Monday, June 3, 2013

20 Dos and Don'ts for creating a blog people actually want to read

This post came about as I was reading my photography business' manifesto, 40 things about photography in 40 years post and The Creative Maverick's manifesto (which I am also editor and founder) to help me craft a manifesto for the Canadian Bohemian and realized that a lot of what I had written and have learned could help writers create a blog that readers would actually support.

Why manifestos? The word gained a somewhat notorious reputation after The Communist Manifesto came out, but I love the word and the original intent of creating one. A manifesto lays out in no uncertain terms who you are, what you believe in, where you are, where you want to go and how you are going to get there.

So I hope if you are planning to launch a new blog or are even a seasoned veteran you'll give my little list of dos and don'ts a read. Please feel free to add to the discussion in the comments. I value your feedback.


1. Be brave.
I think at some point or another everyone who has created something has been scared to send it out into the world. Myself included. Questions like, will people love it or hate it or not even notice can cripple your creative process, often causing analysis paralysis - where you become so afraid that you produce nothing, or worse you only wade in halfway.

Think of your favorite artists, photographers, performers writers, filmmakers - and how their greatest works come from a place they had to be brave enough to go in and find it and drag it out into the light.

Sometimes you just have to say f --- it and go for it, otherwise your creation will never have the opportunity to touch or inspire anyone.

2. Be open to constructive criticism
Ok. This point took me the longest to write, but I feel I have to say it.

Criticism is not the same as bullying. From reading a lot of blogs and their comments and different forums, I am seeing more and more bloggers and readers are becoming more sensitive to any negative feedback.

Bullying comes from a place of insecurity, criticism comes from a place of passion for either the blogger or at the very minimum, the bloggers chosen topic.

Now, a blogger is free to ignore the criticism of course, and continue along their merry way, but to call it bullying and then descend into a drama-fueled back and forth is not only destructive to that particular blog, but I would argue the whole medium as well. In short it makes all look crazy and unprofessional and it infuriates me. You might get a spike in visitors and you might make a few bucks, but in the long run you look the opposite of a business owner who has their shit together. How you attract brands after that I'll never know.

Women make up the majority of lifestyle bloggers and readers. To quote from Spiderman- "With great power comes great responsibility." We should have a reputation as being supportive and community-minded, not backstabbing b-tches. Because, because fair or unfair that is the brush we will all be painted with if this continues.

If you write a blog, and if that blog has a growing readership and a growing bank account, big news you have a business. Your readers feel like they have invested in your success, and as such will want to give their opinion, about EVERYTHING. From the fonts to the graphics to the ads to the brands you endorse to the bracelet you are wearing. And you know what? They have every right to. You have put yourself out there, and good for you. If you didn't want readers and the ad revenue that follows then either shut down the blog entirely or make it private. Does this mean i think people should call you names or threaten you, absolutely not - no one has to take that. Going crazy and getting nasty on someone because they pointed out something they thought you could improve on is not going to make you any more right.

Think of it this way, which person do you love shopping with? the person who loves everything you try on or the person who gives their honest opinion. Or what about when you are speaking with a financial advisor or banker? Don't you want to know where you stand in decreasing your debts and what you'll need to do to get there?

3. Know the law when it comes to sharing other people's content

I know for a fact that some long-time, very successful bloggers feel that blogs and the Internet is still new and things are still in this grey area and no one really knows what the rules are... Blah...blah...blah. Poppycock! The law is quite clear. Do not copy without the owner's permission. And sometimes that means you are going to have to pay to play. Period. End of story. The argument that some bloggers have that the owners should be happy to be on a successful blog or that they provided credit and a link is not going to fly. Before you repost - read that owner's blog carefully. Do they have a Creative Commons that allows for not-for-profit use only or no alterations? And please understand the full meaning of fair use. It does not mean siphoning an entire post for review or critique.

4. Support and promote other bloggers
See #2

5. Create your own content
I think when you create your own content you avoid a lot of the problems that can arise from not fully understanding the law. It also makes your space more personal and interesting.

6. Fear the ordinary/the mundane
Basically try and add something to the conversation - don't just do a rehash of what everyone else has posted.

7. Know yourself and your readers
This takes time, but once you put the effort in understanding who your readers are and who you are, that is the sweet spot of any successful blogin my opinion.

8. Pick yourself up after a fall
Don't get discouraged. So you spent days crafting what you thought would be your recording breaking post, or posted a video at 9 a.m. you thought would go viral by noon. Keep plugging at it. It is great to have a large supportive community, but you need to be your loudest cheerleader.

9. Learn new skills
Don't be afraid to learn some basic Photoshop or Illustrator skills so that you can at least do minor graphics.

10. Be passionate about life offline even if it means going outside your comfort zone
This is a bit of a conundrum for some folks. Having a large online community is great and comes with a lot of perks, but in order to have a blog worth reading you are going to have to get out there and participate in life to have something interesting to share. And I'm not just talking about latte or lunch.


1. Give in to self-doubt. When you know who and what you are this is not a problem.

2. Get sucked into any drama because it will infect you and drag you down.

3. Expect it to be easy because nothing truly worthwhile and fantastic ever is.

4. Obey all the rules

5. Wait for inspiration, your muse, the stars or planets to align or the second cup of coffee to kick in. You get great content from creating (even shitty) content.

6. Focus on selling ads/becoming a brand ambassador etc. Instead focus on building relationships and community.

7. Take yourself too seriously. If it looks like you are fun and relaxed your readers will be too and want to keep coming back. You don't have to phoney, but if you are a lifestyle blogger, I don't think you should be pressured to discuss every minute detail of your private life. Just be authentic and confident in what you are posting.

8. Go halfway

9. Wait for an invitation. Create your own opportunities. Havent been invited to speak at one of the big
conferences? Organize your own even if it has only a fraction of the attendees. You do not need anyone's invite or permission to start doing what you want to do...even if it has never been done before. Do not easily give up your power to someone else you feel you need a blessing from.

10. Be afraid to trash what is not working. You know that expression, "if it ain't broke don't fix it." well the flip side to that is if it is broke you may need to cut some dead weight and replace it. You may feel guilty abandoning what you feel like is your child. Something required a lot of time and effort. Keep in mind, however, in the best books, tv shows, movies the writers kill their lovelies. Just think of Game of Thrones.

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