To celebrate my 1 year blogiversary, I thought it would be fun to share the 10 biggest lessons I learned in my first year of blogging, as well as give some tips and advice for other bloggers! (Checkout my complete list of Blogging Resources here.)
So whether you’re just starting out or are well into your first year on a domain, here are 10 things that I wish I knew when I started.
Are ya ready? Let’s dive in!
10 Lessons I learned in My First Year Blogging
(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information see my disclosure, here.)
Lesson #1: Blogging is only 20% content creation
In my experience, blogging has been only 20% about content creation. The other 80% of my time is spent promoting, networking, marketing, and figuring tech stuff out. This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned since launching my blog a year ago. Obviously, I knew there was behind the scenes tech stuff involved, but I thought most of my time would be spent coming up with new post ideas and doing actual projects for blog posts.
But you want to know a little secret? I kind of LOVE the business side of it all! (You’ll probably pick up on just how much I nerd out about the business side of blogging in some of the lessons-learned below)
Lesson #2: Good Photography + A Well Designed Theme = Loyal Readers
I learned early on that getting high quality photos of all of our DIY projects and decorating tips was going to be a necessity.
After blogging for only one month I decided to upgrade from the camera on my smartphone to a DSLR camera. Although this isn’t a must for every blogger, the home decor/DIY niche that I blog about is all about before/after reveals and step-by-step tutorials, so being able to capture excellent photos was important. (This is also a big reason why I was able to start working with brands early in my blogging career. See #4 below.)
The first camera I used was a Samsung NX3000 and the kit lens that came with it. That is a great beginner camera and worked well for me for quite a while. But over time as I’ve learned more about photography, I’ve been able to upgrade my setup. I purchased a Fujifilm XT-20, and three high quality lenses. I’m loving the new camera gear, and it has made getting the perfect shots so much easier.
Currently in My Camera Bag:
Similar to having high quality photos, choosing a well designed blog layout is so important! You can write the most amazing blog post that’s full of great content, but if your site is ugly (or worse, confusing to navigate) then that super awesome content will get lost in poor design. And that will make it extremely hard to grow the blog views.
I purchased the theme for my blog from Restored 316 Designs and have been extremely happy with it. All of their themes are beautiful and well coded, and whenever I have questions or need IT help (often!) their wonderful support team is always happy to help and responds quickly! Grab their free guide that walks you through how to choose the right theme for your business here!
Lesson #3: Having A Pinterest Strategy is a MUST
When I first started my blog, I thought it was good enough to pin a few images from my newest post to Pinterest and hope that people would repin them. But guess what, pinning and hoping isn’t a very good strategy. In fact, it’s not a strategy at all. So last month I decided to purchase Pinteresting Strategies by Carly Campbell and it BLEW MY MIND!
She outlines the exact strategy she used to go from 0 to 200K pageviews per month on her new blog in ONLY 5 MONTHS! Her book is 64 pages of straight amazingness, and I have already re-read it 3 times! (I was pleased with how affordable it was too!). And you guys, her strategy WORKS!
Ever since I started applying the manual pinning method that she details in the book, Pinterest has been a game changer as far as traffic to my blog! (And it’s only been a month since I bought it!) I wish I could go back and buy her book the day I launched my blog.
I’m excited to see how much more my blog grows over the next few months using her strategy!
Lesson #4: You can earn money WITHOUT huge numbers
A lot of bloggers talk about how it can take a few years to get big enough to work with brands and earn affiliate sales. While that may be true for some, it definitely wasn’t the case for me. I was able to start earning significant blog income early in my blogging career when I only had 5K pageviews/month.
I’ve been able to land quite a few big partnerships for a first year blogger, and I believe the key to my success has been a combination of these 3 things: 1) having a professional looking theme, 2) posting good content with high quality photography, and 3) learning how to effectively pitch my blog to brands.
Psssttt… Want to know exactly what to say when emailing with brands?
I created done-for-you 9 Email Templates For Communicating With Brands which include the exact wording I use to land big brand partnerships.
These templates will save you tons of time and give you the confidence to hit send and land your next paid partnership. Simply copy + paste and you’re good to go!
Hear me when I say this – please stop accepting product-trade collabs and actually start earning MONEY for your work.
But writing sponsored posts is only one of the ways I’m able to make money with my blog each month. If you want to learn more about how to make money blogging, I created a FREE mini email course that outlines all the ways I was able to earn an income in my first year (including a list of 10 companies that pay me to blog!).
The course goes over everything from reaching out to brands, to making affiliate sales while you sleep! Enter your information below to sign up for free and Day 1 will be sent directly to your inbox!
Get started with the FREE 5 day email course right now!
Lesson #5: Some People Won’t Get It & that’s OK
Ever since becoming a full-time blogger, I’ve sort of dreaded the “what do you do” conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE blogging! But most people don’t really get how blogging works. And why would they? Unless they have a blog (or have in the past), they’re probably not going to be able to chit chat about the day-to-day aspects of blogging.
But ya know what I’ve learned – that’s ok! Because there’s a whole blogging community out there just waiting to connect! I’ve met some of the nicest, most selfless, and talented people through blogging. Some are newbies like me and we’ve been growing and learning together, while others have been blogging for years and are quick to offer help (so thankful for them!). Finding others to connect with in the blogging world has been such an amazing opportunity!
Lesson #6: I Wish I Would Have Invested In Blogging Education Sooner
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve lost track of time and stayed up way too late researching all. the. things. I wasted so much time sifting through the thousands of free courses, downloads and cheat sheets, not knowing which advice was good and which was outdated. If I could go back, I would invest in quality blogging education SOONER. Now that I have taken a few paid courses, I firmly believe that investing in learning to blog properly is SO IMPORTANT.
These are the paid courses/eBooks I have personally taken and recommend. Every single one of them has quickly paid for themselves and are worth every penny.
- Pinteresting Strategies– this book is a MUST READ for increasing blog traffic and getting more pageviews. Carly’s manual pinning technique that she teaches is different than any other Pinterest book out there and makes so much sense. I cannot say enough good things about what it has done for my traffic since I’ve started using her method!
- Affiliate Action Plan – this eBook was huge in helping me learn how to make more affiliate sales without being salesy – ew! The author, Gemma, increased her monthly affiliate income from $3.00-$2,000 in 4 months and she talks you through all of her techniques on how she made that happen.
- Get Paid to Pin – I love this guide from Blogging Her Way about monetizing your pins on Pinterest! Whether you have a blog already or just love spending time pinning all the things, this eBook will help you learn how to start earning money from Pinterest! It comes with 2 pieces of bonus material making it a great value at a really affordable price. Totally worth it!
To see a list of all the blogging tools I use and recommend, checkout my Blogging Resources page!
Lesson #7: There are some freebies that are awesome
Even though I 100% recommend investing in blogging education (do it, it’s worth it!), I also totally get how expensive it can be when starting out as a new blogger. Over the last year, I’ve come across some AWESOME freebies for new bloggers (those late nights spent researching weren’t a complete waste of time 😉 ). So to save you time, here is a list of my FAVORITE free blogging resources.
- How to Start a Blog – ok soooo I might be a little biased on this one, but if you haven’t started a blog and are looking for a quick reference guide, checkout this freebie I made for you! I share the exact tools I used to start my blog and breakdown some of the lingo to help you get started off on the right foot!
- How to Create A Viral Pin – the freebie I wish I had a year ago! Ever since applying her strategies to my pinterest images, I’ve had SO many more repins!
- Lightroom Editing Tips for Indoor Photography – Rachel from Maison de Pax is one of my favorite home decor bloggers and her photography is always stunning. (If you don’t follow her yet, be prepared to be addicted!) She was kind enough to share all of her editing tips and tricks in a series of blog posts on her site! Totally free – no catch! Her tips have made such a big difference in my editing skills!
Lesson #8: Social media will start to feel like a job (because it sort of is!)
Oh social media… I think it’s safe to say everyone has a love/hate relationship with it these days. Not just bloggers. But once you start blogging and using your social media for business, it turns into a whole other thing.
After finding myself obsessing over having the *perfect* Instagram feed and spending wayyyy too much time liking/commenting on all the hashtags to try and grow my followers – I quickly got BURNT. OUT. It took me a little while to realize it, but I desperately needed to set some boundaries. After all, Instagram was just one small part of my blogging business.
These days I try to spend no more than an hour per day on the app and I only post 5 days a week, taking the weekends off. The best part is that these boundaries have freed up more of my time to dedicate to other important aspects of my business. This also allowed me to start to love the platform again and actually enjoy being social with my fellow IG besties!
Maintaining an aesthetically pleasing feed and growing my audience are still important for being able to work with brands, but taking time away from social media each week has allowed me to look forward to connecting with others again. Which is really what social media is supposed to be about.
Learn from my mistake and set boundaries for yourself, whatever that may look like. Social media can be a wonderful thing, but it can also quickly become stressful. Don’t let it!
Lesson #9: Not growing an email list from the beginning was dumb
As a new blogger, I thought growing my social media following was everything (hence the stressed out, burned out situation I talked about in the previous lesson). But I’ve recently learned that growing an email list is sooooooo much more important.
Here’s why: if all of the social media platforms were suddenly gone tomorrow, without an email list I would have no way to let my loyal followers know about my content. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. could decide to shut down my account at any minute and there’s nothing I could do about it. But if I’ve collected a list of email addresses from my loyal readers (that’s you!) I’d still be able to reach out and let those people know when I have a post I think they might enjoy.
For this reason, I’ve started focusing more on serving my audience through email. Every 2 weeks (sometimes 3, because life…) I send out exclusive tips & freebies to my email subscribers using an email service provider called ConvertKit. (If you aren’t on my email list yet, you can sign up here!) It has been so fun connecting with my readers via email and I love being able to pop into their inbox and let them know when I find an awesome deal or just to give a word of encouragement!
Lesson #10: Done is better than perfect
This lesson was a hard one for me.
When I first started I was SO worried about having the perfect About page, the perfect layout, the perfect photographs, the perfect brand colors – but I’ve learned that perfection doesn’t exist and there will always be room for improvement.
Focusing on writing quality content that helps others and putting it out in the world (imperfections and all) is so much more important. Letting go of that unrealistic perfection goal was maybe the most important lesson of all.
Starting a blog was a big leap of faith for me, but it has been SO rewarding! Getting to work from home doing what I love while creating helpful content for readers all over the world has been a dream come true!
It’s been a lot of work, a lot of hours and a lot of trial and error. But I can say without a doubt that it has been absolutely worth it.
This blog has opened up so many opportunities for our family, and I am so thankful to all of you who take the time to read it and share it with others. Celebrating this 1 year blogiversary is no small feat and I can’t wait to see what the next 365 days hold for this little ol’ blog of mine. 🙂
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