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How to Start a New Blog with Confidence

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

That was the question I asked last week. In short form your answers look like this:

1. Adapt your writing style

2. Network

3. Learn, copy and ask for help

4. Get clear on your purpose and intention

5. Manage your input

6. Be yourself

7. Just do it!

The longer version comes in at 70 tips,  suggestions and ideas based on the practical experience of bloggers.

You’ll find the full set - the audacious guide if you like - set out below.

Dip into it, take a note of the points that speak most strongly to you, and think of ways you can build them into your blogging.

Don’t try and do them all or you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Don’t worry about the fact some bits of advice contradict equally valid points and suggestions.  Different people are following different blogging strategies.  The key point is for you to figure out which ones will work for you.

And don’t wait till you’ve got it all figured before you begin.  As I wrote when I first posed the question (What Advice Would You Give to New Bloggers?)

If you’re thinking about it… don’t worry about learning all the advice first.  It could paralyse you and get in the way of you doing what you want to do.  You’ll learn as you go.  Yes, you’ll make mistakes, but that’s the best way to learn, and to find what works for you.

The tips and suggestions that follow were contributed by readers of Confident Writing - some regular, some new - with some additional ideas courtesy of Twitter.

I’ve listed everyone’s details at the end of the post (together with my best effort to indicate who recommended what).

Thanks to everyone who joined in and shared your experience, and advice.
Adapt Your Writing Style

1. Write in a conversational style

2. Don’t lecture your readers

3. Pay attention to your headlines

4. Use scannable lists

Creating lists, and bolding key words in them, is a great way to keep peoples attention as they scan your blog post. (Jonathan)

5. Keep your posts short. It’ll help you get clear on what you’re trying to say as well as being good for your readers

6. Write daily, and write well. Read books and blogs on how to write.

7. Find a way to connect your passion for the content with the readers of your blog

8. Carry around the Elements of Style.

9. Concentrate on writing well.

10. Recognise your authentic voice

My authentic voice is my most confident voice even when it scares me. (Tom Volkar)

Network, Network, Network

11. Link out

12. Add value with your links

13. Take part in other networks (including Twitter)

14. Build up a following on Twitter

15. Enjoy reading and writing comments

16. Comment to build up relationships

17. Respond thoughtfully to all comments on your blog

18. Comment, build up a relationship with bloggers, then ask if you can guest post

19. Don’t expect people to come to visit you

20. Participate in conversations away from your blog and on other platforms

Learn, Copy and Ask

21. Read other blogs, and pick up ideas as you go

22. Make a point of seeking out and reading  new blogs

23. Read other blogs and comment on them. If nothing else, you’ll get a sense of what does and doesn’t work in a blog (content, design, etc)

24. Use images in your posts (watch how others use them, and the difference it makes)

25. Think about the platform you want to use before you start…

26. … in order to avoid changing blog location!

27. Recognise when you need to get technical help and support

28. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

29. Look for free resources to answer some of the technical questions you might have - including blogging platforms, SEO and so on

30. Get free advice from the blogosphere

Get Clear on Your Purpose and Intention

31. Know why you’re doing it

Once you know why you’re doing it, the how, what and when become more obvious. (Catherine @ Sharp Words)

32. Have a purpose or theme.  A simple purpose helps

33. Choose a topic that energises you.

Don’t pick your blog topic based on something that you think will “play in Peoria.” Pick your topic based on your passions, things that interest you, things that bug you, things that you’re curious about, things that make you laugh out loud.  Those are the things that will keep you in it for the long haul. (Roy Jacobsen)

34. Blog about your passion. If you have many passions, blog about all of them.

35. Be passionate - it’ll work its way into your writing

36. Spend some time getting clear on your purpose - and come back to it when you get ‘stuck’

37. Don’t post for the sake of posting

38. Don’t post unless you’ve something original to say; add value to existing arguments

39. Don’t drive yourself crazy worrying if you’re making a difference.

You never know how far your light will shine. Or who, one night, might be flying in darkness and find they are in need of a reference point. Don’t be afraid to turn on the switch. Don’t worry about how much wattage you may or may not have. Just be yourself and let your light shine. They’ll come.

From A Light in the Darkness, by Robert Hruzek (a post that changed things for more than one blogger)

40. Know why  you’re doing it

Know what you want from blogging — if you don’t have a compelling why, you’ll lose the path. Yours might be *share insights and lessons learned*, or *build a sounding board* or *influence change one reader at a time* … etc. It’s whatever is compelling for you, and remind yourself when you need a boost. (J D Meier)

Manage Your Input

41. Don’t underestimate the time commitment

42. Recognise the time commitment and work out how you’re going to deliver on it

43. Blog consistently (daily, every other day, weekly - whatever works for you)

44. Schedule your blog time

45. Brainstorm ideas

46. Use mindmaps to get an overview of what you’re going to write

47. Keep something to write on nearby to capture all your good ideas

48. Feed on the ideas exchanged in the comment box; use them for future posts

49. Get used to the feeling of talking to yourself (in the beginning anyway)

50. Be patient

Be Yourself

51. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind

52. Be yourself and write from the heart

53. Don’t follow the crowd

You don’t have to follow everyone one of the roles the pro bloggers tell you. Do what feels right and the rest will come. (Andy Hayes)

54. Watch out for commercialism — blog readers can sniff marketing a mile away

55. Don’t worry

Don’t worry about how many readers you have or don’t have; start to communicate with other people; don’t worry too much… you’ll find your voice eventually (Pam)

56. Trust your instincts

Just Do It!

57. Don’t over-plan. Jump in and do it, then learn, reflect and evaluate as you go.

58. JUST START… the rest will flow from there

59. Start now.

60. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Sometimes they turn out better than the best laid plans.

61. Experiment.

62. Post “good enough” vs. fit and finish — if you always aim for the long-shot, you’ll miss great posting opportunities along the way.

63. Don’t give up!

64. Just keep going.

Bonus: Bite Sized Tips (Twitter style)

65. Comment often with relevancy (@GL Hoffman)

66. Start on wordpress.org. Focus 1st on content , 2nd on marketing , 3rd on design. It’s hard work. (@Olivia Mitchell)

67 Let blogging be its own reward (@davidzinger)

Let blogging be its own reward and don’t get seduced by branding and copywriting too early in the process. Find YOUR voice

68. Simple. Provide unique and outstanding content. Try using video once in a while too (@webword)

69. Choose a niche you have a) expertise in and b) passion for. Be polite, be helpful. Add value. Then don’t worry, be happy! (@IainBroome)

70. I would say there is such a thing as planning too much. Sometimes, you just gotta do it. So many ppl think about “starting” a blog but then never do it. They plan, and plan, and nothing (@Ribeezie)

PS Just do it!

Useful Posts

Not a comprehensive list - but some useful posts that were shared (or materialised!) when I asked the question:

No Cost (Six Step) Small Business Social Media and Marketing Plan (from @mark_hayward)

How to Plan a Month’s Worth of Posts in 30 Minutes Flat A Confident Writing favourite

Questions I’m Often Asked about WordPress and Blogging contributed by Tom Johnson

Top 7 Blog Mistakes to Avoid contributed by David Airey

A Light in the Darkness a blogging motivation post to keep from Robert Hruzek

Perfect Blogs, 404 Errors and Humanity by Liz Strauss

Contributions by Audacious Bloggers as follows

Cindy: Kiss and Get Fit (1,3)

David Airey: Davidairey.com (2, 3, 12, 19, 25, 26, 41, 48)

Jonathan: The Core Mechanic (4)

Tom Volkar: Delightful Work (5, 10, 56)

Joanna Paterson (that’s me, here) (5, 11, 16, 20, 30, 56, 61, 64)

David Masters: Be Playful (6, 14, 34, 59)

Gennaro: Enduring Wanderlust (7, 8, 9)

Meryl K Evans: Meryl’s Notes (11, 13, 37, 54)

Tyler: Man of Depravity (11)

Carla: Green and Chic (15)

Brad Shorr: Word Sell (17, 24, 38, 47, 60)

George: Tumblemoose (18)

Karen Swim: Words for Hire (20, 36, 63)

Rachel Cotterill: Rachel’s Ramblings (21)

Patricia: Patricia’s Wisdom (5, 22, 27)

Catherine @ Sharp Words (23, 31)

Iain Broome: Write For Your Life (28, 31, 38, 47)

Tom Johnson: I’d Rather be Writing (29)

J D Meier: Sources of Insight (32, 40, 44, 62)

Roy Jacobsen: Writing Clear and Simple (33)

Lucy: ESL EAL and More (35)

Robert Hruzek: Middle Zone Musings (39, 49, 64)

Bo: Seeded Earth (42, 43)

Ulla Hennig: Ulla Hennig’s Blog (45, 46, 48)

Walt: Walt in PA (47)

Tony Lawrence: A P Lawrence (50)

wilson: Will You Mind (51)

Barbara Swafford: Blogging Without a Blog (52)

Andy Hayes: Sharing Experiences (53)

Pam: Facing East Again (55, 58)

Ricardo Bueno: Ribeezie(57)

P.S. If you liked this post and think it would be of value to new bloggers, please do share (link, e-mail, stumble, bookmark) in your favourite way.  Thanks!

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Comments

  1. Barbara @ BWAB says:

    Hi Joanna - I was reading through the list and thought to myself, #52 was my favorite. Then I read at the end of your post that I had said that. LOL

    BTW: I’m temporarily using a different user name and no URL as I think Akismet thinks I’m a spammer. All of my comments are ending up in the spam folder. I’ve emailed them to help me with the problem.

  2. Jad Graphics says:

    I definitely need to start a blog. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Joanna,
    thanks for the tremendous work you put in that post and of course the post itself! Having read this blog post definitely fills up my batteries again. And, whenever they go down again, I will have a look at this post!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Winter in Berlin

  4. Ricardo Bueno says:

    Joanna,

    I have to say that you’ve put a great list together! It has lots of little golden nuggets… If anyone reads this and they still haven’t jumped in…well, all I can say is “what are you waiting for?”

    As some have suggested, some of the best work comes together through the process of trial and error.

    Ricardo Buenos last blog post..Greater E-mail Productivity with AwayFind

  5. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, What a marvelous list. These tips are helpful for new bloggers as well as veterans. I’m Stumbling at once. And .. your generous attributions demonstrate that audacity and generosity do indeed mix!

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Business Goals for 2009

  6. Daphne says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Found your post on Twitter. Great job with the research and compiling of tips! Definitely worth a Stumble.

    Daphnes last blog post..The Illusion of Right vs Wrong, Good vs Bad

  7. Friar says:

    OMG…! 70 instructions on how to blog? (Including a flow chart?)

    If I was a new blogger and I saw this list, I’d run from the room screaming, and take up a stamp collection instead! ;-)

    Umm…are we maybe over-analyzing things here?

    I dunno…when I began last year, I just sat down started writing.

  8. Meghna says:

    Hi Joanna,

    A very exhaustive list, indeed! If I had known this before I started my blog, I would have arrived with a bang :)

    I have lots to learn from these tips to improve. Thank you for sharing.

    (Meghna)

    Meghnas last blog post..My Eternal Friend

  9. Bo says:

    All of a sudden I keep reading about platforms and wordpress.org which I know is different from wordpress.com, but I sure wish I understood the differences. I keep reading .org is the way to go, and I have no clue. I’m picking up on the idea that you can do a lot more on .org. Does that platform require a lot more working knowledge of computers?

    Bos last blog post..Still Standing

  10. Adam Kayce says:

    Wow, that’s quite a list! I love it - these are great reminders, even if you’ve been blogging for a while.

    What a great idea.

    Adam Kayces last blog post..Put The Power Of Ritual To Work For You

  11. Alina Popescu
    Twitter: alina_popescu
    says:

    Joanna, this is the best post for new bloggers I’ve ever seen! Great job gathering all these tips and categorizing them!

    Alina Popescus last blog post..Resolutions, Plans and Goals

  12. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    I am thinking about Friar’s words - is this too big a list for someone who thinks about starting a blog? When I began blogging last year in July, I had not read anything (well, almost nothing) about blogs. I simply started. But then, while writing the first posts in English I began to devour posts about blogging (written by problogger and other “blogging gurus”). I wish I would have met Joanna Young’s blog earlier. So I think this blog post is ideal for the beginner who’s already made some steps but still is unsure whether he or she is making big mistakes or not.

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Winter in Berlin

  13. Squawkfox says:

    #52 has served me well. Albeit, it can take a while to find one’s voice. I look at some of my earlier posts and just shake my head. :D

    Squawkfoxs last blog post..Free Printable Workout Log

  14. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Barbara, hi, that is funny. It was a very good piece of advice too :-)

    Jad, glad you found the tips useful. (Added tip: make sure you’re clear on why you need to and it’ll make the rest of it a lot easier)

    Ulla, thanks for noticing the work. I was hoping it would be a resource people would come back to, so thankns for the confirmation that’s how you’d be using it.

    Ricardo, yes, nuggets is a good description. I’m hoping they might just strike a chord with someone whether about to start, in the early days or needing to get back into their blogging groove.

  15. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Brad, thank you for the feedback, the stumble and the lovely mix of words at the end. Not to mention your thoughtful contribution to the guide ;-)

    Daphne, isn’t Twitter great for finding new things? Thanks for saying hi (and the stumble)

    Friar, hello. Yes, of course it would be over-analysis if they were pitched as instructions or the flow chart were really a flow chart… It’s a compilation of tips from people who’ve been there - some people gave 5, some 2 or 3, some just one. Often time that one was based on ‘just start writing’. It’s how I got going too ;-)

    Meghna, thank you for the feedback. I think there are ideas in there for all of us to pick up on and develop, whatever stage we’re at. Not least me :-)

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Bo, it’s a good question. You can do more with .org and it’s easy to use once you’re up and running. You would need some help or expertise to get your site set up though.

    Lots and lots of great blogs run on .com so I wouldn’t fret about it (and everyone has different opinions on it too)

    For an overview of the differences this article is v useful

    http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

  17. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Adam, how good to see you again - I hadn’t realised you were back with Monk at Work till I saw the comment luv link. Great stuff! Glad you liked the list - I figured most people would get something from it

    Alina, thank you my friend esp for noticing how I categorised them! That was the hard bit… but also made the rest of the job easier

    Ulla, thank you for those words. Much appreciated.

    Squawfox, hello, thanks for the feedback and saying hello - nice to meet you and your wonderful blog. Yes, it does take a while, and probably the only way to do it is by writing the blog…

  18. SpaceAgeSage -- Lori says:

    Blogging is such an odd experience. It’s not as if many of us take a class to learn how. It’s self expression, tech, community or tribe building, self discipline, and learning about yourself. I think your list shows that well. After awhile, more experienced bloggers “get it” in their own way, and this list is a very solid and well organized way to get there faster.

    SpaceAgeSage — Loris last blog post..Do you fake it to make it?

  19. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim
    says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Wow, this is a treasure chest of wisdom! Although directed at new bloggers, this information is so very useful to “experienced” bloggers too. It’s been a year for me and I’m still learning and still have much to implement. Thank you so much for assembling this and helping us to be audacious. You certainly know how to get us fired up, I feel ready to take on the world! :-)

    Karen Swims last blog post..What I Learned From Crying on My Blog

  20. Gennaro says:

    Thanks for the great tips.

    Blogging is definately about relationships. Networking with fellow bloggers and connecting with your readership. If you can do those two thinks with solid content…you have a shot.

    Gennaros last blog post..Wilderness, Where Art Thou?

  21. Megami says:

    So helpful!! A great reference. My blog is still a baby (despite lots of posts) so this was perfect.

    xx Megami

    Megamis last blog post..Fuck Yeah! Friday 1/16/09

  22. Robert Hruzek says:

    Joanna, I’m speechless (and that’s sayin’ something!) This is a tremendous reference work for those who are both just starting up and crusty old veterans.

    Nice job - and I sense at least a section of a a book out of this, don’t you? :-)

  23. --Deb says:

    Joanna, this list is amazing. Obviously, I don’t need to ever write a post on this subject on my own any more … all I have to do is direct people over here! Fabulous.

    -Debs last blog post..Blogapalooza

  24. Sheila Glazov
    Twitter: yourbraincolor
    says:

    Wow, I wish I had this list last year when I began. However, I am delighted that I have it now! It is an extraordianry reference guide. Thanks, Joanna

  25. Evelyn Lim says:

    Thanks for compiling the list!!! It’s very useful. Great reminders for me. Thanks!

    Evelyn Lims last blog post..Mouths Are Flapping

  26. J.D. Meier says:

    Beautiful job.

    I love the way you framed the tips. It makes them easy to parse. It’s quite the collection.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Actions, Insights and Notes

  27. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Lori, it is odd isn’t it? “It’s self expression, tech, community or tribe building, self discipline, and learning about yourself” - that captures it very well. Thanks!

    Karen, that’s what I like to hear. I’m still learning too - I love the way we can all keep on learning and stretching together

    Gennaro, interesting isn’t it? I’d never have thought about relationships when I started. I just thought about the words. Now I know I couldn’t keep going without the interactions with all of you.

    Robert, you, speechless? This is a blogging first!

  28. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    -Deb, thanks!

    Sheila, nice to meet you. Looks like you’re already going great guns with your brain colour work - fascinating stuff.

    Evelyn, hi, glad you found it useful

    JD, thank you. I do appreciate it when people notice the editing I’ve done!

  29. Bryan says:

    I don’t know how audacious the list is, but it’s definitely extensive and pretty awesome :) .

    One of the greatest things about this blog post, isn’t even on the list of 70!

    By listing so many tips, you have completely and utterly overdelivered on your content. I am working on the beginnings of my own blog and this is a great example that I can learn from and emulate in the future.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Sincerely,
    Bryan

    Bryans last blog post..Jan 14, Creative Writing Exercises #2: Relaxation

  30. Phil Velez says:

    Thank your for the wonderfully insightful blog. I have had one for several years and am just now promoting it widely. I enjoyed this informative post. I also like the January theme of Audacity.

    Much continued success. I look forward to reading more of your great writing/blogging advice.

    All the best,
    Phil

    Phil Velezs last blog post..MLK and Inauguration Day 2009

  31. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Bryan, I think the audacity was in the compilation ;-) Thanks for the comment about over-delivery - you’re right, that is worth doing. I wouldn’t burden people with thinking they *had* to in the early days, but many bloggers do this naturally, and go on to flourish. Good luck with your own blog.

    Phil, thanks for the feedback, and best wishes with your own blog. Have a great week next week - sure you will!

  32. wilson says:

    A great and detailed guide for the beginners, Joanna. By the way, there’s one more thing about the blogging: Never try to be a copycat (Copy other bloggers blogposts without any permission) and workout the piece yourself!

    wilsons last blog post..Snacks – Is It Good or Bad For Your Health?

  33. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Wilson, that’s a good point. I know it can be challenging to be original sometimes, but there’s no excuse for lifting somebody else’s work.

  34. Monday Reading Roundup Take #19 says:

    [...] week brought me across one of the best post for new bloggers: a collection of categorized tips and resources from Joanna Young. Any young blood in the blogosphere should read [...]

  35. Sharon says:

    These are great tips for getting started and even for more established bloggers. It’s reminded me of a few things I could improve on.

    Sharons last blog post..Layover In Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

  36. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Sharon, thanks. Glad you found the tips useful.

  37. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Megami, so sorry your comment got eaten by Akismet - rescued now. Good luck with your baby blog!

  38. Ralph says:

    Hi, Joanna,
    What a compilation and piece of advice! It will definitely help me to take necessary decisions which are necessary to improve my writing. I like best “Don´t underestimate the time commitment” and “Get clear on purpose and intention”. Thank you!

    Ralphs last blog post..New Year´s bang

  39. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Ralph, I’m glad you found the compilation useful. Purpose and intention can really power up your writing - best wishes in using htem!

  40. Raima Larter says:

    Thanks for such an informative post. I’m a new blogger and found this all very useful - sounds like the take-home message is “just do it!”

    Raima Larters last blog post..Fractals in Nature

  41. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Raima, glad you found it useful. Yes, I think that’s the most succinct and important of messages!

  42. Resource Friday | Words For Hire says:

    [...] starting a blog was on your 2009 list, The Audacious Guide to Starting a Blog by writing coach Joanna Young is a must read. Joanna also offers a variety of programs to help you [...]

  43. Tyler says:

    Loved what you did here Joanna. I’ll be sure to link to it soon.

    Tylers last blog post..Fortuitous Bouncing

  44. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Tyler, hi, glad you liked it - some great tips from folk in here. Thanks!

  45. Fortuitous Bouncing « man.of.depravity says:

    [...] best guide to blogging you can find. Plus, it includes one thought of [...]

  46. Stan Young
    Twitter: stanmyoung
    says:

    Hey Joanna
    Wow after reading your post I feel a bit over whelmed, but its certainly a comprehensive list that you have put together. Just new to blogging and writting for that matter I realise how much I need to learn.
    Its certainly great to come across a professional writter to pick all the tips that you have. Its amazing how willing people are to share all this valuable information. I have already learnt quite a bit just by reading other peoples blogs. Look forward to reading your material and following your advice. Thank you

  47. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Stan oh dear, not designed to create over-whelm! There is a lot to do and learn in the early days of blogging, but the only way you can do that is to learn as you go along, bit by bit, post by post, and keep looking out for ways to pick up ideas and tips from others so you can develop your practice as you go. There’s lot of tips and suggestions on the site… hope you find them useful. Good luck with your blogging!