So you're thinking about starting a blog...
I’m all about making the most of the “shelter in place” April that so many of us are currently experiencing. Now, more than ever before, is the perfect opportunity and time to take up a new hobby that you’ve been thinking about (or just came up with!). I’ve had a few followers reach out to me recently with questions about starting their first blog, and that has in turn inspired me to write this post.
This is basically an updated version of the “Tips for Starting and Growing a Blog” post that I wrote a few years back. This October will mark my seventh year I’ve been blogging, and below you’ll find the seven steps that I took to get this blog off the ground back in the fall of 2013.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the process of starting a blog– it can be a lot of work and take up a lot of time if you decide to put your everything into it. It has simultaneously been the hardest, yet most rewarding, work I’ve ever done.
BUT, at the same time it can also be a really fun hobby! That’s the beauty of blogging– it truly is what you make it. You can blog for fun and never think to monetize it or run it as a business. OR you can blog for fun but think through a business lens and figure out how to make money. There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it!
So below you will find the steps that I personally took to start this blog, and the resources and tips that I’ve found have been the most helpful.
Enjoy and of course don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have at all! xx
Step 1: Come up with the concept
First up, what are you going to blog about?! One easy way to decide to is think about the things that your girlfriends ask you about or that you love to talk about. Do your friends come to you for life advice or fashion advice? Or both?! What’s your point of expertise that you know enough about that you’d be able to write about?
Another way to think about it is to envision the tabs that you will have on your blog– what would they say? My blog is actually pretty broad, and my categories say things like “FASHION,” “TRAVEL,” and “DÉCOR,” but I would actually recommend starting as specific and niche as possible and sticking to what you know best. For example, an entire blog just dedicated to needlepointing or sale shopping would be so interesting to base an entire blog around!
Figure out your concept before anything else, because that will dictate how you set up your website and everything you do from there.
Step 2: Create your website
Now, decide on your blog’s name. I would honestly say the shorter the name the better (I sometimes think that mine is too long!). It can be your nickname, a funny pun, your favorite quote 😉, etc. And now I’ve seen a bigger trend in which major bloggers are re-branding and naming their website after their full name, so you could always just start with your full name too!
Then, set up your blog on a blogging platform. I use WordPress.org and would highly recommend it (I started out on Blogger and migrated my whole site over to WordPress a few years ago), and have found WordPress to be much more dynamic and functional.
Then you need to sign up with a web host, which allows you to have more server space to support your entire blog. I initially used Bluehost to host my blog, but recently switched over to Siteground because I needed more server space. I’ve now gotten to know both platforms well and would recommend either! Both have great customer service if your site goes down for whatever reason and you need help. I would also recommend purchasing your custom website domain (your URL) through them as well! You will be very fancy & professional with your own “.com”!
Step 3: Make it your own
Now that your blog is set up and hosted, it’s time for the pretty part… making the site your own! 😊The easiest way to do this is to either use one of the WordPress templates that is already created in the platform, or upload a WordPress template to customize the look of the site.
You can find WordPress templates all over, but I’d recommend looking into Etsy, Pipdig, 17th Avenue or Designer Blogs— I’ve used all three at various times in my blogging life! You can purchase a template pretty inexpensively (it can take thousands of dollars to design a blog from scratch), and have them install it for you as well (which I would also recommend, unless you think you have a pretty good grasp of how to do it).
As for your logo, you can either use the header/logo that comes with the blog template you purchase, you can design your own (using Canva would be the easiest way I think!), or you can have someone create a logo for you from scratch. When I rebranded last June, I had Elena of Printastic Studio do a full custom branding for me and would highly recommend her. I was so specific in what I was looking for (who would have guessed 😂), and she really brought my branding vision to life better than I even imagined anyone could.
Step 4: Get your first posts up
After your blog’s look matches your brand, it’s time to bring your blog to life with content! Plan out what blog posts you want to share or just get to creating them! I plan mine out on a monthly basis, and have a few recurring posts that I share every month (like my Monthly Edit or my Amazon Prime Picks), which can be helpful to make sure you have some consistent content that flows month to month throughout the year.
When you’re writing your posts, try to have your natural voice come across. I always joke that my blog posts sound very much like how I talk… you will essentially get the same thing when you talk to me in real life. As for your photos, you can either start with just taking iPhone pictures (the quality of iPhone shots are really amazing now) or you can invest in a digital camera if you don’t have one already (I use this camera and also have this lens for it). I’ve actually found that for the most part iPhone photos perform better on my Instagram, and photos I take with my digital camera look better on my blog!
As for editing images for posts, I use Lightroom to edit the photos I take with my camera (I learned most of what I know from this tutorial from Kelly in the City) and I use the following apps to edit my iPhone images: Camera+, VSCO, Snapseed, Tezza & ColorStory. For fun Instagram story graphics, I either use Canva, Storyluxe, or Unfold. I would recommend downloading a few and playing around with them to see which you like best!
Lastly, I wanted to share that I use Photoshop to create all of my Trend Boards (AKA product collages) that you see on the blog. I learned how to do that through a series of YouTube videos (there’s definitely a major level of scrappiness & figuring it out yourself with blogging 😂). But I know that Caitlin of Southern Curls and Pearls has a tutorial for how she makes her product collages with Photoshop Elements (which is supposedly easier than Photoshop)!
Step 5: Market & monetize it
Then, if you’ve found yourself in a good cadence with blogging and want to promote your blog posts more, you can start marketing and monetizing them. To help market my blog I use my Instagram page to share posts and stories, my Facebook page to share blog posts, my Pinterest page to share inspiration and my blog posts, Canva to create graphics of my blog posts that I can use on Instagram stories, Mailchimp to send out emails to my subscribers, and Tailwind to schedule out Pinterest posts.
It’s very possible to start being paid for the content you’re creating as well. There are many ways to monetize a blog or website, but two of the major ways are affiliate marketing and sponsorships. Affiliate marketing is done through companies like rewardStyle and ShopStyle Collective (both of which many bloggers use and love, although I only use rewardStyle). By signing up with one of those platforms, you can generate links that you can then share and earn commission from. For example, if you click on almost any link on my blog and purchase an item through that link, I will earn a small commission from that brand.
Sponsorships are done when a brand reaches out to you (or you reach out to them) and you decide to partner together in return for the brand paying you a fee. The brand can ask for anything from a sponsored blog post to sponsored Instagram stories, and pay you varying amounts of money depending on what you’re delivering. I learned a TON about pitching and landing brand sponsorships through Julie Solomon’s ‘Pitch it Perfect’ course as well. I highly recommend that if you’re looking to land more sponsored collaborations– it’s worth the money tenfold!!
Of course, there are also additional ways to make money (like blog advertising banners for instance!), and Amanda of the Miller Effect shared a really well-written post on it all that you can read if you’d like to learn a little bit more about that.
Track Revenue + Expenses
Then, if you get to the point where you’re really monetizing your blog, you have to keep track of it all. To keep track of my revenue and expenses I use Excel, QuickBooks, and Paypal. I would suggest reaching out to an accountant as soon as you start monetizing your blog, so you can make sure you’re taking all of the proper legal steps. I established Amy Believes in Pink as an LLC last year, so that I could be as legitimate as possible when filing taxes (you can do that online but I also had a lawyer help me out, because professionals always know best when it comes to the taxes/legality of it all 😂).
Step 6: Keep blogging & experiment!
I think it’s important to note that the majority of the services and tips that I recommend in this post took me years and years of trial and error to figure out. I started consistently blogging (as in posting multiple times a week every week) when I first started this blog, but it’s completely up to you how often you want to post.
If you are blogging purely for a fun hobby, post whenever and however frequently you want to! If one of your goals is to start generating money from a blog, then it’s important to come up with as consistent of a blogging schedule as you can. Right now I post about two blog posts every week, but it’s one of my goals this year to get it up to three or four. I tend to lean toward more long form blog posts (I guess I have a lot to say, idk ha), so they tend to be less frequent than my Instagram posts and stories.
Either way, keep sharing what’s on your mind through your blog and experimenting with different topics, post formats, graphics, etc. until you find what you and your readers are liking best. I use Google Analytics (which you can connect your blog to) to track which posts of mine are the most popular, and I’m also constantly asking my followers, readers, friends, etc. what they’d like me to share more of!
Step 7: Improve & grow your blog
I would recommend the following programs to bloggers who have been consistently blogging and want to take their blog to the next level– in regards to content, traffic, or income. At some point you may reach the point where you want to seek some outside help or additional advice on how to better grow or monetize your blog more– I’ve found the below resources to be the most helpful for doing just that!
To make sure my blog stays improving and running effectively I use the blogging digital agency Chloe Digital, who I would highly recommend (they also facilitated my rebranding and redesign last year!). I’ve also recently been talking to Blogist about my blog strategy, collaborations, and growth, and am really impressed with all that they do to help bloggers, so they’re another helpful source as well.
In the aspect of growing your blog’s readership and following, I would recommend using InfluencerSEO, which is a-blog specific service that optimizes each of your blog posts for the web’s search engines, so that your blog posts are most likely to pop up for various searches.
I also think that cultivating your Instagram following can help grow your blog’s readership. For that I would recommend partnering up with similar brands or influencers to you (or totally different ones!), and cross-promoting each other’s content, running giveaways that are compelling and relevant to what your followers/readers like, and using your Instagram stories and the link that you can put in your bio to direct your followers to your site.
A Few More Tips
Additionally, there are tons of other resources for bloggers out there– this post was solely based on the experience I’ve had with blogging throughout the years. I really like the website The Fox and She for helpful and in-depth blogging tips as well!
Finally, I do have a “Bloggers Gonna Blog” Pinterest board where I’ve saved some helpful blogging resources that I’ve come across, so that might be useful to look through as well!
If you just got to the end of this post, whew! Thank you for reading about all of the wonderful resources and people that have helped to make this lil blog what it is today. There aren’t many rules when it comes to blogging, which is probably why I love it as much as I do 😉.
Also, if you end up starting a blog with any of these tips, or use any of them on the blog that you already have, definitely let me know! I’d love to follow along and be a reader! 😊xx