My Struggles and Learning as a New Blogger
What’s that one thing every new blogger experiences during the first few weeks? FRUSTRATION!
*Minor Rant Alert*
I have been blogging for about three months now but let’s be honest, my efforts are nowhere close to what some other new bloggers put in. The blog is just not among the top three priorities of my life at the moment.
So, two weeks ago, it was time to visit my parent’s house 1000 miles away with my almost-four-year-old son. These were to be his last few days of summer holidays and I was determined to make his visit as memorable as possible. I needed to plan a lot for this trip. Where would the time for all this planning come from? My blogging time, of course. And so it happened one day, and then the next until it was already time to travel. On the other hand, I had nothing planned for my blog for the following two (and then some more), nor did I have any social media promotions scheduled.
As expected, my numbers dropped tremendously and it frustrated me. No, it angered me. It made me feel stupid for treating the blog like it did not matter at all. I wasn’t prepared to see the low numbers but I refused to acknowledge the reason for it. Luckily, better sense prevailed and I started reflecting on my relationship with my blog. In the process, I realized certain areas that frustrate me as a new blogger and what I have learned from it. I wanted to share these thoughts with other bloggers–both new and established–and see if they have gone through the same cycle and how they got their acts together.
New Blogger Challenge #1: Information Overload
My struggles: Naturally, every new blogger wants their content and products to succeed. But blogging is no longer about online journaling. It has grown to be a very complex medium that requires a lot of analysis and marketing. This means I have to learn about a LOT of things—which theme, which plugins, which social media promotion strategies, and so on. The flip side of this unfamiliarity with all the systems is that I am trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time. I have signed up for several courses, webinars, FB groups, and what have you. It all adds up and swirls around in my little brain all day long, and sometimes even at night. I think about how to apply certain strategies that I have learned from a certain course, or whether I have scheduled all the social posts for the coming week. As a stay-at-home mother to a pre-K kid, I only have limited time on my hands—ideal situation would be to cram in as much as I can during the four hours of school. As a result, some days, I end up spending more time “learning” than actually “creating” content.
My learning: There are many bloggers who blog about blogging (isn’t that a mouthful?). As a new blogger, it’s easy to get enticed by shiny pin-worthy images that promise to drive my traffic up 3x, 6x, 10x. As of today, I have probably watched at least 25 webinars on how to drive traffic to my blog or how to build my email list. But here’s the thing: I did not scout for the best business minds that I could afford. Upon reflection, I realized there is really no point reading about the same strategies that 10 other bloggers have already talked about. Instead, I should invest the time that I save by not reading the repetitive posts or webinars or email courses into creating my own posts and products. In addition, I need to set aside dedicated time every week to educate myself (perhaps 4 hours a week). And the learning must come from the creme-de-la-crème. I am also going to stop participating in social media promo groups that require me to engage in “all or nothing” type of promos. Because here’s the thing—liking 150 FB pages, or 100 Pinterest pins, or commenting on 50+ blog posts is no joke. It WILL eat into my time and sanity.
New Blogger Challenge #2: Motivation and Direction
My struggles: Okay, so I learn from the people I consider my mentors (all one-sided relationships, I tell you =D) and I implement their strategies. I follow the SEO tips and promote my work in high engagement social groups. But where is the traffic? My numbers soar on the days I engage in promo groups but there is no organic traffic. I have created free opt-ins in the past but no one signs up. It is frustrating because no matter who you talk to will tell you the importance of building an email list. On the other hand, because there is no permanent readership, I will mostly receive positive words from the occasional readers. Because, well, that’s the polite thing to do. I do not go around giving my honest feedback unless asked for. It’s easy to gloat in those positive words of encouragement but I also realize that I have no honest feedback system in place that will help me improve. So I wait. And I wait.
My learning: I have already mentioned how certain social media promo threads eat into my time, energy, and sanity. But the other important thing why I am reducing my participation in these threads is that these groups comprise of hundreds and thousands of members but perhaps only a small percentage relates to my content. In a promo thread with 150+ links, who is to say my niche audience will find my blog. Most people will drop their link and run. Others who are forced to visit or comment on or share my work (because that’s the rule of the thread) will often not leave meaningful feedback. Sure, I will see spikes in my numbers on promotion days and feel happy for 30 minutes but then what? Same goes for FB Likes. I have 250+ likes thanks to some of the promo threads I have participated in before, but has anyone engaged with me after that day? The same is true for me. I have liked several FB pages but engaged with only a handful whose content happened to be of my interest. It has been said before but it bears saying again: DO NOT go after traffic. Most of that traffic is not my niche and they will never return and they will not give me compelling feedback to help me grow.
New Blogger Challenge #3: Content Creation
My struggle: At a very personal level, this one is the most difficult one of my struggles. For those of you who don’t know, I am an instructional designer by profession with about 15 years of experience. My role requires me to develop and deliver a course from the scratch…conducting audience analysis to delivery…and content creation is a BIG part of this process. That said, most of the content I have created in the last 15 years is geared towards corporate employees….no room for the creative juices to flow freely, you see. So, now when it’s time to be really creative with my content and make it flow, I find myself staring blankly at the screen for hours.
My learning: Blog writing is a creative process—it needs to be free-flowing and unabashed–very different from the kind of writing I am used to. It is also an art that needs to be developed and requires a LOT of practice. So, this is what I plan to do: I will no longer hold back when writing my first draft; I will not get perturbed by the semantics at this time. Do not be afraid to experiment. It’s easy to get tied down by the tried-and-tested formulas of successful niches and content presentation. But maybe I have an idea that will revolutionize the blogging business. But oops, it doesn’t fit the “acceptable” framework. Therefore, I should drop the idea. Whose loss is it? Mine and only mine. I must become fearless and create content that may not be widely accepted but it will set people thinking.
New Blogger Challenge #4: Time Commitment
My struggle: I am a stay-at-home mom who also owns a freelance business. My business has not been a deterrent because I have not taken up any new project in the last three months. But being a SAHM is a full-time job too. Blogging requires a huge time commitment and very few will tell you that in the beginning. Between my house, my family, my paid job, and my blog, you can easily guess which has the least priority. And therein lies the problem: I haven’t yet prioritized my blog or treated it as a business.
My learning: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can earn a full-time income (or even half) by blogging only two hours a day. It doesn’t happen that way. In the first year or so, I must be prepared to put in a lot of time creating meaningful content and connections. As the blog grows, I may have to spend a little less on creating new content but I will still need to spend the majority of my day overseeing the business aspect of my blog. It will never get easy! Ironically, it is easy to take this profession lightly when you read established bloggers claiming they put in only 2 hours a day into their blog and are earning a full-time income from it. Remember this: these bloggers are either fabricating their stories or they are an exception to the rule. If I want to blog professionally, I should be ready to set aside at least 20 hours a week during which I will do only and only blog-related tasks. No pulling away for 30 minutes to cook dinner or to make a phone call to my family…no, not during the time I have set aside to work on the blog. Because you see, blogging is not just about writing; it involves editing, finding the right images, creating graphics, thinking about SEO, administrative and technical work on the blog, promotion, and so on. And not to forget, the time to educate myself about the blogging profession.
I realize each of my learning have already been addressed by established bloggers in their teachings. But, I probably did not pay the attention I needed to. But learning that comes from reflection when one is down in the gutter works wonders toward putting them one in their rightful place.
I am working on all of these challenges and frustrations but like I said, in the absence of feedback, it’s easy to lose motivation. I have some thoughts on how I want to prioritize the blog while still juggling the other, more important roles of my life but I just don’t know if I am setting myself up for success or failure by going against the tide. I guess time will tell.
Are you a new blogger? What are some of your frustrations and how are you dealing with those? Are you an established blogger? What tips do you have for us new bloggers? Leave a comment below. If you enjoyed reading or could relate to this blog, please spread the word by sharing with your friends and family.