My First Year of Blogging: 5 Big Lessons

My first year of blogging has been a fun ride! No, it hasn’t been all roses and fireworks, of course, just like no other new endeavor is. But it certainly was exciting!

It’s hard to believe but my 1 year anniversary of starting a blog had come and gone so fast, I barely had time to blink! On January 31st I posted my first blog post and…took that scary step off the diving board in to the unknown of the online business of blogging.

I have learned a lot during my first year of blogging. Like a LOT a lot. Some of it was awesome and useful information, and some was just painful but absolutely necessary for my growth.

Here’s the run-down of 5 biggest lessons I learned in my first year of blogging.

first year of blogging

DO NOT COMPARE

You have probably heard it a million of times that comparison is a thief of joy. This good old cliché phrase applies to blogging like no other. Looking at other people’s progress (even the peers who started their blogs at the same time as you) through the comparison magnifying glass will only show you the highlights of their best stuff. All they show you is what they want you to see. But if you put away that ridiculous “magnifying glass” that your own pride created and step back, you’ll be able to see a different story.

Try and listen carefully to what these successful bloggers are saying in between their shiny posts about traffic and revenue. You will hear that there are daily struggles, huge sacrifices, health concerns, relationship fails, financial strains, etc. in their lives. In order to pave their way to this kind of success, they had to “pay”.

How do I know this? I have signed up for several newsletters of the bloggers that I admired and a couple of those who seemed to just skyrocket their blogging career in no time. In the newsletters, bloggers are more real than in their blog posts and especially, social media. This is where they tend to share tidbits of their actual real life, not the scripted Instagram post with a #reallife hashtag. This is where they share that life threw a curveball, that their health failed, that the relationship with a friend ended…and how they deal with it.

This is how I learned that their blog success is a result of hard work and numerous sacrifices they continue to make every single day. And this is how I learned that fast success sometimes means a loss of a relationship or a trip to the doctors for panic attacks. Knowing this helped me put things into prospective and look at my own blog progress as a reflection of my well-being, not as an indicator of my success.

Instead, I try to look to those who are doing so well in my niche for INSPIRATION and LESSONS.

This blogger has a post going viral? What is the common topic? What kind of title? Can I spot a keyword that was used right away? Is there a pin for this post? What stands out to me in this pin? A graphic or color? A description? A message?

They launched a successful course? How long did it take them? How much help did they have? And just how much money did they have to invest in order to advertise it? Does the problem they are solving with this course resonate with me?

Learn from the best instead of comparing and feeling sorry 
for yourself.

LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM

This one is hard for me because I innately want to do a good job from the beginning to the end. But sometimes, and especially in blogging, you need to go out there and experiment before you find your own “best stuff”.

For example, I got hung up on the blog design and the lack of logo. But the reality is that before I find my groove, it’s kind of hard to even come up with the right logo that would reflect your message and feel for your blog.

It took me good couple of months to just finally say to myself : “Just focus on writing and creating good content! Pictures and graphics will come later!” And so I did.

Letting go of that perfect picture in my heard helped me to focus on the task at hand—creating content and practicing my writing skills. It took away the overwhelm of thinking of 5 different things at once.

What I got out of this change of mindset was putting a writing routine in place. The more I wrote, the easier and faster it became. I recognized my writing mistakes and worked on fixing them. I established a framework for my posts, and it helped me approach post writing with excitement and a sense of accomplishment at the end of each writing session.

As the writing part got a little easier and less complicated, I went back and added images to my blog posts. They were not perfect by any means, but they worked, and that’s all I was looking for at the time.

More time passed, and I dipped my toes into creating pins for Pinterest. Again, they are kinda rough around the edges and maybe even sloppy looking for now, but I’m out there doing it. And that what matters to me right now.

As my daughter’s music teacher says “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes progress.” I love that!

KNOW YOUR “CURRENT LOCATION”

In her recent post “Your Life’s GPS”, Michelle Weimer used an analogy of a GPS device when setting your goals. I thought it was brilliant and really resonated with me. Through this analogy I right away saw the mistake I made last year while starting my blog.

When you use a Maps app to plan a trip, what do you do first? You set your final destination and immediately get excited about the possibilities of adventure, right? But you also have to set your CURRENT LOCATION. This way the Maps app will know how to find the best route, will estimate the time of arrival, and might even warn you about the “roadwork” delays along the way. To know your “current location” is a vital piece of information you don’t want to withhold. If you want to arrive at your ultimate destination on time, you have to know both, your destination AND your current location.

Just like in the Maps app, when you think about your blog goals, you HAVE to know where you start (current location) and where you want to go (your destination). And while it’s easy to set audacious goals and get excited about them, it is crucially important to evaluate and establish your starting point, your “current location”. Otherwise, you might get lost or will hit unforeseen detours, which will bring frustration and confusion.

I had no such evaluation. What I had, was only a vague destination in mind,  an approximate direction of somewhere Forward…I jumped into a proverbial car of blogging, and hoped for the best! Instead, I should have sat down and had an honest talk with myself about my “where I am now”.

I should have asked myself:

Possibly the most important question of all (to me)

–Do I have extra TIME to devote to blogging??? Will my family responsibilities suffer if I spend 20-30 hrs a week on blogging??

And therefore:

–How many hours, REALISTICALLY, can I spend per day or per week on my blog?

–Do I have financial resources to invest into my blog right now? If so, how much?

And so forth… I wish I had asked myself these simple questions when I was just starting and answered them honestly.

what happened as a result?

As a result, I had hastily signed up for ConvertKit services, only to realize 2 months later that I had zero time left in my day to invest into email list building at the very early stages of my blog. This was a rash decision that cost me a couple of months of wasted subscription money and gave me anxiety attacks that I was moving too slow in my blog progress.

Another mistake that I made was not evaluating my actual “free time”. So as last summer approached, and the kids were out of school, I realized something. I had not accommodated for this seemingly obvious caveat on my schedule. And so I struggled to find good chunks of time for my writing sessions, and as a result, had a huge summer slump in both my content production and my attitude in general.

I was so close to giving up the whole thing because my blog progress slowed down to a minimum of 1 post in 2 months, and it all seemed so helpless and pointless. Thankfully, I persevered and recommitted myself to working diligently on my blog around September.

But had I had this honest talk with myself about my “current location” and the fact that I was starting from zero with no web design, coding, marketing, or consistent writing experience, I would have realized that I needed to set realistic goals and learn a few things/skills first.

Had I assessed my calendar ahead of time to set specific time for “blog work” and set aside buffer time for unforeseen circumstances, this slump and my progress holt could have been totally avoided.

set MILESTONES

If you only set your big exciting goals, but forget to demise an action plan for them, it will be unbelievable hard to get and then KEEP any sort of momentum.

I actually failed both: to set an actual clear and achievable goal AND to set little tangible milestones along the way to make sure I actually get there. Big UGH!

One of my favorite quotes of Ruth Soukup goes like this: 
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!”

Doh! That’s exactly what happened to me. Without a clear goal and an action plan to go with it, I was merely going “that way” instead of reaching my exact location.

You need both, a big goal you’re working toward AND a set of actions or mini-goals that will help you get there. These action steps will be your milestones. At each of them, you should be able to stop and look back and see progress. No matter how little or “short distance” your milestone was.

If it’s “learn how to create pins”, and in a week’s time, you did, then hooray! You did it! A milestone you can look back on and see that last week you couldn’t do it, and this week, you can. Progress!

If it’s “set up an email list and get my 1stsubscriber”, and you finally get one, then you’ve reached another milestone and you can look back and see you clear progress.

Two things about milestones:

They HAVE to have a time frame.

Even if you are not sure, take a shot and come up with one. Deadlines get our backsides on fire to work harder and reach the goal. It also gives you an estimate of how much per day (or per week) you have to work on something to meet this deadline.

When you have a time or date attached to it, it becomes a ticking clock you can’t ignore. It helps you stay motivated and aware of your overall progress. Make them as small and as descriptive as you can. Then every time you reach one, cross it off big and fat and pat yourself on the back!

Milestones have to be YOURS.

Even if you and your blogger friends have a similar goal of, say, getting 1000 email subscribers, your journey there will be unique and personal. Your fellow bloggers have a completely different story, abilities, circumstances, and gifts. They will be better and possibly faster at something different from what you will be. But that’s totally normal. You will be better and faster at something else you are uniquely gifted in. You  have to choose your own path and stick to it.

Also, do not take someone else’s action steps (even if they are hugely successful) and blindly follow them thinking “if they made it through doing this particular thing, I will have the same success.”

See them as guidelines, but not as copy-paste action plan for your blog or business.

Your milestones, your mile markers along the blogging trek to the summit, must be personal and specific to your life’s circumstances, abilities, desires. Make them your very own and follow your plan of action. Trust me, you will care a lot more about your own personal mini goals than someone else’s. You will also feel such great satisfaction from reaching them!

DO NOT STRESS ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

It’s so easy to get caught in the mindset of “popular equals successful”. If popularity and becoming a “celebrity influencer” is your goal, then yeah, maybe that could be your ultimate goal—to get thousands of followers and likes.

But if your goal is to create a successful blog that helps people and generates income, then your focus should not be on numbers. Your focus should be on developing great posts that help others first. Then through these helpful  posts you can begin establishing relationships with your blog readers. And after that, you can focus on your social media presence and generate a community there as well based on your established blog content.

I got sucked into the social media rabbit holes several times this year…and while some were helpful, like creating my own Facebook page and advertising my blog posts there. Others, like Instagram, completely wore me out.

I spent SO MUCH time agonizing over my IG posts and hashtags, that I lost sight of what my actual blog was about. It became about chasing those elusive followers and gaining numbers rather than helping people solve their problems. I never felt satisfied or fulfilled on IG, in particular. Perhaps, it was because my blog hadn’t been entirely established yet? And therefore I relied heavily on my IG presence to “feel” that success and validation.

Social Media is not a barometer of your success!!!!

In the beginning, social media is all you can show off. It’s especially true when you meet other bloggers in your niche. Your blog is still being developed, and you’re looking for your voice. Your logo is absent, and the whole design feel on your blog is incoherent and basic at best. But you can drop your social media handles in the comment thread of a FB post, and all of a sudden you feel like a winner!! At least you’ve got something to show.

I’m not saying it’s bad to have an established social media channels. In fact, you need to grab and claim the handles for your blog’s name right away. But don’t stress about it when you are just starting out. And definitely don’t fret out about likes and followers. Create your awesome content, help people solve their problems, be generous and kind, and the numbers will grow.

first year of blogging

CONCLUSION

Well, I could probably ramble on and on about the failures in my first year of blogging, haha!! But let’s finish this post on a positive note.

As many blogging fails I had, I had just as many wins. The biggest of them being that I stuck to it for a whole year, and that’s HUGE! With the current statistics claiming that most bloggers quit after just 3 months, sticking to it for 12 months gives me hope and encouragement.

Just like in life, in blogging, we take the good with the bad. We lose a little, and we win, hopefully, a little more! Without the mistakes and tough lessons, it’ll be hard to learn anything in life and grow as a result. Am I right?

Here’s to another fun and successful year of blogging and moving forward!

Please, leave a comment to let me know what the biggest takeaway of your first year of blogging was. What was your biggest win?  I’d love to know!

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