While my blogging journey hasn’t been the most consistent since starting this website last year, there is one thing I know for certain: after about a million re-launches, dozens of new site designs, and consistently deciding to “start from scratch,” I can now at least say that I am an expert at starting a blog.
I recently helped my mom start a personal and photography blog of her own (check it out here!) after hearing her talk about it for what felt like forever. And I get it….the idea of starting something new is often daunting. So, I thought that I would take some of the tips I’ve learned along the way and share them with all of you.
Let’s get into it.
Step One: Just Start Already!
The process of setting up a new blog will take you just a few minutes in the beginning, and it’s completely free (I highly suggest investing in your blog if you want to be taken seriously, but we will discuss that in later steps).
Now is as good a time as any to start your own blogging journey. Just seeing your own blog page online can be motivational enough for you to start wanting to fill it with content.
In the beginning, don’t worry about the bells and whistles of blogging. What’s important at first is creating content that you love and getting used to the habit of writing.
So, go out there with any camera you have (even a phone camera will work at first!), think of an idea for your first post, and sit down at your computer.
The very first thing you need to do is pick a hosting site. I swear by WordPress and highly recommend their platform, but there are some other popular sites out there too (like Blogger). The great thing about WordPress is that they’ll let you do everything for free but you’ll still have the option to upgrade your blog down the line.
Step Two: Make Your Blog Your Own
Before you post your first piece of content, you’ll want your blog to look like…well…a blog.
Since I use WordPress, I’ll be talking specifically about designing a site on their platform. WordPress has some really great free themes for beginners. I suggest something pretty minimal in design that features a sidebar. I love sidebars as a new blogger because it lets you tell visitors a little about who you are and why they should stick around to read your posts.
Installing a theme is easy. Simply click the one you like, preview it to make sure it’s right for you, and click Activate. Easy peasy.
Now it’s time to customize your site.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with the basics. Choose a title for your blog. Remember that this is what people will come to know your site by, and you may get locked into it if you purchase a domain of the same name. In almost all cases, I strongly advise using your name or pen name. This gives you the opportunity to promote and market yourself to your readers. But, if you’re feeling more creative than that, go for it!
Have some fun making a catchy tagline, playing around with your site’s colors, and even adding a logo or banner if you want!
Next, you’ll want to tackle that sidebar. In your customization section, look for “Widgets.” Click this, then click “Sidebar.” For me, this is the fun part. This is what makes the site mine before content is even up.
Start with a good picture of yourself, which you can add with the “Image” addition. This is the first impression of you that your readers will get, so choose a picture that is inviting and high-quality! In the caption, introduce yourself and your blog in just a couple sentences.
The rest of your sidebar can be whatever you’d like it to be! Add social media buttons, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook plugins, an email subscription form, archives of your posts, and more! WordPress makes it easy to navigate and customize this section of your blog.
Now, hit publish, visit your site, and make sure everything is exactly where you want it to be. It’s time for content!
Step Three: Write and Post
You have a blog, and now it’s time to start using it!
Nobody’s first post is amazing. I’m sure all of your favorite bloggers cringe when they see the posts they made at the beginning of their own journey (why do you think I deleted all of mine!?). So don’t worry about perfection; just write something you are passionate about and that you think readers will enjoy. Add the photos you shot to go along with your post, and share it!
Most importantly…stay consistent with it! Give your new readers something to keep coming back for. Getting into the habit of writing takes some time at first, so pick a schedule that works for you whether it’s posting every weekday, once a week, or once a month! You’ll find what works for you and your audience.
Step Four: Invest in Your Blog
It’s amazing that bloggers have free options out there, but the truth is that a self-hosted blog looks more professional to readers and gives the blogger full rights over what they’re creating and writing.
First things first, I suggest buying your own domain. On a free site, the host gets to add their own name at the end. For example, it would be yoursitename.wordpress.com instead of yoursitename.com. Owning your domain looks way more professional right away, and it typically costs between $16-$26. And, you can buy yours right from the “Domains” tab on WordPress!
Next, It might be time to consider upgrading your site to WordPress Premium or WordPress Business. The cost of these upfront may seem like a lot, but they also both give you the option to monetize your site and start making money with ads (along with plenty of other benefits).
WordPress Business plan also lets you download your own theme, so you can purchase a theme from a site like PipDig or SoloPine and use it on WordPress. These themes typically offer more customization than free themes and let you really take your site to the next level.
I hope you were able to learn something from this post today and that you feel inspired to get out there and finally start that blog you’ve been talking about!