The Efforts of Starting a “Serious” Blog

Just like many bloggers, I started my blog because, after having read many blogs, I said to myself: “Hey, I can do this!” I also realized that a lot of jokes, memories, and insights are lost to oblivion because we don’t write them down. I know this because whenever I backread my tweets or read my old blog posts (that I saved in my drive), I am reminded of my old person and everything that I went through. It’s always kinda trippy when I can see a stark difference between the person I was and the person I am now.

I also decided to start a blog because the circumstance calls for it. BIG CHANGES are happening in my life right now and I expect BIGGER AND BRIGHTER changes next year. I want to track these changes so I thought I should chronicle my life from here on — while at the same time, writing guides and sharing stories to those who would like to take the same road that I’m taking now.

So some time in August, I was so pumped by the idea of starting a blog that I started reading about “How to start a lifestyle blog” (but blog turned out to be personal). One of the best advice that I’d read was from blogging giant ‘A Beautiful Mess’ who said that noobs like me should NOT act on the initial urge to blog away. She said I should take time, three months, to plan out the blog — from name to look to content.

I took the advice and I indeed took time on planning my blog, but only for two months. Everything has been a work-in-progress slash learn-by-experience roller coaster since then. Finally, my blog was launched on September 12, 2015. Now my baby’s nearing its first month, let me round up the efforts and challenges that I’ve experienced in starting and keeping a personal blog.

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1. Knowing your blog’s purpose

To be honest, my blog’s purpose isn’t crystal clear to me yet, but I have a vague idea – many vague ideas of what my blog could probably stand for.

Well, aside from my blog being an online journal that will contain an account of the BIG CHANGES in my life -and- a resource site on how to achieve what I’m supposed to have achieved next year, I intended for my blog to be a ~personal branding~ endeavor for myself. I thought “Hey, I can control my search results better with this blog and do some ~personal branding~.” So after a month of being ‘Mailan from Manila’ (mailanfrommanila.wordpress.com), I decided to have the blog eponymous (Mailan Falculan) because according to my old self: “I’m gonna be famous!”

However, somewhere along me powering up my blog and getting positive comments on Grand Things I Learnt in my Early 20s, I thought of exploring more the subject of being a 20-something millennial yuppie/yuccie who tries her best to adult successfully in the Real World. Although I can see the general direction of my first few posts go this way, this was not my original intention so I am a little hesitant about it. But I went ahead of myself anyway and taglined my blog: ‘A 20-something Millennial Trying to Adult’. I just hope I can live up to this.

2. Finding a visual theme

I originally wanted something minimalist and classy for my blog. The first time I thought I was ready to launch, I had for a header a stock photo of some vintage-washed flowers and a cursive typeface for a logo. (See photo below.) I already had a creative resume by then which was set on a white background but still bore the same game-like inspiration.

PIN005_starting_blog_01

Two days before the supposed launch (I was supposed to launch it on my birthday), I showed my then blog to Kristel and Tinay to ask for some feedback on design. Kristel told me there’s a disconnect between my logo+header and my creative resume. Tinay said I should hire a graphic designer next time. (That btch. Haha.)

So two days before my intended launch, I scrapped everything and redid the logo, the header, and the creative resume from scratch. Because the creative resume was harder to do, I chose to adjust the logo+header to the creative resume to minimize on changes and effort. When the logo+header looked PSP-ish (which Kristel liked), the creative resume looked like it’s made by a noob in 1995 using MS Paint (Tinay was right, after all.) so, to even things out, I redesigned all six images of the creative resume – from the background to the teeny tiniest detail like OMG.

I chronicled the creative process I went through in designing my creative resume here.

Now the creative resume had more colors and was more visually appealing and quirky, which I was mighty proud of (and felt truer to who I am ). However, the next problem was, because the resume had more colors, the images had bigger file sizes. Thus it took more time to load all six images + logo + header on mobile. (Ugh.) The Philippines has one of the worst Internets in the world especially mobile data, so I had to optimize my images for low-speed Internet while at the same time maintaining optimal size and resolution across ALL gadgets like WTF.

Everything got solved anyway. But the visual theme is just the start. The feature image and all the other “marketing collateral” are weekly outputs and it’s my job to make sure that everything adheres to the visual theme that I have set (and worked on for two weeks). Staying true to that, I’m changing my logo next week with a new and improved version that will be visually thematically consistent with all the other images on this blog. (Ugh. Designing is forever.)

3. Preparing weekly images

First, there’s the featured image. I came to love Instagram’s square photos and I wanted everything consistently square everywhere, but then I wanted to promote on Pinterest which favors long portraits, and each social platform favors a completely different set of dimensions for images. (Ugh. There’s no happiness in this world!) I had done several mockups before I settled with 640 x 960 px (portrait), Andrea, Chinacat, and a photo for the background (either taken by me or a stock photo) in one convenient PSD template. But this is about to change again because I now want to focus my promotional efforts on Facebook which favors landscape photos. Heh.

PIN005_starting_blog_02

Second, there’s the inline image. Some time in between my first and second post, I had a night-out with my amigas (friends), and I asked them what their honest thoughts were on my blog. My gallery assistant friend said the design’s cute (which is a big thing because she’s a gallery assistant). My ABS-CBN writer friend said he liked the copy in my creative resume (which is a big thing because he’s an ABS-CBN writer). My events copywriter friend said it was okay and asked me “What’s after this?” like, how can I sustain the game-like mood of my blog? (There’s always that one friend. Haha.)

So I worked on designing inline images that would sustain the game feel of my blog across all posts. But making such images was exhausting and required so much time, effort, and thinking that were stolen from writing and promoting my blog. So after two posts, I refused to make those game-inspired images and just settled with a beautifully made featured image for every post.

4. Promoting and automating promotions

One thing I learnt about blogging: It’s 30% creating, 70% promoting.

So first, I set up many social media accounts (created some, reactivated some others, changed handles in some-some others) to promote my blog. It just sounds easy but I had a hard time figuring out Pinterest and Google+ because I used them only once and I abandoned them right away, so I spent a significant amount of brain power in setting them both up.

Next, I linked some supported social accounts to WordPress (which was another tough cookie to crack) and those I couldn’t, I automated using Buffer. Now Buffer is a DELIGHT and works perfectly well on my phone. It’s the competitor that’s kinda uptight and hated my middle-tier Android phone, so pfft.

Now everything should work just fine, but I always ALWAYS see the critical mistakes in my post AFTER it’s public for a freaking while, so I scramble around deleting the social media updates and rushing to correct everything before promoting the post again. It’s an exhausting evil cycle and I’m trying to fix this. Also, I’m giving up on Pinterest and Google+ again. (Hahaha huhu.)

Recently, I chatted with social media expert friend Faith about life and blogging and she told me that it would be better if I focus my efforts on promoting and getting traffic from one social media platform first (thus goodbye Pinterest and Google+). She also advised me to create a Facebook Page, which I’m very squirmish about. I mean, a FACEBOOK PAGE!!! It’s like LOVE or UNICORN or WORLD PEACE. I responded in turn, saying I need to get myself tipsy first before I can create an FB page for myself. She sent in “Hahahahaha” and said I should tweet that.

5. Just getting the hang of it

So far, prepping for Friday’s weekly post isn’t so much of a struggle because I’m on a life break (except that one time we didn’t have wifi for two days and it’s post day!). However, I still fumble at allocating my time and efforts properly — writing, designing, keyword research, social media promotion, and blog-commenting. I am still fashioning a method to all of these. I am also continuously finding a way to bring traffic to my blog while learning to pare down to the basics and simplify the whole blogging process.

Now I think about it, writing is the least of my concerns actually. (I’m learning to stop obsessing about “perfect” grammar and exposition.) What I find most difficult right now is promoting my blog and finding a blogging clique where I can belong in. I think I struggle at this because (aside from the fact that my blog’s promotional efforts are HAHAHA) my blog’s “category” is kinda unpopular — personal slash inspirational minus commercial. And these days, it’s HARD to find a community that DOESN’T talk about makeup, fashion, and the latest hip product in the market. I have nothing against these blogs, okay? Each to her own niche. (Also, preferences.) I just hope I can find a community soon.

Wait. How about you help me find my blogging community? Do you know anyone who writes the same way that I do? Do you know any personal blogging community for millennials like me? Send me their links through the comment box below and help me find a home. 🙂

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