The #1 e-mail I receive 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?
My advice is the same every single time, so I thought I’d finally formalize those recommended steps into a little post.
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. I know that blogs are very 2005. I know that there is already a blog for every topic under the sun/moon/stars. I also know – and you should too – that a blog will not become your writing career (as in make you gobs of money) easily, if ever. But blogs make you write regularly, and writing regularly helps you develop your writing voice, and your writing voice is everything. So 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.
7 Steps To Launching Your Blog
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 dog-raising blog or a blog about their dating life. It’s is 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 cooking and dating, don’t fret. The most important thing is that your blog is you and 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 place that people get stuck 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 just called it Jane Doe’s Dating Blog, buy the domaine JaneDoeDates.com from GoDaddy.com (the hosting and domaine service I use for all my sites) and call it a day. You can always change it later.
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 (link via photo below). 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 the incredible designer that worked on my re-design. She is Stephanie Todaro, and she does beautiful work – if I might say so myself.
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 smart. This also gives you a chance to get comfortable with the writing style and format before launch because you want to be up and running regularly once you inform the world that you are a blogger. And as a general rule, stick to posts that are more than 200 words but less than 800 (I fail frequently in the less than department) and always include at least one picture.
5. Write a strong “About Me” page + get your social media going
A. 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 doppleganger. People love pictures.
B. Social media is critical to growing your blog. I recommend using both Instagram and Twitter and posting more than just your blog posts if you really want to grow your brand. As 20Nothings on Twitter (shameless Twitter handle plug!) 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. This is a huge topic that I’ll cover on another day, but for now just make sure buttons for your social media are very visible on your site. Here are mine, top right, for example:
6. Develop a schedule and stick to that schedule
Bottom line: you need to write at least once a week or you will be forgotten. Make it the same day every week and try very hard to publish at the same time (…do as I say not as I do…). I recommend posting twice a week on the same days. Here is an interesting article about the science behind that. But overall, consistency is your best friend in this business. People are busy and readers are fickle. Give them something to rely on, and they’ll come back.
7. Tell everyone you know that you started a blog
Yes, because that’s good for promotion but I’m more interested in you shaming yourself into keeping this blog going for as long as possible. 99% of people give up on their blog within one year of writing. Yes, I made that stat up but it feels really, really true. 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.
Now I want all your blogs up and running within two weeks from this very moment. E-mail me at 20Nothings@gmail.com when they’re done. The very first person to launch one gets a “how did it go” profile right here on this little blog, and my mother promotes this blog very, very strongly, so get working. Good luck!