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Friend Friday: blogging reflections and top tips for a successful blog

Sinatra and Monroe

It’s Friday, time for Friend Friday! this week the questions are all about looking back over the time we’ve spent blogging.

How has your blog changed over the months/years you’ve been blogging?

I’ve been blogging since December 2008, so coming up for two years! Scary biscuits!

Looking back over my archives, I’m surprised actually how little has changed. I’ve just looked back over my archives and surprisingly I’m actually pretty happy with what is going on, even right at the beginning! Which is nice.

A few things that have changed:

Content. I made a conscious decision from the start that this blog wouldn’t be a themed blog, but an assortment of lots of different things I like. As such, it’s changed emphasis quite a bit, although there’s a core of outfit posts that have stayed consistent. I used to post lots about my knitting, but I’ve also gone through periods where I haven’t knit anything for weeks and months, so that comes and goes. I used to also do some series, like flickr faves, and library corner (where I showcased coffee table books) that I now don’t do any more. I stopped mainly because other things became more important, and there was no space, rather than because they didn’t work. At the moment, I am going through a phase where I’m really interested in photography, and I just started doing the Friend Friday series (obviously!).

Formatting. I changed my layout to three columns. Then I changed it back to two. I designed link buttons, then I switched to horizontal tabs. I’ve gone through a number of header designs. My photos are bigger now. Again, I’m not sure that the changes I made necessarily make things *better* in an objective way but what you see now is what I like right now.

Frequency. I started doing daily posts in September 2009, which was a bit of a turning point for me. When you commit to that, it automatically makes you take things a bit more seriously.

What was one thing you did wrong in the beginning and how have you changed that?

Like I said, I’m not sure I did anything hugely wrong, but I stopped doing posts on music after I asked for feedback and a few people said that that was what they enjoyed least. To be honest, I knew they weren’t really up to standard myself. For some reason, I’m finding it harder to put my love for music into words than I do my love for clothes or design.

I also learned to chill out about posting my outfits chronologically and always reporting everything I did and took pictures of. I used to talk more about my daily activities and my private life (within limits, it was never a proper personal blog), but actually people aren’t really looking for a record of my life. I still talk about things that happen to me if they’re interesting, but I’m less completist now.

When you visit a blog what’s the greatest turn off? The thing that make you close a tab?

Poor photography, an over-busy background and layout and music playing when you open the page are the main things.

How did you find your voice?

Trial and error, and experience. Though actually, I think my voice was pretty strong from the start, maybe because I was older (27) when I started blogging. I’m quite a confident person with strong opinions on loads of stuff, quite a bit of writing experience helping me to express these opinions clearly, and I had developed a strong personal style (and outfit photography skills) through years of involvement in the wardrobe remix group on flickr before I started blogging. My attitude was always that I would do what I like and hopefully people would be interested. This is not to say I don’t listen to feedback, but it honestly never occurred to me to do kinds of posts that are generally popular but aren’t ‘me’.

Audrey Hepburn

If you had three pieces of advice to give to a new blogger what would those be?

1. Write what you want to read.

This relates to what I said above in relation to voice. As far as I see it, there is no point in trying to blog about what you think will be popular if it’s not something that you’re personally interested in. There are so many people out there interested in so many different things out there that even if you tried to work out what people wanted, you’d never get a clear answer. The only thing you can ever truly know is what you yourself think. So my advice would be to think about the kinds of things you like as a reader, the topics and types of posts that work for you, and then try to produce a blog that you would like to read based on that.

For example, I have always enjoyed reading ‘think pieces’, posts where the blogger takes on a big or difficult issue and really thinks it through properly. These kinds of posts are fairly rare because, as I know now, they aren’t easy and they can be extremely labour intensive to write. So I decided that that would be what I would focus on, and they’ve become the ‘arguments and musings’ series. They’re consistently the posts that get the most visits and comments, and sometimes they stimulate discussion on other blogs, which is exciting! These kind of posts is what makes my blog stand out from other lifestyle and fashion blogs. And I LOVE doing them just for the satisfaction of thinking something through properly. Even if I didn’t get a single comment, I would still do them!

2. Good photography

There’s no denying this. If you’re an outfit blogger, badly lit, badly frames photos, cluttered backgrounds etc are a huge turn off. Invest the time in skilling yourself up in photo editing and the principles of photography. There are numerous advice posts on how to take good photos out there that will help you. And just in case you’re thinking ‘Oh but I don’t have an SLR’, honestly, you do not need to spend big money. My camera is a point and shoot that cost less than £200 (Canon PowerShot SX200 IS) and I have no intention of upgrading any time soon. I achieve (mostly) good looking pictures by taking full advantage of the manual features my camera does have and editing virtually all my photos. I also do my outfit posts myself with a tripod. You definitely do not need a photographer boyfriend/husband/friend either.

3. Make friends!

Find likeminded blogs that you admire and make friends with the blogger via comments. Most people will visit the blog of any new commenter, I know I do. Commenting thoughtfully is the single best way of getting yourself noticed and its really fun! The fashion blogging community is incredibly supportive and I know I sound like a broken record, but being part of that community is just about the best thing about blogging.

A slight note of caution though. Obviously getting yourself noticed is only going to help you grow if you have the content to keep people interested once they’ve noticed you. So don’t scrimp on the time spent writing! My time is pretty limited, what with a demanding full time job and a wedding to plan, and my approach has always been to spend as long on the posts as I need to and only then going out commenting and reading. One of the reasons I’ve not joined Twitter is because I just don’t have the time for another social network, and if I did, I know my blogging output would suffer.

Did you find these tips helpful? Do you agree/disagree with any of them?

This week’s random photos are Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe via here and Audrey hepburn via here.

Visit Modly Chic for the round-up of this week’s posts!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • northwest is best 15 October 2010, 1:38 pm

    An interesting post! I enjoy reading your arguments and musings posts, so I look forward to more of them (although work and wedding obviously take priority).

  • Leia 15 October 2010, 4:34 pm

    I totally agree with your 3 pieces of advice!

  • Kelly 15 October 2010, 4:43 pm

    First of all – I want a pet deer to help me grocery shop.

    I agree with you that the longer posts are often the ones I like the most. Sometimes it takes me longer to actually read them (if I'm just scrolling through my reader on a coffee break, I star the longer ones to go back to on the weekend when I have more time) but they end up being my favorites much of the time.

    I also saw you comment on a couple other FF people about frequency of posting. I'm so with you there – it doesn't bother me at all if a blogger takes a break for a few days between posts. I don't know why so many people named that as a "turn off"

  • Leia 15 October 2010, 4:43 pm

    I totally agree with your 3 pieces of advice!

  • Shopgirl 15 October 2010, 6:00 pm

    This is so informative. This is the first time that I've read a long post like this without getting distracted and was kept engaged the whole time – your writing style is really great.

  • MrsBossa 15 October 2010, 7:04 pm

    Great post!

    It's my first time on your blog (as a fellow Friend Friday-er) but it's great to read that you've focused on different things; coffee table books, and knitting (I've just learnt to cast on, so I'm going to look back over your archive!). It was also very brave of you to get feedback from your readers – I'm building up to that…

  • Alli XT 15 October 2010, 7:20 pm

    Great post and great recs! I'm so happy to have found your blog through the FBFF posts – you always have killer vintage photos up.

  • sanchez 15 October 2010, 9:40 pm

    Music playing at the opening of a blog always scares me! I always freak out and wonder where its coming from.

    You're advice is pitch perfect though. 🙂

  • daisymay aka Chantele 16 October 2010, 3:38 am

    Wow your answers are really god, very detailed. I seem to be inline with quite a few of your answers too. the auto-music! We all seem to hate it!

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  • Terri 16 October 2010, 4:29 am

    helpful. I want to come back and spend some time browsing your arguments section. When I started blogging, I had really thought that was going to be my thrust, but that was before I was given a new camera…

  • Tracey 16 October 2010, 12:22 pm

    It's always so beneficial to look back on our blogs from time to time and see what journey we've taken.

    I see much of my own blog changes in your words, and I think your advice is spot on …

    I recently started doing daily posts on my blog, and totally agree that by doing so, things become a whole lot more serious.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Pull Your Socks Up! 16 October 2010, 12:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing your blog secrets – I agree with the simplicity tip – I've just removed a whole lot of junk from my side bar and much happier with it – your's reads so easily and it's a cinch to follow and want to keep reading. Which is what I'm doing now;)! xo

  • Veronica Darling... 16 October 2010, 1:02 pm

    I HATE music on blogs that starts when the page loads too. YUK. I do, however, like your music posts, because we have similar tastes. I like your music fashion series too, because I liked that you featured women performers.

    When I get into regular posting, I love it, but it only lasts for a few days at a time… I am way too busy to plan ahead as well, which is annoying. But I was like you initially that I have to document each day, and photograph each day and write about it… now that I have my own camera (instead of my husband's) and a tripod, I hope my posting can be more on my time … as I was often relying on him to take photos of the stuff I make.

    Recently in my refurb, I took out 'Crafty Adventures' because I felt that was too 'themed' for me now… I did need to have a theme at the start to find my voice… and now I'm fine without a theme…

    Talk soon,xoxo

  • devilishlypleasurable 18 October 2010, 1:09 am

    Love your pieces of advice. . I did this FF too and it is one of my favourite pieces. .

    P.S. that eighties fifties dress is fabulous!

  • Lorena 18 October 2010, 6:36 pm

    I liked this read Franca.
    Specially your advice to new bloggers: Write what you want to read 🙂
    I too enjoy your writings on "think pieces"… sometimes I don't comment but I keep the subject in my head and think about it…. the 60's dresses era topic was one of my favorites.

  • Shallow Mallow 18 October 2010, 7:17 pm

    Good points well put as always 🙂

    I very much admire your frequent posts of what I guess I'd call "proper content" i.e. think pieces 😉 I am comfortable doing anecdotal pieces but when it comes to structuring an argument rather than just prattling on I have a lot to learn.

    I always enjoy they way you express yourself and the points you make 🙂

  • Eyeliah 7 November 2010, 12:48 am

    Great post, I have been thinking about reflections lately as well since 3 years is coming up for me. It's been a much less productive last 6 months, and I do miss what my blog used to be but I feel like I may be finding my voice again. I didn't realize people like the music posts the least, I always really enjoyed them.