Reader Q&A | Advice for New Bloggers

question 150x150 Reader Q&A | Advice for New BloggersToday’s reader question comes from Raquel in Texas. She has recently started a money-saving blog and was hoping for some advice on making her blog a success.

I was wondering if one of these days you could write about how you made your blog so successful. I began a blog that just includes my personal coupon matches and deals for the week ahead, but I don’t have a lot of followers and I know I could never compete with the hundreds of coupon matching blogs online.

I decided to answer Raquel’s question today not because I think KOAB is “so successful” (but thank you – that is very flattering). But rather because I’ve gotten several questions about blogging lately and following my “If 5 people are asking, 50 people are wondering” theory, I wanted to go ahead and address some of these subjects.

While I know that many new bloggers are looking for advice on which blogging platform to use or how to set up a Facebook page, there are thousands of articles and blog posts about these topics. Check out ProBlogger, Blogging with Amy and Savvy Blogging for more on these nuts and bolts questions.

Instead of rehashing their excellent advice, I want to share some of the heart-and-soul stuff I’ve learned along the way in 20 months of blogging.

1. Blog from the heart.

Whether you are blogging about your kids, coupons or kosher cooking, don’t do it if you don’t care about it.

A lot.

Like second only to your husband and children. Because not only may there come a time when your blog starts to feel like another child. But also because your readers – whether you have a few dozen or a few million (I wish!) – will jump ship if you aren’t being genuine. If you don’t care, neither will they.

2. Don’t blog for the money.

It’s true. There are bloggers out there that make well over a million dollars a year from their blogs. But there are many, many, MANY more (like the vast majority of them) that don’t make a red cent off their blogs.

Even most of those that are earning money from their blog are probably not bringing in more than a few hundred dollars a month. A few hundred dollars is money, don’t get me wrong – but if you calculate your hourly rate, you will quickly determine that earning minimum wage is FAR more profitable.

I am very fortunate that I earn some income from KOAB, but if I was doing this for the money, I would have burned out a long time ago and gone back to freelance writing. Which brings us back to point #1. Blog because you love it.

3. Write down your goals.

When I started KOAB, I wrote down a bunch of metrics for where I wanted my fledgling blog to be in a year. I saved that document and called it ‘My Audacious Blog Goals’.

Each month, I note my progress and adjust my goals for the coming months – always leaving those original benchmarks as a reminder. Like a time capsule to myself. It’s fun to see how far I’ve come – and be reminded that, yes, there has been growth!

In some areas, I’ve far exceed even my own audacity. And in others – I’ve fallen short. But either way, I am certain that without those written goals, I’d still be debating whether or not it was a good idea to start blogging.

4. Don’t spend money until you’re making money.

It’s so easy to look at the big, established bloggers and want your blog to look like theirs. I know – I fall into that trap all the time. And yes, appearances do matter when you’re “competing” for readers. But content matters more.

All the bells and whistles in the world won’t keep me on someone else’s blog if the author can’t write. Or doesn’t have something to say that speaks to me.

When I first started KOAB, I used a free (and painfully unattractive) theme. I didn’t upgrade until I had saved the money to pay a designer. That original purple theme was horrible – but its ugliness was oddly motivating. I worked that much harder to be able to justify the investment in a designer.

I think earning before investing is one the most important things I do for myself professionally. Waiting for that initial design tested me – made sure I was serious about this blog thing. Doing so with additional upgrades continues to pace me, ensuring my investments are on par with my growth.

5. Try not to compare yourself to others.

This is terribly hard advice to follow. Especially in the frugal blog world, which is so (insanely) saturated.

But even if you don’t want to blog about coupons, just about every niche out there has someone else who has been there and done that first. You can certainly take inspiration from those that have gone before, but comparing yourself to them will only lead to frustration.

Instead, focus on what makes you unique. I see lots of cookie-cutter blogs these days. The voice, the content, even the design looks like any of a dozen other blogs. If you want to attract readers, you need to be stand out.

It helps to have a unique idea – or at least a unique twist on that idea, but there are lots of other ways you can stand out, too. Write in an authentic voice. Target a micro-niche, especially if you are trying to break into a crowded field. And don’t be afraid to share yourself with your readers.

6. Be true to yourself.

As your blog audience grow, you will begin to get more and more pressure to do things this way or that way, write these kinds of posts, or share those kinds of deals (or recipes, or stories, or tips…). You may even get unkind emails every now and again from readers who just don’t like you, for whatever reason.

No matter how thick you think your skin is, those criticisms – constructive or otherwise – will sting. You will want to please everyone, but in trying to do so – you will fail to please the most important person: Yourself.

At the end of the day, remember: Your blog is YOUR blog. Being responsive and respectful is important for gaining loyal readers (not to mention just being a good person). But don’t chase after your readers’ unconditional love. No one but your mama will give you that!

Fellow bloggers: What is your best piece of advice for someone new to blogging? Any learned-the-hard-way lessons you want to share?

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning, blogging or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. My number one “a-ha” was finding a brain trust of other like-size, like-minded, or like-goal bloggers. Blogging can be very lonely and it is nice to have friends you can rely on (and that also know what you are going through).

    • Yes! Thank YOU so much for being one of those people for me. (Kelly let me pepper her with all my newbie questions a year and a half ago and has been a constant source of support ever since! Love you, Kel!)

  2. Hi Mara–I don’t have a blog; I just want to say that yours is fantastic. I think you have an excellent balance of business and personal information. I haven’t been reading KOAB that long, but I’ve learned so much! And gotten some great deals! Your authenticity and sincerity really shine through. Oh, and by the way, this was an interesting and enlightening post.

  3. My advice is to do your own research and be uniquely you. You should ask yourself, “in a world of many bloggers, why would someone want to read mine”?
    Don’t copy what everyone else is doing. Be imaginative and come up with your own ideas. Even if there is a huge deal that everyone has been blogging about and you must also let your readers know about this fantastic deal, come up with a differen’t twist to it.

    And Mara, I love the Pomegranate design of your blog!

  4. Another wonderful post, Mara. I would second the two points about not comparing yourself to others and not blogging JUST to make money. Originality and creativity are the reasons people will come back to YOUR blog and not others. I would rather post nothing than post stupid deals (though I am absolutely guilty of the occasional stupid post). And as far as making money, if you are reposting every single thing the Big Blogs are putting out just to make a little money off an affiliate link, you’re just wasting your readers’ time. My most widely read and responded-to posts are the ones about how I save money in more general ways, rather than the more lucrative deals-of-the-moment. The only thing I would emphasize (which you already talked about) is the part about finding your own voice. Talk about your frugality and even specific deals with frankness, your sense of humor, your own take on what works and what doesn’t. I think that’s what builds the strongest followings.

  5. Great post. I’m definitely on board with the “don’t blog just to make money” rule. Although we all want our efforts to lead to (at least some amount of) income, there’s a reason you can find me blogging at 2 a.m. — because I love it.

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