There are a lot of posts out there trying to give you advice on starting a blog of your own. As I JUST launched Cobble Way from scratch in the last few months, I might be able to give you a fresh perspective on the topic.
I’m the kind of person who just ‘jumps in’. I don’t know if this has to do with me being an Aries or just maybe being a little too headstrong. In any case, I definitely think the process of building my blog would have gone a lot smoother if I’d done ALL of my research before beginning this venture. Here are a few things to ponder (and find out the answers to) before diving in!
Here are the Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Blog.
1. Free Domain or paid domain?
If you just want to blog for your own personal enjoyment and don’t really want to monetize it or fully own it, you can certainly go with the free domain from any of the top places: WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.
If you want to fully own the rights to your blog, be able to sell goods from it and monetize it through advertising and affiliate programs, go with a paid domain. There are so many places with great reputations to purchase Domain names from, but I would personally go with GoDaddy (but people also love BlueHost). They allow you to purchase a domain name, web hosting through their company, WordPress.org, and a corresponding company email address all in one package deal. It’s affordable and they have provided me GREAT service. You can check them out here.
2. Should you use a paid or free theme to build your blog?
Honestly, I’d invest the money in a paid theme with a format that looks EXACTLY how you’d like your blog to be set up. It’s so much smoother to just insert your pictures, titles, pages, pictures, and form into a pre-formatted theme than it is to alter a free theme with code. In fact, the more you alter a free theme (if you aren’t extremely careful) the more you can run into problems. In general it just becomes a lot less user friendly for someone like me who doesn’t know code. I use a Genesis theme for my site. You can check out some great paid themes here!
3. What are the best social media accounts to link to your blog?
Most of the time, people will find their way to your actual blog through social media. It’s so important to have some basic social media accounts for your blog and link them to your actual site. You can also add social media widgets to your blog, itself so that people on the actual blog can connect to your social media pages. In my experience, I’ve found Instagram to be my #1 social media site in relation to my blog. Then Bloglovin’, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr. I’d recommend creating accounts in all of these sites for your blog and linking them. From personal experience, you’ll find soon enough which platform is best for connecting with readers and advertising your own content. When you do, make sure you prioritize those!
4. How can you monetize your blog?
There are so many different theories on how to best monetize blogs. Honestly, it’s a personal choice that reflects your preference and your blog’s content. In my opinion, Amazon Associate links and selling my own content seem like the best options. I’m not a fan of cluttering sites with pay-per-click adds that sometimes aren’t even relevant to the blog’s content. I like a clean looking site. I only insert links to products on Amazon and other sites that I’ve personally used and KNOW my readers will enjoy, too! Using my blog as a platform to sell my own written and creative works also seems like the most appealing option for me, personally 🙂 You can sign up for the Amazon Associates program here!
5. What do you do if you are completely unable or unwilling to build your own blog, but still want one?
I’m not at all ashamed to say that this was me. I was both unable AND unwilling to build my own blog. With working full time , I didn’t have the time nor did I want to make the time to learn how to properly set up my blog. Honestly, I turned to a very inexpensive freelancer first and my experience didn’t go so well. (This is how I learned the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org and the difference between a paid theme and a free theme. Also quick tip, if you end up hiring a freelancer who works on your blog out of your own country, make sure he or she sets up the WordPress as running in YOUR country. I ended up receiving a ton of funky “502 Bad Gateway” error messages when working on my blog before figuring this one out.)
I can proudly and confidently recommend the builder and designer of Cobble Way, Heather Jones of Viva La Violet. Heather accomplished everything I could have asked for in a blog designer: created a blog that was not only desktop but mobile responsive, crafted the back end with care so that it would be user friendly for a newbie, and realized every dream I had for a professional looking blog. If you are looking for someone to help you through this overwhelming process, to be a caring but brilliant business partner, to provide you an INCREDIBLE service for a fair price…then trust me, and trust your design vision with Heather. She won’t disappoint! You can check out her site here! Make sure you let her know I referred you – I still keep in contact with Heather and would love to see your finished designs!
6. Are you prepared for roadblocks?
They WILL happen. There’s no way around it. Even with the BEST web designer in the world, your blog will have hiccups on the back end. I’ve pretty much gone through it all, even a complete redesign. Yeah, it’s super annoying when stuff happens that stops your blog from running the way it should, especially in the beginning. Just be prepared to be patient and resourceful. Find someone who can help you. Start scouring YouTube and Google for answers. Contact WordPress or your web host for support. Everything will work out in the end 🙂
7. Are you ready to commit?
Choosing a blog topic is super important. There’s a lot of talk out there about finding your own ‘niche’. That is, your own little corner of the web speaking on a topic on which you are an expert inviting a certain sector of loyal, interested readers. Don’t take this lightly. Yes, it should be a niche, but more importantly, it should be a topic you’re passionate about and will be able to write endlessly on!
8. Are you planning on being in your blog photos?
Depending on your topic, you may or not be planning on having yourself featured in your blog photos. If you are, there’s a lot to consider. Who will take them? What will you take them with? Where will you take them? If you’re prepared to figure out the answers to each of these question, then AWESOME! Go for it! I just threw this particular question in there because it was hard for me at first. I needed fresh pictures to go with my newly written content, but I didn’t have specific sets in mind – nor an available photographer. If I made a plan earlier, taking photographs to go with the content of my first posts wouldn’t have been so stressful.
9. Have you found your blog voice?
Every writer has one, a written voice. Yet, I’ve noticed from personal experience that it can shift without one even realizing it. For me, I come from a strong academic background in Literature. Sometimes I reread my posts and see I’ve slipped back into what I call my ‘term paper voice’. What you have to do is find your blogging voice and STICK to it. Your readers will thank you 🙂
10. Are you ready for potential backlash?
Invariably, there will always be people in the world who disagree with your opinion. It’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, you may run into some negative comments on your blog and your blog’s social media accounts. Are you prepared to handle that? Politely answer or ignore altogether? Marinate on this one.
11. Are you ready to open up?
This was the hardest thing for me to accept once my blog was up and running. As I was writing, I had a few close relatives and friends reading the first few posts before publishing them. The only running comment from each of them was this: you didn’t open up. Cobble Way is a Life & Style blog, and there are SO MANY of them out there. What is the differentiating factor? Me. In order to connect and validate my opinions, I needed to let people in. Since I’m a private person, it was tricky at first. If I had to name one thing that I consciously work on, it would be this.
12. Are you in it for the long-haul?
Starting a blog takes time and it isn’t easy. The same goes for building a loyal following. Running a blog is not something one does if they desire instant gratification and recognition. Do you love your topic, writing, photography, connecting with people, etc. enough to stick with it for a WHILE until it takes off? Even after that, are you committed to creatively updating and keeping your readers satisfied?