Ditching the 9-5 and creating your dream job from home is becoming increasingly popular and I think this is because it’s becoming more and more evident that it’s a possibility.
I personally wanted to make money blogging because I suffer from anxiety and depression. The prospect of holding down a ‘normal’ job is terrifying to me. I’ve always worked from home and it’s what works for my life and mental health. I want to be my own boss and be free to take a mental health day when I need it.
However, when it comes to starting a blog, with so many resources out there, it’s also become pretty difficult to know where to start.
Before I actually started my blog, I researched my big ol’ butt off trying to find out the exact steps I needed to make it a success but all the info out there can get pretty overwhelming. This is my third blog and I didn’t want this one to fail. Blogging is my dream job.
Now, I have a fairly substantial amount of experience under my belt; I know what works, what doesn’t, what to spend your money on, and how to spend your time.
With this in mind, I wanted to create a straightforward guide on how you can start your own blog.
Here are the straightforward steps you need to take in order to start a successful blog.
Pick your blog niche
Before you part with your hard-earned cash, I suggest cobbling together a ‘business plan’ and deciding on your blogging niche first.
I say ‘business plan’ because you don’t actually need to draw up anything too detailed. Unless you’re trained in business, it can be overwhelming and even prevent you from taking action in the first place.
In the beginning, you just want to get started but you also need a direction to head in.
So, the first step is to simply choose your niche.
Your niche is your area of expertise – what sets you apart from other bloggers. Whether you want to start a blog about knitting, bullet journals or, mental health, it’s important to establish what you want to blog about from the get-go.
You can always change your niche or niche down depending on what your readers enjoy, so it’s okay to start off broad.
For example, I started blogging about mental health and personal development. I’ve learned over the last year that my readers respond particularly well to my self-care and positive thinking posts, so I now focus most of my posts around these two main topics.
You need clear aims and goals. For example, do you want your blog to be a side hustle, eventually become your full-time income, or just a hobby? If you want to earn money from your blog, remember, there is NO shame in that.
- Related: How to Choose Your Profitable Niche
How to pick a blog name
Once you’ve figured out your blog niche, it’s time to come up with a blog name, which will become your domain name.
Seeking Serotonin wasn’t hard for me to come up with as it actually used to be my Tumblr name back in the day. It rolls off the tongue nicely and explains more-or-less exactly what my blog is about – finding your happy.
While coming up with something clever and witty is fun and all, when you first start out, you need to make it pretty obvious what kind of experience your audience will get when they click on your site. They need to know what they’re going to read on your blog and why they’re there, or they’ll just click off.
You need a name that people will remember; something your readers can just type in on Google and have your blog pop up.
However – and I can’t stress this enough – if you can’t think of anything, it really doesn’t matter that much. Just name it after yourself! Don’t spend too much on this.
Web and domain hosting
If you’re going to spend money on anything at the start of your blogging journey, it simply has to be a web and domain hosting.
By owning your blog name you OWN your business, which is so important if you plan to start making money from your blog in the future.
Fortunately, web hosting is usually super-cheap.
I – and many other bloggers – use Bluehost as they not only run a pretty decent web hosting service with 24/7 support, they also throw in free domain hosting as part of the deal.
Having yourdomainname.com looks far more professional (and is quicker to type) than yourdomainname.wordpress/blogspot.com so grab that .com domain name.
Signing up to Bluehost was the first expense that I had no trouble parting with when I first started my blog. And, since it was only a few quid a month, it didn’t exactly break the bank.
If you do choose to sign up, I have a step-to-step tutorial on how to start a blog in 10 minutes or less.
Sign in to WordPress
When it comes to blogging, I only use Wordpress. Well… I might have used Blogspot when I was a young teenager – you know when television was still in black-and-white – but since then it’s always been WordPress.
When you sign up to Bluehost, you get the chance to combine these two accounts so that they work together.
It sounds more complicated than it actually is. But if you’re having trouble, as I mentioned above, I’ve written a step-by-step tutorial on how to set up your blog with Bluehost and connect it with WordPress.
There’s a reason 48% of bloggers exclusively used WordPress in 2018.
It’s free, easy to use, has its own themes if you can’t afford to splash out on a shiny, new one, and lets you customise just about everything whether you’re a whizz at HTML or not.
(If you’re struggling to learn how to use the new WordPress Gutenberg layout, simply download the free plugin Classic Editor and it’ll put everything back the way it was.)
Blog design and branding: How to choose a blog theme
By this stage, you probably have some idea of what your blog and brand is going to look like.
Branding is how you want your blog to come across and look. It includes fonts, colours, design, your logo, your tone, how you write, etc. Everything that covers your ‘brand’ will be carried across all your social media accounts, as well as your blog, of course.
How important is branding?
Some bloggers find that strong branding, such as using the exact same format for Pinterest pins, really helps build trust with their audience. Whenever someone sees their pin or Instagram post, they know it’s them.
That recognition and trust is HUGE when it comes to making money from your blog later down the line.
However, in the beginning, while having some core colours and a consistent tone across your blog posts is important, you can hone the rest with time as you learn what your audience responds best to.
Create a simple logo for free on Canva and stick this on your pins and website, but don’t worry too much about branding in the beginning.
I highly recommend opening a notepad document on your computer and saving three-or-four brand colour HTML codes. This means that, at any time, you can bring up this mini-document and refer to your brand colours quickly and easily.
You then need to implement your brand strategy on your blog and to do that you need to choose a theme you can customise.
Choosing a blog theme is something I suggest taking some time over.
To start, you can choose a free WordPress theme – there are plenty and they can be pretty! However, you get what you pay for and they’re not very customisable, which is something you will find frustrating in the future when it comes to adding images, banners, and forms.
I personally use the Divi WordPress Theme by Elegant Themes, which is particularly popular with beginner bloggers.
The brilliant thing about the Divi theme is that it’s very intuitive. It has a visual builder so that you can edit and build at the front end of your site and see the changes happen in real time.
The Divi WordPress Theme also makes carrying out small tweaks pretty straightforward so that your blog can constantly be evolving with your brand.
When you’re first making your website, less is definitely more. Favour white space and simple fonts. I know it can be exciting when you first start, especially when something clicks into place and using the theme becomes second nature, but don’t overdo it.
You don’t need pictures and flashing visuals everywhere – quite the opposite, because it can begin to look cluttered. Learn from my mistakes people!
Starting building your email list from day #1
Your email list is basically a list of email addresses that you collect from your readers.
You usually get these email addresses by offering your audience a lead magnet or opt-in freebie (such as a downloadable/printable checklist) in exchange for them signing up with their email address. You need to give them value in exchange for their email address.
Why is email list building important?
Well, whoever signs up to be on your email list has shown an interest in what you have to say.
With your email list, you already have a group of people who love what you do right in front of you and who will potentially be interested in your products in the future.
Your email list is also YOURS. It’s not like your social media following, which could disappear overnight if the platform goes down. They’re your followers and friends. These are the people who will support you wherever you go.
Starting, nurturing and growing your email list is one of the most important things you can do as a blogger. I cannot stress this enough. This is where bloggers make the most money – not their blog.
Before I started pushing out blogs, I signed up with ConvertKit.
ConvertKit, in my opinion, is the best email marketing software for bloggers – that’s why basically every blogger out there uses it.
It was created by Nathan Barry – A BLOGGER – and therefore it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use from day #1.
Plus their customer service is amazing.
ConvertKit allows you to send out broadcasts to your entire email list (e.g. a newsletter), send out a sequence of emails over a set period of time (e.g. a 7-day course), and set up automations.
You can read more about building your email list here.
Pinterest & social media
Like it or not, social media is a huge part of being a blogger. Whether that’s networking, finding sponsorship deals or driving traffic.
I highly recommend, especially in the beginning, just starting off on one or two platforms until you’ve grown on them.
Pinterest is particularly awesome for driving traffic to blog posts as it’s not just a social media platform, it’s a visual search engine.
I get around 60% of my traffic (100% in the beginning) from Pinterest and I’m no different to most bloggers out there. Pinterest is honestly an invaluable tool and one you need to use as part of your blogging journey.
New to Pinterest and have no idea where to start? Click here for my step-by-step guide on how to drive traffic to your blog from Pinterest.
Sign up for Tailwind
Tailwind is a Pinterest scheduling app, which is approved by Pinterest itself, and, in my and most bloggers’ opinions, it’s the best Pinterest app out there by a country mile.
It allows you to quickly and easily schedule, loop and analyse your Pinterest pins and boards in order to save you HOURS every week.
You can schedule your own posts and other peoples’ at the click of a button. This saves you time, effort and anxiety when it comes to setting up your Pinterest strategy.
Tailwind analyses when the best time for you to post would be considering when your audience is online and most responsive – i.e. most likely to read yo s**t. This saves you having to work this out yourself and, from my point of view, it means I don’t have to be up all night manual pinning.
(If you want to find out more about manual pinning, which has been proven to be amazing for Pinterest traffic, I recommend Carly from Mommy on Purpose’s popular ebook, Pinteresting Strategies.)
I also use Tailwind to schedule and publish my Instagram posts. Like Pinterest, it’ll find the best times for you to post and you can save your hashtags.
In 2018, the Pinterest app launched a new feature called SmartLoop, which allows you to continuously loop select pins to select boards for as long as you like. Again, a huge time-saver and another way to make your life as a blogger easier.
I use Hootsuite to schedule my Facebook and Twitter posts.
Hootsuite is pretty intuitive to use and you can schedule up to 30 posts per week on Hootsuite’s free plan.
Buffer is another excellent platform for Facebook and Twitter scheduling but it doesn’t allow you to schedule as many posts as Hootsuite on their free plan.
One day, you may want to upgrade to a premium plan as well as Tailwind. However, if you’re just starting a blog and don’t have a big budget, it’s not important.
Start writing blog posts!
Ironically, the next step is usually the hardest: start writing blog posts.
After spending months planning and over a week setting up my website, when it actually came down to writing, I almost hit a writer’s block despite blogging being the whole reason I wanted to start a blog in the first place.
I recommend writing up an editorial calendar beforehand, so you’re not lost for ideas at the beginning. Keep a spread sheet of blog post titles and keywords you want to target.
Always have the end goal in mind, such as an affiliate product, lead magnet, or product, and centre your content around those. This is one mistake I made in the beginning – I wish I had clear goals for each post and wasn’t… barking at the moon for the first six months.
Even at the very beginning, think about a product you want to launch one day. Focus your content around this so that you can build a targeted audience and email list for the future.
How often should I blog?
Commit to blogging at least once a week on the same day and stick to it. The more often you blog, the quicker it’ll grow, so if you do feel like you can write 4+ times a week, you should experience some seriously rapid growth.
However, it’s more important that you stick to a consistent schedule than worry about the volume.
Remember, stay true to yourself, don’t affiliate yourself with a company you haven’t used and don’t believe in, and don’t lose your personality. I’ve never wanted my blog to be a serious place and that’s how I intend to keep it.
Most importantly, ENJOY IT. If you start to lose your passion, your audience will be able to tell. Don’t give up – persevere. Stop comparing yourself to others, do your thing, love it and own it.
Invest in knowledge
Buy courses and ebooks from successful bloggers – learn from those who have been where you are and are now where you want to be.
Don’t see it as spending money unnecessarily, see it as investing in your business.
You’ll learn stuff in these courses that you simply won’t find for free on the interest. That’s the hard truth.
Don’t resent it, open your mind to learning and implementing the strategies that EXPERTS teach you.