Thursday, 12 September 2013

Five Blogging Lessons from Helen Yuet Ling Pang, Food and Travel Blogger



A few years ago I had a successful food blog, World Foodie Guide, which I maintained for two years then stopped updating just months after being shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers New Media award in 2009. I made the decision one afternoon on a subway train in Tokyo. After two weeks of travelling in Japan, I was exhausted and didn't even want to blog about it. My last three posts, about the Japan trip, were truly a struggle to write. I then announced my 'retirement' from the world of food blogging.

Now I'm back with my new blog On The Frog. I'm older and hopefully a little wiser too. And I’d like to share a few lessons that I've learnt from blogging, taking a long break and finally coming back to it.


1. Be clear about why you blog 

There are numerous reasons for starting and maintaining a blog. It could be a creative and enjoyable outlet where you share your thoughts and tips with others, or perhaps you hope to turn professional and develop a second career, so your blog is a potential means of making money, directly or indirectly. With both blogs, my intention has never been to make money, so I've always turned down advertising and sponsorship requests. And once you know why you blog, you'll know whether or not to accept freebies. I learnt from my old blog that it's near on impossible to be completely honest and objective when reviewing a PR-organised restaurant visit. Accepting freebies can really affect the credibility of a blog, so tread carefully and always make it clear if you haven't paid for something yourself.

2. Choose a subject you're passionate about

Choose a subject you're truly passionate about, otherwise sustaining a blog in the long term will be difficult. Readers can tell from your writing whether you care about the subject or not. I chose food for my first blog because I've always loved it. My parents owned restaurants their entire lives and so the enjoyment of food is a big part of my life too. I also liked sharing my restaurant tips with friends and that's why I started blogging. When I realised I wasn't enjoying restaurant reviewing quite as much, I tried to switch the focus of my blog to travel, my other great passion. That didn't work out either because I was simply couldn't keep going at the intense pace that I'd set myself. Although travel is now the subject of my new blog On The Frog ('on the frog' is Cockney rhyming slang for on the road), I've learnt to pace myself and I'm enjoying blogging again.

3. Pace yourself 

Blogging is tough anyway, as you have to do everything yourself. I pushed myself far too hard with World Foodie Guide and set myself a punishing schedule of three substantial posts every week. By the time I realised I couldn't do it anymore, even just slowing down wasn't an option anymore. My husband had complained a lot about being sidelined, and since I’ve stopped restaurant reviewing, we've had more time to spend together again. So take it easy with your blogging. It should be fun and not take up too much of your time. With my new blog, I now write when I feel like I have something to say.

4. Keep up with technology

Blogging has changed considerably since I first started in late 2007. Returning to blogging a few months ago, I found that even Wordpress had changed dramatically. I initially struggled to perform even basic tasks on my blog. However, it didn't take too long to brush up on these skills and now I think I've mastered most things I need to know. Otherwise, I have a technology guru husband. I also continued using Twitter over the years and love Instagram for its simplicity and ease of use. These days, people share information and tips over a wide variety of social media platforms, so blog commenting has reduced noticeably and appreciation of a post is now indicated by tweets and Facebook likes. I also recently created a free iPhone app, beautifully designed by Everplaces, which is a guide to the best of traditional London.

5. Be prepared to accept criticism as well as praise

This is really important to bear in mind. Just because you think your blog is the bee's knees and that your opinions are deep and meaningful doesn't mean that everyone else will agree with you. That's just life. Everyone has an opinion and with the development of social media, a voice. Share your thoughts, defend your standpoint and accept the views of others, whether you agree with them or not. And don't take blogging too seriously!

Food and travel blogger, Helen Yuet Ling Pang from OnTheFrog.com has recently released her own iPhone app, On The Frog to London, a guide with 50 tips for discovering some good old British traditions alive and well in modern London.

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