Chances are, you’ve seen people who have very successful blogs, and you’ve probably enjoyed their writing. But how long does it take to get to that point? Where they get endless traffic and followers and the money is flowing easily. At least in my experience, it takes more than a year! Today I’d like to share what I’ve learned: 10 lessons from one year of blogging.
This isn’t going to be an income report or a number-focused update, but there are plenty of those out there if you’re interested in that side of things. Instead, I want to talk about mindset. How I’m staying confident and motivated enough to keep writing, and how my feelings toward blogging have evolved over the past year.
Around the one-year point is where a lot of bloggers tend to give up, especially if they’re not seeing the results they expected. But I’m here to motivate you to keep going, no matter what the numbers look like!
I’m sharing because I want to help other new bloggers who are just starting. It’s vital to have realistic expectations and know that not everyone will get super lucky or successful right away. (And that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong, either.) A lot of the big bloggers now spent years getting there.
I haven’t gotten crazy amounts of traffic or followers or email subscribers, and that’s ok! I still keep going because I enjoy the process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so I’m trying my best to be patient and appreciate every step of the journey. With that being said, let’s get into my 10 lessons from one year of blogging!
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10 Lessons from One Year of Blogging
1. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
There are so many different components and things to create when it comes to blogging, and I wasn’t good at any of them at first. I started anyway, knowing that I’d get better over time, and I’d say that I have.
It’s okay to not be great at something right away! I think an easy example of this is YouTube videos. Almost anyone that you watch will say their first videos were cringey or not very good quality compared to what they make now. But if they had never made those videos, they wouldn’t have gotten to the content that you watch and enjoy today. In fact, ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good’ was a saying that I got from City Planner Plays, who I watch on YouTube. He started making videos of a game he’s loved to play in his spare time and has grown into a very successful channel. He had audio issues and other hiccups when he first started, but now his videos are polished and great to watch.
I’ve improved in terms of writing, pin design, and overall workflow efficiency. The more you do things, the faster you tend to get at them. It used to be a laborious process to go through all the steps to get a blog post ready, and now it seems like second nature. I don’t think about each step so much.
Find the balance between putting your best effort into things and getting so hung up on the quality that you never actually do it. There’s always room for improvement, but don’t let that stop you!
2. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but it’s so worth it.
Maybe you don’t have any reservations about putting yourself out there online. Before blogging, maybe you already post regularly on Instagram or some other social media, so sharing your writing doesn’t seem that weird. But to me, starting my blog was the first time that I put my thoughts online in any meaningful capacity. I’m a hardcore introvert, so even participating in social media was too social for me, lol.
I bought my domain and sat on it for 6 months before I published a single blog post. I didn’t feel ready, and I wanted to keep doing more research. But at some point, I had to suck it up and start anyway. You’ll never feel 100% ready, so don’t waste too much time waiting for that perfect moment to happen.
It’s so rewarding to see every positive comment that someone writes, or even just knowing that there are people out there who have read my writing. It means so much to me that you are here and taking the time to read this. Thank you!
3. Having realistic goals is essential
I’ve always found it helpful to have goals in general because it gives me something to focus on. When I have a goal, I have a direction and it’s easier to identify the steps I need to take.
If the goal is to finish a blog post, I know the process that I follow. It starts with some research and outlining, then the drafting and editing. Once the text is complete, I move onto the visuals – the images in the post and the Pinterest graphics I’ll use to promote it. If I’m aiming for a post every one or two weeks, it’s easy to see how often I need to complete each step.
Sometimes the steps for the goals aren’t so obvious. When you’re trying to grow your audience or number of followers, there are many different paths you can take. It may take some additional research and trial and error to figure out how to reach your goals.
The key here is that the goals should be realistic. It’s good to aim high, but not so high that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
It may take some time to gauge what’s realistic for your situation. I think it’s also highly dependent on the amount of time you have to work on these goals. You probably don’t want to expect to gain hundreds of followers on Pinterest in a month if you don’t have much time to dedicate to working on it.
4. It’s worth the extra effort to show up for your dream life.
After working a 9-5 office job for about a year, I started to realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. (I’m sure I’m not alone in this!) Sure, it’s necessary now, but I don’t want it to always be this way. I did some reflection and brainstormed some ideas of other things that I could do. One thing that always seemed like such a cool job to me was being a blogger. I’ve followed countless blogs for years on various platforms, and it seemed like something I would enjoy doing.
It took a while to get started, but I was so motivated to do it. (And I still am!) Working long nights and weekends on the blog on top of my regular job is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. I do it in the hopes that my effort will pay off and Plants and Pondering will grow. Someday, I believe that it will give me the flexibility to live the life I want to with the freedom I desire. I wouldn’t still be here writing for you if I didn’t believe that!
To me, it doesn’t feel like work when I’m doing something that I enjoy. Hours fly by when I’m fully absorbed in the tasks I’m doing or the things I’m learning. That type of passion probably doesn’t come from blogging for everyone, but I encourage you to find that passion and pursue it with your best effort. I assure you that it will be worth it!
5. Be willing to invest in yourself.
Blogging has lower startup costs than some other businesses. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to start a blog for free, especially if you want control over your site and the ability to monetize it. Those things were important to me which is why I decided to set up my blog as a self-hosted website with WordPress (.org, not .com!)
I decided that it was worth it to pay for the tools that I needed. It was something that I really wanted to do, so I tried it just to see what would happen.
There are thousands of different tools and courses out there that can be used for blogging, and you definitely don’t need to buy them all! I’d recommend doing some research and reading reviews before you select what seems like it will be worth the price to you. You also don’t need to buy everything right away. Like I explained in my 6 month blogging update, I started slow and invested in more tools over time.
If you’re looking to start a blog, here’s a list of the services and courses that I use and recommend: (These are all affiliate links, so if you purchase through these links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for your support!)
- I chose to use SiteGround because it was the most recommended company for self-hosting on WordPress. It was user-friendly, and I could find answers to all my questions on their website. This was my first website and I set everything up without much trouble. I appreciate how scalable it is, so you’re able to start with the least expensive plan and upgrade to get more features as your blog grows.
- I’m using the Lifestyle Pro theme from Studio Press. This theme is flexible while still having the traditional blog format that I was looking for. It was also straightforward to install, and I quickly customized the layout the way I liked. Studio Press has a large library of articles full of helpful information. (Note: I believe this theme is being archived so I’m not sure how long it will be available to purchase.)
- Tailwind is a scheduler for Pinterest and Instagram posts. Currently, I’m only using the Pinterest features, but I may use it for Instagram in the future. This service was an immediate game-changer. Tailwind allows you to schedule all of your pins ahead of time and suggests the best times to post to maximize engagement. I save so much time by scheduling my pins once a week, and I don’t have to worry about manual pinning at all!
- Pinterest Traffic Avalanche is a course made by Create and Go that’s full of in-depth information you need to know for success on Pinterest. It covers topics like setting up your boards, good pin design, SEO-rich descriptions, best practices for pinning, how to use Tailwind, and much more. I appreciate that Pinterest Traffic Avalanche combined information from Pinterest’s representatives with Alex and Lauren’s own experiences running their successful accounts. PTA saved me so much time by having all the information I needed in one place. The course is also updated any time there is a significant algorithm change to help you understand new best practices.
- ConvertKit is an email marketing service. In addition to the ability to email your subscribers, ConvertKit also offers a wide variety of customizable forms and landing pages. The automations and sequences are super useful as well. There are free email services available, but I’ve heard from almost every blogger that ConvertKit is worth the price, so I made the investment from the beginning. Right below this, you’ll see an example of a form I created. ConvertKit now offers a free plan that lets you get started with up to 1,000 subscribers. Click here to learn more!
6. Take small steps.
You wouldn’t expect to learn a full semester’s worth of content in a week at school, and blogging is no different!
I’ve found that there’s been a huge learning curve that came with starting a blog, so there was no way I could do it all at once. Everything has been spread out over the many months that I’ve been blogging.
I laid out a rough guideline for myself regarding what I wanted to do and learn and in what order. I started with understanding the settings and controls for my website, plus Pinterest as my primary traffic source. Then, I started my email list and created some freebie downloads to encourage sign-ups. More recently, I started an Instagram account and I’ve been focused on growing that. Through it all, I’ve been publishing high-quality blog posts as often as possible.
To read more about the steps that I took to learn all the blogging tools, check out my 6-month blogging update.
You never really stop learning, either. Algorithms change, new tools or services become available, you want to expand into other areas. Of course, I can only speak from doing this for a year, but it seems like there will always be something new out there to learn.
7. You’re on your own journey.
It’s not helpful to compare your situation to someone else’s. It’s also not fair to compare your beginning to their middle. You have no idea what’s going on in someone else’s life, or the resources that they have available, that helped them get to where they are now.
But that’s the thing. It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter what they’re doing or how much money they’re making. (You never really know that for sure, either!) What matters is what you are doing and how you feel about it.
This is a lesson that I still struggle with myself. It can be super hard not to compare yourself or feel inferior based on the perceived success that other people have. It’s also an ongoing process. Some days I’ll have a positive mindset, but other days it’s not so great!
I really try to view the success of others as a source of inspiration, not jealousy. Seeing them be that successful means that it’s possible, and it’s possible for me and you, too. I don’t want to get discouraged, I choose to be uplifted and work on believing in myself even more. Try to shift your mindset into a more empowered one as much as you can.
8. Create a routine that’s sustainable for you.
With something so self-paced like blogging, it can be easy to work yourself into burnout, especially when you’re very driven and passionate about it. My best advice to combat this is to create a structure and routine that’s sustainable for you.
What’s sustainable will look different for everyone, and there are so many factors that go into it. This is another area where it’s not constructive to compare yourself to others.
It doesn’t matter that other bloggers can publish multiple new posts every week and be super consistent with their social media pages. I came to the realization (after being pretty hard on myself) that I’ll never be able to create as much content as full-time bloggers. It makes sense when you say it out loud, of course, someone blogging part-time won’t be able to produce as much. And that’s fine! But I still need to remind myself every once in a while to be more realistic with my expectations.
I believe the goal with a blogging routine should be to have a healthy routine that works for you in the long term. Something that you can sustain for months or years at a time (with some breaks) without getting burnt out.
My blogging routine is pretty flexible, and I try to be gentle with myself about it. I know the advice is to publish a new post at least once a week to grow your blog, but even that can be a challenge! I aim to write well-researched, high-quality articles, and that can take a long time to do. This is a side project for me, and sometimes other life responsibilities take priority over writing. What’s sustainable for me is to just write and publish as often as I can, while still giving myself the freedom to live my life and explore other interests and hobbies that I have.
9. Do what you love.
As much keyword research, having a niche, and good SEO practices are important, you still need to be following your passion. When I’m writing about something that I love, the words just flow out of me. I never have that ‘staring at the blank screen’ moment.
But if I try to write about a topic that’s not as enjoyable, it’s like writing an essay for school all over again. And who wants to do that?
For example, my plant-related articles always do the best on my site. They get the most saves on Pinterest and the most traffic. But I don’t limit myself to only writing about plants. My blog is primarily focused on plants, but I made sure to be clear that I would share other content too. I still love to write about self-care, personal development, and the occasional personal essay.
The point here is to do what you love, as much as possible. The analytics and everything else is valuable, but you’ll never be motivated to keep up with this work if it’s not a passion for you.
10. Inspiration is everywhere.
For some people, ideas flow easily, and they always have an abundance of things they want to do or try or write. I’ve found that I need to be a bit more intentional with my brainstorming to help those ideas come to me.
Here are some sources of ideas that have been helpful for me:
- My own experiences (like with plants that I have)
- My thoughts (inspiration for personal essays + lifestyle posts)
- Content that I consume (other blog posts, videos, shows, books, etc.)
- Keyword research (see what people are searching for)
- Random sparks of inspiration (the best, but the most elusive, lol)
No matter how you come up with your plans, the most important thing is to always have a way of recording them. It doesn’t matter if it’s on your phone or in a notebook or wherever else. You just want to keep them somewhere and write them down before you forget. What’s worse: not having any ideas, or having a great idea and not being able to remember it?
That wraps up the 10 lessons I’ve learned in my first year of blogging! I hope you found something helpful here.
I also want to thank you for reading this. Whether you’ve been here before or this is your first post of mine, thank you! Blogging is something that I had dreamed of doing for so long, and it feels surreal that I’ve actually been doing it for a whole year.
If you’ve got a similar dream or desire to do something, let this be your sign to just do it. Try and take the first step, whatever that may be. If you keep taking steps, you’ll surprise yourself with how far you’ll get.