service based business and so much more.
It has been an incredible journey, one that has been filled with highs and lows, learning and growing, triumphs and trials, but through it all I’m grateful for this platform to share my voice with the world. Blogging has helped me develop many new skills, and hone some of the ones I already had.
I mentioned before that I didn’t know what I was doing when I started my blog. I was literally learning as I went along. Although I was able to put my degrees in information systems/information technology and eBusiness to work for some things, there were so many new areas that I had to navigate. For someone who loves learning, it was fun for me to immerse myself into the community and learn everything I could about the world of blogging.
Almost everyday I get emails and messages from new and aspiring bloggers, or from people who are intrigued by the fact that you can make money from a blog. In my 5 years I have learned a lot about blogging and the business of blogging. Back when I started there certainly weren’t as many resources for new bloggers. In no particular order, here are some tips/bits of advice for new and/or aspiring bloggers.
1) Consistency – not just in content but in messaging and presence.
Consistency is important especially when you’re just starting out. Consistency will look different for everyone based on their goals, but if you’re trying to build an audience, creating new content at least 1-3 times per week is necessary. Consistency helps to build trust with your readers. It also lets them know that you are serious and that they can look to you for new content.
When you’re building an online brand, consistency in your messaging & presence are also equally important. It’s pretty much the basics of branding. Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon summed it up perfectly when he said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. To apply it to this scenario, it’s important to be the same person you are online as you are offline. In my 5 years “in the game” I have had numerous occasions where I met bloggers in person and they were totally different (not in a good way) to their online persona. Always be cognizant of the type of impression you are making. Trust me, people notice.
2) There is no one way to monetize your platform.
I remember when I first learned about influencer networks and the fact that you could work with brands and make money, I was really excited, and with good reason. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands over the last 5 years. While working with brands is awesome, I have seen many new bloggers hold this as the gold standard, and they often get discouraged when their efforts are not fruitful. The truth is there is no one way to monetize your blog/platform if you chose to do so.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to make money by creating your own products and services as well. Always think outside the box. Start by figuring out what problems/pain points people are experiencing and think of ways to solve those problems. What skills do you have? Put them to use. From eBooks, to workshops to physical and/or digital products, the possibilities are endless.
3) It’s ok to PIVOT.
In my 5 years of blogging, I have done a full rebrand and I have also pivoted a few times. As you grow, you may find that you need to change course. It’s OK. When I first started blogging, my blog was called “The HodgePodge Files”. As I grew the name just didn’t suit the direction I wanted to go in, so I rebranded. I also started out blogging primarily about my natural hair journey, but as my hair grew and I grew as a blogger and entrepreneur I needed to pivot a bit. Last weekend I spoke at Blogging While Brown on successfully rebranding your blog. I get emails all the time from people who are afraid to rebrand/pivot because they are scared to lose their audience. If you’re thinking about rebranding and need tips, I created this mini eGuide with tips and strategies for my Blogging While Brown presentation. If you’d like to grab it, you can do so HERE.
4) Someone is always watching, do your best.
This goes without saying, but someone is always watching. I have gotten opportunities because a brand/person saw my work and loved it. To repeat, someone is always watching 🙂
5) Relationships are important.
You know that saying that your “network is your net worth”? Well it applies here as well. Building genuine relationships with other bloggers, people in your industry and your audience can take you far. The emphasis here is on genuine relationships. Don’t go into it thinking about what you can get, but rather think about what you can give. Many of your opportunities will coming from these relationships. Build them and nurture them.
6) Blogger burnout is real and it’s ok to take a break.
It will happen. At some point you will get burnt out. Creating content, taking photos, making videos, editing, posting and engaging on social media all while dealing with life can take a toll on you. Sometimes you may even feel uninspired. It’s ok to take a break. If you do decide to take a break, let your audience now if you can. You can also recycle and schedule out content on social media in the mean time.
7) Go at your own pace, but don’t go alone.
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, hone your craft, invest in your brand and go at your own pace. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT compare yourself to other bloggers. I know it’s hard to do, and it’s ok to be inspired by someone, but keep your eyes on your own grass. 🙂
Having a tribe/support system is also helpful on your journey. It’s important to surround yourself with people who you can confide in, brainstorm with, look to for support and encouragement (and the occasional loving kick in the tush), and those who will push you out of your comfort zone. It’s important for your growth.
8) Always remember your WHY and stay true to yourself.
This one is pretty self explanatory. Always, ALWAYS stay true to who you are. This nugget from Blogging While Brown sums it up nicely.
— Vashti (@VeePeeJay1) July 17, 2016
10) This is hard work and don’t allow anyone to shame you about what you do.
Blogging is hard work, period. What people see as a completed post is the culmination of hours of prep time staging, taking and editing photos and video. I haven’t even included the time spent chasing the light and giving your husband directions so that he gets the right shot. 😉
I know there are many people who still don’t understand blogging or why you’re wasting time “playing on the internet”(*true story :)). If this is want you want to do, don’t let anyone make you feel bad or discourage you from spending time creating great content and getting paid to do so.
11) Build your email list – EARLY!
If I knew then what I know now, I would have started building my list much earlier.
Building up your social media numbers is great, but the bottom line is that you don’t own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of those platforms. If your social media accounts were to disappear, how will you communicate with your audience? Don’t build your house solely on rented land (social media), grow that list. Not sure where to start? Mailchimp is great for beginners and FREE up to 2000 contacts.
12) “You can’t build an empire on free stuff” – Ronnie Tyler
I remember the first time I heard Ronnie & Lamar Tyler speak, and Ronnie dropped this gem. “You can’t build an empire on free stuff.”
When I started out blogging, I used a free theme and DIYed my blog. I was on blogger then, and it was hideous, but at that time it was a hobby for me so I didn’t give it too much thought. I have nothing against DIY or FREE but the point is, if you plan on using your blog for business you can’t only rely only on free tools and resources. There are lots of freebies out there that you can use, but don’t be of the mindset that you’re only using the free stuff. Yes, a service like Mailchimp is free but once you pass 2000 contacts, you have to pay up.
I often hear many bloggers complain about the fact that they have to pay to advertise on Facebook. The truth is that it’s a cost of doing business. If you’re running a business, you have to operate like one. You have to invest in yourself & business if you want to grow. From tools (Quickbooks Self Employed is one of my faves right now), to coaching, to courses, to conferences, to marketing, if your goal is to build an “empire” you have to invest.
— Vashti (@VeePeeJay1) July 17, 2016
Whew…I certainly didn’t intend for this post to be so long but I really wanted to share my experience and some “behind the scenes” in the hopes that it can help someone else.
Can you do me favor? If you found this post helpful, please SHARE it with someone who you might need it.
Thank you again for your support of VeePeeJay. I would not be here to celebrate my 5th year blogging without your support. You are appreciated.
YOUR TURN: Do you have any other tips to share?
Thanks for reading
Thinking of starting a Blog? Check out this guide that I co-authored.