I still very much consider myself to be a new blogger. After all, I only started writing online in May – and even then its been sporadic as I’ve been finding my feet (and moving countries). The last 8 months or so have been a massive learning curve for me, so it seems only fair to share my experiences in the hope that it helps others thinking of starting their own blogging journey (which I highly recommend by the way – it’s been fantastic so far!).
So, as the end of 2015 approaches, here are the 5 really bloody difficult things I’ve experienced since starting Needs More Cushions, as well as how I’ve dealt with them. I hope they’re useful.
Hurdle 1: Time
Blogging takes SO much more time than I ever realised. Seriously. When I started out, I thought it was just a case of having some good ideas for posts and getting the site set up. Simples, right? Ha! How wrong I was. At one point I was so revved up and organised, I had four posts drafted that I spread out for publication over the course of a week. And that was my plan – keep writing continuously so I had posts ready to go each week and some in reserve in case I was busy/travelling/ill/feeling lazy. It was a good plan, but it just wasn’t feasible when working full time. That blog-filled week came and went and I hadn’t written any other posts. The result? A three-week gap before I managed to get out new content. Oh dear.
It’s worth saying now that ideas and inspiration really do come and go, no matter how excited you are when you first start your blog. And let’s face it, everyday life can be super busy, especially if you’re working or have kids or are in the middle of a house renovation etc. I definitely failed to adequately factor real life in as I was so caught up in the excitement of blogging for the first time.
So how do you deal with the time commitment required for blogging? Well, for me at least, the trick has been to be honest with myself about the time I can dedicate to writing. Four posts per week is not sustainable for me, so I now aim for one or two, high quality posts a week instead. I also carry round a notebook so I can jot down ideas for new posts or note new brands, designers or shops that I come across to look up when I have the time.
Hurdle 2: All the other stuff
Yeah, so writing blog posts is key – it’s the reason people come to your site in the first place and decide whether or not to come back – but that’s not all there is to blogging. These last few months I’ve learned that it is also essential to have good quality photos in your posts (preferably your own images). This is especially important if you are writing about interiors, fashion or anything else creative, as the images tell their own story, showcase your talent and attract new readers.
It doesn’t stop there either – in order to get people to know your blog exists, its also fundamental to promote it via social media. For me that meant actually using Twitter rather than just having a largely inactive account, and also required me to set up Pinterest and Instagram accounts and be active on them daily. I don’t yet have a dedicated Facebook page, though it is on the to-do list. In a nutshell, this all takes time – working out what to post to which site and when, and ensuring you balance out promoting your own content with highlighting others’ work – it all needs to be factored in to the weekly schedule.
Learning how to use my hubby’s Digital SLR camera (it’s mine now hehe…) as well as getting to grips with new social media platforms has been one of the biggest time investments I’ve made this year, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding. I’ve taken a few online courses to help me and my confidence has grown a great deal and my photos are much improved. I highly recommend checking out Emily Quinton’s Makelight courses; Holly Becker’s Blogging Your Way courses; and Me & Orla’s 7 Day Insta-retreat.
Hurdle 3. The online world can be a lonely place
When I first started writing Needs More Cushions, I didn’t know a soul in the online blogging world, nor anyone in interiors. It was terrifying. Every time I posted a tweet or a shot on Instagram, I’d sit and look at my phone to see if anyone had seen it or liked it. Attractive, right? And I was shy about tagging a blogger or a brand if I wrote about them in case I got ignored. But after a while, you just get on with it – people like what you write or they don’t; they view your site or they don’t. And it’s ok. Actually, it’s more than ok – I’ve found that I have received some wonderful responses from people I’ve never met before!
What has made my experience so much better these last few months was reaching out to other bloggers that I admired and exchanging emails of support, advice and experience. I have also started joining in weekly Twitter chats and commenting on others’ blogs. What I learned by doing this is that every blogger goes through the same feelings of self-doubt, writer’s block, and loneliness and that the blogging community is supportive and encouraging and can give you the motivation for those days when you’re wondering why you bother (you’ll have them, trust me).
Hurdle 4: It’s been done before – and probably better
Ah, that feeling when you have spent ages on your blog, working out your specific niche that will stand you apart from everyone else, coming up with awesome ideas for posts that will blow readers’ minds…and then you come across someone else doing exactly the same thing – but better, and for longer. Yeah, that sucks. It makes you feel that all that you’ve worked on is pointless and question why anyone would read your blog when this other blog is already doing your thing so well. I’ve been there. Thrown my toys out of the pram and vowed not to continue (me? overreact? never!).
But, you know what? It doesn’t matter. The fact is that with a few possible exceptions, pretty much EVERYTHING has been done already. But, don’t despair because at the end of the day no-one else writes like you, has your ideas or take on something, loves the brands you love or styles the way you style. So even if the marketplace looks to be a little crowded at first glance, there is always a way to find your own unique voice that appeals to readers who will end up reading your blog in addition to, or (you never know!) instead of, that other similar blog. Keep at it.
Hurdle 5: Research can be a massive test of willpower
I’m half joking in including this one, but seriously, depending on what you write about, researching blog posts and exposing your inbox to a daily bombardment of lovely goodies that brands want to you buy is, for me at least, a MASSIVE test of willpower. I only include things on this site that I would consider having in my own home, and every day I discover new brands and new pieces that are gorgeous and that I can find a place for immediately. It requires all my strength to resist getting the credit card out. Its the same thing when you start exploring courses (online, or in person) to help you improve your blog or your social media. There are tons out there – all at differing price points, and all with different levels of commitment required.
My advice to you on this point is twofold:
- Make sure you have a budget for any purchases related to your blog. And stick to it. Your budget should include money for products that you buy or travel/expenses you will incur for blog reviews/posts, any fees related to hosting your site or keeping your domain name, and cash for taking any online courses. I didn’t do this when I started out and I swear it hurt me physically when I saw that credit card bill.
- When it comes to taking courses, be realistic about what you can do and how much you can engage during the course itself. I have taken online courses where I have struggled to maintain the time commitment, and whilst you can usually catch up online, it is often for a limited period (after that the course materials become inaccessible). Also, I’ve found that by not participating fully, you can miss out on useful forum discussions that help you build connections with other like-minded folk. I’m currently taking a face to face course From Blueprint to Blogging by the lovely and inspirational Sarah Akwisombe – it’s bloody brilliant, so sign up when she runs it next, and in the meantime check out her posts/webinars on starting up a blog!
I’m sure that there are plenty of other hurdles that I’ve encountered, and that just haven’t scarred me mentally as much as those above (I’m kidding, really). But seriously, if you are a newbie blogger – or are thinking of starting your own blog – do it (or keep doing it) as it is such a fascinating and rewarding experience. I feel like writing this blog has opened up my eyes to a range of new possibilities and experiences. It’s also gained me a lot of new friends, even though I’ve never met some of them in person. Lovely.
Time to hear from you now – is there anything else that I’ve missed? And do you agree with what I’ve outlined above? Let me know about your experiences in the comments below – I’d love to hear about them.
Happy travels, and shopping,