How to Start Your Own Blog
I'm a huge believer in starting a blog to further your career — you'll learn so much in the process that in the end you'll become a better job candidate and a better employee. From SEO and writing skills to marketing and creativity, blogging can teach you a lot valuable skills.
But how do you get started? Most people get caught up in the excitement and the first thing they do is start spending money. They buy a domain name, a few custom themes for their site, and hire a designer to create a logo.
But take it from someone who's been doing it for years: that's not the right order. Here's a better way to get started:
Starting a blog is like starting a business: you don't just get an idea and decide to launch it the next day. You need to think things through first.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- What are you so passionate about that you'll potentially write about every day?
- What makes your blog different?
- Is there an audience out there for what you'll be blogging about?
- Do you want to make money or is this strictly about drawing an audience or furthering your career?
- Do you have the time?
When I started The Writer's Coin, I had been reading personal-finance blogs for a long time and it hit me — I could do this. There was a lot of stuff being written and only 15% of it was any good. I wanted to become a part of that 15%.
I was also becoming very passionate about personal finance so I wanted an avenue to express that.
And yes, when I heard people were making thousands of dollars a month, I wanted to make some money too. I didn't think through most of the questions I listed, and I had to learn that the hard way.
But here's the best part: they're both free.
I started blogging on thewriterscoin.wordpress.com — it was free because I wasn't using my own domain. It's great because it gives you a testing ground to see if this is really something you want to do without spending any money.
The free version of Wordpress isn't as robust, but it's all you need to get started. And don't worry, if and when you decide to move on the next level, Wordpress makes it a smooth transition.
Why is practicing for free such a big deal? Because most blogs die pretty quickly. Eventually, people realize they aren't as passionate about the topic or the idea of blogging after a month or so. So practicing lets you get started without spending any money — it's kind of like the ten-second rule only this one should last at least a few months.
When I decided to launch a second blog about baseball, I first tested it out and sure enough, two months later I realized I didn't have the desire to make it an ongoing thing. Total cost: $0. I did write a bunch of posts and spend quite a bit of time on it, but I didn't spend any money. No harm, no foul — that's the point of starting on a free platform.
It took me about three months before I realized that, yes, I wanted to keep doing this indefinitely. That's when I got my own domain and decided to step it up. And one thing you should know ahead of time: you will get better. So it's a good idea to get the shitty first drafts out of the way before you move up to the next level.
"If you want to be a good writer you have to do two things — read a lot and write a lot." —Stephen King
Same goes with blogging. If you thought all you'd be doing is writing, you're wrong. And guess what? You're going to need a LOT of time to do the reading and writing it takes to set up your blog.
Set up a routine where you have a couple of hours a day to work on this. Trust me, you'll need every bit of that time and then some. For me, the mornings before I go to work are the best time: it's quiet and my brain is ready to roll.
- Take a notebook with you wherever you go to jot down any ideas you may have about stuff to write about.
- Read Problogger, Copyblogger, and every blog related to your niche that you think is good. Every day.
- Write three posts a day if you can. The more you write early on, the quicker you'll find your voice.
- Use Creative Commons for images — they make a big difference
- Network like crazy: without a community you'll have nothing.
Take it to the Next Level
So you went through all the steps and three months later you've got a blog you're still passionate about. But you want more. More flexibility, more features, more everything.
Now's the time to buy your domain name. If you want a theme that isn't free, now's the time to do it. Want to hire someone to create a custom logo? This is the time. (I used this guy—he's good.)
I know this last step is pretty vague — it could be a long post of its own — but once you've gotten to this point you should have a bunch of people that you can ask for help. That's how I learned: by asking questions.
Now you're basically starting your own business. Success doesn't necessarily mean money, but it should mean you're getting what you want out of it. You should be learning new things, your writing should be getting better, and you should be getting to know new people in the space.
These are all the reasons you started the blog in the first place, remember? Next time you go to an interview, regardless of what field you're in, showing a potential employer that you've taken the initiative to blog about what you do is a huge point that will make you stand out among other candidates.