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Beginner Week: We Asked Veteran Bloggers to Reflect on Mistakes Made in Their Early Days

Theme WeekThe early days of blogging (for most of us) are filled with detours, roadblocks, and just plain slip-ups that we can make in the privacy of our own small readerships. As our blogs and their communities grow, so too do the lessons we’ve learned from the early mistakes that we’ve made. During Beginner Week, we checked back in with some bloggers who blundered with the best of us, only to come out the other side stronger and smarter than ever. They were kind enough to share their nuggets of wisdom with you.

We begin with some of Australia’s best bloggers:

Add textCaitlin – Mother Down Under // Nikki – Styling You // Christina – Hair Romance // Sarah – A Beach Cottage // Matt – Dad Down Under

Mistakes most mentioned

There seemed to be a few recurring themes in the answers of the bloggers we asked – topics like being authentic, writing in your own voice, focusing on your readers, and being useful.

Kelley at Magnetoboldtoo: “You need to decide at the start whether you are going to use real names and if not what their monikers will be. And try not to use something that everyone else is using.”

Carly at Smaggle:  “I got told really early on to always make sure that your reader is getting something out of everything that you post. I ask myself every time I’m about to post something ‘What is my reader getting out of this?’ – It’s stops you being self indulgent and helps you to edit effectively.”

Kylah at Intrepid Monkeys: “I tried too hard to write educational / information rich content all the time. Like I was writing essays for uni. Over time I’ve come to trust my own voice and open up a lot more which seems to resonate better with my readers.”

Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim: “I think the biggest mistake I made in the beginning was writing for myself, like I was writing in a journal… and not engaging an audience at all – which mainly was because I didn’t have an audience! But when I realised I could engage and create community-based stuff, I loved it. And what I learned from it? Engaging an audience is awesome, and it makes it easier for a shy blogger like me to turn the attention on to someone else. It’s a more comfortable way to blog.”

Emily at You Learn Something New Every Day: “Being too nervous to comment on the blogs of people I was in awe of. Panicking if I didn’t post EVERY SINGLE DAY. And not asking questions/engaging the reader. And plenty more mistakes to come, no doubt!”

Mrs Woog at Woogsworld: “I write very broadly, [and] my old stuff was quite beige. Also read a lot, not just blogs. Read books and see whether there is a pattern in what you are attracted to. It is ok to be influenced by people, but develop your own style. Also do it every day, even if you do not feel like it. It was become a pleasurable habit in the end.”

Carly at Carly Findlay: “One of my mistakes i made – though not early on – was to use an argument I had with someone as inspiration for a blog post – without permission. The argument was about parental one-upmanship – I was discussing something with a friend on FB and their friend jumped in and told me that because I am not a parent, I just don’t understand responsibilities or something like that. While I used more than one example of parental oneupmanship experienced in my blog post, my friend saw that I used the argument I had with her friend as an example on my blog, she got extremely upset and we are no longer friends. I pride myself on asking permission to use names and pictures of friends on my blog, so I dont know why I just didn’t check with my former friend before I used this example. Am wistful on that experience, but I’ve learnt from that. Always ask before posting.”

Deborah at Diet Schmiet: “Finding a good balance is important. I see a lot of newbies get all keen and blog daily (or more) but fizzle out after a while as they can’t sustain it. Having said that – I was a bit ad hoc for a while… however my blogging was all about ‘writing’ so I was really only doing it for me and didn’t promote or share with readers at all.”

The back end

And of course, for the non-techies among us, some of the behind-the-scenes stuff stumped us:

Melissa – Camper Trailer Travels: “The name of my blog….when I started it was just something to do in my spare time but then I started getting comments and likes and I thought maybe I can do more with it but I’m still not sure about the name – Camper Trailer Travels but we won’t always own a camper trailer.”

Andrea at Fox in Flats: “I designed and built the first version of my site myself, and because I have no background in this it took quite a long time, with lots of trial and error. Eventually I found a great ready-made theme that I purchased for $80 and was able to customise it. Happily, all my tinkering before that meant that that wasnt so challenging. And having forced myself to learn a bunch of the back end stuff, I’m now able to update aspects of my current design, without having to pay my designer to to everything for me. That said, if you can afford it, and worried about time it’s worth getting a pro to build your site for you.”

Rachel at Redcliffe Style: “Use your own images or giving the correct credit for the images used.”

Corrie at RetroMummy: “I wish I’d moved to wordpress and had my website designed earlier than I did – been talking about it for years before I actually did it and only did it in 2013! And learn to take better photos early on – again I only learnt to take photos in manual in 2013 and wish I’d done it earlier.”

Lisa at Mrs BC’s House of Chaos: “The one mistake I made that I would go back in time and change if I could would be not starting on WP. Now 4 years later I’m still on Blogger because migrating seems like such a big drama.”

Katrina at The Organised Housewife: “I wish I started self hosted from the beginning and I always tell people it’s important to protect your brand no matter how small by purchasing your .com and .com.au.”

Kelly at A Life Less Frantic: “My major early mistake was thinking my blog posts should be about me,  i.e. … there was nothing in them for my readers.”

Amanda at Cooker and a Looker: “I had little understanding of SEO when I started and called my posts obscure names. No one will ever find my kick-arse okonomiyaki recipe because I named it “(almost) banged up abroad and a recipe for what you want”. Whoops!”

Glenda at Healthy Stories: “Wasting my time with a free wordpress theme. We all want to save money when we start out since we aren’t making any money from the blog yet, but free themes can only do so much and I spent heaps of time tweaking the theme and never being satisfied. There are lots of cheap themes out there that cost only $40-50 that are really well built and will save you loads of time that you can then use to write, promote and start earning money.”

Cate at Cate Bolt: “get a good foundation from the start. Even if it’s bigger than what’s actually needed. It’s nice to say ‘start small and expand if you want to’ but if you don’t have the framework in place, it makes changing things really difficult. Check out the more popular blogs and see what plugins etc they’re using and implement them from the very beginning so you don’t have to try to migrate to something bigger and better when you’re rich and famous.”

Making money

Either too much, too little, or not knowing how to value ourselves and our time…

Lara at This Charming Mum: “Saying yes to every offer of guest blogs or product promotions in case they didn’t ask me again. I got myself over committed writing about things that didn’t really have much to do with the central aims of my blog. I promoted irrelevant products I wasn’t that interested in because I was excited about a bit of free stuff!”

Kimberley at Kimberley Magain: “The mistake I made was to ignore monetising it! I started my first blog in 2003 in Japan, as an ex-pat travel blog, before blogging was a “thing”. When I started to get unsolicited people wanting to advertise on my blog I fobbed them off with a curt message of, “Why would you want to advertise on a BLOG!” Famous last words. I was in an amazing position and didn’t take advantage of it.”

Feeling inferior

And the rise of the green-eyed monster. Very rarely useful!

Ros at Sew Delicious: “Don’t underestimate others. There are a lot of quiet achievers out there doing amazing things.”

Beth at BabyMac: “Definitely don’t compare yourself as it’s impossible to create your own style if you are trying to emulate someone else.”

Trudie at My Vintage Childhood: “No one wants to read epic long posts with no pics. Blogging becomes so much more fun and enjoyable when you stop worrying about what others are doing and the opportunities they appear to be having, and just concentrate on engaging with your audience and have fun. Stop over thinking posts, just hit publish and have fun.”

And spreading the word: life on social media

Network, network, network – some of us were doing it alllll wrong.

Kate at Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily: “I spent a fair bit of money on Facebook ads to increase our page likes, which is completely wasted now FB make it so hard to even be seen by your likers. Never pay for something you can’t own!!”

Dorothy at Dorothy K: “Not reading other blogs and commenting on them. But that was early days when commenting was worthwhile and created conversation and return visits.”

Kirsten at Kirsten and Co: “While starting out with blogger was a really easy way to start blogging, I wish I’d just jumped straight into things with a decent WP theme. I also wish I’d commented/networked a bit more with other blogs and bloggers when I first started out.”

We’d love to hear if any of these mistakes have resonated with you – have you learned something new from these stories today?

If not, you can learn lots of things new with 50% off the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging in honour of Beginner Blogger week. Use the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout and revel in your newfound knowledge!

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Comments

  1. Not putting enough of “me” into the blog post. Keeping it too professional and distanced from myself meant that I didn’t engage in the same way with my readers. Since I’ve let out a little of my personal life in a relevant way in my blog posts, I have way more connection with my readers.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Yeah, I definitely feel as though I relate more to a conversation tone. And humour! that always draws me in.

  2. Oh, what a relief to hear these mistakes! It seems no matter what we have done with our blog, we did it backwards or ‘wrong’ the first time round! But we wouldn’t know what we know or be where we are if we hadn’t of made these mistakes! One of the biggest things that set us back for a while was our first eBook. We didn’t make a plan and had to re-take a lot of photos- if we had just googled or read a few more blog posts about creating an eBook or even talked to other people, our experience would have been a lot smoother :) :)

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Ha thanks for this – I’m now going to google my ebook stuff!

  3. Being nice helps you go SO far in this game. I love that I never made this mistake, from Day 1 ;) All good tips. I refused to network aggressively for years which was a huge error for me.

    Thanks Stacey!

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I totally agree. In this biz, oftentimes nice guys don’t finish last!

  4. Bea says:

    I have learned a lot since I am a newbie period to get the blogging world. I did buy my domain but now need help with the theme or need to hire a designer? It’s very hard to get feedback from the known blogger. I find some are willing to help you with a couple of sentences, and I appreciate that tremendously. I just need help with plugins and such. Maybe a new theme. So thanks for sharing this it was very helpful.

  5. Mani says:

    Starting mistakes. It is important that we forgive ourselves for making mistakes. We need to learn from our errors and move on.

  6. Katherine says:

    Accepting famils and then writing bad stuff about them is a no no.

  7. Eric says:

    I’m still a very beginner blogger, but I’d say my biggest mistake was giving up all those times. I’ve had I don’t know many iterations of my blog. I took a long break when I started college, and now that I’m an English major I’m back on the horse. I’d probably have readers if I didn’t stop so many times.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Oh yep, blogging is a marathon, not a sprint! Keep on trucking, that’s the only way.

  8. I’m coming up to two years with my blog and I’ve found this online course fantastic. It has a travel writing bent but the information is still really worthwhile whatever your genre. It might be of interest? It’s run by Christine Gilbert from Almost Fearless, one of the better known travel blogs. Here’s the link http://blogbrilliantly.com

  9. Nat Carter says:

    It’s always nice to hear that we are all human in the blogging world! Even though I’ve been blogging for 7 years I still learn new things along the traps. I feel a key point is simply starting! If you have something to share- just get it out there. Agree that it’s really important to maintain your voice/theme throughout your blog. I love how your own blog evolves over time- it’s nice that its forever out in hyperspace

  10. Renee says:

    Really good advice and great to hear the thoughts of some of my favourite bloggers.

  11. G’day! Really enjoyed your post today Darren, true!
    Everyone has to start somewhere, finding their unique niches and what works best for them and their blog too!
    Always enjoy being enlightened and yearn learning ways to continue to make my blog better every day! Thank you!
    Cheers! Joanne

  12. Santanu says:

    I have been blogging for startups and corporates for some time now, but now that I am starting my own blog, it really seems challenging to get the ball rolling. I do go through all the Problogger tips and getting a professional paid theme was the best decision I took. I am sure I’ll make a lot of mistakes during these early days but that’s the best way to learn I guess.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I totally agree, they’re the sort of mistakes you don’t make twice, and are such good motivation!

  13. Elise says:

    I’m extremely new to blogging so it’s great to read all these tips. My problem in this initial stage is not knowing who’s reading my blog. I’ve only ever had a couple of comments. How long did it take you before you discovered your audience? How did you first grab that audience?

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      That’s such a good question! I know for me that I was getting a lot of search results traffic, but it took a long time to build up an engaged readership. The biggest thing I did was to answer all my comments and anyone who reached out to me on social media. Blogging is not a one-way street!

  14. Kate says:

    Switching over to a self hosted site rings truth to me. I’ve nearly finished the transition, I only wish I had done this from the beginning. It’s great to have full control

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Oh yes, I’ve found it great to be self-hosted. But I didn’t do it for three years, and that was right for me at the time.

  15. Robyn says:

    Awesome!! I still have so much to learnt and I’m still making so many of those mistakes. I’m loving the journey though – wish me luck x

  16. Totally agree with the comment about only reading the big blogs. My big failing when I started my first blog 6 years ago was in not finding similar small blogs/bloggers. This was compounded by the fact that I wasn’t even aware of any in the same country as me! Roll on a few years later and I joined Twitter and soon after discovered there was a very healthy and active blogging scene in Ireland that I was blissfully unaware of.

  17. xrbia says:

    I think blogger content size is to small medium or large my be use full for blog optimization but at the end of day the massage what we are going to give to blog post is most of import.

  18. Jade says:

    I’m just getting my blog started & this is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you!

  19. dilip yadav says:

    I am a new born blogger and the greatest help i could ever get from any blog is this, BLOG!
    All your post are good and very helping for newbies.
    I am learning some writing skills from this site, thanks a lot for that.
    This post will motivate me, i may do many mistakes but i will never quit!
    thanks to you.

  20. Sal Conca says:

    This article has so much to offer bloggers. It reminds me of similar mistakes affiliate marketers make in the early stages. I’ll definitely be sharing this with my clients and colleagues as well as listening to the advice while I get my company blog started this year and a few fun side projects.

  21. great lessons shared! I have fallen victim to a few of these myself – like paying for FB advertising and now my fans don’t see most of my comments unless I pay to boost the post (which I refuse to pay more)

  22. Coach Kip says:

    As an on and off blogger I found the advice of persistence and patients to be the best. Everytime I started to get traction I would get destracted and lose it. Keep working keep writing it will eventually pay off.

  23. David says:

    “I tried too hard to write educational / information rich content all the time.” Thanks Kylah, I too have learned this the hard way. Quality content is good, but there’s a point where you’re not achieving anything by making it “perfect”.

  24. Louise says:

    Being new to blogging is quite daunting, but it’s nice to read about other people who started out just like everyone else and had to figure it out for themselves. From reading above it seems as if a lot of people started blogging for themselves and then realised there was actually an interested market out there for what they were writing. So that’s a great tip, write naturally, but write something that would appeal to others.

  25. thank you for this Stacey. it means, all the big players somehow started as how i may experience now…
    it is so real to read what they have done wrong and get better and better all the way.
    the best one is, just be myself :

    Beth at BabyMac: “Definitely don’t compare yourself as it’s impossible to create your own style if you are trying to emulate someone else.”

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      It’s such a relief to know that the people who seem to have it all together really did have to learn the hard way like us. It is the best advice to be yourself.

  26. Graham Smith says:

    Hi great read found this very useful and being new to blogger it will help me alot.

    I sometimes find it hard to get started but help will help alot.

    Thanks

  27. i surf all tha places to get the information what i need but this site gives me the valuable information so that i have bookmarked this site thanks for this very nice post

  28. Mel says:

    My biggest mistake was not investing in a great camera for my DIY/craft blog. It’s amazing what a difference it makes even as I learn to use it.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I felt the same way with my food blog! Oh the difference!

  29. I like what Kylah was to say. Having your own voice is blogging gives your blog a more personal feel. I’ve come across blogs where the language is a tad harsh, but it makes me feel the blogger better.

  30. Great insight on how to avoid the pitfalls of starting your first blog. Very helpful to know the things to avoid.

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