When I had the bright idea to start writing a parenting blog, I had no idea what I was doing – technically or otherwise. It’s certainly been quite the learning curve. Here are 10 things that I never knew about blogging – and wish I had known before I started! I have also included a few tips on how to tackle the problems and get the most out of your blogging experience.
#1 – It will threaten to take over your life.
It’s amazing just how much time goes into blogging. It’s not just writing posts. There’s also: editing, planning, research, sourcing pictures, plugging your posts on social media, plugging others’ posts on social media, keeping up with social media in general, liaising with sponsors and seeking new sponsorship, putting mailing lists together, guest posting, commenting on other blogs and replying to comments on your own blog… The list goes on. I really had no idea quite how much of my time it would take up. I am not strictly a ‘hobby blogger’ – my blog was designed not just to be a pleasurable pursuit for me, but also to provide an income for my family – so for me, it is important that I devote a large portion of my time to blogging. It’s my business, as well as my hobby. I love to blog, I will be honest though – sometimes it can feel like a chore. However, I refuse to give up – because of the amazing and heart-warming comments and emails I receive, and because I have to write. It’s that simple. Its important to remember that with blogging – whether it’s for money, pleasure or both – there must be balance.
#2 – You will make lots of new friends
I’ve met so many fantastic people since I started blogging. Online friendships are, to me, just as important as my real life friendships – These are the people who listen to you rant at 2am when the baby just. won’t. sleep. These are the people who console you when you are feeling overwhelmed. These are the people who offer you virtual hugs when you are struggling. I actually tend to share more with my online friends than I do my IRL (In Real Life) friends, simply because it’s easier to open up when there is a computer screen between us. Your online community/readership/followers/fans will become as important to you as your IRL community.
#3 – You will alienate lots of your IRL friends.
This is the one that I’ve really struggled with. Since starting my blog, I have encountered quite a bit of difficulty in my real-life friendships. My close friendships have not changed – after all, they know me well, and know who I am and what I stand for. However, I get the general feeling that a lot of my acquaintances – my mummy-friends, if you will – feel that I think I’m some kind of expert (not true), that I judge them (not true), and that I watch what they are doing with their kids and secretly plan a blog post about it (not true). Yes, I have strong opinions about certain things, but don’t we all? The difference between me and everybody else is simply that I talk about my strong opinions in public, therefore alienating those in my life who disagree. It makes me very, very sad that some people avoid me simply because of what I do for a living. If you are considering starting a parenting blog, and you care about what others think about you, I strongly recommend staying anonymous – or at least not telling everybody about it.
#4 – Some people will see you as an expert
On the flip side, some people (online and in real life) will come to rely on the things you write, and view you as some kind of expert. It’s difficult sometimes, when writing posts that involve giving tips or information, to keep the tone informal and friendly rather than authoritative. Yes, there are some things I am very knowledgeable about, and other things I am not. Same goes with every other parenting blogger. Unfortunately, there are a few people out there (not many, to be fair) who read things on blogs and take it as gospel, so I feel it’s important to be clear about opinions being opinions, and facts being facts (and provide proof to back up your factual claims).
#5 – Some people won’t actually read your post before commenting
We’ve all been there – You open up a blog post online, read the first paragraph and become so incensed that you just briefly skim over the rest of the post and leave a heated, angry comment beneath. And even if you do read all of the post properly, it’s very difficult not to view it through your own personal filter. For instance – the amount of comments I received on my Letter from a Sleep Training Baby post from parents who felt I was judging them for not co-sleeping was quite astounding. Nowhere in the post did I mention co-sleeping. Nowhere in the post did I say that parents who sleep train their babies are evil and nasty, but these are the messages that some people got from it. Be prepared that people will read your posts through their own lens, and may not understand the message that you were trying to convey – and that’s OK. It’s part of the beauty of the human mind. We all see things differently. If you’ve been clear about your point, and there’s a few people who still don’t ‘get’ what you were trying to say, they probably never will. Let it go.
#6 – If you’re not pissing somebody off, UR doin’ it WRONG
You really cannot please everybody all of the time. You can try, but you’ll fail eventually. I tried, I failed, and I have come to the realisation that pleasing everybody is actually the last thing you want to do as a parenting blogger. Yeah, you’ll keep your readers happy, but you won’t gain an awful lot of respect. Your posts will be pithy and too politically correct to really attract any kind of readership. I’m not saying you should *try* to be controversial, but trying to be everybody’s darling will get you nowhere. Be true to yourself (and respectful with it), and you will attract a readership that believes in you and who finds comfort, solace and understanding in your posts.
#7 – You will be knocked down a peg or two
Yeah, I’ll admit it. I used to be pretty judgemental about certain parenting topics, such as breastfeeding, attachment parenting and the like. I just didn’t understand why anybody would do anything different to that. I started the blog with a gung-ho attitude but now I have learnt to be a lot less militant. My views are a lot more moderate about certain things now, and that is purely down to the fantastic, diverse group of parents who I have been lucky enough to interact with regularly here, and on our facebook and twitter communities. It’s easy to imagine that your way is the only way, when not faced with the reality of our different choices on a daily basis.
#8 – Sometimes you will strongly dislike blogging.
I view my relationship with blogging like a marriage. It’s a commitment that I’ve made that I have every intention of standing by, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be wonderful. Sometimes it’s really tough. Sometimes I want to just throw the towel in and never write another blog post again. But then, inspiration will hit and I will get such pleasure from writing, and then again from sharing it with you, that I just cannot stop.
#9 – You need a really, really thick skin.
When you inevitably get negative comments, it will probably sting. It still makes me sad, even after almost a whole year of blogging. It’s so easy to take negative comments personally and internalise them. It’s really important to remember #6, and also this – sometimes, people are just plain mean. Some people thoroughly enjoy inciting arguments and upsetting others online. I publish everything, even trolls if they have raised a point that gives me (or anyone else) an opportunity to inform – but you can always delete comments that you feel are not helpful or constructive. There is a fine line between censorship and keeping the peace, but of course, it’s your blog – you can publish (or delete) whatever you want.
#10 – You will need to remind yourself why you blog
People blog for different reasons – some for love, some for money, some for social change and some for all of the above. Never forget the reasons why you are doing it. Arguments in the comments, disagreements with other bloggers, losing twitter or facebook followers, SEO fails, nosediving pageviews and the like will all be easier to deal with if you forget the things that don’t matter and focus on those that do. Blogging for money? Treat your blog like your business – with love, planning and careful thought. Blogging for love? Write for yourself, not for your readers. Blogging to change the world? As my good friend Mamapoekie from Authentic Parenting would say, “don’t tiptoe quietly, stampede!”
Why do you blog? What did you learn about blogging that you wish you’d known before you started? What tips and advice would you offer a fledgeling parenting blogger?