Have you ever considered starting a blog? You can blog to make a bit of money on the side, to share your knowledge and experience with the world or just because you love writing and need an outlet for your creativity. Blogging is a fun way to put things “out there”.
In this article, we’re going to talk about starting to blog - not more, not less. There will be separate articles about how to make money by monetising your blog, to follow in the next few weeks.
Before we start, I’d suggest you get a notebook dedicated to your blog - a place to write down all your ideas and plans. A place to make a quick note when you wake up feeling inspired, to draw the outline of your website, make a first sketch of your logo, and more. You can have this online - I keep all my notes in Wunderlist on my phone (which syncs with my computer, so I can access the notes any time).
Then, two pieces of advise:
Take your time.
Don't rush into making decisions, investments and deals if you're not quite ready or sure to make them. Even if you're the type to act before you think; it doesn't hurt to write your blog posts when you feel inspired, but take your time to decide on things like your name, your brand and the tools you're going to use.
You want to treat your blog as a business - make the right investments for the best possible price, have a decent business plan and make sufficient time to work on it in your schedule.
Don't drag your feet.
It's easy to get distracted on your way to your launch. Doubts about the number of blog posts you need to write before you can take it online, cold feet, and insecurities can cost you so much time you'll never launch your blog. Go through the list on this page and if you've got those, you've got this!
Now let’s look at the steps to take in order to create and manage a successful blog - in a nutshell. We’ll be sharing more useful tips here in the next few months, but this is really where to start and what to start with!
1. Define your niche
Your niche is your specialty; it’s what makes your blog unique. It’s a combination of finding your target audience - and deciding what you want to write about exactly. The more you can narrow down your niche to start with, the better; your natural inclination might be to write for as many people as possible, but the opposite will actually help you get started faster.
First, let’s see what you’d like to write about. Whether it’s food or travel, lifestyle or animals - there’s a market for everything. However, you’ll have more success if you narrow it down…
If you start a general blog, you’ll be competing with thousands and thousands of other blogs in that niche. If you find your own unique take on things or if you decide to focus on one little detail - you could become known in certain groups for the very specific information people can find on your website. Think blogging about olive oil or vegan dessert recipes instead of having a general food blog - or blog about either campervan life or high end luxury travel instead of just having a general travel blog.
2. Meet your audience - and your muse or avatar
Now you’ve decided what you want to write about exactly - it’s time to find out who you’re going to write for.
What kind of person would be interested in what you’re writing? Try to imagine everything there is to know about them. Where do they hang out on the internet? Do they use social media and if so, which ones? Where do they hang out in real life? What do they eat, drink, what kind of job do they have, what do they do in their free time?
Knowing all of this will help you focus what you write - but it will also help you when time comes to monetise your blog.
Make sure your ideal audience is a coherent group. If you want to write about several subjects, either find a way to connect those (if you want to write about cooking, parenting and gardening, you could aim at parents who want to grow their own food and cook from scratch) - or wait a bit with one of the subjects (maybe you could start a second blog later)? If you’re writing about movies, travel and model trains, it might get hard finding people who love all three of them - and you might alienate the travel lovers if they see too much content about movies.
If you aren’t already, start hanging out with your ideal reader, so you get to know them better. Follow them on social media (or follow the same group boards and join the same groups. I don't mean stalk them), try to get in to their heads (ok, stalk them a tiny bit maybe).
While you’re at it, create or meet your muse; this is one person you’re focusing on when writing (or posting on social media), who represents your ideal reader. It can be an existing person, or somebody you made up… or maybe it’s just yourself, ten years ago?
The most important part of meeting your audience, is finding out how you can help your readers.
What are they struggling with? What are their questions? And how do you think you (or your blog) could help them?
For instance, with the vegan dessert blog above, it’s clear your audience will be vegans with a sweet tooth. They probably have a hard time finding yummie recipes that have nothing animal in them - and you can help them by collecting and sharing those. Once they find the way to your website, you’ll get plenty of traffic - and they’ll get the recipes they’re looking for. That’s a win-win!
3. Make a plan
Now you know what you’re writing about and who you’ll be writing it for… it’s time to make a plan. And I mean a Big Plan: get a notebook and start looking for the answers to the next questions…
- Find a good name for your blog.
- Branding: what fonts are you going to use, what colours, writing style and voice,…
- Get somebody to design you a logo - or make it yourself, if you’re good at that.
- Decide on a domain name - and buy it as soon as you know. The longer you wait, the more chance somebody else might take it. I’ve been getting my domain names with one.com for about fifteen years now and always been happy with them - they also offer one-click Wordpress.com setup (and their own web builder). Click here to get a discount on your first order with one.com!
- Decide on your hosting - and how to build your website. Many people these days go with Wordpress.org (not to be confused with Wordpress.com), but I’m partial to Squarespace; the price is comparable (if you include the theme and essential plugins you need with Wordpress), and Squarespace makes things a whole lot easier. There are others as well - Wix, Weebly, Blogger, etc. All have their pros and cons.
- Decide on the layout and setup of your website: how will your home page look, what titles do you want in the menu, do you want to add a webshop, landing pages, member area? Take your time to decide on that and have a plan ready before you start building it (or talking to a web designer).
If you want a bit more of a framework to build your plan around, I recommend getting the One Hour Content Plan - the solopreneur's guide to a year's worth of blog post ideas in 60 minutes & creating content that hooks and sells. It helped me put things into perspective last year (and the Kindle version is quite cheap too).
Plan your online marketing.
- You will need a mailing list - what is the setup of your mailing list going to be? Who will be your e-mail service provider, how often will you send out e-mails?
- You'll probably use social media to promote your blog. But which ones, and what should you post there, and how often? Before you start worrying about that, check out our post about choosing the right social media platforms for your blog or business.
4. Make a schedule
A schedule makes life so much easier when you’re blogging! Sticking to it helps as well.
Take your time, get your notebook, and write down all kinds of things you could write - as many titles as you can. Keep a bookmark on that page, as you’ll probably want to add more titles to the list as you go. You won’t need to write every single one of those blog posts, but it will help on days you’re not feeling inspired.
Then decide on when and how often you’re going to publish a blog post. I would advise to have a few blog posts up before you launch (maybe one per category or subject?), but after that it’s up to you how often you want to post a new blog. Make sure you produce quality though - starting with the idea of publishing several blog posts a week is ambitious, but how long can you keep that up?
Posting more than once a week used to be a “thing”. However, I believe it’s more important to post consistently and regularly, than often. Do make sure you post at least once a month though - you don’t want your website to go completely dead!
Now make your schedule - block some time for writing about a week before you want to publish a blog post, and block some extra time for “all the things” (see 6) in between writing and publishing. If you’ve collected a lot of titles, you’ll have a plan for the next few weeks or maybe months.
Your schedule might end up looking like this:
- Monday: write blog post B (to be published next Tuesday)
- Tuesday: publish blog post A (the one you wrote last Monday)
- Wednesday: promote blog post A (see 7)
- Thursday: go over blog post B for SEO, decide on the title, do a spelling check (see 6)
- Friday: make graphics for blog post B (see 6)
- Saturday: make content upgrades or work on monetising)
Of course this is just an example - you might be able to do several of these on one and the same day.
If you want to start a blog, writing is the most important step. No blog posts = no blog.
Write about your own experiences if you must - but don’t forget to write for your audience as well. Write about how to solve a problem they might have, answer all their questions about a topic, list “things to do when / before”,…
Most blog posts are between 300 and 3000 words long. Nothing wrong with a really long article, when it’s well written and entertaining to your readers! Nothing wrong with a really short one either, especially if it’s used to refer your readers to somewhere else (maybe a guest post you wrote on somebody else’s blog?).
Most blog posts will probably be between 500 and 1000 words long.
6. Things every blog post needs
After you’ve written your blog post, let it rest for a bit - and go back to it afterwards to work on it a bit more.
- Read it for grammar and spelling
- Make sure to make it search engine optimized (SEO-ready)
- Find pictures to go with your post, and make sure to add in a watermark so people don’t come in and steal your pics. Give your pictures a name using the right keywords before uploading them, and give them a metatext aimed at being found on search engines as well. One of these images can also be your featured image or thumbnail - when you post the link to your blog on social media, it will display that image to go with it.
- Make a vertical image for Pinterest. Even if you don’t have a Pinterest account (yet), putting that image in your blog post allows others to pin the picture… so you can start generating traffic from Pinterest.
- Write the metadata (description) for your blog post, so search engines will know exactly what it’s about
- Use the correct labels, tags and categories. Posting a blog post under the "uncategorized" category just looks lazy.
- If needed, edit the permalink (url slug) as well so it says exactly what you need it to say - and contains the right keywords.
- Add in all your links in the blog post (and double check those): links to past posts, to other people's blog posts, to your social media,...
7. Take it online!
Don’t wait too long before taking your blog online; just do it as soon as there are a few blog posts on it!
Once your blog is online, it’s time to start sharing your work with others. Share it in Facebook groups or on LinkedIn, write something about it on Instagram or Twitter, make sure you share it with anybody who might find it useful, interesting or funny.
From now on, you’ll be able to promote every single blog post once it’s out. For that, make a note in your agenda as well. On “blog post promotion day”, you can make sure it’s scheduled for social media and Pinterest, send out something to your mailing list, share your post with others,…
These were the bare basics for starting a blog - in the next few weeks and months, we’ll talk more about the details of writing, managing and promoting your blog.