I’ve been in the blogging world for quite some time now—I started TBA in 2012—and since then I’ve learned A TON. From SEO to graphic design to creating pillars of content, a lot goes in to starting a successful blog.
I often get questions about how I got started with blogging, and the truth is it wasn’t a simple upward trajectory. It’s been a non-stop learning process and I’ve garnered a number of skills along the way.
No matter what niche you’re focusing on, be it travel, fashion, food, or something else, many of the blogging fundamentals and principles are the same. So, I’m sharing my insight of almost ten years of blogging.
Here are 20 things I wish I knew before I started a blog!
Walk Before you Run
First things first: There’s no quick way to become a successful blogger.
Even if you have 1,000,000 Instagram followers, that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll make a ton of money off of a blog because people engage with different platforms differently. If you focus on entertaining people on YouTube, it might be really difficult to shift your audience to readable content.
If you’re just starting from scratch, you can kind of mold your audience.
Because I started as a blogger, I sort of conditioned my audience to expect for me to have a lot to say. So it’s normal for me to share Instagram posts with long captions and my audience reacts to those. I convert really high on click-throughs for people to read more because I have a massive online resource as a website.
If you’re doing this as a business venture, you’ll definitely need another job/side hustle. Period.
Expect to put in 1-3 years of unpaid work when you’re beginning to blog. Blogging won’t pay you anything for the foreseeable future. Get into it because you have a passion for the topic and truly love it.
This is definitely not a get rich quick kind of thing.
For me, the community I’ve created is one of the number one motivators to keep doing what I do. When readers share how I’ve been able to help them travel or inspire them to pursue their dreams, it propels me forward even when the industry shifts of things get tough.
There is sincere love and passion for what I do and if that wasn’t there, my blog likely would have fizzled out a long time ago.
If the goal is to become Instafamous, blogging might not be the thing for you. It doesn’t happen overnight. However, blogging belongs to you and as platforms change and shift—you own your own content and it will always be there. And when you start ranking on Google, it’s the most solid platform in terms of consistency.
Learn SEO Keywords + Best Practices from the Start
A majority of my traffic and clicks to my blog come from strategically placing SEO keywords and links within posts. I wish I had known this from the start—it would’ve helped organic growth faster and I wouldn’t have to revamp so many posts.
They would be easier for folks to find via search engines from the start!
No idea where to begin? I talk extensively about SEO keywords in this post: How to Keep Your Blog Afloat During COVID-19.
This is a huge one! When I first started out, the majority of my photos were from my cell phone or digital camera. Over the years, I taught myself how to use my camera in manual mode and actually take the photos I want…instead of hoping I get lucky with lighting and focus.
Having quality images on your site will set you apart and show professionalism, too.
On top of taking top-notch photos, you’ll want to optimize your images so that your site can load faster. When I started blogging, I never resized my images. I pretty much uploaded them straight from my camera. This is a huge FAIL.
Huge images slow down your site. This impacts the reader’s experience, and honestly—if a site is loading too slowly, a lot of the time I’ll lose interest in the page and move on. It’s SO important to upload correctly sized images.
To find an optimized image size for your blog post: Open a blog post, right-click, and press Inspect—the ‘display’ size of that image is what’s shown (ex. 300x500px). For retina display screens, you’ll want to upload an image 2x that (ex. 600px wide) and under 300kb.
Here’s a screengrab of my photo Export settings in Lightroom for reference:
Image Aesthetic + Editing
Whether you’re just starting out with photography or have been shooting for years, presets make a HUGE difference both in overall aesthetic and style, and cut down on editing time.
Let me reiterate, when I first started out, I pretty much uploaded my photos straight from my camera. Maybe I would bump the exposure or contrast a little bit, but I didn’t truly know how to edit my photos with a consistent look or style.
Who are you? What is your brand? Who is your audience?
I’ve talked a bit about branding in tips for shooting stunning flat lays and tips for brand-new bloggers wanting to step up their game. While you don’t have to have a professionally designed site, keeping consistent branding is key.
Use the same logo, photo, and username across platforms for brand awareness.
You can earn money from your site, but be strategic about it. I like to include things I personally use and love, rather than plugging every single thing that I can link to.
While some affiliate programs require a certain level of viewership, you can earn some income through things like RewardStyle, ShopStyle, and other affiliate programs.
Brand Deals and Partnerships
This ties into affiliate links—know yourself, know your worth, and know your audience. While it’s exciting to be approached by brands and to want to jump at opportunities for bringing in a bit of income, make sure it’s something that you actually believe in and you’re not just chasing dollars.
This boils down to trust and credibility. Sometimes brand partnerships are simply not worth it. Make sure the partnership is right for you and your audience and don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of the deal.
Approach Everything with Professionalism
Whether you’re working with a big brand, small brand, or replying to comments—your audience matters. I approach everything I do with this in mind.
Contributing articles for other sites with a better DA (Domain Authority) than yours can be great to improve your site’s ranking and get your blog out there! Reach out to other bloggers and sites to see if you can contribute a post or two for backlinking and credit to your site.
Create a Blog Calendar + Pillars of Content
While I usually focus mainly on travel, I also talk about lifestyle, environmentally-conscious topics, blogging as a business, photography, and food.
Figure out what those main things you want to focus on and from there create a blog calendar.
I’d recommend using Google Sheets or checking out some of the handy WordPress planning plug-ins—I personally like CoSchedule.
Be careful not to overload yourself. It’s vital to be completely realistic, especially if you are working full-time. Give yourself time to write quality pieces. If you have time to write more than you expect, that’s great. But if you overbook your time, you will feel constantly behind and stressed out.
Finding an online project manager that works for you is a great tool to keep things organized and on track!
Social Media Strategy
I like using CoSchedule and Tailwind to take out some of the time involved in scheduling socials. Create a schedule that works for you and be consistent. When it comes to planning out Instagram content, Iconosquare and Planoly are wonderful platforms.
Stretch Your Content
For any particular shoot or destination, I can get a number of posts out of them—for both the blog and Instagram. Utilize your content as best as you can and be strategic about what and when you share, and splice things in here and there.
While I do usually travel quite a bit, I am not on the road every single day of the year. It may seem like it as I take tons of photos wherever I go and use them for multiple articles on different subjects or tips about a certain place.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
As in don’t focus solely on one platform. Sure, it’s great to grow your platforms but one day Instagram or TikTok could just disappear (RIP Vine). Understand that things evolve and for me, having a newsletter is one of the key ways to ensure that I can still be in contact with my readers should a platform go down or dissolve.
If you haven’t ventured into the newsletter world before—now might be a good time to start focusing on your email list and sending some love to your own community.
Want to see what my newsletter looks like? Sign up for it here!
Sometimes you’re feeling really inspired and can crank out several articles, other times it’s difficult to put words on the page.
Dedicating time to accomplishing certain tasks works well for me, and don’t be afraid to get ahead of your blogging calendar, especially for days when you need to give yourself a little grace.
I swear by time blocking. I like to break up an 8-hour workday into blocks of time (30, 60, 90—whatever is necessary for a given task). Once I assign a project to a block, I stick to it.
This helps so much so I get it done in an efficient manner and I don’t get distracted by things like scrolling through my phone…and whoops—there goes thirty minutes.
Don’t Compare Too Much
This is actually one of the most crucial lessons to learn. I know it’s hard but don’t compare yourself or your blog to others.
Find your niche and focus on that. While it’s good to stay in the know and have a pulse on what others are doing—don’t beat yourself up for not being “enough.” Be confident and what you do and the content you create!
Everyone is at a different stage in their journey.
It Can Be Difficult to Turn Off
Even after years of blogging, it can be difficult to “turn off” my blogging cap and clock out for the day. I think this is a thing that happens for many entrepreneurs when you work for yourself and you’re trying to build something and grow it.
You can send an email quickly or check your phone for updates, but it’s important to allow yourself time to decompress and mentally check out of work. Try to establish when that time is and stick to it.
This is really important to me for balancing home life and making sure I am present with my family and my partner. ?
Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out
Whether this is for possible collaborations with brands or to other bloggers. My advice here though is have it be mutually beneficial — consider a partnership from their side and what would they get from it?
If you’re just wanting to pick someone’s brain and garner what they’ve spent years learning, offer something in exchange, perhaps buy them a coffee or write several articles for them.
Haters Gonna Hate
Honestly, this is just part of the Internet world and something you will have to rise above. As long as you’re shining and doing what you love, there will likely be folks out there that want to tear you down…just because.
Don’t let it get the best of you!
Learn How to Use Google Analytics
Use this to your advantage to see what’s doing well, what’s attracting readers, and how you can grow your content!
I delve into Google Analytics in my Blogging Master Class—so if you want to learn more, make sure to sign up for it!
Delegate and Hire a Team
When you first start out, you can mostly run your blog for free. For the first three years, I did everything myself but if you want to grow, one of the best things you can do is put money back into your business to scale it.
At some point in order to grow your business and blog—you’ll have to invest back into it.
What does this mean? Hiring professionals to take on tasks (things like an SEO audit, graphic design, video editing, or a blog manager).
I can learn a lot of different things thanks to the University of YouTube and platforms like Skillshare, but sometimes it’s better to hire professionals for the job so I don’t end up “wasting” my time. While I don’t believe learning new skills is a waste, my time and creativity can be more valuable for other aspects of my site and business.
So there you have it, folks! Those are the major things I wish I knew before I got into blogging. That said, I do think learning some of these things along the way really did help. It taught me what worked, what didn’t and highlighted my perseverance.
Blogging is not an overnight thing and many of these lessons translate to other fields, too! What things have you learned or are you learning from blogging? Let me know in the comments below!
Keep learning, growing, and building your brand
Are you looking for more info on how to build an email list? Want to learn how to create a media kit? Learn about brand collaborations, Search Engine Optimization, Google Analytics, and more!
If you are really taking your blog to the next level, you are going to love my Blogging Master Class!