Making it Work: 5 things we wish we knew before starting a blog
Making it Work is an ongoing series about people who move with their spouse’s career and still create a way for themselves to stay involved in their own profession and interests. We hope this series helps and, more importantly, inspires you! If you have a story you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you! Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.
All right, so the creators of The Moving Mom are admittedly NOT rolling around in stacks of cash that we made from this blog. However, we have learned a thing or two since launching the site in June 2015 and gained some loyal readers along the way (thanks for all your support)!
So if you’ve ever thought about starting a blog, whether for personal (people love to keep up with what you are doing when you are far away) or professional reasons, here are a few things that we wish we knew before starting:
Where we stumbled: As two journalists, we thought that creating copy would be the least of our worries. But it turns out that sometimes it’s a real struggle to publish twice each week while also being stay-at-home moms. No one can predict when a stomach bug or ear infection will strike and alter the course of your week!
The lesson: Before you go live with a new site, we would recommend having at least 5 to 10 posts written and ready to roll out. That will take the pressure off in case you find yourself troubleshooting with technical difficulties in the early days of the blog, which can be very time consuming. We understand that you’ll be excited to get started but it’s worth waiting to have a bank full of content in case other stumbling blocks arise.
Where we stumbled: So I mentioned that our creators are both writers and that seemed like enough skills to create a blog when we started. But we quickly realized that if we wanted our site to get noticed, we needed to include images. And we needed to figure out how to make them.
The lesson: Luckily there are FREE graphic design websites that can help you create art to accompany blog posts without needing to go back to school for a degree in design. We rely mostly on two sites. The first is PicMonkey.com, which is great for manipulating photographs with tools like filters, text, frames and even a blemish remover. The other is Canva.com, which offers design templates, free and paid for ($1 each) photography and graphics. We also take our own photos everywhere we go now to create our own library of stock photography.
Where we stumbled: There was no doubt in our minds when we started, that The Moving Mom would need a social media presence if we wanted to get the word out about our blog. The problem was that we didn’t know how to harness the power of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook for the use of a business.
The lesson: When we created our Twitter account, neither of us knew how to tweet or even how the site worked. We gladly followed all the handles (that’s what they call the name of other Twitter users) that were generated as “Who to follow.” Then we sat back so we could watch and learn. It turns out that each site requires a unique approach. Tweets need to be short, contain relevant but catchy hashtags and include a link to your site if you want to increase traffic. Recently it has become increasingly difficult to promote businesses on Facebook without paying, so we have scaled back the amount of time we put into that platform. It turns out that Pinterest is a great place to share posts for some blogs, especially ones like ours that are geared toward moms! But the truth is that it takes time, energy and a lot of thoughtfulness to be successful on social media.
Where we stumbled: When we started The Moving Mom blog, we set deadlines, discussed goals and developed long-term series concepts. But once the site went live, we quickly realized that some weeks we would miss our deadlines (ok, it’s almost every week). But even though the copy isn’t always ready for editing days before publication, we haven’t missed a single publication date and we’re counting that as a win. We also found out that one of our original series ideas, Moving Mom Mondays, which features a profile on a Moving Mom, was difficult to have ready twice each month.
The lesson: If something isn’t working for your blog, make changes or leave it in the dust and move onto a new concept. Don’t agonize too long over why your seemingly brilliant idea isn’t being well received. It’s not personal, even though the blog does feel like our third child sometimes.
Where we stumbled: The day we launched our blog, we had hundreds of views on the site. We were thrilled with the response and couldn’t wait to watch the numbers grow from week to week. But they didn’t. In fact, they dropped drastically. It took months of analyzing our figures, content and audience for us to start finding the things that piqued our readers’ interests.
The lesson: It may take a few tries to find out what works best for your site but keep plugging away and your site statistics will indicate when you’ve found your sweet spot. And sometimes you’ll stumble into a post that gets a lot of attention (like our recent 10 Places to Take Your Kids in Kansas City post, which got twice as many views than our entire site last year). No matter where the momentum comes from, grab ahold of it and run! And, of course, HAVE FUN!
– By Emily Shedek