It took 30 years, but I’ve finally found my thing. I stumbled into blogging by accident (and a fateful series of events), not knowing what an incredible blessing it would turn out to be for our family. I didn’t know how to start a blog…I just did it.
I’ve turned blogging into a successful and fulfilling career, even though I just kind of “winged it” at first. But it would have been so much easier if there had been someone to show me the ropes! I definitely could have saved a lot of time and made fewer mistakes.
Because I believe that there is enough room in the “blogging world” for all who feel called to write and WORK, I love to share my tips for starting a blog. It truly makes my day to hear from a reader who felt inspired or learned something from one of my posts.
Most of my blogging posts are geared towards beginning bloggers. However, in corresponding with some of my readers, I saw a need for even more basic information: how to start a blog from the ground up. Essentially, a step-by-step guide for those who want to blog, but have no idea where or how to start.
So I sat down and made a list of the ten things that I did to build my blogging business — from the very beginning. This is a guideline from my own personal experience (your path might end up being slightly different, and that’s ok!) This tutorial is designed to explain blogging basics so you’ll hit the ground running!
How to Start a Blog from the Ground Up in 10 Steps
1. Think: topic
Before you start writing, or purchase a domain name, or anything else, you need to have an idea of what you want to write about. You might already know a specific niche that’s your calling, for example, a friend of mine created a knitting blog.
It’s also ok to think more broadly. If you’ve browsed my site, you’ll see that I cover a lot of different topics. I want my site to be a reflection of what interests me, and a source of inspiration for as many moms as possible.
Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world if you decide your original topic isn’t working. I actually started another blog before The Soccer Mom Blog. However, a couple weeks in, I realized I was trying to write about something that wasn’t my passion. I bought a new domain name, leaving the other one to expire, and never looked back!
2. Brand yourself
Once you’ve chosen a topic, it’s time to choose your name. Again, this is not set in stone forever and ever if you decide to move on to something else later. But of course it is awesome if you figure out your online identity from the get-go!
This decision is ultimately a personal one, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Is your blog name a reflection of you and what you’re trying to accomplish?
- Is the purpose of your blog clear from the name alone?
- Will the corresponding URL (website address aka “domain name”) be easy for visitors to remember and type?
3. Get hosted!
If you’re sure of your topic and domain, you’ll want to snag your blog name before someone else does!
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 your goal is monetizing, you 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 move everything over to a self-hosted site 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, so 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!) If you purchase your Bluehost plan through my link, you get an exclusive offer for my fans that costs even LESS the monthly plans listed below and you’ll get your domain name free!
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.
4. Looks matter
Once you’ve secured your domain name, it’s time to create your “look.” A simple logo, website color scheme, and theme. These elements will help identify you and your brand.
My biggest piece of advice on blog design: keep it simple and keep costs low! Especially in the early days when you’re not making a profit yet.
I was well over 100K monthly page views before I paid anything for outside design work. You don’t need fancy design to achieve success — rather, when you’re successful, you can justify the expense of professional help.
A site that is clean and readable will keep me around as a visitor WAY longer than a busy site with a bunch of distracting bells and whistles.
5. State your mission
Your mission statement/tagline is one statement that sums up your site and your purpose. Not only does this tell readers exactly what your site is about, it also helps you to stay focused when creating content.
For example, my tagline is “parenting and positive lifestyle,” a slogan that remains the same as when I started. When I am brainstorming a new post, I always ask myself does this idea help my audience to create a more positive life for themselves?
6. Set up social media at the start
If you’re blog is up and running, there’s no reason to wait to create your corresponding social media accounts. One, you want to lock down your name on each platform. Two, you want to give yourself as much time to grow your following as possible!
These are the four main social media networks on which you need a presence if you want to work with brands (sponsors):
A Google+ profile helps the Google search engine to index your website, and a YouTube account is a must if you plan to do any video content.
Don’t worry if you’re not an expert at all (or any) of these platforms right away. You’ll learn as you go, and most bloggers are stronger on certain social medias than others. Just get them up and running!
I waited months to start a Facebook fan page, and I really ended up regretting it! Read more about that and 4 other things I wish I’d known before starting a blog HERE.
7. Pick a personal goal
We’ve already touched on what you want your blog to be about, but do you have a goal for your business? Even if it seems far-fetched now, it’s helpful to set goals for yourself and where you want to go with your blog…and beyond.
Is your goal to make enough money to be a stay at home mom (correction: work at home mom)? Or do you see yourself as an entrepreneur that creates products, writes books, hosts events, and more? Decide what you want, and then make it happen!
You might not meet all of your goals in the time frame you initially give yourself, but you will never meet a goal that you don’t set. Aim big!
8. Go live!
Are you publishing content yet?
If not, what are you waiting for?!
Some new bloggers tell me that they plan to wait until they have a lot of content built up before “going live” and then publishing them all at once. Personally, I see no reason to wait.
The day I created my blog is also the day I published my first post. The more time you give people, search engines, etc. to find your site, the better. A bunch of posts sitting in drafts does no good. Go for it!
9. Read other blogs
Who is your blogging idol? Do you even read other blogs?
Surprisingly, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers admit that they don’t read blogs at all! But there is so much to learn from those that already are successful.
I definitely have a few bloggers that I admire — for their quality work and their business path. Positive inspiration is an amazing driving force!
However, it is of upmost importance to know the difference between inspiration and copying.
Inspiration: “My favorite food blogger just released her first cookbook. That’s one of my goals too, and now I see that it IS possible to make the jump from blogger to cookbook author!”
Copying: “My favorite blogger wrote a viral post about a super-unique DIY picture frame tutorial. I think I’ll make a the same thing, but take my own step-by-step photos, to see if I can have a viral post too!”
Even if it’s the result of innocent new-blogger ignorance, copying is NOT cool. Plus, it won’t benefit you in the long run. Readers don’t want a second-rate knock-off of their favorite blog. But they are always looking for new and exciting sources of inspiration! Be that “something new” they’re seeking!
I highly recommend reading this post about Blogging Etiquette to make sure that you know what is ethically expected in the blogging world.
10. Find your tribe
Perhaps the most crucial key to success is networking with other bloggers. A small group (local or virtual) of people with similar ambitions is an amazing place to find and share knowledge and support. I belong to several blogging groups and I credit my success in no small part to what I learned there and the friends I made.
I created a Facebook support group for bloggers of all levels to do just that! Feel free to join us in Banking on Blogging to learn and grow, and make new blogging buddies!
One more thing…
This is the part you might not want to hear, but you need to hear.
You might see some bloggers promising that you can make “full time income” with part time hours. Friend, it’s just not true. Like any other business, if you want to see major success, you’re going to put in major effort.
I work a LOT. While I am, for the most part, able to decide when and where I work, I still work what amounts to full-time hours. But I’m ok with that because I know that I am building a future for our family and I love what I do.
I want you to know this: two years ago I was in your shoes. By the following year I earned twice as much monthly as I did at my previous job. I still pinch myself!
But it isn’t luck! Blogging is hard work — there’s always something else you could be doing and the industry is constantly changing. However, this also means that you always have the ability to intentionally change course. If one strategy isn’t working, you can steer yourself in another direction towards success. The only way to truly fail is to give up.
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