I'm gonna get right down to it -- this is for people who, at any point in their lives, felt discouraged to start their own blog.
Blogging is a HUGE commitment, and sometimes I do feel burdened #honest, but it's such a worthwhile commitment to make.
Your life won't improve because of blogging per se, but because of the sense of purpose that comes with blogging.
Anyway, I've compiled a list of questions and statements that I always get when I talk to people about blogging. Read through and see if any of yours is answered!
1. What should I blog about? I don't know how to choose the right topics.
I'm interested in a lot of things.
- I like to create drama in The Sims 4.
- I like to read science-fiction -- preferably about apocalypses, zombies and dinosaurs.
- I like to eat desserts.
But instead of blogging about any of those things, I blog about blogging and personal branding. WHY?
To answer this question, let's talk about WHY you (and me) started a blog / want to start a blog in the first place.
A. IF you started a blog just for fun...
Then feel free to blog about anything and everything that strikes your fancy. I'm serious! It's your personal fun space, so there are no rules.
B. If you started a blog to build a business / career...
Then you need to write about what it is you want that dream career / business to be made of.
If you want to launch your own fashion lines in the future, you HAVE to blog about fashion. If you want to become a well-known travel blogger, you HAVE to blog about travel. Pretty simple, right?
To create your own dream career / business in any industry, you need to be seen as an EXPERT in that industry.
If in fashion, you need to be seen as fashionable. If you're NOT fashionable, why else would anyone hire you or buy products from you, amirite?
So blogging helps you achieve that EXPERT status. The more you share what you know on fashion, the more people see that you're someone they should follow -- because you seem so fashionable.
Go back to your dreams and daydreams. What kind of business or career do you want? Then your blog has to be based on that.
2. What kind of blog posts should I write? I always feel like I'm just rambling.
Just like there are many different kinds of writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry...), there are a few types of blog posts that you can write. Here's two of the easiest types of posts:
A. Story-based blog posts
- My Adventures in London!
- October Crazy Make-Up Haul.
- Restaurant Review: Le Boulevard, KL.
These are the kind of blog posts where you share your personal experience on an event, activity, brand or place. Not a story story.
B. Informative / tutorial blog posts
- What to Do When You're Travelling to London for the First Time.
- 10 Places to Check Out for A Satisfying Make-Up Haul.
- Having Lunch in KL? My Top 3 Parking Tips.
Tutorial blog posts are all about you sharing clear tips and tricks on any topic.
But just because I divided these blog posts into two categories, it doesn't mean that you can't include a mini-tutorial in your story-based post, or include some personal experience in your tutorial post.
Your posts will always be some kind of hybrid, and that's perfectly fine. Just pick any of the blog post type to stay on track while writing.
3. How can I write if I'm not a good writer?
If I asked you right now to talk about your favourite topic like fashion or travel or desserts or books with your friend -- would you be able to do it?
Writing can be intimidating, but having a great convo with a friend is easy AND fun.
So the trick to conquering your reluctance to write (or maybe fear of not writing good enough) is to write like how you talk to your friend!
One thing I do every time I want to write a blog post, newsletter or even Instagram caption is to talk about the topic out loud, as if I'm explaining it to a friend.
When you express your thoughts and HEAR what you're saying, you can arrange your points better and write more naturally.
Any sentence you said out loud that sounds "right" should go into your blog post, word for word.
4. How often do I have to publish a blog post?
The bare minimum is to publish a blog post ONCE a week. If you have enough time to publish more than one blog post per week, go for it!
But bear in mind that you'll have to prepare for each blog post (the writing, formatting, etc). If you're juggling your blog with other aspects of life, try starting with just ONE post first.
If you're juggling your blog with a dayjob like me, then 1x a week is consistent but STILL doable. 👌🏻
Why do I recommend once a week instead of once or twice a month? When you publish every week, it's easy for your readers to have something to look forward to. Especially if you've chosen a particular day of the week.
Let's say that you've announced that you'd publish a new blog post every Monday. When Monday comes, your readers know where to go! But if you don't tell people when they can expect a blog post from you, they won't make it a habit to visit your blog.
So choose one day of the week and announce it to your readers on your social media. I recommend Monday because you can use your weekend to write and prepare the blog post.
5. What language should my blog post be in? I want to mix it up but it won't look professional.
If you want to rojak, rojak it like a rockstar. Don't worry about looking professional, a blog by definition IS something personal.
(Rojak is a Malay slang for mixing 2 or more languages together)
6. How long does each blog post have to be? I don't have time to write long ones.
Long =/= awesome. As a blogger, the length of your blog post depends on your content.
If you're talking about your outfit details, do you need to write 2000 words? Not necessary. Your photos can do the talking.
But if you're talking about a step-by-step guide to sewing your own skirt, more explanations will be great.
Long and short posts have their own advantages too! With short posts, the content is easy to read and you can post more. With long posts, you can post less but make them super detailed.
It also depends on your preference and schedule. If you're having a busy week, publish a short post! If you're having a more chill week -- long post! I personally do this A LOT. 😉 Keep things flexible so that your blog doesn't become a source of stress.
7. What happens if I'm not that good in English?
It's always good to improve your language skills, of course. But let me ask you something: at what point will you think that you're good enough?
- 2 years from now?
- After taking English lessons at night for 3 months?
- After reading dictionaries from start to finish?
There's always a possibility that someone somewhere would make fun of your blog posts. I won't deny that. I know that it could happen.
I also struggle with always putting myself here on this blog. It's scary to be vulnerable to criticism. (Like, "Aina, you're so not qualified to help people learn about blogging and branding.")
But without being vulnerable, you can't do anything and you don't learn.
You can't practice your passion, you can't share it with people... It's hard to grow if you're constantly hiding yourself.
So, do improve. But don't let it stop you from sharing your interest / hobby / passion on your blog with other people.
8. How do I just *start* writing a blog post?
Step 1: Choose with a specific blog post title
The best way to start writing is by coming up with a clear and specific blog post title.
I've always prioritized the title first because without a really SPECIFIC title, I will either a) ramble on and on OR b) can't really elaborate on my points. So having a specific title is sort of a guide for my writing process.
The trick to having a really specific title is by making it detailed. If you think that the title is too short, it probably is. Compare the two versions of these titles:
- My Sephora Haul VS. My RM1,000 Sephora Haul During the Year-End Sale
- Delicious Veggie Dishes VS. Delicious Veggie Dishes for Adults Who Hate Veggies
- How to Choose Great Work Clothes VS. How to Choose Great Work Clothes if You're A Broke Young Adult
Think about it: which one sounds like it'd be interesting to read -- How to Choose the Best Make Up Products or How to Choose the Best Make Up Products If You're A Broke Young Adult?
Step 2: Dump everything in your brain onto paper
The second step is to list down all the possible points that would fit that specific title you've prepared. Don't overthink it and just list down whatever your brain comes up with.
If you're writing a "how-to guide", make sure you list all the steps (even if they're small). If you're writing a "tips" post, list all your personal tips and tricks, no matter how silly they seem!
Step 3: Revise your points
The third step is to go through your list of points and do these things:
- Rearrange the points so that your readers can follow your explanations of the topic.
- Remove or combine points that are too "basic" to mention on its own. For example, if your post is about your make up look, you don't need to state "buy a brush" or "buy a mirror". Ya dig?
- Break up a long and complicated point into smaller, bite-sized points. If it's a really difficult step/topic, your readers will be so grateful that you're talking them through it.
(BTW, don't delete any of the points you've brainstormed. Save them somewhere so that you can use them in future blog posts)
Step 4: Set a timer before writing
The fourth step is to set a timer. I'm not kidding!
Let's say that you have 4 points to write about.
Open up the timer app on your phone and set it to 5 minutes. Start writing about the first point and DON'T STOP.
The key is to not stop until the time is up. But when the time is up, you need to move on to the next point. Repeat until you're done.
Blogging is not a race, yup. But the thought of publishing our writing for EVERYONE to read can make us pretty nervous.
When we're nervous, it's hard for words to come out. It's EXACTLY like stage fright.
So when we set a timer, what we're really doing is racing against our nerves. We're getting the words out BEFORE we get nervous.
And sure, your writing won't be perfect. But it's better to have a not-perfect first draft than a totally blank page. At least you're already ahead. 🙂
And that's how you START writing. When you're in that timer-zone, nothing else matters but YOUR voice + the thoughts / experiences / knowledge that you already have in your head.
Do this consistently and writing gets easier and easier, I promise.
9. Can I talk about personal stuff in my blog posts? I don't want to overshare.
I once read a copywriting guide by the Talking Shrimp called The 5 Secrets to Non-Sucky Copy. It's basically a few tips on how to make any kind of writing NOT yawn-material. (Also super hilarious. You need to read it.)
In the guide, the Talking Shrimp (her name's Laura) said that a piece of writing is boring if you don't relate it to a personal story.
So someone like me, who finds it difficult to share stuff (afraid of being judged / afraid to overshare / afraid of sounding narcissistic) -- there is always a problem of UNDERsharing.
My blog posts used to sound robotic and like someone's threatening me with a knife -- I was too cautious.
Don't get me wrong -- OVERsharing is definitely a problem too. When your blog post is filled with too much chatter and aimless rambling, it can get annoying.
So what we can do is strike a balance between personality and value. For every personal story you share, include ONE tip that someone like your reader would find valuable or informative.
For example, if you're talking about your OOTD, you canstart the blog post on where you went / a funny story and then include your outfit details / styling tips at the end. There's a nice balance.
Another example: If you're talking about your trip to London, slip in a few tips on transportation / accommodation / food. GIVE PEOPLE THE DETAILS. They'll be entertained AND informed.
10. How do I make sure my words keep flowing? I always end up with a lot of unfinished drafts of blog posts.
First of all, it's great that you have lots of unfinished drafts. It means that you have lots of great ideas already.
Secondly, it's okay to publish a draft even if you don't think it's long enough or good enough.
You don't have a writing problem, you have a I-can't-post-this-it's-not-perfect problem.
I'm always not quite satisfied with the quality of my blog posts and newsletters -- but I know it's OK to put them all out there.
Once you get used to "publishing" your writings, you'll get addicted to that sense of accomplishment.
If you do any of the strategies I've outlined before:
- Committing to a blog post schedule, e.g. New post every Monday.
- Talking about your blog topic our loud before you start writing.
- Using a timer to get your writing done quickly,
You'll find the whole process get easier and easier.
After nearly 2 years of sending 100+ newsletters to 100+ people, I can honestly say that it really really works. I'm still not perfect, but that doesn't stop me from producing results.
11. What do I do if I have ZERO idea what to write on a particular topic?
My favourite method to brainstorm blog content is by asking myself the 5W1H.
- Who are the parties involved in this topic?
- What are the types of....
- When is the best time to...
But if still doesn't work and it doesn't feel relevant enough, what you can do is by searching "how to (topic)".
Do this on Google, Pinterest and Youtube. After that, try to scan what people write about.
But instead of COPYING their titles, you should figure out what they DIDN'T talk about. Find the gap!
- If people have written about Method A to do something, you can write about Method B.
- If people have written a detailed post on Type A, you can write an overview post on Type A - E. And vice versa!
- If people have written generally on Topic A, you can write a super detailed post on Subtopic B.
The point is, you're definitely not copying! What you're doing is providing a fresh and new take on the same topic, based on your POV and experiences.
Personalize your blog post so that people like YOU can relate to the content.
12. How do I make sure readers will like my blog posts? I don't think I'm funny or interesting.
First of all, trying to be "funny" and "interesting" is A LOT of pressure to put on yourself.
It's like you're telling yourself, go perform a comedy routine on stage! If you're not a natural comedian -- it won't be easy.
So don't aim to be funny and interesting, aim to be yourself. As corny as it sounds, it's the only way for blogging to be an activity that you really enjoy. (And something you actually WANT to do)
Secondly, rather than trying so hard to BE INTERESTING, find out what your readers ARE INTERESTED IN.
Shift your focus to your readers. What kind of content or info would they appreciate?
If your readers are university students, they probably can't spend hundreds of RM on high-end make up every single month. So your blog posts can lean more towards affordable make up.
That applies vice versa too. If your blog's for young professionals, they'd probably like make up that's in the middle tier -- not too high-end and not too drugstore.
You're still writing about the things YOU like. But you're customizing the content for your readers to enjoy.
13. Does writing take a lot of time?
I'll be honest with you: writing can take a long time.
I've had moments where I sit in front of my laptop for 3++ hours, just to work on a single blog post.
Bad posture. Crazy level of stress. Junk food. Eyesight that was getting worse. It was 100% not the kind of blogger lifestyle you see on social media.
But I've figured out what the heck that was taking me so long to write a blog post. It's usually one or a combination of these three problems:
- You're having a blogger's block because you keep hitting backspace.
- You chose a topic that you don't feel comfortable / confident in.
- You're generally feeling BLERH.
Any one of these problems is enough to kill whatever blog-mojo you have. 😳
Here's what I do to address these problems:
Problem 1: Blogger's block
I used the strategies in Question 3, 4 & 8. I know this is the third time I'm mentioning them, but they really do work!
OK, so you know in Question 8 when I said I use a timer to force myself to write quickly?
I also took this one step further and invested in an iOS app called Flowstate. It's basically an app that FORCES you to write within your chosen time.
So when I want to use it, I set the time (5, 15 or 30 minutes) and choose a font. When the timer starts, I CANNOT STOP AT ALL. If I stop typing, the words that I've written so far will DISAPPEAR.
Yes, literally disappear. Gone just like that. I can only save what I've written when the time is up.
I think it was approximately RM60 when I bought it, so it's a nice-to-have but not a must-have. Using a timer works just as well but you can't cheat!
Anyway, my friends say I'm crazy but it's absolutely worth it. 😉
Problem 2: Unsuitable topic
For me, blogging is supposed to be the most flattering and valuable expression of your natural self. Which means -- if it's not "you", don't blog about it!
For example, you might like cooking a lot. But if you're not naturally good at cooking or it stresses you out like crazy -- would you consider giving a presentation in front of people about cooking?
If you say no, then cooking's NOT your topic.
There are so many other things that you can blog about that use your strengths and skills. When you play to your strengths, blogging will really make you feel good.
And when you feel good, you won't be able to shut up. Trust me. (I can't shut up right now)
Problem 3: Feeling blerh
Long commute. Mountains of work. Feeling under the weather. Sheer exhaustion. Domestic/romantic issues.
All these things can wreak havoc with your motivation to blog. I experience this all. The. Bloody. Time.
Even after 2 years of writing, it's still a huge problem for me. (When will I magically be more productive?)
Whenever my motivation-tank is running low, I try to actively find inspiration instead of waiting for it to come.
I look at people who do beautiful embroidery pieces, write awesome calligraphy and paint crazy good art. I watch Kitchen Nightmares. (Whenever Gordon Ramsay yells at people, I feel like he's yelling at me to buck up)
And then I'll think, "If these people can do it, I want to do it too." And that makes me more pumped up to write.
What you can do is find one simple, free thing that will lift your spirits up a bit. Maybe it's running around the lake. Maybe it's watching Kitchen Nightmares. Maybe it's looking at your idols in the same industry.
AS SOON AS you feel yourself motivated, use it to write your blog post!
Rinse and repeat. 🙂
Is there any other questions or obstacles that makes blogging inconvenient or unsuitable for you? I'd love to know!