Along with fireworks, dark evenings and the first hints of Christmas, November brings my 29th birthday and the 6 month anniversary of The Girl on the Piccadilly Line. Prior to this blog my previous blogging experience had consisted of 6 posts during a summer in Italy. I am really enjoying blogging and have learnt an awful lot over the last six months. If you’re feeling in anyway inspired to blog yourself read on: here are 10 things you will probably do within the first 6 months of starting your blog.
1. You will Google: “How To Earn Money Blogging” every day.
Shortly after publishing your first post you’ll start spending a lot of your time imagining a life where your day consists of sitting in cafes tapping away at your laptop, researching your next post and sipping endless flat whites. You’ll contemplate selling space on your blog to generate advertising revenue but decide against it as you “don’t want to dampen the experience for your readers” (even if, at this point, your only readers are your Mum and Dad and your Mum’s friend Linda.) You imagine that somehow Lonely Planet, The Guardian or Cosmopolitan are going to have spotted the “potential” of your first 400 word post, that has been seen by 4 people, and email you offering you a 5 year contract to continue your blog. It wasn’t just me that did this right?
2. You’ll tweak. Obsessively.
The Girl On The Piccadilly Line went from grey, boxy and “grown up” to pink with a hand drawn London skyline in just 2 hours. I think I’ve given less thought to some of the flats I’ve rented than I gave to choosing my theme. Even once you’ve got your blog set up the way you want you’ll play around and change bits. You’ll scroll through other blogs and envy their theme, layout and font. Yes, you become jealous of fonts. You decide that your own blog looks clunky and amateurish by comparison. So you tweak and tweak and tweak…
3. You’ll wish you knew more about coding
For those bloggers that can code – good work. My previous coding experience ends at programming a times tables game whilst teaching a class and that was with incredibly clear step-by-step instructions written so a 7 year-old could follow them. There are so many things I would like to change about my site but, at present, I don’t have the skills to do so. So in those first few months you’ll scour WordPress forums and sometimes cry in frustration at not knowing your CSS from your HTML or your Front End from your Back End. That said, when you finally manage to customize even the most basic of features on your site, albeit with the help of a very patient 19-year-old computer science undergrad you found on Twitter, you’ll feel pretty damn pleased with yourself.
4. You’ll hit refresh – and then hit refresh again.
Page hits aren’t actually the most useful statistic but in the early days of a new blog there is something quite exhilarating about watching that number increase. If you’re anything like me you’ll start imaging who the new readers are “Oh another 2 hits – that’s probably the Obamas. They can’t get enough of my blog.” I think I actually whooped with joy with Girl On The Piccadilly Line reached a mere 3,000 hits (before moving domains and starting again at 0. Grr.)
5. You’ll lust after desks.
I’m desperate for a desk to work at. You know, with flowers, pictures plenty of light and colourful pens. At the moment I write all my posts from either the sofa or our kitchen/office (every home has a kitchen/office right?) It’s handy being so close to the kettle but my aim is to have a more peaceful desk space some day in the future.
6. You’ll become a social media expert (whore)
I use social media like a 16 year old. I’ve dusted off my Pinterest, got myself a Bloglovin account and created a Girl On The Piccadilly Line Facebook page. I’ve spent more time analysing stats for these accounts than is probably healthy and have worked out the best time to publish a new post for maximum exposure. Social media is excellent for finding like-minded bloggers and building a network of support and advice. Use it to your advantage. I follow #MondayBlogs, #BloggingGals and #SundayBlogShare avidly and use them to find new blogs to follow.
7. You’ll be hit by huge amounts of self-doubt
Writing is personal and blogging even more so; you are putting a little piece of yourself out there for others to judge. Of course if you really don’t want negative feedback you shouldn’t put yourself out there at all but then if you thought like that you’d never really do anything. I remember sitting on a train with The Man On The Piccadilly Line, who’d been watching in bemusement as I scrawled in my notebook like a maniac, I looked up and it said, “What am I doing?! Nobody is interested in this – only me! This is too niche; why am I writing this?”
“Just keep writing,” he replied, “There’ll be other people who will find it interesting and you’re enjoying it so don’t worry.” (The Man on the Piccadilly Line is very wise and very kind, you see.) I used to get embarrassed even showing him my writing but now I show him all my posts before publishing them and he proof reads and advises. He’s always positive and encouraging but also offers advice on how I could improve parts of my writing. Find a friend that can do this for you. Then marry that friend.
8. You promote other people’s blogs
I now follow dozens of blogs, comment regularly on them and tweet with the bloggers. You get out what you put in and self promotion is only going to get you so far – you need to work with other people. Also, they’re a really friendly bunch out there in the Bloggersphere so don’t be afraid to say hello! Everyone you interact with will be able to offer you some advice or teach you a new skill (or in my case explain in the MOST basic terms where I had to paste the code to create a side bar.) Get involved, share other people’s work and do so without the expectation that the favour will be returned (although it often will be.)
9. You’ll store blog ideas on your phone
Because they’ll strike you when you’re at work, out with friends or in the pub (be careful of those ideas though – 3 glasses of Rioja and I will become convinced the world needs a post about all the pets I’ve owned: 9 cats and a dog, since you asked.) Joking aside there will be times when you have genuine “I have to blog about this” lightbulb moments and inspiration nearly always strikes at an occasion when it isn’t socially acceptable to ignore work or social decency and start a new post, so have somewhere handy to write them down.
10. You’ll learn a lot about when and how you like to work
Blogging regularly takes commitment. I write roughly 5,000 words a month for my blog and that’s mainly at weekends (or particularly inspired evenings.) In the holidays I can write three posts a week rather than three a month. I know I work better in the mornings and that when I have an idea that I really want to write about I’m impatient to get going on it (which is why most of Eat. Read. London was written by hand on the train from Leamington Spa to Euston.) I’ve also confirmed something I’ve always suspected about myself which is, when I am really interested in what I’m doing, I will become slightly obsessive about it. Without meaning to, it I have sat for 4 hours straight without looking up from my screen working on a blog post and stay up into the small hours writing – those that know me, know that I’m normally in bed and asleep by 10pm. So much of my working life is dictated by bells and being in certain places at certain times that it’s been interesting to see how I approach a completely different sort of work on my own schedule.