The 20 Most Useful Lessons I've Learnt as a Creative Blogger Over the Last Few Years

The 20 Most Useful Lessons I've Learnt as a Creative Blogger Over the Last Few Years

August 9, 2012 by

As you’ve no doubt seen me write about a good deal, keeping a blog* is one of the things I most consistently recommend as a means to so many fruitful things, including self-promotion, building credibility as an expert in something, and self-teaching/learning/discovery.

Having started putting material down in blog-form since early 2009, and staying with two blogs since then, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting, dealing with feedback and frustration, tweaking, swapping, changing, updating and fixing the way I ‘blog’.

Because so many of you are bloggers and/or getting started, there are probably a few tips you could take from what I’ve learnt (and, of course, what I’ve learnt from others) so that you can perhaps apply them yourselves, and avoid otherwise avoidable frustration and other such hooha.

Though there are many things picked up over a long time, I’ve distilled the list down to 20 of what I feel have been the most useful:

1. Know your blog’s overall purpose

Why is it that you do what you do? What is it you intend to achieve with your writing and other contributions? Who do you want to help? What is your overall vision for the site?

Understanding this, will not only motivate you, but will guide the angle of each and every post you log.

2. Make sure you are interested in the stuff you talk about

Sounds obvious, but you need to quit creating content as a means to some other end that interests you more.

You need to share things that keep you thinking all day (at night is a good indication that you are very interested!), because then adding new posts becomes something you look forward to, rather than being a chore.

“Adding new posts becomes something you look forward to.”

3. Good design makes a difference

The care put into the design and layout of your blog is more important than you might think. Don’t underestimate the aesthetic condition of your site, as a poor one could be putting a lot of people off your blog. This means less, more than more. It’s about creating the biggest impact (driven, of course, by the material you share) with less: fewer details, and fewer distractions.

If you don’t have the budget to make something look good, and read well, strip it down and make it minimal.

4. Your blog is worthless without regular promotion

Craziness is spending time and concentration on a great blog post, only to let it sit there, waiting for people to somehow find it through the magic of Google search or some other means.

Your blog is nothing to the world (though it may be important to you if you don’t intend others to see it, in which case that is commendable and that is fine) if you don’t take steps in getting your posts seen by real human people online and offline. Every time you post something new, get promoting it.

Email others about it, tweet it a few times, tell your newsletter list, and knock on people’s doors about it. This is your time we are talking about, and it is hugely valuable. Your blog immediately becomes valuable when it starts to bring in traffic.

5. Tracking and monitoring how you are doing is vital

Have a means to keep track of actual numbers about your blog and your posts. Statistics and various analytics are great means of seeing where your blog stands and how it is progressing and bringing in people to view it.

Numbers (especially increasing ones) are hugely motivating and will keep you adding more to your site. Google analytics is great, as are other tools. Even something as dubious as regularly checking your Alexa page rankings will instil a sense of competition and drive into you and keep you building and growing your blog.

“Numbers (especially increasing ones) are hugely motivating.”

6. Make every post count

The quality of every post you publish must be of a high standard, and you would do very well to aim to make every new post better, more profound, better constructed and more interesting than the last. Note, this doesn’t have to mean bigger or longer. Short is good, just maintain quality, originality and a strong message. Blogging should be a time of learning and growth for you as a writer/podcaster/videocaster etc.

Be very wary of compromising the quality of your posts in any way. Avoid putting up bad and rushed content, just to make your posts more consistent. It’s better to have a long gap in posts than putting out a string of bad ones.

The same goes for sacrificing quality for work from guest posters and perhaps friends who aren’t quite up to scratch or don’t match the high standard and vision you have.

7. Be different

Go against the grain. Look for ways to stand out. Give the counter-argument. Be controversial (but not insulting). Be creative, explore new ideas, and look at things from a different perspective.

Plain and simply, being different will make you and your work stand out, and that is crucial in the blogging world.

8. Have a story, be a person

In all aspects of life and industry these days, individual human people are what stand out; more so than the masses or groups of faceless, nameless contributors. The more you can define a clear picture of who you are, and the more of an essence there is of some kind of human quality, through the way you present your sites and your blog, the ‘stickier’ your blog will be to people.

‘Personality’ however, is meaningless. It doesn’t exist. It is always changing. You don’t need to push some full-blown raucous personality onto your readers. Just be something of a human and tell some stories. That’s all you need.

People, by their very nature, are instinctively tuned into human qualities. As such, these qualities will keep people interested, and keep people coming back to your blog.

“‘Personality’ is meaningless. It doesn’t exist.”

9. Challenge your reader

People don’t much like to be told stuff they already know. It wastes everyone’s time. Always be thinking about how to challenge your readers. Make them think about something differently. Haul your readers out of their comfort zones and see their response.

Just keep the potentially insulting and highly controversial stuff out of it.

10. Interesting titles are important

Having a good title is important. It is usually what people see first when it comes to sharing and promoting your article or post.

What’s a good title?

A good title would be:

  • Thought-provoking
  • To the point
  • Challenging
  • Able to arise some adrenaline-inducing reptilian response, such as fear or excitement in people
  • Well written and clearly stated
  • Unusual
  • Mysterious

11. Cut the crap

Leave out absolutely everything that is not needed in your posts. Just streamline everything down to the refined, original, quality stuff. This is all you need, and does a favour for your readers, who don’t have to wade through endless long-winded material to get a few nuggets of goodness.

Oh, and please tell me (and other bloggers) if we’re doing it. Be friendly!

12. Always think about how to improve

Part of your ultimate purpose, which is acting as the driving force behind keeping your blog, is to keep training your focus on working out ways to improve all aspects of your content and the site itself.

If your blog is not growing or improving, then you aren’t even standing still, you are moving backwards. The world of blogging or sharing content online is moving too fast to stay the same.

To come out alive, you need to be improving, improving, improving.

13. Sleep on articles

You may be excited to publish an article as soon as you’ve finished them.

There’s almost always some good in waiting until the next day to come back to what you’ve created with a refreshed perspective, and making any changes that are required before hitting the publish button.

14. Promote archived posts

There can be a lot of value in promoting archived material if it’s not already too dated. There’s no harm in squeezing value out of your blog, which you have invested in, through making the most of older content.

15. Be easy to read, see or hear

This is so important. Great, well thought-out and insightful articles, videos and podcasts are getting brushed over and lost amongst the deluge of the world wide web for simply being uninviting to the blog visitor. This is often due to poor layout, writing, and presentation.

By all means write about complicated issues, as well as more straight-forward ones, but pay attention to making it easy to digest.

Break up sentences, embolden areas (that deserve to be), add more white space, and inject some life into the posts you upload. When it is easy to read something, your readers will be more inclined to not only finish your posts, but share them with others too.

As the cliche goes, don’t fall at that last hurdle.

16. Tedium is part of the job and an underrated element of success

I believe that one of the main reasons behind the failure to see success in most, if not all things in life, is a an inability to face elements of work that might be considered tedious, dull, ‘insignificant’ or even ‘inferior’.

Creating great things is not all about taking action on tasks that are innovative, original, exciting and fun. When we look closely at the day to day actions taken by successful people working on successful projects, we see that a large chunk has involved the less glamorous stuff. This includes hard work.

This includes writing emails, calling up people, adding people to your social networks, looking at stats, rewriting things, knocking on doors, and repetitive, difficult tasks.

Often it is the tedious stuff that teaches us the most. From what we learn, we know the finer details of our craft, and we can continually move forward.

“Creating great things is not all about taking action on tasks that are innovative, original, exciting and fun.”

17. Inconsistency is ok but consistency is better

As mentioned previously, it’s better to be inconsistent than to put out bad quality material. But it’s better to be consistent, if you can be, than to have inconsistent posts. Consistency inspires trust, promotes your credibility, boosts your blog’s promotion, and gets people coming back.

18. Tap into what other people can offer

Involve other people in your blog. They possess extra insight, a willingness to help you with content like guest posts, experiences that you can interview them about, joint venture projects, and further advice and ideas.

This also includes hiring talented people to make your blog into something even more special.

19. Give followers and subscribers extra

Building up subscribers and/or followers is one of the best things you can do for your blog’s exposure and longevity. As such, it is very wise to give those people as much as you can in return for investing their time and loyalty to your blog.

Give things away, let them in on secrets and share news with them before anyone else. Give them discounts, bonuses and extra love and courtesy. This is a good example of directing special care towards an area where it really counts.

20. Ideas will increase the longer you stay with your blog

As a closing point, and hopefully a motivational one, the longer you stick with sharing content on your blog, and staying with a particular focus (though tweaking your niche or focus as you go along is fine), the more ideas you will find to help accelerate the growth of your blog.

This goes against the concern that you might run out of ideas the further along you progress as a blogger. As long as you give your niche some breathing space, you will be surprised at how continued input will generate more and more insight.

21. Bonus Point: Is blogging worth it?

I wanted to add a final point, to perhaps distinguish any doubts, cynicisms, and worries about setting up a blog (or some means of sharing regular content online, and whatever the future’s equivalent of ‘blogging’ might be).

It is worth it.

Blogging occasionally gets a raw deal when some people come to criticise it. The truth is, that if you stay with it, put extra care into what you share, and extract some passion out of doing it, you will gain many tangible rewards. I really mean that.

Even if your blog doesn’t see a single visitor over its lifetime, it will have been worth it for what you as the writer, gain from regularly getting your thoughts down somewhere. The benefits on top of this are greater than you might think.

What’s also true is that many thousands of bloggers are giving up every day. I believe there is a massive open space to be filled by quality bloggers with good ideas to share, who share it well. With a bit of thought, your blog will get the notice it deserves.

*This can include written articles, podcast, video.

As always, I love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and ideas in the comments area below!

About the Author: Alex Mathers

Alex is a project starter, sometimes finisher, writer and illustrator. He started Red Lemon Club in 2009 with the aim of helping talented creative people leave their mark.

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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist

  • http://twitter.com/MoonApe Alex Mathers

    :)

  • http://twitter.com/mariamhashemi_ Mariam Hashemi

    This is great! Great tips and info. I have a question. I’ve just started blogging as a graphic designer and a freelancer. But I do enjoy blogging about other things like fashion and event and other things. Do you think its appropriate to put these type of posts together or Is it better to put it on a separate blog?

  • http://twitter.com/MoonApe Alex Mathers

    Hi Mariam,

    Blog about what you like, of course, you need to enjoy what you’re sharing and writing about. Just be aware that the more broad your blog content gets, the less distinct and memorable it gets, and your expertise or focus on specific things can decrease.

    It depends on what the purpose of your blog is. Some personal blogs are great with a bit of a mix too. But if you want to be known as an expert blogger on something, best to stay focused and yes, separate the two.

  • Amanda Ingham

    I am now writing for three different clients’ blogs plus my own and your tip #13 really works well for me. What do you think about recycling posts from one blog to another – I was wondering if it was OK…

  • Leoni Selby

    Well Alex, you’ve done it again. I’m working on my very first blog as we speak and I’m really exited about it. Just finished my first article and the design. So now my partner only needs to build it. Your tips and tricks are useful as usual. Thanks for that! Greetings from Holland.

  • Alex Mathers

    Great, Leoni – let us know how it goes!

  • Manic Surrealist

    Great article! I just started my own blog, and will be using your tips to make it something special!

  • mary uhles

    I just happened to see this post retweeted on twitter. Great points all, thanks for writing and for making me feel better about long time between posts;)

  • Alex Mathers

    My pleasure Mary!