It’s crazy to think that eleven years ago, on this very day, I hit the publish button on my first blog. The rest is history.
Blogging has been the best outlet for me. It’s been my way of escaping the stresses, issues and daily problems of the world and life. I’m a huge advocate for blogging. Whether it’s writing a food blog, using social media to post pictures of food, parenting, life, or an online journal, it’s been one of the main hobbies in my life that has kept me sane.
So, on today’s 11th-year anniversary, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging and advice I’d give to others who would like to pursue it. When I say pursue it, I really mean, just do it. Everybody should try blogging at least once.
1.) Pick The Right Platform That Suits You
Not everybody is techie enough to create a website, not everyone wants to write big blogs. Some people love making video snippets. There are those who just want to take pictures.
Whether it’s your own website, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform, don’t feel obligated to any or all of them. Start off small, even if it’s just posting some pictures to Instagram with some cool captions, which seems to be the most popular start for bloggers these days.
Every online platform is different. You have to do what works for you.
From there you can grow. For a decade, I’ve focused on longer written content in the form of a blog. But after much debate, I decided to dabble in the world of video, which I’ve always hated. And yes, this is a cheap plug for you to follow me on TikTok.
2.) Always Be Yourself and as Authentic as Possible
Be true to yourself and your readers. Over time, everyone will know why you are blogging. The moment you are not who you say you are, you lose credibility, which is what everybody really strives for.
When I started Wichita By E.B., it was first and foremost a food blog. I never shied away from the fact that I didn’t consider myself a foodie. My life was pretty sheltered when it came to food. I grew up in a bi-racial family where Vietnamese food was served 90% of the time. So, when I entered the real world as an adult, all this food was new to me. The blog turned into a journey of discovering new dishes, iconic restaurants that I had never heard of or been to, it was all a learning process and I never tried to claim to be this all knowing foodie. To this day, I’m still learning, which makes the journey fun.
3.) Finding Your Voice Takes Time
Some people have a natural talent for blogging. I’ve been told I do, but I promise you, I don’t. Writing was something I LOVED doing in grade school and high school. I took all the creative writing and journalism classes I could, but my high school teachers were the most discouraging people and turned me away from it.
Thanks to an online journal site, Xanga, I started to rediscover that passion for writing. When I decided to get back into it, I babbled on and on. It took me a good 2-3 years with this blog to get in the groove and really find that voice of mine.
4.) Don’t Force Yourself To Write
When it comes to blogging, quality over quantity matters. When you focus on quantity, it comes through in your voice. It feels robotic.
When I feel forced to write something, I lose the passion and desire. That’s why, anytime I’m asked to write something or I partner with a business, I set my own schedule. When I’m on a deadline, I feel like it takes away from the fun. Sometimes I don’t even publish a review I wrote until months later because it just doesn’t feel right.
5.) When You Start, Your Content Will Suck
Do you ever look back at your grade school or high school pictures and turn red in embarrassment, thinking, “WTF?” The same will go for your content.
There are so many times I look back at my old articles and think to myself, “Why did someone actually read this? Was I using an iPhone 2 to take these pictures? Does this person even speak English?”
It all goes back to finding your voice and growing as a writer and blogger.
This is all a journey, so it’s about progress, not perfection. If perfection is your goal, trust me, don’t get into blogging. I’ve made more grammatical and spelling errors than people who have had diarrhea after a good Vegas buffet.
6.) Success, Readers and Followers Take Time
Whether you’re an Instagram blogger, Facebook blogger, TikTok, have your own YouTube, website or any other platform, getting traction will take time. Yes, there are some people who strike lightning and go viral quickly, but the majority of people won’t come until years later.
After one year, I had under 300 likes on Facebook. After two years of blogging, I had under a thousand readers and followers on Facebook. It took me eight years to really gain traction and a reader base that was consistent. So many times during those eight years, I felt like I was blogging for nobody and it wasn’t making any sort of impact.
But eventually, I enjoyed it and stuck with it. I wasn’t worried about the fluff.
7.) Consistency and Quality
But you might be asking, what was the magic sauce to help truly grow?
After 8 years, I decided to make a bigger commitment to blogging. I focused on putting content out every single day that focused on quality pieces of information that people would find either informative or entertaining. If you ask any YouTuber or TikToker with real growth, they will tell you the same thing. Consistency and quality are what matters most.
When it comes to writing, people will typically only click a link to read something that will be helpful/informative or entertaining.
8.) Be Original
For the life of you, do not copy other people. Don’t use their content, don’t try to reword it. Would you rather have a made from scratch pie or a store bought one? Now ask your readers if they’d rather have made from scratch content or something they can find somewhere else?
I’ve told any aspiring writer to just be original and create the content yourself. Like I said earlier, it may suck at the beginning, but it’s all part of growing as a writer. People who follow you will see the growth and commend you for it.
9.) Evolve, You and Your Content Will Change Over Time
Just like you get older and change in life, your content will too. Sometimes, it’s natural and sometimes it’s forced. Regardless, evolving as a blogger is important.
I started out as a food blogger. It’s all I wrote about. So much that anytime I wrote a piece that had absolutely nothing to do with food, people would literally get mad and say, “You should stick with food” or say it in more vulgar ways.
As my life changed and I had nieces and nephews I wanted to take out, my blog slowly evolved and I’d cover more of the things to do in Wichita. Then the moment, I became a father, I knew I had to make an even bigger change.
I’m a very active father and am always taking my daughter out to do something. Originally, I had this plan to start a separate dads blog. But not too long after, I realized I should be using my food blog platform I worked my ass off to grow and evolve. Over the years, I’ve started covering as many activities and events there are to do in town. As a parent, I know I’m constantly looking for something to do with my kid. So, there’s probably someone out there who is doing the same. And as a parent, I’m also looking for something to do to when I can get a sitter. Daddy’s gotta have fun too, right? So, I evolved my content despite the detractors who hate change.
When I changed my focus to go beyond food, I noticed the lives of my readers changed too. Come to find out, they would get older too…. and they too had kids. They wanted to know exactly what I was looking for.
And yes, sometimes I stray even further off path and write product reviews of keyboards, TV trays, handheld vacuums, but that’s all simply to piss off the people who think I should stick to food.
Bottom line, don’t fear change.
10.) Don’t Be Afraid To Toss In The Towel
I almost quit blogging twice in the past eleven years.
Blogging isn’t always easy; you’ll stumble, have writer’s block, lose the passion, lose the will, and have trouble getting motivated.
There was a 5-month hiatus I quit blogging but eventually returned after I missed it. Then there was a 3-month hiatus where I lost the enjoyment. And for me, if I don’t enjoy something, I won’t do it. There are times I feel forced to write a blog, start it, and then quit it.
I’ve always told myself that the moment blogging isn’t fun and feels like a chore or something people expect of me, I’m out. I’ll say “F this” and pick up bridge.
11.) Other Bloggers Are Not Your Competition
I’m of the mindset that there is plenty of room for everyone when it comes to blogging. We all think differently, feel differently, talk differently, so why not accept the other bloggers?
Take food blogging in Wichita, KS, for example. There are over a thousand restaurants to choose from. They all deserve love and 1, 5, 10 bloggers isn’t enough to make a dent. The more food bloggers we have in town, the bigger the win it is for the industry, who have writers to create what’s essentially free exposure.
Some writers and bloggers see others as competition, which is crazy. For some writers, I get that’s their job and livelihood, but having more writers only makes everyone step up their game and create more quality content. The big winner? All the readers out there.
While I’m very much to myself, I’ve made efforts over the years to get to know other bloggers, vloggers, influencers and it’s been great. These are people from all walks of life who share the same passions. I’m making more strides to meet other bloggers and hope that one day it could be a really cool community where it turns into a huge win for Wichita.
12.) There Will Be Discouraging Times (and Haters)
What you do as a blogger can be equally important as the next person in the community. You’re providing one of the most underappreciated services out there. There will be many times, you’ll be taken for granted.
People and businesses will constantly ask for favors, thinking you have all this time, money and resources. True story. During Covid, I lost my job after a layoff. During that same time, I was contacted nearly every single day about coming out to a restaurant. So, there I was without a job, still eating out, still pumping out content, all while spending evenings at home depressed worrying where the next paycheck would come from to support my family. I felt obligated because I was publicly saying that people should support our struggling restaurants, and I didn’t want to be hypocritical and stay home. It’s something I never talked about publicly because I didn’t want the pity. I spent more money eating out the first two years of COVID than any other year of blogging (and gained the inappropriate amount of weight). It was definitely discouraging times, but the payoff worked as a writer because my traffic grew immensely.
To this day, 90% of the messages and emails I get are requests for something that takes my time and money. The best are businesses who send me a link to their shop and ask me to buy something to review it. Not even a single, Please!
As for the haters, you can expect them…. lots of them. When you are putting your opinions out there on social media, you’re just asking for the hate. People can be VERY hateful and cruel. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin, but I’d be lying if I said it never hurt or bothered me. After all, I’m human.
The bigger your blog gets, the more haters will come out of it. I read somewhere that for every troll you get, there are a thousand people who value what you do.
13.) Engage With Your Audience
Your readers take the time to read your content. If they comment, try to take the time to engage back. After all, your blog is nothing without readers. And those who engage the most are your biggest supporters.
I understand it gets harder with life and time, but if you can find some time every now and then to comment back, send an email reply, it’ll mean the world to them.
There was a time in my life, I replied to every single email I received. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time I used to, but I try to set some time each day to quickly response back to what I can.
14.) Continue Striving To Be Better
You will never be the best blogger out there. There will be things other people simply do better. I can name multiple people who are much better than me in many areas. I suck at videos, my pictures aren’t the most artistic or colorful, I don’t write professionally, and really stink at doing long storytelling pieces about people and businesses. Like what Denise Neil does when she talks about the history of a restaurant is spectacular. I don’t have that talent.
But in the end, I know what I bring to the table and can improve on the areas that I’m not that good at. I’m all about growth and perfecting my craft, even though it’ll never be perfect.
15.) Enjoy the Journey
Blogging is meant to be a journey. You’re on an adventure to rediscover yourself with a diary/journal, to learn about a craft, educate others on something you’re a subject matter expert on, entertaining people, or telling a story, make it fun.
When you enjoy the journey, the passion for blogging is like a drug you want to do all the time.
Thank you all for following along this journey.
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