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Key Learnings After a Year of Blogging & Building A Business

The first time I was diagnosed with cancer, we didn’t have smart phones. No one texted. People still wrote letters, though most employees had email. Once people found out that little ol’ 31-year-old me had cancer, they all sent long notes, cards and packages. Rather than answer every call and email, I started writing “chapters” of my cancer experience and emailing them to family/friends. Many people thought I had a sense of humor about it all. So I wrote more. This time around, once all my friends and family heard I was re-diagnosed, I was told I should write a blog. So I did. Now an official year being “live” with PrettyWellness.com, I’m reflecting on what I learned and how to make a difference in this world.

Like many, I figured it would be a breeze. I’m a storyteller by nature, so thought it was just about writing content. I was wrong. Let me say, some blogs can be that way, such as a journal meant to be cathartic and informative. However, if the goal with blogging is to “make something of it,” albeit a small business, there’s so much more involved. So if your vision of success is to build a business out of blogging, here are my top key learnings from this past year.

 

Key Learnings After A Year of Blogging and Building a Business

1. To blog successfully, you need to have not only writing but marketing skills, know your audience and write to them…authentically and consistently. You need to understand SEO, so that your words can be found in the vast space of the internet. In addition, you need to reach them on any platform, therefore need to be active on various different social media platforms. This isn’t just about posting a pic on Facebook or Twitter, it’s about starting conversations and posting regular curated content (several hours a week) on a few platforms to build your credibility. Whether or not you have a logo or catchy name, you’re building a brand and need to show insight and expertise. So spending weeks getting to know how to maximize Pinterest, YouTube or your favorite two social media avenues is important, though time-consuming.

2. To blog successfully, you need to have a professional site. You need to figure out hosting (GoDaddy) as well as how to utilize a web creation tool (Word Press.) A relevant theme and clean look to your site is important, too. Then there’s learning how to use widgets, new plug-ins and all the bells & whistles that make a blog’s readership grow from newsletters to giveaways. Professional websites also have beautiful visuals. Photos can be taken with smart phones, though some work must be done afterwards with PicMonkey or Canva to make them aesthetically beautiful. They need to be optimized for each platform to assure they are being shared, as well.

3. To blog successfully, you should join the writing/blogging community. In order to grow your audience, you need to embrace others to help them help you. Joining blogging groups like The SITS Girls or The Blogging Bunch helps inform bloggers about the business of blogging, while also building a community of support. Commenting on blogs daily, participating in weekly Link-ups and joining Twitter parties is time-consuming, but helps build awareness of your brand while also finding advocates to share your stories to their readers/fans. Guest posting for personal blogs or bigger media companies such as Blogher or The HuffingtonPost will help grow your reach.

4. To blog successfully, you also need to know your goals and have a business plan. What are you trying to achieve? If you want to get paid for sponsored posts, you may look to pursue different opportunities than if you want to write a book or schedule speaking engagements. The industry of blogging is huge and overwhelming…but if you know what you want to achieve, you can map out a path of trying to get there.

5. To blog successfully, you need to have an editorial plan. You need to have an editorial calendar for you blog content as well as social media posts. If you can schedule a few weeks out, you have some flexibility. This also gives you time to capture the appropriate photos, schedule social media posts as well as have content readily available for your site.

6. To blog successfully, you should find a blogging mentor or as I say “blogging big sister.” Whose site do you like? Whose voice do you aspire to be like? Analyzing bloggers within your niche or writers that you aspire to be like, will help you progress. Find someone that you think could be your friend because you share a similar message and want to learn from this person. I found Kristen Hewitt of MommyInSports. Our career paths in sports and media are similar, yet different. When I found her, I could see myself being friends with her because we both embrace healthy living, are mothers and understand the trials and tribulations of working in sports. We are now friends because we are bloggers but also so much more. We give each other “tough love” about what we like/dislike about our sites in an effort to make each other better.

7. Most importantly, to blog successfully, you should write from the heart, while at the same time, find a support team to provide feedback so that you can grow. I am so lucky that my son and husband see Pretty Wellness as my job and my passion. They are as much a part of this as I am because they allow me the time to build the business and together embrace a healthy lifestyle making my life be my content. I’m also incredibly grateful that some of my past mentors, bosses and best friends have risen to the occasion to be a part of my “pretty committee.” These friends and former colleagues have met with me to build out my vision plan, brainstorm creative editorial content and send me feedback on a weekly basis, so that we can grow our healthy living message.

A special thanks to Kevin, Kyle and my sister, Nancy, for playing many roles in our small business. In addition, I’m very grateful to my extended family and friends for supporting me, providing feedback, making business connections and helping me grow in this space. I also greatly appreciate all the readers and friends that have commented on a daily/weekly basis on the site and social media platforms. Happy Blogaversary to all of us.

Please share your blogging tips and how you see success in the blogging sphere?

27 Comments

  1. Awwwww…this is so insanely helpful to anyone starting a blog. And you are correct, this isn’t just a blog…or a business for you….but the start of your empire. You inspire me to be healthier and happier every day. This site is a blessing to everyone who reads it. Well done Pretty Wellness…I’d say year one was ‘pretty’ damn successful. As you’ve learned blogging is NOT a hobby….it’s a job! (and if anyone tells you otherwise they’re ignorant!)
    Kristen recently posted…Things Kids Say: The Science Edition

    • Kristen, Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You know this site is a huge part of me, so I’m thrilled that you “get it” and “get me”. I really appreciate our pep talks and your insights on how to build my business as well as all the potential in “this job.”

  2. I appreciate your advice! The hardest thing for me is finding adequate time to devote. I’m proud of myself if I get a post written and posted every few days, much less participate in social media, facebook groups, etc, But then I see all these bloggers who do so much more on a regular basis. Do people not need sleep!? :)

    The second hardest part for me is what you said in #7. There are many topics I’d like to write about, but it’s easy to get swayed by what seems to be popular, especially when you’re new and trying to build traffic. Hopefully I’ll find the right balance the longer I work at it.
    Alyssa recently posted…15 SIMPLE, HEARTY AFTER-SCHOOL SNACKS

    • Sorry about that giant smiley face…not sure how that got there! Can you delete it?
      Alyssa recently posted…15 SIMPLE, HEARTY AFTER-SCHOOL SNACKS

      • HI. I think that giant smiley face is an error in my theme stylesheet. I have it on my “to-do” list…Once we fix it, it will be small again. Until then, I will just think of it that you are really happy to see/hear from me.

    • Alyssa – If it means anything, I totally understand your sentiments. All of them. There’s not enough time in the day to do anything and when I look at what others have done, they totally look like they are working around the clock. So, what I’ve done and feel good about – is two fold: goal planning and weekly scheduling. I spend a few hours every few months thinking about and writing down my long term goals. This way I can assure that my week to week, day to day are aligned with them. Then I print out a weekly schedule (even though I have an electronic one on my phone) and then scribble in what I want to do that week. It really helps me feel good, because I like to be organized. After a week, it also helps me feel satisfied reflecting on everything I’ve done (both personally and professionally.) From the looks of your site, you seem on-top of it…so I’m sure that you are doing really well, just wanting more, which is a good thing. I can’t wait to check out your site even more.

  3. You did not list anything that I didn’t already know, but it was still a list I needed to be reminded of! It’s so easy to get caught up in all the “busy work” of maintaining and promoting a blog – sometimes you’ve got to take a deep breath and refocus. Thanks!
    JenEverAfter recently posted…A Happy {Honduran} Halloween!

    • Thanks for stopping by Jen. I agree, so many life lessons (let alone these blog ones) are really things we already know. Sometimes we get so involved in the day-to-day, we just need to be reminded. I’ve written for many years, but was new to the blogging space. So, over this past year, I found these tips/common themes helpful at building momentum. Happy Holiday weekend.

  4. This is such a great post, and has so many insights on it! I stopped by from SITS girls, and am now signing up with Blog Meets Brand. IT certainly seems like you have learned a lot about blogging over the past year! It is definitely true that you have to write from the heart- otherwise, people will see right through you. Thanks for sharing!
    Samantha Angell recently posted…9 Tips To Enjoy & Survive Songkran

    • HI Samantha. I’m really glad that you got connected with Blog Meets Brand. I went to an InStyle event with them this past fall and it was really a top-notch deal. Keep me posted on what you think of them and your experiences.

  5. Amazing tips. I haven’t blogged for a long time so I really appreciate your advice :) Thank you for sharing.

    • You are very welcome. Hopefully the post will inspire you to write again. Blogging serves so many different purposes for me. It’s cathartic but more importantly, it really does help me feel like I make a difference in the greater community. In life, we’ve all been through so many different experiences and together we can build, share and grow together….whether it’s dealing with an illness or just finding ways to enjoy life. I love to read posts like this.

  6. These are great tips! I’m almost six months in and still learning as I go. This post was very helpful!!!

    • I’m glad you found this post helpful. I felt like a newbee until about the 10-month mark…then I started to really feel my rhythm. Whenever I got stuck or needed inspiration, I went to SITSGirls. They are a brilliantly beautiful resource. Also, I’m a huge fan of The Blogging Bunch http://thebloggingbunch.com. I did their 31-days to a Better Blog. It’s free and incredibly helpful. Sarah from the Blogging Bunch hosts a small mentoring group. It’s not pricey and worth the time and $$$. Her twitter handle is:play2learnsarah.

  7. Excellent tips! I wish I’d seen these when I began blogging, but I know they will help someone else!

    Stopping by from the SITS sharefest. :)

    • HI. I’m glad you liked the tips. I will say that I am constantly trying to learn more about blogging, social media and the industry of it all. While I’ve learned a TON this past year, there’s still so much out there to understand. And, the beauty of this space is that it’s always changing…so there’s always something new to try and figure out.

  8. Two times with cancer? Oh I am so sorry. I didn’t know that!

    Your tips for blogging are fabulous and spot on! There is so very much more involved in blogging, at least if you want to be successful. Just pinned this post to my blogging tips board. Thanks for sharing!
    Jen recently posted…Mommy Reality #33: Bedside Table Treasure Hunt

    • Happy Holiday weekend. Thanks for checking out my post. It’s such a great compliment that you like my tips. You are such a well-established blogger that I’m honored to hear that from you. Thanks for pinning it, as well.

  9. you have very good, helpful ideas. thank you for them. and continue to be strong in your (assumingly life long ) recovery!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Nicole. There are sooooo many lessons to learn with blogging, I’m glad you like these. I know it sounds cliche, but I truly do learn something new everyday. Sometimes I stumble upon something that I need to “fix” so I learn to do it. Other times, I see something I like that another blogger is doing and try and figure it out, as well. Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend.

  10. These are great great ‘tips’. I hesitate to lump them in with that crowd because these are all so true and not, for some, maybe that obvious.
    Madaline recently posted…White House Black Market | What I Wore {Santarcangelo}

    • Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Tips is such an easy word to use…but some of them truly are more strategies. While I heard many tips the first few months I was blogging, I truly didn’t understand them until several months after.

  11. Great post and advice for a newbie like me. Love your blog! Xo
    Diana @ Soulful Necessities recently posted…Pasta with Buffalo Meat Sauce

    • Thanks Diana. I can’t believe that you are a newbie. From the few times I’ve been to your site, it’s awesome, so I assumed you had been doing this for years. Definitely stay in touch.

  12. man I must say you’re my motivation to go on Just one qusetion though can you please give me some advice, I would like to lose a lot of weight fast, and gain some muscle. I would like your opinion on what exercises to do,? how often, how much and what to eat Thank you very much in advance

  13. Only one year – it seems like it should be longer than that – which is a sign of success. Great tips. One of these days I will get serious and start implementing them. For now I’m just keeping my oar in the water.
    Savvy recently posted…Requesting “Doggie Bag” at a Business Lunch

    • Thank you so much. When I reposted this to Facebook/social media – I actually mentioned that I wrote this a year ago. Now, it’s been two years with the blog and business and many of these lessons still apply a year later/two years into the process. Thanks for the kind words. If you are enjoying any part of blogging/building a business…keep it up. Though I say that with a caveat – keep it up on your own terms. Figure out your goals, interests and make it work for you personally and professionally. Have a great week and best of luck.

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