how to start a blog. actually, how to start anything.
A while back Clare Lancaster of Women in Business asked readers to share “the tips you would give yourself if you were starting up your blog today”. I get asked the same a lot.
It’s funny because just yesterday I was thinking about a feature I wrote on the early blog sensations. This was back in 2008 when I was in New York. I interviewed Julia Allison (the first online megac-celebtrity) and Emily Gould (started the whole “snark” movement at Gawker.com) and Choire, who was just starting up The AWL. I also chatted to Problogger (Darren Rowse). At the time he was one of less than 10 or so bloggers in Australia who were making some money from blogging. Frontier stuff!
I’ve been blogging for a little over 18 months now.
My tip would be for anyone starting out. Or starting anything:
Enter the fray. Step in, get messy, work it out from there. Just enter.
With blogging NO ONE knows what they’re doing. Even now, several years after it all took off, there does not exist a “person” out there who can show you how to set it all up, design it, get the perfect mechanisms in place. Everyone is sucking and seeing. It’s BLOODY frustrating. Not a day goes by where I don’t scream to the gods, “WHERE IS THE ONLINE BUSINESS THAT COMES IN AND SHOWS HOW ALL THIS IS MEANT TO WORK!??!?”. (If you are that business, do get in touch!). All we can do is share little tips along the way that gradually build things in the right direction.
I spoke to Darren from Problogger the other day and he says his (humungously popular and successful) site is like a house with layers and layers of extensions and patch-up jobs and annexes and lean-tos. Mine’s evolved the same way. I look at my site and it feels like a mangled hodge-podge of ideas that I have to tweak every day. I got a design student to help at the beginning (disaster) and a blog builder in NZ (difficult to manage). Then I tried virtual assistants via Freelancer.com (tough to manage, but seems to be working).
Every blogger feels the same. My mates at aquabumps and the coolhunter say the same. They’ve been tweaking and layering for 10 years. When I asked them what people now ask me (“how do I build a blog”) they told me the same: “there’s no easy way…just start”.
When I worked at Cosmo, there was a sense among big publishers that they wanted to sit back and see where this whole online thing all heads….WRONG!! You have to be in there, getting messy in the fray, making mistakes, to be part of it. Blogging – like much of what we do now – is a moveable feast. The parameters change constantly and you don’t understand the jargon or the gist or the next move if you’re not already in the moshpit.
Which is to say. Just get into the moshpit. It doesn’t matter where. Just be in there. It’ll be messy. Everyone will forgive you, though. Then piece things together as you go, build, layer, learn from working out the problems. Don’t panic you’re getting it wrong. Continue. This is the new frontier.
That said, what tip would you wish you’d been told when you started out??