Saturday, June 8, 2013

Advice for New Bloggers

My friend Beth of Plum and June was kind enough to let me kick off the advice posts for this year's Let's Get Acquainted New Blogger Blog Hop. I've spent some time this week thinking about what I wish I'd known when I first debated whether or not I should start a blog in the fall of 2011. Because I can't abide a blog post without pictures, I've included some photos that show my progression from way back at the beginning here at Fabric Mutt. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and as painful as some of the early projects are for me to look at now, it's good to see that I've grown. Whether you've already gotten started or are just beginning to think about joining the online blogging community, here are a few things to keep in mind...

My second quilt -- a play mat for my nieces with matching soft blocks -- made with random Joann's fabrics, store bought binding (I really had no clue how to bind a quilt at this point), and an indoor, poorly lit photo on a beige background. Yikes. A girl has to start somewhere...

1. Know who you are. In business, they call this "branding yourself," and if you run this phrase through a search engine, you can find lots of good advice on the subject. The main idea is that you need to have a clear idea of what you want your blog to be and how you're going to stand out from the crowd. When you're just starting out, I think it's a great idea to look at the blogs you love most and figure out what makes them so attractive to you. A lot of those ideas can be easily adapted into your blog and repackaged with your own sense of style.

I Spy quilt made with charm squares from my first fabric swap through Ellison Lane Quilts. The piecing isn't perfect, but I had finally discovered how to make my own binding. Bear soon adopted it as her special bedtime lovey quilt, and I have to admit, I still love this one!

 2. Make it a personal space. It can be difficult at times to walk the line between too much and too little information. A blog with no personal details at all can seem a bit cold, which makes it hard for you to relate to the writer. On the other hand, if you're running a sewing blog, almost every post really ought to relate to sewing in one way or another. There's a balance in there somewhere, and only you know exactly where it's going to be. Part of that balance will also involve your family's privacy. Everyone has a different take on this question, and the answer is completely up to you. I made the decision way back at the start that I was not going to ever include my daughters' names or faces in this online space. While I could never write a blog without mentioning my Bunny, Bear, or Mouse, I want to let their personal identity be theirs to keep for now.

This was the first time I had ever made my own purse and wallet. I had been terrified to try making bags and pouches before I started last year's Zakka Along, but now they're one of my very favorite projects to sew.

3. Provide quality without neglecting quantity. Let's be blunt here: your blog needs to look good. I'm not saying that you need to hire someone to give you a full media makeover, but you definitely need to give some thought to your blog's appearance. Here's a checklist to get you started:
  • Do I include a good mix of pictures and text?
  • Are my pictures well-lit (preferably using natural light), appealing, and in focus?
  • Are my grammar and spelling correct?
  • Is my blog header clear and in focus?
  • Do I include information about myself and ways to get in touch with me through email or social media?
  • Do each of my blog posts have a point or am I rambling too much?
These may seem like obvious questions, but it's really worth your time to follow up on them. Simple things like this can make all the difference between whether a visitor stays to look around or clicks the back button. You also need to consider how often you're posting. No one expects you to post every day -- though there are some amazing bloggers who do -- but I think it's helpful if you can post at least once or twice a week. It's easy to lose touch with your readers when you're only posting a few times each month. Remember also that you don't need to have a finished project to show off before you have permission to write a blog post. Progress photos, fabric stacks, sewing gatherings, tutorials, new tools or gadgets, and sewing books all make wonderful topics too!

Simple Life, pillow, pillow cover, patchwork, children
Last year I discovered paper piecing and pillow making, and I was hooked. This may possibly be my favorite pillow yet, but it's got plenty of competition after all the ones I made this winter. Did I mention that I just bought the book Pillow Pop?

4. Make connections. If you don't take the time to connect with other people in this community, you're going to be talking to yourself. And if you're going to all the work involved with starting and maintaining a blog, then you obviously want to do more than hear your own voice. Here are three easy ways to get out there and meet people:
  • Join Flickr. It's free, and it will give you the chance to join groups of people who are sewing the same kinds of things you like to sew. 
  • Join a blog link up at least once a month. If you join nothing else, do the Small Blog Meet at Lily's Quilts which Lynne holds on the first day of each month and the Let's Get Acquainted Monday Link up at Plum and June. That was the launch pad for my blog, and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you can link up more often, there are events for almost every day of the week. You can find a list right here. On a side note -- don't let that certain party link-up day become a looming deadline that hangs over you every week. If you don't finish a project in time, it's not the end of the world.
  • Comment and respond to comments. This is huge, and yet so many people don't do it. If you want to connect with others, you've got to start talking to them, and when they talk to you, you've got to talk back. It's good business, good manners, and good encouragement for everyone involved when you take the time to comment and respond with other bloggers who have taken the time to hear what you have to say on your blog. You'll be surprised at the friendships that come to you along the way.
Summer Heather Ross Improv Quilt by Fabric Mutt
If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I don't think I would have believed that I could make an improv quilt. Both my Heather Ross quilts will always be special to me for so many reasons.

5. Be yourself. Everyone says this, but I think we forget what it means. It doesn't mean that you have to be just like that popular blogger you adore who's so clever/hilarious/creative/inspiring/fill-in-your-word-here. It doesn't mean that you have to be absolutely crazy about the latest sew along or modern fabric line because everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon -- though if you are, feel free to stand up and cheer. It means that whoever you are and whatever you like, share that with us. If you love 1930's flour sack prints, why hide it? If you want to make a Civil War quilt out of modern fabric, don't ignore the urge just because you think it's not the modern quilting thing to do. And if you have a passion for solids instead of prints, bring it on! You don't have to fit or break the mold, and you have nothing to prove to anyone except yourself. If you love what you're doing, it will come across loud and clear to all of us out here. And even if we don't all share the same style, we can certainly relate to the joy behind it. So be yourself. We'll love you for it.

50 comments:

  1. That's a lovely post, full of common sense and insight!

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  2. Thanks for sharing on congrats on your big blog growth.

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  3. Ah Yes, the old indoor photo on the carpet! We've all done it!
    Great post Heidi! I agree with what you said about branding. It's taken me over 2 years to get really clear what I want to blog about, and now that it's clearer in my mind, I'm blogging more regularly and enjoying more. And I can see a lot more growth too. Don't know if I could have figured that out 2 years ago, but it's good to be here now! :)

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  4. Heidi, I guess these are all the reasons that I enjoy your blog so much.

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  5. Love your post Heidi - fabulous advice!!

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  6. Great advice and I love to see your progress.

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  7. Thanks so much for the advise, only having my blog for 6 month I plan to implement many of your suggestions.

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  8. Even though I do not have a blog I read all your great advice.I too enjoy your blog and I love pictures.

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  9. Thanks for all the tips of the trade.

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  10. Thanks for all the tips Heidi :o) I'm really looking forward to taking part in my first blog hop!

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  11. Hi Heidi!
    I think it takes time to figure out who you are and what you want your blog to be about. I just started blogging Feb 25 2013 and my blog is already evolving from what I thought I wanted to do. My problem is I do like both modern and traditional styles, I really don't want to confuse my followers, so I am struggling with how to portray( I don't know how to say what I want to say) my diversitility? Right now I am kinda like if a project comes to mind that I want to do, I don't worry whether it will "fit" my image or not, I just do it. I am just afraid my readers won't know what to expect. I guess I shuld have emailed you, not sure if this is the platform to voice our problems! lol... Anyway, thank you so much for all your great advice. It really does help to have people that you admire their work take an interest in helping. Thanks again.
    jan

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  12. Thought provoking, Heidi. Thanks for posting! I have to add, your Heather Ross quilts Are really special, and I do love the improv one too. Hey, I also bought Pillow Pop, but I am too busy devouring Patchwork Please to barely crack it. Gonna be grand though. Have you picked out a project or two yet?

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  13. Thank you for the help (and inspiration). It is really hard to find the balance between too much / too little personal info.

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  14. Wow thank you! That is a wonderful post. You make so many good points. I have been blogging for almost three years and these are definitely things I would have liked to have known about when I started.

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  15. I just started a blog and I loved this post. Lots of Great information.
    Thank you

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  16. Heidi, this is one awesome post. I shared on my fb page - just too good not to spread further. THANK YOU!

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  17. Excellent post! Very well said. I know that you helped me tremendously when I was first getting started so it was awesome to see you guest posting for the advice portion of this blog hop!

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  18. What a great post! You offer some really great reminders and resources :) and your photos really do show a great progression! You've come a long way and you just keep getting better. Way to go!

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  19. I'm definitely guilty of the indoor photos with bad lighting...BUT in my defense-I live in a dark apartment and it just plain sucks! I'm doing all I can to make my photos bright and well lit. I can't wait to MOVE so I can get some good light!

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  20. Wonderful advice. I do love that pillow you made out of the paper piecing. You are going to enjoy the pillow pop book, I am :-) (ml_wilkie(at)hotmail(dot)com)

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  21. I keep thinking there are so many really great blogs devoted to quilting, does the world really need another?

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  22. Great advice, Heidi! I have next week's advice post and will have a hard time adding to your wisdom - can I just copy and paste your post? Haha.

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  23. Thanks for sharing your tips, it helps to be reminded regularly to just be yourself but to also reflect on what you're doing and what you can work on

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  24. All I can say is wow!! I wish I had found out these things before I started blogging. Time to revamp my blog a bit. And to dig out the camera before I start weeding my garden today. Thanks for everything!

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  25. Great tips - and thank you for reminding me again to blog more than a couple of times a month. Note to self - blog weekly! Loving your quilts, especially the improv one - my bug bear is balance and symmetry so I'm going to pin yours as a challenge. Sharon

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  26. Thanks for the great advice! I just starting blogging in January, and have learned so much from other bloggers. One thing I am definitely working on is my photography!

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  27. Great post, Heidi - even for those who have had a blog going for a while. There's always more to learn, and these points are so useful to everyone!

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  28. Great advice, Heidi, even for those of us who have been blogging for years. Your improv quilt is simply amazing!

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  29. Great advice and great to see your personal quilt style develop too! Thanks for sharing

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  30. Fantastic post! Thanks for the words of wisdom.

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  31. Fabulous post! Thanks so much for the tips, and the links to link-ups. I'm still a new blogger and would love to link up even more.

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  32. Great Post Heidi! and wonderful advice.

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  33. Thank you so much for all the great advice Heidi! I'm a new blogger and sometimes feel overwhelmed! You definitely gave me some tips that I need to take to heart! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  34. These are great tips, Heidi--I'm so glad you were one of the bloggers to post advice as part of the New Blogger Blog Hop. Especially for newer bloggers like me, it's always refreshing to see some earlier work, since it helps to be reminded that everyone has to start somewhere :) I'll look forward to visiting back here often!

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  35. Great advice, and so perfectly worded! I'm hoping to start a blog in the near future and I plan to reread this post many times. Thanks for taking the time to help us newbies.

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  36. Heidi! Every single thing you've said here is TRUTH. :::high five::: now :::on the flip side::: I hope people listen to what you've got to say, because these are the perfect tips. Although I take special note to the first, about branding yourself (through both text, photos, about me, colours, all of it!) and the last, be yourself! Why try to be something you're not! Embrace yourself, you're the only you, you've got!

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  37. Awesome tips Heidi! Thank you so much for sharing them with us :)

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  38. Thanks for the tips Heidi. I am stumbling through my first months of blogging and appreciate all of the friendly advice that I can get.

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  39. Hi Heidi,
    It's fun to see your early work. And such good advice and encouragement to those just starting out!
    Love,
    Mary

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  40. Amen, Heidi! Really wonderful advice and I think just dead on. Go quilters! And blogging quilters.

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  41. Thank you for the post - I got a lot from it and will keep it in mind for my own blog. I've just passed my 1 year blogversary, and while I do enjoy doing it for my own sort of diary - I really like seeing comments as well. I think your suggestions will help me in that direction.

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  42. This post really speaks to me. I am so new that it's frightening. I am trying to define "myself" and know that I will evolve over time.

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  43. Some very useful advice here, thanks!

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  44. Fabulous post, really appreciate the time and effort you have put in to help New Bloggers. I am relatively new to the blogging world and it is so wonderful to get helpful and practical advice. Have a great day ..........Marie

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  45. This is a really wonderfully written and insightful article. Thank you for sharing it so that newbies like me can learn from your experience.
    BB

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  46. Thank you. My biggest problem is taking photos and uploading. Sometimes it works like a charm. Other times, I'm so dumb, I can't get anything to upload. I forget where to go. And grabbing a link and posting to my blog is so foreign to me. I would love to get moving on this but I also have a full time job and own my own decorating business which keeps me otherwise occupied. If I could just get started. I do have a blog, www:tealeafquilts.blogspot.com and it is haphazard at best.

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