Some of my favorite articles and blog posts to read on my own time are those about the “business” of blogging. I love when people are candid with tips and techniques that worked for them– no matter what stage you’re at, it’s incredibly helpful to learn from those who are successful! I thought I would share some of the things that I wish I had known before I got started. Today’s post focuses on the things I wish I had known NOT to do when I first created my blog.
When I started my blog, I just kind of winged it! I didn’t know anyone personally who made a living blogging, so I didn’t have help to make sure I didn’t skip steps or do things the “wrong” way. Fortunately, I figured things out and built my blog into a fulfilling career and source of income, but my journey was not without the occasional speed bump.
I’ve learned a lot since the early days, so I wanted to share some of the things I would do differently, had I known better. That way you can learn from my mistakes, without having to go through them yourself!
Here are 5 things NOT to do when starting a blog that you want to become a business:
DON’T Get started on a free blogging site
If you have any intentions of making money blogging (even if you think it’s just a dream!), skip the free blogging sites and get self-hosted (purchasing your own domain name) right from the get-go!
Make sure you’re aware of the difference between WordPress.com (free, but not self-hosted) and WordPress.org (self-hosted). Most free sites won’t let you have ads or do sponsored posts, so if you have the goal of monetizing your blog, you’re going to need to be self-hosted.
I didn’t know the difference and I created my blog on WordPress.com and I ended up having to switch everything over just a few months later. Switching from free to self-hosted requires some decent web knowledge or paying someone to do it for you to avoid site outages or losing any of your hard work.
The Basic plans on Bluehost are only a few dollars per month — if you sign up through my link you get exclusive pricing that’s $1 off the regularly-listed monthly Basic plan AND a free domain name. At less than $3/month it’s a tiny expense and totally worth it! (You’ll end up paying someone $100+ to switch you over later if you start on a free site!)
A starter plan will serve you just fine until you’re really hitting big numbers. I stayed with the Bluehost Basic plan until I was in the 150K page views/month range, and then I upgraded to the Blogger Plan (also on Bluehost) which is still very affordable. CLICK HERE to create your own self-hosted BlueHost website or HERE to read more about why I chose them for my hosting.
DON’T Ignore social media
I worked in social media marketing before I started blogging. Because of this, I was a bit jaded about the “pay to play” Facebook model, as they say. So I didn’t bother making a Facebook Fan Page for my blog right away. Big mistake! When I realized that a Facebook presence was crucial for working with brands and building a connection with your audience, I was behind the curve.
If I had set up a fan page as soon as I started my blog, I could have been building followers and growing my network all along — slow progress and growth is better than none at all. Create a blog presence on the “big four” social media platforms immediately: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. You can play around with other social media networks later on as you become more comfortable.
DON’T Throw away receipts
Even if you haven’t made a single dime from your blog, you can still claim most blogging-related expenses on your taxes, so save ALL receipts! Did you purchase craft supplies to create a neat DIY post? Save that receipt! This blog is your business, so you don’t want to miss any tax breaks that you’re owed!
I do most of my own tax work myself, though I began meeting with an accountant periodically once my blog really took off, just to make sure I was doing things correctly.
The Unofficial Tax Handbook for Bloggers is an awesome resource for the DIY approach, or just making sure you’re knowledgeable about all the tax terms and requirements for this non-traditional career. It’s written by a two of my favorite bloggers that are each making 5-figures a MONTH, along with one of their husbands (also a blogger) who has a background in finance for a large corporation…so they know their stuff!
DON’T Spend a ton of money before you starting making a profit
This is one I was very careful about, because my family was living solely on my husband’s income at the time I started my blog. However, I see so many new bloggers spend a LOT of money on classes, fancy equipment, multiple scheduling tools, etc. before they’ve started earning any income to offset their cost of operation. Keep your overhead as low as possible for as long as possible!
Like I mentioned above, I stayed on a starter BlueHost plan well into the six-figure traffic range before I upgraded to a specialized hosting plan.
I didn’t buy any fancy photography equipment for almost a year. When I decided to step up my game, I put my indoor lighting kit (which I LOVE) on my Christmas wish list and I borrowed my brother’s old DSLR camera.
I selected one blog conference to attend in my first year (an awesome experience!) that was in driving distance of my home.
I did a lot of research on social media scheduling tools and decided that Tailwind for Pinterest was worth the expense (I went from gaining about 20 followers a day before signing up to about 200 a day after a few weeks of using Tailwind!) I stuck to Facebook’s native scheduler and Twitter’s free tool, TweetDeck for the rest of my social media.
DON’T Give Up!!
I can’t stress this enough! You never know where you’ll get your first “big break,” and all it takes is one post going viral to gain momentum, new social media followers, and new readers.
Some of my best traffic days have come from shares in unexpected places. All it takes is the right person stumbling across one of your posts that really “speaks to them,” and sharing it with their audience.
My husband’s Sweet Potato Crust Pizza Recipe for the blog was recently featured in a round-up of 100 must-try pizzas on the front page of MSN.com — and we had NO idea until we started seeing traffic pouring in!
There’s GOOD News…
Even if you created a blog and committed some of the “DON’TS” listed above, you can always re-evaluate and improve upon what you’re doing. I’m constantly going back and re-vamping old posts to make them more effective and I’m always looking for ways to better my blogging!
READ THIS NEXT: How to Start a Blog from the Ground Up in 10 Steps
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