3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Blogging

Today I’m starting a new video series, where I’ll share “3 Things I Wish I’d Known” about various topics and life experiences.

Many will be about life as a wife and mother, but this first one is “3 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Blogging.” I’ve been blogging since the summer of 2006, and started blogging here (at jessconnell.com) in January of 2014. Prior to that, I had a different blog, and I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot the hard way.

Today I’m sharing with you 3 things I wish I would have known going into it, so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.

3 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Blogging // video & transcript // jessconnell.com

 

Watch the video here (or scroll down to read the transcript):

 

EMOTIONS & CONTROVERSY

The first thing I wish I’d known is how to discern what I’m emotionally capable of in a given season.

I used to write opinion posts, and then feel a hurt or a bit tender when someone thought I was completely wrong. In nearly a decade of blogging, I can’t tell you how many bloggers I’ve watched come and go (either by stopping blogging, or deleting their blog altogether) because of this one thing. It’s emotionally jarring to have someone tear into you because of something you’ve written.

Here’s what I had to realize: any topic you take on that’s controversial (breastfeeding, parenting, birth control), where people take a firm opinion & have strong feelings about it, will get back negative feedback. You can guarantee it… especially, if your blog is doing well! The great thing about getting your blog content out there is that you get feedback. But then you have to deal with the reality that some of that feedback is going to be negative.

So I wish I would have learned earlier how to deal with that, and how to discern what I could handle. Because there are seasons where you just can’t *take* as much as you can in others. If I’ve just had a baby, or have a busy summer full of church and community events, I (now) know that I probably won’t have the extra “margin” that I would need to take on controversial topics. Instead, I need to stick to subjects that I have the gut for.

That’s the first thing. I wish I would have learned sooner how to deal with those things, and decide in advance whether I had the gut to see that topic through all the way to the end, including angry comments and people who call you an “idiot” because you hold the opinion that you do.

For me now, an important part of blogging is deciding before I post something, if I am capable of taking on that level of controversy (including the negative pushback that will inevitably come). And because I do that, I’m more in control of my emotions and more in control of my writing and responses. When I take on a controversial topic, I do it with full knowledge that it’s going to require more time and more intestinal fortitude to handle any backlash that comes.

PACING & POSTING

The next thing is that I wish I would have known how to pace myself. When I first started, I was just putting out content. Whatever I thought up that day, I would post. And sometimes that looked like several posts a day, and then sometimes I would go one or two weeks, or sometimes even months, without posting.

I wish I would have thought more carefully about the pace at which I could put out good quality content so that people could get comfortable with my routines– (i.e., “Jess always posts a new article every Monday and Wednesday“). Some bloggers do something similar with “Thankful Thursday” or some other regular feature that their readers can count on.

For you, what that could look like is, “I’m a stay at home mom, and I’ve got three little ones ages four and under. I don’t have time to post multiple times a week. Instead, I’ll write a post when I can and every Monday, if I have a post, I’m going to post it, and that way readers can come to rely on that schedule– checking my blog for new content at the beginning of the week.”

Think about the rate at which you can write good content. Then regularly pace yourself, and consider using your scheduling feature to plan your posts in advance, rather than just putting it out there the moment that it’s written.

It’s fine to do it the other way (posting randomly), and in fact, if your goal is to use your blog as a personal diary or peek into your life, that is a perfectly great way to go about it. There is no reason to mess with scheduling if your blog is your way of sharing family events, or jotting down your personal thoughts for whoever wants to read them.

But if your goal is a blog that grows in readership and influence over time, you’ll want to develop a dependable approach to how readers can access your blog. If you’re going to post once a week, Monday morning or Sunday night is typically a good time to pick, so that readers know that at the beginning of the week, they can go to your blog and get something new & fresh from your pen.

ONGOING CONTACT WITH YOUR READERS

The third thing I wish I’d known is the importance of developing an e-mail list. In over 7 years of writing at my old blog, I had over 800,000 readers come to visit, read, and interact. And you know what I have to show for that? Nothing. I have no way to recontact those readers, no way to tell them about current articles they might be interested in, and no way to connect with them about projects that I’m releasing.

When I started my new website, I offered my e-book, One Thing: Top Tip (From a Mom of 6) as a freebie for people who signed up for my newsletter, and over the course of eleven months, with nearly 250,000 visitor chalked up (much quicker rate than my old blog!), I’ve developed an e-mail list that currently sits around 450 subscribers.

What that means is I have their permission to regularly contact them.

For my blog, because I write about Christian mothering, parenting, and marriage, these subscribers know that once a month, they’re going to get some sort of encouragement from me in one of those areas. This content is NOT on my blog; it’s special content that you only get if you subscribe to my newsletter. My monthly newsletter also keeps them informed about the articles that got the most interest & interaction that month. So if they had a busy month, they know they can scan through that e-mail and find links to articles that are of interest to them. That’s the way I use the newsletter/e-mail list feature.

But the great thing about it is that it allows you develop a relationship of trust, over time, with the same reader. Without an e-mail list, you’re just waiting for them to happen across your blog again, either by coming across it in their Facebook feed, or remembering to come back and check for new articles. Instead, by having that opt in feature (always have it be “opt-in”… never add someone without their permission; that’s illegal spamming!), you’re able to keep in contact with the same person. I’ve found it useful and encouraging, and I think my readers do too.

 

So, friends, those are the three things I wish I’d known before I started blogging.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:

  • Which of these points did you most need to hear?
  • If you’re a blogger, please share something you wish you’d known before you began.

 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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8 Responses

  1. Jenny says:

    I’m not sure how to do the email list. I guess, I need something that they want so they will give me their email address for. Hmm, will have to think about that.
    I like Ann Voskamp’s art patterns that she gives out for free, she requires an email for those.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Jenny,
      Not every blogger will find it necessary to do an e-mail list… but I definitely wish I would have started one before I really had a *purpose* for it. This is, for me, the thing I most regret not doing sooner. Now that I’m writing and publishing with greater purpose, the list is invaluable to me. It’s a way of keeping relationship over time with my readers.

      I use mailchimp.com and have found it very intuitive & user-friendly. VERY easy to start a list and maintain it, and it’s FREE up to 2,000 subscribers (which is large enough that you’d have developed quite a following & be able to afford paying for it at that point).

      If you want to listen to a helpful expert talk about ways to build your e-mail list, I highly recommend this episode of Michael Hyatt’s video/podcast: http://michaelhyatt.com/s01e004-email-strategies-html.html

      I found it immensely helpful in thinking about ways to develop this part of my website.

      ~Jess

  2. Bambi Moore says:

    Love this, Jess. For me, your first point is most applicable. I have learned that lesson the hard way as well. A stark example of this occurred right after my last baby was born. I posted a photo of her on my blog facebook page and someone said she looked as if she had a heart defect. Others chimed in with less than gracious words of caution as well, no matter how reassuring I tried to be. She was 2 days old and there was nothing wrong with her (thankful to say she is a healthy 9 month old today!) There have been other times as well that my finger itches to hit “delete blog.” Especially, as you said, after opinion posts or hot button issues. But certain seasons of busyness just do not leave the emotional fortitude to write about what we’re passionate about. So, I have learned that just because I don’t have the energy to post on hot button issues, doesn’t mean I have to quit altogether (recipes, anyone? :))Faithful readers that you have come to know over the years are going to read whatever you have to say. I know because I do this myself as a reader of a handful of blogs that I have been reading for years! (Yours is one. I remember finding it through Amy’s Humble Musings probably 6 or more years ago! And in “blog years” that’s like 20. Ha!)

    • Jess Connell says:

      “in “blog years” that’s like 20”

      LOL! Too true, Bambi!

      As far as emotions & controversy, those postpartum days can be so tender anyway… but then you add in opinions & critiques from far-off, angry people, and it’s a recipe for disaster. :) Live and learn…

  3. Sarah McGraw says:

    The emotional thing hits a nerve, definitely!!

  4. Charisa says:

    Thanks for the tips! On an unrelated note, I found today that I can’t view your blog on my phone anymore, because the pop-up about your newsletter is bigger than the screen of my phone, and I am unable to scroll to the corner to close it. So now all I can see is the pop-up and can’t “x” it out. :( Maybe it’s just my phone? I’ll keep trying! Love following your blog, and have been for many years now.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Thanks for telling me, Charisa.

      I only re-enabled it yesterday, thinking I would try it out again, but that doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’ll play around with other options eventually but for now, just disabled it in case your experience is common with other people as well.

  5. The Blog was made for Man, not Man for the Blog.

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