I spent this weekend in Shoreditch. There's a sentence I haven't written before.
Yes, I left the house and the sofa and the lure of the Coronation Street omnibus (which I am very much looking forward to devouring later) to head out to blog school - AKA The Blogcademy - to learn how to make this little website of mine better.
I started this blog because I wanted somewhere to write and be creative (and to make fun of my other half for being DREADFUL at basic domestic duties. It's a wonder it hasn't torn us apart, to be honest). And now that it's been going for a while and I've figured out how I like to write and that there are even some people out there who want to read it, it's time to turn it into a more coherent, focused blog, rather than just a place where I come to have thoughts. I've basically been treating it like the bath until now.
So I went along to hang out with 40 or so fellow bloggers and to learn from the very impressive Shauna Haider, Kat Williams (of Rock n Roll Bride fame), and Gala Darling - team Blogcademy (pictured below with me. Like my ears?)
And I learnt a lot; I mean A LOT. My hand hurts from writing so many notes, my brain hurts from spending two whole days paying attention, and my stomach hurts in advance of all the chocolate I'm inevitably going to eat whilst trying to get my blog up to scratch.
I could write a post 100 points long to share all the tips I picked up, but that would go against everything we learnt about the importance of being interesting and succinct. So instead I'll just share the top seven things I've taken away from the weekend - and then I'll have no excuse not to get cracking with putting it all in place...
1. Define your blog's purpose.
This is something I have been dodging for a long time. If you've ever had a conversation with me about what this blog is about you'll know that I am unable to express it quickly, if at all - or certainly not without flapping my arms a lot and saying "Well, it's sort of meant to be funny - HAHAHA" in the hope that you'll change the subject. This needs to change. When I actually sat down and thought about it (and strapped my arms to my sides to prevent the inevitable flapping) I decided that overall this blog is probably about relationships, what they realistically entail and laughing at and celebrating the mundane. As much as it might seem like it's just about me taking every opportunity possible to mention how much I like Pringles, there is more to it than that, I promise.
2. Always write with a very specific reader in mind.
Of course! It's so obvious! But how many of us actually do it? Not me. One of the most useful things Kat said is that your ideal reader might be you five years ago - i.e. somebody who can learn from you. In my case, five years ago, my husband and I had just moved in together and were learning how to cope with our differing habits (mine: complaining when the bin hasn't been taken out; his: relentlessly failing to take the bin out). That girl might have liked what I write. Having said that, I know that a lot of the people who read this are either at similar stages in life to me or a little further on so perhaps it's one of them I should keep in mind. My mum is also a big fan but there's a chance she's a little biased (not towards me, just towards the posts that mention her.) Either way, I think some market research is in order.
|Drawings by the amazing @charlotteart (P.S I WANT those knickers)|
I'm sure you will agree I am currently nailing this one, sharing all my new found wisdom like this. But again - of course! This makes total sense, particularly when I think about my own posts which have been most popular. Relationships: Six ways to help keep things interesting remains my most read, shared and liked post of all time. And I think it might be because it was in some way useful; if only to remind people that there is somebody else out there who believes that Boots Advantage Card points are a reasonable topic of conversation. This has made me think a lot too about what we really mean by 'helpful'. You don't necessarily have to teach somebody something really profound (though I think you'll agree my suggestion about serving snacks in nice bowls was pretty out there), you can just write something which people can relate to; that enables them to see a side of themselves represented. In short, I will admit that people leaving lights switched on in rooms they're not in is annoying, so you don't have to.
4. Come up with some regular features.
You have probably noticed that I blog once a week. This has kept me going until now but I need to do more. And the way to do this, I now know, is to come up with some regular features I can share on other days of the week. I'm not quite sure what they're going to be yet (Marshmallow Monday sounds cool but what would it really be about?) but I think they're an ace idea so I am going to give it a go. Perhaps an interview with other couples to see what their lives together are really like, or an attempt at a funny take on those often ridiculous relationship Q&As you get in newspapers? I think I could have quite a lot of fun with that.
5. Your blog is your brand. Like it or not.
Whether I am really planning for this blog to make me money I don't know but this weekend taught me that either way, I need to treat it like a business with its own brand that readers immediately recognise. Sure, you might know what my face looks like thanks to the giant picture of it at the top of the page but that's not really branding, more narcissism. So I need to do some work. And I find this part the most intimidating because I am not a designer and certainly not good at building websites (this current format took me a full day and LOTS of shouting to get in place). I need to change platform and I am also considering changing the name so that people can tell sooner what this whole thing is about. I love Nothing Good Rhymes with Charlotte but what does it tell you? (other than that I'm clearly hilarious). This is probably the hardest part so I will not be rushing into anything. And anyway, won't I miss having EVERY person who reads this remind me that Scarlett rhymes with Charlotte? Actually, now I come to mention it, no I won't.
6. Be organised.
It is so nice but so daunting to come away from an event with a to-do list the length of your house. But this is of course what you want from a course you've paid money for. So now I need to get on with it. I'm going to write down my goals, make a plan and get my sh*t together. I'm even going to tidy my desk to help make this happen. If you've seen my desk (or Post We Haven't Bothered To Open In Two Years Mountain, as I like to call it) you'll know this was no small task.
7. Ask people what they think.
Unsurprisingly the people who know that they like to read are your readers - DUH. And it's time I started asking some questions - about the blog's name, about the things I write that they like, that they don't like, about whether it's actually just me that finds jokes about bins funny... A little market research will do me and this the world of good. In fact, why not start now - if you have thoughts on what is good/great/bad/missing from/outrageously offensive about this blog, please tell me. Leave a comment, send me a tweet, leave a Facebook comment, come round to my house, sit me down and tell me how it is... whichever way you like, I would love to hear from you and to use what you think to help make this better. Just remember that if you do decide to come over, you need to bring some crisps. I've got some very fancy bowls I'd love you to see.
Thank you to team Blogcademy for a great weekend and to all the lovely blogger chums I met across the two days. I most definitely feel that I got SCHOOLED. Now the hard work really begins...