The most frequently-asked question I receive is: how do I start a blog?
This is a topic I could hold a TedX conference on, but here it is boiled down to five main tips. I've been blogging for six years (shout out to blogspot days), and run this website as a monetized side hustle/glorified hobby. I am happy to elaborate on any points, so please do leave your questions and comments that come up after reading this post!
Tip #1: JUST START IT, ALREADY.
As long as you have a blog name, focus, and general design idea in mind, you are good to start building your website. There is no need to fret about having the perfect website right away. In fact, the first month of publishing should be used as a beta period, in which you can make tweaks to the layout and get the ball rolling with a few posts. It takes a while for steady traffic to build, so take advantage of this initial low traffic phase to test out different designs and improve your posts along the way.
Once you are happy with the website, announce its launch to the world. Shameless self-promotion is the name of the game, people.
Tip #2: Utilize these FREE tools.
Starting a blog is a relatively low-budget endeavour, the largest cost being a subscription to a publishing platform. These are the platforms that I have used in the past, and can give my opinion on:
- This is the platform that I've been using for the past two years. I love it and don't foresee switching anytime in the near future. I pay $12 a month + $20 a year for the personalized domain name. Out of all the platforms I've used, I find that Squarespace is the most user-friendly in terms of creating the design from pre-made layouts, with the option to further personalize it using your own HTML. Their customer service is also AMAZING. I've asked many questions big and small, and I always receive a response within a day, with the option to call them as well. The only down side to Squarespace is the limited analytics platform. I can see general stats on views and clicks, but not much details as to age, gender, etc...
- Most websites in this world use Wordpress for its general-purpose platform and ability to create something completely out of your own code. They do have pre-made layouts, but I find them pretty generic. However, if you are experienced in coding, Wordpress is a great place to use your skills!
- 'yoursite.blogspot.com' days... it's crazy how fast the blogging scene escalated. I chose to start on blogger since it was linked to my gmail account, and easier to leave comments back when comment threads were still a thing. Since I've switched platforms, I haven't used blogger and I'm not too sure what the platform is like today. It was a good starting point, easy to use, and linked to Google analytics to keep track of statistics.
- I've got to hand it over to Wix for having a great marketing campaign. I think I have their Karlie Kloss campaign script memorized by now. Wix is priced lower than Squarespace, and also comes with a large portfolio of layouts you can choose from. I used Wix to create a website for something school related, and I found their drag-and-drop tools very user-friendly. You can also customize quite a bit on Wix, even specifying movements and timing of when some items appear on the webpage.
Now, that we've gone over platforms, here is a list of some great and FREE tools:
- Desktop photo editing software with pre-set photo filters that are similar to VSCO cam. The pre-sets save me a lot of time when editing photos.
- Dropbox (self-explanatory)
- Pic Monkey
- This is the website I use to create YouTube video thumbnails. It is basically a collage creation tool, where you can add nice fonts and stamps.
- Social Blade
- I discovered this site, thanks to my friend Ver, and I have been checking it everyday since. It gives a live count of your social followings and keeps track of how you've been growing monthly... just a quick and easy way to keep an eye on where you stand.
- A mobile-app that allows you to plan out your instagram feed layout before publishing it. I don't use it that much anymore, because I kind of grew a sense of how photos should be placed in the feed over time. (ex: if you publish a very busy photo, the next photo should be simple so as to not "clutter" your feed... instagrammers will understand what I mean by this lol...) This app is great if you manage multiple accounts and need to plan posts ahead of time.
- Before uploading a video onto YouTube, I compress the file through handbrake which reduces the file size, reducing upload time and freeing up space on my hard drive.
Tip #3: Invest in a camera.
Okay, so I may have lied about the whole "blogging is not expensive" thing. That is because I highly recommend investing in a nice camera. With the amount of blogs out there, visuals are crucial to intrigue people from finding you on instagram to actually clicking your #linkinbio. Hop over to this post for a comprehensive review on cameras I've used to date.
Tip #4: Stick to a schedule.
Like anything else that you would take seriously, there needs to be a degree of diligent dedication for your blog to build momentum. It's imperative that you write down your goals and publishing dates, or else it is very easy to let weeks pass by without updating. No one is there to tell you what to do and when to do it, so it's all up to you.
Personally, I aim to publish daily on Instagram, weekly on the blog, and bi-monthly on YouTube. I write the dates when I want to publish down on my planner so as to not forget, and I'll at least know that I missed it if I'm too busy to get around to blogging that week. Another tip I have is to dedicate a regular time every week towards working on your blog. I try my best to keep one afternoon on the weekend to create content, so I can just easily click the publish button from the draft folder as the week progresses.
In addition to writing down your publishing deadlines, keep track of your stats! Especially if you eventually want to make money from blogging, you need to first grow your audience before pitching to potential sponsors. On the first day of each month, I quickly jot down the number of followers on all of my platforms and write the end of month goal next to it. Then I can see where I stand the next month, as compared to where I wanted to be. You can start to gauge your growth rate after 4-5 months, so start keeping track right away.
Tip #5: Have fun with it.
Would this really be a listicle if it didn't end with a cliché?
Whatever your intention in starting a blog is, I hope that you'll find it genuinely fun even just as a hobby. Run your blog because you love sharing photos, or you love the subject matter you are writing on, or you just love the internet and can easily spend all day on it so you might as well do something semi-productive online.
Perks will come with time; it took me three years before I got paid for sponsored posts and invited to nice cocktail events. But those are just bonus points that come from doing something I would do anyways.
That is it for today's post. I hope that these points were helpful, and that you'll check out the tools I mentioned. Thank you for reading all the way through, and again, if you have other questions let me know in the comments below!
Click here to watch a video I made on the same subject last year.
p.s. Stay tuned for a post about how to secure collaborations and make money $$$ from blogging!