So You Want To Start A Blog . . .

Every few weeks I get an email asking me how to start a blog so I thought I’d write a post about it.

More and more people are turning to blogging these days, and for many different reasons. Perhaps you have a business you want to promote, perhaps you want to keep in touch with friends and family from afar, perhaps you think it’s a get rich quick scheme (in which case, I’ve got news for ya — but that’s another post) or perhaps you see how much fun the rest of us are having and you want a piece of the action!

Whatever your reason, you are not alone. (As of May 2009, a new blog was being created every 1.5 seconds. I can only imagine what the statistic is today.)

Funny thing, when I started my blog, it was just an impulsive decision. So many of us “old school bloggers” started out that way. We had no strategy, no vision, no plans. Most people didn’t even know what a blog was, and most of us wrote anonymously back then.

So much has changed . . .

Now it seems like starting a blog comes with so much pressure. Will I do it right? Can I post regularly? How to do get a design? What platform do I use? Will I do it wrong? Will I blow up my computer? How do I find followers? How do I get noticed by companies? Will an ax murderer start stalking my family?

See? PRESSURE.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s just not that big of a deal.

7 Simple Steps to Starting a Blog

1) Decide the purpose. What are you writing about?

Are you sharing stories with friends and family? Are you writing about the best deals on groceries in your area? Are you writing about organic, fair trade coffee?

That’s your first step: figuring out your purpose and establishing your message.

If you have plans to make it to the big time, you probably want to try to find an untapped niche. Think of an interesting topic and then create a new twist on it. And naturally, you want to choose to a topic you are passionate about. Trust me, blogging will get stale awfully fast if you aren’t passionate about your subject matter.

2) Choose a name for your blog and purchase a unique URL.

When I chose Musings of a Housewife, I spent all of 5 minutes contemplating what would turn out to be my “brand” online. Again, it’s not like I ever expected anyone to actually READ it. It worked out okay, but when I named other sites (Eat Local Philly and All Things Chic, for example) I put more thought and research into it.

You will want a unique URL so before naming your blog, check to be sure you can get the URL you want (the name of your blog and your URL most certainly should match!!! I am Musings of a Housewife, and my url is jolynneshane.com.) You can check to see if a URL is available on many sites. I use 1and1.com. Keep it simple and memorable.

Do a few quick google searches and make sure no one else is using your name, or something close to it. This can prevent a lot of heartache down the line if someone has a trademark on it, or if there is someone with a similar name that feels like you are trying to capitalize on their success. (And whatever you do, do not intentionally choose a name that resembles a popular blog — NOT a good strategy.)

3) Choose a platform.

My advice is to start off with the free WordPress.com blog. It’s super simple; you can literally have your blog set up in five minutes. It is also free. (Although I recommend paying the $12-17/year for the Premium version so you can get a unique URL.) With WordPress.com, you can easily upgrade to a self hosted WordPress site if your blog takes off and you decide to stick with it, and you won’t have to learn a new interface if that time comes.

4) Choose a theme.

There are many free themes available — on any blogging platform. Twenty Ten for WordPress.com is quite robust for a free theme. Yes, you will probably want to get a custom design down the line, but for now, choose a pleasing theme that represents you and start creating content. You may discover that as you get a few posts under your belt, your goals and direction change a bit (or a lot.) Or you might decide it’s a lot of work and let it wane. Or you may be the next big blogger . . . in which case, you can afford to get a professional design!

The key with design is to start off slowly and keep it simple. The sure sign of an amateur is a busy design with colorful fonts and blinking badges.

5) Start creating content, and write regularly.

This may be the hardest part — writing that first post.

Like I said, back when I started blogging, there was no pressure. I just started writing, and I never really expected anyone to actually read it. I had no schedule, I wrote when I felt like it. Some days I posted four times, some days none. Over time, I found my rhythm.

Now if I have four posts in my head on Monday, I write them while I’m “in the zone”, but I schedule them to post throughout the week, or just wait until I have a day that I need a post. I have an editorial calendar with post ideas and giveaways and other sponsored post commitments I’ve made to brands. That will all come in time — if you are consistent, and if you want it to. But at first, just get used to writing for the web and for your specific audience.

Know who you are writing for, and then be yourself, write like you talk, and use lots of paragraph breaks!! Think magazine, not novel.

6) Spread the word!

Once you get comfortable writing for the web, start sharing your blog with friends and family. Put the link on Facebook and then find other blogs that interest you and start leaving thoughtful comments. (Do NOT leave your blog’s URL in the comment section, though. That’s considered tacky. Just fill it in in the form above the comment box, and then your name will link to your blog in your comment.)

When commenting, use whatever name you want to be known as — your blog name or your real name or, as I usually do, a combination of both. Before you know it, you will have visitors checking out your blog. Be sure to respond to blog comments and as new people find you, visit them back. What goes around comes around, and that’s especially true in the blogosphere.

7) A few more things you may want to consider:

  • Write an About page and throw your photo on there. People like to see who they’re talking to. I don’t care if you think you’re too skinny, too fat, too pimply, too young or too old. Get a friend to take a flattering photo of you, and put it on your blog.
  • If you want readers or brands to contact you, be sure to have your email address visible. I have a link to a Contact page in my top navigational menu.
  • Provide a way for people to subscribe to your blog via email or feed reader.
  • Invite your readers to connect with you on your social networks — Facebook and Twitter and where ever else you hang out. You can download free social networking buttons and link them on your sidebar.

There is so much more advice I could throw out there, but I’ve probably already overwhelmed you! And as always, I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

One more thing… if you DO start a blog as a result of this post, please let me know — I’d love to be your first visitor.

(Stay tuned for a post about How to Make Money With Your Blog.)