Toast Talk

July 15, 2013

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…

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)

  1. You guys are fantastic! I found this blog while doing research on blogs for an internship, but just loved look and feel of a piece of toast. I also run two blogs of my own. both small… readers are just some friends and the occasional people i don’t know. i started them just for fun, but recently felt like maybe i should try to be more serious about it. your post gave me some more insight and idea about what i should do if i do decide to take the fun blogging to a serious fun blogging level. thanks! and love ya’ll’s content! <3 🙂

  2. Hi,
    I love your blog and have been reading it for a couple months. I’ve just started my own blog a few weeks ago. I’m wondering if you would suggest starting another IG account for a new blogger like me?
    Thanks!

  3. Great detail and congratulations on your success. At what point do you recommend reaching out for representation as a social influencer? or for an agency to broker collaboration?

    would love to hear your thoughts on that topic and any first steps/common pitfalls.

    Thank you so much,

    Lisa | Boss Lady-in-Chief

    THINK LIKE A BOSS LADY

    thinklikeabosslady.com

  4. love this post! thanks for the honesty :] even though i know how hard it can be to grow a blog it can be hard when everyone else’s seem to be growing faster than mine ha! love your blog so much you guys are great!

  5. Hi Sally & Molly,

    I came across your blog through an Old Navy ad on my email. so I started to surf your website/blog and fell in love with your story(two sisters blogging and working together). My sister-in-law, cara and i began last december with an idea to create products from cara’s beautiful photos she has taken through the years. We have finally launched our website and it has been a long and stressful journey that continues to have many bumps in the road. After reading your q&A session, it gives me hope and faith that things will get better, but it will definitely take time and tons of effort. Thanks again for your insight and guidance. Keep up the wonderful and cheerful blogs..Marie & Cara… we would love for you to check out our new website. https//:cmdesigngallery.com

  6. Also, once you get the url, register the twitter handle, Facebook page, and any other social media.

  7. From a reader perspective, don’t complain about how much work it is. You wouldn’t complain to a customer or client in your day job, why do people think this is okay in blogs?
    Your creativity will come in fits and spurts but your posts shouldn’t. Save them when you get inspired and post on a semi regular schedule.
    Related to the above, don’t flake out on your blog just because you’re going on vacation, have long weeks at you day job, etc. There are products that will allow you to post pre-written content on a schedule.
    Don’t recommend products that you don’t really believe in. I once bought a mascara because a blogger I liked wrote a glowing review. It immediately gave me an eye infection. Think I ever bought anything she recommended again?

  8. Thank you so much for this Molly and Sally! I am starting my own blog (launching soon) and although I “know” what I should do, its nice to hear it from people that I respect and look up to. It is very overwhelming trying to pick my aesthetic and voice, etc. but I think its like you said, just be yourself in essence.

  9. If I could add a #11…don’t be afraid to network!! Bloggers I know and even coworkers of mine often don’t go to events because they don’t want to go by themselves. Chances are, someone else is there alone too, and you never know who you’ll meet! I’ve made some great friends and connections that way, and also by staying active with other bloggers. Added bonus, it keeps me a little more sane! You girls have great advice & I love how straightforward you are about all the issues you come across while blogging.

    Rose
    Blonde in this City

  10. Awesome post! SO happy you took the time and you put this lengthy and thoughtful post together. Also, did you see my blog post confessing my love for your style last week? Check it out here hammerandheels.blogspot.com

  11. When I first started my blog I did a lot of these things and it helped SO much! Also, don’t be afraid to contact other bloggers for info, they’re really helpful! In fact, you were one of the people I contacted and you gave me some great tips – I truly appreciate your advice to this day!

  12. Great advice! I have friends ask how to start a blog all of the time and I send them to a million different websites. This is a really great overview! Definitely sharing!

  13. So much great advise. I am still in the beginning stages of blogging and trying to figure out how to balance it with my business, by having it correlate but also not solely push my products. I am always looking for suggestions on any and all blogging aspects, thanks for sharing!

  14. So happy you posted this. I’m in the process of transferring my Blogger site to WordPress, and it’s nice to be reminded of the core things of blogging. WordPress has been tricky to adjust to, and I’m nowhere near done making design adjustments, switching my URL and simply just figuring it all out. Still keeping my fingers cross that making this move was a good idea!

    Elizabeth of The Corner Apartment

  15. great, easy advice! our blog just started in februray but we looked to seasoned bloggers like you girls for inspiration from the start! xo

  16. I love all of your tips! I agree- if I had known how much work it would’ve been and how vulnerable I’d have to be before starting, I probably wouldn’t have! Getting going and growing a readership is the hardest part, but if you love what you’re sharing, that’s all that matters!

  17. Thank you for posting this! I started my blog in February and am constantly searching for advice from more established bloggers! I’m so inspired by how far y’all have come and hope to someday be as successful as you! 🙂

    Jessie

    jessieholmesspringer.com

  18. APOT is one of my favorite blog, you guys have the best topics and I love your style. These advice are great I am just lacking in the hiring a designer area, it is so expensive but that’s next on my list.

  19. I have to say, I discovered your blog a couple months ago and have been stalking it ever since! I created my blog under pressure (An assignment in a Marketing class) but it has truly turned into my passion. As an artist and a fashion lover I have a huge desire to share and inspire and have loved the process of doing so…but I have been itching to make my blog something more.

    I have 4 sisters and you two have inspired me that sister-blogging is more than possible- it’s ridiculously good. So thank you! Soaking up all your advice.

  20. I’ve been blogging for almost 3 years and although it’s never really taken off, the little successes and small amounts of growth are ALWAYS satisfying.

    But what struck me most was what Sally said about failing in originality rather than succeeding on imitation. THAT is what I’ve been needing. Thank you 🙂

  21. I cannot believe you posted this, after months of coercing from my friends and family I finally decided to take the plunge and start my own blog. When I’m home and focused I’m going to study this post. Thanks! (As you can see by my URL I haven’t REALLY started yet)

  22. I’ve been following APOT for a few months now and I cannot thank you enough! Your site has given me the inspiration to finally start doing what I love. I launched http://theheartsdelight.wordpress.com a week ago and have loved every second of it. I finally found a way to express myself in a way that was authentic to who I am. Even though the site is still in it’s infant stage, I’m trying to focus on the long term and not worry about stats. I’ve always been a believer that you’ll be successful when you do something that you truly love! Once again, your blog has motivated me to take the next step and commit to using the non-Wordpress domain name. Thanks Ladies!

    Wishing you lots more future successes! Perhaps, our paths will cross again in the blogging universe 🙂

    XOXO,
    Stella
    http://theheartsdelight.Wordpress.com

  23. I’ve been a long-time follower of you two, so when I started my own blog, I used yours as inspiration. I think you gals have done a great job of creating fresh content and keeping readers engaged, all while staying true to you. Your personalities shine through in every post – and that’s why I love APOT so much. This post is great and is full of wonderful resources. Thank you for sharing!

    xx, B of Bubbly in Brooklyn

  24. SUCH great advice! I have to say, the number one reason I adore you girls is because you’re just so sweet, so genuine and aren’t afraid to put yourselves out there. I’ve learnt a TON from you both!

Comments are closed.

You may also like