Almost three years ago, I got bit by the RV Travel bug. What began as a curiosity turned into a wonderful hobby and I now count myself as one of the many “RV Enthusiasts” in this big world. I never envisioned my newly discovered passion for RVs would lead me to another new hobby- Blogging. But as I began recording our RV adventures and musings, I started to see the advantages of creating a blog to chronicle these experiences and to connect with other RVers. My very first blog, www.cuontheroad.net was born.
Sounds pretty effortless, right? Uh… no. Creating a blog has been a true labor of love. Because of my background in Marketing and my enjoyment of reading other RVer’s blogs, I had a pretty strong vision of how my blog would look and feel. I just didn’t know the first thing about how to create it.
It’s A Big Blogging World
There’s a world of blogging resources out there just waiting to be discovered. It’s pretty overwhelming. I was lucky to find www.problogger.net at the recommendation of www.Technomadia.com, which pointed me in the right direction to get started. It’s a fantastic resource for all new and aspiring bloggers.
There are so many steps and decisions involved in getting a blog up and running. Rather than recreate the wheel with tips that so many others have already generously shared, I’ll just tell you that after many, many, many hours of research, I chose the following for my blog:
- Platform: wordpress.org
- Host: SiteGround.com (Very affordable with AWESOME customer service!)
- Theme: Florence, purchased from EvantoMarket
Now that my blog is up and running, I would like to share some insights to help those who are new to the blogging world, in hopes that you can learn from my experiences (and mistakes).
7 Lessons For Launching A Blog
This whole blog thing takes A LOT of time. I chose the winter to prepare and launch my blog because RVing is mostly a seasonal activity. I wanted to be free to enjoy Bessie the RV in the spring.
During pre-launch, most of my evenings and weekends were geared toward setting up the blog and developing content. Post-launch, some of my evenings and weekends are spent connecting with others online and in social media…and developing content. I try to post articles weekly. Each article takes approximately 8 hours to create and publish. Add about 4-10 hours if I am also developing a video to go along with the article.
You may have noticed a theme here- Evenings. Weekends. Developing content. For months. Hours of writing. A blog is a huge time commitment. Be ready for it. I prepared the people in my life for this monumental project and asked for their support. It helped everyone be more patient and understanding.
I tend to get a bit obsessive-compulsive when faced with big tasks. This usually works well for me for a short time, as it helps me to focus and get things accomplished. But this level of focus also creates a serious sense of imbalance in my life. If this goes unchecked, the imbalance becomes habit-forming and draining.
“Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” –Robert Fulgham
For the past few months, I moved other facets of my life to the back burner to make time for launching the blog. I neglected many things that now demand care and attention, such as my stiff, under-exercised, aching body. I developed “mouse shoulder” (a form of tendonitis in my shoulder) from a combination of over-use and bad ergonomics. And I’m more than a little concerned that my body is re-shaping itself into the form of a recliner, where I do most of my computer work. If you’ve seen the movie, “Wall-e” you’ll understand why this worries me.
Initially, I needed that burst of intense focus to accomplish the big things that I set out to do. But at some point, I also need to use that same self-discipline to stop and reconfigure my habits so that I pay attention to balancing my day job, my personal life, and my blog.
According to research from blogging experts, it’s important to have a plan to monetize your blog. Also, most experts will tell you not to expect income for a while. At this time, I am only participating in Affiliate Marketing. Income generated from Affiliate Marketing has everything to do with building a loyal audience. Since I am in the early development stages of my blog, I am realistic that I will generate little to no income for a while, which is OK. I’m not blogging to make money. But it would be nice if the blog would some money. Maybe someday…
What is the purpose of your blog? The purpose of www.cuontheroad.net is two-fold:
- To chronicle our adventures.
- To use our adventures as a way to educate and connect with others who are interested in the RV lifestyle.
Knowing the purpose of your blog will help you to develop goals. You will then need plans to execute your goals. In the best case scenario, developing a purpose, goals and plans happen before you begin your blog. They help to shape your content and keep you focused when you get distracted or discouraged, which can happen at any time, especially when you are learning as you go.
Write down your goals, plans and related tasks to keep you organized and focused. Update your lists as you learn new things or spot something that needs your attention. Eliminating items from your lists provides a sense of accomplishment, and reduces the worry that goes along with trying to do (or trying to remember to do) all the thousands of little detailed tasks along the way.
#5 Good Stuff
Seeing the culmination of months of work is extremely fulfilling. In addition to learning a whole new skill set, I now have a place where I can go to reflect on my family’s journey. And when the time comes that I’m finished with this phase of my life, I can export the entire blog to be printed in a book. What a treasure!
An unexpected source of joy has come from the discovery that I really enjoy telling stories and making my readers smile. Even better, I love when they crack up with me. That’s the best! I get so tickled by feedback that a reader wishes they were along for the ride because it seems like we have so much fun. And I am delighted when they tell me that my stories made them want to go out and buy an RV. These are the biggest, most wonderful compliments that I can be given. It means that I connected with someone, and it brings me such happiness.
So many of the blogs that I love feature a peek into the private lives of interesting people who are following their dreams. It’s compelling stuff. I love to learn about their challenges and experiences. And I really enjoy seeing it all play out in videos and photographs. Because I am interested in this candid perspective, I developed lots of content that included images of my family (including my children) as a way to tell our story. I absolutely love these photos and videos.
When I began seeing images of my family in cyberspace, I was immediately flooded with anxiety. I didn’t expect to be so freaked out seeing my kids’ images on the internet. My kids are young. I suddenly became aware of how vulnerable they are when I put their images out there in such a public, candid way. So, I ended up removing their images from the blog. I’m sad that such a personal element has been removed from our story. And maybe I will think differently about this when they get older, or when I get more experienced in blog-land. But until then, I feel most comfortable protecting their privacy.
#7 Promotion (An Exclusive Peek)
Before I launched my blog, I enthusiastically participated in many Facebook RV Groups and Online RV Forums to learn and to connect with others who share my interests. It seemed like common sense to me that once I launched my blog, I should continue to participate in these forums/groups in the same way, and use the opportunity to add a link to my blog that features an article that supports my comment. In my mind, this helps others to get to know me and it may help with building an audience for my blog.
I was surprised to learn that some Facebook Groups and Online Forums frown upon this practice. To be clear, all of them welcome participation. But some of the Groups/Forums have rules against putting links in posts that take participants out of their forum or out of Facebook. This practice has earned me a written notice from one forum, got me kicked out of a Facebook group, and has created an ongoing sense of worry that I might be offending someone by breaking rules or testing social media etiquette. I respect their rules and understand the need for them. But promoting my blog is a little more complicated than I expected.
A desire to connect with my fellow RVers and bloggers prompted the creation of an RV Facebook group, called RV Happiness, where we welcome anyone who shares an enthusiasm for RVing to join in on the discussion and bring along their experiences, adventures and tips. RV Bloggers are welcome to share articles, and participants have something to sell, that’s OK to share, too (within reason).
So there you have it, the top 7 lessons learned (so far) about creating and launching a blog. Do you have any lessons to add?