Since starting my blog in 2014, I’ve received many questions about the blogging world from friends, readers, relatives and aspiring bloggers alike. Some people ask when the perfect time is to officially hit ‘launch’ on their blogging dream. Others want to know how to get an Instagram following. Some aren’t interested in the technicalities and are more curious about the lucrative aspects. Then other people want to know about partnering with brands. After a lot of thought, I decided to do a mini series shedding light on my most common questions through my blogging experience.
The reason a lot of thought went into this was because I write here on A Mix of Min for a specific, target reader. My target reader isn’t necessarily interested in blogging. She comes to A Mix of Min for fashion advice. She wants to grab a new outfit for work or the weekend without pawing through Nordstrom’s shelves herself. She wants to know where to find affordable statement necklaces. She comes to my blog for the best lipstain because I tried six different ones and found the best product one so that she can save her money! With that being said, my email inbox is telling me that maybe my reader’s are interested in the blogging world – whether for starting their own or just for the sake of curiosity. With that, today I’ll be kicking off post one of this three part mini series.
We’ll be starting off with things to consider before starting a blog and also what you need to launch one! [*PS: click the images to view the original pertaining blog post to the fashion photos below.]
Before deciding to start a blog, ask yourself the following questions:
WHY DO YOU WANT TO START A BLOG?
If your answer is because you want to quit your 9-5 and make money as a digital influencer, I’d reconsider. You’ll be putting in a lot of hard work and investing money before generating an income. The real reason to start a blog, that will be long lasting, is a desire to share your unique point of view on a topic that you’re passionate about and want to share whether it’s making you money or not. While a stretch goal of someday being able to live off your blog income is great, just know that it shouldn’t be the sole reason.
I personally started my blog to have a creative outlet right after college. This was before brands heavily dedicated marketing funds towards influencers and I had no idea what affiliate networks like rewardStyle or ShopStyle even were. I’m at the point where I could live off my blog income, but that took two years of continuous effort without a stable, direct return and at first, cluelessness that it was even a possibility!
Stay tuned for a post within this mini series dedicated to monetizing your blog which will cover affiliate networks, brand sponsorships and how I’ve created a steady stream of income.
HOW MUCH TIME ARE YOU EXPECTING TO INVEST?
While you read through your favorite blogs, it may seem like a post only takes fifteen minutes to put together. A few images, a couple paragraphs, a few links – voila, right?! I’m here to say, no way!
The effort I put towards my blog is enough to consider it a full time job. Before I go to my marketing job M-F, I wake up to go to the gym and then work on my blog. Then when I get home at 5 or 6 PM, you better believe I’m working on my blog. On the weekend? While S sleeps in on Saturdays, I wake up early to create collages for the upcoming week. I dedicate Sunday after church until 6PM to editing images, writing up posts, scheduling social posts, etc. While I do strive to maintain a work/life balance, there has been times when I have to say no to plans with friends too due to project deadlines. The blog post you read has hours upon hours of work behind it. With all that being said – How much time are you willing to invest? Below are some of the behind the scenes aspects of blogging and managing your won business:
Brainstorming and researching blog post ideas – fashion trends, big sales, etc
Scheduling your editorial calendar – I like to be at least three months ahead
Taking blog and social photos
Editing blog and social photos
Creating product collages
Writing blog post content
Optimizing blog posts with SEO – keywords, meta tags, slugs, alt terms, etc.
Writing social post content differently for each channel
Scheduling ahead Twitter and Facebook posts via Hootsuite
Scheduling ahead Pinterest Pins via Tailwind [click here for a free month] Creating affiliate network assets – widgets and links within blog posts and likeotknow.it links for social
Reading and responding to brand and pr company collaboration and sponsorship inquiries
Pitching yourself to brands for collaborations and sponsorship opportunities
Reading and responding to reader email and social comments
Supporting and interacting with your blogging community in the form of commenting on their blog posts and social posts
Analyzing social post engagement – posting times, resonating content, aesthetic
Analyzing blog post engagement via Google Analytics
Analyzing sales from affiliate networks to better understand your reader’s needs and wants.
Creating and maintaining a media kit
Maintaining the technical side of your site
Stepping outside your comfort zone and investing time into new topic verticals or content that may fail or success like videos and new post verticals.
^LOL right? So that’s just the things that are on the top of my mind. All these things may not apply for your niche [ex: affiliate networks may not translate as heavily as a focus if you’re a food blogger or maybe you won’t maintain our own site and opt to outsource this], but either way this just shows how much thought and effort goes towards running a blog.
WHAT’S YOUR NICHE?
Are you passionate about fashion? Do you love sharing recipes? Are you an avid traveler? My advice is to take that broad topic and find your niche. We all have life experiences that give us unique point of views to share.
For example, maybe you’re a college student wanting to focus on budget-friendly fashion because you have $40 each month to spend on clothes and have tricks on making that budget spread.
Maybe you have a dairy allergy so you’re always tweaking traditional recipes to be dairy-free. That makes you unique and there are so many people out there facing the same problem that are seeking advice that you can provide form your experiences!
Find what makes you unique and run with it to speak to that niche target.
WHAT PLATFORM DO YOU SEE AS YOUR FOCUS?
I know plenty of bloggers that focus mainly on their Instagram and their blog comes second. Others focus on their blog and use social channels as a form of blog post promotion. There’s nothing wrong with either, but I’d urge you to keep in mind that the only thing you truly have control over is your blog. Instagram algorithms change. Facebook may not be a ‘thing’ next year. We never know! Things change so fast! The one thing that doesn’t change unless you want it to? Your blog.
HOW MUCH MONEY ARE YOU WILLING TO INVEST?
While money really isn’t needed from the get-go, keep in the back of your mind that eventually investing in areas will be needed to grow and take your blog to the next level.
For example, a few months into blogging I felt hindered from creating professional, high quality content because at the time I only had an iPhone camera. To take the next step, I needed a DSLR to take my blog to the next level.
Another example is that I started my blog on Blogger which is free. I highly suggest starting on Blogger for this reason. Once my blog went from a hobby to a revenue generating business, I needed more freedom to personalize my site than what Blogger allowed. With that, I needed to invest in moving to WordPress.org which involved hiring a web developer, hosting company and more.
ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS?
When it comes down to it, are you passionate about your blog niche? Passion for my business is what pushes me through late nights producing content, waking up at 5AM on Saturday for a blog shoot and hours of editing photos – especially during the years when it wasn’t profitable! If you have this passion, it won’t feel like a chore and will always be something you enjoy.
HOW TO START A BLOG
1. DETERMINE YOUR NICHE
I went into detail on this above.
2. DETERMINE YOUR BLOG NAME
Put a lot of thought into your blog name because it will be a representation of your brand. Start with brainstorming a few keywords that are relevant to your niche and/or yourself. Let them sit on your mind for a few days too!
Next, check if your desired blog name URL is available and that a company or blogger doesn’t already own it.
If it isn’t taken, the next step is to determine whether the SEO is prime real estate. If you’re picking a blog name that’s a common term like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, you may never rank on relevant google search terms because it’s extremely saturated. So ultimately, make sure it’s a bit unique and not a common term so that you will have great organic search rankings.
Consider your social handles too. Having your social handles the same as blog name allows people to find you with ease. Many times people don’t even know your name until they’re a dedicated reader so they will most likely search your blog name on these social channels. You may have a blog name that’s too long for social, so you’ll opt for your name. That’s totally fine just take it into consideration and weigh out the importance to you.
Lastly, do you love your blog name? Will you like it five years from now? Does it box you into one topic too much or does it give you room to grow? Rebranding costs a lot of money, is troublesome for SEO and can cause reader confusion. Avoid a rebrand by loving your blog name from the get-go.
3. CREATE YOUR BLOG
I highly suggest the budget-friendly route of Blogger.com. Like I mentioned above, self-hosting on WordPress.org gives you a lot of freedom with your site layout and third party apps [mailing list, pop ups, SEO optimization], but costs money unlike Blogger. I moved to self-hosted once I needed those functionalities and was running a business instead of a hobby. Totally up to you!
4. BUY A DOMAIN [optional] When you start a blog, you’ll be provided a site name with “.blogpspot.com”. To go from Blogspot.com to .com, I purchased my domain. I used NameCheap and it’s like $15 a year. This isn’t required, since the URL provided will work, but just know that URL is up for grabs until purchased and that once you get to a professional level, owning a clean domain is really a standard.
5. CREATE YOUR AESTHETIC, LOGO AND LAYOUT
You can hire a designer or go the template/DIY version. I am well versed in Photoshop so I created my own logos and coded customization into a template I purchased. I found learning some HTML and CSS was fun. In the years to come I’ll probably hire a designer, but for now I’m very happy with my little nook.
To start, what aesthetic do you want? White, clean and feminine? Eye catching, bright and fun? Having a primary font color, font type and some complimentary colors will help you create a cohesive look through your logo and blog.
You can create your logo in Photoshop like I did. Some etsy shops also offer logo design that’s no too expensive and you can also search the site for a blog template to install. Blogger and WordPress on their own are pretty ugly, so grabbing a $15-50 template is a great investment.
6. CREATE SOCIAL ACCOUNTS
Reserve those social handles! Brands want to see you on each social platform, so create an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest account that represents your brand. Snapchat is something to consider as well, although it seems to be dying off after Instagram launched InstaLive. I personally hate Twitter and am guilty of not giving it the attention it needs. Who wants to hear the thoughts in my head written down in 140 characters?! I don’t get it, but this is an example of an area I should devote more time to.
7. PLAN, PREP AND EXECUTE
Start an idea of blog post topics and if you’re a planner like me – an editorial calendar. This calendar will allocate all the ideas you want to publish on specific days. From there, use your DSLR to create content. Just know, content is king. If you have awesome ideas and rely on your camera phone, you probably won’t see the engagement you want. As far as going live, I’d suggest posting on you social accounts for a few days or couple weeks to get a bit of a presence there so that once your blog is launched, you can drive people to your social channels and they will see engaging content. I’d suggest have a few posts ready to hit ‘go’ before the blog launch too.
8. GO, GO, GO
From here it’s all about posting consistently, staying true to yourself, being unique and having patience.
Stay tuned for the next segment in this series where I’ll be covering how to grow your blog readership and social channels. I hope this was helpful! Xoxo Mindy