Lessons Learned from My First Month of Blogging

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Hello everyone! In today’s post I wanted to share some of my thoughts from my first few weeks of blogging.

It’s been a little over a month since I started Trail to FI. I’m still figuring out how to blog, which sounds stupid, I know. Who has trouble occasionally typing random words about personal finance into a computer?

I’ll tell you: a Newb Blogger.*

That’s what I am, and I’m not afraid to admit it! I’ve made some embarrassingly beginner mistakes, most notably when I accidentally deleted my blog for a week. (I got it fixed, in case you weren’t sure.) Luckily, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to help setting up a blog, and some quasi-angelic Happiness Engineers over at WordPress support.

But, some of the things I just have to figure out myself, especially the writing part. I learn best through experience, so I just have to push on through. Recently I’ve been stumped by:

  • Focus. I have plenty of ideas for blog posts, but I’ve had trouble choosing which ones to focus on first, and figuring out how to convey those ideas effectively in writing.
  • Time management. I haven’t found a good rhythm for when and how long to spend writing.

Here are some other points that I would recommend a Newb Blogger consider.

1. Focus on content.

Newb Blogger says:

A good looking website it what drives traffic. Make sure everything looks exactly right and don’t worry about actually filling it with content!

I’ve become a victim of Analysis Paralysis.

I have plenty of ideas for posts, but sitting down and actually hashing them out is daunting. So what do I do instead? Fiddle with the blog’s layout. Make sure the fonts are just right. Browse through my WordPress settings.

I’ve been spending too much time making the blog look the way I want it to, rather than writing new posts.

All the successful FIRE blogs out there are pretty intimidating. I am afraid of making low quality content, so I procrastinate and fall behind my planned post schedule.

But I have to remember that everyone started somewhere, and I’m sure even the most successful bloggers had some lousy early posts. I should stop expecting perfection and WRITE.

2. Use the right tools.

Newb Blogger:

Blog hosting domain transfers are easy and don’t require any content backup on my part! Everything will just magically appear on the new servers.

Lesson learned: backup your content regularly.

I set up Trail to FI backwards. Instead of choosing a host first, acquiring the domain through the host, and then installing WordPress, I just went straight to WordPress and signed up for hosting through Bluehost. I was paying for hosting at Bluehost, but the website was on Automattic servers (aka WordPress).

Dumb.

Then I decided to transfer the blog to the hosting service I was actually paying for, thinking all I needed to do was change these “name server” things and voilà! Everything would be peachy.

Also dumb.

I woke up the next morning a blogless man. What’s more, the WordPress support service was experiencing technical difficulties, so all the frantic chats/emails I tried to send them to try to correct my problem didn’t actually go through like I thought they did. I finally got a hold of them through the WordPress forums, and they walked me through how to restore the blog.

Had I backed up my content before the attempted transfer, I would have been able to upload everything directly to Bluehost and everything would be fine. But it all turned out fine in the end. I’m just happy to still have my blog.

I now think of backups as insurance. It’s good to know that if something goes wrong, I will be able to restore the blog to its former glory.

Also, apparently there are these “plug in” things?

3. Outreach matters.

Again, our friend, Newb Blogger:

Traffic will flow to my blog organically and there’s absolutely nothing I need to do!

Before Trail to FI, I didn’t understand how people make entire careers out of managing social media for clients.

Now I do.

Between Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, there’s a lot to do. A LOT. I think that aside from having semi-decent content, the key to a successful blog is expertly managing social media.

I’ve almost entirely focused on Twitter because it’s easy to understand and interact with people quickly. I hear Pinterest is a gold mine for blog promotion, but I don’t really understand it. I have made it a goal to figure out a system for sharing things on Pinterest by the end of the year.

And last, but not least…

4. The FIRE blogging community rocks!

I guess I already knew this, but I still appreciate the enthusiasm other bloggers have offered for my entrance to the community. It would be pretty easy for everyone to treat blogging like a competition and try to horde all the readers for themselves.

After all, it is a business, and many bloggers monetize their sites.

Knowing that, I am especially thankful to all the bloggers who have shared my posts on Twitter and commented on my blog. Seriously, it means a lot!

I’ll just take a moment mention again that I got added to the Rockstar Finance Directory. I’m pretty happy about that, even though I didn’t really have to do anything.

In the beginning, I don’t think I really understood why I wanted to start a blog. There are already many bloggers out there who I frankly can’t compete with, and it’s not like I have any new break through ideas to share with the world. (yet…)

But I’m glad I did. I’m looking forward to growing Trail to FI and interacting with fellow FIRE-seekers!

Are you a blogger? What were you surprised to learn in the beginning of your blogging career? Do you have any useful tips for the Newb Bloggers out there?

*According to Urban Dictionary, there is a clear difference between “newb” and “noob,” which begs the question: Where would we be without Urban Dictionary?

21 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from My First Month of Blogging

  • August 16, 2017 at 11:36 am
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    Woohoo, nice job on month one! I would have panicked if I lost my blog!!!

    I think the PF Blog community has been amazing as well 🙂 Very welcoming, supportive and smart!

    Reply
    • August 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm
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      Thanks! It was pretty disheartening, but I’m glad it got sorted out.

      It’s definitely a great group. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  • August 17, 2017 at 12:04 am
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    I’m right with you guys. The PF community is amazing, and running a blog is more work than it seemed. I’m sticking with it because I’m passionate about it – here I am commenting on a new blogger’s post, no less – and it’s getting increasingly fun now that things are all set up and I’m on a schedule. In fact, my first guest post at a major blog goes live Friday, so I’m pumped.

    You’re right on about publicity/sharing. I’m used to having a publicist and media team behind me, but my blog is anonymous, so I’m having to do it all myself and realizing just how challenging it is, especially since I can’t leverage *any* of the relationships I would in real life. I’ve run PR before on my own, but it’s much harder without any of the networks or resources I could usually use, instead relying upon only those who know me by a moniker. It’s slowly growing; it just takes time building from the ground up…

    Now if only I would post on schedule regularly…

    Reply
    • August 17, 2017 at 9:23 pm
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      Congrats on the guest post! I hope to get there some day.

      It’s been pretty overwhelming! There’s a lot to think about, and I’ve learned that a blogger must wear many hats. I’ve enjoyed it so far, even with all the work involved.

      Reply
      • August 18, 2017 at 10:02 am
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        Thank you! You can totally do it. Yeah…it’s a lot, especially at first. We’re all still figuring it all out. Glad you’re on the journey too!

        Reply
  • August 17, 2017 at 2:36 pm
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    Stick with it! You’ll have these same issues a year into it, so brace yourself. 😉 I don’t know if I should mention Cloudflare to you yet but let me know when you’re ready to talk about hosting optimization.

    Reply
    • August 17, 2017 at 9:29 pm
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      I will! Yeah, every other blogger seems so polished, so I feel like I have a long way to go, but I’m sure even the best have similar struggles sometimes. I don’t even know enough about Cloudflare to know when to ask…

      Reply
  • August 20, 2017 at 11:02 am
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    This post sounds very similar to my own experiences! I started my site at the end of July. There is a lot of work to do to get more traffic. We’re both on the FIRE Prowess score Block Chain Gang for starters!

    Reply
    • August 20, 2017 at 4:09 pm
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      Haha, I’m not alone! The Chain Gang definitely increased my traffic, and I bet it did for your too. I think we just need to keep plugging away to get content out and prove that we have a voice to add!

      Reply
  • August 26, 2017 at 10:58 am
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    Great points being made here – and really your blog is only what you put into it. I must say I have been relatively unfocused for my past 18 months… mostly because I took a new job with more demanding schedule. The content on my site is lacking, and yet I have TONS of headlines and blog starts.

    Only now am I really finding my groove back. But I’m fine with that. I am not chasing a big crowd, or income, I really just want to be part of the community and share my story. And hope someone can learn from my journey.

    Good luck with the blog, I’ll be sure to keep checking in! 🙂

    Reply
    • August 26, 2017 at 12:41 pm
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      It’s difficult to find balance between work and the blog. I mostly want the same thing – participate in the community. But it would be nice for the blog to get big enough to generate income to cover the costs of running it. I have no way of knowing that will actually happen though, so I just have to put in a reasonable amount of work right now in hope that it will eventually pay off.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  • August 31, 2017 at 5:08 pm
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    Another one month blogger like me! Looks like you’re doing great and the site looks good. I threw perfection out the door when I started – but that’s just me.
    Good luck!

    Reply
    • September 1, 2017 at 4:06 pm
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      Thank you! I think I will get more comfortable with just cranking things out, but in the beginning I feel very self conscious of my writing.

      Reply
  • October 9, 2017 at 9:05 am
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    It’s so much more work than I expected! I guess the if you build it they will come mantra isn’t a good one?

    Great summary! I love how supportive all the other bloggers have been!

    Reply
    • October 9, 2017 at 9:30 pm
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      It definitely is. I have found that I have to take breaks from writing to avoid burning out. If I take a few days off, that usually gives me enough time to come back and be excited to write something else. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • October 13, 2017 at 11:54 am
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    Good lessons! Totally agree about outreach, outreach, outreach for new bloggers! As a new blogger myself, I have only recently caught on to this (had previously been focusing alllll my attention on content). I so wish I had started engaging with the blogging community sooner, they have all been so welcoming and helpful!

    Reply
    • October 15, 2017 at 5:23 pm
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      Thanks for stopping by, Sav! I have recently been internalizing the outreach mantra, too. It’s surprising how much people are willing to do if you just ask!

      Reply
  • October 26, 2017 at 8:39 pm
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    well it looks like I should back up my blog too!
    I have enjoyed your blog so far and will learn from your mistake for sure! Coincidentally my blog is now a month old!

    Reply
    • November 1, 2017 at 9:13 am
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      Definitely back it up! But, you hosting provider probably backs it up automatically, so there might not be much for you to do. I would recommend figuring out how to access backups, though. My problem was that I cancelled my old hosting service and then tried to migrate to another host without having the necessary files.

      Reply
  • October 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm
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    Great stuff, Dylan, and good to know I’m not alone with some of these feelings. Especially the intimidation in comparing myself to the established, successful bloggers. I’m constantly torn on how much I want to care about trying to increase my exposure and I think what I’ve mainly settled on for now is to just keep focusing on actually writing. Aside from that, I want to do all the other social efforts only to the extent that it’s going to make me more a part of this awesome community and try not to care about the numbers game at all. (Easier said than done).

    Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • November 1, 2017 at 9:10 am
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      Keep at it! It’s hard to find a rhythm, but it eventually comes. I have recently focused more on content creation than media. Good luck!

      Reply

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