The best blogging advice I ever received and how it transformed my blog

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How many of you blog? I know a lot of you do. And I know that blogging can be a huge part of building your design business too. Not too long ago, one of you asked me what the best piece of business advice I ever received was (see my answer here). And today, I’d like to share with you the best blogging advice I ever received and tell you the story of how it transformed this blog.

Just over four years ago…

…I had been blogging at my personal design blog for about a year. I had like 3 readers–and one was my mom. But all joking aside, I didn’t really understand the ins-and-outs of blogging yet (some days I wonder if I even get it now). I frequently read blog posts from designers like David Airey, Brian Hoff, Jacob Cass, and the like and I thought…

I have something to contribute too!

I bet many of you have had the same thought. You have a voice and you want it to be heard. So I decided to launch my first “real” blog and called it “GraphicDesignBlender.com.” Maybe you’ve heard of it. I began with what I thought was the most important part of a design blog: the design. I designed draft after draft after draft of PSD wordpress themes. I tweaked and corrected and added and changed. A lot. One day, I was reading David Airey’s blog and he said something like this (I hope I’m doing it justice, David. This was 3 years ago.)

“Stop worrying so much about how perfect your blog design is and start providing quality content to your readers.”

That was a hard pill to swallow as a designer (we always want everything to be perfect), but I took his word for it and started producing some quality content right away. It was during this time that (using a terribly designed wordpress theme–by yours truly) I produced content like:

And people started reading. And subscribing. And coming back. It was amazing.

So I started writing…a lot

From there, I started posting content like a maniac. I had read from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net that a good blog should have 20-50 pieces of quality content before you can expect a decent audience. So I posted. And posted. And posted. And slowly, but surely, I began to grow an audience (one that, today, has grown to 50,000+ and spans across almost every country in the world!)

But imagine if I had continued to be a perfectionist

What if I had continued to wait until I had the “perfect theme” or “perfect site design”? Considering I’ve changed themes more times than I can remember since then (somewhere around 6, I think?), I would have been waiting a long time before I started building an audience. And I would have missed out on a lot. I wouldn’t have had the chance to get to know many of you: chat with you in the comments, exchange emails, or meet in real life. I would have gotten frustrated a long time ago and probably would have given up.

Blog design is important

How your blog looks is really important. But don’t let it get in the way of your progress. Blogging is about providing quality content to your readers. It’s about building community. You can continue to update your design as you go. And you will. But, if you’re smart, you’ll take David’s advice like I did and stop waiting to “launch” your blog until your design is perfect.

Here’s your chance…

So I’m giving you a chance today to launch your blog! I don’t care if it’s not perfectly designed. I don’t care if you still have design work to do on your theme. Post something amazing and then leave a comment on this post, linking to it so we can all check it out. I want to see what you’ve got. Even if you’ve been blogging for a while, leave a link and inspire us all to keep moving forward with our own blogs. Good luck!

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Hi Preston,

    Thank you for this excellent blog post! I have recently started getting my feet wet with blogging and have one started. You told your readers to give a link to our own blogs, so here you go. http://kylechicoine.wordpress.com

    I’ve been looking to start blogging to build my design business as well and finally to a small leap closer to the cliff by getting my first blog started. I still need to plan some good content for future posts and will be working on this… starting now!

    Again, thanks for this inspiring post!

    Kyle Chicoine

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Kyle,
      You’re at a really fun stage of blogging: just getting your feet wet. Enjoy it! Best of luck to you on your blog!

  2. Good article, and great advice. I’ve had a blog for my business for awhile now, and the hardest thing of all is figuring out what to write. It’s a struggle for me. There’s so many blogs out there nowadays, that it is hard to come up with something that hasn’t already been said.

    But I try! :)
    http://captainslog.rocketno9.com/paypal-is-full-of-themselves-and-its-not-flattering/

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Colin,
      Great point. It’s hard to come up with unique topics. I have found, however, that it’s easy to come up with you’re own unique way of saying the same sorts of things everyone else is saying.

      For example, there are a million articles out there on naming your business, but one of our writers here at GDB, April Greer, wrote a great post about her personal experience naming her design business.

      And guess what, hop over to google and type “how to name my design business” and take a look at who’s first….April!

      Anway, best of luck to you in all your blogging ventures!

  3. Such great advice. I read a book from 37signals which states it’s best to get your idea out there and then make revisions along the way. You have to share your passion in order to build an audience, but you also have to adapt to the situation. A blog is something organic, and it’s not the smartest move to decide everything by yourself. Take in input from followers and others, and give your audience what they come for.

    You’ve been doing an excellent job with that on GDB Preston!

    I started my design inspiration 6 months ago. (www.showmedesign.net) Still a lot of marketing to do, but it truly is a passion of me to share other artists work online. It’s also amazing how glad some renowned artists are when you ask for their permission to be featured on your website.

    Cheers,
    Stefan.

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Hey Stefan,
      Excellent additional comments. (PS. What that book called ‘Rework’? If so, I LOVED that book. Totally motivating. – Everyone else can check it out here: http://bitly.com/GDB_Rework )

      Thanks for sharing your blog here too. Best of luck in all!

  4. Content is definitely king in blogging. But getting eyes on it in the first place I think is the trick. Have definitely been enjoying this blog since i subbed about a month ago.

    I blog about both design and photography. My latest post is about photo portrait composition experimentation:
    http://www.chrislanephoto.com/blog/2012/06/14/should-i-chop-off-the-top-of-the-head/

    Latest design related post I had was about a booklet that I designed:
    http://www.chrislanephoto.com/blog/2012/05/29/artists-of-northwest-minnesota/

    Cheers and keep up the great posts on GDB!

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Chris,
      Thanks for subscribing and for the great comment! Content is definitely important. I don’t know if it’s king, but the point of this post is to say “Stop tweaking and get started on getting readers.”

      Great posts on your blog. Best of luck in all!

  5. hi preston. well said.
    I love blogging and I do it with things that I am passionate about. I know my audience knows this, because they often let me know, which is a great reciprocal feeling. I also enjoy recording my observations via this method.
    anyways, there is an epic 404 on your link, perhaps wrong link/URL ;)
    Post something amazing and then leave a comment on this post, linking to it so we can all check it out.
    I want to see what you’ve got.

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Meligrosa,
      Cool name! Thanks for the heads up on the 404. I think I’ve got it fixed now. That’s what I get for changing the title last minute, right? :)

  6. Hi Preston!
    Guilty as charged. I think we all struggle with our inner perfectionist demons. But I wonder, and I’m throwing this out there for anyone, where is that line between posting consistent content, and quality?

    I personally feel like there’s already a ton of bad blogs, bad design, bad everything out there, and I don’t want to add to the noise. I’d rather my articles be quality and meaty, rather than numerous and so-so. I don’t know, is that a bad thing?

    Well, regardless, you asked us to post one of ours so here’s a favorite among my readers:
    http://www.sheilapatterson.com/2012/03/14-proven-ways-to-find-clients/

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Sheila,
      That’s a great question! And it’s one I ask myself almost every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (days we post here at GDB).

      If I were to start my blogging over again, I would probably only post when there’s something amazing to say, but since GDB has been built this way, I stick to a regular schedule that readers have come to expect.

      It’s also good to force yourself to write every once and while, in my opinion. Thanks for adding your comments and best of luck in all your blogging!

  7. Another great article, Preston! Being graphic designers, we want the viewers experience to visually be amazing, but I do think that you need to at least put in double the amount of time when creating the content; because content is king!

    I just launched my blog a couple of weeks ago, and although the design isn’t flawless, I put in double the amount of time creating and brainstorming content. Here’s a link: http://brentgalloway.me

    Personally, taking more time to develop content has given me (1) Better quality content and (2) More ideas. Spending more time brainstorming and planning out a post, I ended up generating new ideas for even more posts. I would highly recommend taking a post idea and just start brainstorming, create spider maps, talk about it to someone else, and take notes.

    Finally: I love that I can learn even more in the comments of your posts. I especially agree with you on this statement, “…it’s easy to come up with your own unique way of saying the same sorts of things everyone else is saying”. It’s definitely difficult to write about something completely unique that’s never been talked about before, but explaining it in your own words could be the perfect rendition for someone else.

    Thanks and keep up the awesome work, Preston! :)

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Brent,
      Great work you’ve started at the blog! Thanks for adding your insight. One of the biggest breakthroughs I receieved as a blogger was what you referenced above. GDB readers don’t come here to exclusive, never-before-heard advice. There are a million blogs just like this one. What makes them come and stay? It’s the unique stories and voice they find in my articles (and those written by other bloggers like April and other guest posters).
      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Preston,

    I think the information in this post could apply to Twitter and Facebook, too. I work with a wide variety of clients and the ones who are not as familiar with social networking know that they should be a part of it, but they are very intimidated by the process of posting. I’m always trying to communicate that they just need to start, just keep doing it and the increased action will generate even more activity and interactivity. I think I might show them your post the next time I come up against this.

    It is even helpful for myself as I finally am taking the time to start my own business-based Twitter account. I figure the more examples I have of what I am asking them to do, the better. So, you post was excellent inspiration to keep moving forward!

    Thanks,
    Morgan @OneAnd8Designs

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Yep,
      Many businesses/people want to know how to ride the social media bike before they even try with training wheels. Just don’t be afraid, get out there and give it a try!!

  9. Nice article. Thanks for the tips.

  10. Great post! I do find the perfectionist bug in other places other than our designs as well. However, we realized too that the content is important, otherwise who’s going to care how pretty it looks if the content stinks? We’ve got a few posts out there now, but definitely not the prettiest theme: http://www.LITransform.com/wordpress

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Dory,
      It’s ok if your theme isn’t perfect. The point is to start getting readers to your blog! Way to go! Good luck in the blogging!

  11. Hi, thanks for your great advice. I have been blogging for while and still struggling to get a real audience. Anyway I’m trying to achieve a huge task: a blog which would be the biography of a city: Rome. Here is the link:
    http://www.romecityapartments.com
    Hope you like it
    Thanks
    Stefano

  12. Hey there,
    What great advice! I found myself in the same boat when I started blogging – I was blessed and cursed as a perfectionist also – my initial layout still didn’t turn out perfect, either.

    I have a question for you as a freelance blogger though:
    I was hired to create and run a blog for the florist I work at, covering simple floral topics as well as intricate posts about weddings and events we work on.
    As my boss and the rest of the women I work with are not up to date on social media networking or anything technological, I am starting to think I am underpricing myself for the work I put into this blog.

    Does anyone have suggestions about pricing for freelance design blogging? I would love some advice from someone more prominent in the design blogging world!

    Here is the blog I have been running for my florist, Petal Pushers:
    http://mypetalpushers.wordpress.com/

    Please let me know what you think!

    Thanks again, and I love your blog!

    Sierra

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Sierra,
      Thanks for the kind words. You ask a very difficult question. But I would probably just give you the same advice I always give people when they ask about pricing: take time to calculate how much you need to make it worth it for you then charge that much and not a penny less.

      If you find that you need $20/hour to make it worth it financially for you, that’s how much you should charge.

      That being said, you can always go higher if you feel like you’re delivering real quality service for your client.

      That may or may not help…sorry if it doesn’t. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Thank you so much, Preston! I was originally charging $15 per post… Then I realized covering full weddings takes MUCH more time. I’ve switched to an hourly rate, wrote up a very professional payment plan, and my boss was very impressed. (Now I’ll be making $30/hour!)
        Thanks again, and I’ll be reading all of your new posts for sure!

  13. “Operate in permanent beta mode” was the advice I received from a software developer that really applies here. Instead of waiting for your blog design to be perfect, release it when it is good and make improvements over time.

    My blog, which is undergoing a focus change and may appear somewhat schizophrenic right now: http://pinsonmarketing.com/blog/

    The perfect is the enemy of the good — Volaire

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Michael,
      I love that advice and I love the quote you shared. Thanks for contributing and good luck with the blogging!!

  14. Blogging has been a great release for me because I work out of my home studio and it has connected me to small business owners in my area. I was at my daughter’s lacrosse game when a parent, that I don’t know all that well, and who is also self-employed, mentioned my website and that she had read my 3 blog posts. Okay, not a great number…yet…but it’s a start. We connected by both having working from home in common. It generated conversation and several more parents found out about that I was a graphic designer, clients I worked for and what type of work I did. They asked me questions about my business! Networking occurs everywhere even at lacrosse game!

    • Preston D Lee says:

      Nancy,
      Thanks for sharing your story. Three is a great number! In fact, it’s 2-3 times higher than most blog posts get read. :) Best of luck to you as you build your blog and your business!

  15. Thanks for the great advice Preston. I’m just starting out as a blogger for web and game development (both of my hobbies). I’m trying to add new content weekly but finding out how tough it is to produce good content while working full time or going to school (or keeping up on the latest blogs of others :) ). My blog can be found at http://blog.sklambert.com/

    PS. I loved your advice Michael Pingree. I think all my development and designs are in constant revision mode once produced.

  16. Preston,

    Thanks for the inspiration. We can all be guilty of waiting for lightning to strike. I finally bit-the-bullet a couple of months ago and started posting articles on my blog. My blog is intended to speak to the business professional, rather than the designer. But hopefully it’s inspirational and informative to both.

    Until now, I’ve only had time to write 3 articles, but your post was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed. I plan to start adding more content and driving more visitors to my site.

    My blog is at http://blakedesignsolutions.com/articles. Hopefully, your readers will enjoy it.

  17. Preston,

    Thanks for the post! While I have turned off blogging in particular for now on my brand new website (which I must unveil with my business cards in the very near future!), I will say that launching a new website almost fits the bill. I’m still dealing with an issue – on the home page no less! – but it’s officially “ready.”

    You’re right, I have the rest of my design career to nit-pick and change things, but for now it’s good enough to go. It’s like a portfolio or resume…a website will never truly be finished!

    Thanks for keeping it in perspective!

    April

    http://www.greergenius.com

  18. Preston,

    Thanks for your comment to my previous comment. It truly is exciting at this moment. I hope to start writing more and sharing my ideas with the world. One lesson I learned from commenting here, was the link back to my blog. Already thankful for that!

    I’ll be enjoying more posts from you and Graphic Design Blender.

    Thanks,

    Kyle Chicoine

  19. Waw thanks Preston for the amazing post, I immidiately make a wordpress blog afer reading this hahaha
    I still new to this world, hope can be great like you

    so heres the new blog http://arriyandesign.wordpress.com/

    cheers,
    Ari

  20. Great post… and a good kick in the butt to get to creating content for my blog (http://zmgcreative.com/) Last updated in March!!!! YIKES!

  21. I agree that while design is important, it’s something that can be looked at later. The content is the most important thing and should be first – plus, with a WordPress blog you can always swap the designs at any time, and they’re free.

  22. I love this post (and your blog), I frequently tell clients you can’t date sitting on the couch….not posting is like getting all dressed up to watch Love Boat on a Saturday night! My blog is about using WordPress, I invite you to visit. http://www.eileenlonergan.com/blog. PS leave a comment and for a “reveal page”, which hopefully will engage my visitors a little bit more.

  23. Good on ya Preston, here’s to continued success!

  24. Okay, launched! My blog – advice for current and potential clients!

    http://www.greergenius.com/advice/

  25. Just found your blog and this inspiring post and you are spot on. I started my blog 3 weeks ago and have spent so much time on the design aspect that I’ve only written a few posts and I’m already struggling with what my next topic should be.

    I’ve spent a couple years on my website http://www.flyertutor.com, but I now realize that everyone has a blog. So here is my attempt at blogging – http://flyertutor.blogspot.com.

    Thank you for the motivation to keep on writing!
    Renee

  26. I’ve only stumbled on Graphic Design Blender in the last few days, but I can’t get enough of the articles. I’m a design student, but I’m trying to wade into the freelance world. I started my blog a few weeks ago, and while I want it to be the face of my business, also serves as a way for me to aggregate news and tips for my own benefit down the road.

    Keep the advice coming!

  27. I’ve have been reading all of the great articles on GDB about blogging. I just launched my blog last month after planning it for way too long. I’m writing about something I really enjoy: sharing iPad tips. http://inmystudio.com/blog/ The bonus has been learning my way around WordPress which will give me something more to offer my design clients.

  28. The best blogging advice I ever received is from your article: “a good blog should have 20-50 pieces of quality content before you can expect a decent audience”.

    I’ve been working on my little blog, but despite being pretty, no one reads it. Probably because there aren’t many posts yet, and I can honestly say none of them are all that great. I knew starting out that I’m pretty rusty at writing, so I expected the first few posts to be bad. Your piece of advice is encouraging me to continue writing, but to focus on quality and the readers will grow as the content grows.

  29. Some simple yet very helpful advice for Bloggers, Preston…

    We get told so much conflicting advice on what we SHOULD do to achieve greater success with out Blogs…

    A large part of it will come down to what niche(topic, subject) you are blogging in…and this can make a huge difference to the amount of visitors, and the level of competition we encounter…

    Some sites are being flooded with traffic(and they are sometimes not making much money compared to much lower traffic sites–less targeted) yet, they see it (the huge traffic numbers)as no big deal…and this may be due to the level of popularity of the topic, level of competition and number of competing sites…

    I think getting the balance right between content and design, would work best!
    Some sites I have visited are very successful, yet their content is very average at best…They compensate for this with a great site design, that has very nice navigation…

    Other sites have Great content and a poor site design, and they struggle to build their readership…

    So I think working on those two areas, and doing some on page and off page seo, too, could dramatically increase the level of success being attained by a site….

  30. I can see how this is a valid point. I have to say though defining exactly what is quality content is the most difficult part of blogging. Especially when as you say most designers are using this technique merely as a way to generate more traffic and interest in there work. (myself included). Graphic design blogs are ten a penny and it is difficult to find blogs that arent just rehashing the same ideas over and over again so what is do you think that makes people want to know about your own very specific take on it all and is it really just about picking a niche wisely?

    http://camillejbdesign.blogspot.co.uk/

  31. I definitely needed to read this today! As you can see from my last few posts I have done nothing but worry about my design! Actually, the entire year that my blog has been in existence I’ve done nothing but work on the design while producing mediocre (if that) content. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom. Now, it’s time for me to go write something of substance.

  32. Hi Preston

    Thanks so much for this, I really needed to read it today! I’ve been busy tweaking and perfecting my new design blog over the past 2 months and trying to get it “just right”. And I call myself a ‘recovering-perfectionist’! Who am I kidding?! That’s it, next Monday is D-Day!

    I was curious to know how you got such an army of followers so thanks for sharing! And for whipping my butt into shape with my own blog!

    Cheers
    Bianca

  33. Hi Preston,

    Great reminder for me today – it’s one that I often tell others who have asked me how I got my blog up in the first place but you know as well as I do how easy it can be to get sidetracked by details instead of focusing on content!

    Anyway, here’s a recent post of mine to check out.

    Thanks for the opportunity:

    “Seth Godin said NO: Why I’m Thankful Anyway”

    http://reformationdesigns.com/2013/12/seth-godin-said-no-thankful/

  34. Hi All,

    I’ve been freelancing my talents for quite awhile now, and finally decided to start blogging about my experiences – as a freelancer, I spent WAY to much time on my blog, went through many different themes and changes.

    Reading this kinda kicked me in the bottom, I’m gonna focus more content for now. Something I should have known from the start actually as I suggest the same to my clients, but do we ever listen to our own advice?!

    Thanks for the great advice – here’s my blog address: http://www.freelancingdoneright.com

    – Dave Porter

  35. Here’s my blog. I’ve been posting on it for a year now.
    http://graphicdesigngoddess.blogspot.com/

  36. Hello there!

    I recently launched my website which includes a blog here at:

    giantleapscreative.com

    I only have 3 posts so far, but I will get that increased lickity-split! Can’t wait! I love blogging. Feel free to check it please. Best of luck to you all!

    Cathy

  37. I just started my first design related blog at http://resourcefuldesigner.com. I will also be starting a related podcast in the next couple of weeks. The purpose of my website is to help graphic and web designers streamline their business so they can get back to what they do best, designing.

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  1. […] The best blogging advice I ever received and how it transformed my blog – So I’m giving you a chance today to launch your blog! I don’t care if it’s not perfectly designed. I don’t care if you still have design work to do on your theme. […]

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