I soft-launched my blog the day before my birthday, announced it on my birthday (October 3rd), and now it's 4 weeks later. It's been a very intense and rewarding process thus far, and I've taken this week to reflect on it. I wanted to share what I have learned thus far for those of you who wanted to get started but also wanted someone to keep it real.
To keep it transparent, these are my motivations for actively blogging.
- Defining myself as a Subject Matter Expert on accessibility
- Tired of being rejected from my cool talk ideas.
- Sharing is caring and I've gotten lots of one on one feedback about how my perspective has helped them.
- Would love to eventually generate a side income, either from writing or where writing leads me.
It is significantly more work than I thought it would be
I know. It's like "duh, Lindsey! Of course, it's a lot of work." This is the main reason why you see tons of developers who put a lot of work into their blogs. Then it's 3 years later and you see maybe one or two posts since when they launched. That's because we constantly have things that take up our time as developers. Blogging has to be a high priority for you in order to do it frequently, especially if you want your writing to be of high quality. That's partly why I defined my motivations at the beginning because I have to remember my reasons for doing it. If you have a weak motivation for blogging, you're probably not going to actually blog. I probably spend about 15-20 hours per week on blogging on top of my full-time job. It will probably be more now that I am starting my a11y for JS course! You can't put in that much effort casually.
Also, blogging isn't just blogging anymore. It's social media, email newsletters, planning out content, crossposting, timing, Google Analytics, etc etc. I've spent probably about half of my time writing the posts and the other half of my time on all the logistics. Don't get me wrong, it's all worth it, but I am seriously embarrassed at how easy I thought it was. It can be a full-time job if you want it to be because that's how much work it takes.
It's easy to fall into the trap of obsessing over numbers
When you're first starting out blogging, you really want to share your content with the world. You have your unique perspective and you want to help people. But you might get a post that gets popular. You start seeing all the retweets of that post. You see how many likes you're getting on dev.to. You might see some spikes in your site's traffic. You notice that your Twitter followers are increasing. It is so easy to start obsessing over those numbers as a metric of your success, and while it's important to pay attention to what people respond to, it's easy to get distracted from why you wanted to start blogging in the first place.
I'm going to be real with you, I didn't like my last post all that much. And it shows. I didn't get nearly as much engagement as I have in the past. People didn't relate to it as much. Maybe it's a faux pas to publicly critique my own content, but the reason I've been getting more followers and more engagement is because my focus was on writing good content. Last week my focus was on growth, and ironically, I didn't grow nearly as much.
Great and consistent content will lead to results, even if it's slower than you want. Just keep going!
My PR knowledge has been invaluable
Fun fact about me: I actually studied Public Relations in college! I haven't really had any opportunities to use that knowledge since I've become a developer, aside from just communicating well with colleagues. I feel like understanding how people work, defining my strategy, and keeping my brand is consistent has been vital to the growth I've seen in a short time. PR isn't all about press releases - it's about strategy, voice, and identity! It's actually fun stuff (for me at least).
This knowledge has also really helped me to gain insight, interpret feedback, and determine how I write my posts and empathize with my users. I think this has been really key to my early success. My friend Kelly Miller is actually writing a book about Public Relations specifically targeted toward startup founders. I think reading this would be a good learning lesson for those who are new to PR.
"Your brand" gets really confusing
If you're reading this blog on my website, I hope you know that my brand is accessibility. However, I'm a multi-passionate person and sometimes I like to write about other things. Exhibit A is this blog post you're reading right here. The first non-accessibility post I wrote on dev.to made it to the top 7 most popular posts a few weeks ago, and that was surreal. I didn't cross post it because it was "off brand." But was it? I started to question if I should dabble a little more about non-accessibility stuff in this blog. Will that hurt my brand? This stuff gets REALLY confusing.
What I've ultimately decided is that who I am IS part of my brand. I like talking about blogging, entrepreneurship, mental health and all that. Accessibility will always be the primary focus of this blog, but because this blog is mine and I am my brand, I feel that it's ok to share of this stuff from time to time as long as accessibility is the primary focus. Admittedly this post is an experiment, so we will see how it winds up.
It's really important to have a goal in mind
Back to my motivations, when I think of a blog topic I ask - "Does this support my long-term goals?" Those motivations for blogging, does it connect back to that or is it just noise?
Without keeping your goals for writing into account, it's easy to fall into the multi-passionate person you are. Hell, I have so many passions - weightlifting, makeup artistry, accessibility, cooking. Imagine if I wrote all about that in this blog. It would have 0 clarity and people would be confused and lose interest. Even the topics that I have written about that deviate from accessibility still support my long-term goals.
This blog post was something different than I normally do, and I hope you liked it!
Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter if you have questions about this blog post. If you'd like to stay in touch, you can subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter. I am also writing a course on a11y for JS devs and if you'd like to learn more you can sign up.