Are you thinking about designing your own blog? Do You feel you have ideas to share and writing appeals to you? Do you read other blogs and say, “I can do this.” Maybe you have a TPT store and wonder if a blog would help it to become more successful. The goals and motivations for writing a blog are as varied as the people out there.
The number of Speech Language Pathologist (SLPS) who are writing blogs has mushroomed over the last few years. This has definitely made it easier for beginning SLPs to get materials, A bit harder for blog writers to come up with new material. Gone are the days of blowing your budget on high-priced commercial products as you try to meet all your student or client needs. Now there are high quality products made by our fellow SLPs. Some are even presented as free on Blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). As a group we are creative bunch and love to share and communicate.
Individuals often wonder if they have enough to write about. I started this blog in 2009 and here I am still writing 7 years later. I found this to be less of a problem than you might think. Once you are tuned in to finding topics, they will present themselves. Some times the oddest topics make it big. I wrote once about pulling out pool noodles and balloons for a therapy session. It was written on a whim. I was running out of ideas for my early language learners and thought that other SLPs may have the same problem. A colleague pointed out that the post was mentioned in the blog jam section of ASHA. That was not the post I would think was worth mentioning. I was urprised to see it there. Up until then I had kept my blog writing endeavors low-key. I didn’t think many of my colleagues were aware I was writing it. All of a sudden I had some notoriety.
Some topics work better than others of course. I had visions of bad comments flooding in and no one reading what I wrote. That never occurred. I found that my audience was appreciative and my readers have been more than kind. I would not let that fear prevent me from writing.
As I look back, some of my posts were duds and some were surprisingly well received. Some took a while before people noticed them. I have had a few occasions where free apps were offered if I reviewed the product.
The important thing is to be passionate about your topics and let your experiences come out in your writing and have patience if it seems no one is listening. Don’t be too hard on yourself at first. You will be surprised how much your writing improves over time.
You don’t need to write everything at once. I typically write on a topic over multiple days. I read it several times and make revisions. You don’t always know until after you hit that publish button if it is a good post. The draft button is my friend. I still feel apprehensive every time I hit publish. After you publish, it is strangely motivating to see how many people come to read and visit. Comments are like gold stars.
I have read suggestions by others on how to get started writing a blog. I get a chuckle because I didn’t have that list to follow when I started. It shows you that you really don’t need the list. I made mistakes along the way but I think I turned out all right anyway. If I had followed a list mine would look something like this.
1. What is your goal?
I started out with a different goal than most people. At the time I was just looking for a place to store digital materials so they would be available when I needed them. I had plenty of experience with not having materials when I started new job settings. It saved the day a number of times when I was able to bring it up on my iPad or print it out. I decided I should put it up for sharing as long as I went through so much work. I wasn’t thinking of a commercial enterprise at the time. Generally I was put off with too much advertising for products on other sites. Eventually I relented to some advertising of TPT products so I could have a self hosted site that was self-sustaining. It opened up new options.
2. Write frequently
It is important to write frequently so you establish an audience. This is probably true at first. However, I didn’t put myself on a schedule. I wrote on topics as they came up. Sometimes it was weekly because I wrote about groups that met weekly like my Social Pragmatic groups or Circle of Friends group. An SLP work schedule can get pretty hectic as you know and I preferred the less pressure cooker approach. You need to have patience and just tell yourself it will grow slowly. I saw most of my growth in the second year and each year increased. I also listed resources separate from the Blog Posts so people would be inclined to visit later to find materials.
3. Where will I start? Will I use af free site or will I self host.?
I started with wordpress.com. mainly because I had a daughter going through college at the time and she had taken a class using it. I figured I should take advantage of that college education. I did not have one iota of experience building a blog. I didn’t even know if it would work for me so free was good. Free sites give you an opportunity to learn the ropes before committing. Free WordPress.com sites have their own communities of followers and a forum that was also very helpful. It was like starting in a playpen. You could get an idea of what it is like and have a safety net. They had a good spam catcher and hacker prevention. I missed that later on when my self hosted site got hacked. I fortunately got bailed out by my host who told me about a good security widget. That saved the day.
The free site did have some inconveniences. You had to agree to advertisements that would pop up not of your choosing. It was usually relevant to your blog content like mine usually had to do with education. You were not allowed to use your site for advertising or affiliates. I think TPT advertising may be frowned on although I never got an official notice. There was less creativity because you used Word press templates rather than your own design. You didn’t have access to plugins And wdgets which allow you to do more personal touches. Free sites are good way to see if you want to do this long term. It is possible to transfer your site to a self hosted site once you get established. It is also possible to carry your followers along with you. WordPress provided transfer instructions that worked. If I can do it anyone can.
I learned it was important to take careful consideration to the name you choose for your blog. If you choose a free blog the url may have the host name in it. The name you choose becomes part of the url. In my case I used a nickname and not my blog name. It became (cjmonty.wordpress.com). I regretted I started with this because it became confusing later on. I decided to become self hosted later on and bought a domain name to correspond to the blog name. It is important to research names that you can use in a domain so it will be less confusing when you make the switch. Some domain names are already taken so be sure to check this out before you select a name.
I decided to become self hosting after 5 years. How did I come to this decision? It was a hobby I actually enjoyed. I decided I wanted more control. There were a few times that my site over used the band width and was shut down. I know, such a bad problem to have. I decided I had outgrown my site and needed to get more serious about it. I also wanted more to say on how my site looked.
With self hosting, I bought a theme that I could manipulate the background and display. I got access to plugins and widgets. I got rid of pop up advertising and could do my own advertising. As TPT grew I was able to cover the cost of the blog. Hopefully everyone benefited from the improvements. I must end with a warm thankyou to all of you who have supported the blog.