Blogging Tips for Beginners

Lately I’ve had a few people ask me for blogging tips for beginners, and as I get this question fairly often, I figured it was time to write the next installment in that “blog tips” series I started to write, oooh, two years ago? Three? Whoops!

I had the very best of intentions with that one, but I’ve mentioned before that I’m always a little uncomfortable when people ask me for blogging tips (Or ANY tips, actually) because the word “tip” seems to imply a level of secret knowledge: some magic technique that only I know about, and honestly, that’s just not the case. There are tons of articles and books providing blogging tips for beginners, and I don’t claim any special level of insight, but seeing as (some of) you asked, here are my blogging tips for beginners…

blogging tips for beginners

Blogging Tips for Beginners

My first tip isn’t really a “tip” at all, actually. It’s just this:

There IS no secret route to success in blogging

There really isn’t.  When people ask me for blogging tips, I always feel like I let them down, because they’re expecting there to be some neatly-packaged, easy answer along the lines of “if you do this, then your blog will be successful.” And, of course, there IS no easy answer, and there’s no big secret about it either. It basically comes down to hard work, trial and error, and in some cases, pure luck. One of the main things I would say to you here is to try not to be misled by the crazy success of the “big” bloggers: the ones with the millions of followers, and the rumored six-million salaries. They are few and far between, and while I’m not for a second saying they don’t “deserve” their success, or that they don’t work for it, I’m also not going to deny that some of them owe at least part of that success to pure luck: to being in the right place at the right time (many of the truly “big” bloggers are still the ones who got into blogging right at the start, before there were millions of people all trying to do the same thing), or to have caught the attention of much bigger websites or publications, and got “big” because of that. My next ‘tip’ is related to this:

Lower your expectations

The type of success those “big” bloggers have managed to achieve is almost impossible to replicate for someone starting a blog today. That’s not to say it can’t or won’t happen (and if it happens for you, I hope you’ll come back and give ME some tips), but my guess is that it probably won’t happen through hard work alone, and that for someone to start a blog today and end up making millions out of it, there would have to be at least SOME element of luck involved. If you think blogging will make your fortune, in other words, you’ll probably be disappointed, because while there ARE full-time bloggers out there making tons of money and living enviable lifestyles, there are many more of us toiling away, making enough to live off, but never becoming rich and famous. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where, so I don’t claim my information to be infallible) that most people who make a full-time living out of blogging  are mid-level bloggers you might never have heard of, and they’re making a living, rather than a killing from it. Making a living from blogging isn’t an impossible goal, but if you want to earn the equivalent of a full-time salary from it, you should expect to put in the same amount of time and effort (or more) as you would a full-time job.

blogging tips for beginners

Blogging tips for beginners

Aim to gain readers, not followers

One of the things I’ve noticed is that many new bloggers seem to have an obsession with having X number of “followers”. ‘How do I get more followers?’ they ask. “How did YOU get YOUR followers?” I think people who obsess over follower numbers, and focus on driving those numbers up, are missing a trick. It’s more important to have READERS than followers. Readers are the people who actually engage with your blog: who visit it every time you have a new post, who leave comments, who share your content … readers are the people who matter, and readers are the people who turn into your most loyal followers.

The problem with this, however, if I can put on my Capt’n Obvious cap for a moment, is that you can’t have readers unless there’s something for them to read. New bloggers who focus on getting people to follow them are missing the point that they’re asking people to follow essentially nothing. Unless the person knows you personally, and is your mum or something, they’re not going to follow a blog which has just a couple of quickly thrown-together posts on it, no matter how awesome you tell them it’s GOING to be. To have followers, you have to have readers. To have readers, you have to have content worth reading. To have content worth reading, you have to sit down and work hard, and only THEN should you start to worry about getting people to follow your blog. Don’t register a domain, throw up a template and an introduction to “your little corner of the web” and then go out and start trying to persuade people to follow you: it just won’t work.

Make it easy for people to comment

A lot of the blogs I visit use commenting systems which make it difficult for me to comment. Either they’ll force me to log in to a specific commenting system which I can never remember my log-in details for, or they’ll only allow comments from specific networks. Blogs hosted on Blogger are particularly bad for this: I would say the majority of the Blogger sites I read restrict comments to other Blogger sites, or want you to log-in via WordPress.com, Livejournal or some other blogging/messaging system.  If you’re not a member of  any of those sites, and don’t want  to have to sign up for and remember yet ANOTHER set of details, you can’t comment.

As a blogger, I know the main reason people have these restrictions is to stop spam getting through, but as a blog reader (who might not realise why you’ve locked down your comment section) it probably comes across as a little clique-ish to be essentially saying that you only want to hear from people who use certain networks – which basically boils down to “other bloggers”. What about the ones who read your blog religiously, but don’t have a Blogger/Typepad/Livejournal account, and don’t want to sign up for one just to be able to comment? What about people who don’t have a blog? If you prioritise spammers over readers, it can make people feel like you don’t want to hear from them – and I’m pretty sure you DO!

blogging tips and tricks for beginners

Blogging tips for beginners

Post consistently…

I have no statistics to back this up, but my gut feeling is that many new blogs fail because their authors don’t update them regularly enough. People don’t want to follow a blog which rarely provides them with something new to read: they may check back a few times if they really like your content, but eventually they’ll get bored and forget all about your blog. Again, there’s no magic formula as to how often you should post or when, and different schedules will work for different people and sites. Some bloggers stick to very rigid posting schedules, so their readers know exactly when to expect a new post, while others prefer to take a more casual approach: it’s really a matter of experimenting and finding out what works best for you, but whatever you do, do it consistently, and avoid very long breaks between posts. I seem to stumble across lots of blogs in which almost every single post on the homepage starts with the words, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…” I never follow those blogs, because their entire content seems to be posts apologising for not posting, and who wants to sign up for that?

….but don’t try to force it

Having said you should post consistently, I’m now going to contradict myself slightly by saying that you shouldn’t get too hung up on the idea that you MUST have a new post up every single day, or every Tuesday at 2pm, or whatever. The fact is, very few people will actually notice if you take a couple of days off, or if a regular weekly post appears on a different day one week. People WILL notice, however, if you’ve thrown together a post purely for the sake of it, so while it’s important to be consistent, I also think it’s a good idea to avoid posting too much “filler”. If you’re really struggling for inspiration, it might be better to skip that day’s post, rather than forcing it: I promise, the world will not end.

blogging advice

Blogging tips for beginners

Familiarise yourself with the legalities of online publishing 

When you start a blog, you become a publisher. Not many people think of it that way: they think it’s just a hobby, an “online diary” of sorts, so it doesn’t really matter what you write. “I blog for me!” people proudly proclaim, but while that may be true, the fact is that the content you product “for you” is being published in the public domain, and there are laws which govern that. These laws apply to everyone who publishes ANYTHING on the internet (this includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc…), and they apply whether or not you’re blogging professionally or as a hobby, so it’s really important that you take them into account when you blog. I’m talking here about things like libel (i.e. don’t write anything you could be sued over!) and copyright. Most new bloggers are savvy enough not to libel anyone in their blog posts, but very few seem to understand copyright: I CONSTANTLY see bloggers use images illegally, for instance, and ignorance of the law is no excuse in cases like this: bloggers can (and have been) fined for using other people’s work without permission, and linking back to the source does not, as so many people seem to believe, make it OK (especially when the “source” is Pinterest…). You can find information on copyright law in the UK here, and it’s good idea to familiarise yourself with this before writing your first post, so you stay out of trouble.

 Be yourself: everyone else is taken

Finally, and most importantly: be yourself. Aside from the legalities I touched on above, there is no right or wrong way to blog: in fact, the beauty of the medium is that it can be anything you want it to be. A lot of new bloggers seem to fall into the trap of thinking they must blog in the same way everyone else does, so you see a ton of similar templates and logos, the same weekly posts appearing on dozens of different blogs, and a general “sameness” to the blogging world. It’s very easy to think that if other bloggers are all doing X thing, then that must be the way to succeed, but it could also be the case that if everyone else is ALREADY doing it, there’s no need to add your voice to the chorus. It’s a good idea to read other blogs, and observe what works for them and what doesn’t, but it’s never a good idea to get hung up on the idea that you must “compete” with them by essentially copying what they’re doing. The internet is a big place: there’s room for all of us, and I personally think you’ll have a better chance of success if you stand out from the crowd, rather than trying to merge into it. As a brand new blogger you have a wonderful opportunity to create something truly and uniquely yours: don’t waste it by striving to become a pale imitation of someone else!

♥     ♥     ♥

Phew! Turns out I had a lot more to say about that than I thought I did! These are intended to be some very general blogging tips for beginners: I’m hoping to make this a regular weekend series, so if there’s anything blogging-related that you’d specifically like me to cover, please let me know in the comments! As I said in my introduction, I wrote this post, not because I consider myself to be a blogging expert by any means, but because I get a lot of questions about blogging for a living, and it’s something I’m obviously passionate about. I’d really like to make sure I’m answering the questions you’re most curious about, though, so fire away, and I’ll do my best to answer in a follow-up post!


31 Comments

  • Nina says:

    I was wondering what type of blogging site you use if it’s not blogger. I love the outlay of your post, the fact that you have to click on the pictures to get to the post. My internet is very slow so this way I can actually read and look at all the pictures without having to wait for a long time, which I have to with some other.

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, I always do!
    Love, Nina

    • Amber says:

      Hi Nina,

      I use WordPress, which I highly recommend – it’s really easy to customize, which is great. I’m so glad you like the layout – I thought about it for a long time before switching to this layout, because I know a lot of people prefer a more traditional blog, where you have to scroll through the posts chronologically, but the site speed was one of a few reasons I decided to go for it: I’m really happy to hear it’s faster for you!

  • LydiaGrace says:

    Couldn’t agree more, I have actually started to remember the blogs that won’t let me comment and I just don’t bother to read their posts these days.

    I also hate very quick reviews- ie. ‘hi, here’s something I got sent and so did every other blogger, anyway I think it’s really cool and I might use this bit for something *insert picture* bye’. NO. I love it when people are excited about something, like you with your Hell bunny cardigans! You tell us about the process of hunting down your items, what you love most about them, and how you plan to wear them. That’s what keeps me coming back.

  • Janean says:

    I love this post so much! I am going to be completely honest, you are the only blog that I follow on a regular basis. It is your blog that has really inspired me to do my own, something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but have never quite been sure of how to start.
    My main problem, however, is I haven’t started yet because I am a perfectionist who wants to be independent: this loosely translates to me wanting to be able to design my own layout and host my own domain. Do you think you would be able to publish an article in this series about this? And if you already have, could you throw me a link? I’d love to read it.
    Thank you so much (and please do continue to share, while you may not think you knowledge is superior, it truly is because it comes from such a personable source).

    • Amber says:

      I don’t know how to design a layout from scratch, unfortunately, because I’ve always just used pre-made WordPress themes, which you can then customize a bit… I could definitely do something on choosing a theme, or what kind of things to think about when you’re creating a theme, if that would be of any interest?

      • Janean says:

        Yes, please!! I would love to hear more about that :) If there’s something that will make it easier on me, than I’ll take it!

  • Gillian says:

    You might have discussed this previously, but could you talk about your own blogging journey? Did you always want to ‘go pro’ or did it just work out? Was it difficult to find your voice/purpose as a blogger? I just love reading about that kind of thing!

    • Amber says:

      That’s a great suggestion! I did write a post about how I got into blogging (and how I came to start this blog) a couple of years ago:

      http://www.foreveramber.co.uk/2012/08/blogstory.html

      I haven’t written anything on how I got into blogging professionally, though, and I’ve always meant to, so I’ll add that to my list: thanks for the suggestion :)

  • Sabine says:

    Great blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it
    from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your theme. Many thanks

  • laurie says:

    A great post amber, I will be checking frequently because I NEED ALL THE HELP I CAN GET! Love all your post, your glossy pictures and content is great, and I just hope I can learn something here.

  • Corinne says:

    I love the post Amber!

    I think it’s very important to lower your expectations in regards to making money from your blog. I think a lot of people assume that some bloggers are actually making money from their blogs when they’re not. Or if they are, they’re only earning a fraction from their actual blog and the rest comes from selling something or freelance work. I’ve had a few people ask me about blogging for a living and I’m like.. lucky if I make twenty quid a month!

    I think the post important things are to write content you’re really proud of and then reach out to bloggers and form a two way relationship with a few. Having around 10-15 people that read and engage in your blog regularly is so much more rewarding than 40 ‘nice dress’ comments from random people you don’t have the time to get to know!

    Corinne x

    • Amber says:

      I totally agree: I really hate those “follow me and I’ll follow you!” requests – I want people to follow me because they’re interested in my blog, not because they just want me to follow them back. Ditto people who buy followers on Instagram etc – I know they do it because the numbers look impressive to sponsors, but it just seems so pointless to have “followers” who don’t ever read your blog!

  • Liz Tea Bee says:

    As someone who follows a lot of blogs nothing makes me hit the back button faster than someone who doesn’t disclose when they’re reviewing/wearing a PR sample. I really appreciate how transparent you are and I’ve actually sent your disclosure page to blogger friends as an example of what to do.

    • Amber says:

      Oh, that’s really nice to hear! I think a lot of people don’t really understand how or why they should disclose things, so I’m happy to hear it’s been useful!

  • Andrea P says:

    I love your blog always find it interesting – love the layout on here but personally find wordpress a bit daunting to navigate – must keep trying because as you say being able to post a comment without being a member is a plus

  • Lisa says:

    Thank you for this post. I see loads of “beginner” blogger tip posts that go on and on about SEO and right now I’m not interested in that, whereas with this post I could take everything into consideration for my own blog.

  • Thanks Amber! What a great post! I wonder if you might do a post in the future on SEO. It’s something I know next to nothing about. I’d love to read your thoughts on the subject.

  • Carian says:

    What a super great post! I’ve been blogging for a while now, but your advice is so helpful. Thanks for sharing! :)

    X Carian
    http://simplychicls.blogspot.com

  • Emily says:

    Hi,
    Re: copyright – this link might also be helpful:
    http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/copy.htm

  • I was reading and smiling. Saw all my mistakes that I committed at the beginning of the blog. Especially the point about being myself.
    I was so much inspired by the bloggers and beauty bloggers that started to write about everything! And what was the result? Nothing good happened. I realized that I’m not good in cosmetics or how to do perfect make up (I do not like to do make up at all).
    I now know that I am good at psychology and travel posts.

    We need to be ourselves and people will reach for us!

    I would add to blogging comments – Make a filter, so you can approve comments. Just 5min ago got a comment from some hater. Not best words just because I’m russian..hmm.

    By the way, cool picture on your avatar! You are amazing person :)

  • CM. says:

    Great post, Amber. Do you know if it’s legal to use images from a brand’s website if you’re writing about their products but don’t own them yet – i.e. a wishlist?
    Thanks!

    • Amber says:

      Technically, no: all images are the property of their owner, so it’s not legal to use ANY image you find on the internet without permission. There are tons of grey areas with this, though – some usage would fall under “fair use”, which allows you to use images for the purpose of criticism/discussion, so some posts could be covered by that, but as I say, it’s a massive grey area: you could argue your use was “fair”, but if the brand didn’t agree, they would be within their rights to take action against you – or at least try to. In practice, though, very few brands are going to be upset by you using images of their products in a wish list, because those images are created for the purpose of promoting the product (and press offices often make them publicly available for that purpose), and if you’re linking back to their website, that’s actually GOOD for them. I’m not saying that makes it legal to use those images, obviously, obviously, just explaining why brands are unlikely to complain! I think that’s one of the reasons image copyright is so complex for bloggers, actually: technically it would be illegal for you to take one of my images and use it in a blog post, but at the same time, if it’s a blog post which links to my site, and sends me lots of new readers, it would be really silly for me to complain about it, and so it is with brands!

  • CM. says:

    That’s pretty much what I thought – thanks!

  • Toni May says:

    What a lovely post full of really helpful tips – I like that they aren’t just 1 or 2 liners, you’ve taken time to expand! Thanks for sharing. I’m a first time reader here so looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    Average Adventures

  • Neesha says:

    Thanks for this post! Definitely going to do some more research <3

  • I started my blog http://deninamartin.com about a month ago and these tips are quite useful. I will definitely take note of them. One of the best tips for new bloggers is the Copyright issue. I work in PR and really, really dislike when people disregard it.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and views!

    Denina xx

  • Great post Amber. Everything you said is so true.

  • Lea Rice says:

    Thanks for this Amber. I’m having a very bad blogging slump and you’re helping me get back on it with your handy tips :)

    Lea xxx

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