How To Start A Blog (In Ten Steps!)

14 April 2016

A question I get asked every day without fail is "I'd like to start my own blog, can you help?" and so I've finally decided to write this post so I can stop replying with a short paragraph of tips and start replying with the link to this, which will hopefully help lots of you to begin your own blogging journey. Having had a blog for roughly eight years (I deleted my old one and started this new one in March 2014!) I can safely say that it's one of the best things in my life, so without further ado let's begin so that you can see if it'll become one of your 'best things', too!

- 1. "Establish your why"
Shoutout to Stef Michalak for bringing this quote of his into my life, as I think it's really important. First things first, why do you want to start blogging? For me, it was a natural need to write combined with becoming completely obsessed with the likes of lollipop26 and allthatglitters21 aged fourteen. The blogosphere has changed a lot since then and you'd be surprised at how many emails I get from people starting blogs based on getting "loads of free stuff" and wanting to "earn enough to live in central London within three months". It really doesn't work like that and if you wouldn't be happy to blog forever for nothing (no money or freebies) then it's worth considering whether it's something you're truly passionate about. There's no guarantee that any of us will make a living being a blogger, so why not do it because you love it first and foremost?

- 2. "Think of a name, then a concept"
Yay, we're onto the fun stuff! Before you do anything, figure out what your blog's going to be about (I'd advise basing it around your interests and passions) and tie in your blog name from there. Say you're starting a blog about knitting, choose something that reflects your content like 'Katie Knits' if you want to share your name* or 'Purls Of Wisdom' if you want to remain anonymous. If you'd like to have a lifestyle blog or cover multiple topics, go for a name that doesn't restrict you, for example 'Katie's Beauty Station' would lead people to think you run a beauty blog, whereas 'Katie's World' or 'Daily Katie' gives you more freedom to write about makeup, travel, knitting and basically whatever else you like. 

'Meg Says' was the name I gave my first blog circa 2008, and when I returned to blogging in 2014 I realised that I still really liked it as it doesn't put me or my content in a box and I feel like it suits my personality. Try and go for something that'll stand the test of time - if it's to do with your age or a current trend it'll change in the future, and you'll be tied to a name that's no longer relevant. Does your first name fit into a phrase or pun, have you got a hobby, do you simply want to self-title your blog? The possibilities are endless, so start playing around with ideas and make sure the name doesn't already exist.

*Please note that if you're putting your name/face out there, anyone can view it. I've been randomly browsing blogs before and realised that I've stumbled across someone's blog who I know in real life, so it's worth remembering that your online diary isn't private. Be careful about giving out personal information and ask yourself if you'd mind your family, colleagues or friends seeing it.

- 3. "Choose your platform"
Again, this is completely down to personal preference. For beginners I'd highly recommend Blogger, it's so easy and straightforward to use that it's foolproof even if you have no experience whatsoever and I've never had any issues at all. I used to blog on WordPress for my old social media job and found it a lot trickier to navigate, but if you're a whizz at HTML then it's probably the one for you.

Another frequently asked question is "do I need to buy a domain name?" and the answer is no, you don't. I got mine from GoDaddy and it can help to make your site look more professional (as well as getting rid of the little 'dot blogspot' after your blog name) but it's definitely not a must - in my opinion it's more important to work on your content in the beginning, and if you've got a limited budget your money is better spent on the next step.

- 4. "Pick a blog design"
Now it's time to start laying the bricks and mortar or your blog with a design, so think about how you'd like your blog to look and how much you're willing to spend. To give you an idea, this was my header back in 2014...

I'd just restarted my blog and wanted something simple, clean and pretty. I found this downloadable mint watercolour design by Googling 'free Blogger templates', searched for a font I liked, edited in the text and kept it for a good year and a half until my blog underwent a recent redesign. It wasn't the most complex of interfaces, but it did the job and didn't cost me a penny. If you are able to spend some money on your blog there are multiple website designers out there (like Pipdig, Envye and Pretty Wild Things to name but a few) who offer pre-made templates as well as custom designs, so do your research until you find the right one for you. 

- 5. "Equip yourself"
Firstly, enthusiasm over equipment! I stressed this in my Ten Things I've Learnt About YouTube In One Year video, as you could spend thousands on cameras and lighting but without a drive to create that equipment means very little. In 2014 I didn't have a camera so I used my iPhone 4, and people would still ask what I was using. Phones take HD photos these days and whilst a proper camera will make a big difference to the quality of your content, sometimes its better to make the most of what you've got and just get started - 'done' is better than perfect, after all.

If you decide blogging's for you and you've got some money to spend on making things more professional, take a look at the equipment your favourite bloggers use and see if that fits your budget - I use a Canon 600D, fantastic all-rounder - and if not, search for a cheaper model or buy secondhand. You can also invest in 'extras' like tripods, softboxes and Photoshop but the basic essentials are a) a computer and b) something that takes photos.

- 6. "Start creating and publishing posts"
Go, go, go! It can be slightly daunting, but begin with a post to say hello and introduce yourself to potential readers (here's mine) and things should flow once you've established your tone. I tend to type how I speak so things have a chatty and friendly vibe (we're all pals here), but if you'd like to be more formal or do photo-heavy posts with little text then do what feels right - a good rule of thumb is to write posts that you like reading yourself. It's also handy to have pages like 'About' and 'Contact' so that readers and brands can easily find out more if they'd like to.

Posting regularly and consistently is a great way to build your audience, and how often you update your blog is another personal choice - some upload daily and have a schedule so their audiences know when to expect new content, others post once a week - basically, whatever suits you and your life.

- 7. "Get social"
I don't know anyone who has a blog and isn't on social media, so set yourself up some accounts - there are lots out there but I'd say Twitter and Instagram are the two you should focus on initially. I decided to create new accounts separate from my personal ones which is almost like having a home phone and a work phone - I can keep up with everything my friends are doing and if everyone I went to school with doesn't want to hear about my latest YouTube video, they don't have to! I'd recommend doing the same. 

After putting your time and energy into a post you're going to want people to read it, so don't be afraid to share it on your accounts and invite people to have a browse. Social media also enables you to contact brands directly, so if you've published a post about their products or services it's fine to politely include their @ in your tweet or tag them in a photo - there's a chance they'll see it and it's never too early to start building connections and being recognised for the hard work you're putting in.

- 8. "Build your audience and join the community"
A fantastic way of growing your audience and making friends is to get involved with the community. There's a great Twitter Chat Calendar here, so why not set aside an hour one evening to join in? There's always an opportunity to share your links at the end, so you're showcasing your blog to lots of potential readers as well as having a lovely chat in the process. Utilising relevant hashtags can help bring people your way, as can having a Bloglovin' page which is free and easy to set up. 

Responding to your readers is a big yes in my book - there are millions of blogs out there and these people have taken the time out of their day to read yours, so if they leave a comment be sure to reply. If someone asks where your jumper is from on Twitter, tweet them back and let them know. It doesn't take much effort (in the early stages anyway) and lets your audience know they're appreciated and that you see it as a two-way relationship between you and them.

I'd think carefully about hosting giveaways when you've just started your blog - they do gain you followers in the short-term, but it's more worthwhile to work hard on building a loyal group of regular readers who care about what you have to say.

- 9. "Throw yourself into it and see where it takes you"
Once you've been blogging for a little while, you might want to have a think about how you're progressing and whether it's a hobby or something you'd eventually like turn into your job. If it's the former, I'd say carrying on going at your own pace; feel free to put as many or as little hours into as you fancy and delight in having a corner of the web that's all yours. If it's the latter, let's be real - you're gonna have to work super hard. Blogging in general can be challenging so to go full-time is a lot harder than it might look, but don't let that realisation put you off - it's a fantastic career path filled with rewarding opportunities and lots of great people. Either way, give it your all and make sure you...

- 10. "Have fun!"
I wanted to put this last as it's what I always say to people when they ask me for advice on starting a blog - it's a saturated market these days and it's easy to have feelings of self-doubt when you measure big blogs against your own, but relax a little and remember that you're at the beginning of your journey and another blogger might be six years in. Give it your all and enjoy the ride!

Create stuff, be proud of it and have fun. There's only one of you and your life is unlike anyone else's, and blogging is a beautiful way of sharing that with the world.

I really hope this was helpful, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll answer them as best I can by replying or writing a follow-up post.
Happy blogging!

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