Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Lessons :: How Can I Have a Successful Personal Blog?

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Victoria asks:

"I'm trying to be a personal blogger. Do I NEED to have a 'theme' to my blog? My life doesn't have a theme and I have a lot of different interests, so that's difficult for me even though I've read a lot of places that it's best to have one. Also, how personal can I get without weirding people out? Have you ever gotten negative feedback from sharing too much information? How often should I post in order to keep people interested? Any blogging advice you have would be great. :)"

I'm honored that you came to me with these questions. Though I've been blogging for a very long time, I still don't consider myself an expert. Obviously, the following information is based on my own opinions and experiences, so it may be different than what you get from another blogger and not everyone would agree. But, this is what I've learned to be true.

First, there are two types of personal blogs that should be approached a little differently:

1. A personal blog that is for personal use only. This means that you are writing it for yourself, family or friends, and maybe the occasional internet buddy that may come across it. You're not worried about numbers or traffic, and you have no desire to make money from your blog. It's simply to document your thoughts, feelings and experiences for the fun of it and to keep in touch with the people you know or to make new friends (but not customers). The great thing about this type of blog is that you do not need to worry about your content. Not as many people will see it so you do not have to censor yourself so much, and you don't have to be concerned with keeping sponsors happy. (Example: The Honest Badger)

2. A professional blog that posts about personal things. This is when it gets tricky. If you want to keep your blog on a personal level but also make money from it, you need to focus your content a lot more. You should still post what you're passionate about, but you may need to leave out certain opinions or topics. You may also need to decide on concrete themes or features so that your readers don't get confused; it's important for them to know what to expect. You should post consistently to keep traffic going, otherwise your sponsors won't get as many clicks. You need to consider whether or not an article will spark controversy and if it's worth it (you may lose readers, but gain many more). It's all about balance. (Example: The Life of Bon)

It's perfectly fine to start as one of these types of blogs, and then switch over to the other and vice-versa. It's your blog, it's your life, and we're always changing and evolving. When I first started The Loudmouth Lifestyle in 2010, it was simply called The Loudmouth. I was 23, cocky and naive. I saw bigger blogs get popular fast (The Blonde Salad was pulling in 60,000 visits per day after only a year) so I thought, this must not be that hard. Why not give it a try?

But, even though my goal was to make mine a fashion blog too, it wasn't. I loved personal style and posing in front of the camera with my outfits, but I didn't have a professional photographer, I didn't have the time to post daily, and I kept feeling the urge to write about other topics. I wanted to make money, but my traffic wasn't building fast enough, and no one wants to sponsor you if they're not going to be seen. In 2012 I became really discouraged, and even though I kept blogging, I decided to leave it as a hobby and focus on my 'real' job. The funny thing was, that once I began to make my blog more of a 'just-for-fun' thing, that's when my following began to grow, and I realized that certain topics stood out more than others. Readers seemed to love my personal stories, life lessons, tips and advice -- which, coincidentally, were my favorite posts to write. I didn't think that I could make a blog based on those things, because all I knew about until that point was the fashion realm.

The point I'm trying to make is that, above all else, you need to write about what you love. You can make your blog whatever you want it to be. And it's okay if you don't write about EVERYTHING you love. I'm still into fashion but that's not my main focus here, and so far no one's complained. When you're passionate about something, your readers will be able to feel that. Those will become your best posts. Whether or not you want to make money from your blog, I'm assuming you want people to read it because you're putting it online, so either way it's fun to keep followers around.

And as for where I am now... I do make money from this blog, but I don't make a living. I use The Loudmouth Lifestyle as a springboard for other career ventures, many of which are still in the developing stages. Most of them have to do with writing, which was my first love. My main goal is to provide women with the inspiration and motivation to live and love themselves and their lives to the fullest. I don't need to get rich. But, okay, I still want to be Oprah -- can you imagine the amount of people she's encouraged?

So, do you need a theme? Nah. If I had to write about one thing all the time forever and ever I'd go crazy. I'd pick a few topics that you love the most, though, because that way you'll always be excited about what you're writing about. How personal can you get? Well, that's up to you. You're always going to weird someone out. Everyone has different opinions and a different level of conservatism. Someone was offended recently because Cupcakes and Cashmere suggested an outfit with a crop top to a graduation party. (It was actually really classy and included a jacket and long skirt. Whatevs.)

Have I gotten negative feedback? Of course. Again, if you're going to put yourself out there online, it's inevitable. Anyone can see it and say something. It's just up to you if it's worth it. Do you think everyone liked that I posted photos of myself in my underwear (twice)? Hell no. Did I also get lots of positive feedback commending me on my confidence and how inspiring it was? Yes! In that case, worth it. If you're about to post something racist or homophobic, probably not worth it. (Example.) Just be smart.

Another thing to keep in mind is the personal information of others. This is huge. Most of the people I'm friends with know that they'll probably end up on my blog at some point. Usually as soon as I meet someone, my blog comes up in conversation. I'm knocking on wood right now, but so far none of my friends have told me they didn't like something I posted about them here (and if they're offended at some point, I really do hope they inform me). Members of my family have been hurt before though (usually if it's a photo or story that makes them look silly). I've learned from these experiences and now I know that it's always better to ask first. But because of the type of blog I write, I do tell a lot of stories from my past. More often than not, the people in my life are okay with me posting these things. I never use last names without permission though, and I obviously don't put where they live, work, etc. That would be weird. (One time I accidentally posted pictures that were taken in front of Jessica's house where you could see the address number. She emailed me, I blurred it out and done. No biggie.) Even if I'm writing about an ex-boyfriend or former friend (for the sake of a lesson on growth) I won't trash-talk or use any information that could be held against them. I never say negative things out of spite; it's always in order to teach something. Even if I'd love to have a reader go egg someone's house for me, I wouldn't actually let anyone do that. :) Everyone deserves respect, even if they've hurt me. So, I try to keep the identities of those people vague. It isn't passive-aggressive, it's protecting them.

I may have gone on a tangent there, but you can probably tell that I absolutely love blogging and I'm really passionate about this subject. Case in point.

How often should you post? If you're trying to make money, I'd say multiple times per week. If not, once a week or every two weeks (whatever works for your schedule) is fine. Whatever you decide, it should be consistent. If you're going to post once a week, put it up every Monday. If you're going to post 5x per week, schedule them for every morning at the same time. That way, your readers know when to expect something new. Keep them excited. I know I will be!

Other posts you may find helpful: 7 Bloggers that Get Real, 10 Blogging Tips for Busy Women, and 8 Inspiration Sources for Bloggers. Good luck and above all, HAVE FUN!

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