A friend asked me how to start a blog…

A friend recently mentioned she’s thinking about starting a blog, wondered if I had any suggestions.

Well of course I have suggestions!

Actually, though it would have been better planning on my part to have this post come first, it makes a nice pairing with this.

laptop and phone

But to begin at the beginning…a blog is a combination of the words web and log = blog. Blogging began in the late 90s, and at first blogs were really just online diaries or journals.

What a long way we’ve come! Some stats I found said there were 152 million blogs online in 2013. One snapshot of blogging activity put the number of daily blog posts at 1.13 million in March, 2015.

There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, which I use, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Pen.io, Svbtle, LiveJournal, and Weebly are popular options, and offer a variety of features. They’re pretty much all designed for the non-technical user. You can choose basic free options (usually) or go with more customized options and pay a range of fees depending on your needs and budget.

There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately it’s easy to step in and learn on the go. You can usually go with a domain name that uses an extension of the blogging platform (often the domain name is free if you do this). If you want a custom domain, you can check out sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the name you want is available, and then register your chosen domain for a small fee. There are lots of domain extensions, and you can read about the best options, depending on the purpose of your site and a host of other factors.

One of the basic questions to sort out is your purpose for writing. Are you targeting a specific interest, niche market, type of reader / follower, or blogging style? Do you want a blog focused on food, fashion, photography, travel, current events, family issues, etc., etc., etc. ?  Do you plan to use a lot of photos and graphics? Do you want a poetry blog? When you choose your focus, that will likely define a lot for you…give you a sense of overall goals, style, voice, etc., which will all factor into how you present yourself to the world.

An important decision to make early in the process is if you want to create income from your blog, or if you want to sell products. If you want to generate income, you’ll need to choose a platform that accommodates ecommerce, something that isn’t always an option with free platforms.

Trust me, giving these questions thought up front can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. At the same time, if you start small and / or on a free platform, and then find your goals for your blog changing, you can always transition to a paid platform or add features that will take your blog to a professional level when you’re ready.

Once you’ve made these first decisions, you can set yourself up and get ready to write.

There are no rules in this blogging world, so if you want to write every day, three times a week, or once a month, you can choose whatever works for you. I would suggest the more consistent you can be, the more likely you’ll grow a consistent following.

And that’s the next big thing. Growing an audience is one of the challenges, but also a lot of the fun of blogging. Share your posts on social media, with your email list, invite friends to check out your blog and share on their social media platforms. Before you know it you’ll have some readers (followers) and you should also be reading other bloggers posts and following any that appeal to you.

Blogging is a community activity, and you’ll find a lot of camaraderie as you find other writers who share your style and interests. Or maybe you’ll find writers who are very different to you, but are intriguing and great to read. I’m often inspired by other bloggers, and while you should never copy or plagiarize, reading other blogs will help you learn, gather good ideas, and generally improve your writing.

Here’s a tip, as you wade into this world, if you see a term referenced you don’t understand, just Google and learn. Google and YouTube are your best friends if you need help with the technical aspects of all this. Often I find tutorials on YouTube are better than the official how-tos…I think it’s because people posting to YouTube are doing reviews and tutorials mostly for do-it-yourself types, so I find instructions are usually provided on a layman level, which I love.

Also, many, many books have been written on the subject of blogging, if you want a guide at hand as you get set up. I suggest reading reviews to see what sounds best for your needs. There are books that focus on the different types of blogs, so if you know the specific niche you want to create, look for a book that corresponds.

Last, if you think you’d like to try blogging, just jump in and begin. You’ll learn a lot, maybe surprise yourself, and you can always move at whatever pace is good for you. No pressure to do more than you choose.

Good luck, and if you’re reading this and decide to start a blog, let me know! I love to check out new writers!

~ Sheila

 

 

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