Friday Special: A Reflection on Blogging
Happy Friday! You've made it to the end of the week! This series of Friday blogs talks a little more about my personal story, and today I wanted to discuss the website I've built and the community I've created. I know that the actual process of creating a website is a topic of interest for some of my followers, so I've linked a recent blog that offers some tips to get you started.
I've dabbled in blogging a few times, but never found anything that really made me stick by it consistently. The set-up always burned me out, and even if I finished that, I never kept by a particular schedule, which meant that everything just faded out after a while. However, TibbottTalks has become a big part of my life, and a welcome outlet during a period of transition. I'm by no means an expert in web design, and have never categorised myself as someone with a lot of patience, but I hope this snapshot into my story so far might spark some inspiration.
As you may be aware, I finished my MA in January 2021, which is around the time I started blogging consistently. I've always been a writer so it was nice to take a more relaxed approach after a difficult year of academic work. I was searching for careers, study options and internships, and this site was perfect for building a portfolio to show to potential employers. I'd built my LinkedIn years ago, but I felt like I needed tangible proof of my transferable skills. Employers can only read your CV to get a first impression, and I felt like I wanted to offer them an insight into my writing skills.
It was important to me to centre my website around a particular theme, as that's where I've gone wrong in the past. Now don't get me wrong, I've definitely diversified my content over the past month or so, but having a central focus really does help when you want to increase viewership. The stats and the graphs aren't something I'd paid a lot of attention to during my past attempts, but recently I've been significantly invested in how my website performs. It's important to set healthy limits, but it's been a great learning experience to see what content works best, and why. Looking at engagement has helped me to significantly target my content, such as learning when to post on social media, and what time of day people tend to come to my website. For example, having my blogs posted in the morning mean that more people are driven to my website over the course of the day, especially from Instagram where I promote my new posts. My Friday content has been a small leap for me, but I wanted to add a more personal touch to my website, as I am a human being with a story that I'd love to share, outside of the study help.
Having content centred around my degree experience means that I can mix personal anecdotes with real life advice, as well as having discussions about the higher education system as a whole. It also doesn't get boring, as I've found I've got a lot to talk about! Breaking big topics down into more manageable chunks means I can consistently produce more content that is engaging and useful, while also keeping my interest going. My blogs average from around 900-2000 words, but I tend to keep them at a length which could be enjoyed as part of a coffee break. I find really short blogs a bit irritating, so I wanted to create a happy medium.
In terms of the future, I can definitely see this website being a passion project for the next few years at least. They say that it takes three weeks to form a habit, but I'd say it took a bit longer for me! Getting into the habit of drafting, editing and posting did take some getting used to, but now I have a schedule that works. This summer's content is already planned out, so stay tuned for more updates throughout the next three months.
To summarise what I've learned, it would have to be:
Consistency is key for results, and that includes writing and planning.
Viewing the website as a work in progress encourages me to improve and update regularly.
Writing for a non-academic audience is actually something I'm quite good at!
The hardest part of this process was definitely building the original site, which took me several months. I did this alongside my MA dissertation, so I didn't have that much time to build the site and write the content, so it took time for everything to come together. Once completed though, the site itself is easy enough to manage, and I make the effort at least once a month to check through my site and make updates.
If you're thinking about starting your own blog, it's something I would encourage, even if it's a casual project to spend some time on each week. There are plenty of free options to consider, and my recent post about planning a blog should really help with the logistical elements. I wish I'd started this project sooner, as I think it would have been a great source of enjoyment for me while I was studying for my undergraduate degree. I started blogging at university as part of my job, but never made the leap to doing it myself. Thankfully I set up my website at a time when I was motivated, otherwise I might still be stuck in the planning stages!
Writing in a particular style for so long can sometimes drain the enjoyment out of it, so I'm glad I'm able to blog informally, and to create accessible content for prospective or current students. This blog might be my most informal yet, but sometimes I like to think as I write, so take this one as the ramblings of my very crowded brain.
For the remainder of this year, I want to focus on being consistent with my posting schedule, as well as expanding my coverage to postgraduate study. I have covered my MA experience, but I want to add to this by covering aspects of researching and writing in a much more independent way, as well as writing blogs that will help with the transition to a taught postgraduate programme. I'm not sure whether to mix these blogs in with my undergraduate-focused content or dedicate an entire month to it, please let me know if you have any suggestions or requests!
I'm still running on the academic calendar (I'm just too conditioned to it) so I think the last months of 2021's content will introduce the postgraduate element whilst also focusing on the practical aspects of university life for new students. Nothing's set in stone, but I'd like to get to my one-year blogging anniversary in an exciting way.
I don't say it enough, but a big thank you to you! My readers are the main reason I continue to write, and the feedback I get is so helpful. I'm planning a blogging Q&A soon, so I'll be calling for questions on my Twitter (@abbie_tibbott) and my Instagram (@tibbotttalks_study) in the next month or so, which is a great way to get involved with my content.
My site is completely free, and will remain that way! I'm not putting anything behind a paywall as I want to make everything as accessible as I can. That said, 2020 was a rough year for us all, so if you'd like to support my content you can buy me a coffee, or please get in touch via social media or my contact form here on my site. I'd love to work with brands, universities or other institutions that champion inclusive, rewarding education, or that help to improve the university experience in any way.
With that said, I hope you're having a great beginning to the summer.