As the new academic year has drawn closer, I’ve been thinking back to when I first started my blog in college. When I started, I couldn’t find much advice on how to navigate all of this. I didn’t know how to plan my time, my content, I thought I needed loads of fancy equipment and I felt a bit lost and lonely in it all. At the moment, I feel that many people will probably be starting their own blogs as they want to document a new and exciting time in their life as they go to college or University. Starting a blog is an awesome hobby, I can never seem to get bored with it. So, for those of you considering starting a blog or have just started one, I wanted to share with you a few tips and a bit of advice that I wished someone had told me when I first started. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I hope this can help you find your feet as you enter the blogging community.
First things first, you must put your academic studies before your blog. When you’re faced with a lot of assignments, that you don’t really want to do, it’s so easy to sit down and just write a blog post and completely avoid the work you need to do. Procrastination is part of being a student however at no point should your blog take priority over your academic work. You’re in education to learn and get a qualification and that should always be your top priority. If you’re ever faced with needing to write a blog post and an assignment, it’s important you do the assignment first.
If you want your blog to be sustainable you need to actually be writing about something you enjoy. Everything is very new and exciting within the first few months but eventually that excitement will wear off a bit. It’s all very well and good knowing you can write five post about a subject, but will you be as passionate and excited when you’re writing post 50 or 100? If you’re not all that fussed about what you’re writing about, maybe have a look at another topic. It’s important that what you write about excites you.
It’s good to question what your motivations are for starting a blog in the first place. Are you wanting it for freebies and sponsorships or are you writing because you’re passionate about the subject? I hate to tell you this, but if your motivation is for free gifts from big companies, you’re not doing this for the right reason. It’s very difficult to build and cultivate a platform and a community where brands are willing to invest in you and work with you. It can take years of hard work to get to the point where brands will even acknowledge you. If you’re just in it for the free gifts, you’re going to be very disappointed very quickly.
There’s a misconception that you need the most up-to-date equipment to do any form of content creation, that you need big cameras, a fancy laptop and all the other bells and whistles. However, if you have a phone that can connect to the Internet then that’s all the equipment you really need. Nowadays, most of my cover photos are stock photos and all the photos I take for my Instagram were taken on my phone. I don’t use my big DSLR camera any more for my blog because it was just a lot of hassle. If your college or university has computers in the library, then you can write your posts on them. If your phone camera is absolutely awful, you can use stock photos for your posts, and you can use free editing software if you want to edit any of your photos. Until you are certain this is something you want to do in the long term, don’t invest too much money into it. As a student, it’s not like we have a lot of money to throw away.
Pinterest is not the place to source your photos, ever! I know it’s easy to save a photo on Pinterest however, you are then plagiarising that from the original artist if you use that on your blog without their permission. You’re going to have to source your photos from somewhere else. The cheapest way to do this is to simply take your own. This being said, there are many reasons you may not be able to use your own photos on your blog. For example, my room at uni was very, very dark and wasn’t a good place to be taking photos because they would always come out very grainy. This meant that my cover photos didn’t look good and it did affect my page views. If this is the case, you can source stock photos from online and there are many places where you can do this for free. I use a website called Unsplash. I particularly like this website because it gives you the option of crediting the photographer if you choose to. I think that’s a very nice touch and I try to do it as often as I can out of respect for their photographers.
The behind the scenes of a blog can get quite complicated. When I first started blogging, I couldn’t understand WordPress at all. It was far too complicated, and I didn’t have the time to learn the platform correctly. If this is the case for you, I would recommend using a platform called Blogger. It is by no means as advanced as WordPress however, it is far easier to navigate. Once I felt more comfortable with that platform, I decided to transition over to WordPress, and I’ve been on this platform since. Also, both of these platforms allow you to have a free domain, what I would recommend when you’re first starting. Blogging can get quite expensive when you start adding in a domain, a platform and themes. Until you know that you’re ready to invest that sort of money, start with a free domain and you can always change it later on.
At my university we get a list of all of the assignment dates at the start of the semester. As I mentioned right at the beginning, your priority should always be your course and your studies so, if you know you have three assignments due in two months time all on the exact same date, you should be planning your time very carefully. A really good tip is to have two or three posts sitting in your draft pile that are complete, fully edited will all graphics attached. That way when you are stressed with all of your assignments and you don’t have time to blog, you can simply get one of those posts and schedule it to be published on a week when you’re very busy. This does take level of organisation however, it will do you good in the long run.
it’s also worth remembering that you do need a social life, studying will take up enough time let aloneand that’s before you add running a blog into the equation. It is important to not let your studies and your blog take over all of your life. You need time to meet up with your friends, to relax and do that pile of washing you’ve been avoiding for the past week. One way to do this is to have set times you know you’re going to study and set times where you know you will be working on your blog. Don’t let these scheduled working slots take up all of your time, make sure you’ve got some rest time scheduled in too. For me, a Saturday is a nonnegotiable day off. I don’t do any uni work and I don’t do any blogging either, I also try not do any blogging past 8 o’clock at night. This helps me balance my work and free time pretty well.
Be active in the community
The blogging community is a pretty nice one, I’ve never came across much drama or anybody who didn’t want to help you. Everyone is very friendly and tries to help each other out as much as possible. Don’t be a stranger, come say hi to us. A lot of us are on Twitter and Instagram. It doesn’t hurt to be chatty and friendly to people, is a great way to network, you can make some really good friends and you learn a lot from other people.
It’s not impossible to manage a blog as a student. Yes, it requires some strict time management and the odd sacrifice of sleep, but there are plenty of people out there who are managing it just fine. The best advice I can give you is to just go for it.
Ultimately, KEEP IT FUN and you’ll be fine!