“Katie, how do I start a blog?”
This question has become rather common recently and is one that I find a little tricky to answer in a way that can be most helpful to those asking. I usually respond with “What do you want to blog about?” at which point an awkward pause usually follows. When this happens I know that it would be unhelpful of me to go through the click-by-click specifics of starting a blog. Instead, I take a step back and delve into the essential steps needed to build a solid blog foundation.
How to Start a Blog: The 5 Essential First Steps
You can’t get to where you want to be if you don’t know where you are going, can you? Think of these steps as an informal business plan which will provide your blog journey with some direction. When I first had the idea of starting a blog, I would write in my journal every chance I got. I wrote down dreams and ideas, set my goals, made plans, took notes and made ‘to-do’ lists containing things to research. You could do this on your own too, or better yet, use this blog post and infographic that I have created to help get you started. If you are thinking of starting your own blog, I would encourage you to read through this post with a pen and paper handy so that you can explore your own answers. Remember that some of the answers may change over time as you develop your blog and find your unique voice. Others will remain constant and keep you on track when you start getting pulled in a million different directions in the blog world.
Establish your vision
What is your blog about? If you cannot answer that question in under 3 sentences then you probably need to work on understanding your vision for your blog. When thinking about your vision, think about the bigger picture. Having an understanding of your own dream and purpose is crucial to keeping you motivated and keeping your blog on track with a sense of togetherness. You can then align all of your blog actions, big or small, with your vision, making your product a complete package instead of a jumble of different pieces that will just confuse the audience. I am sure that my Instagram page was confusing to the audience at first and that is because I didn’t have my thoughts together as a complete package. I had my vision but I hadn’t aligned it with my actions properly to create a complete package – please learn from my mistakes!
Try not to overcomplicate it, just think from the heart. The vision for my blog, as written in my personal journal when I was going through my own brainstorming process, was to inspire others to see the beauty of the world around them by documenting my own journey and travels. My dream was, and still is, to inspire. Now think about yours…
Establish your goals
The vision serves as the bigger picture of where you want to take your blog, the dream. Now you need to break that dream down into smaller, achievable goals which will become the framework you can build off to achieve your vision. Achievable is the key word to remember when setting your goals. For example, “Create a successful blog” is not a useful goal to set because it is far too subjective to measure. At what point is it successful? For this to be a useful goal in your strategy, break it down into something that is specific and achievable. If we were going to fix up the goal I used as a bad example, we could change it to whatever success means for you, so perhaps “x amount of subscribers” or “create x blog posts per week” or “write a sponsored blog post” – something specific that we can measure.
Establish your budget
How much money are you able to spend on your blog? Keep in mind that this number may change as you move along, but you do need to have a benchmark budget to begin with to direct how you set up your blog. In terms of the set up costs, there are a few options available to you that you would need to research before getting started. You can either spend money and purchase your domain or use one of the free blog sites to create a page for yourself within their website. There are even a lot of extra design and feature options available to you so it is very easy to get carried away!
To keep you on track in this early phase of setting up your blog, I would stick to the basics and focus on extras once you are established. Really, all you need to know for your budget in the early stage is:
Can you pay for a site, or will you be using a free page?
Will you be paying for advertising? If so, how much?
Establish your time commitment
How much time are you able to commit to this blog? For some it is a full time job, some it is a part time job and for others it is simply a ‘here and there’ hobby. It is important to set a boundary of your time investment to keep a balance between your other commitments in life – work life balance is needed in the blog world too! ‘I will just check this’ and ‘I will just check that’ starts snowballing and before you know it, you’ve forgotten to feed your kids! Ok, so maybe a little dramatic and I hope none of you forget to feed your kids, but you get the idea that it is easy to get carried away and burnout. This is where having an understanding of your own time commitment comes in.
I would strongly urge you to read. A lot. When I first had the idea of starting a blog, I read as much as I could about blogging. I would print articles from Pinterest and read them, highlighting the key areas and making notes all over them soaking up as much information as I could. I knew nothing about blogging and this helped me greatly! It gave me a wide variety of information everywhere from the technical aspects on setting up the website to the business aspects of marketing the blog. Reading should be a continuous habit as a blogger so that you can always develop your knowledge and skills, so don’t limit that one to the set up phase.
Featured picture courtesy of Unsplash