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Lessons in my First Month of Active Blogging

lkopacz profile image Lindsey Kopacz Originally published at a11ywithlindsey.com ・5 min read

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.

  1. Defining myself as a Subject Matter Expert on accessibility
  2. Tired of being rejected from my cool talk ideas.
  3. Sharing is caring and I've gotten lots of one on one feedback about how my perspective has helped them.
  4. 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.

Gif that states "What is a weekend" from a scene of Downtown Abbey.

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.

Gif that opens a computer screen to look at charts and graphs.

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).

Lisa Kudrow talking about how publicists speak, correcting phrases.

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.

Paul Rudd mouthing the word what.

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.

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Discussion

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kaelscion profile image
kaelscion

Great post! It's very insightful because I royally suck at managing a brand. My wife and I do have a business entity called CCS Tech in the New England, USA area, but that brand is mostly computer and phone repair, TCP/IP networking, etc. It really has nothing to do with what I write about. Heck, when we started our business 5 years ago, we built our website on Wix because we needed it done over the weekend (to my undying shame)!!! What I write on Dev.to are subjects that I'm passionate about and subjects that I consider myself an expert on. But, with no degree or GitHub profile, my developer career ultimately ended in the Enterprise world despite my proven experience in the field.

I would love to see more content like this. I would also love advice on how to build and manage a brand, drive traffic to a website, etc. I'll be the first to admit, I am capable of doing amazing things with the stacks I use, but getting somebody to care enough to hire me to do it? I cannot, for the life of me, get that engine running with any consistency. Great post and keep up the blogging!

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lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thank you so much for the feedback! It's encouraging me more to hybrid my technical knowledge with the marketing/PR knowledge I learned in college! I'll keep it up :)

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lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz Author

I thought it was implied that I wanted my blog topics to also be helpful. However, blogging takes a lot of work and if people don't find my blogging topics to have a clear theme - it loses clarity and therefore risks not helping anyone.

I choose to focus on accessibility even though I have plenty of technical interests. This is the one topic I am most passionate about and have the most capacity to help others with. It also supports my long-term goals of being recognized as a subject matter expert on this topic. It's not mutually exclusive, in my opinion.

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Kyle Galbraith

I feel like the amount of work to build up your brand is very easy to overlook. I certainly made quite a few of these mistakes and I am constantly learning new things to improve for the future.

A few things that I do in order to make sure I am optimizing my time as well:

  • Keep a running list of topics/ideas that you want to write about. Pull from that list when you are looking for something to write about, but don't be afraid to just write about what is interesting to you at that moment as well.
  • Automate as much of the manual tasks as possible so you can focus on your content.
  • Not every blog post is going to be a hit and that is quite alright. You wrote something, put your thoughts to paper (digitally), and who knows it might help that one person.

Great post Lindsey! I look forward to seeing what you do next.

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lkopacz profile image
Lindsey Kopacz Author

I actually have a running list of topics too! It's super helpful when your goal is to post consistently, but you have an off week and aren't feeling inspired. This post came as an idea to go "off brand" or rather evolve my brand to not just be about accessibility, but also helping others get started. It's still an experiment and it's proving to be a positive one.

Also 100% pro automation too. I really like automating my tweets and emails! Saving the time has been super helpful!

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Ori Alvarez

I started blogging 4 weeks ago and it is time consuming. I try to dedicate the weekends 2-4 hours at least and make a small blog post every 2 weeks unless I got something upcoming. It's a wonderful process and when you start writing is hard to stop.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

SO true! I've found this really fulfilling and the community engagement really heartwarming. It helps me get through the hard times I've had at work.

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Jason Steinhauser

I've struggled with the personal brand aspect as well. I had no real focus when I started writing posts, but I've trended more towards practical uses of functional programming with hints of software quality sprinkled in.

So far, your posts have made me realize that I need to focus on accessibility in the not-too-distant future. I'm glad that you're posting about topics that I haven't heard much about because it makes me want to learn more. Keep up the good work!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thank you so much! <3

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Max Antonucci

I definitely agree about branding being confusing, and hitting the constant work demands is very tough. I tried to go full blogger a while back but both couldn't meet the deadlines and it took too much fun out of my own writing. Since then I've gone to more of a "part-time writer of various loosely-connected web things," which isn't as nice but still brings me some writing joy. I don't think this should dissuade people from going down the blogging path, but know that blogging identities can exist on a spectrum too from casual to professional to "hard-core death match blogger for life." Accepting that has helped me find that healthier balance.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

I LOVE writing way more than I thought I would.

Something I should make clear to others reading these comments is that you don't have to use blogging as a way to build a personal brand.

Also, a personal brand can also be WHO you are and not what you talk about. It can be your style.

This is why brand is confusing LOL. But I think you're very "on brand" with your tone in your posts, Max. Love your stuff :)

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Alan Hylands

I hear you on the "staying on brand" problem. I started writing for my own site again last year after a LONG lay-off. Like you with accessibility, I wanted to concentrate on writing about analytics and putting some of my experiences and knowledge down for folks looking to build their own data careers.

There are a lot of other topics I'm interested in and want to write about from time to time though. I run a fitness studio with my wife. I want to write about entrepreneurship. I've worked in banking for 12 years and I'm very interested in personal finance. I sometimes just want to write about a topic that I've read about. Or books I've read. Or football. And all of that in one place would dilute the analytics material.

So after a few months I decided to split the analytics material out onto it's own site and focus on that over there. And I kept my own personal blog for anything else I felt like writing about. It does mean I've now got two sites to keep up with but I feel a lot happier with the mental divide between the two sides.

Now I just have to keep sitting butt in chair and writing.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

That's awesome! Yeah, I don't have a separate site for my other interests, but my Instagram is where I talk a bit more about my other interests like beauty and weightlifting. It's more personal than professional interest.

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Martin Raag

I really appreciate the open tone of the post and not shying away from criticising your own work. I find it hard to relate to a lot of writing on the internet these days, specifically because it seems people trying to portray themselves as a subject matter expert (building their personal brand) means they omit their own failures or shortcomings that ultimately lead to learning something new.

Good luck with the blog, would love more "meta" posts like this.

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thanks, Martin! Honestly, I think admitting your own mess ups is KEY to becoming a subject matter expert. If you're unable to own your mess ups, how will people be able to trust your work? How will you become even better of a subject matter expert on the topic if you don't learn and evolve? You hit the nail on the head with this comment, Martin!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

If you want to start with relatively low cost and are somewhat savvy with React, I HIGHLY suggest Gatsby + Netlify! Free hosting as long as you don't mind your posts being in markdown :). It's free to do it and you can create a pretty neat (and FAST) site!

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Luciano Strika

Woah, just one month blogging and you were already thinking about defining your brand! You have so much more foresight than I did (or do).

I wonder what you learned in the following 6 months!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

It's about that 6 month mark, so maybe I'll write a follow up!

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Luciano Strika

That'd be cool!

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Sergio A.

I really liked your post makes me ponder a lot, keep going

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thank you, Sergio! I really love the sense of fulfillment blogging has given me. Let me know if you need any other tips!

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Ben Halpern

Keep it up!

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Lindsey Kopacz Author

Thanks, Ben! I really appreciate having a platform here! Gives me the community that having my blog on it's own platform doesn't have <3