How to Start a Blog: Part One
Ooof, starting a blog. This is a post I’ve been working on for a loooong time. To begin with, I put off starting a blog for much, much longer than I should have. I first had the idea in 2013, but I waited until 2017 to start. Four years. Do yourself a favor: don’t do that. If you want to start, just start.
However, in the meantime, I designed three websites on WordPress and learned “baby coding,” (how I refer to coding basics), and really got my feet under me so I knew what I was doing when I started. I do not regret doing that. WordPress and even plug and play websites like Wix can be difficult to navigate, so having a bit of knowledge to bring to the table was definitely helpful. I put off starting a blog for much, much longer than I should have. I first had the idea in 2013, but I waited until 2017 to start. Four years. Do yourself a favor: don't do that. If you want to start, just start. Click To Tweet
I began with beauty because I thought, hey, write what you know. If there’s one thing I know, it’s beauty products. And it was amazing – right from the beginning I started connecting with people from all over the globe to collaborate, review products, etc. And that was fun! But I definitely felt like I had more in me to give.
Fast forward a few months, I started branching out into. . . finding my voice. I started writing posts that flowed a bit more easily than simple product reviews, and I realized that my experience doing all this could be useful to those just getting started. So I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about how to start a blog!
I see a lot of posts online that go something like this: “I want to start a blog, but I have no idea how to start,” or “I want to start a blog, but I feel like I don’t have enough to start, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel like I’m not an expert on anything,” et cetera, et cetera. My opinion is this: The only thing holding you back is you. You can do anything you set your mind to. I see a lot of posts online that go something like this: I want to start a blog, but I have no idea how to start. My opinion is this: The only thing holding you back is you. You can do anything you set your mind to. Click To Tweet
And don’t worry about the more “techie” stuff about starting. I got you covered in this post (and more to come!)
How to Start a Blog
Decide on a niche and name
What the f*ck is a niche and how do I find mine? Simply put, a niche is the category that your blog content falls into. This can be one of the hardest parts of blogging: in order to start, you have to decide what to blog about! This is important because if you just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks, it will take you longer to build an audience. If you get specific, people who care about the topic will want to read your blog. And there are an endless number of things you can blog about, for real. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert. There are no “expert police.” But if you are an expert, more power to you. I’ve listed a few examples of what you can blog about here:
- Do you have a lot of business knowledge? Or are you particularly thrifty, and have a knack for money saving, budgeting, couponing, et cetera? People looooove to learn how to save money. Perhaps you’re a great resume writer and great with employment strategies. There is no shortage of people looking for jobs, how to better their resumes, hell, even how to write a cover letter. And you know what? Paying an expert for that sh*t is expensive. You could provide that knowledge for people who are struggling so they don’t have to pay an arm and a leg. Bottom line: use your knowledge to help others.
- What are your hobbies? Do you have one that you particularly excel at, like crafting, knitting, cooking, et cetera? Or perhaps you’re great at DIY home projects and people are constantly asking you for advice (I have a friend like this. She drives me crazy. She’s amazing.) Take a step back for a sec – when you want to learn something, where do you go to learn about it? The Internet. Be the person who blogs about that stuff so other people can learn!
- Have you overcome a struggle in your life? People need to feel like they are not alone on this island we call Earth going through a tough time on their own. Knowing there are others who have gone through struggles with depression, addiction, financial problems, divorce, sexual assault, is so comforting when you’re in the midst of it. If you’ve come through those things, share them. Be the beacon of light that you had, or that you were lacking.
- Are you a SAHM? (That’s stay-at-home mom. See, I know things. I’m cool.) Blogs for SAHM’s are very, very popular because it creates a great community for some people who might be at home a lot of the time, and moms can share and benefit from each other’s knowledge.
- Do ya like sports? Do you know what the best gear is, where to get it, what locations are the best? Share that sh*t!
- Perhaps you are like me: jack of all trades, master of none. You can start in a niche that you feel you know about, then merge into more niches as time goes on. Here’s the golden rule: Your blog is not about you. Your blog is about the readers. So as long as you’re writing about something that can help serve people, you can’t go wrong. There are a lot of people who will tell you narrow, narrow, narrow your focus; I don’t think that’s essential. As long as you’re thinking about your reader, write your stuff.
These are just a few suggestions. Again, what it comes down to is serving your audience. Figure out what you know about, what you’re passionate about, and then write it. Your topic should reflect you, but serve them. See what I’m saying?
Choosing a Name
Oh, choosing a name. This can be the most complicated part of the process, I swear. You want to be sure it relates to your content so people know what they’re in for, but it also has to be simple enough to remember and, most importantly, spell. (Trust me, my maiden name is Pawlukiewicz, so a blog called amypawlukiewicz was sure to fail).
You also have to think about social media when deciding on a blog name. You’ll need to use it on all social media accounts: Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, whatever they come up with in the future. So take some time, brainstorm, make a word cloud, whatever you need to do to narrow down what you’d like to focus on. You can check what names are already at any of the hosting websites like GoDaddy, SiteGround, or BlueHost.
Make sure the name you want isn’t already taken and/or doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. Unless you have thousands of dollars to invest in it ;). You don’t want to get attached to a name, or god forbid, go through the process of signing up for social media accounts, designing a logo, et cetera, all to discover that the domain name is taken. So take your time. I had to do some serious brainstorming before settling on Beauty Chaos!
Select a Host
There are tons of web hosting platforms to choose from. I have heard wonderful things about both SiteGround and BlueHost. I would recommend just looking through each of those host’s websites before choosing one, see which you’re most comfortable with.
Pick a Platform
You have to have a website in order to have a blog. I know, this sounds elementary, but follow me here. There are so many options out there, and some are easier than others in the beginning but might not be the best option in the long run. If you don’t code or don’t know how to build a website, don’t worry! There are plenty of drag and drop platforms like Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace that are very user friendly.
Personally, I prefer WordPress. It’s easy to use once you get the hang of it, and there are so many options for themes, plugins, and designing. And while there are two different WordPress platforms, I definitely recommend self hosting. This is a bit confusing, but WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two different things. Self hosting happens on WordPress.org
A lot of people choose WordPress.com when they start blogs simply because they don’t know of anything else. You can create a blog for free, it’s easy to manage, there’s no setup – it looks great on the surface. But you get what you pay for , so to speak, and WordPress.com being free means there is a lot of stuff you can’t do. You can’t run ads or set up affiliate links. You have very limited options for expanding your site. And most importantly, you don’t own your site.
So starting with WordPress.com can seem like the way to go because it’s easy and free. However, you can’t monetize…which means making money from your blog is not an option. If you want to start and don’t have the money to invest in owning your site, you can always start with WordPress.com and migrate to WordPress.org. It’s doable, but requires a good amount of effort.
WordPress.org is the way to go, in my opinion. It’s self hosted, and while that may sound intimidating, that just means that you control everything about the site. Whoever you host through, whether it be SiteGround, or BlueHost, will handle the “techie” stuff.
Bottom line: if you want to earn money from your blog, you MUST self-host.
- Control of your site and its content
- Search engine friendly
- Access to free plugins such as Yoast SEO to optimize your blog and make it amazing
- Ability to add features such as widgets for connecting to social media, subscription options, online stores, and much more!
You have to learn. It is a little complicated in the beginning. Fortunately, there are endless tutorials and things like Facebook support groups to help you muddle through.
Once you’ve got your WordPress.org site set up, it’s time to pick a THEME.
WordPress.org software is relatively user friendly and can be installed from the cPanel on your hosting website. I’m not going to go more into the cPanel, as it looks very complicated and intimidating, but there are very few things you need to worry about in there. Just find the WordPress icon and use the one-click install.
Once the installation is finished, it’s time to set up your site. You’ll be taken to a screen that looks like this:
I know, it looks intimidating, but it’s not. Think of it as backstage for your blog. The first thing you’ll need to do is select a theme and layout for your blog. A lot of people recommend a paid theme; I personally think you should start with a free theme and make sure you get your bearings, then you can move to a paid theme if you feel like you need it. I started with a free theme, and there was an option to pay for some more fancy options with the premium theme, so it worked out perfectly.
A benefit of paid themes is that they don’t have as many restrictions with widgets and other functionality. They also typically have a lot more options available, such as choosing the fonts for your text, more color options, things like that. But like with hosting, you get what you pay for. So if you’re planning to make your blog your full time business, you might want to consider investing in a paid theme at some point. Good news, though: Once you pay for a theme, that’s it, you only pay for it once!
If a paid theme is the way you decide to go, you can usually get a good one for around $50 to $75. The WordPress Marketplace, however, has plenty of free themes that look great, and many are upgradeable later. I started with a free theme that had an upgrade available, and I am very happy with the way my site looks. Here’s a few places you can look at and compare themes:
Now you’re ready to write
Write, write, and write some more! Content is key here, and I made a huge mistake when I started blogging – I was inconsistent. Nothing will turn readers away more than a blog that is unpredictable! It doesn’t matter how awesome your blog looks or what the name is if you don’t have consistent content.
So write! Ideally, get a backlog of posts saved so that you’re not scrambling for content every week. I once read about a woman who started her blog with 50 posts already written. I was not that ambitious, I will tell you, and I had one when I started. So maybe split the difference, eh? Like I said, the most important thing is to just start, but once you’ve got that under your belt, be consistent. Try to set up a publishing schedule or editorial calendar and make a commitment to stick to it.
Promote, Promote, Promote
Blogs, by nature, are not a “if you build it, they will come” kind of situation. Most likely, when you first start, you will have little to no readership. THAT’S OKAY. You know why? Social. Media. Social media will become your best friend.
Tell people about your blog. Join Facebook groups to promote. Share on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, wherever you can! Just follow one rule: don’t be spammy. Don’t just drop your links all over and disappear. That will get you blocked and blacklisted. Target people in your niche and engage with their content, too.
One of the most successful platforms I’ve found for promoting my blog is Pinterest. Almost 80 percent of my traffic comes from there! If you don’t know where to start, have no fear — I’ve got a course for that. Check out Become a Pinterest Pro over on Teachable.com and learn all the ins and out of Pinterest!
Just have patience. Blogging takes time. Yes, there are a few people who start a blog and it takes off immediately. But there are many thousands of others who have put in years in order to build up a following. Write great content, give it time, promote, and an audience will follow.
Whatever your goals are for blogging, get started and be consistent. I’ll be following this post with more on SEO, how to monetize, and how to drive traffic through social media!