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.
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.
+ 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.