So you want to start a blog, but have absolutely no idea where to begin… Well, don’t worry, because you’re in the right place!
In this post I’ll walk you through all of the essential first steps, from preparation to design, and give you plenty of helpful tips along the way. We’ll have you blogging in no time!
But first off, let’s talk about why you want to start a blog. Often people will start a blog with the intention of making huge money out of it, and be expecting to get the kind of jet-setting career you see on all the top bloggers' blogs and Instagram accounts.
Well, I’m sorry to tell you, but that isn’t the best reason to start a blog. Why, I hear you ask? Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to earn money from your blog, in fact, that’s great if you do, and it’s totally possible! But growing a successful blog is hard work, and I’m sorry to say that there is no guarantee that you’ll rise to the ranks of the super successful.
But there are a lot of the amazing things you can get out of blogging, aside from the potential to earn:
- Blogging can introduce you to lots of new people.
Blogging is a great way of meeting tonnes of new, and often like-minded people whether that’s through the comments section of your blog, on social media or at a real-life meet-up. I’ve met some awesome people through blogging, and the amazing blogging community is one of the best reasons for starting a blog in my opinion.
- Blogging is a great creative outlet and means of self-expression.
Your blog is your own little space on the internet, and so it can be anything you want it to be. Whether your passion is photography, illustration, fashion or writing poetry, blogging is a great way of getting creative and expressing yourself.
- Blogging can help you develop lots of useful skills.
Way back before I started my first blog (a book blog, which I still have now!) I knew absolutely nothing about web design, Wordpress, SEO, photography or social media, and so these are all skills I've gained through blogging. It really is a ‘learn as you go’ process, and being able to put these newly acquired skills on my CV has been invaluable. Which leads me onto…
- Blogging can be great for your career.
Aside from the extra skills you can gain, blogging can be great for your career. For one thing, it shows that you’re a passionate and proactive person, as you devote your free time to creating something and networking with other people. So even if you’re applying for a job that’s unrelated to your blogging niche, it still makes you look good!
In short, blogging is a great thing to do for your life, career and creativity. So if you still want to start a blog, let’s get started!
Preparing To Start A Blog
There are a few essential steps you’ll want to take before you start blogging:
1. Choose your niche.
There are so many different blogging niches out there, from fashion and beauty blogging to lifestyle blogging and food blogging, so the first thing you want to do is choose your field. This is such an important stage because you don’t want to find yourself stuck blogging about something that doesn’t interest you, or find that you’ve started to run short of ideas.
The best way to go about choosing your blog niche is pretty obvious: look at your interests. As a lifelong bookworm, the answer for me was simple, and so I started a book blog. If you’re a fashionista then you may want to lean more towards the likes of fashion and beauty, or if you’re a crafter or passionate about food, you’ll probably want to go with that.
It can also be helpful to think about things that people commonly ask your advice on, as your blog is a great way to share your wealth of experience and expertise. So if your friends are always asking for your advice on budgeting or relationships, then you could base your blog around that.
Alternatively, you could just write about any random thing that interests you, and there are plenty of great blogs out there that do just that. But this can mean difficulties in refining your brand and makes promoting your blog harder.
2. Choose your name.
Another thing you want to seriously think about before you start your blog is your blog name. It may be tempting to just pick something random for the sake of speed, but you’re going to be stuck with your blog name for the foreseeable, so it should be something that you love. It is possible to change your blog name and rebrand later, but it can be an arduous process and may confuse people who have come to know you under your blog's original name.
If you’re going self-hosted (more on that in a minute!), it’s also a good idea to check out if your name’s domain is available beforehand, and snap it up quickly!
3. Choose your platform.
The next stage of preparing to start your blog is choosing your platform, and deciding whether you want to go down the hosted or self-hosted route.
In a nutshell, ‘hosted’ means a blogging platform like Blogger or free Wordpress, where you can set up a blog quickly and for free, but you have fewer customisation options and a lot more limitations. You also don’t technically ‘own’ your own site, and there are fewer options in terms of monetization. However, it can be a great place to start out as a beginner, and you can always go self-hosted at a later date.
‘Self-hosted’ means that your blog is hosted on an outside server that you have to pay for (Godaddy, Bluehost, or Hostgator for example). The process of setting up a self-hosted website is a little more complicated, and of course, there’s the monetary investment, but it does give you full ownership of your own site and loads more customisation options.
Designing Your Blog
And here comes the fun part: designing your blog. Once you’ve signed up to your chosen blogging platform, there are several basic steps to getting your blog looking great:
- Choosing your template.
The first thing you need to do is choose a blog template. This is the basic layout and structure of your site that you can customise to make your own. Different blogging platforms offer a variety of different templates, but obviously self-hosted platforms give you the most options. For example, you can purchase and install a premium theme (or even a custom theme created for you by a designer) to a self-hosted blog, but not to a free Wordpress blog.
However, there are plenty of great free themes or there, and often the simplest are the most effective.
- Choosing a colour scheme.
Choosing a colour scheme is so important! Your blog needs to look cohesive, so keeping the colours to two or three is the easiest and best way to do this. There are loads of great online tools out there to help you choose a colour scheme, but ultimately you should go with something that fits the tone and personality you want to get across in your blog.
- Adding a header.
Your header is one of the best ways to get across your blog’s brand and personality, as it’s the most visible design feature on your blog.
There are so many different options for creating a great header: you can do it yourself if you’re arty, get a friend to help, or even hire an artist or designer. Places like Etsy also do template headers that you can buy and just add your own blog name too, or you could just keep it simple and go with a purely typographical header. Most blog templates will come with a preset header that you can just adjust, but I personally think that making your own gives your blog so much more personality!
- Setting your background and fonts.
You also need to decide on a couple of fonts to have across your blog - preferably simple, easy-to-read fonts - and a background colour.
Personally, my recommendation for background blog colour is always plain white, but pastel shades can work well too. However, I’d strongly advise against black or any other dark colour, because it not only makes the writing difficult to read (even if you have white writing) but can look very amateurish.
Once you’ve setup and designed your blog, you’re ready to start posting great content and promoting it. Writing great blog posts and content is another post for another day, but here are a few quick tips to get you started:
- Think carefully about your post titles.
The blogging world is so saturated that you need to give potential readers a good reason to click on your post, instead of another on the same topic. So keep you post titles short and catchy, and use it to tell people how your post will help them!
- Structure your posts.
A great way to craft your posts is using the classic three-part structure of ‘introduction - middle - conclusion’. Your introduction should sum up what you’re going to discuss in the post, the middle section should make all the points you want to make on the topic, and the conclusion should summarise your thoughts. This structure keeps your blog post from rambling aimlessly and imparts the information in a logical fashion.
- Use short paragraphs and sub headings to break up your posts.
Huge blocks of text can be intimidating and may put people off, so splitting it into short paragraphs of only a few sentences can make it so much more readable.
You could also use subheadings to allow people to skim read and see what points you’ll be covering in the post, so they can decide whether it’s worth a read. Hopefully, the answer will be yes!
- Include a call-to-action at the end of your post.
A call-to-action is something you ask readers to do at the end of the post, whether that's to fill out a poll or form, or comment. I usually ask a question, as this makes it so much easier for people to comment.
- Proofread and check your grammar and spelling.
A lot of errors can be forgiven in blog posts because of the casual style, but tonnes of typos and bad grammar will definitely be off-putting to readers. It’s so quick and easy to check your posts with a tool like Grammarly, and it will massively improve the overall quality.
- Keep your posts long or short.
These days people love either short, bite-sized posts they can read on the go, or long-form posts (like this one!) that impart lots of useful information. Your post should be whatever length it needs to be, but it's worth bearing people's preferences in mind.
Promoting Your Blog
A lot of new bloggers have a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude to blogging, but unfortunately, no one is going to know that you and your blog are there unless you tell them. You need to start making connections with other bloggers and getting your posts out there, and the easiest way of doing that is by commenting on other blogs (genuine comments - not a ‘great post! Please check out my blog’ spam comment!) and using social media.
Rather than spread yourself too thin, it’s best to stick to just one or two social media platforms at first and work on building an audience on there. But again, using social media for blogging deserves a post of its own, so watch this space!
There are so many more things I could say on the topic of starting a blog, but the best way to learn how to blog is simply to start (and I think this post is long enough already, don't you?). I hope this post has been useful though and provided any would-be bloggers with the basics. Happy blogging!
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions! And if you’re a seasoned blogger, what advice would you give to newbies?