Happy July 29th, everyone! Besides being International Tiger Day (woohoo!), it is also my very first blogiversary. That’s right, there has been a year of blogging on An Aspiring Heroine! As such, I thought it would be appropriate to break down what I’ve learned in the last twelve months of the blog game. Looking back on it, I know so much more than I did when I started out, and it almost fits nicely into “a lesson per month,” so that’s how I’ve organized this post. From my first month as a baby blogger to this month as slightly less of a baby blogger, I hope my lessons learned are helpful!
1. Planning is great, but eventually you just have to dive in head first
I started this blog (originally entitled Learning to Thrive in 1455) at the very end of July after weeks of doing my homework. I Pinned and read and made the big decisions about what I would write about and where I would host it. Eventually, though, I realized that I was ready enough and needed to just start writing. So I did—with this little post about the website that helped me score my dream job!
Most popular post of the month – A job hunter’s best friend
2. It isn’t really blogging without the community
In September, I got serious and signed up for Blogging University, run by The Daily Post on wordpress.com. Not only did Blogging 101 teach me the basics of blogging and give me fun prompts to write, it made me realize just how great it is to have other bloggers read and comment on my posts. I found inspiration in their posts, learned new tips and tricks from their comments, and gained confidence in my own abilities with their support. At this point, I also decided that social media accounts for my blog would definitely be worth it.
Most popular post of the month – who i am; why i’m here
3. Blog what you know
At this point, I still didn’t have a good focus for the blog. However, I was living and breathing planning our wedding on a budget, and it quickly became apparent that I could use what was inspiring me in my current bride-to-be life and use it to inspire multiple posts with great, helpful content for readers. So October became the month of the wedding post and my “Something Blue” series, which continued through the rest of the year and even after Spencer and I got hitched.
Most popular post of the month – Drinking Around the World at Disney’s Epcot
4. Consistency is key
In November, despite the impending holiday crazy, I buckled down and decided to get serious about blogging. For me, that meant finally setting up an editorial calendar and sticking to a consistent posting schedule—even months later, I still usually post every Monday-Wednesday-Friday. By being more consistent, I noticed that readers had a better idea of when I would post, and I saw a definite increase in engagement. Plus it meant writing posts became more of a habit and less of a sporadic act that I indulged when I thought about it.
Most popular post of the month – How to choose a wedding website to fit your needs
5. Even bloggers take off for the holidays!
December was a busy month for me what with the wedding, then the holidays with family, and finally our honeymoon. I worked really hard to plan out my posts and stay on schedule, but I ended up having to write an apology for Christmas! I soon realized not to worry too much about it; even the big time bloggers take off a little time to be with family and friends.
Most popular post of the month – Our wedding: a recap
6. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and you won’t regret it
When January came around, I finally took the plunge and started Book Club Classics, a book club and link up for bloggers who love classic literature as much as I do! I had to do my research to make the link up work properly, and I worked to get the word out about my book club through Twitter, especially in interactions with members of The Classics Club. I’m slowly getting some engagement with the series, but regardless it’s given me new blogging experience and forced me to take a leap of faith in myself!
Most popular post of the month – Calling all literature fiends
7. Switching to self-hosted is hard but completely worth it
That’s right, in February I took the plunge to self-hosted WordPress! In the process I also renamed, rebranded, and just completely reinvented this space, and it was hard. I started by scouring all of my favorite bloggers’ posts about making the switch and determined which hosting site would work best for me—I love A Small Orange, it wasn’t too expensive for my needs, and yes, that is a referral link. (What can I say? I’m an experienced blogger now!) There was a huge learning curve, but I’m so glad I did it. Now I have complete control over my space, and I can do so much with plugins and design plus I have the option to branch out to sponsorships and ads should I so choose!
Most popular post of the month – What they don’t tell you about getting a job right out of college
8. Getting free stuff is pretty cool; I’m not gonna lie
You read that correctly, and I won’t even take it back! Free stuff is fun, and as an opinionated individual, it’s nice to get to review products and give my honest feedback and ideas. During March, I got serious with Influenster and started looking into the big name networks for bloggers. Zoey and I got a chance to review this cool cat treat toy from Temptations, and I look forward to any and all review opportunities.
Most popular post of the month – Stylebook Closet App
9. Sometimes life happens, and you should let it!
After talking about sticking to my editorial calendar and maintaining consistency, I’m going to tell you that it doesn’t always work out like you plan. When Spencer and I got serious about buying a house, my blog-writing weekends became house-hunting weekends, and I went an entire week without posting. That’s not something that I’m proud of, but 1) I needed the break to breathe and focus all of my energy on something else, and 2) our decision to build a house has given me an abundance of great content that I can write with genuine excitement. I’m pretty sure any blogger will tell you that taking a break will normally only help your blogging in the long run!
Most popular post of the month – Our big, exciting news!
10. Doing cool things because “this’ll make a great blog post” does not make you crazy
When Spencer’s parents suggested the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, my immediate reaction was “Yes!” Not because I’m a huge bourbon drinker, but because I knew that it would make for one (or two!) posts with rich content that would fit within my “Travel” category. I did the exact same thing when Spencer had the opportunity to do the Queen City Underground Tour for work and when he had a holiday party at The Littlefield. Sometimes my blog forces me outside of my comfort zone, and that’s definitely a benefit!
Most popular post of the month – Why women can (and should!) lift weights
11. A clean, unique blog design and branded images make such a difference
You might remember June as the month when I was lucky enough to win a new blog design from The Lady Errant! I certainly do. Getting the chance to customize one of her gorgeous minimalist designs forced me to take a look at my blog’s first impression and decide how I could fix it. One thing that made a huge difference was going back and designing more engaging, Pinnable images for my popular blog posts, using the colors and branding that I worked with Kelly to determine. The goal is to have others see one of my Pins and immediately recognize it as something from An Aspiring Heroine!
Most popular post of the month – 24 Hours with An Aspiring Heroine: a Live Blogging Experience
12. When your editorial calendar is driving you mad, throw it all out and start afresh
That’s where I am right now. I look at the random things that I sprinkled throughout my editorial calendar as early as January, and I’m just not inspired by some of them anymore. Have you noticed that my “Something Blue” series went by the wayside, or that I’m trying to rework Book Club Classics? I’ve learned that sometimes writing in the moment is the best, most authentic way to keep up with this blog, and while it may go against my instinct to plan everything to a T, I’m learning to work with it. I’d like to keep this blog up and running for a few more years now, and fresh content is the only way that you and I are going to want to stick around!
Most popular post of the month – Not a good enough feminist
When’s your blogiversary? Did you learn any of these lessons during your first year of blogging?