As mentioned in my April traffic report, I've made a lot of mistakes throughout this blogging journey and learned a ton along the way!
So today, I want to detail some of those (33 to be exact) and I hope you can take a few of these lessons with you. I have no regrets because all of these moments led me up to this one.
Grab a pen and paper and let's get started.
1. I DIDN'T HAVE A PLAN
We're kicking off with a two-ish minute video for this one. Click below to watch, and don't mind the super sexy thumbnail that YouTube chose. (Seriously, do they ALWAYS have to pick whatever looks the most drunk, high or constipated? SRSLY.) I look at least 5% better when you watch the actual video, promise. (Also, apparently there's a way to change the image... I don't know how though... I'll google it. Stay tuned.)
What you can do: Basically, answer the ol' who/what/when/where/why/how that you learned back in middle school. You need to figure out what you want to do, who you want to do it for, where and how you're going to do it. Regina has a free guide to writing a blog business plan and Mariah provides a small biz planner when you subscribe to her newsletter. I'd highly suggest checking both of those out and developing your plan ASAP, even if you've already been blogging for years. Better late than never. But if you haven't started your blog yet, you should put together a plan at least 3-6 months in advance (some would say 1-2 years; I think that's too long though, with the rapid rate that things change).
2. DIDN'T DO ENOUGH RESEARCH
So, this obviously goes along with having a plan, but you MUST do your research before starting a blog. The most I did was see if anyone else had a blog called "The Loudmouth" and when I found out I was the only one, I went ahead and started it. Unfortunately though, theloudmouth.com was taken by some random science professor, hence why I purchased the-loudmouth.com instead. It was also very difficult (and sometimes impossible) to claim 'theloudmouth' as my handle on social networks.
What you can do: If you're using your blog as a business, it's important for all of your handles and usernames to match or at least be similar so that your brand is recognizable across all platforms. Your web address should be easy to spell and remember, and you should obviously choose a name that isn't already taken or too similar to someone else's. If you have multiple businesses or think your business name may change, it might be smart to use your real name as your handles, like @ashleybeaudin does.
3. DIDN'T POST ENOUGH PERSONAL SH*T
Believe it or not, I've gone through phases where I didn't post anything about my personal life. I've experienced some rough shit in the past, and though I'm normally open to talking about it, there have been times when I wanted to stay silent instead. Sometimes it's okay to touch on the fact that you're dealing with difficulties, without revealing everything.
What you can do: It's important to talk about the hard stuff in life. Your readers want to be reminded that your days aren't all sunshine and rainbows and that you have problems, too. If you want to keep it business-oriented, talk about a time when your sales were down and how you got through it, or the sacrifices you had to make to run your business at the beginning. No one is an overnight success, and though your readers can probably guess that, they also want to hear details.
Praying for Nepal and Baltimore and all the other tragic shit going on right now. Be a light in the darkness, friends! #fireworkpeople— Stephanie Shar (@loudmouthblogs) April 29, 2015
4. POSTED TOO MUCH PERSONAL SH*T
On the flipside, there was a time when I wrote about every little thing going on in my life. It's good to be honest, but it's also important to be mindful and think about others before you post. I've hurt feelings before, so now I make sure that if I write something about someone else, I have their permission and/or keep them anonymous. I also got in trouble at one of my old jobs for talking about work (oops!) so I didn't even mention the name of my last workplace.
What you can do: Get the permission of friends and family (or co-workers and bosses) before posting photos and stories about them, or simply keep your blog about yourself and your small business. Just be smart and ask yourself, would this insult the people close to me or get me fired? Probably not worth it.
5. SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY ON ADVERTISING
I spent hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on advertising within the first few years of my blog. I'm not saying it's a bad thing -- it's a great way to get your face in front of lots of people quick -- but prepare yourself and your blog first. You can probably spend that money on other things with greater ROI.
What you can do: Before paying to advertise on other blogs or websites, do your research. Are there perks included besides a simple sidebar ad (like a guest post, giveaway or interview)? Are you making enough money from your blog to pay yourself back for the advertising so that you don't get into debt right off the bat? Are there free ways that you can market yourself first before you decide to pay anything? Would that money be better spent on an e-book or e-course that can teach you something to better your blog? Is your blog useful and interesting enough so that when people click over, there's something that keeps them there? Traffic is pointless if your visitors don't turn into loyal readers and customers.
6. SPENT TOO MUCH TIME ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Before quitting my jobby job in March 2014, I worked 11-13 hours a day. Then I'd hit happy hour with friends, rush to the gym, prep meals for the next day, and work on my blog for 5 hours. I literally didn't sleep. If I got any at all, it was less than 6 hours. (And yes, I was very much single.) I could've saved myself a lot of energy if I had spent less time using social media and getting a blog post up every single day.
What you can do: Quality over quantity, people. It's better to write long, helpful posts once in awhile than a daily update about random stuff you threw together. It's also better to spend a good half hour on social media cultivating rich conversations instead of constantly scrolling through your feed. Schedule the most important updates using Hootsuite and beyond that, check in once and awhile to chat with people. I recently took Facebook and Twitter off my phone and it is SO liberating.
7. STARTED A NEWSLETTER SUPER LATE
Believe it or not, I just opened a MailChimp account within the last few months. Yep, it took me four years to start a newsletter. That is BAD. Bad bad bad. Don't be like me.
What you can do: Hop over to MailChimp right now (I'll wait) and start an email list. The people that sign up are your biggest fans. If they are choosing to let you enter their inbox, then you are important to them. Make your newsletter worthy of their time. Offer tips and ideas that you DON'T already have online. Some bigger bloggers (like A Beautiful Mess) can get away with a simple monthly update on what they're selling, and others (like Cupcakes & Cashmere) don't even need a newsletter, but if you've only just started your blog within the last five years and don't have millions of followers already, this is CRUCIAL.
8. STARTED A TWITTER PARTY SUPER LATE
This is another thing that can set you apart from others in your niche, help you make friends with like-minded babes, and meet individuals that might fall in love with your blog or biz. If you're looking for a way to create more community (besides the ol' fashioned comment section that most people don't even use anymore), this is it.
What you can do: Choose a unique hashtag and start a regular chat on Twitter (ours is every other Wednesday at 11am under #liveloudly). Pick a topic and just go with it! Don't worry if only one or two people show up at first -- others will come. Make it fun and friendly and keep going. The Loud Ladies even use our hashtag to promote each other's posts. Cute, huh?
9. THOUGHT I NEEDED A DSLR TO BE A GOOD BLOGGER
You don't. You just don't. I sold mine awhile ago because I needed the money and though I was nervous at first, I've been totally fine with just my phone. Technology is SO good these days, and there are lots of ways to make your pictures pretty without throwing down cold hard cash. I totally disagree with IFB's post on how much it costs to be a blogger; grab a $250 laptop and whatever phone is free with a contract and you're good to go. If you're able to read this right now, then you should be able to do at least that.
What you can do: If you truly don't have a way to take decent photos (and no friends whom you can borrow a camera or phone from), or if you're just lazy (*raises hand*) check out Pinterest, Unsplash, and other sites for free stock photos (here are a bunch). Just be sure to give proper credit.
10. THOUGHT I NEEDED NEW CLOTHES TO BE A GOOD FASHION BLOGGER
I used to work at a clothing store, so it was extremely difficult to clock out with any paycheck left at all. I definitely had a shit-ton of clothes and most of them have since been sold or donated. You really don't need a lot of clothes, or brand-new clothes, as a blogger -- even if your focus is fashion. Your readers are looking to you for personal style ideas... and I'm pretty sure most of them would be more impressed if you re-wore your current items in different ways rather than constantly bringing in new stuff.
What you can do: Think about what makes sense for your niche. If you have a baby blog, put together mom-friendly outfits that are comfortable, versatile and not too expensive. If you're a college student with a style blog, then maybe show looks on a smaller budget, but get creative with new pieces from thrift stores and secondhand shops. If you choose to have a high fashion blog, then obviously you will need to commit to designer trends, but if you can't afford that then don't feel pressured. Change the type of blog you have if you need to. You're your own boss here.
11. THOUGHT I NEEDED FANCY EQUIPMENT TO MAKE VIDEOS
I see plenty of bloggers (like, really good, informative bloggers making six figures) who still upload basic-looking videos. There's nothing wrong with that. I'd rather watch a vid without expensive lighting and gimmicks that actually helps me accomplish something and/or inspires me, than... well, the opposite of that. Of course, we all probably WANT a nicer camera, nicer clothes, nicer laptop etc but these things aren't NEEDS. And once we get that nicer thing, a new model will probably come out that we'll want.
What you can do: Use what you have. Start where you are. I've put off a regular video series for years simply because I didn't think I could be "good at it" with my lack of skills and equipment. Just choose to do it and go for it. I made the video above with my simple Toshiba laptop and zero editing software. No, it's not fancy but I hope the topic resonates with someone. Again, to me, that's the most important thing... but of course, these are all just my opinions. Do what you wanna do, but just know that getting better equipment will not make YOU better. Learn what you can now.
12. THOUGHT I NEEDED TO POST ABOUT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I started blogging about fashion because I started reading blogs about fashion. It's not that I didn't like fashion myself, but it definitely wasn't my #1 passion. However, I literally had NO idea that other blogs existed. I pretty much thought that was all there was. I was afraid to branch out and do something different because I didn't know if anyone else was doing it. What I really wanted to do was write longer, wordier posts but all of the blogs I was looking at were full of pretty pictures instead. I was scared that no one would want to read my blog anymore and they would lose interest. My blog has obviously changed and yes, I've lost a lot of readers, but I've also gained some too. My audience is smaller, but we're a supportive, tight-knit group. We're not visiting each other just for views and comments, but because we care about one another.
What you can do: Don't be afraid to blog about what you want. The people who really believe in you and your blog will stay, and others will find you. It's okay for your site to go through phases and change as you change. You're a living, breathing human being who is constantly evolving, and your blog is an extension of you. Learn to embrace change and ride the waves as they come.
13. THOUGHT I COULDN'T POST ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE WERE
Okay, so once I decided that I wanted to change my focus (from food and fashion to self-love, self-help, business and blogging) I was really excited to find other bloggers like me. But then... I started to get scared again. I let my fear take over. I was worried that people would think I was copying or that I was trying to follow just another fad. I was scared that there wasn't room for me in my niche and that readers would choose other, better bloggers over me. I was afraid that I wouldn't have anything new to offer the blogosphere. And honestly, sometimes I still have these feelings -- but I've learned to ignore them.
What you can do: Again, blog what you want! Just because someone else has the same dreams as you, doesn't mean that you can't reach for them too. Life isn't a race and there is no finish line. You don't have to be in competition with those similar bloggers and actually, it's good to work WITH them. I have met so many incredible women who are writing about the same topics, and they constantly inspire me. We all put our own special twist on what we say, and each one of us is completely unique. Sarah even wrote a post recently about her own mistakes!
14. THOUGHT I COULDN'T KEEP POSTING WITH A KID
I had planned to take a 3-month "maternity leave" from my blog after Trey was born last September. But I actually found that I missed writing and having that "me" time. I also had a LOT of thoughts running through my head about what was going on during that season and didn't have many people to discuss it with. My LA friends, sweet and wonderful as they are, don't have kids and are mostly single. It was nice having the blogosphere to turn to so that I could find other mothers.
What you can do: Even if you don't have a kid, you may be going through a big transition that's taking up most of your time and energy. Feel out the situation and see if you're in the mood to blog or not. Don't pressure yourself or feel guilty either way; if you want to take a huge break, do it, but if not you don't have to. It's really important to do what you feel is best for whatever situation you're in. And that will look different for everyone.
15. THOUGHT I HAD TO POST ABOUT EVERYTHING!
I started a baby blog while I was pregnant because I was learning so much in a short amount of time and really wanted to share it with other new moms. The pregnancy was unexpected and, even though I ended up being excited and happy, I was also totally clueless. I hadn't planned on having a kid so soon and had done zero research up to that point. I enjoyed sharing my new tips and tricks with the blog world. But then when Trey came, I didn't have as much to say. For some reason, I felt more compelled to talk about motherhood before actually becoming a mother. Nowadays, I'm just enjoying him. I don't feel the need to put as much on the internet about it. I want to keep up his monthly updates for my own memories, but besides that I don't feel the need to post over there.
What you can do: As I said in #3, it's good to let your readers peek into your personal life and see what's going on. But, you don't have to tell them everything. Some things in life are just meant to be enjoyed and don't need to be online. Don't feel pressured to constantly document your life, and make sure that you're spending time actually living.
16. THOUGHT I HAD TO BLOG FULL-TIME TO BE A LEGIT BLOGGER
If you haven't noticed, I now have three jobs. Within the last year, on top of TLL, I've been hired as Communications Manager for Serenity Executive Transportation (a limo company in the LA area) and I'm an Independent Beauty Consultant for Mary Kay (more on that coming soon). I used to think that I wouldn't feel like a "real" writer unless that was all I was doing, but honestly... I was sick of being broke. And I still spend the majority of my time on this business.
What you can do: I kinda feel like a broken record here, but again, do what you wanna do. It's YOUR damn life. There will be people who think it's weird that you don't want a 9-5. Others will think you've given up because you're going back to a 9-5. Who cares? Do what's best for you and your family. As long as your job(s) are fun and fulfilling, it's all good.
It's okay if your side hustle is your dream job. Or if your main job is your dream job but you still have a side hustle. #liveloudly— Stephanie Shar (@loudmouthblogs) April 30, 2015
17. THOUGHT TOO MUCH BEFORE POSTING
I gotta admit, I still do this. I'm a perfectionist and normally edit my posts at least 8 times before hitting 'publish' (and then usually still edit after). But I'm working on it.
What you can do: No one is perfect, and your readers want to be reminded that you're real anyway. If you make a mistake, it's not the end of the world... this ain't brain surgery. No one will die if there's a typo, k? Ignore those feelings of it "not being good enough" and just post!
18. DIDN'T SCHEDULE BLOG POSTS
I used to not schedule my posts because I thought it was inauthentic. I thought I had to write and post "in the moment" or I was being fake. But scheduling isn't being fake, it's being smart. It's being wise with your time. It's proper planning. And it's something you should do!
What you can do: If you don't already have a blogging schedule or calendar, you should, especially if your blog is your business or part of it. You'll be more organized and productive, and less stressed. It's good to know what posts are coming so that you can tie them together, turn some of them into a series, etc. If you're more of a "go with the flow" kinda gal, that's cool, but this is what works for me!
19. DIDN'T WANT TO INVEST IN CONTINUOUS EDUCATION
I don't know about you, but after getting my degree I was like, I'M NEVER READING AGAIN!! It was really hard for me to read or write after spending hours upon hours doing those things for class. Eventually, I began to miss reading and went back to making it a habit, but I wish I had forced myself to keep learning even when I didn't feel like it. Next I'll be picking up The 4-Hour Workweek and The $100 Startup.
What you can do: Education doesn't stop after graduation. You should constantly be learning new skills and honing your craft. It's really important in any business or industry for you to discover what's new and refresh what you already know. Take a class, read an e-book, or join a group program like Stratejoy's Elevate Mastermind. You'll make back the money you spend in the long run.
20. DIDN'T REWARD MY READERS ENOUGH FOR THEIR SUPPORT
Regina and Jenn are both good at this. For a long time, I didn't show enough appreciation for my readers (meaning you lovely people). I was so obsessed with "growing" my audience that I didn't focus on the audience I already had. I've been making a lot of changes this year though and finally pointing everything in the right direction. I want you to feel special because you truly are a wonderful part of my life!
What you can do: Start a weekly or monthly giveaway, create a Facebook group or Google+ community, write an e-book and offer it for free, respond to all emails/tweets/comments, share secret tips constantly, send hand-written notes through the mail, throw in extra items when they order something from you, and always be thinking of new ways to give back to your audience.
Who is down for a #CreativeBiz Lock-in? We do like a 2-day thing where we're all launching products or something? Just a thought.— Regina Anaejionu (@byReginaTV) April 23, 2015
21. DIDN'T CREATE POLICIES SOON ENOUGH
If you're selling anything through your blog (or even if you're not), you should have policies in place right away. Write up a disclosure, a disclaimer, and any other legal shit that'll save you from being sued in the future. I did not do these things until a year or two into my blog, and though I was fortunate enough to not run into any trouble, it does happen.
What you can do: Check out my revised policies, inspired by those of Alex Franzen, for ideas. Here's a good article on the FTC and why you need to have a disclosure/disclaimer statement, too. Basically, you want to protect yourself, your assets, your brand and your business. I accidentally just typed "asses" but that's also relevant. Do you not want to offer refunds? Say that before someone asks. Were you given a product in exchange for review? Say that before someone asks.
22. DIDN'T KEEP MY PRIORITIES IN ORDER
I can't even tell you how many times I sacrificed my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health for the sake of business. No amount of money is ever worth it, and guess what? It didn't make me rich anyway.
What you can do: Mary Kay is known for saying "God first, family second, career third" and I couldn't agree more. Keep your priorities in line. Actually write them down, in order. How can you structure your day so that these priorities take precedence in your life? Do you need to make any changes so that you're not sacrificing the things most important to you? Don't think about what everyone else is doing -- think about what's best for you, your life and your family.
23. DIDN'T STAND UP FOR MYSELF TO "SPONSORS"
Ugh. You guys, I can't believe how many times a company has wanted me to post something about them for free. I probably get at least one email a week saying something like "Dear Sir, We very much like to work with you but have small budget." I normally delete those right away, but unfortunately I've worked with some companies that SEEMED legit (or at least knew my name) but still ended up burning me in the end. Remember how these glasses broke and were supposed to be replaced? That wasn't the only bad experience, but I've tried to block most of them from my mind...
What you can do: First, know your worth. Decide how much you want to be paid per sponsored post and if it includes a social media push, a giveaway or anything else. Determine your "fuck-off price" (thanks, Natalie) but try to start higher. Fenn has a helpful pricing guide if you're not sure, but many other people would say to simply choose the number that feels right to you. It's somewhat of a controversial topic, but bottom line -- figure out a price and stick to it. Second, do your research. Is the company well-known or super random? Scope out their website and social media accounts. Are they active? Do they work with other bloggers? Don't be afraid to check their references.
24. DIDN'T WANT TO SEEM "CLINGY" TO OTHER BLOGGERS
Dude, if you want to stalk your favorite bloggers, just do it! There were so many times when I wanted to collaborate with another blogger but was too shy thinking they'd think I was some weird fangirl. Now, I'm totally PROUD to be that weird fangirl. I'm pretty much constantly tweeting and liking the same peoples' shit on social media. And they haven't issued a restraining order yet, so it's cool.
What you can do: You're busy, I'm busy, we're all busy. Bloggers are busy! If you want to get the attention of another blogger, you have to seek it out. Tweet them, email them, comment them. If you don't need their love and simply want to help promote their good stuff, go for it. Bloggers ADORE support and won't think you're weird, clingy, or stalker-ish. Don't be afraid to show your appreciation.
25. DIDN'T GET PASSIVE INCOME SET UP
It took me nearly four years to write my first e-book. Yikes. If you're not sure what 'passive income' means, it's basically a way of saying that you make one thing one time and then sell it repeatedly for profit. Or you can use ads and affiliate links, but like I said in my last post, it's not nearly as beneficial.
What you can do: If you don't already have a notebook handy, grab one now. Write down 5 ideas for passive income that you could possibly use in the future, then start planning out one of them. Don't wait to do this like I did. Taking 3 weeks or 3 months to write a $3 or $30 e-book will be well worth it in the long run.
26. DIDN'T BELIEVE IN MYSELF ENOUGH
You are beautiful, no matter what they say... anyone just think of Mean Girls there? No? But it's true, YOU ARE AWESOME. Embrace that awesomeness. Show it off. Be proud of who you are. I've been through plenty of phases where I thought I wasn't good enough to accomplish what I wanted, and sometimes I still have those moments. Being a self-confident self-employed momtrepreneur is freakin' difficult because no one's there patting you on the back and throwing confetti congratulating you on another day of work. You need to do that yourself. Don't stop believin'! Mmk, done with the lyrics now.
What you can do: Take 5 minutes each night to write down one thing you accomplished that day, even if it was "got out of bed and washed my hair". I mean, hopefully you'll do more than that (because I know you're a badass boss who wants to work smarter and play harder) but if you have an off day and that's really all you could do, who cares? Tomorrow is a new day. Reward yourself for doing your best and move on.
What would you be doing right now if you had total faith that you could achieve whatever you wanted? #liveloudly— Stephanie Shar (@loudmouthblogs) April 30, 2015
27. DIDN'T DISABLE COMMENTS SOONER
I definitely used to measure my worth as a blogger by the comments, and honestly... a lot of people don't even use them now. Mega-bloggers like Keiko and Kendi are getting half of what they used to. But back in the day, I would wonder why one of my posts got 5 comments and another got 10. Plus, half of them were from bloggers just wanting a returned comment.
What you can do: If your comments section annoys or bothers you in any way, get rid of it. If you're not ready to cut it off completely, start by disabling anonymous comments. Do what's mentally healthy for you, which can sometimes mean cancelling out some of the internet noise. There are so many other ways for your readers to contact you, and they are probably using those different methods already. Just make sure that if you make any changes, you let your fans know where to find you.
28. DIDN'T HAVE A SET BLOGGING BUDGET
As stated in #5, I used to spend a lot of money on advertising. However, I also paid plenty for new layouts and designs, e-books and e-courses, and other services. Again, all of that would be fine, except that I didn't limit myself. I didn't keep any kind of budget at all until recently.
What you can do: Set a blogging budget. This will be a monthly amount that you allow yourself to spend on your blog and business. Whether it's $10 or $1,000 all of that adds up and can do more harm than good. Be smart and decide on a reasonable number that you can manage. Spend that money on what you really need first (like internet hookup costs and domain upkeep) before splurging on extras.
29. ANNOUNCED NEW STUFF TOO LATE
Some of my launches have been a bust because I announced their arrival only a week or two in advance. If you're releasing a paid product, it's really important to give your readers ample time to plan and save.
What you can do: Think about yourself and how much time you normally need in order to pay for something. If the product costs a "high" amount (whatever that is to you), give your readers more time. If the cost is "low" then they probably don't need as much. If it's a short e-course maybe they need a few weeks; if it's a year-long program, perhaps they need a few months. Look at each launch differently and create a plan of attack based on that specific situation.
30. ANNOUNCED NEW STUFF TOO FAR IN ADVANCE
Believe it or not, I've also announced an item's release too far in advance. If you're wondering what that means: in my opinion, 3 months to a year is too much. Your readers might forget, and you might lose interest.
What you can do: Don't announce anything until the product is at least halfway finished. That way, there's no backing down! Mark the date on your calendar and work on the project a little each day.
31. CHECKED STATS + NUMBERS TOO OFTEN
Similar to comments, I used to dwell on my traffic & followers, too. Now, I only focus on them once a month for my traffic reports. Besides that, I only see them if I happen to glance, and I don't regularly look.
What you can do: Stop obsessing and remind yourself that your audience loves you. (If that's too mushy of a word, you're welcome to use "digs you" instead.) Whether small or large, your followers are choosing to follow you, and isn't that cool? I think so.
32. WAS AN INTERNET HOARDER!
I never wanted to delete anything I posted... ever. But now, I regularly go through and weed out insignificant IG photos, Pinterest posts, etc. It actually feels quite refreshing and makes my platforms look prettier!
What you can do: Don't be afraid to delete stuff. If you no longer agree with something you wrote, if it's not "on brand" or you simply don't want to see it anymore, just get rid of it. It's your world, baby.
33. REFUSED TO BELIEVE THAT LESS IS MORE (BUT IT'S TRUE)
I know it's kinda weird that I'm ending a monster-long post with this one, but have you noticed that I don't publish as often these days? Less is more when it comes to blogging now. There are more blogs and more bloggers and more blogs for those bloggers to read, and they need to be choosy.
What you can do: As mentioned in #6, it's better to write long posts less often than lots of short ones. If you post too much, your readers will miss something. Go through your queue and see what you can cut out.
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*Photo found here. Text added by me.