Blogging: Getting Started
Are you interested in starting a blog? I've written down some tips for you! Here’s what I learned in my first year of blogging.
I've been blogging consistently this year since January, 2015. Before that, I was blogging at www.KeshnaDonia.com, and before that I blogged over at Tumblr. There was a point in time I wrote poetry on some forums but I have always kept a physical journal. I ripped my very first one to pieces after my mom read it, but since I started to get back into writing I've kept each one, regardless of the size.
Why did I start a blog?
I thought starting a blog would help me get a design job. When I think back at it, that was such a narrow minded focus, to get a design job. I didn't know where or what type of design I wanted to do and it varied from footwear design, handbags, jewelry and crafts to graphic, packaging and web design.
At first, I wasn't able to find a design job. I would search on line and couldn't find any resources to lead me on how to land a job in design. I didn't know what was wrong with my portfolio, even though I took professional practice - a class geared on helping you land that design job which I aced. I didn't mind cold calling people for interviews, either but nothing seemed to work.
Four years, $40,000 plus in student loan debt, $1500 in credit card debt, 8 jobs and many side gigs later, I finally landed a full-time design job. Five out of eight of the previous jobs I held, I knew someone or had some type of connection to someone there. What does that tell you? It really is all about who you know. Many of the skills can be learned on the job. A college degree shows that you were committed to completed something. It prepares you to learn how to learn, but the learning doesn't stop after college. Who you are can out weigh what you know. I've once heard a story where a girl was offered a new job based on the customer service she provided to someone at a CVS checkout line. Her personality was described as bubbly and warm welcoming.
I knew I wanted to document my journey to becoming a designer, to capture my feelings and the things I did between, like travel to France! Eventually I fell off the wagon and became inconsistent with my posting. I wasn't sure that anything I was saying was relevant, but now I know it is because I know there are other people who have no idea on how to land a design job, let alone a job. I don't say that to be cruel, but things are changing and the skills that are taught in colleges are slowly being outdated because the professors are no longer working in the field.
Why I switched away from Wordpress as a hosting platform
I originally started blogging on WordPress. At the time (January 2013), I was unemployed and took advice from a friend who graduated from a background in New Media Design. I had studied industrial design, related more with product development and the manufacturing procedures. I started to find free resources online to learn bits and pieces of code. I wanted to be able to make money from it blogging someday. I felt that I wasn't learning fast enough and the questions I had took too long to find. Basically, I wasn't patient in my growing process.
Though I didn't know a lot about WordPress, since I already had an account I decided to start a new blog in 2015. I wanted it to be the chronicling of my journey of learning design, with a focus on hand lettering. I took a calligraphy course in college and eventually was introduced to hand lettering. I knew I wanted to explore this more and be more consistent with my posting. Within the past two months I switched to the plat form I’m currently using Squarespace. WordPress too complicated. I didn't know how to do the things I wanted without ending up with a huge headache. Then I saw a post titled, “Why I Chose to Use Squarespace Instead of Wordpress to Build My Site". The person who wrote the post went into so much detail as to why they switched platforms but one thing in particular that stood out:
"The most important thing for the site is to be functional, which Squarespace can provide at this point. Once the site takes off and I get a larger following, I can consider moving to a bigger platform to support a growing community. When that time comes, I will be ready to pay someone for their services, as well".
I was also challenged by Brent Galloway to launch my site within the week. I had already purchased my domain name, and was consistently blogging weekly. I used Squarespace's free trial to play around and looked at the video tutorials, I asked about moving my blog entries that I already had and was able to make the necessary changes in less than a few hours.
How many posts should I write before launching my blog?
I had built a backlog of writing topics related both to hand lettering and what my progress and practice sessions have been like before I started to publish.
How many posts per week are you interested in sharing? One, or two? What ever the number is, you should double that and have them ready before you start to publish. Why?
Life happens and can sometimes get in the way of your plans, so if you have posts that are edited and waiting to be published you can schedule a post if you simply can't make the time to write a post that week.
I started 2015 knowing that I would show up everyday for this passion project. I may not get to hand letter a full piece everyday, but I am practicing, reading resources, and learning from other great designers. Eric Friedensohn from Efdotstudio wrote a great blog post about his experience putting his website together.
My top 5 tips for anyone interested in starting a blog:
Build a log of your writing before you start to publish. If you are going (want/plan) to publish weekly, have at least two months worth of content ready.
Use a site that is friendly that you can understand. The top two sites I often recommended are Wordpress and Squarespace. I started out with Wordpress, but I am now with Squarespace. I found it easier to blog with. I suggest that you do research, play around with different platforms, and read the reviews before committing to a payment plan. Watching the video tutorials can be a great way to learn more about how to use the different platform.
Be consistent. When I started blogging in 2010, there was no consistency. I wasn't sure what direction to go what does this mean?, so I stopped completely. Once I decided that I would get back into blogging, I narrowed my focus - chronicling my journey to becoming a hand lettering artist.
Remember your reason why. Why do you show up to post? What do you want to gain from starting a blog? What do you have to say? Remember why you started and never forget.
Ask for feedback. I wrote this article last night. I had one ready for today but someone was in need and I wanted to answer their question from my perspective and share my experience along with my story. What does this have to do with asking for feedback? I asked for feedback about my blog, on what I could do better from a community and came up with this post because someone was struggling with getting started, I was able to create this post. I was also able to have someone review and suggest edits before posting.
Why I Write
I write to capture the moments, feelings, frustrations, growth, and to improve and articulate what I have to say. I write in hopes that if there is someone else like me who struggled and needs to know how I made it out, my stories can help them along the way. Fun fact: I used to want to be a writer, then I got to the fifth or sixth grade and learned about all the grammar rules. That changed my mind for a little while - but I'm ready to work towards being a writer again.
Are there any questions you have that I haven't answered? Get in touch and let me answer your questions. I would love to hear your feedback on this article. Please reach out to me on my contact page and leave a message. Thanks for reading!
- Keshna Donia