So you want to have your own natural hair blog – welcome to the ever growing club of natural hair bloggers! Before you go buy a domain and start posting all your hair selfies, here are ten steps to ensure a smooth transition into the world of a hair blogger.
Step 1: Identify Your Voice
There are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers all talking about natural hair, so if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd, you have to make sure you have a unique voice. What questions and perspectives are missing from your favorite hair blogs? Do you have a specific quality or expertise that goes along with your natural hair journey that might interest or inspire other people – for example, did you drunkenly big chop and then have to figure it out, do your friends always ask you how you always have big hair, or are you a natural living in Alaska? Thinking about how your blog will differ from others is the first step in figuring out your voice, but it won’t be believable if it’s not based on your true personality, experiences, and perspectives.
Step 2: Pick a Domain Name
You might have thought this would have been step 1, but if you pick a domain name before identifying your voice, you end up looking confused, with a blog called naturalqueenofproductreviews.com when your blog is focused on all your innovative protective styles. Using your voice as a launching point, come up with a few possible AVAILABLE domain names and share them with some trusted friends to get their opinions. Availability is a big deal and you might run into two scenarios that should be approached differently. If you google your desired name and other sites come up as good matches, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to drive visitors to your site. For example, if you wanted to be naturallycurlyiam, anyone googling you is going to probably land on naturallycurly.com instead, and you’ve just lost a potential reader and follower. On the flip side, your domain might be “taken” but not really in use, and then you can get creative with ways to make it work. For example, the domain name wasn’t available because some random person had it and just parked it (didn’t make it an active site), so I had to use an alternative for a while. Do some thinking ahead – does your domain name also work with social media? @nqopr is not a twitter handle that catches anyone’s eye.
Once you choose a domain name, buy all the extensions you can afford: .com, .net, .org, etc. Just in case you blog up big-time, it’ll be harder or more expensive to acquire them later.
Step 3: Choose a Platform
Once you’ve figured out your voice and domain, the next step is to choose a platform! You can use YouTube, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, SquareSpace, Wix, and many more blog hosting platforms! Your posting schedule and niche might draw you closer to one form over another; if you plan to post multiple times a day, Tumblr might be your best bet, if you plan on making mostly videos, YouTube should be your main platform. You can also have multiple – I use WordPress.org, Tumblr, and YouTube all for different things, but they’re all linked and an extension of my main site.
I’m not going to get into setup details for specific platforms because that would take several days, but there are great online resources for bloggers new to WordPress (my platform) about domain setup, hosting, plugins, themes, etc etc. It took me over a month to create my site and nothing was more helpful than Google. I also read a free e-book “How to Start a Successful Blog in One Hour” that gave me the basics, and I know that my host (Bluehost) offered setup tutorials as well. Depending on your time, you might consider hiring a friend or reference to help you build your site because it IS a lot of work if you want to make it look more professional. AwesomelyTechie.com and The Native New Yawker are great resources for bloggers that are run by peeps with natural hair!
Step 4: Make a Schedule
You actually need two schedules. The first schedule you should make is one for your blog setup. Depending on which platform you use and whether you’re going to get a web designer or do it on your own, your setup process might take 15 minutes or it could take 6 months. It might be helpful to pre-determine a launch date to motivate you to have everything ready by a certain time.
You also need to make a schedule for how you’ll fit your blog into your life once you actually launch. Blogging can be as big or as small of a commitment as you’d like it to be, so decide ahead of time how often and which days of the week you’ll be posting, editing, taking pictures, recording video, and reading emails. Consistent content is integral to being a successful blogger!
Step 5: Produce Quality Content
Once you’re all logistically setup, you need to start producing quality content! Write and shoot thoughtful, satirical, informative or passionate posts, images, and videos – depending on your voice – and get them up! While it doesn’t need to be college essay perfect, you want to be sure that your content is free of distracting spelling or grammatical errors, is easy to read, and attracts attention. Break up your posts into segments and use photos to help your reader or viewer remain engaged. Quality content doesn’t require expensive equipment; you don’t need a $1000 camera or $500 video editing software – save those expenses for when you’ve started making good money from your blog, which brings me to my next point…
Step 6: Monetize
Even if you don’t start your blog to make extra income, you still need to monetize that bad boy. It’s super easy to get ads on your blog through Google Adsense or by joining a blog advertising network, so why not make passive income from your passions? Having ads on your blog or videos is not the only way you can make money from your blog. You can sell products or items you’ve made by integrating e-commerce to your blog, you can have affiliate links for hair companies where you get a percentage from all sales that are directed from your blog, or you can even write an e-book on a specific topic and sell that. The possibilities are endless! If you are going to use ads, try not to let them interfere with your content; the fastest way to get someone to leave your page is bombarding them with irrelevant ads.
Step 7: Be Social
I talked briefly before about making sure your domain name translates well into social media handles, because you’re going to need to use them! Link your Facebook/Twitter/Google+/Instagram/Pinterest account(s) to your blog to make both sharing and marketing much easier across platforms. You can also market your blog by doing blog features or guest writing exchanges with other bloggers both within and outside of your niche, that way you can reach different audiences that might not typically come across your blog. You can also submit your most awesome articles to sites like BlackGirlLongHair.com, CurlyNikki.com, NaturallyCurly.com, and KinkyCurlyCoilyMe.com; while they’re not obligated to reshare, if they happen to do so it can bring you a great number of views.
In addition to being social online, be social offline! Attend natural hair, beauty, and blogger events in your area and hand out business cards. I’ve handed out cards in the club before… you never know where you’ll meet a potential reader, advertiser, or guest feature! Promoting your blog in person is probably the best way to get loyal readers, as they will have a more personal connection with you that is sometimes difficult to achieve online.
Step 8: Stay True to Yourself
Product reviews make up a huge part of natural hair blogs, so whether you’re reaching out to hair companies or they’re emailing you, stay true to your voice and values when accepting and completing reviews. Just because some company wants you to try their products, doesn’t mean you have to accept. I’ve declined offers for free products from companies whose branding, ingredients, or mission didn’t align with my values, and haven’t thought twice about it. You also HAVE to be honest with your reviews; your readers won’t trust you if you love every single product that you try. That doesn’t mean you slander a company if you don’t like their products, you have to use tact and grace, but still be truthful.
Step 9: Be Resilient
Every once in a while, with free speech and the advent of trolling, you’ll receive a frustrated/angry/misguided comment, tweet, email, etc from your blog. You have to realize that although you’re putting yourself out there, you don’t have to tolerate people’s foolishness. Feel free to delete or block any negative energy both online and offline that may affect your blog. I’m not just talking about comments like “your hair is ugly” because those are easy to brush off. What was actually surprisingly difficult for me when I started my blog was some negative comments made by associates that I knew who thought I was being silly for blogging and questioned whether anyone cared about what I had to say. Once they realized people did care, the narrative changed that I now thought I was better than people because I had a blog… just disregard all these kinds of comments and focus on your blog as long as it makes you happy!
Step 10: Re-Evaluate and Set Goals
Once you’ve been off the ground for a month or two, reflect on your blog and identify ways you can improve. It might be helpful to ask a friend to walk through your site with you and point out things that are confusing or not useful. A few months ago one of my friends pointed out that it was difficult to figure out how to subscribe to my email list, so I added a subscribe link at the bottom of each post, as well as in my menu bar. If you’ve reached 100 views, set goals for when you’ll reach 1,000, and brainstorm strategies to actually reach your goal. Maybe you’ve been doing reviews and you want to have more conversation with your readers; ask them what they want to hear about and if it fits into your voice and vision, give them what they want!
Do you have any other advice for people who want to start a natural hair blog? If you’re planning to start one, or are new to the blogging game, what are your biggest challenges?
**Thanks so much Jennifer from Facebook, who big chopped in April(!), for reaching out and inspiring this post!**