I never had any intention of sharing my two cents about the blogging world because I never thought that I had any. I have only been blogging for a few years and am still learning and developing my way because I am a parent and quite frankly, kids take up a lot of free time. It’s true. But they also grow so darn fast and I don’t want to miss a minute of it. I figure there will be plenty of time to hone my blogging skills when they have left the nest and they are too busy to answer my invitations to call me. Or, since I am an older momma, I will be too old to care about any of it. Either way, win-win.
But…in my adventure to find my multi-tasking dream job I have been reading and reading and reading. I happened to pick up a book about blogging. It’s not a new topic but I do enjoy it and since I have created my final website here, I like to keep up-to-date. (Notice that I keep calling this my final website every place that I can? I am making sure that I know that.) As I finished up the book there were thoughts rolling around that I wanted to add if anyone were listening, my “two cents”. So, I discovered that I do have some advice to pass along that goes beyond the usual tips that are offered. Being an awkward bird, it only makes sense that I have something else to say.
Here ya go…
1. Balance your life with your blog
This to me is one of the most important pieces of advice that I can share. For me, blogging and discovering my passions is so much fun and since I have been a stay-at-home momma for the past seven and a half years, my “Aaryne” juices are quite pent up. I love being a momma but I also have my own interests, passions and hobbies beyond that. They have taken a back seat so blogging has unleashed a whirlwind of desires for me. It’s the first time that I could spend all of my time doing something.
Since I did not start when I was young and child-free I had to find a balance right from the starting gate. Blogging feels natural to me and I love sharing my passions and adventures, as well as writing but making “moments that matter” is also one of my favorite hobbies and my wee ones could care less that I want to go blog. They want to spend time with me, as do the grown-ups in my life. That matters to me.
2. A blog takes time to build
Starting a blog now is different than it was five years and definitely ten years ago when most of the now successful blogs began. There are so many more opportunities and ways to make blogging easier than it was, but it is also a saturated market and readers have an overwhelming amount of options. It’s no longer a new frontier for the brave, adventurous and the awkward. It’s a way of life now and everyone has a blog. There are a lot of success stories and many of them began when the blogging world was new. They worked hard and earned the place that they have today. There are also fast success stories and it can still happen today, but ultimately, it takes time. There is a lot of competition now and you need to find a place in the blogging world that is your place. Comparing and competing is pointless. Do it because you love it and who knows where you will be in ten years?
3. Try not to change your mind
I did this and I knew I was going to need to do it until I could arrive at the website that was my “forever” site. (I keep reminding myself that this is my final site.) I changed my domain name, twice, but every time you start a new site, you start from scratch growing an audience. Some of your readers may come along to your new sites, but they may not. This is my third website and I am happy here but I have lost a lot of what I built each of those two past times. I didn’t know where I wanted to “be” yet so for me it was part of my discovery process. If you can find a domain name and stick with it, stay there. You can always change your content around and revive or renew your site but at least you will keep the statistics that you have built and your following. That’s important. Every time I create a new website I lose time creating content because I am spending my time “under the hood” setting things up. This techy world is not something I navigate well in so it takes me a while. It takes time to build traffic and Google recognition so find a domain name and stick with it if you can.
4. Blog your way
There is a lot of advice out there for blogging and it has been very helpful. But I also just cannot do it the same way that other people may be able to, tweeting four times a day and posting on Facebook a few times a day as well and adding to Pinterest, oh yeah, and making blog posts too. Do the best that you can and listen to the advice that fits for you at this moment and then do the rest of it your way. You will get there in due time.
Not everything has to be a blog moment either because you can miss out on moments that matter when the camera is always in front of your face documenting everything or you are always online updating social media. It’s hard when you love what you do to put it aside, but you also love who you are with and they need time too…without that time being blogged about. I have a favorite saying that I pretend my wee ones are saying to me, and if I pay attention, they really are saying it.
“Drop everything and BE with me…”
5. You don’t have to “like” everybody
The blogging world can be a great community but you still have to keep your wits about you. When I first started blogging, I knew nothing about blogs. The platform that I started with was a free one and it helped to promote all the sites that were using that platform, but I quickly learned that the majority of people visited my site just so that I would go to theirs and help increase their numbers. On one occasion, I learned a lesson early on and it was quite awkward. I was heeding the advice to go check out someone’s site if they stopped by yours and I was at a site that was a bit inappropriate for my tastes so I couldn’t find anything to comment on. I thought I would get around that just by “liking” their post and that would take care of my social blogging responsibility. I did not realize that the “like” was linked to Facebook and would show up in my Facebook, until my husband saw my inappropriate “like” and was quite surprised because the content wasn’t like me. I couldn’t imagine what he was talking about and my stomach dropped as I went to look at his computer. There was the inappropriate content that I had “liked” so that I could fulfill my blogging duty without compromising myself. Well, I had compromised myself and my integrity for anyone who saw this attached to my name. Awkward! It took us technologically challenged folks a bit of time but we eventually figured out how to get it off. Phew! From then on I only respond to material that I actually DO “like” and no longer feel pressured into my social blogging duty. That was awkward…and not the good kind.
6. Hocus Pocus…Keep your focus!
When you start blogging you may find yourself going off in many directions because there are so many paths to take. It is easy to get caught up in someone else’s path or go off on a whole new path only to realize you never wanted to head there any way. Every once in a while I will catch myself straying from my goal, and I need to check in to see if it is something I really want to do or was I just caught up and need to get my focus back. Focusing doesn’t come easy when you are a chronic multi-tasker, but it is a necessary skill in the online world when there are so many diversions.
7. Use your own material
I know that I said in #1 that keeping a balance between life and blog was the most important piece of advice that I had to offer, but this one ranks up there. Violation of copyright law can only be avoided by using your own material. Period. If it isn’t yours and you did not get permission to use it, then you cannot use it. Images, text, quotes, everything online is copyrighted by the nature of it being “published”. When I started my first blog, I shared fresh and thoughtful gift ideas by using an image and a link to the source for an item that I thought looked like a great gift. I searched around but never found any information that stated that I could not do this and because I was not taking credit for it and provided the link to the seller for purchases, I didn’t feel like I was causing any copyright issues. It was only after I created my second website and went through each post that I brought over from my first site manually one by one (because of course I had technical issues exporting and importing) that I then found the information that I had been searching for. First, a story shared by a blogger that had a huge legal issue around the use of someone else’s photo. It was not a similar circumstance to what I was doing but she stated not to use anything from anyone else, ever. Then, I found the explicit information that said if it isn’t yours and you do not have permission, do not use it. I did have permission for some of the items that I shared but not all, so I started contacting the sources for permission. Yeah, right. Like a major retail store is going to get back to me. Eventually, I decided that I had absolutely no interest in spending my time begging for permission to sell someone’s products for them so I switched gears. After I removed all of the posts that I had spent a year creating and had manually revised on my new site. I did everything that I could think of to make sure that I no longer shared information from anyone that I did not have permission from and started using only my own material. That ended up being fun because I had wanted to dabble in that any way and now I was forced to go in a new direction. Most people do not intentionally copy other people’s work and I think most people really are not aware that there are laws governing internet use. Your safest bet is to use your own work, or work from sources that you know to be available to you. After all, this is your blog, not theirs.
8. Trust your instincts
When I first started learning photography and especially food photography, the collective advice was to “never use your camera flash” and “always use natural light”. So, that is what I did. But in time, I strayed from the advice, a bit. I do agree with the flash, in most instances, it is just too harsh and unnatural. But natural light has not been my friend all that much, at least as far as my food photography is concerned. I seem to have gray natural light at my house so many of my photos are tinged with gray. I prefer not to edit my photos using filters etc if at all possible because then you really are not getting the true pic, the true food. I get so annoyed when I order something from a catalog or online based on the color and then it is not the color I thought it was when I ordered it. I know there are many variables involved in that whole process but often a filter was used to amp up the color but now the product is misrepresented. So, I like to have my photos be the “real deal” as much as possible. It’s nice to have a super tasty looking photo of a dish but if yours looks different when you try the recipe at home than mine did because I tweaked the photo, your gonna be bummed.
I discovered out of necessity that the counter lamp in my kitchen often produced a comfy cozy glow in my food photo. For a long time, I was only able to do my food photography at night after the kids went to bed and there is no natural light to be found. So, I used a lamp on the kitchen counter. The lamp was a gift from a family member who has passed away so it always feels like they are there with me in the night hours, keeping me company while I create. Kinda neat. Eventually, I figured out that adding additional house lights to my natural light, was the best way to get great photos. If I had not trusted my instinct and played around with other options, I never would have found the style of lighting that works best for me.
That’s my two cents.
Well, more like 200 cents but I never said I wasn’t wordy!