When I first started blogging, some 11 years ago now, most people had never even heard the word blog, let alone knew what went into creating one. Today there is pretty much a blog for everything. From the broad topics such as mine covering small business and entrepreneurship to the more niche like those that talk about specific health issues, vegans, coeliac. The vast amounts of mummy bloggers each one trying to convince you that their kids are the cutest and brands should give them lots of things to review. Blogging now is big business.
Having a blog is also good for your business. If you are like me, a consultant (and agency owner) then blogging is a way to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities. As an entrepreneur, it can help you to grow your audience. For product-based businesses it’s a way to show the human side of your business, demonstrate your goods and show some behind the scenes of how it all works.
You’d think with blogging being so mainstream it would be easy enough to start one. Well, yes it is. But every day I see questions within business groups from people asking how they start one. So here are my tips on how to get started and I even made you a pretty infographic to go with it, for you to Pin and share.
CHOOSE A NICHE
What do you love to talk about? What do you love? Do you want to blog about something personal, lifestyle, your kids or business? For those of you that don’t know already, I have two blogs. This one, which is all business related. It used to be just social media, but then as my marketing business grew and I wanted to offer more services as an independent consultant away from that, my blog branched out to cover more small business subjects and entrepreneurship.
I also have a lifestyle blog that has pretty much anything non-business that comes into my head on it. I ended up with that because 11 years ago I started my blogging life as a Mummy Blogger, but then my child grew up and it wasn’t relevant anymore. But I liked some of the things I used to talk about on there and needed a new home to blog that wasn’t just about business. Some ask why I have two blogs and not just put all the subjects into one. The main reason is that from a business perspective it’s not overly professional to have a business blog within posts about my life, love life or rants about things that annoy me. Granted I know that a lot of my audiences cross over. But to combine the two would confuse many people and the search engines.
Pick your niche of choice and stick to it. The occasional off-topic post is fine but keep it within the context of your overall message. Make sure it’s not a subject you will run out of material on. Say, for example, you started a blog about tv shows but focused on one show. What happens when that show stops or gets canceled? You’ve no material. Blog closed.
CHOOSE A PLATFORM
There are several different platforms and formats your blog can be started on. Some are free and some will cost you a bit of money. It’s important that you understand the pros and cons of each platform because once you start it will be an upheaval if you want to move it later on. There are also restrictions on what you can do on some platforms and if you want to grow your block you may find this causes you problems down the line.
I started out on Blogger, which is part of Google. It was pretty much the main one back then. I wouldn’t use it now. There are others such as Squarespace, Wix and the free version of WordPress. Personally, I wouldn’t use any of them. There are restrictions on them all and you will run into problems eventually.
My own choice for many years now has been self-hosted WordPress. This means that basically, I own it. I pay for the domain name and I pay for the hosting of my websites. Therefore I have full control. It also means that if I monetize them in any way I’m not restricted and I can do what I want (within the rules of advertising and disclosure).
A self-hosted WordPress site also gives you far more functionality and creativity when it comes to designing your site. But I’ll come to that when we talk about branding.
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PICK A NAME
Once you’ve picked your platform you’re going to need to pick a name. Now, don’t set your heart on a name or go buying a domain name until you’ve done a few little checks. Firstly, Google the name to see what comes up. You don’t want to have a similar name to either another blog in your niche or something way off course of what you’d want your readers to find if they went looking for you. Image popping your chosen name into Google and the first page is full of porn sites.
If you’re planning on growing your blog into some form of business then also check on Companies House to make sure there isn’t already a business registered with that name. You may not be in a position of going through the formal process of registering a business right now, but if it’s in the plan, be prepared.
Then for the important ones. Social media. Have a look to see if your name (handle) is available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I run into issues all the time in work when I’m setting up social media profiles for clients and their chosen name is taken and we have to start looking at all different variations.
If you’re like me and your actual name is shared by lots of other people then you might want to use a variation of your own name or nickname. There are several Sam/Samantha Martin’s who are writers, a couple of musicians, a fake news story about Shark Tank, a few other business people and me. Marriage isn’t on the cards so I had to come up with a variation that differentiated me from all the others. We ended up with Socially Sam. I may not always be known as that. We’ll see.
CREATE YOUR BRANDING
Branding isn’t just the colour scheme you pick for your blog. It’s everything that identifies your work and presence as being you, without you stamping your name all over it. Someone told me not so long back that they can spot my work a mile off. It all has a certain look to it. My logo is always in the corner of images. I use specific fonts and precise colours.
Branding also includes your writing style. I always write in a very conversational tone, like I’m having a chat with a friend. Others write in a more formal, structured way. This can vary by how you’ve been trained. A traditional journalist will write in a very different style to a hobby blogger. Likewise, the post structure will be very different.
Your branding should be a clear representation of you. Pick colours that you like, not what you think your audience will find pleasing to their eye. If you have a logo then build your brand into that. Just make sure that everything you put out into the big wide blogging world is your brand. You want to be able to catch someone’s eye whilst they are quickly scrolling through their newsfeed. If they know your brand they’ll be able to spot you.
CREATE A SCHEDULE
One of the biggest things that most outsiders underestimate is the amount of time it takes to create a blog. So the website building bit at the start can take ages but the creating each individual post can also be very time-consuming. Especially if you’ve lots of images within a post or even a video to edit! But successful blogging, within any niche, is born out of consistency. Producing great content on a regular basis is beyond an art form. It’s damn hard work!
When you first start out you need to have a massive brainstorm about subjects you want to cover. Write lists, makes notes, mind map, write lists for your lists. Have lots of subjects ready to go once you start because your preferences are going to change. You’ll discover what bits your audience like and want more of. You might change up your niche a bit. And with all that going on it’s hard to stick to a schedule.
But your growth will benefit hugely from having a schedule and sticking to it. But don’t push yourself too much. If you can only do 1 post a week then do that, but stick to it. Don’t underestimate the amount of time 1 post may take up. Know what you can realistically do and stick with it. Only add to it once you are 100% happy with your routine and ability to get the content done.
JUST START YOUR BLOG
With all the prep work it’s hard to forget that you actually need to put a blog out. Many get huge nerves worrying what other people are going to think. Try not to think too much about that. This is your thing, not theirs. But just get that first post out and then move on to the next one. It may well be outside of your comfort zone (watch my video on that here) but once you take those first few steps you’ll be on your way to blogging brilliance in no time at all.