How to start a blog (in 4 steps)

I don’t know if there is something in the water or if it is just a coincidence (I see no other options), but I have found myself in the midst of a lot of “starting a blog” talk recently. I love it when friends of mine want to start blogging. I could talk about the intricacies of blogging all day long. You think I kid.

I love blogging for many reasons. I love that it is a creative outlet where all my seemingly random ideas and projects can come together and live in harmony. I love that it challenges me to write more and sketch more and feel like I have some sort of purpose in doing both. Blogging is my own kind of therapy. Writing, especially, does my heart a world of good every time I put pen to paper. This is why I am excited when people tell me they want to start blogging: because I know that if they are anything like me, they are going to get a lot out of it. And that is exciting!

First, I realize that it is likely that the majority of people reading this post today already have a blog. So this is for the small portion of you reading this who do not have a blog but a) are thinking about starting one, or b) are curious about how one gets swallowed up in such a world (and oh, it is a “world”). I know you are out there!

If you fall into either of those categories: this post is for you. Today I am going to go over the bare essentials of starting a blog. In the future, I plan on doing more “blogging 101” posts for beginners. So, stay tuned if you feel so led to do so. There is much to discuss.

1) Choose a platform

There are many different platforms to start blogging in. I use blogspot (blogger.com). WordPress is another popular blogging platform. Blogger and WordPress are both free services, but there are also a few good options for those of you who don’t mind paying a small monthly fee in exchange for an instantly professional look (squarespace is a good example). 

Deciding which platform to use is based on many things: blogspot is what most of the bloggers that I follow use. I chose it for the simple reason that everyone I liked was using it. There is nothing wrong with wordpress, but I have used it before and I find blogger to be more user-friendly. Do some shopping around and take note of what your favorite bloggers are using before you decide. 

Note that while paid blogging platforms offer a better variety of starter templates (how your blog appears: one sidebar, two sidebars, etc. plus the overall look of the blog), blogger does allow a good amount of tweaking to make your layout look anyway you please (with a little bit of work). 

Eventually, you can become self-hosted with your own domain name, if you want. But to start out, using a free blogger service is the easiest way to go.

2) Choose a blog name

Once you have chosen a platform, create an account through their website. Lets say you have decided on blogger (can you tell I am biased?). Go to blogger.com and sign in with the google account you wish to be associated with your blog. If you don’t have a google account, create one. I created a new email specifically for my blog, but that is entirely up to you. Just keep in mind that whatever email account you choose is the one that will be receiving comment updates.

When you have signed in, click “new blog” and then you will need to create a name and url. This is possibly the most difficult part of blogging. Get a pen and paper, and ideally a friend or two, and start brainstorming.

Your blog name is very important. It is important for several reasons.

a) Once you create it, you can’t change it. (although, if you do change your mind, you can always create a new blog, and transfer your old blog to it.)

b) It sets the tone for your entire blog. Think of it as a thesis statement, of sorts. Make it unique.

c) It has to be memorable, and searchable. If your blog name is long or has words that are not easy to spell, people may have trouble finding it. And we don’t want your blog to get lost.

Start brainstorming with these questions: what is the overall theme of your blog? Do you have any nicknames? What makes you happy? A good play-on-words is catchy and personal. What are your favorite books and movies?

Keep in mind that when blogger asks you for the name of your blog, that can be anything you want, and you can change it later. Blogger will automatically make your “name” the header, which you can also change later. Your url is the part you cannot change later. However, I think your name and url should match. (here is a good example of the exception, however, where Joanna uses her name as her url, and her title “cup of jo” as her blog header/title)

3) Edit your layout

If you want your blog to get off on the right foot, you need to make it look good. It’s just the truth that blogs are judged by their cover. Your layout (graphics, fonts, pictures, overall presentation) is the first taste the reader gets of the author. Like the name, it sets the tone for the blog.

In blogger and wordpress, you will have to select a layout to begin. I recommend choosing the most basic one. You can always add to it! There are tons and tons and TONS of tutorials out there for editing your layout; both easy tricks, and complex edits. I plan on doing a list of my favorite small edits that make a big difference soon. If you grow impatient, however, check out Amanda’s extremely helpful collection of DIY blogging tutorials.

4) Now it is time for your very first post!

So, you are a blogger now. What next? Oh, friend: so many things. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Isn’t that a fun thought? 

There are a lot of great tips out there from successful bloggers on how to create a successful blog, but possibly the one common denominator is this: be yourself. Sounds cliche, but it is the absolute truth. I am a big proponent of making the most of what you have. Whatever your abilities are, whatever you are passionate about, that is what should propel your blog. Successful bloggers are never successful because they are like someone else. Remember that. Your blog should be as unique as you!

So what do you write about? That is for you to decide. Preferably after much quiet reflection. Whatever you do, do it with purpose. That includes blogging. If you are stuck when you open up your first draft, I suggest starting with why you started a blog. Give your readers, and yourself, a summary of what will be happening in the future (as best as you can foresee it).

Most importantly, remember the following:

Blogging is fun but can easily become overwhelming. It is only as overwhelming as you let it become, however. No matter what, don’t be intimidated.

There is a lot to learn about blogging, but there is no good reason whatsoever that it should all be learned at once. Start small.

Anyone can blog. Anyone. If you aren’t a writer, I would ask you this: how do you know that and how can you be so sure? If you are definitely sure, then start a blog that doesn’t require a lot of writing. Visual blogs can be just as entertaining. If you have a special talent for creating weird art in Microsoft Paint and also happen to be a very funny person, then become a super popular blogger and get a book published.

After reading all the best blogging tips out there on the internet, remember that rules are made to be broken. If you follow a blogging “rule” that doesn’t make you excited, it will show. Above all, do what makes you excited. It might take a while to find what that is, but that is the only way you will find blogging enjoyable.

One last thing. You can blog for your own enjoyment, but you can also blog for money (the two should not be mutually exclusive, in my opinion). If you are curious about how you can make money blogging, this is a great post from Erin.

So, new blogger, the world is now your oyster. Go forth and do whatever you want with it.

For those of you who do not have a blog, have you ever thought about starting one? 
 
Bloggers, what are your tips for starting a blog? 

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