HLS Newbie Q&A Panel Recap

So I owe you guys a little recap of my Newbie Q&A panel, don’t I?


First, let me just say that I had a blast. Last year, I was super nervous leading up to my panel and had butterflies for practically the entire morning. But this year? Despite the fact that I was feeling totally unprepared, I was actually feeling pretty cool and collected about the whole thing.

We started out with a quick introduction from Heather, who we then coerced into actually joining in our panel.


Originally, there was supposed to be four of us, but one of our panel members had to back out at the last second. I’m sure that Alicia, Chase, and I would have been fine, but I was soooo happy to have Heather’s insights as well.


Now when I was saying that I felt totally unprepared, I’m really not kidding. About two days before, I put together a very brief outline for me and my panel mates to follow, but that was it. No fancy PowerPoint presentation like everyone else…just us and some microphones. Winking smile


The whole panel session (I felt) was very relaxed, lighthearted, and touched on a variety of good topics.


The one thing we banked on for our whole session to go smoothly was audience participation. Since the panel was a “Newbie Q&A,” we really wanted to make sure that we were answering questions from those who needed it…not just a list of prepared topics to cover. We did have a list of backup questions just in case we needed them, but thankfully there was plenty of audience participation to keep the conversation flowing.


Perhaps the fact that I told everyone who was planning on coming to the panel  earlier in the day that if they didn’t ask questions I was going to call them out…but I like to think not. Winking smile


I’ve been trying to decide what the best way is to recap everything that was covered in the session, and even though I know there’s going to be things that I’m forgetting, I think it’ll just be easiest for me to list them out for you as bullets.

SO…here’s some takeaways from our Newbie Q&A’s…

  • Figure out what works best for YOU and don’t feel pressure to post all the time to “become known.”
  • No matter how many times you blog – be it 3 times a day or 3 times a week – just be consistent. That way your readers know what to expect and will continue coming back.
  • NetworkedBlogs and TwitterFeed are easy ways to share your blog posts on Facebook and/or Twitter automatically. PROS: it makes sharing easier and you can potentially reach more of an audience. CONS: You may not want to clog up your personal news feed and you may potentially reach less of an audience than if you were sharing manually.
  • When commenting on other blogs, make sure you’re contributing to the conversation and not commenting just to comment and get your name out.
  • The number of comments a blog post can get definitely does NOT reflect how “successful” a blog is. Some of the most successful posts have very few comments.
  • Get some business cards made for your blog. Sites such as Vistaprint are cheap, affordable options. Then go ahead and leave them in local shops for people to take.
  • If you don’t have anything to post, don’t post. Readers can tell when a post is forced.
  • Paying $10.00 for a membership to Healthy Living Blogs is a great way for you to get connected with other bloggers in your area.
  • A combination of both long and short posts can be good. If you’re writing a long post, pictures are a great way to help break things up and keep readers interested.


Winking smile

  • If you’re going to consider investing in your blog, but not quite sure what to do first, I suggest these two things: Have a custom header made and purchase your domain name. Both are fairly cheap options (I believe free WordPress blogs have that option within the dashboard or you can search sites like GoDaddy), and there are plenty of freelance graphic designers out there who are just itching to get their work out! (If you’re one of them, feel free to link up your info below!) Custom headers can also be done without switching your blog over to self-hosting.
  • If you are ready to switch to self-hosting but don’t quite know how, don’t be afraid to hire someone to do it for you. It may cost a little extra, but it’s probably worth the piece of mind. I know that Ryan from WPSiteCare has been an absolute lifesaver for me!
  • If you own a PC, Windows Live Writer will change your life. It makes blogging so much quicker and easier. If you own a mac, try ecto or marsedit.
  • If there’s a company you truly feel passionate about, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. More often than not, you’ll get a response and most companies are usually very eager to work with bloggers.
  • If you want to get your readers to comment on your blog more often, give them something to comment about. Get a conversation going. Think of topics that you think you’d be most likely to comment on.
  • Ad networks are one way to make money from blogging, but not the only way. Building relationships with brands is a great way to potentially earn extra money.
  • Blogger meet-ups are a GREAT way to get together and just start bouncing ideas off of each other.
  • The more you write and the more you post, the more likely you are to find your true “blogging voice” <—I think it took me almost a year and a half to really find mine.
  • From Heather: “After writing your post, go back and remove 10-15% of your wording and try to find better adjectives.”
  • If you aren’t already on Twitter – SIGN UP!

And finally, you can feel free to check out the Twitter hashtag that we had going during our panel (#HLSblognewbies) HERE.

WHEW! Talk about information overload…


Three cheers for a successful panel discussion with my awesome panel mates!!

There was so much going on that we didn’t even have a chance to cover everything, but overall, I think the session went really well.

And I realized just how much fun I can have speaking like that…despite the fact that my public speaking skills may be lacking slightly. Winking smile


    • Courtney says

      I used the Blog Fairy, and she was great. Not sure if she’s still taking clients or not. Ryan Sullivan (from WPSiteCare – you can click the link above on the right hand side) did my whole personal training page + header and he was fantastic!

  1. says

    This post has great, great, great info! I’ve been blogging for one month. I wasn’t sure if it was going to become a passion, but I knew that I was passionate about READING HL blogs, so I thought I’d give it a shot. So far, I’ve been loving blogging. I thought I would get discouraged by not having the readership right away, but I’m not at all! I love every view I get, and I am just proud of my content. There are so, so many things I want to do with my blog, but I’m just taking my time with it. This information is invaluable! I have a folder of bookmarks for blogging info and this post has been bookmarked! Thanks Courtney!
    Kristy Doyle recently posted..EQ Love Yoga Mat review!

  2. Kristin says

    Thanks so much for the recap Courtney! I am really considering starting a blog because my favorite thing to do each day (at work nonetheless..whoops!) is read healthy living blogs (like yours!!).

  3. says

    Thanks for the recap! You guys have some great advice. I just joined the Healthy Living Blogs group the other day–and I’m super excited about it. I’m still working on what “my” consistency will be. So far it’s been once a day, but now that I’m back to teaching full-time, I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up. I’m thinking every other day, or maybe only during the week. I still have to feel it out . . . .
    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance recently posted..Why I Now Love Yoga

  4. says

    This is great info! I have a question and it may seem a bit silly but I know that when you switch over to self hosting on wordpress it changes to .org. Does that mean your domain name will be a .org? Or do you know? I don’t ever see any .org blogs so I was a bit curious! This is all still very new to me! :)
    Amanda recently posted..Chocolate Cherry Protein Smoothie

    • Courtney says

      Not silly at all! It doesn’t become a .org. When I switched over, my domain stayed the same, it just didn’t have .wordpress.com at the end…just .com :)

  5. says

    Thanks for this. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my writing as well as readership (espcially since I’m still such a newbie). I came across your blog via Julie (pbfingers) and am loving it so far!

  6. says

    Thank you for this! as a new blogger, I love reading new tips.. this definitely helps. I spent a lot of money to transfer my blog to self hosing AND a customized design, but I truly felt it was the only way to go and get my name out there. I agree with twitter AND signing up at HLB.com..and lastly, I agree that some of the very best blogs get few comments. More isn’t always better!
    Eva @ Committed2Nutrition recently posted..First Guest Post – Things That Make Us Smile :)

  7. says

    I’m seriously so glad you put this together and provided details on what you guys talked about! I am not a newbie blogger, my blog has been around for a year and a half now, but I can definitely still benefit from these tips. I did attend the other session during that time, so again, thrilled that you put this up :)

  8. Antonia V says

    Hi Courtney, I was hoping you could share more info about your experience with managing your blog/website? I’m interested in your self-hosting experience and what you think the pros and cons are. I’m guessing you started out on a free blogging program like WordPress or Blogger and then moved to self-hosting ( please correct me if I’m wrong!). I want to start a blog, but I don’t want to be too restricted and I don’t want to incur significant start-up costs (purchasing domain name, hosting, etc.). What do you think?

    • Courtney says

      I did start out with a free WordPress blog, yes, and then I moved to self-hosting. As far as the design goes, it was actually set up fairly similar, but without as many design features (you can read a little bit more about it in this post here: http://www.sweettoothsweetlife.com/2012/04/07/a-thank-you-gift-from-me-to-you/). I would still recommend purchasing a domain name if you have one you like – that was one of the first things that I did and I believe it only costs about $15/year. Very cheap.
      Depending on how much traffic your blog receives, it may be beneficial so you can speed up your server. I use BlueHost for my server, and I believe the lowest rate is $6.95/month? I could be wrong though – they occasionally have different deals. I’m now paying a bit more because I needed to be on a bigger server, but that didn’t happen until earlier this year.
      I hope that helps!!

  9. Dalis says

    Hi Courtney
    Question for you about your HA diagnosis. Did it have any correlation between the diet you went on back in January? I know you were working out a ton and limiting your diet a lot. I use to look at what you ate for a day, and think how is she not starving! I know you lost some weight, and I am just curious if regret the strict dieting you were doing. Also, sometimes I noticed that you use la torilla high fiber wraps and sugar free syrup. Do those not give you tummy troubles? I always have issues with those specific types of food.

    • Courtney says

      Hi Dalis,
      My HA diagnosis did not have anything to do with the nutrition plan I was on in January. I discovered that I’ve actually had HA for well over a year now, if not longer, so it had nothing to do with that. The nutrition plan I was on really wasn’t limiting my diet very much though, and I never once felt restricted – I still ate all the foods I wanted, and on many days, ended up eating MORE frequently than I had been before! I felt amazing while I was on that plan, so I don’t regret doing it at all.
      I do have to be careful of my fiber intake (too much = no bueno) but the wraps don’t bother me at all. Since the HA, I’ve slowly been trying to cut out the artificial sugars (i.e., sugar-free syrup) – it’s a work in progress! :)

  10. says

    I don’t think I could recap it any better! I’m just going to send my readers over here to learn about the panel :) Courtney, it was a true pleasure joining you for this event!
    Chase recently posted..What’s my Why?

    • Courtney says

      I think it’s totally personal choice. I decided to purchase my domain name after about 3 months of blogging. I believe, at the time (not sure if it’s still the same) my domain only cost about $15/year, so it was a cost I could definitely justify. By that time, I knew it was something that I wanted to continue doing, which was what I wanted to wait for. I’d say, if you really think that it’s something you’re going to stick with, go ahead and get that domain – it’s probably one of the cheapest investments you can start out making!

  11. says

    Great tips!! These were incredibly helpful. I especially liked the one about removing 10-15% percent of your wording. When I look back on a blog I wrote during college it was SO wordy!

    I’m really going to work on taking these to heart.

    You look great in the pics! Always so put together!

    Glad you had fun!!
    Sarah B. recently posted..Awkward Elevator Experiences

  12. says

    Speaking on a panel sounds like so much fun! I’m horrendous at public speaking myself… but sharing the experience with others on a panel… well that just lightens the load a bit :) I like the info about reviewing your post & changing 10-15% of it to find better adjectives! It’s hard to think of words other than ‘good’ and ‘delicious’ and ‘yummy’… so I tend to make up words… ‘yummilicious’ & ‘fantabulous’.

  13. says

    What an awesome panel it sounds like! Congrats to all of you. All this advice sounds fantastic, and they are all steps that seems very manageable for a newbie. Some blogging conferences get so wrapped up in brands and money making that I feel overwhelmed! So thank you so much for the advice!
    Julie recently posted..Classroom Prep

  14. says

    The re-cap of topics during this post was really helpful. I had thought of a few of them through the past year, but not all of them. My blog is not really going in any one clear & concise direction at this point, and to be honest I’m not sure where I see it going, so it was helpful to hear your opinions about frequency of posting, forcing a post, etc. I really liked your ideas. Gracias :-)
    Claire recently posted..high of 90

  15. says

    I loved reading all of these great tips! I can’t wait to look into a few of them!, especially the Healthy Living Blogs subscription/membership.

    I’m a freelance designer and illustrator that works with a lot of bloggers on updating their sites with fresh and professional new look! Contact me for more information! I’d love to chat details with you!
    Laura @ LauraLikesDesign recently posted..Moments From My Day 8/22

  16. @pluvk says

    Thank you for such great and informative tips! I’m not a blogger, but I keep toying with the idea… healthy living blogs has been a lifesaver for me, and I love the supportive community that you bloggers have. Having a Newbie Q&A panel discussion is such a great idea, and I bet it was extremely helpful! I definitely learned a lot from this post… thanks again. :-)

  17. says

    Not a newbie blogger but really appreciate you posting these tips. My favourite is the tip about commenting to contribute to the conversation. It is transparent when a commenter genuinely is interested and when he/she is just posting to get their own name across.
    Khushboo recently posted..Eating healthily on board


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