Blogging Lessons Learned

Since many of you weren't able to attend the Texas Style Council conference, I thought it'd be cool to go through some of the questions we were asked in my panel– Blogging Lessons Learned. Plus, writing responses to these questions is nicer than answering on the spot, since there's more time to really think hard about the answers, rather than answering immediately with a microphone & huge crowd in front of me. These great questions were written up by the moderator of our panel, Molly from Smart, Pretty, and Awkward. You can find video of all the panels at LiveLifeinStyleBlog's youtube channel and I put the panel I was on to the bottom of this post if you want to watch. And since Tieka and my speed-mentoring session was on Blogging 101, and this panel is sort of related, I thought I'd put the INDIE Blogger E-Course on sale for 25% off this week!

1. Starting at the beginning: when did you begin blogging, and how do you think your blog has changed since then?

I started blogging in 2008, mostly because I'd just discovered style blogs and thought they looked really fun and inspiring and I wanted to be a part of the community. I was in college at the time and it was nice to have a creative outlet and be inspired by all the cool girls I came across in the blogging world. My blog has changed a bit since then, mostly following the changes in my life, from college student to living back at home with my family and working, to my winne trip, to moving to Tacoma and getting married. I've never felt like my content has necessarily stuck to one thing. While my main content has always been outfits, I've also always thrown in some DIY and recipe posts, and even outfit post text is usually just about my life.

2. Building off that, how do you think the blogging community as a whole has changed since then?

I think nowadays the blogging community is much larger and established than it was when I started. It's kind of a double edged sword for those getting into it now. There are more resources, but at the same time, there are thousands of blogs out there trying to make it, which might make it more difficult to find your niche amongst it all. I think the blogging community as a whole, though, has always been very supportive and friendly, and continues to be.

3. What was the most difficult stage you went through when building your blog? What advice would you give to someone going through a similar stage?

I think it was hard growing my blog initially. I think a lot of bloggers also feel like their blogs are growing very slowly and feel like it should be growing faster, but I've learned that, at least for myself, growth is a very slow process, and requires hard work and consistency. It can be easy to get down on yourself, but once you realize that it's very rare for a blog to rocket to success within a few months, you can start focusing on making your blog the best it can be for you.

4. Do you ever look back on a post and ask “what was I thinking!?” Is there any topic or event you later wished you had wrote about differently?

I actually don't. I think this is probably because, like I said before, my blog has mostly just followed my life, so I like looking back on all my old posts, even if the photos are bad, or I don't like the outfit. When I see the photos I remember where I was that day or what I was doing. It's neat to see how I've changed and grown through looking at old posts.

5. How do you handle old posts you are not proud of? Do you delete them?

I think the answer to this is the same as above. I've only deleted a couple posts, but for different reasons, and usually very soon after posting them. I've never gone back later and deleted a post. Also, I've gotten quite a few emails from people who've gone back and read my blog from the beginning, and I think it's cool that you can do that. It gives people a fuller look at you and your blog story, and people can see where you started! Everyone starts somewhere, and I know the beginning of mine wasn't much to write home about!

6. Has anyone in your life ever gotten upset that you wrote about them on your blog? Did you or would you ask permission from people before posting about them?

I don't think I've ever had this problem. All of my family loves reading my blog (including my grandma!) and have been on it from time to time. Some of my friends have made appearances too, and they've always been excited to be on the blog, so so far I've not had any issues with this. I think if there was ever a time when I wasn't sure if someone would be cool about me posting photos of them/writing about them I would definitely ask permission.

7. What advice would you give to bloggers who want to start writing more personal posts but don't know how to handle other people in their lives' privacy level?

I guess asking is a good idea. And finding your own personal comfortability with how much you share. For me it's a no-brainer. It doesn't even enter my mind to post things that would be too personal. Not that I don't occasionally get very real here on the blog, but at the same time, my blog is mostly a place for positivity. I know a lot of bloggers feel the same way– we don't necessarily want to post about the shitty day we had, or the fight with our boyfriend/spouse, or the bills we just had to pay. For myself, blogging is a place for inspiration. We all have enough stuff in our lives bringing us down. I want my blog to have a mostly positive tone, while at the same time being real. It's a balance that I think is a very personal thing to find. No one can tell you how much is too much or too little to share, it's a balance that you have to find yourself.

8. Did you ever have a difficult situation with a reader or a commenter? How did you handle it, and would you do it the same way next time?

Definitely. When I get comments that aren't very nice or flat out rude, I try to (after the initial reaction of shock, hurt, anger, etc) evaluate the comment for validity. Some comments are just crazy trolls who just leave random mean comments that have nothing to do with you or anything you do. But sometimes, behind a rude tone, the person has a point that can be addressed and can even spark some introspection. I know I got a mean comment that once said that my blog wasn't as good as it used to be when I was in Alaska. I started to think about all the changes in my life that had occurred since moving out of Anchorage to the Lower 48 and it inspired me to write a post about how my life had changed in the past year. Their comment wasn't very nice, but it did make me think about the changes in my life and how those changes affected my blog.

I think the most important thing when it comes to receiving mean comments is to let them roll off you and move on. Don't start second guessing yourself, don't start internalizing that person's words, don't let the haters get you down! Haha. And always remember that for every one mean comment or rude person who comments on your blog, they are far outweighed by the people who come to your blog to be inspired, people who love what you post and who matter so much more.

9. From a technical perspective, was anything an unexpected technical challenge that you wished you had done differently? What have you redesigned or changed since you started your blog, and why? (Nav bars, logos, headers, etc.)

I'm a big graphic design geek, so the first thing I did when I started my blog was customize the layout. I googled something like, "vintage blogger template" found a template that looked good and made myself a pretty header. I think the biggest challenge, over the years, has been learning how to tweak my layout with HTML. It's taken hours of googling tutorials and so many trial and error tests to learn how to make my blog do what I want it to. I'm still no HTML buff, but by now I know enough that I can almost do whatever I want, and if I don't know how to do it, I can pretty much guarantee that google can find me a tutorial that tells me how to do it.
I've redesigned everything on my blog since I started. I actually had the original background on my blog until just a few months ago and finally let that go (I'm a bit too sentimental with stuff like that, I think). I've gone from two columns to three, changed my header probably 5 times, added a nav bar, added a custom post title font, added intensedebate commenting, changed the background, changed the background color of my columns, etc, etc. I think blog design is super important, as it's the very first thing that people see. I almost guarantee you that if your design is really bad, they probably won't even stay to see what you're posting about. Luckily, if HTML is just way to crazy for you or you don't have time, there are a lot of freelance designers out there who will help you out! I know that Kaelah does blog design, Amy makes free blog clipart, I think Liz from SRSLYLIZ does freelance design, and Freckled Nest Design does blog design almost exclusively. Or you could purchase a cute premade template like the ones Sillygrrl makes!

10. What is the key to correcting a blogging regret or mistake--from something as small as a post typo to a failed brand collaboration?

I think being humble and honest is important. Not everything you do is going to be awesome or turn out perfectly like you envisioned. Sometimes things happen, and it's best to just move on and be gracious about the situation.

11. On the flip side, can you share a blog situation or event that you are proud of how you handled yourself?

I feel like, for the most part, I've handled mean comments relatively well. As well as one can when being lambasted by faceless, anonymous mean people via the internet. I won't tell you it's not hard to be hit with a mean comment as you're happy-go-luckily scrolling through comments, but I'm getting better at it (I hope!). I didn't deal with "mean girls" in junior high and high school (which is when most people get a crash course in such things), so dealing with "haters" and trolls is sort of a new thing for me, but it really makes me want to uplift other women and create positivity all the more! I know that the opinions that really matter are those people who know me and see me in real life, and who know who I am in a more holistic way. As much as it feels like you may know a blogger from reading their blog, I can guarantee that you only get a snippit of their life. I don't think most bloggers intentionally try to mislead readers into thinking they live a certain way, it's just that blogging can only really give you so much insight into someone's life, and to make assumptions based on that little amount of information is generally a bad idea.

12. What was the most rewarding event that has come from the successes of your blog?

I think being able to work from home had been my favorite thing so far. It's so nice to be able to set my own hours and have the time to be creative. That, and all the awesome people I've met through blogging. It's so crazy that, thanks to the internet, you can be friends with people you've never met IRL from all over the world! Events like TxSC and NYFW are fun simply because it's an excuse to get together with all these amazing folks you don't get to see in "real life."

13. Where do you think the blogging community will be headed in the next three years?

Onwards and upwards. As the news and magazine industries scramble to move online, I think bloggers have a leg up on the online world. I've already seen tons of bloggers getting jobs in social media and writing for online magazines and working for companies because of their internet prowess. It's exciting! Blogging used to be this thing where people thought you just sat in your bed in your PJs with crumbs all around you hunched over your computer, but really it's a thriving industry that has really become a huge part of our culture! Okay, sometimes we do sit in bed in our PJs with crumbs around, but still...

14. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about blogging? Is there an overall lesson we could take from this panel or this conference?

As rudimentary as it sounds, stay true to yourself, I think is what I've learned most from blogging and I think was definitely a focus at TxSC. Nobody can be as good at being you as you can, and in a sea of blogs trying to "make it," what sets yours apart is YOU. You have a unique voice, a unique viewpoint, a unique style. Trying to be someone else will just make you a second rate version of them, instead, try your hardest to be a first-rate version of yourself!