Before I get started, I just wanted to make it clear that I am in no way claiming to be a blog-savant, or to have completely mastered the art of blogging itself (I’ll leave that to the professionals like Aimee Song & Nicole Warne), but surprisingly, I have received quite a few emails from people who want to start a blog but have no clue where to start, so I thought that I should do a post on it and impart most of my knowledge and the things that i’ve learnt in one go! Feel free to add on in the comments below on anything you think I’ve missed – these are just my observations and things I wish I knew before I started.
(Side note: If you really want to hear from the professionals, I recommend that you attend Talya Goldberg & Amy Scheepers’ BBlog Class. They said they’d do a whole lot more this year across SA, so they’re definitely something to look forward to!)
If you want to start a blog and be serious about blogging, you should probably have a blog/business plan before you get started. When I started blogging, I really didn’t think that big, so I wasted a lot of time rebranding and changing a lot of things as I went, which in hindsight, didn’t seem too… professional. Take the time and write out what you actually want to achieve with your blog, in terms of layout, colour scheme, content, and what you want out of it, etc.
Have A Vision
Carrying on from planning, you have to make sure that you have a strong vision. Think of a name, and see how it rolls off your tongue and correlates (or doesn’t correlate) with the things you intend to post. Sometimes ambiguous names are the best because they aren’t constricting in terms of what you want to post. Next up, find a blog home for yourself. I started out on Blogger in about 2009, so when I started DearSolo in 2012, I went back to Blogger because it was something I knew and was comfortable with. It’s really nice for beginners, as is WordPress.com, but like Talya Goldberg always says, for serious/aspiring-serious bloggers, a self-hosted WordPress is the way to go (read her tips here). You can buy/find more themes and templates and it just feels more professional
(to me). But a self-hosted WordPress can become quite pricey – so things like cost should definitely play a part in your planning.
Pick A Template
Picking a template is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do in your life, right up there next to choosing a name for your first child, or, like, deciding whether or not to begin a nuclear war. I find it to be so difficult because if you’re not sure exactly what you want, you’ll be trolling the internet for hours, but if you do know exactly what you want, you’ll find yourself doing the exact same thing. A template is incredibly important, though – it’s basically how you present yourself on the internet, so you have to get yourself a really nice and responsive (adapts to mobile viewing) theme. If you’re serious about blogging, it becomes quite an investment, so you might find yourself having to pay for a template that has exactly what you want or maybe even a web designer. There are some really nice themes you can get for free and adapt to what you want if you’re adept at learning code and CSS (I did that for two years), but life is generally easier if you can find and buy the right one. But, as you can tell by now, between web hosting and buying a theme, things can add up, so it’s okay to start without your own domain but with a great theme. Blogger and WordPress have their own theme gardens, but Google will always be your friend when it comes to the hunt.
Invest In Your Photography
If your blog contains personal style photos (or any photos, for that matter), make sure you either: 1) have a good camera, 2) know how to use the camera you already have or 3) have a photographer or a friend who can use a camera. Visuals are an important part of any blog, so try your best to make the best of what you have and focus on improving yourself. When it comes to cameras, a point-and-shoot camera can do you very well if you know how to utilise it, but investing in a good DSLR camera would definitely help the quality of your pictures (I’m a sucker for Canon, and their entry level cameras – 500D-700D/1100D – are really great. A big pricey, but most of them are decreasing in price as you go on, yay!) If you’re on your own, you can get away with using a tripod, but if you want location photos, find a friend or a photographer (it gets real awkward without them). Some may ask to be paid, so unless you want to use those photos as your professional/cover pictures, avoid paying for photography (at least, until you can avoid it). Also: always stay in the lane of self-betterment. I’m trying to learn how to use Photoshop so that I can get myself some That Guy With Glasses/Amy Scheepers-type photos! Good quality pictures can make up for a lot.
Make sure to utilise social media! Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are your BFFs. Look around the interweb and network with other bloggers, try and build a presence on Instagram and Facebook, read blog networking sites such as IFB and Lucky Magazine’s community, and do my personal favourite: comment on other people’s blogs while making sure to leave your link at the end of the post. Not only do bloggers appreciate comments and responses on their blogs, people like me like to stalk the people who interact, so it’s a great way to get your name out there. As a blogger, social media is your secret weapon – use it! Try and also forge connections with your readers. You’re not too cool to reply on Instagram! Make them care about what you have to say and who you are as a person, that way, they’ll stick by and support you.
The tough part is keeping it up. It’s all nice and great to start a blog and think of all the fun you’re going to have and people you’ll meet and events you’ll go to (those things do happen – don’t get me wrong), but before that even starts to happen, you have to put in work. So I urge you, please blog because you love it, not because of free things (even though we alllllll know free things are great), because there may not always be free things, and if thats why you blog, you can become very despondent at times and posting becomes really difficult. Like I said before, you need to assess what you want from your blog. If you want to create a brand and be an online voice and influencer, that’s great, but if you only want free things, maybe reassess why you want to start a blog. If you blog because you love it and appreciate the response from readers, then creating content and maintaining momentum will be relatively easy. If you’re in school, or even at a 9-5, it becomes difficult to make time to blog, but always try your best to budget time, or if you find yourself having lots of time, prepare a few posts and then post them over a week or two to keep your blog ‘alive’. You don’t have to post every single day, but try be consistent. (I’m working on this, myself!)
So, In Conclusion…
I am still, and will probably always be, working on some of these things, but these are definitely the things I would focus on if I were starting a new blog. It would be a great start to hit the ground running with a blog that already has a great aesthetic and direction! A blog is a lot of investment (time and money-wise), and you can either do it bit by bit like I did, or you can try your best to get it all started from the get-go. But please, don’t kill yourself trying to get a wardrobe and website like Chiara Ferragni. Make the best with what you have! You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish for free.
- Think of a name that you can see your (personal) brand with.
- Choose your blog host, whether it’s self hosted or through WordPress.com or Blogger.
- Find yourself a great and responsive theme. Look around (you can honestly be looking for days) for a good free one, or invest now and pay for one.
- Find the basis of your content and make a plan for it to ensure your blog’s going concern.
- Invest in your photography/camera! It makes a huge difference in the reception and professionalism of your blog.
- Social media! Social media! Social media!
- Make time for your blog, despite life getting in the way!
- Blog for the love of it – brands come and go, but investing in your readers and your content goes a long way.
Thanks for reading this very wordy post, and if you’ve been thinking about blogging, I hope this helps you. If you have any tips of your own or think I missed anything, please comment it below and let me know what you think of my own tips! 🙂