The e-mail I receive most often goes something like this: “I want to start a blog, but I don’t know where to begin. Any tips for how to get going?” I’m thrilled to be at a place in my life where a) people approach me for this kind of advice and b) I can actually give it to them and know what I’m talking about.
Before diving in, I just want to say that I think starting a blog is the single greatest thing you can do for your writing career. It is the perfect side hustle because it strengthens your writing and can provide a second source of income. I know that some people still think blogs are very 2005 and that it’s discouraging to realize there’s already a blog for every topic under the sun/moon/stars. Monetizing your blog takes time, of course, but it is doable especially because of the abundance of resources on the Internet.
In addition, blogs make you write regularly, and writing regularly helps you develop your voice. Your writing voice is everything and the sooner you start to work your writing muscles on a regular basis, the better. Not only that, but blogging means you’re creating writing samples, which makes you more qualified to write for other sites. If you write a piece that catches the eye of a bigger blog, there are opportunities to syndicate. You don’t have to wait to be approached about syndication, you can approach blogs you admire too, and ask them to repost your work so that it reaches a wider audience. In short, if you’re at that step before “I want to start a blog” and living somewhere in the land of “is it even worth it to start a blog?” my answer is YES.
That being said, here are 7 steps to launching a blog, coming from someone who launched a successful one.
1. Decide on the general topics you want to cover in your blog.
This is where a lot of people get stuck because they feel like they have to write about one thing and one thing only. It’s a cooking blog or a dog-raising blog or a blog about their dating life. It’s a good idea to have a general focus so that you attract the right audience, but if you’re not starting because you desperately want to write about both cooking and dating, don’t fret. The most important thing is that your blog offers your unique perspective. If your content is strong and your writing is consistent, people will come for the cooking, or the dating, or both. Goal #1 is to write about what you love so that you’ll write often and not give up.
2. Pick a name for your blog and buy a domain.
A name is the second thing that people get hung up on because they want it to be perfect. I agree that you should be smart about coming up with a catchy name that has good SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimization. Read all about it here). But if you’re not starting your blog because you can’t come up with a name for Jane Doe’s Dating Blog, buy the domain name JaneDoeDates.com from GoDaddy.com (the hosting and domain service I use for all my sites) and call it a day. You can always change it later. Choosing a name should be a fun and creative process, but if you’re stuck, don’t let that stop you from moving to the next step.
3. Set yourself up with a clean, simple, user-friendly blog design.
I now use a customizable WordPress theme for my blog, and I recommend WordPress for you. There are plenty of free themes that will serve your purposes. Make sure the look of your blog matches the feel of your content. For example: if you’re writing about California travel you don’t want a black background and boring gray font because California is light, bright and beautiful! If you want to go big right off the bat feel free to contact a designer to collaborate with.
4. Write a bunch of blog posts.
I always recommend launching a blog with more than one post. Give your readers something to attach to right off the bat. That doesn’t mean 20 posts, but 4 or 5 would be a smart goal. This also gives you a chance to get comfortable with the writing style and format before launch because you want to be posting content regularly, once you launch and officially inform the world that you are a blogger-at-large. As a general rule, I stick to posts that are more than 200 words but less than 800 (I sometimes come up a bit short) and I always include at least one picture, if not more.
5. Write a strong “About Me” page and get your social media going.
Blogging is about personality. People read blogs because they want to feel like they are connecting with someone they enjoy. Your “About Me” page should explain who you are, what you’ll be writing and why. If you’re comfortable, include a picture. If you’re not comfortable, include a picture of a celebrity doppelgänger. People love pictures.
As for social media, it’s critical to growing your blog, so you may as well start early. I recommend using both Instagram and Twitter and posting more than just your blog posts if you really want to grow your brand. I’m on Twitter as 20Nothings (shameless Twitter handle plug!) and in addition to sharing my own articles, I share articles from friends that my readers will enjoy, pictures about topics I don’t have time to write a full post about, and more.
6. Develop a schedule and stick to that schedule.
Bottom line: you need to write at least once a week or your blog runs the risk of falling off people’s radar. Make it the same day every week and try very hard to publish at the same time. I recommend posting twice a week on the same days. (Here is a helpful article on when to post.) Overall, consistency is your best friend in this business. People are busy and readers are not guaranteed. Give them something to rely on, and they’ll come back.
7. Tell everyone you know that you started a blog.
First, because that’s good for promotion. And second, because it makes you more accountable for the upkeep of your blog, and means you’ll keep going for as long as possible. Too often people give up on their blog within one year of writing. Don’t be that person. Writing is a muscle and blogging regularly will help you work that muscle to the point where all the other writing in your life gets stronger and faster.