10/12 Life / Tips

How I Grew My Blog + Advice

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I’ve put off this post for so long because I felt like I had nothing new to add to what’s already out there.  After all, I followed the advice found upon Googling “how to grow a blog” or reading books about blogging (ok it was only one book).

Still, it’s my most frequently asked question, made even more abundantly clear after the reader survey results, and when I thought about approaching it as more of telling my story rather than writing out a guidebook, I was able to stress about it less and get rid of this fear that I might be disappointing people.

I’ve gotten questions like how do you get people to comment on your blog, or how do you get featured on larger sites, and honestly, I don’t completely know how that all worked out.  When I look back on the past two years of blogging, it all feels like it kind of just happened, which of course isn’t the whole story because I for sure worked my ass off, but that feeling points out that there is a lot I still don’t know and need to learn.

The bulk of what I know, and the thing that I’m most sure of, is that I spent 82% of my energy on improving my content and 18% on promoting it.  Everywhere you look, they’ll tell you content is king, and there is no getting around it.  Content is the value of the information you provide, how you present it, and your voice, and it needs to be of highest priority.  If I only get one technical thing across, this would be it.  That’s why I bolded it.

To stick with my plan of telling my story and to also satiate the interest some of you expressed on knowing this, I’m going to start with how I came to blogging.  I’m also going to put titles on sections of this post for better navigating- nice!

 

How I came to blogging


I shared this before, but I can share it again, no problem.  I previously worked in pharmacy.  I never called it a career because it never felt like one.  I pursued it because I was sold on the promise of a comfortable future, but it was a decision completely devoid of any intrinsic interest, and I needed to get out of it.

I always loved the idea of blogging, and I wanted to do what bloggers were doing- be creative, share things I love, and do it alongside like-minded people.  I would have loved to do this through switching to a creative job, but that was proving to be difficult due to my lack of experience.

At that time, I had a friend successfully pursuing a career change, and she was blogging in her spare time as her creative outlet.  She encouraged me to start my own blog, recommended a book on blogging, and said Google will have all the answers to my questions, so I did just that: I read the book, Googled my questions, and spent about two months researching and prepping for the launch of my blog.

Sure, I had hopes it would open doors and serve as a portfolio for those creative jobs I couldn’t get to notice me, but even more than that, it was my passion project.  I felt like I had forgotten how to access that part of me after years of being a zombie at my job, so it was as exciting as it was terribly scary.  That’s one giant thing I’ve learned, by the way: if it’s scary, that means you should do it.

Around this time, I had moved into a new apartment I loved (still here!) and it was tugging at me to share all the things I was going to do to decorate and DIY for it.  Was I doing any of that stuff before?  No, never, but I really, really wanted to.  That’s a great thing about blogging- it makes you improve at your subject.  What I didn’t know at the time was that it would turn into my absolute joy, that it would grow into a deep love for design, and that clarity and focus would become one of the best things that ever happened to me.

 

My plan


There is no plan without a goal.  My goal from the very first day was to grow this blog with the hopes that I could go full time with it.  I don’t know if I ever said it aloud because frankly I was mad shy about it, but I did write it down in my notebook, which totally counts.

So knowing that I wanted to take this seriously, I stuck to a regular posting schedule and promised myself I’d do whatever it took to get it done.  For me, that meant working most of my nights and weekends in addition to my full time job.  I don’t mean to say that this amount of time dedication is necessary for blog growth, but when I get asked how I grew “so fast,” I’d owe a lot of it to those long hours.

I came from zero design background and knew nothing about what goes into blogging, so the majority of those long hours for about the first year were spent learning the skills I needed to improve my content (remember what I said about improving content?)  I had to learn WordPress, basic coding, photography, photo editing, Photoshop, social media marketing, research equipment I’d need for production, research materials and techniques for DIY, learn blogging/internet etiquette, keep up with trends, how to find my style and voice, the list goes on.

There’s a million things to learn, and once there, those things need to continually be improved upon.  It’s what I love most about blogging, that constant learning, and keeping up with that will yield results, absolutely.

 

Yes, but how did you get people to come?


I didn’t do anything crazy, or at least not as much as I sense people think I do.  I don’t have any secrets or insider tricks on super boosting blog sharing.  I just stuck to the basics.

link-ups
These were so instrumental to the very early days of my blog when I was getting like 6 views a day.  A blog or multiple blogs host a weekly link-up where you submit your blog post through a widget and everyone can browse the submissions live.  Hosts would then pick their favorites and feature them in the following link-up while also sharing them on social media.  Getting featured is what really helped bring more eyes to my blog, and it also connected me with bloggers that I’m still buddies with today.

submission sites
I only submit to Craftgawker or Dwellinggawker because they have been the most successful in how much traffic they bring.  Other than having submitted one of my posts to Apartment Therapy, this is it for me!  For a comprehensive list of submission sites for home, craft, and DIY content, go here.

I posted regularly to social media
There’s so much that can be said about strategy for each platform, but I’ll touch on the two most important.

  • Pinterest is the most important one because it brings the most traffic.  I didn’t see my Pinterest following really start to grow until I joined large group boards and got really picky about what I pinned, making sure everything was in line with my style and aesthetic.  My best guess for how my work was found for getting featured in larger publications is through Pinterest.
  • While Instagram makes it hard to track how much traffic is being referred to the blog, many of the inquiries I receive about collaborating indicate that they found me through Instagram, so I consider it a very important platform to stay regular with.  Also, a lot of you said you stay up to date on new posts by following me on Instagram, so that’s important!  My following started growing faster once I got specific about my style and aesthetic (this seems to be a recurring theme), used popular hashtags, and actively interacted with other grams.

-I commented on blogs/social media posts I genuinely liked
I was definitely guilty of doing that “Hey come check out my blog!” commenting in the very beginning, and I learned very quickly that’s not effective, or appreciated for that matter.  So if I came across something through a link-up, Craftgawker, or social media that I liked, I’d read the post and leave a comment responding to it.  Simple.  It’s how I connected with some of the bloggers that are still my buddies today (this also seems to be a recurring theme).

 

Advice for new bloggers


This is essentially a summary of the main points to take away from my story and then some, and is maybe all you wanted to know from this very long post ha.

1. Be very clear about your goal.

It will guide your plans and pretty much every decision you have to make about your blog.  There can be more than one, but they need to be written down and looked at regularly so you don’t forget them.  This is mandatory.

2. Improve your skills.

I put high priority on improving photography and styling to present my work in the most beautiful way I could, and still do.  I’d owe a lot of my blog growth to this.  Whatever technical skills you need to get your story across in a beautiful and effective way, work to always improve on them.

3. Focus on sharable content.

It’s a lot easier to gain traction on a post about “The Softest Chocolate Chip Cookies” than a post about “My Trip to Grandma’s House.”  Which one are you more likely to check out as a brand new reader?  As a reader myself, I like the personal or random posts if I’ve established a connection with a blogger that I regularly follow, but if we’re talking about growth in the beginning and bringing in new readers, the sharable content (anything that teaches something valuable) is what’s going to do it.

4. Stick to a consistent posting schedule.

Quality is more important than frequency, but it is not likely that the content you produce in the beginning will be your best work.  We all start somewhere (I dare you to look at my blog posts from when I first started my blog but also please don’t they are so embarrassing) and if you wait to only post things you think are perfect, you will never start.  Posting regularly forces you to put yourself out there and get better, so long as you can be real with yourself about what needs to be better next time and then do that next time.

5. Find your style and voice.

I was lost on what my style was, or would be, before I started blogging, but I knew that blogging would help me find it and once I did, everything became infinitely more natural and clear.  So much of what I did in the beginning was to emulate what other bloggers I admired were doing, so in a sense it was difficult to feel like myself.  It basically took me until yesterday to be really comfortable about the way I write and what I love, so that goes to show that it takes time and practice.  It’s easy to feel like we’re chasing after predicting what other people want to see, but if we can focus on what we love most with our whole hearts and continually search for it, it will attract the right people- this is really what we all want, and what makes all of this so fulfilling.

 

Blogging is essentially soul searching.  It is a hard, time-consuming, and at times a lonely and scary thing to pursue.  You’ll work so hard on an idea you believe in and might have to face that no one shows up or comments on it.  You’ll go after collaborations and might face the rejection of them not seeing your potential the way that you do.  The biggest thing that will push you through is if you truly care for what you blog about and stay honest about what you love, if you can enjoy the learning process and connect with people who relate to your highs and lows.  As difficult as it can be, it’s a lot of fun- let’s not forget that among the pressures of trying to grow and build our visions.

 

Thanks a million for reading and for your support on sharing my story.  If you have more questions or general thoughts/insights/advice you want to share, leave them in the comments below.  I’ll get back to you. <3

64 comments on “How I Grew My Blog + Advice”

  1. This is so helpful! Thank you! Quick question. I’ve heard of link ups but I always thought they were so confusing to join. What widget do you use for them? And is there a certain website you need to submit your links to for the links ups?

    Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your hardwork has definitely paid off! I love your blog/work so much… you even inspired me to follow your DIY IKEA malm dresser makeover :)

  3. Great tips especially #1 about goalsetting. I never write them down much less review. Also you don’t have a design background?! Love your design sense, you make it look easy!

    1. It’s so so important to remember goals. Without them, I get sidetracked way too easily.
      Thank for the amazing compliment, Anusha!

  4. As a new blogger, I can totally identify with the “constant state of learning.” It’s one of my favorite things about blogging, too! I’m currently working on improving my photography and editing skills so I can create better original content.

    Thanks for all the great advice! :)

  5. Thank you for this post ! I’m actually at the beginning of the road, and I must say that I never thought about submitting my work. Moreover, I just learned what a link-up really is ahah.

  6. I am experiencing the same fears that you have started with.I am definitely in the stage of experimentation where I am trying to connect with bloggers, submit to craftgawker etc.but I haven’t submitted to any link up parties yet. And your story gives me hope and inspiration to continue even if my images don’t come out perfect. It definitely takes practice and time to find the true you
    Thank you for sharing this post with us Amy:)

    1. Absolutely, Marwa. No one is ever perfect from the beginning, or even thereafter. Putting the best you have out there right now will take you way further than waiting to perfect it. Keep going!

  7. Thank you for sharing your journey Amy! Loved learning about how you got started and built your blog to what it is today! Would you please do a post on how you do your blog photography or link some sites with great tutorials? Thank you!

    1. Hi! The book I read was Blog Inc. I think it’s most helpful for someone who is taking a first step and knows absolutely nothing about blogging, which was me. For someone who already has a blog up and running, maybe not as much, but my favorite part about the book was the interviews with successful bloggers- very very inspiring.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing!! I’ve been waiting for a post like this from you! It’s great to know that you can still make a living as a full-time blogger even if you have a relatively new blog! Thanks for the inspiration! xo

  9. I was referred to your blog by a friend of your boyfriends and since day one of reading your posts I was curious how you got started on blogging. Not only am I a HUGE fan of your content (which is key, right!) but I’m a huge fan of your tenacity and story! I think that ultimately drew me into your blog, so I’m glad you wrote this post. As soon as I saw it I just said “YES” out loud, at work. I’ve been wanting to get into blogging about design and I needed a push.

    What was the blogging book that your friend recommended? I’d love to read it. Also, thanks for this post! You keep inspiring us! :)

    1. Who’s the friend?? I’d like to thank them :)
      The book is Blog Inc. and I’d recommend it to anyone starting at zero.
      Thank you so so much for the support, Aja, and I’m very grateful you’re here and that I could give you that push. Good luck getting started!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I loved reading about it! I had never followed any bloggers before and you were the main reason why I started. You are truly inspirational! So happy for all of your successes from full-time blogging – it’s amazing! One day, I will muster the courage to go full-time! In the meantime, would love to learn more about how you go about editing your photos for your blog and social media. Any helpful apps or tools you can share?

    Thanks again for being an inspiration!

    1. Aww Amie I do know that you’ve stuck by my side and I appreciate it so so much.
      I know I gotta do a post on photography… someday… For now I can tell you that for blog photos I edit with both Lightroom and Photoshop CS6. For Instagram, I only use VSCO because they have the best filters out there, and after that I’ll do touch-ups just straight in the Instagram app.
      Thank you for your constant support, Amie.

  11. Amy – your style and voice is always so genuine. Thanks so much for the honesty in this post. I love that you started from 0 and taught yourself how to design, photo-edit. Etc. Totally agreed also that content is king – I’ve just started my own blog journey this past June and it’s scary but so rewarding too. Quick questions: 1) What book did you friend recommend you read? and 2) Are you full time at your blog now?

    Keep on doing what you do – because: awesome.

    1. Ah, thank you Miranda, and it’s so great to hear that you’re already benefitting from the rewards of blogging- keep going!
      1) The book I read was Blog Inc.
      2) Yes, I am full time now.

      Thanks so much for taking a minute to leave your encouragement- I hope I gave you some too in return <3.

  12. Love. Love. Love this! You know how much I love your blog but this was an awesome, personal but very helpful post. It motivates me to refocus and articulate my own blog goals.

    1. Aah thank you so much, Jessica. I feel like I need refocusing pretty often, and it’s nice to get it from our peers who are chasing after the same goals :)

  13. Hey Amy! I just stumbled upon your website and this was the first post I read — Amazing! More importantly, I really resonoated with you because I, too, have no design/photography/PR background (I’m a paralegal student!) but the idea of a blog has always appealed to me. I started my blog this year and my biggest goal right now until the end of the year is to consistently post content. It’s really daunting sometimes to see professional blogs out there and how high the standard of blogging is at these days, but your words really encouraged me: we all start from somewhere!
    Thank you so much and last but not least: nice to meet you! <3

    1. First post?? WELCOME!
      That’s an excellent goal. That was one of my supplemental goals- to keep at it and stay consistent at least for a year (no matter if what I came up with sucked or not!) You WILL improve from this and surprise yourself with how far you can go.
      Nice to meet you Jenny, and thanks for being here <3.

  14. This post was so helpful, thank you! I’ve enjoyed following you on IG, which lead me here. I’m definitely in the beginning stages of blogging and just taking my time to soak it all in while working full time. After reading this, it gave me mega motivation to stick to a schedule! Thanks again, hope you’re enjoying your week!

    1. Awesome, thanks for going beyond IG haha! I always wonder if that’s happening often.
      I’m super happy to know this motivated you. Thanks for sharing a bit of yourself with me, Jalee. Have an excellent rest of the week as well.

  15. Wow, thank you so much for sharing! I am a “newbie” to the blogging world and relate to just about everything you wrote. I think the most frustrating thing was wrapping my head around WordPress, and I found myself muttering, “There has got to be a widget for that!!” Lol, love your blog and your honesty!

    1. Widgets are life haha. I went widget crazy at first but then slowly came around to learning some manual ways- in the long run that’s better! But totally, WordPress was a monster to be tamed.
      Really glad you could relate, and I think a lot of us can- it helps us all keep going!

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I’ve read a lot of posts similar to this, but no one ever really talks about link ups and no one EVER talks about Craftgawker. I’m going to try to get my posts up to Craftgawker’s standards. thanks for being rad.

  17. This post has been so helpful!! Thank you for writing it. I’m new to the world of blogging and found your words to be wise, non-intrusive and I took away so much!!

    Thanks again! Harriet Xo

    1. Aah WONDERFUL. I love that: non-intrusive. I’m realizing now that’s exactly what I wanted. Very happy to have helped, Harriet!

  18. Thanks for sharing this post, Amy. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into blogging especially when you have such a lighthearted voice! I’m so glad you were able to start blogging full time. Can’t wait to see what your blogging future has in store for you!

    1. Haha I like that you think I have a lighthearted voice- I like to keep it that way around here :)
      Thanks so much for your encouragement, Jennifer!

  19. Hey Amy, thanks for the informative honest post. I’ve been dreaming of becoming a full-time blogger for years and years but I am just so shy. Also I work full time, with lots of overtime every week.. I have two questions for you- how many hours per week do you think you spend on your blog? About how long did it take to go full time?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I feel you on the shyness. I still find it hard at times to talk about my blog with strangers. In the beginning, I remember I’d have to repeatedly mutter to myself under my breath “Don’t be shy don’t be shy don’t be shy” right before I’d post something to the blog or social media. I mean, it kind of helped! But I’m definitely not over my struggle with that, and have kept faith that I’d improve on it, and I have, and you will, too.
      It’s tough to put a number on the hours because I feel like I’m always doing something for the blog… but I have it scheduled out to work 40 hrs a week on anything related to it. I often go overtime or will stay in on a weekend to catch up. I’ve been blogging for two years and just recently went full time.

  20. Thank you, that was very helpful. I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time.
    I have a question about your comments on pinning from large boards to get followers. How do you find those larger boards? And how do you pin to them? I am a huge fan of pintrest, but need to find more interior design boards to follow that are in my line with my esthetic.

    Thanks again!
    Elizabeth

    1. Hi, Beth. I literally Googled “DIY Pinterest boards” and came across a couple to join. I messaged the admin to be added as a contributor and then would wait to be added (sometimes I wouldn’t get added and go ignored) then it would become like any other board to pin to.

  21. Thanks so much for sharing. I am pretty new to blogging and have learnt 2 things from your post that I have not yet seen on the many, and I mean many, tips about blogging posts I have read so far.

    The information on linking up and submission sites are new to me.

    Will be checking them out now.

    :-)

  22. Loved this, thank you. I think my biggest challenge right now is finding my voice, kind of a big deal, I know. My design style is currently at a place where I feel comfortable but not happy. It is a style I have always known but not loved. I feel like some people “get” their style right away. For me it is taking longer…. Thanks for all your insight.
    -Shonee
    http://www.hawthorneandmain.com

  23. “Content is the value of the information you provide, how you present it, and your voice, and it needs to be of highest priority. ”

    I LOVE THIS LINE. THE WAY YOU PRESENT SOMETHING DEFINITELY HAS AN IMPACT ON PEOPLE WITH THE LARGE NUMBER OF OPTIONS AND BLOGS OUT THERE TODAY.

  24. Hi Amy! Thank you so much for writing this blog post. I bookmarked it a few days ago after seeing it on Andrea’s blog (The Beauty Dojo). I’m just starting out with my blog and everything you mentioned in this post is so on point. It has definitely been a challenge so far and a soul searching journey, but I am also really enjoying the process and journey! Thank you for the tips on how to grow your blog like Pinterest and linking up with other blogs.

  25. Hi!!!
    Thank you for this post. I know its not new but I really like your insights!! as a blogger it’s really inspiring to see your success.
    keep on this amazing work!!!

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