Though Chronically Vintage was not my first foray into blogging or running a website, it is the one that I've devoted the greatest amount of my time to over the years and which holds the absolute dearest spot in my heart. I honestly doubt if a single day has passed over the last few years in which I didn't think about my blog in some capacity.
Whether brainstorming ideas, doing research, finding images, taking outfit photos, writing posts, visiting other peoples' sites, or spending time in the social media sphere, my blog is on my mind day in and day out, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I adore writing and running this site, getting a chance to grow as a person through my experiences as both a vintage lover and a blogger, connecting with lovely likeminded souls around the world, and watching as creativity rather fantastically begets creativity and keeps my blogging mojo going strong far more often than not.
At this point, I feel like a pretty seasoned veteran on the vintage blogging front. There are certainly blogs in our sphere which have been around for longer than mine, but I think that (nearly) five years is a solid chunk of time and one that qualifies me to share some of the most important points I’ve learned over that span with those who just starting their own vintage blog (or who have recently done so).
1. Much like Rome, a great blog (vintage or otherwise) is not built in a day. It takes hard work, dedication, a true love of what you're writing about, and sometimes even a wee bit of luck. You will have pitfalls and successes, grow, change, and develop as time goes on and the more that you remain true to yourself and your own unique blogging voice in the process, the greater degree of success your site stands to achieve.
2. Know what you hope to write about before you begin: Yes, of course you can cover a broad range of topics on your site - and I highly encourage you to do so, but generally speaking, you will want to hone in on one, or a small number of, themes and ensure that plenty of your posts relate to, or directly discuss, that topic. It could be mid-century vintage, vintage sewing, vintage decor, vintage recipes, the daily life of a vintage loving mom to young kids, whatever you like, just so long as when someone asks you what you blog about, you can answer then confidently without missing a beat.
3. You don't need, and shouldn’t waste your time trying, to keep up with the blogging Joneses: So what if your photos don't look like they could pass for professional, you don't have hundreds of dollars to splash out on your wardrobe each month, you're young/old/hate your arms/think your life is sometimes boring/are from a country where there isn't much of a blogging community or anything else that you see as potentially setting you apart from the crowd. Roll with, rock it, and embrace who you and what sets you and your blog apart. You can always improve your photography skills, pad your wardrobe with thrift store finds, make peace with those things that you aren't crazy about, and grow as an individual. At the risk of sounding like I should be ghostwriting for Dr. Seuss, you are you and that's awesome unto itself.
4. It takes time to build up an audience - and hard work to keep it: You’ve hopped on the blogging bandwagon, maybe you have started (or were already) commenting on other peoples' sites, you're super passionate and you enjoy writing, but unless you already have already an established, well known online presence or degree of fame offline, chances are that the whole world is not going to flock to your door overnight.
While some bloggers do seem to attract large numbers of followers with relative ease, many of us had to work hard at building up our followings, and continually enjoy expanding them to this day.
Let other bloggers know you're out there with heartfelt, lovely comments on their sites and across the social media spectrum, but please make sure that you don't veer into spam territory. We've all seen those dime a dozen, "Great blog! I'll follow you if you follow me back!" comments and they're not fooling anyone. That's not the way to build up an audience of people who will eagerly return to your site again and again, it's simply a means by which to try and bolster the number, in the most fleeting of moments, of followers you have.
5. Speak from the heart: While you may not want to use your blog as a surrogate psychiatrist's couch, it can be beneficial both you and your audience if you share certain elements about your life, your past, your dreams, and your feelings throughout some of your posts. By opening up to your readers, you create a sense of trust and a level of honesty that many people will respond positively and feel like they can relate to.
6. Tell a story: I don't mean write fiction or take on the roll of a journalist (unless you want to), what I mean is that you want your posts to have a natural sense of fluidity to them. Just as we were taught in school, remember the importance of having a clear beginning, middle, and end to your posts. Keep the who, what, when, where, and why of what you’re sharing in mind as well. Speak informatively, politely, and with an upbeat spirit. Bone up on your writing skills, if need be, and try to carve out a distinct blogging voice all your own (which will help readers identify with you anytime they see your writing).
7. If you're a vintage fashion blogger, develop your own standout style: Right now, think about five of our favourite vintage fashion bloggers. Picture each of them in your mind. Why do these people stand out to you? How similar or different is your own person style from theirs? Do you aspire to emulate their kind of looks? Chances are that these memorable folks have carved out their own distinct sartorial voice and that’s why they sprang into your head right away.
They know what does, and doesn't, look good on them. They have several go-to garments and accessories that they love and feel comfortable wearing. Risks rarely scare them, and they're keen to try new things out, while still holding true to their original fashion sense. By building a wardrobe that you love, which fits you well, and that can be spun into lots of different outfits, you can easily develop a standout style of your own, too (remember, hair and makeup can also play an important role in your overall appearance, so don't let them fall to the wayside while you're focusing on your vintage wardrobe).
8. Set up a blogging schedule that works for you. This is a topic I discussed at length in this post last year, and which I truly cannot stress enough. By scheduling time to write, what kinds of posts you may want to focus on in the upcoming future, and when you'd like said entries to go live, you can effectively and very productively help streamline your blogging process.
9. Never stop looking for blog post inspiration: There is truly an unlimited number of places, sites, and people from which to garner inspiration for your posts out. Every time you read a magazine, book, newspaper, or blog post, watch a movie or TV show, travel, receive a gift, remember a meaningful memory, acquire a new item, create something you love, move houses, start a new job, have a baby, find that killer red lipstick you'd always searched for, or a billion other things, there is the potential seeds of inspiration already nurtured in that experience to turn it into a blog post.
10. Include at least one image (or video clip) in every post: Baring emergency posts (and if you blog long enough, you may run into the odd one) that need to be written as quickly as possible, you want to always, without fail, include at least one image in every post. We as humans are a very visually oriented bunch and we love to see pretty/engaging/interesting/relevant images. It can be a photo you took or one of you, a scan, a video clip, a vintage photograph or illustration, pretty much anything you like, just make sure you include a visual - and that, ideally, it's one that pertains to the topic that you're writing about in that post.
11. Blog by the Golden Rule: While this does of course mean that you'll want to do unto other as you'd have other do unto you, it also means sharing your time, knowledge and experience with your readers. Solicit questions from your audience and answer them informatively. Post how-tos, tutorials, reviews, and important life lessons that you feel others may benefit from. And by the same token, if someone asks you a question in the comment section of your post, via email, on Facebook or anywhere else, try your best to answer or at least acknowledge it.
There's nothing wrong with admitting you don't know the answer, if such is the case, but try make sure you try to get to as many questions from your readers as possible either way. Doing so is a great means by which to form longstanding relationships with your blogging audience members.
Also, if someone takes the time to visit you and leave a comment, try, whenever possible, to return the lovely gesture by visiting and commenting on their site, if they happen to have one. This is something that is immensely important to me and which I strive to do as often as circumstances will permit. It's just common courtesy in my books.
12. Source blog post ideas and inspiration from those around you. For more on this very topic, see last September's post all about it.
13. Know that blogging takes time, energy, and focus: How much of each you're willing and able to devote to your site is up to you, but in general, you'll want to set aside at least a few hours each week to blogging. This time will include everything from writing posts to sourcing ideas for future pieces you want to put down on virtual paper to visiting and commenting on other peoples' sites.
Unless you're aim is to make blogging your full time job or a significant source of income, you don't have to devote a whole working day to your personal blog. There is however, much to be said for putting in the effort to post on a regular basis about a diverse array of topics and for keeping your writing feeling fresh and exciting for your readers. You’ll have times when don't feel like, can't or just aren't in the mood to write or even hang out online, and that's totally okay, but overall, you will need to put in the hours if you want to see your site flourish.
14. Try to maintain a degree of consistency: You don't have to post every day by any means, but you will want to try and hit on a blogging schedule that works well for you and which you can generally maintain with at least relative ease. This could be anything from a multiple posts per day to once a week or once every couple of weeks, but whatever you settle on (and yes, you can change the frequency of your posts over time, if need be), try to stick to it.
I personally aim to post three to five times a week, and am a big fan of blogging every other day (for example, I might most on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday in a given week), as this gives me a day in between new posts (going live) to approve and reply to blog comments that I've received lately, work on future posts, spend time visiting other peoples' sites, and also - and this is hugely important - doing things offline, too. Blogging is the bee's knees and then some, but you don't want to get sucked into the habit of spending darn near every waking hour glued to the computer.
15. Comments aren't the only way to judge the success of your blog: While they can be a good indicator of which posts and topics are more popular with your audience than others, commenting is just one way to know how you're blog is doing. Two other key things you'll want to stay up-to-date on are your Google Analytics stats and the number of RSS/feed reader/Bloglovin' followers that you have (the number of social media fans/followers that you’ve acquired can also, sometimes, be an indicating factor as to your site’s popularity).
16. Not every thing you post will be a hit: I've been there, believe me, and I know how frustrating - even disheartening at times - it can be to work your buns off on a post, only to see it fizzle with your readers in the moment. Tough as that is, keep in mind that it doesn't necessarily mean that your post won't prove popular from a SEO standpoint nor that it won't generate further comments over time. I speak from experience when I say that you will be surprised at times by which posts prove wildly popular and which turn into near instant ghost towns.
Pay attention to these things and consider reviewing your most, and least, popular posts to see if you can determine why they succeeded or failed to bring in the audience you'd hoped for. Keep these points in mind for future posts, while also readily accepting that sometimes there's very little rhyme or reason to such things (remember, too, that if one of your posts gets mentioned on a well known site, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc, this is likely to cause a spike in traffic to your site and a greater number of comments on that post).
17. Posting every single day isn't necessarily a good thing: Tempting as it may be, blogging every single day can actually be detrimental to your popularity. Now, this isn't always the case, but it can hurt you at times because your readers may feel like all they see in their feed is new posts from you. Some folks will love this, but others may grow weary of seeing your site's name so often and be inclined to not read, or not comment on, some or eventually even all of your posts. Just as you wouldn't want someone to call you on the phone every hour, no matter how much you loved them, so does a wee bit of absence - even just a day or two between posts - help the reader's heart grow fonder.
18. Remember that not all of your readers will comment: Chances are, just as there are certain sites that you've long enjoyed reading but have never commented on, so too will you quickly amass a following that includes a fair number of folks who simply prefer to read without commenting. This is totally okay and very normal in the blogging sphere. You are writing as much for those who comment as for those who do not - as well as for yourself. Sometimes - and I always love it when this happens - someone will un-lurk and share with you that their comment is the first they've ever left for you. When this happens, be sure to acknowledge that person and thank them for being a longtime reader.
19. Don't be afraid to change: In all likelihood the blog that you kick off today isn't going to be the same site you have in a year, two years, five years and beyond. The name may be the same, but you'll likely tweak (or even completely overhaul) your template, change the sidebar, create static pages, post more or less frequently, include a smaller or larger number of images in your posts, invite guest bloggers to write for you, perhaps take on sponsors, and myriad other things. While you don't want to be the site that changes templates each week, it's a good idea to keep things fresh, relevant to your life as it in the moment, and presenting a face to the world that you're happy with.
20. Make sure the comment button/link on your posts is easy to see and find: This might sound obvious, but I've seen dozens of blogs over the years where finding said comment button was like searching for a needle in a haystack. Ideally, you want it to appear clearly at the top or bottom (the latter being my personal preference) of your post, where everyone and their dog can see it as plain as day.
21. Try to use the same name across all social media sites. If your blog is called "Jane Smith, Vintage Girl", then you'll want to try to be "Jane Smith, Vintage Girl" (or as close to that name as possible) on each social media site where you plan to discuss and promote your blog. This creates a sense of brand unity and helps people to find and connect with you more easily outside of your blog.
22. Ensure that readers can quickly and easy connect with you across social media: Put buttons for each of the social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Tumblr, and Pinterest) that you're on somewhere - most likely the sidebar - on your site and/or create a "connect with me elsewhere" type of static page through which folks can easily click straight through to your profiles and start following you.
23. Talk about your blog on social media, but also remember to discuss other things there as well: Unless you really do run a company or have a thriving product line, chances are no one wants to feel like everything they see from you is a commercial for your blog. It's a-okay to talk about your site and topics pertaining to it, of course, but remember to inject other subjects into the conversation as well, including mentioning posts from other bloggers that you've enjoyed/found interesting, helpful or otherwise noteworthy.
24. If you need help, ask for it: Even the pros don't know everything, so if you're curious about something, need help or advice, or just want to know if others out their have been in the same same shoes you're in (spoiler alert, at least a few people will almost certainly have been), just ask. Write a blog post with your question or shoot it out into cyberspace through social media, and when answers come in, even if they don't solve your dilemma, make sure to genuinely thank those who took the time to share their thoughts on the matter with you.
25. Variety is the spice of life - and your blog: It's great, as discussed above, to have a central theme or thread that runs through your posts, but that doesn't mean you want each of your new entries to be a near carbon copy of the last. Blog with the seasons, blog when something good (or bad) happens, blog about your favourite things, your loves, your dreams, what's inspiring, people whose sites you adore, your beliefs, helpful how-tos, you name it! This is your site and you're free to post whatever your heart desires, so why limit yourself to just one or two topics or types of posts? Different folks (who come calling at your blog) will enjoy, and find you in the first place, via an array of diverse posts, so make sure you're putting content out there that's bound to appeal lots of different people.
26. List posts are great, but they shouldn't be the only type that you write: Most months I post at least one list style post (such as this one!), and I love both writing them and reading lists on other peoples' sites, but it's important not to fall into the all-too-easy trap of just, or primarily, posting lists. Monotony will settle in rather quickly if you do.
27. Keep a running list of post ideas and things that have inspired you and/or which you've experienced and may want to write about (see this post for more on my own such list): You might think that after close to five years of blogging, my idea list would be on the skimpy side, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's never been bigger and rarely does a day go by that I don't add at least one new idea to it. I don't, ultimately, use every idea I put down of course, but it's fantastic to have such a list available at all times, so that I don't have to stress or worry about coming up with new posts on the fly constantly. Whether you turn to your own list daily or just once in a blue moon, I highly encourage all bloggers - new and old alike - to keep, and use, one.
28. Give credit where credit is due: If you use someone else's image, take direct inspiration from another blogger (or source in general), or otherwise involve another person's work in your own in just about any degree, ensure that you link back to their site. Imitation may be greatest form of flattery, but not not giving credit where credit is due is just poor blogging manners.
29. Create a visually pleasing site: What's beautiful to one person may be glaringly garish to another, but generally speaking, it's not hard to see the difference between an attractive site and one that needs a lot of work, to put it mildly.
Don't overcrowd your sidebar(s), keep your header to a reasonable size, keep the number of posts that show up on your homepage at any given time to a moderate number (three-seven is a good range), don't have an obscene number of blog awards, sponsor ads, banners, buttons, or unnecessary images cluttering up your sidebar, footer and/or even header (I've seen it happen, believe me); use a theme, colours, fonts and font sizes that are lovely and easy on the eyes, and make sure that images in your posts don't exceed the size of your post column and spill over into the sidebar.
Feel free to refine and improve your blog's appearance over time, and if possible and so desired, even employee the help of a professional designer.
30. Be community minded: Yes, you and your blog are most likely going to be your biggest online focus, but don't forget that you're part of a larger community and that it pays - in spades - to connect with, be friendly and helpful to, and enjoy spending time as a part of this awesome online social scene. Don't get so caught up in your own drive to be popular, have high follower counts, and promote your blog that you forget to take time to say hello and connect with your fellow bloggers.
And by the same token, if and when your blog does gain notoriety, please, I implore you, do not neglect your readers, commenters, and those who helped you get to where you are today. Sadly, I've seen this happen time and time again, and it always breaks my heart. I love my readers and am so grateful to everyone who has helped Chronically Vintage become the site it is today. No matter what, I will always strive to express my gratitude and pay attention to those who share their time and thoughts here with me, and you should strive to do the same.
♥ ♥ ♥
This is not a complete list of tips for new vintage bloggers of course, and what applies to me and my circumstances, may not ring true for you and yours. When I look back though, these are some of the most important points that have helped guide me, as well as some I wish I'd done differently/more of, as well as a couple that are just plain common sense, but which it never hurts to be reminded of.
It takes ambitions, guts, determination, and passion to launch your own blog (be it vintage related or otherwise), and there will be stumbling blocks, stress, hiccups, and occasionally even heartache along the way, but the potential rewards that you stand gain far outweigh these (typically minor) concerns. Blogging isn't a quick sprint, it's a long distance marathon and one that, ideally, you should enjoy taking part in every day of your site's life.
From friendship to fashion inspiration, historical knowledge to great (new to you) links for products, services and sites you might otherwise never have encountered, as well as the invaluable support of having a community behind you, blogging is a gift that just keeps on giving, and which I believe anyone can take a stab at.
Remember to cut yourself some slack - no one is perfect, and despite what gorgeous image filled sites might have you believe, neither is anyone's blog. We're all human, we all make mistakes and forget things from time to time. Don't fret when this happens, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remember that tomorrow is a new day and a new blog post.