And thanks for reading! Well, it is the week between Christmas and New Year, kind of a “slack” week. Since it is such a slow week, I’ll write about the Nine Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Blog.
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting. Even though this post isn’t really about acting, I’m leaving this “disclaimer” in place for two reasons:
- Complaints from people who say I focus too much on acting and not enough on Voice Over (NEWSFLASH: Voice Over IS acting!)
- It helps me get to my self-imposed 1500-word limit.
- Hey, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want.
I began writing this blog a little over two years ago – I actually had to go check to see when I published my first post. Frankly I am surprised that it was two years, I was thinking it had been just about a year. I am floored to learn I have published 106 posts! Excuse me for just a minute while I pick my jaw up off the floor – I suppose I should pay closer attention, but I just can’t believe that! OK, I’m back…whew!
I’m going to be brutally honest and tell you that the initial reason I began writing this blog was to improve my Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and hopefully drive visits to my website. You see, I read somewhere that the Google machine wants to see new content when crawling the web, and it was suggested that a blog would do just that. Abject failure. Not really abject, just failure. More honesty: When I started: I HATED writing. And yet, here I am with post number 107. (Clearly, I no longer hate writing).
I was so naïve!
Initially, I subscribed to the “If you build it, they will come” philosophy. And in some ways, it’s not totally untrue. But that should read: If you build it, they will come…VERY, VERY slowly…and then sometimes they will leave, and SOMEtimes they will complain. At the start I wrote for you, the reader, and these days I write more for me. I sincerely hope the things I write are enjoyable, and maybe even helpful…but that’s not WHY I write them. This is very much an (hopefully useful for you) outlet for me. Many will say this is bad…maybe it is but I am just being honest.
Over the last 106 posts, my focus has shifted a bit, so it is not really surprising that I’ve had some complaints and subscribers who leave. I wish they had stayed, but I don’t faut them for leaving since my original focus was just voice over, and now that I have added screen acting to my resume (with some success) I’m going for a more general acting vibe. Anyway, what follows are some things I wish I had known before getting started. Hopefully this list will be helpful if you are considering starting your own blog!
Know your purpose
Before you embark on the blogging journey, decide what it is you want to accomplish with the blog. Do you want to be thought of as an expert in the field? Looking for clients? Or maybe just provide some useful advice (which is where I am right now). I didn’t really think through what I wanted to accomplish with this blog (and I’m not sure I have it totally figured out yet!), just that I thought it would help my SEO. (HINT: Unless you are selling things from your website this hardly matters). Before you start, figure out what the goal of writing it is.
You need a niche
What is your blog going to be about? Who is your desired audience? This item aligns with the previous question about purpose. Step one and step two are: What are you trying to accomplish and who are you trying to reach? You can write about almost anything as long as you can tie it back to your target audience AND get the desired result.
It’s more difficult than I thought
How hard can it be to dash off a few lines and post them to your website!? Well, it turns out maybe pretty tough. Researching for topics that fit your niche is a job all by itself (go ahead, list 106 topics that fit your niche…I dare you), and then researching those topics to write something that is factual is another job by itself. For me, the hardest part of blogging is coming up with topics to write about.
It takes longer than I thought
See the last paragraph. On average, I spend between 6 and 8 hours each week researching and writing this blog. When I started, I figure 2 hours per week max. As you can see, I was off by between 300 and 400 percent. On top of researching and writing add proof reading and editing, then posting and formatting for the website and then fixing “readability” and SEO errors. Who knew WordPress would critique everything you write? (NOTE: It does)
It costs money
Consider that you will probably need to pay for hosting (although for me I was already paying for hosting for my website), photo licenses (if you want to use them), email marketing (when you’re small there are free options like MailChimp). It doesn’t need to cost a LOT (at least at first) but it will cost something…so be prepared for that!
Be ready to learn something
It would be really great to be able to just sit down and write something interesting based on your own experience. Really great. The truth is you will quickly run out of both experiences and things to write about. You are going to have do some research and learn new things…even maybe some things that challenge what you think you already know.
You are going to need thick skin
My dad used to say: “Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has them and they all stink”. Now imagine putting yourself out there publicly and hearing all of those opinions…many of them aimed either at your content OR, in the worst cases, you personally. Just like in everyday life, some people will love what you write, some will hate it and the majority will be somewhere between those two extremes. Add in the anonymity of the internet and be prepared: The ones who hate it are the ones most likely to tell you. You can’t take it personally so you will need to develop a thick skin.
No, not the canned meat. Actually, there are two types you need to be aware of:
- The kind that can get you in trouble (don’t spam people).
- The kind that is terribly annoying.
That second kind is what I wish I had known before I started. If you allow comments on your blog, make sure those comments are MODERATED. I clear anywhere from 40-100 spam comments on my blog each and every day. You read that right. EVERY. DAY. It’s annoying and mostly people trying to get you to sign up for their new porn site. I wish there was a way to stop it, but as far as I know there isn’t. If you have found a way to stop these people, short of not allowing comments, PLEASE let me know!
My blog goes out to about 300 people a week, and I share it on all my socials. On average I see about 25% engagement, and that’s a pretty good number. I’m not complaining, but I didn’t expect it when I started. I mean, if I had thought about it at all, I might have…but it did surprise me. Don’t be surprised if people are not hanging on every word you write. For a given post, some will enjoy it, some will not, and most will just ignore it. It’s just the way it works.
There you have it!
If you are considering starting a blog, whether it be daily (SHUDDER), weekly, monthly or with no real periodicity (SHUDDER again!) then these are nine things to keep in mind. I’m sure there are more and if you are using your blog to drive people to your site to SELL them something, there are a LOT more. I’m not trying to discourage you, I just want you to go into it with your eyes open, unlike me.