Blogging has emerged as one of the biggest online business industries. With flexible hours, thousands of niche markets and the ability to work from anywhere, the career path is appealing to many looking to share their expertise or leave behind the life of a 9-5pm. However, starting a blog isn't as easy as writing a few posts and taking a few pictures. There is a lot more that goes into creating content and starting a blog than meets the eye. When I first started, I had no idea what went into running a successful blog. Learning SEO, how to measure analytics, how to set up and host a website, and the ins and outs of creating a cohesive brand are all integral parts in the development of a blog.
Below I have outlined all the steps I took to get my blog up and running, and the programs that have assisted in organization, brand development, photography and content creation. This is everything I wish I had known when I first started, laid out in chronological order. It is worth noting that these things do not happen overnight, and in order to get my blog where it is today, a lot of trial and error, failures and overhauling needed to take place. Give yourself a little grace and know that everything new takes time. Keep scrolling to get started! I wish you the best of luck as you continue! If you get stuck, I offer 60 minute consulting calls where you can ask me anything and everything to get you over your roadblocks!
First things first, you will need to set up a hosting service. This service will make your site available online for everyone to access. The host also helps with backing up your site and email hosting. While there are a lot of service providers, I highly recommend Bluehost. Their support team is INCREDIBLE! Something that is so important when you are first starting out. They are an industry leader as well, so if you ever get stuck, there are thousands of resources online to help.
There are many website platforms out there today, most notably Squarespace, Wix, and Wordpress. When it comes to blogging, I highly recommend Wordpress. It is the most popular and widely used platform on the internet. Using Wordpress allows you so much more flexibility with plugins, ease of use, and compatibility with other websites and platforms. While Wix and Squarespace may be easier to set up initially, they are best suited for simple landing pages, and not content forward sites like blogs. Create your Wordpress blog here after setting up your Bluehost.
Now for the fun part! Choosing a theme that will determine the overall look and layout of your blog. Wordpress has basic website themes you can use when you first start, but I recommend purchasing a cheap theme from Themeforest (I love Solopine themes). Once you are more established, you can upgrade and invest in a more expensive website design. In my opinion, it's better to wait until you know the direction of your blog before investing in an expensive website.
Photography is a huge part of blogging and building a brand. You will need to learn the basics of photography and how to edit photos to post on social and within your blog posts. Adobe Lightroom is the industry standard for photo editing. I suggest buying some presets from your favorite bloggers or photographers like Tribe Archipelago. Adobe Photoshop will be where you create all your branded elements, including Pinterest graphics, a VERY important step in order to build a following and get traffic to your site. Adobe offers a photography plan where you get full access to both Lightroom and Photoshop. Sign up here and follow their instructions for downloading.
Take some time to think about the type of aesthetic your brand and blog will have. Will it be light and airy, dark and moody, bright and colorful, clean and minimal? This will dictate the style of brand imagery you need for your cover photos, sidebars, and various pages like your "Contact" and "About Me" pages. Consider hiring a local photographer to snap a few pictures of you in action. Make sure to create imagery in line with your brand pillars. Put together a moodboard on Pinterest and don't forget to get a mix of close up, landscapes and personal photos of you. People want to see your face and the human behind the blog!
Canva is a free, intuitive and easy to use platform where you can create graphics for your blog and social media channels. Effortlessly create Pinterest graphics, infographics, banners for your social pages, and ebooks that can help you grow your e-mail list! I use Canva to quickly create graphics, download icons or to get template ideas. It's a great place to start if you are finding Photoshop a little intimidating.
Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your blog. You will be able to see the number of visitors, where they live, user demographics, and how they arrived at your site. This information is so valuable when you start developing a strategy for growth. When you know which posts are doing well, and where your audience is coming from, it's easier to craft a growth strategy. Perhaps the majority of your viewers are coming from Pinterest, so you can focus on that platform more. If a certain blog post is doing well, you can create similar content or add more internal links to that post.
Growing your e-mail list is an integral part of your blog as it is the only thing aside from your website that you actually own. A great place to start is by creating a free PDF that people can only download once subscribed to your email list. This could be a travel guide, checklist, free template, or an educational resource. You can add these freebies to the bottom of each blog post via the Convertkit Wordpress plugin. I tried MailChimp and it was so difficult to use! Convertkit is made specifically for creatives, and it is so easy to set up funnels and freebies. Try Convertkit for free
Tailwind is a Pinterest scheduler that has changed. my. life. Seriously. Pinterest is such a powerhouse for bloggers as it runs like a search engine, meaning there is huge opportunity for traffic on the platform. Tailwind allows you to schedule pins in advance, so you can constantly be pinning throughout the week without being on the website all day long. Pinterest algorithms reward those on the site the most, and those posting their own content. If you are starting a blog, the most important thing you can do is get a Tailwind account. Run, don't walk. Set it up here. New to Pinterest? Check out this guide.
UNUM is an app that helps you plan your Instagram posts in advance. You can play with the look and feel of your grid, save hashtags, plan stories and see your post analytics. I have tried both UNUM and Planoly, and I preferred UNUM's platform, but try both and see which one you like best.
Everyone's process is different and so are their organization habits. Asana helps to track and manage a team or various projects. For the ultimate to-do list, check out Trello. To schedule all your social media and have it loop back around, consider Meet Edgar or Buffer. I love the Stickies app on Mac as well to store things like Hex codes and your favorite hashtags.
If you are consulting, Honeybook and Hello Bonsai are favorites for contracts and invoices. Download Slack if you need to communicate with a team member.
To stay on top of your social media posts, blog posts, and future content, create a calendar style spreadsheet in Google Sheets that will keep you on track! This can be shared with team members, and color coded based on the type of post (Blog post, Instagram Post, Facebook post etc)
Once you have your posts and About Me sections written, put yourself out there! Cue allll the nerves and butterflies. I know how scary it is to be vulnerable and put your heart and soul out there. You have worked so hard, taken the leap, and now it is out in the world, no longer in your full control or safely yours and yours alone. This is such an exciting time, so don't worry too much, and use this period to learn and grow and not be too hard on yourself. There is a much larger learning curve than you will think, so be patient with yourself! Post on your social media channels, pinterest, make some business cards and don't be shy to start spreading the word!
You've made it to the homestretch! Now it's time to start creating content. Write 5-10 blog posts before making a big announcement and offically launching your blog. This way, your first-time readers will have a clear understanding of what you're about, and what to expect going forward! Consider a few different styles of posts, like a How-to guide, or a personal post about why you are starting the blog. Keep your brand pillars in mind. For example, if you are starting a lifestyle blog, think about 5 topics you want to focus on, and create a blog post for each. For example, if you are starting a sustainable lifestyle blog, you could create posts for categories like Vintage Fashion, Eco-tourism, Sustainability at home, and Clean Beauty.
Congratulations! You have officially launched your blog. Now it's all about consistency. Showing up each week with unique content on social channels and your blog. As mentioned in step 12, this is where a content calendar is super important! The only way to truly grow your blog is to keep putting out valuable content, even if it's just one post per week. Create engaging, thoughtful content and promote the heck out if it, learn the ins-and-outs of Tailwind, master SEO, and you'll on the right track!