So, you want to start a blog? Or maybe you have recently started one but, in any case, welcome to the fold! The blogosphere is a vast, varied and, for the most part, a wonderful place where you get as much out of it as you put in.
I have only been blogging for a little over two years so, by no means, would I consider myself an expert. However, looking back over my blogging "career", if you will, I can pinpoint mistakes I have made (there have been many) and things I wished I had done from Day 1 that I just had no idea about at the time and no one to ask. So, I thought it would be a worthwhile post to share with you some stuff I wish I had considered when Dee and I started carving out our slice of the Internet and which I think would help any newbie bloggers get their feet off the ground. So, let's start at the very beginning (A very good place to start!) though, please bear in mind these are just tips and ideas based on my own experiences. It's not gospel and if you don't want to do something or don't agree then that's fine!
Find Your Voice
Finding your voice online can mean many things. Obviously the content of your blog will be the first thing you decide on and the first idea of your "voice" visitors will get but, there are other things to consider straight off the bat. Do you have a stance on something like animal testing in cosmetics? Make that known from the outset. What about your literal voice, the words you write? Do you want to write in a tone that is professional? Colloquial? Matter of fact? Making these decisions in the early days of your blog establishes a sense of consistency and reliability. The reader knows what they are going to get when they come to your blog and, in my opinion as a reader and as a blogger, that is what keeps people coming back.
By nature, I am a very organised person. I compartmentalise everything; my thoughts, my work, my plans, my blogging. However, even if you aren't as anal as me about working to a schedule, I can't stress enough how helpful it is to put some kind of structure on your blog. By deciding how many times per day/week you are going to be posting, you can have a clear idea of what you need to have done and by when (this also helps with consistency for readers). Dee and I initially started this blog on an absolute whim. We never expected one person to read it let alone the thousands of you that are here today. So, back then, we just posted when we felt like it; maybe it was five times one day and then nothing for the next two days but, that wasn't sustainable when we realised we had a readership to cater for as well as our lives to lead. So, my advice, make a plan, stick to it and regularly reassess it. See here for a full post on how I stay organised and balance blog/life/work.
No, not really! But, do consider drafting a disclaimer if you plan on running giveaways or, further down the line, accepting product samples or "free stuff". The Internet is shrouded in conspiracies and distrust about whether favourable opinions and reviews can be bought via the payment of a free product or, in some cases, actual money so, save yourself the hassle of having a shadow of doubt cast over you and make your position clear. This goes along with finding your voice online; let readers know exactly what to expect from you and your clear, honest approach will stand to you.
Perfect Your Photography
As I mentioned, we started this blog off the cuff and didn't put much initial thought into the structure and composition it has evolved to have today. That includes photography and, when I revisit some of my older posts, I cringe at how poorly executed my pictures are. Images really do speak 1000 words to readers and if you take the time in the beginning to get decent shots of whatever your subject is, you'll reap the benefits as your blog grows.
On the subject of photography, I think it is a common misconception that bloggers need a massive DSLR camera. They don't. I started here with a Panasonic point and shoot camera which I never bothered to learn to use properly, hence the shoddy images. I eventually upgraded to a Panasonic Lumix bridge camera and, finally, when I actually gained an interest in photography (mainly from wanting to document my travels properly), I purchased a Canon 600D DSLR which I use for photos today, shooting with both the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens and the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. Whatever camera you have, you can get great pictures by simply learning how to use it. Shoot in manual if you can. Learn what aperture, shutter speed and ISO mean. If you are interested in perfecting your photography, I really recommend reading Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs With Any Camera by Bryan Peterson.
Shop Your Stash
This point is more for the new beauty bloggers out there but, your biggest resource for blog content is the stuff you already own, use and know. Your daily make-up; your Top 10 products; products you regret buying; products you couldn't live without. That's four blog posts right there and that's not to mention the individual product reviews you can do, comparison posts, your recent purchases. Your blog is entirely driven by you so, if you're stuck for inspiration, open a make-up drawer and stare at it. Notice the five mascaras lying there and decide your favourites. Hey presto, you have a blog post! Don't worry though. We all have days where we can't think up an original post idea for love nor money and that writer's block does eventually lift and you'll find yourself brimming with drafts, concepts and usable thoughts!
I think some member's of my family think I am some kind of computer whizz. Can't find the WiFi network? Ask Sinead. Can't format a Word doc? Ask Sinead. While I don't mind helping in the slightest, I am the furthest thing from a tech genius and anything I do know has been gleaned from the wonderful invention that is Google. If I need to know something about HTML (learn HTML if you can. It's quite simple and will save you time and time again when your blog seems to implode!), I have Googled it. If I need to find the best free photo hosting site, I have Googled it (I recommend Photobucket for storage and Pixlr/Lunapic for editing). Chances are, if you are having trouble with your blog or if your computer keeps crashing, someone else will have experienced something similar so, literally Googling "How do I..." can throw up hundreds of related and relevant answers.
Like I said at the outset, I am not an authority on the subject of blogging but, I do have my own experiences which I think are worth sharing. While established bloggers may find this post too basic, that's because it is. This is for those newer bloggers who are still trying to get to grips with the very basics of the blogosphere and who feel, like I once did, there was no one to ask and no one clear place to start. Take from this what you will, share your own tips and tricks in the comments and please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I will try to answer. Blogging isn't an exact science, there is no right or wrong way to do it so, relax, have fun with it and welcome to the community!