Jan 14, 2013
Friends, have you ever thought of writing a sewing blog? Or maybe you write one already and want to improve it.
From time to time I read that blogs are on their way out; the new platform is _______. Well that may be true and it may not be. I think as long as people are writing on computers, there will be blogs. It’s simply too good a format not to last.
Here are some of my blogging Do’s and Don't's, based on three years’ blogging experience (close to 1,000 near-daily posts). If you have something to say about them, please do so below!
DO know why you’re blogging
Before you get started writing a blog, it can be helpful to ask yourself a) Who do I want to read my blog?, b) How are they going to hear about it? and c) Do I care if no one reads it at all (or not a lot of people)?
It can take a very long time to build readership and much patience and determination. A blog is a big time-suck. If you already can’t find an hour to yourself each day, this might not be the best time to start a sewing blog. Or maybe the blog is exactly what you need to prioritize your time and your sewing -- everybody’s different.
I started a blog initially to showcase my Cathy photo shoots, then it just grew from there. Here are a few of the things that made it easier for me to draw an audience, particularly at the beginning:
1. I am a man, and there are very few male sewing bloggers. Of course, a man’s potential male readership is also radically smaller. However, I’ve discovered that there are many more women inclined to read about men's sewing than there are men interested in reading about women's sewing. Sewing for both men and women is a plus!
2. When I launched MPB in January, 2010, I was already well-known at Pattern Review, where I had written many dozens of pattern reviews, along with a few sewing machine and book reviews. Pattern Review (or any other online sewing community site) is a great place to create an initial following. I also gave a lot of feedback to others and participated on the bulletin boards. You have to give to get.
3) Within the first month, two very popular bloggers, Selfish Elaine and Gretchen/Gertie, wrote about me, which drew a lot of new readers. I didn’t ask them to, but I am very grateful to them to this day for their generosity. I link to blogs I like all the time. It’s a great way to spread the word.
DO be yourself
People read sewing blogs for a variety of reasons, and the sewing projects themselves may or may not be the primary reason. There are many popular sewing blogs written by people who rarely make anything more exotic than stretch knit separates. It’s the way they talk about those separates, the writer’s voice, personality and point of view, that matter most.
Not all of us are natural wits. I remember a quote I heard once from the late great Quentin Crisp, which is, to paraphrase: “No one is boring who will tell the truth about himself.”
We all have unique insights, nobody’s life is exactly like our own. You don’t have to live in a glamorous city or sew chic clothes or be young and exceedingly attractive. Just keep it real. You may not want to discuss your personal life, where you live or with whom. But remember that, unless a blog is merely an archive of your projects, it is generally meant to be read by others. Don’t be afraid to express yourself.
DO post photos
Sewing is visual. We work with colorful fabrics and often make beautiful things. So a good basic camera and an understanding of how to use it and post photos is fundamental. You wouldn’t build a house with a crappy drill, would you? A blog is your public face. What impression do you want to make? (It’s a lot like getting dressed.) That doesn’t mean you need to do yourself up like Ann Miller just to take a photo -- in fact, lack of vanity is a HUGE plus. Lower the stakes and let your hair down. People love that.
DO enjoy yourself
Do you like to write? If you don’t, a sewing blog may not be the best platform for you, unless you’ll just be posting photos. Your blogger “voice” will develop over time, but fundamentally, you must enjoy expressing yourself in words. Not everybody does, and while writing well is not an innate talent but more like a muscle that strengthens through regular exercise, it takes time and discipline.
My favorite blogs take me places that are new to me. My favorite bloggers are often nothing like me -- at least not on the surface -- but they have an ability to share their passions and challenges in a way that I relate to. And they often make me laugh. Fabulous Sewing Skills Not Required.
DO post regularly
It’s nice to have an idea of when and how frequently a blogger will be posting (once a week is plenty, imo). Keep in mind, you can also blog too often. I don’t want to visit a blog more than once daily (with a few exceptions) and if a blog appears at the top of my blogroll three times a day, I find it annoying unless the content consistently warrants it.
When blogging starts to feel like drudgery, take a break or blog less frequently. It can also be fun to blog about something other than sewing -- we all have plenty of other things going on in our lives and it can be as refreshing to write about them as it is to read about them. I don’t bake, but I enjoy reading about baking, especially when there’s a mouth-watering photo attached. Same goes for pets, children, vacations, work challenges, chores etc. I fast forward through the knitting, however.
DO be kind to your readers
Whether you have 10 followers or 10,000, your readers follow you because they like something about you. If they post a comment that sounds critical, give them the benefit of the doubt. However, it’s better to delete what feels like an abusive comment than ever to engage in a public argument. Your blog should feel safe and welcoming to your readers. Settle scores privately through email if need be. If you’re taking a long break, let your readers know. It’s the same consideration most of us would show a friend. Must you do this? Of course not. But it reflects positively on you if you do.
Should you respond to every comment? It’s up to you. I do not, unless someone asks a specific question, or I just feel like engaging. (This is most likely when I’ve just posted, or days after.)
DON’T compare yourself to others
There are some very popular blogs out there, and these bloggers have worked hard to get where they are. To make them the standard against which you judge your own achievements is a sure path to unhappiness; ask me how I know. (This applies to everything, not just sewing blogs.) We can only be who we are and do what we can do; we don't need to hear an inner voice asking, "Why can't you be more like so-and-so?"
That said, there are all kinds of ways to build your visibility. Most take time. I found that posting my projects on BurdaStyle and Pattern Review was about all I could handle energy-wise, and I hardly do that anymore, it’s just too much work. But it does bring new readers to my blog. Pinterest and Facebook help too, but they take time too (less so FB than Pinterest, the biggest time suck since soap operas).
Giveaways are popular. Give away something you’d enjoy getting. Leaving comments on other people’s blogs is another good way to build your visibility but be careful: if your comment is simply “Visit my blog (with link), I’m having a giveaway!” it could get deleted (by me at least). Treat other bloggers as you would like to be treated and create good sewing karma.
Is your blog going to be primarily presentational or educational as well? I appreciate a well-crafted tutorial and I think others do to. This is another way to contribute to the sewing community and draw readers. Same with a sew-along, if you have the time and energy for it.
I’ve found, building what feels like a real sewing community over the past three years, that as much as I’m seduced by numbers of readers, what satisfies me most is quality: that my readers know what I’m about, check in regularly, leave thoughtful comments, are open to new ideas and discussion of unusual topics, and play well with others. I get next to no spam other than the “buy Viagra” variety. When I need Viagra perhaps I will come to appreciate those too.
And now a word about layout.
I’ve kept my blog super simple, using a basic Blogspot template. For one thing, I lack the skills to add new features. For another, I’m from the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” school. I don’t like fancy backdrops that take too long to load. My posts are just little essays with photos; I’m not selling products. If you are, you may want a more sophisticated platform or hire someone with the skills to help you.
And that’s my two-cents.
In closing, readers, what do you enjoy most about your favorite sewing blogs?
What do you look for in a sewing blog? (e.g., inspiration, education, escape, etc.)
If you have a blog already, what are your biggest challenges?
Labels: my life