Just over a year ago, while leafing through my copy of the latest ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook’ and trying to work out how I could turn writing from a dream into a career, I stumbled upon an article saying something along the lines that as a writer, the Internet was your friend. For me, the technologically unsavvy owner of a Facebook account I struggled to change the cover photo on, this seemed unlikely, and the assertion that blogging was a ‘simple but effective way to showcase your writing’, seemed equally absurd. I had never really heard of blogging (honestly), certainly didn’t read or follow any blogs, and didn’t really like the word ‘blogging’ anyway – it kind of made me think of something rude people did when they wanted to clear their throat.
But as I read on, I started to get more interested, and began to understand how blogging actually worked. I started to google family blogging websites and was amazed by the quality and diversity of what was available. I soon found go-to sites on all manner of topics such as food, fashion, travel, photography and books. It was better than watching tv, scrolling through social media or reading magazines and within a short time I was hooked.
I soon got to thinking about starting my own blog after all and consulted my husband and my parents to garner their opinions. Their reaction was initial concern and hesitation – I think they had visions of me being attacked by the online trolls you often hear about (this always makes me picture a swarm of angry little creatures chasing me down the street). By this point though, I was determined to go ahead and busied myself with thinking of a blog name, developing a website, scrolling my camera roll for nice photos and writing a couple of articles to get me started. In May of 2016 Wellies on the School Run was born and I can honestly say I haven’t really looked back since.
And so after a year, almost 40 articles, literally hundreds of photos and over 50,000 words of prose (see, inner voice, I can write a book!), it’s time for me to reflect on what a year in blogging has taught me. So if you’ve ever fancied starting a blog yourself, want some tips and ideas, or just wonder what’s actually behind those pretty websites you click into with your morning coffee – read on.
- Blogging Teaches New Skills
In the year that I’ve been blogging, I’ve developed new skills in areas that previously weren’t even on my radar. I’ve developed a website (with a little help from WordPress), learned how to maintain it, tried my hand at designing my own banner, and even managed to use a little html coding (forgive me if I haven’t got the terminology here quite right). I’ve discovered that widgets aren’t just something to do with beer cans and that sidebars aren’t just another word for handrails. I’ve managed to edit and upload photos, develop graphics for Pinterest and defeated my technical demons to finally open and link to a Twitter account (although the latter still remains a bit of mystery). None of this comes naturally to me and I’m actually quite proud of myself for managing to achieve it. And if a technical dinosaur like me can manage it, believe me, you can do it too.
- Blogging Isn’t Easy
I can imagine that from the outside, blogging might just look like someone posting on social media all day and endlessly blagging free stuff to review, but as a blogger (who I should point out has never received any free stuff to review – insert tiny violin emoji), I can confirm that behind the scenes there is actually quite a lot involved in running a blog, between maintaining a website, taking and editing photos, actually writing and editing articles, and sharing them on social media (the only way to increase the likelihood that anyone except your Mum will ever read them – hi Mum!). Don’t get me wrong, if it’s something you love doing then it’s not the kind of thing that ever feels like working, but if you’re thinking of setting up a blog yourself it’s worth remembering that you will probably need to put in a lot of time, effort and passion to get it off the ground. I’ve probably spent as much time on my blog in the last year as most people spend on a part time job, or at the very least their most treasured and very favourite hobby. These days it’s something I find quite hard to switch off from, and I’ll happily sneak in out-of-hours writing or photo taking without a thought for wanting to take time away. It’s a project, which if you fall in love with, can quickly become a passion. Just be prepared for that if you decide to develop your own little www-dot-com home.
- There’s No Such Thing as Overnight Success
It’s easy to imagine that you set up a blog, start writing some nice articles, and within a few weeks develop a lovely little readership who regularly read and comment on all your posts. Unfortunately, for most people, this doesn’t really happen, and in reality it can take some time for a blog to become established. I am only really starting to get a reasonable readership on my blog now, and that’s at the start of year 2 – 40 articles, hundreds of pictures, and approximately 50,000 words later. Like most things in life you have to put a lot in to get results, and rather than focusing too much on ‘growing your blog’, I’d suggest keeping your focus on the people who are reading, by writing from the heart and putting out good quality, helpful articles that people will hopefully want to read, enjoy, and perhaps if you’re lucky, share with their friends. These days I get a real buzz from checking my WordPress dashboard and seeing that my articles are being read by people from as far afield as Canada, the Netherlands, the United States and the Philippines (isn’t it clever that WordPress can let you see that?). I choose to let that make me happy rather than pondering why that article I wrote a year ago has only been viewed a total of 18 times (thankyou, 18 viewers!). If you’re struggling to build up a readership for your blog please don’t get downhearted. Just keep going, keep writing, keep sharing – and keep borrowing that old Field of Dreams wisdom – ‘if you build it they will come’.
- But Blogging Can Be a Job
All of the above said, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want to eventually grow my readership, and many bloggers with a decent following have been able to make a modest living out of blogging as a career. This is done in various ways such as working with brands who sponsor posts, through collaborations, working as brand ambassadors and so on – things that intersperse the posts bloggers write for themselves and others, and enable them to earn a little income for doing something that they love. I would love to get to this point one day (and I can’t help thinking my husband would rather like it also), but naturally, brands are keen to work with bloggers who have a good ‘profile’, and are therefore likely to get their products seen. I recently checked my site’s ‘Domain Authority’ (a curious metric that has something to do with how well a website will rank on search engine result pages), and discovered that after months of going nowhere, it had suddenly jumped up to the figure of 18. I’m not a statistics person, but I remember reading somewhere that a Domain Authority of 25 was considered ‘good’, and a figure of 20 meant your website had ‘arrived’. Hopefully this all means that my little blog is finally reaching the arrivals gateway, and you never know, I might be cracking out a mini bottle of prosecco one day soon!
- From the Heart Will Always Win
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from blogging, it’s that words are most powerful when they are written from the heart. The most successful of my articles have always been those that gave something of myself away, that showed vulnerability and reassured people that no, they are definitely not alone. The most popular article I have written has undoubtedly been my story of adding a puppy to our family, an article which didn’t always paint me in a very good light, but which was written with absolute honesty and truth (I do of course like to think all my articles are written honestly). This post has now been shared more than 350 times on Facebook, nothing to many bloggers, but from my little corner of the internet – that’s really rather huge. I also received a lot of feedback on an article I wrote about peoples’ perceptions of Stay-at-Home Mums last year, and more recently, for an article I wrote on my battle with an underactive thyroid. The comments, messages and conversations I’ve had with people on all of these articles mean more to me than I could ever put into words.
Just recently, I was out with my family in a local café when the owner shouted over to me ‘Hi Wellies on the School Run!’ – that really made me smile. The same day another school mum told me she was really enjoying my reading recommendations and was looking forward to finding out more about my favourite books. Later, when we visited my husband’s Grandmother in her care home, one of the auxiliaries told me she had been really enjoying discovering and reading all my blog articles. These are the things that make me happy, make it worthwhile, and make me wonder how I managed before Wellies on the School Run became such a big part of my life. Year one is over and I still have a notebook full of articles and ideas I want to share. I hope you’ll be here to enjoy year two with me. The future in wellies is definitely looking bright.
And finally a request…..
If you’ve enjoyed reading my articles over the last year, I’d really appreciate it if you’d consider nominating me in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category of the Brilliance in Blogging awards from BritMums, which recognises the best of parent lifestyle blogging for bloggers with blogs of less than 18 months old. There are very few, if any, other parent bloggers in the far north of Scotland and I’d really like to fly the flag for my little area if I can. If you’d like to nominate me please click on the link below (nominations close on the 7th June at 23.59), and follow the link to the nomination form. I’d be extremely grateful!