There's A Lot to Consider Before You Write Your First Word
My boss, Alexa, questioning a post title.
I recently received an e-mail from a VERY sweet lady who was interested in beginning her own inspirational blog. She asked, like many have over the years, if I had any tips, suggestions, or advice.
I thought I could actually best serve her (and possibly even you, if you have an interest in this sort of thing) by devoting a post to the subject.
Jumping right into the Top 10, I will start with the most important tip of all….
1. Be absolutely certain this is what you want to do. I’m certainly not trying to talk anyone out of their decision to have a blog – far from it. If you have equal amounts of time, determination, and ability – having your own blog can be extremely rewarding. There are many great benefits – running the gamut from earning a little extra income to honing your writing skills. If your subject requires research, you can also keep your mind sharp… which, let’s face it, is always a good thing.
However, as someone who has done this for well over 10 years, I feel it’s only fair to point out a few things:
- Running a blog takes a great deal of work. It isn’t simply a matter of typing out a few thoughts and popping a picture at the top. The reason you see SO many abandoned blogs along the internet highway is the fact that what looks so easy and simple really isn’t. At all. It takes time and it takes commitment. For anyone with a full-time job, I’d strongly consider thinking long and hard before jumping into something that’ll take more time away from recess. I work, full time, from home and even I find the work load to be overwhelming at times. When it’s time to get up and fix supper or clean house, I often find myself jumping out of my seat like a kid at the end of a school day. Bottom line? It’s work. Frustrating line? Few people see it as such.
- There are a lot of “technical” aspects to blogging that you’ll need to learn – preferably before you even buy your domain. You’ll need to have at least a “good” understanding of search engines (seo – search engine optimization – will become a permanent resident in your subconscious thoughts). You’ll also need to learn the rules and regulations of using content and pictures (basically, use your own – more about that later), “plugins,” link-building, disclaimers, privacy statements, graphics, themes, etc. If you’re accustomed to Facebook or Tumblr, beware that having a blog is nothing like these social media websites. A lot of people have the misconception that it’s basically the same thing, and it really isn’t. At all.
- There are costs involved. If you’re going to run a website or blog, and do it right, there are costs involved. I’ll spell them out below, but (again, unlike Facebook and other social media sites), it isn’t free.
- Speaking of social media websites… You can create a great following and help tons of people simply by being active on Twitter, Facebook, or another social media website. If you were to decide that having your own blog IS more work than you’d counted on, you don’t have to give up on reaching out to people or throw out the idea of expressing yourself creatively. Simply build a following on your favorite social media website and interact there.
- Finally, consider guest posts. I work with people on each of my blogs in the area of guest posts. If an individual is not promoting a website or product that isn’t relevant to my subject, I am more than happy to consider publishing their article or articles on one of my websites. I’ve published quite a few on Self Help Daily, alone. The authors of these posts are credited, of course, and have an opportunity to reach people they might not otherwise have the chance to reach. Guest posts are simple to do – simply search out blogs that are relevant to your subject and contact the owner. Ask if they accept guest posts and ask if you can submit one for consideration. I’ve often had people ask me if there’s a particular subject I’d like for them to write about… I always think that’s pretty cool. Just be sure to only submit original articles that you have written yourself and never submit the same article more than once. Once a blog has published an article, it’s done – don’t ever submit the same on anyplace else. It’s called duplicate content and it’s bad, bad, bad. Suffice to say, it’s a terrible way to get on a website owner’s good side.
2. Decide on Your Niche. If you’re still reading, I assume you either are wholly committed to the idea or are simply one of those people who follow through anything they begin to the end. Either way – my hat’s off to you!
If you are certain you want to make the commitment to having your own blog, decide upon your subject. While some “personal blogs” are successful, most people do not enjoy reading what the average person eats, drinks, or thinks. And selfies? Yeah, you can probably go ahead and keep them to yourself.
People are more interested (understandably!) in how THEY can get more out of life. They’re interested in how you can help them improve themselves and, as a result, improve their life.
They don’t care as much about seeing you happy as they care about what you can do to make them happy.
You need a good, solid “niche” (subject) and this niche needs to be obvious to your readers right away. If you have something to offer people that is worthwhile… something that can help them.. then you have solid ground to build on.
3. Take a Look at What’s Already Out There. This one’s tough to explain, but I’ll do my level best. If your subject is one that is uncommonly popular, you’re probably going to be one small fish in a great big ocean. For example, if anyone were to start a food blog today, they’d be up against it. WAY up against it. Not only are there countless recipe websites online (Food Network, Cooking Channel…), every conceivable food product has their own website – complete with, you guessed it, recipes. Add Pinterest, with it’s limitless recipes, and a food blogger has their work cut out for them. How do I know? I’m a food blogger! I began my food blog Get Cooking! many years ago. I didn’t do it for any other reason than the fact that I loved to cook and experiment with recipes and I wanted a “cool” place to accumulate my recipes, tips, and advice for my three daughters. Over the years, competition for visitors to a food blog has become nuts. The tricky thing is – you want your subject to be popular enough for people to care… but not so popular that… well, again, you end up a tiny little fish swimming with sharks. If you DO decide to run with a subject that’s greatly saturated, just be sure you stand out! Look at the different blogs in your niche – take a good look at the top 10 that show up in Google. Ask yourself (honestly) if there’s anything that you could or would do differently.
4. You’ll Need a Domain Name. From the start, I have used GoDaddy.com for all of my domains. They are completely trustworthy, dependable, and have a stellar reputation. In the RARE event a problem does arise, their people are lightning fast in responding to the issue. You’ll want to choose a domain name that’s easy to remember and easy to spell. When naming your website and choosing your domain name, be sure to (again) search on Google and make sure you aren’t stepping on any toes that are already on the dance floor. You pay for a domain name yearly , but it’s a very low price – around $12 – $15.
5. You’ll Also Need a Reliable Host. GoDaddy.com also offers hosting but I’ve always used HostGator. Completely trustworthy and helpful – plus, I’m pretty crazy about the gator. You can find all of the information you need about domains and hosting on either one of these websites. Each spell everything out beautifully and there are always helpful experts on the other side of the phone or e-mail.
6. You’ll Must Have WordPress. A lot of articles about “starting your own blog” will outline your different options. Not me. I’m just going to tell you, flat out, you need WordPress. It’s free and it’s the best platform for your blog. The best plugins and “themes” are made with WordPress in mind and, when it comes to your readers, it’s by far the best.
7. You’ll Need a Theme. A blog theme is basically it’s “design.” There are free themes available, and you’ll be able to access a great number of these as soon as you install WordPress. However, free themes can come with a lot of headaches and, no matter what you do, they will almost always look as free as they are. If you plan to treat your blog as a business, you’ll want to purchase a premium theme. A quick Google search (“Premium WordPress Themes”) will give you plenty to choose from. Before purchasing one, be sure to read different reviews of the theme and theme’s creator. Also, look at their different demos, and ask yourself, “How much tweaking and customizing went into this? Is it something I could do?” Most of us weren’t born with the information to code or design websites or blogs. It’s incredibly complicated, in fact, so be sure you find the most intuitive and easy-to-use and understand theme possible. I stand 110 percent behind the GetNoticed Theme. In fact, I tend to get annoyed with my blogs that aren’t yet sporting this theme!
8. Graphics and Headers, Oh My! See the “logo” at the top of the page – it says “Self Help Daily – Inspirational Blog with a Save the World Complex.” This is called a “header” and your blog will most assuredly need one of these. 9 out of 10 people are best served by finding someone online (a graphic artist) to hire for this part of the process. Unless you have Photoshop (EXPENSIVE!) and some experience with graphic art, paying someone to design a logo for you would be the smartest way to go. They’ll need to know the dimensions (information found within your theme), colors, whether you want it to be transparent or not, and possibly even some information about the font(s) you had in mind. If you find a graphic artist you’re thrilled with, be sure to keep them in mind for future work.
9. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. When it comes to content and pictures you publish on your website, you can find endless advice online about what pictures to use, where to find “free, loyalty-free images,” etc. Yet again, I guess you could say my advice is narrow-minded…. use your own. People have been taken to court for using other people’s pictures. Actually, it happens every day. Personally, I don’t even trust the websites that tell you to use their pictures free because, unless I know where that picture came from… how do I know IT wasn’t once taken from someone else?! I’d much rather eliminate all worry and prevent all headaches by only using only pictures I (or a member of my family, of course) have taken. I also simply make a lot of graphics – such as the quote graphics you see everywhere on the website. These are perfect for a blog because they’ll be shared on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. If you use someone’s quote on your blog, always give their name and never post anyone’s content as your own.
10. If You’re Looking to Make Money…. Sorry, Charlie, it’s the rare fish that strikes it rich. Maybe it’s because this blog is an inspirational, self-help blog, but most of the people I hear from aren’t looking to start a blog for money as much as they are simply interested in reaching out and helping others. However, most people DO think, “Eh, I can make my own blog and make a lot of money… people will pay me to advertise, people will buy books….” When I come across that mindset, I think, “Bless your heart…. bless your heart..”
Blogging is like anything else, really – sometimes people strike it rich, but most of the time they don’t get anywhere near anything resembling rich. The only “riches” I’ve ever known had last names… and there was only one of them: Rich Brooks, a former UK Football coach.
And I never even met him!
Yes, there are more people online than ever before – common sense would tell you that this is where the money is, right? Problem is this: The internet is saturated with websites and social media. There are thousands upon thousands of websites covering every niche known to man, woman, or cat. The streams of income that were once “handsome” online are starting to look downright “homely.”
Social Media can be a two-edged sword. While it can, hopefully, be used to draw people to your website – the competition for people’s attention has never been greater. A great, great, great number of people… when they get online… go to Twitter or Facebook and that’s it. They jump on, then they jump off. You have a small window of opportunity to catch them and pull them to your blog.
It can be done, mind you – but, again, it takes work. It takes time, self-confidence, determination, elbow grease, and… to be perfectly honest… more than a little stubbornness.
BONUS Tip: A somewhat thick skin will serve you well. People can be jerks sometimes and putting yourself “out there” invites the jerks to approach you. Whether on Twitter, in e-mail, or in your blog’s comments, the jerks will appear from time to time. They seemingly have no life of their own to speak of, so they’ll simply try to bring you down to their level of misery. There are spell check police who degrade you if you accidentally leave an i or an e out of a word, there are clowns who are anti-God, anti-America, and anti-just about anything you can think of who just sit out there ready to pounce on anyone who DARES to be pro anything, and there are simply people who live to start stuff.
Years ago, I tried to reason with the jerks of the world. I’d be as sweet and hospitable as my Kentucky upbringing demands. Southern charm would ooze out.
More times than not, approaching jerks that way is about as effective as spraying perfume over a cow pasture.
You have to realize that miserable people try to spread misery the way happy people try to spread happiness. Always remind yourself that the problem lies with them, not you. If you allow them to make you miserable, they’ve won. Come on now… that’s the last thing we want!
Spray a little perfume, if you must, then walk away as fast as possible before you step in anything.
If you have any questions and/or advice, please leave a comment below.
At the end of a long day!