This week, I want to show how you can start blogging. Even if you’re not interested in creating a blog, I hope the “3 steps to take next” will inspire you in your own creative endeavors.
When I was 14 years old, the preacher handed me an Adobe Dreamweaver CD with a question:
“Would you like to build the church website?”
It took me an entire summer staring at a computer screen to finish the site. Although my first website was horrendous, it opened my eyes to the internet universe.
From there, I built my first blog using Blogger at age 15. I don’t remember what I posted, much less why I built the blog, but what I do know is I have started and ditched 4 blogs since then.
Let me clarify: I’m no expert on blogging. But I think I can help if you have the same question I did at 15 years old:
How do I start a blog?
Disclaimer: NO affiliate links below. If I missed any incredible resources, let me know in the comments below!
START A BLOG
The first choice you need to make is what content management system (CMS) you will use. What is a CMS? I promise – it’s not scary.
Content Management System — software designed to make it easier for you to create and manage digital content.
By the way, I created the definition so don’t quote me on it. 🙂 From simplest to most difficult, here are the best three CMS options:
- Squarespace — If you want to build a beautiful website in as little time as possible, this is a great choice. Despite its ease of use, Squarespace lacks customization and functionality. If you plan to get serious with blogging, I would recommend WordPress.
- WordPress.com — This is what I started with! WordPress.com is easy to use but will offer more flexibility and functionality in the future. They have a free and paid version. Once you start with this, you can always migrate to WordPress.org later on.
- WordPress.org — Wait? There are two WordPress options! I know – it took me a long time to figure out the difference. WordPress.org is the industry standard and offers the ultimate flexibility, customization, and features. There is a steeper learning curve, but it is worth it. See recommmended plugins below.
Can’t figure out which one to use? Read this: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
If you decide on WordPress.org, I would recommend hosting with Siteground. From personal experience, I have found Siteground to be much more reliable and easier to use than Bluehost.
START AN EMAIL LIST
Once you set up your blog, I recommend setting up an email list. It is never too early to start! An email list allows you to develop a more personal connection with your readers. Two great email providers to begin with include:
- TinyLetter — Easy to use but not as functional. Does come with a landing page! Free.
- MailChimp (what I use) — A little bit harder to use but more functional. Free, but you do have to pay to access more advanced features.
TAKE THE NEXT (3) STEPS
If you are brand new to blogging, these are the next 3 steps you need to take:
1. Write Consistently
You will be tempted to make your blog perfect in the beginning. For the first year, focus on writing rather than trying to make your blog “beautiful”. Over time, you will learn the importance of SEO, responsive design, two-factor authentication, analytics, and…
But none of that matters for now.
Write and do it consistently. Usually, no one will be paying attention to your blog in the beginning. And that’s okay! The lack of people reading what you’re writing gives you the opportunity to experiment and grow without worrying what people think. And as you continue to write, work on improving your blog a little bit at a time.
Put writing and creating great content first. Everything else will follow.
2. Set a Schedule
When are you going to write?
Oh, just whenever…
If you write whenever you feel like it, you will never feel like writing. And your blog will look empty and sad. Trust me. To write consistently, you need a schedule.
- How many times? — Are you going to write twice a week? Once a week? Once a month? Decide what will work best for your lifestyle. To start off, once a week is a great goal.
- What day? — If you are anything like me, setting a goal of “how many times” will not be enough. Saturday night, you’re going to ask yourself, “Wait? Did I post something already?” Set a specific day and communicate that to your friends. Keep yourself accountable.
3. Find your Voice + Niche
Why should you write consistently? Why set a schedule? Let me share a story with you.
In 2015, I decided to start a food blog. It was something fun to do with my sibling since I knew nothing about cooking or baking. And I posted anything. Every single week, whether it was good or terrible, it went on the blog.
After 1 year, I realized my food blog needed to be more focused. There are a million food blogs out there! How was I helping? Why should anyone care about what I was writing? And then I discovered my specific niche:
Helping people pack healthy meals.
This was something no one else was talking about. This was how I would help other people. Guess what. It took almost one year of consistent, weekly uploads to discover that niche.
As you write, you will discover your own personal voice and niche you serve.
GO (EVEN) FURTHER
If you decide to use WordPress.org, then you need to know about plugins. What is a plugin? Think of a plugin like an app you download to increase the functionality of your phone.
But be careful! Just like downloading too many apps will slow your phone down, downloading too many plugins will slow your blog down as well.
These plugins are highly recommend for you to download:
- Akismet Anti-Spam — Protects your blog from spam.
- Jetpack — Optimizes your blog and makes it easier to use. Allows you to use the WordPress.com interface for your blog.
- Google Authenticator — You should have 2-step verification for all your accounts, but especially for your blog. If you need a step-by-step guide, read how to add Google Authenticator to WordPress.
I manually backup my site every once in a while, but I should be paying for daily backups. Once I have some money saved up, this is what I plan to purchase:
- VaultPress — Automated daily backups for $3.50 monthly. Powered by Jetpack.
Even if you decide to hold off on VaultPress for now, please backup your site manually. At a minimum, do it every few months. Can’t figure out to manually backup your site? Read this: Make a WordPress Database Backup Manually
Yay! You have all the basics covered and you’re ready to supercharge your blog. Here is a list of plugins I use:
- WP Super Cache — Speeds your blog up. Here’s how to install and set it up.
- EWWW Image Optimizer — Reduces file size for images to speed your blog up.
- Really Simple SSL — Configures your blog to run over HTTPS (the secure, encrypted version of HTTP).
- WP Sweep — Cleans unused, orphaned, and duplicated data in WordPress.
- MailChimp for WordPress — Integrate MailChimp for seamless signup forms.
Whew. That was a lot! If you have any questions or suggestions, share it in the comments below.
Happy blogging! And don’t stop typing.