I really hesitated before writing this post for a number of reasons. Firstly, ‘success’ is a relative term, so what I think of success online will be very different to others, see my post on being your own version of success for more explanation of that. Also, I by no means feel like an ‘expert’ or that I am really qualified write on this. However, I’ve had several emails from people asking me for advice and when I really think about it, I do earn a living doing something I love that is mostly online based. Maybe I’m more qualified to talk about it than I’d originally thought?
These tips are mainly geared up for those of us that want to take blogging or online business further. Theres also nothing wrong with blogging purely for pleasure and connection, in fact I’d say that’s the essential starting point for everyone. When I first started blogging I had no idea it would end up here, and on my way I had no guide map so I basically just winged it. I’ve certainly made a few mistakes, but such is life and from each mistake you learn. Now I feel like I have a fairly good handle on all this blogging and online business stuff, so here’s a few of my tips for being successful online, whatever that ‘success’ might mean to you…
p.s I get a bit sweary here so skip if you don’t like that kind of thing, but then I doubt you’d be here if you didn’t, see final point ;-)
If you aren’t passionate about what you write about and share, a) people will be able to see that and b) you’ll be so much more likely to give up when the going gets tough, and believe me there are tough times! I’ve had bad blogging and bad business days where something has happened and I’ve really been so tempted to just say fuck it and pack it in, however it’s the passion that keeps me going, as well as all the positive feedback I’ve had from you guys ;-) When I started a blog, it was purely for sharing my journey and offering me a creative outlet. That is something I’m still passionate about and I hope that you see that as well. My favourite blogs are by bloggers that are clearly passionate about whatever they blog about.
Don’t expect it to happen overnight
I was blogging for a good few months before I started getting more than 4 or 5 comments on a post. It was much longer than that before I made any kind of income and it’s taken me 4 and a half years of blogging almost daily to get here, so it definitely takes time and work. Enjoy the ride!
I do think it helps if you can be consistent in whatever you are doing. If that’s blogging, then having a roughly consistent schedule is good. I know I engage more with blogs that post consistently, which doesn’t have to mean every day or even every week, just with some kind of regularity. For online business and blogging I think that’s about being consistent in what you put out there on social media, although to be honest that’s another area where I tend to just wing it. You want consistency but not all robotic auto posts, share some of your life and personality too, that’s the whole point!
Develop a ‘brand’
I love and hate the word ‘brand’. On one hand it sounds really ‘businessy’ and overly thought out, but actually it’s just a name for what it is you are putting out there including your logo, the colours you use, your fonts and design elements, but most importantly, your voice, your words and what you stand for. I’ve had so much fun developing a brand for Wholeheartedly Healthy and my business, which I hope is unique to me, but really all that has been is me choosing things I think look good to me and represent me in some way. When it comes to my voice and words, all I to do is stay true to myself and try and be as authentic as possible (see below). Ultimately you want someone to see your stuff and instantly know its from you. Some blogs are hugely successful and don’t have that much of a distinctive ‘brand’ so perhaps that’s not so important, but for business it can really help communicate who you are and help attract the right people to you.
Be authentically you
There’s not much originality left in the world, but where you can’t be completely original, you can be authentic. There’s a fine line between being inspired and copying someone else’s content, voice and style, however it’s the authenticity that makes the difference. Always offer credit where credit is due, if someone or another blogger has inspired a recipe you damn well know I’m going to give them credit, even if I am putting my own spin on it. This issue used to wind me up quite a lot and I would get equally paranoid that others were, let’s say, getting overly inspired by my blog, but also that I was somehow inadvertently or subconsciously doing the same thing. Now I am really careful to ensure that doesn’t happen. Ultimately I just gave up stressing about it and now I try not to get too concerned with what others are doing and just be me as hard as I possibly can. I certainly don’t look at what other blogs are doing when I plan what I want to write about or else I’d drive myself nuts. I also think its about being honest and vulnerable sometimes, as long as that’s done in a genuine way. Some of my most commented on posts are the ones I’ve been afraid to hit publish on because they’ve been about my struggles. So whatever you do get inspired, give credit where credit is due, be honest and keep being you as hard as you can!
Don’t be afraid to make it up as you go along…
There’s loads of advice out there now about how to do blogging and online businesses ‘right’ which never seemed to be around when I started blogging. As I said before I just made this all up as I went along and learned from my mistakes. All of this advice is great, but ultimately plenty of successful blogs and businesses have done it their way and come out on top, however…
…but talk to others who have been there and get advice
If you want to look for more advice and guidance there’s some great articles on my Blogging and Business Pinterest board. It’s always great to chat to other bloggers and online entrepreneurs and get their advice as well as being able to get their support. I offer business mentoring coaching for entrepreneurs and bloggers and that has been great for supporting others in getting themselves set up. I wish I had someone like that I could have talked to a few years ago which was the whole reason I started offering that service.
Value your time
There’s been a lot of posts in the blogosphere recently about not working for free and charging your worth. They say it better than I possibly could, so check out Catherine’s post at Not Dressed as Lamb, Amber’s post on Forever Amber and Holly’s post on Decor8 for more info. Take a look at the great comments in those as well. Needless to say, once at a certain point whether in business or blogging, don’t work for free.
Don’t compare yourself to others
I’ve blogged many times about the comparison trap which is especially difficult to avoid when it comes to anything online. This is where it’s really important to tune in to what your version of success is. There’s always going to be another blogger with more readers and followers than you. Something I’ve done recently is jot down some goals / things to work on for the rest of the year and then on to 2015. I was starting to get caught up in that comparison trap for a while, and I needed to remind myself of my own measures of success. Now I could not give less fucks about what others are up to as long as I am working on achieving my own goals, and I have to say I feel really empowered by doing that!
Connect with other people
Online, in person, wherever you can, talk about what you do! Leave thoughtful comments on other blogs, tweet people you like and share their stuff in a genuine way. It took me ages before I actually told people I had a blog and even longer before I talked about being a health coach. Some of that comes down to confidence, and that will come the more you do what you do.
Believe the right people will be attracted to you
When you are truly passionate, authentic and consistent you better believe you’ll be attracting the right people into your life whether that’s readers, clients or customers. There’s loads of online marketing strategies you can use, but nothing compares to getting those three things right, it’s like magic. When your branding truly reflects you as well, it’s like an automatic filter, the people that ‘get you’ will stay and if you aren’t their bag they’ll leave (or occasionally leave you a shitty comment but that’s another part of blogging you just have to get on with!)
If you are a blogger, do you have any specific goals in mind, or do you blog purely for pleasure? What would be your top tip for someone just starting a blog or online business? As a reader, what do you look for in a blog?
images via Death to the Stock Photo
I think ultimately, you always have to blog for your own enjoyment. No matter how “successful” (I agree, totally a relative term) you think you are, or how much you want it to become a business or a full-time job, I think that can be really transparent to readers. There are too many bloggers out there who literally take every opportunity thrown at them, even if it is not really related to their blog, just for the money or the success, but to me that isn’t the point of it. Sure, money is good, but blogging has to be more than that. Like you said in the beginning, the passion has to be there.
Couldn’t agree more, plus why do something if you don’t truly enjoy it anyway? I don’t blogging is such a good gig income wise that it would be worth the bother if you didn’t enjoy it anyway!
Whilst being paid to blog would be fantastic I know in my heart I do it for pleasure, for me really; which has its own downfall as I’m not as consistent as I could be in my blog posts.
When I read blogs I like some that are informative and will teach me something, a good recipe or a good life story, and sometimes just a good laugh or cry.
I do think consistency is good, but I’ve never felt that you are inconsistent! Especially on Facebook I think you post quite often which works well. Definitely agree on the blogs you like to read, I love learning new things :-)
Such a useful post! I realise now what a journey blogging is itself – I especially love your point about setting your own goals and not falling into the comparison trap.
Another great piece of advice I read on Copyblogger recently was to write for just one person/fan you know would read your blog. I love that idea, it kind of relaxes me when writing!
Thanks Cat! Yep I’ve heard that before for a lot of marketing stuff, it’s something I need to try more again!
This is amazing advice thanks Laura. I really love and respect your blog and it makes me proud to see a fellow Brit living her bliss! (how soppy ha) As my Dad has always drummed into me – passion, enthusiasm and hard work = success (whatever that means of course). I truly believe the key thing is to be yourself. Like you said you will attract the right people by being truly you, and the people who do not resonate with you will leave and that is exactly how it should be. I started blogging for pleasure as an outlet for my passion of healthy living but as the months go by, I feel it could maybe one day be more than that :)
Thanks Lauren! Love your Dad’s words, so true. Very exciting that you would like to grow your blog! I love seeing other bloggers following their passions and making it into something more!
Great advice. And I do think you’re a great one to give advice about successful blogging because your blog really has jut grown and grown, and never once have I felt it’s dramatically changed from how it used to be. Personally for me I love blogging because it documents the happenings in my life and I find it a cathartic process. I like looking back and going “oh yeah we did that last year!”. Occasionally I get things to review and that’s always fun and exciting, and sure I’d love to make my living from blogging but realistically that’s not going to happen for me as I don’t think I’m that unique or interesting – and I’m not being self-deprecating. I just know what is out there and it’s very samey!
Thanks Anna, that does mean a lot to me :-) You shouldn’t think like that about yourself and your blog at all, I think it is hard to stand out but like I said I think it’s about being you and one of the things I love about your blog, and a reason I read, cause lets be honest I’m no runner, is your personality, honesty and quirkiness!
Love it, love it, love it. All such wonderful advice – it’s definitely hitting the spot for me right now. You are definitely a worthy authority in my eyes. After a few weeks of radio silence here in MindBodyPlate land, I challenged myself to write seven posts in as many days (today is day five). My experience? It’s amazing what you can squeeze out of yourself if you only just commit to consistency. And how surprising the things that come out can be if you only trust your passion and let your heart speak (http://mindbodyplate.com/2014/07/21/i-dont-believe-in-portion-control/). Thank you for your constant inspiration, Laura. xo
Thanks Sarah! I have noticed your fab posts, I think it’s brilliant to challenge yourself, and as you say, sometimes surprise yourself with what you can produce when you let yourself! I did enjoy that post on portion control, it’s a very interesting balance and I thought your perspective on it really made me think, as usually I am one for portion control, but your point about that ‘restriction’ is a really good one :-)
A really great post Laura, as always! Jesse x
Initially I started blogging because I wanted to communicate with others who had similar interests. I couldn’t socialize face to face at all at that point, so blogging was like a lifeline for me. I started out being very naive indeed and believing absolutely everything that I read, and I think as blogs have become less personal and more business-orientated, I have become a lot more cynical.
I had my first blog back in 2009, and I do get frustrated at the lack of progress I’ve made since then, both in a personal and a blog-growth sense. I see much newer blogs suddenly gain huge followings, and I find it hard not to resent those with seemingly instant success, particularly when they’re just copying other people’s concepts and ideas.
I really would like to have a more professional blog. I wouldn’t need to make much from blogging…just enough to survive, as it’s just about the only type of work I feel I could cope with. Obviously I’d never have as many strings to my bow as you, because I wouldn’t have the proverbial balls to interact with people face to face and do all of the community events that you do. I just feel so out of the blogger bubble…I mean, I suppose I have the originality/authenticity aspect, but that’s about it! I don’t know where people learn blog design and all of the technical aspects…I also get a bit upset when people don’t seem to appreciate how lucky they are as well, and take their prosperity for granted (obviously I don’t mean you though!) I wish I understood where I was going so very wrong…I mean, I don’t want to be bland and generic, or anything less than honest. Then some bloggers just get products thrown at them and I wonder why some companies think said blogger is such a good representative for them. Where do they look? Do they even read the blog in question? I always feel sad whenever someone posts about being contacted by ‘x’ company to review things…I guess I’m just out of that exclusive club. You probably have to be ‘normal’ and pretty to be remotely marketable, I guess :(
It’s incredibly frustrating Jess, and I think you have a very good point about how blogging has changed so much over the last few years. The more businessy it gets the less genuine it can get, although obviously I have tried not to make that the case with me. I look at blogs like that and wonder why as well. I think it’s a mix of things, ‘being in the know’ when it comes to PR contacts, living in or near London and therefore getting more opportunities to attend events and often, just having the confidence to put themselves out there, and in some cases, working hard for it of course. I do think that a for a lot of brands and PR’s it’s a box ticking exercise, i.e. ‘oh we’ve engaged with bloggers aren’t we so cool’, pat on back type thing, without actually reading the blog in question or knowing much about their following or content.
Definitely remember that you do have a great blog and are probably the most authentic blogger I know! It might be that you need to try contacting some brands that you love yourself and seeing if they would like to offer something for review as a starting point x
Thanks so much for the advice Laura. I suppose I’ve never really known what to say or how to phrase things with contacting companies. I don’t like to bother people and I tend to think that most bloggers seem to have companies find them rather than the other way round…perhaps I’m coming at this from the wrong perspective.
Great post Laura. I’ve followed your blog for a long time and keep coming back for most of the reasons above!
great tips!! we agree with them all. staying true to who we are and our passions helps us with doing what we love to do with our blog and business.
I think you are both and fantastic example of that!
Great post Laura. For me blogging is quite cathartic, and I love looking back to see what I was up to, especially with races- I like my race page as it links to all my recaps, and they are all proud achievements of mine.
I can’t imagine blogging full time though, I think unless you do things like recipe development (like you, or Angela from Oh She Glows) or more informative magazine type posts, having a more normal life is part of what makes blogging interesting. I have stopped reading a few full time bloggers (US ones) as I find their posts so boring now- went to the gym, had an iced coffee, walked the dog…. repeat x7, or they are so full of freebies that it just gets annoying (and not just cereal bars or whatever, but holidays!).
Also I am always surprised when a company asks me to review something, but I think mainly they are just out for getting the links in the internet, and don’t really mind what blogs they appear on.
I like “getting to know” bloggers, and I love reading blogs of people who comment on my blog, as it feels more like a community. I follow a mixture of running blogs, baking blogs and then general healthy ones/ vegetarian ones. But I do find I like the interaction- if I comment and get no reply a few times then probably I will not comment any more, and will be less likely to read as time goes on.
Thanks Maria! I definitely love being able to look back, it’s like a visual diary :-) I definitely agree you need to have a life to keep things interesting, it’s one of the reasons I love the community projects so much because it keeps me connected to the real world! I think community is so important and I’m the same as you with the comments. I love blogs like yours where I feel like I know you, it’s quite lovely that theres a nice little community of us in the UK like that :-)
Thanks for sharing your tips, I’ve just started a blog so this advice is really useful :) x
Thanks Sarah, so glad that you’ve found the post helpful!
Thanks for sharing this Laura- passion, consistency and authenticity are the big takeaways.
Though I definitely don’t blog full time (I have a part time job and I’m doing my master’s), I do put a lot of time and energy into my blog. Even if it’s not hugely financially rewarding I get so much from connecting with my readers and all the positive feedback keeps me going. I’m still not too sure where I want to take it as I’m coming to the end of my master’s and if I start a full time job realistically I won’t be able to spend as much time blogging as I have been…We’ll see.
This is a great post Laura (as always!)
I love coming back to your blog time and time again because to me, you come across as very genuine, honest and you are not afraid of taking on new challenges. Over the past year that I’ve been reading your blog I have seen KHGS / Wholeheartedly Healthy develop so much and I love that you have adapted your life to evolve around the passions you have discovered through blogging.
I’ve only been part of the blogging world for a year and a bit but I have gotten so much pleasure from being a part of such a great community. I love getting to know bloggers and following their successes, pains and life happenings over time and I connect better with bloggers who aren’t scared of writing their feelings and who write as though we are sat having a conversation in a bar.
I heard a lot of talking about this at Blognix. If you are serious about your blog, you need to decide whether you make money to cover your costs, want to make money but not start a business, or start a business. The business part is more about how our tax system works than anything scary.
The bottom line is if you make money, even to cover your costs, you need to Do Stuff about that. If you don’t, that’s ok too.
I have some free worksheets at http://onemanbandaccounting.co.uk/tax-for-bloggers and if you’re going to Blogstock I’m doing a workshop on From Blog To Business at 10am on the Saturday. Say hi if you come along :)
Thank you so much for this post! I’m a (relatively) new blogger myself, and I am definitely having a ton of trouble with finding where to start, how to get people to read my blog, finding my niche, etc.
Honestly, ideally my goal would be to one day grow my blog to the point where I could make an income from it. Writing is what I am most passionate about and to be able to do what I love for a living while also having the ability to work from home would be my ideal situation. However, above all, I blog for my enjoyment. I have a story to tell and I would love to be able to reach people who are going through struggles similar to mine and be able to help them get through the rough times. I want to have a blog that motivates and encourages positivity and self-love. My ultimate goal in life is to reach people and touch their hearts and should in some way and I feel that blogging will be the perfect way to do that… If I can ever figure out how to attract readers haha!
If you have those goals of reaching people and touching their hearts, you’ll get there I’m sure, it just takes time for readers to come along :-)
Thanks for this. My blog is in a whole different area, but it all still applies. Especially the point about connecting with other people. I found since I started engaging within my community, people sometimes reciprocate and we promote each other. Of course it’s important to only feature people you truly admire – not just for the sake of the number of followers or to make a blog post.
I think like Erin said so much of what we write is fuelled by the fact we want to help others. We all go through our own struggles, and come out of them for the better. When you realise how much better life is on the other side, whether it being feeling healthier, more confident, more ‘successful ‘, then you want others to feel the same.
So ultimately it’s passion that I think drives most of us bloggers. But to be able to spread our messages more effectively and without burning ourselves out there’s normally eventually a need to be able to earn an income from it so we can focus our time on it.
Watching your blog grow, Laura, has been inspirational, and a great example of how those bloggers who make a difference to people can really succeed. Xx