4 Ways to Look a Pro Before Your Feel Like One

show up pro We all start with zero readers and zero subscribers. It’s the great equalizer for all bloggers – the beginning.

Whether you’re literally at the beginning of your blog creation or you’ve been at it awhile but still feel pretty fresh, there are steps you can take to feel more pro, even before you are.

Just like in real life, first impressions and appearances do matter. Polishing up what you present to the online world isn’t just about looks – its about your confidence level too.

Think of your favorite blog to visit.

What does the design, writing and images on that site communicate to you about that person?

  • Do they take their blog seriously?
  • Are they in this for the long haul?
  • Are they well informed about what they write about?

We all use countless visual cues to make judgments about the sites we visit. Things you may be overlooking, or even dismissing right now as something to worry about later, are having an impact on your growth, making it difficult to get to the later you’re hoping for.

This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. ~ Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Moving from beginner to pro isn’t about traffic numbers or pageviews. It’s simply a mindset and one that any blogger can possess.  Looking the part goes a long way, not just for how you’re preceived but also so you feel proud of your online home and want people to come by see it.

I can’t tell you how many people have started off emails with “I’m so embarrassed about my site, I don’t want anyone to see it.” If that thought is anywhere in your mind, how do you think that impacts your growth?

So, where do you start in your quest for a little more polished online presence?

Here’s 4 ways to take the step from beginner to pro, feel more confident and show off your best self.

1. Get Professional Photos Taken

I’m not talking about a corny headshot so you look all stiff and fake but get some photos done of you being your most comfortable, vibrant self and find ways to display them on your blog. You could work them into the header, as we did here on this web design project, create a sidebar about photo and use them in your social media accounts. You’ll be looking pro all over the interwebs!

Having professional photos communicates a few high value thoughts to readers:

+ I’m serious enough about my blog/business/online presence that I’m willing to invest money in photos, therefore, I am planning on sticking around.

+ People don’t like to subscribe or follow blogs that look like they are going to fad away in a few months. Why invest their time? Communicating your intention to be around long term is something a lot of people overlook. Great photos show that you’re taken time to go the extra mile.

+ Nice photos present you as an authority in what you do. They just do, there’s no way around it. Think of some of your favorite, personal blogs or person centered businesses (like Danielle LaPorte, Denise Duffield-Thomas .) The photography on those sites makes a powerful impact and it’s one you can make too.

A beautiful photo doesn’t have to be costly.

Are you getting any holiday photos taken with your family this year? Ask the photographer to take one of just you. With a little advanced planning (like not wearing that Christmas sweater) you can do double duty with a session fee and only incur a marginal extra charge. Take advantage of engagement sessions, wedding rehearsal dinners and any other occasion when a pro photographer is around.

If you don’t have a photo session on the horizon, investigate the cost of booking your own session. Budgets can be tight around the holidays so get in touch with a community college in your area to see if there are photography students who would like to take some “practice” photos for less (or even free.)

Everyone I know who has gotten photos done, wishes they did it sooner – so go embrace the sooner and book it!

2. Clean Up Your Blog Design

You know who you are. If you blog is looking janky and you’ve got serious design shame going on the get some help.

Sure, I know a fabulous lady who does blog designs BUT you can also start with your own good sense.

Ask yourself:

+ What sort of sites do you enjoy visiting? What feelings do they evoke?

+ What kinds of color palettes do they use?

+ How much white space is there?

+ What kind of things do they have in their sidebars?

You’re not all that different than the people who visit your site so borrow ideas from other sites you love and chances are your visitors will love them too.

Too often we love visiting a site that has an airy peaceful feel yet our sidebars are a hot mess and all the colors clash. Or we adore the vibrancy of a colorful site, yet ours is completely devoid of personality.

Embrace what you love and take a critical look at your own space to make it feel more polished and more you.

3. Fix the Broken Stuff

Having broken junk on your blog is like having a rusty car in your front yard – not good for resale! A pro, someone who takes their site seriously would not tolerate having broken links, images or funky stuff anywhere on their site. It communicates neglect and apathy. Two words I doubt any of us want to hear associated with our blogs.

Take a look, any rusty cars on your blog? Common places:

+ Sidebars and footers are terrible for this, overlapping images, broken links, bad ads are all gross, fix ‘em or nix ‘em

+ About pages and any “static” page on your blog. Any page that you write once and only update occasionally can hide broken images. You may not be looking, but your readers are!

+ Your home page. I know, don’t laugh but I can’t tell you how many people don’t look at their blog that often. With apps for publishing and replying to comments, you can easily go weeks without looking at the actual browser-based version of your site.

4. Spend Strategically

Too often we get stuck thinking that looking good is going cost big bucks. And yes, a really nice design is going to be an investment but blogging allows for you to plan your expenses as you go, only spending as much or as little as you’re comfortable with.

Where should you devote a few dollars for the biggest impact?

+ Start with purchasing your own domain so you can drop the .blogspot.com or the .wordpress.com. Nothing says I’m temporary like having a free domain. It does not communicate permanency to your readers and once again, who wants to invest time in someone who might not be around tomorrow?

+ Invest in a header or logo (along a great photo as mentioned above.) Even on a free platform you can use a beautiful header or logo to communicate your brand to readers. You don’t need to incur an ongoing hosting expense if you’re not ready, just to personalize your site. Having a fab header makes an amazing first impression plus this investment will move with you should you chose to move to self hosted WordPress later on.

+ Be wary of paying for upgrades on a free platform if you plan to move later. This is mainly an concern on WordPress.com as you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on the upgrades from their store. Most of these upsells wont’t move with you if you decide to self host your blog. Before spending money on additional storage, custom designs or premium themes check your long term plans to see if that money might be better spent elsewhere.

Presenting yourself in a more professional way isn’t about putting on a big show for your audience or being fake. It’s about showing up as the authentic, valuable person you are in a way that helps your audience truly see what you have to offer.

What small change can you make right now that will move you closer to that polished, pulled together appearance that’s just below the surface? 

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  1. says

    This is a perfect post for newbie bloggers. When I started out, only 5 months ago, I would say that getting professional pictures was the catalyst for my website. Getting a really nice header & some ‘about me’ photos — that actually show your lovely personality — really go a long way. I think starting off with 3 amazing, well quality pics of yourself is a good starting point. (FYI…if you’re going to be a guest blogger, you always have to send 2 pics of yourself with your submission. So, having great photos is really a must!).

    • Rita Barry says

      Your photos are amazing! It’s so true, seeing and feeling personality through a computer is really challenging but the right photos make that so much easier.

  2. says

    Perfect. I will second… Or third… The professional photos. In addition to “about me” – even when inserted in my blog posts those articles seem to do better (are “liked” and “shared” more often).

    • Rita Barry says

      Good point Jennifer! There’s really no limitation to using them in a sidebar or primary navigation page. It’s really interesting that you’ve got more social shares on those posts as well, readers identifying with you more? Great insight.

  3. says

    These are great tips. I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years and as technology changes we must make sure we keep our blogs updated with the changes as well. Nothing screams amateur than a neglected blog with 1990′s designs in the 21st century. Use all the tips here and look for more to help you have a pro blogger image.

    • Rita Barry says

      Ha, nothing screams amateur, ain’t that the truth. A little care goes a long way to making the write first impression. Thanks so much for stopping by, it’s always so great to meet new blogging folks!

  4. Tiffiny says

    Thank you for all your amazing advice! I’ve got more reading to do on your site, but I’ve already got a long to-do list from what I’ve read so far. I just started blogging in November, but I’m already thinking of changing my blog name. Any tips on how to come up with a good, effective blog title?

    • Rita Barry says

      Hey Tiffiny! Welcome :) I’m so glad it was helpful. Naming is really personal, I prefer something memorable over something descriptive (New York Plumbing Blog vs Big Apple Clog Masters) That amazing example is totally free of charge, lol. I trust you get the idea :) What’s the blog about? What about you sets you apart? Those are always great things to focus on for that.

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