On Saturday Sally and I met with a darling reader (hi, Sophia!) seeking blogging “wisdom.” We were extremely flattered but the first thing we told her was, “we’re happy to give you some pointers although we’ve just been learning as we go along.” The second thing we told her is that we’d be showing up in our Saturday best (workout clothes) and we told her not to worry about dressing cute…we’re casual people.
We get a lot of emails and comments asking for advice on how to start a blog…we have the most commonly asked questions under our facts tab and we try to be as helpful as we can when responding to other inquiries, but it’s hard to give a short and succinct answer to open ended questions like, “where do I start?” We can remember how daunting it felt when we started this blog and honestly, if we knew how hard it would be upfront we might not have done it. Meeting with Sophia reminded us that while we aren’t experts (at. all) in the blogging field we have been through the process of getting a blog started and we don’t mind sharing how we did things way back when. So for all your newbie bloggers or those of you wanting to start a blog, we hope this helps you all get started!
1. Pick a name. Not so fast…make sure that name isn’t already a registered domain. For us it was as simple as typing whatevername.com into browser and seeing if it came up as available or not. Find one that’s not taken? Buy a URL. We used GoDaddy but there are more out there to choose from. “But I’m using WordPress/Blogger and I don’t need to secure a custom URL because they let me pick a name and put .wordpress.com after it.” Trust us, you won’t want to have .blogspot after your name forever—buy the URL now, use it from day one, and make things easy for yourself and your readers.
2. Choose a platform. We started off using SquareSpace and loved it for two years before switching to WordPress. We wanted more flexibility with the design and the freedom to add plugins and we’re really happy we made the move. WordPress, Blogger (Google hosted), Tumblr, SquareSpace, Virb – you have options! Find the one that you think will suit your needs best.
3. Make it pretty. I hate saying this but the layout and look of your blog is just as important as the content you put on it—create a blog that’s beautiful to look at (or at least easy on the eyes) and people will read it. “But, I have no graphic design background. Do I need to hire a designer?” In my honest opinion (again, no expert here), if you’re serious about blogging and wanting to establish a positive, branded image from day one—hire a designer to help you. There are so. many. talented people out there that would jump at the chance to help you get started! It might not be cheap but it will be the first best investment you make.
4. Branding. Some bloggers shun the word, but Sal and I have thought of A Piece of Toast as a brand since we were first thinking of names and deciding what we wanted to write about, how we wanted things to look, how we wanted readers to feel, etc. We have course-corrected and made some adjustments over the years but the essence we originally started with is the same. Our brand is a visual extension of us and supports the aesthetic we always have in mind when we write for the blog.
5. YOU. Oh man…this is important. You want to start a blog—so your blog should be YOU. Sally put it so eloquently here: ‘“Its better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation”. Only start a blog if you have something to offer that is uniquely you. In doing so, you will get the most out of it as will your readers. Be you and and figure the rest out as you go.’ Don’t copy (people will notice and you won’t feel good about it), don’t try to be something you’re not (not everyone can be a food blogger or fashion blogger and that’s okay!), don’t compare yourself to every other blog out there (remember, you want to look different than them!), and most importantly: don’t forget the reasons why you wanted to blog in the first place (when in doubt, always return to the core).
6. Be outgoing. “How did you grow your readership.” It takes time…and it’s not fun to wait. But try to put the numbers out of your head and concentrate on your content. The better your content, the better your blog, and the better chance you have of attracting new readers to come back day after day. Comment on other blogger’s posts, start conversations on social media, follow bloggers you love, share your content – all these acts can contribute to helping you gain an audience. I’m pretty sure the only people who read our blog for a solid few months were our parents, siblings and friends. But then they passed it along, and we made blogger friends, and steadily but surely, the train started moving.
7. Skillz. Is there something you wish you could do because you think it would make your blog better but you’re too intimidated to try it? No time like the present, friends. Learn Photoshop, get a camera and take some classes, learn how to do your own CSS coding—investing in your blog can seem expensive but you probably won’t regret it.
8. Research resources. If you feel like I’m not giving you enough detail here to jump up and get started I totally understand…I am a curious question asker so I get it. There are great online resources that can help you find the answers to a multitude of questions. We like: IFB (cameras, editing, writing—they have it all), The B Bar (for your first steps and next steps as a blogger), and Pugly Pixel (awesome Photoshop and CSS help, and check out the designer directory), elembee (her blogkeeping series is so good)… I’m sure I’m leaving some out so I’ll add them if I think of them!
9. Have fun. Blogging isn’t always easy but it should be fun! Creating content, engaging on social media, meeting new people, learning new things—there are so many benefits that can come from having a blog.
10. Be patient. Don’t go into this venture expecting instant success over night…you’ll only be disappointed. You might be able to quit your day job a do the gig full time one day but getting to that point takes time a really, really hard work. It’s great to have a goal in mind (I’m all about dreaming big, visualizing, and writing it down) but don’t put a time stamp on your success!
So there you have it…Ten hopefully helpful tips that while brief, should help you get things going. Thanks to Sophia for asking us to meet and inspiring this post!
(Image via Vogue)