The first time I realized that blogging (and, by extension, author branding) was right for me was in an introduction to civil engineering class. Like most people, I entered college thinking I had to go into a STEM field or I was doomed. I took classes on things I had no interest in, thinking I had to please myself, my family, and society by doing what I thought would be the right thing. Wrong.

In 2013, I started my first blog on WordPress.com and called it My Corner of the Library. Back then, I knew nothing about branding, design, social media, blogging, or writing, for that matter. I’d written stories since I learned to write cursive, but I’d never really shown them to anyone. My writing was unpolished and untested by an audience. It’s almost embarrassing to look back on the way I got things done three years ago. Yet it also gives me hope. If I can come this far, so can you.

Since then, I’ve changed blogging platforms three times, gone through at least 5 website themes, and changed the focus for my newsletter on multiple occasions. That sounds like a bad thing, but I don’t see it that way. In the meantime, I built a steady audience. I polished my writing and editing skills. I’ve been published in national magazines and websites, met other writers, and learned countless lessons about finding ways to succeed at something I love, not to mention entering graduate school. Part of the reason I’m still blogging today is because I took a chance three years ago, knowing that I definitely wasn’t the best.

Here’s the thing: you may feel the intense need to compare what you’re doing to bloggers who’ve been writing for years. But you’ll only cause yourself frustration and pain by doing so. The truth about blogging is that there is no instant formula to being the most successful one on the block. You can’t plan for every situation. Your first post isn’t going to go viral. Maybe the twentieth one won’t either. You may delete entire blog posts, or write something that you think will be a real success, and only realize after you posted it that the subject doesn’t quite fit your intended niche. You may even create really ugly blog graphics that don’t convert.

At some point, I have committed all of these cardinal sins of blogging. If you go to Pinterest and search for my website, you’ll find several ugly blog graphics that were hard to read or had weird fonts. While I wish I could remove my ghosts of blogging past, unfortunately, I can’t change a thing. Below is an example of how my blog post templates evolved over time.

The first image has words that are hard to read, too much cursive, and that ugly, gray box smack dab in the middle of the post. Also, you can’t see my website title. The second one is somewhat better, but the pink is distracting and the filter is too dark. The last one is my current post template, which is an improvement because it’s more minimalist, all the words are clear, and I’m finally happy with my brand fonts.

My blog post templates weren’t so great back when my site was hosted on Blogger, but it was only a symptom of the other problems I was experiencing at the time. See, branding is more than just the way things look. Branding may encompass blog post templates, brand fonts, colors, and overall aesthetic, but it’s also the way you write. The reason I struggled with how to write is because I didn’t give enough thought to my readers.

Branding encompasses your copy, the way you relate to your audience. It’s what you share with your readers and the way you say it. It’s also your niche.  A major problem I had was targeting what my audience really wanted from me. When I didn’t have a niche, I felt like I didn’t even know what to write. I’d create these posts and then have no basis for the style I should strike.

Back then, I didn’t have much style. But that wasn’t because I didn’t have a personality; it had more to do with the fact that I didn’t have experience writing blog posts that fit my author branding. While most people think it’s easy to find community in the online space, blogging is truly harder than it looks. That graphic you just sped by? That sales page you just scrolled past? That took someone hours to put together because they know that first impressions matter.

Here’s what I want you to remember: You don’t need to get it all right the first time. That’s right: I’m giving you permission to make ugly blog post graphics if it helps you grow.

Ok, what? You may be asking. All the big online entrepreneurs say that  getting it all right is the only way to get a huge email list.

I’m gonna be really honest: it will probably save you a lot of frustration, time, and money to get it all right the first time. By all means, take a couple of months to plan out your blogging strategy if you aren’t ready for the world to see what you’re working on. BUT if you went the same route I did, you’ve probably already started an email list, posted some blogs, and shared your work on social media. You may or may not be where you want to be at this moment. But if you so choose, don’t be discouraged from a complete overhaul if you don’t completely love what you’re doing.

Hate your niche? Ditch it. Want to throw things at your disastrous copy? Edit the s*** out of it! Want prettier photos? Get yourself a free account on Unsplash and a subscription to Photoshop ASAP.

The truth is, you need to practice blogging before you’ll get good. And that takes time. I mean real time– not just a couple of days.

It took me three years, but I’m finally settled with a blog I’m actually proud to show my friends, family, and audience. This could be you, too, but only if you accept that your first try may not be the only try. To avoid some heartache, take your sweet time finding a host and theme. If you think you’ll be serious, opt for paid hosting on WordPress or Squarespace. Pin lots of branding inspiration to get a feel for how you can mix fonts. Think carefully about the name you’ll chose and what it will ultimately say about you.

Don’t forget some helpful resources to get you started:

Where are you in your blogging journey? Have you ever considered an overhaul in your author branding?

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9 Comments

  1. Reply

    A.S. Akkalon

    November 27, 2016

    Thanks for this great post, Kayla. I recently started blogging, fumbling my way along in the dark. I’m not sure I really have a brand yet, or a niche – I’ll write anything that I think might entertain or make a reader feel better about her day.

    I haven’t even started making what you call blog post templates. I’m just using photos, largely stock.

    There are so many things to learn, and you’re right, there’s a pressure to not start something until you feel you can do it right, but I’ll try to take your advice and be okay with starting out not being the best.

    I can only improve.

    • Reply

      Kayla Dean

      November 30, 2016

      I’m so glad you stopped by! I use stock photos, too. And it’s okay that you haven’t found your niche yet. It really is a part of the blogging journey. It took me such a long time to be content with my website. We really do have to persevere and not compare ourselves to others. Remember, #communityovercompetition wins every time. 🙂

  2. Reply

    JazzFeathers

    November 27, 2016

    Thanks so much for this post. This is excatly what I needed to hear this morning. And I am going to change my strategy. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and your post really helped me understand that’s the right thing to do.
    Thanks again so much 🙂

    • Reply

      Kayla Dean

      November 30, 2016

      I’m glad the post was helpful! Strategy is something I have found myself reworking again and again. Blogs are such a work in progress. The more we work on it, the better we get. Blogging is a skill just like so many other things. 🙂

  3. Reply

    JaQuette | Joyfully J.

    December 2, 2016

    I have been blogging for two years, and this past year, I actually bought my domain and went through tons of rebranding. I’m actually wanting to do another overhaul because I feel more comfortable about writing about topics I’m strongly connected to and have a better idea of the aesthetics I want as well as who my audience is. It’s refreshing to read an article like this because I think it’s important to embrace the journey.

    • Reply

      Kayla Dean

      December 3, 2016

      Hi, J! I went through something similar last year. And then I did it all over again and again, minus the domain part. Embracing a new focus and getting a new website theme number among the best things I’ve done for my site. I’m way more motivated to write content now, and I know that my passion for what I write will shine through because of this.

      You’re totally right that we should embrace the journey. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Reply

    Tristan

    September 23, 2017

    Hi Kayla 🙂

    I started blogging around two years ago. I got burnt out pretty quickly after taking a writing course from a popular writing coach online. I knew my writing needed to improve though. I’ve taken other classes since then and have gone through some creative coaching as well. I’m setting up my author blog right now. I’ve switched topics a few times since my last blog. Right now I’m researching different audiences so I can figure out how I may help them the most. I’d like to launch my site sooner but I’m running into road blocks with the audience research.

    • Reply

      Kayla Dean

      October 10, 2017

      Hi Tristan! Thanks for stopping by. I know how that is to change up your voice and style after taking classes. Don’t give up and keep working towards it. Blogging can be really fun and rewarding.

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