I started my blog in the summer of 2013, and since then, blogging has become even more popular as both a creative outlet and an additional – or even main – income stream. Although Instagram and other social media platforms may have more users and thus potential followers, blogs are still important, so if you want to know how to start a blog, it’s not too late and today I’m sharing exactly how to go about it!
Brainstorm Your Content & Determine Your Audience
Before you even sign up for a domain or create a website, first spend some time thinking about what kind of content you will want to share on your blog, and who your target audience is. Do you want to share natural hair or skincare product reviews for a specific beauty niche? Do you specialize in candid street photography and come up with short stories about your subjects in a particular city? Are you traveling around the world for a year and want to share your adventures with family and friends? Once you’ve established the kind of content you’d like to post on your blog, as well as the ideal person who would be reading your content, you will find it easier to choose the right type of blog service (more on that later) for your needs.
Many people reach out to me saying that they want to start a blog about a variety of things – hair, love, faith, fashion – pretty much anything that’s happening in their life and that is on their mind. This falls into the category of lifestyle blogging, which is what I do now, but I don’t recommend starting off a blog without a specific focus for the following reasons. First, if your goal is to build an audience, it can be difficult for people to understand what your blog is about if one day you’re talking about hair and the next day you’re talking about that one time a guy ghosted you after you paid for the first date. Secondly, not having a clear topical focus on your blog in the early stages can make it more difficult to remain consistent, and consistently blogging is one of the main ways you can guarantee readership. On the flip side, if you’re just blogging for yourself and not to grow an audience or build an income stream, then by all means, blog about whatever you want, whenever you want!
Pick a Blog Name
Once you’ve figured out the content of your blog, it’s time to choose a catchy name for it! If you’d prefer to be anonymous, or blog under a pseudonym, a creative blog name will help people focus on the actual content of your blog rather than the writer behind it. However, bloggers are increasingly choosing to use their real names – or some combination of the first and middle name – as the name of their blog. For one, this provides ownership over your likeness and brand if you ever become big time and end up in the press. Secondly, it makes it easier to blog about a variety of topics, or extend your blog into different purposes as you grow – a place to sell digital services, an online portfolio or resume, or just a landing page for anyone searching your name.
I changed my blog name to my real name in 2017 after much internal debate. For me, my previous blog name no longer reflected the material I was blogging about (I’d moved from exclusively blogging about natural hair to blogging about a variety of topics)
Ultimately the decision whether to use your name or a creative name comes down to your personal preferences, but whatever name you choose, make sure its available by searching on domain sites like GoDaddy.com or by typing it in yourself. Also be sure to consider social media when choosing a blog name – it would stink to choose a blog and buy a domain just to find out that name is already taken on Instagram. Check for availability of names not only on domain sites but on social media sites too.
Choose a Website Platform & Theme
Once you’ve figured out what to call your blog, and have verified that the name is available on both the internet and on social media, it’s time to choose a website & platform to host your blog. This is where things can get a bit tricky but there are two main platforms most bloggers I know use, so I’ll cover them both.
WordPress.org: If you choose to start a blog on WordPress.org (don’t use WordPress.com – you won’t be able to monetize your blog later), you’ll have to have a separate hosting service. I use Bluehost and like it because it has an integrated 1 step WordPress installation, and has really great 24/7 customer service whenever I’m confused with something going on my website. Bluehost starts at less than $5/month and includes a free domain name for one year. One benefit of having your blog on WordPress is that it provides endless plugins for DIY customization, perfect for bloggers like me who always want to tinker with something on their site.
Once you’ve set up your domain and hosting, you can then purchase a WordPress theme to give your site a distinct and cohesive look. There are hundreds of thousands of themes across the web. I like and have used Pipdig and Restored 316 themes in the past and would recommend checking them both out to see if there’s a theme that works for you!
Squarespace: If you’re not as tech inclined, and don’t feel like dealing with a separate website, hosting, and theme, Squarespace is a great way to quickly start a blog because the domain, hosting, and themes are all included! A basic Squarespace installation is $12/month, and also includes a free custom domain. There are also a variety of inbuilt themes that you can choose from, but they don’t offer as much customization as WordPress themes. But the Safe Journey Retreat site is on Squarespace, and I know a ton of bloggers who use Squarespace for their blogs, so it’s definitely a viable option as well!
Create a Content Calendar
One thing that trips many new bloggers up is that they forget to plan out how their blog will fit into their existing life. Will you be posting 3x a week? Once a week? Daily? Figuring out a content calendar and schedule before launching your blog is integral to being a consistent blogger, and thus growing your blog audience! Blogging can be as big or as small of a commitment as you’d like it to be, so decide ahead of time how much time during the week – and when during each day – you want to devote to your blog. Don’t forget to think about time you’ll spend drafting posts, taking and editing photos, reading emails and responding to comments, and doing blog maintenance!
Now that you’ve got your blog and your editorial calendar, it’s time to get moving! I suggest having 3 or so posts published on your blog before announcing/launching it, just to give new readers a general idea of your tone, voice, and what they can expect moving forward. Since you’ve already made your calendar, you should have a good idea of when your next blog posts will be going live, so you’ve set yourself up for success!