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30 Lessons Learned. . . From Three Years of Blogging

Over the last 3 years I’ve written, edited, and published quite a few blog posts on EmptyEasel.com—and in that time I’ve also learned a lot about what it takes to run a blog on a daily basis. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1. Always brand yourself as better than you are.

When you first start blogging you’ll have no track record—so having a strong brand really helps. Whenever possible, make yourself look professional, trustworthy, and established through the domain name you choose, the logo you use, and even your mission statement.

Then work as hard as necessary to live up to your brand.

2. Success is several years away.

A common misconception among new bloggers is that it’s easy to create a successful blog. In reality, blogging is like riding a bicycle.

Sure, you can learn to ride a bike in a few weeks. . . but you won’t be invited to race in the Tour de France until you have a lot more miles under your belt.

3. Never blindly follow all the “rules of blogging.”

You don’t HAVE to allow comments. You don’t HAVE to have a blogroll or an RSS feed. You don’t HAVE to even call your blog a “blog.”

Some of the so-called “rules of blogging” will simply not apply to your blog. Or appeal to you. If something doesn’t feel right for your blog, don’t do it!

The blogging pros all write about what worked for them. But you’re not them. Be your own person and break a few of their rules. In blogging, one size does not fit all.

4. Study what successful bloggers DO, not necessarily what they say.

‘Nuff said.

5. Blog design is the most important thing.

Even a boring blog design can still work—but an ugly, cluttered blog design won’t. When in doubt, make your blog design as simple as possible.

6. Quality blog posts are the most important thing.

OK, so it’s not all about design. :)

To be a successful blogger you also need to write original, helpful, memorable blog posts. It doesn’t matter if your posts are short or long, full of images or full of text, optimized for SEO or not. . .

What matters is that THEY matter to people reading them.

If you wouldn’t read it, delete it.

7. You don’t have to pay anyone to learn how to blog.

There’s enough free blogging advice available online that you probably don’t need to pay $39.99 (or whatever) for some blogging course. If you want to pay somebody, that’s fine—but from my experience it’s not necessary.

8. WordPress is amazing.

I have no idea how other blogging programs compare—WordPress is all I’ve ever used and I highly recommend it.

9. Taking breaks from your blog is healthy.

Plan out your breaks. Force yourself to blog consistently for a certain amount of time (say, 2 weeks?) then give yourself 3 days off. It’s good to take a vacation every now and then.

Word of warning: if you just give yourself a break whenever you feel like it, you’ll take more and more breaks—and your blog will slowly die.

10. It’s OK to make money from your blog.

Earning money gives you a reason to keep your blog going. Don’t feel bad about selling your book, or your art, or your Zazzle products. You’re not selling out, you’re just selling. It’s YOUR blog, and it’s YOUR choice.

And yes, it’s even OK to make money from advertisers. Or Google Adsense. Just be aware that your focus has now changed—you NEED advertisers. So seek them out. They probably won’t come to you, especially at first.

How do you find them? Look at who’s advertising on similar blogs. Or see who’s advertising on your blog via Google Adsense.

11. You’ll write better blog posts if you spend a few days on them.

For most of us (myself included) it takes more than an hour to write a great blog post.

So spend a few days on one post, and push yourself. Look for more answers than just the obvious ones. For example, when I started this particular blog post I had a list of 20 things I’d learned over 3 years. I looked harder and found 30.

Turns out, that gave me a better title, too.

12. Always double-check your blog posts for errors.

Check each post before you press publish, and then once more after you press publish. Spell-check. Grammar-check. Fact-check.

Nobody’s perfect, but it doesn’t hurt to try. :)

13. Create a blogging schedule for the upcoming week.

Having a written blogging plan for the week ahead is the most effective encouragement to keep on blogging that I know of.

Whether or not you make that schedule public on your blog is up to you. . . but publishing your blogging schedule will most likely keep people coming back.

14. Start with a small niche blog.

Then expand your topics slowly to broaden your market. It’s easier to start small and gain your footing than start too big and flounder.

15. Know (and interact with) the other bloggers in your niche.

You’ll get more from blogging if you’re social.

Find other bloggers in your niche and link to their blog posts whenever applicable. Build friendships to bounce ideas around—your blog posts will improve as a result.

16. Keep an “idea” journal.

During the day, write down blog post ideas as they come to you. Then, when you need inspiration, go back to your journal and browse.

Personally, I use a text document on my computer, but the idea is the same.

17. Make it easy for helpful people to help you.

People are getting used to the idea of guest-writing for their favorite blogs. Make it easy for them to do that.

For example, you might want to add a contact form just for people who want to guest-write (here’s mine). Offer to edit their articles, or brainstorm ideas with them.

It’s worth a little extra effort, because the more people you have helping along the way, the better your blog will do in the long run.

18. Be willing to pay for quality writers.

At some point, you might want to do less blogging and more. . . well, something else. Ask yourself early on—are you willing to pay someone to help you keep your blog going? To write every other day, perhaps?

If you aren’t willing, then the sucess of your blog will ALWAYS be tied to you.

19. Don’t respond to negative, mean-spirited emails.

Those kind of emails aren’t worth your time. Don’t write back, and don’t dwell on them.

20. RSS numbers aren’t as important as some folks think.

One statistic—like the number of RSS subscribers you have—doesn’t tell the whole truth about your blog. Be careful not to get too wrapped up in growing your subscriber base, and don’t worry if other blogs have more RSS subscribers than you do.

21. Comment numbers aren’t as important as some folks think.

Ditto. Having a lot of comments on your blog doesn’t necessarily make your blog important. And having only a few comments doesn’t make your blog worthless.

Remember that only a very small percentage of readers ever comment. And depending on your niche, you might see more comments. . . or a lot less.

22. Blogging is hands down the best way to promote anything online.

We’re all just ordinary Joes and Janes, but blogging can put our words in front of millions. How else could one person reach so many—at such a low cost?

23. You NEED an analytics program.

Without Google Analytics (or some other great analytics program) you won’t know squat about how your blog is doing.

You need to know where your traffic is coming from and what pages people are visiting on your blog. If you don’t, you’re flying blind.

24. Blogging won’t always be easy.

Some days you won’t want to blog. But it’s like excercise: you’ve got to do it even when you don’t want to. Without that kind of work ethic, you won’t see results.

25. You don’t have to start out as a great writer to be a great blogger.

Blog consistently and your writing will improve over time. It’s that simple.

26. It’s smart to occasionally update your old posts.

Or, if you’d like, write a new post about that old topic. Either way, keep a handle on the blog posts you’ve published, and whether or not they’re still relevant.

27. Your blog is just a steppingstone.

You’re an artist, right? A musician? A novelist? An entrepreneur? Never forget that blogging is not the end result—it’s a means to an end.

Blogging is a way for people to get to know you, or your art, or your music, or your books, or your business. When the time comes, don’t let the blog get in the way. Don’t let it overshadow your original goals.

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

28. Always speak with authority.

Be confident. Pick one side in an argument (or discussion) and don’t waffle. This is how you build trust.

29. Periodically review your blog.

Are you following through with your mission? Are there any areas where you can improve? Every six months (or every year) look over your blog and see if there’s anything that needs attending to.

30. The best time to start blogging is yesterday.

Just get some words online. You can worry about everything else as you go along.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

If you want to license your art commercially, you'll need to start by creating your very own "lead list" of companies or manufacturers who might be interested in using your art with their products.

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