If you have a blog, then you've probably said, or thought or read the words "a blog is like my baby".
Like anything we create (artwork, handcrafts, books, actual babies) we love our blogs and only want what's best for them.
(And we want them to make us proud of all the sacrifices we endured, the little free-loaders.) Over the last couple of years, I stopped being a "strict" blog parent. And some amazing stuff happened.
When I started this blog, I felt the same way. I read all the advice, and realized that there was always something that needed doing. Even if that meant re-doing something to make it better if I actually ran out of other tasks.
And you don't run out of tasks because you should be writing emails, and redesigning your page, and creating a course, and writing 12 ebooks, and learning new social platforms, and curating new images, and hand testing your links, and doing it all over again when the trends change each month...
The truth is you can run yourself ragged caring for a new blog baby. People are always giving advice and warnings, telling scary tales, or promising how much easier your job would be with X tool.
The bottom line is always "If you don't do everything right, your blog will fail in life."
So, just like with real parenting, I spent the first year trying to follow all the rules, and the second year letting it lick peanut butter off a tiara.
In other words, I choose my fights, and go with the flow.
And here is what I learned about blogging from being a bad blog parent...
You can't ignore a real baby for a couple of weeks at a time, but it doesn't hurt a blog. Your daily stats might take a dip if you are busy attending to other business, but your blog isn't going to disappear or die.
I was doing some art commissions on the side for extra cash and I was worried at first that I spent one moment focusing on anything BUT the blog, it would, I don't know...evaporate?
It didn't. Obviously.
I worried myself to death over the right colors, right fonts, right sidebar, right signature voice. I worked on "style" more than I worked on content because "no one reads an ugly blog" and no one remembers a "blah design".
Actually, that depends on your audience. There are a lot of people who just want to read your post. They aren't design critics, they aren't font snobs.
I gave up on trying to match my design to other people's opinions of perfection, used the colors I liked, and focused on other things. Traffic went up, not down.
Okay. I'm not saying that fancy tools wouldn't help at all. Just that you can blog without them. I could not afford anything super fancy, and a few times I just stripped back to the free versions of everything.
(Yeah, I know blogging is an investment, but if you ain't got it, you ain't got it.)
It is kinda like the when you worry that not having the "right" baby toys (or gear) will ruin your kids, but they end up playing with a shoe and a remote control and still turn out normal.
And beads. And My Little Pony hats.
There is that terrifying moment as a parent when your child wants to go out wearing outlandish outfits rather than the carefully curated wardrobe you assembled.
You bend with your child, but not with your blog. No, your blog baby is supposed to be dressed suitably for the topic and the occasion.
Of course, I started this blog with no intention of sticking to ONE topic. But I did try to keep a theme for awhile. And keep the types of posts limited to three or four.
Then I gave up and accepted that it was turning into a lifestyle blog. Except not the lifestyle blogs you usually see (fashion, fitness, travel). It looks more like...well, my lifestyle.
I don't travel, but I love so many things, and I'm always excited about trying things, or creating things or learning things. Why not share it?
Why can't I write about gardening and budgeting and reading books? Why shouldn't YOU write about whatever you like?
Well, the general opinion is that if you write about too many things your readers will get confused. I give my readers credit for being able to figure things out a little better than that.
I quit worrying about whether or not it was "okay" to write something, and my traffic tripled. My Pinterest traffic went berserk. And according to my stats, people are reading around, checking out different topics and stuff.
So, there is a huge lesson. You can be yourself. (Rock the cape and overalls and pony hat!)
You Don't Have to Be Everywhere
As a new mom, you get the vibe that you should be OUT. You need to be at the gym, you need to be at the park, you need to be on play dates, and field trips and in baby yoga classes, and...and...
Basically you are supposed to be seen everywhere, proving how full you can keep a schedule while still looking good and not forgetting to put your shoes on even though you've had zero sleep in six weeks.
You get a lot of blogging advice like that too:
- Join all the social networking sites (a couple of dozen?)
- Network with everyone.
- Be active several times per day (on each site)
- Take great photos for each place.
- Film videos for each site.
- Remember everyone you interact with and answer every comment.
- Reciprocate every like, share, plus, etc.
- Read the blogs/like the work of every person you meet.
- Share everyone's stuff.
- Share your stuff.
- Make new images and share over-and-over on a schedule.
- Meet up with social contacts in real life.
- Go to conferences and other events.
- Don't forget emails, phone calls and texts too!
And I don't know how people CAN do that, but some do. They probably get outrageously great traffic. I admit that I can't keep up with that many people consistently throughout the day.
This year I've learned that focusing on one or two networking sites is not just easier, it provides better results.
What I've really learned about blogging after a rough personal year boils down to a few basic principles:
- You don't have to kill yourself to grow your blog.
- Your readers are smart.
- You don't have to stick to just one topic.
- Lifestyle blogs can be about your lifestyle. They don't to follow a content formula.
- Unless you are blogging about blog design, your audience probably won't notice or care what your blog design looks like as long as it works.
- You can make money, attract traffic, and grow your blog using free or cheap tools.
- You can have a lot more fun if you relax and be yourself.