Beginners Guide to Starting Your Own Blog
All the contributors here at She Might Be are bloggers, and regardless of our speciality areas, one of the things we get asked most often is ‘How do I start my own blog?’ There is no one way to start, or to guarantee success, but I’ve certainly picked up a few things along the way. This post is based entirely on my own experience, both as a fledgling blogger (I’ve been going for eighteen months) and as someone who has been working in communications, PR and marketing for a while.
So, you want to write a blog? You’ve got an idea that’s been bouncing around in your head for a little while, and you’re ready….
Finding your focus
In my mind, the best blogs have focus. Even so called ‘lifestyle’ blogs, which seem to be about anything and everything to do with that person’s life, usually have some general content categories that underpin them. Most regular visitors of blogs like a sense of continuity. They keep returning because they are interested in what you write about and the way you write about it.
Settling on your style
When I started blogging I had to make a concerted effort to get away from the corporate style I was used to writing in for work, and remember what my own voice sounded like. Blogs are meant to sound personal. The joy of them is that they have personality, like an actual individual is talking to you – about their experience, their opinions, giving you their advice or recommendations. So speak as yourself.
Picking a name
Now that you know what you’re writing about, and what you sound like, it’s a good time to pick a name. There are no hard and fast rules, but I do believe that the best names are easy to remember, and have a clear link to the purpose of your blog. Ideally they’re not too long. And will work well as a handle on social media too. There is nothing new under the sun, so make sure you Google to check your idea isn’t taken already.
Now you have to choose your platform, most people go for Blogger, or free WordPress. Most of us started on blogger as we feel it’s much easier to navigate around if you’re not too techy. Eventually we all moved to self hosting, but don’t worry about that just yet. Start for fun, it’s free and then you don’t have to put any money into it until you want to.
Design is a personal thing, and everyone has a different idea of what looks good. I got it horribly wrong at first with my blog (and I have actually worked as a graphic designer). I was so worried about my template representing me that I didn’t realise it wasn’t a good conduit for my content. My blog is image heavy. And I tend to write quite a lot. So if you’re planning on starting a similar sort of blog remember that plain backgrounds and “clean” designs will show off your images best. Most of us use Pipdig, however there are free themes on the Internet to get you started.
Don’t worry about perfection, just get going!
All of this sounds pretty exacting, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Your blog is largely about the content. And the most important thing is to start writing, photographing, musing, collating. Otherwise you might never get round to it. Blog designs, layouts, all of that can be tweaked. I think of my blog as an ever evolving work in progress, and that takes the pressure off of getting it just right.
A lot of fashion, beauty and lifestyle blog content takes the form of reviews. If you’re starting a review based blog, then you’re gonna need stuff to review. When I started I just reviewed things I already had in my wardrobe (obviously!) It was a way to show my style, and how plus size women can dress however they like. Luckily my shopping habit meant I never really ran out of new content, but if you’re on a really tight budget I know of bloggers who would buy an item, review it, and then send it back. So there are ways! If you are getting into beauty blogging, review stuff you’re already using – your staple products. It doesn’t have to be new! When a brand launches their latest collection, think about writing an overview and giving your thoughts on it (helps build brand relationships too), or put together a themed wish list. Suffice to say, there are many ways to generate content and ideas.
You’re ready to get into the good stuff now. Writing! If you’re starting a blog it’s clearly something you already like to do.
Writing under pressure can be tricky. If you don’t know how to start something, then don’t worry about starting. Go from the middle. Just get something down. You can always go back and add, rewrite, fiddle. But there is nothing more intimidating than a blank page/ screen.
I also love a good edit. As one of my University lecturers once told me: “There is no such thing as great writing, just great rewriting”. So be prepared to edit. I see loads of blog posts that would benefit from a good edit. So always go back and check for the obvious errors like spelling and grammar, but also make sure that your piece makes sense.
I am no photography pro. Some of the photography exhibited on beauty blogs particularly make my heart sing. I am heavily reliant on my iPhone and the kindness of my family and friends to get my blog photography done. So if you’re doing fashion photography, my key bit of advice here is natural light! Wherever you can take those pictures outside. Be conscious of your environment too. I’ve wasted more than one set of pictures because I didn’t notice some dog poo or litter in shot!
How often you post is really up to you. It’s really depends on how much time you have to write, and to a certain extent what you write about. Continuity is ideal because then you can meet the expectations of your readers as well as get a schedule going yourself. But remember, you’re a person. Sometimes things are going to get in the way, and that’s okay. It’s your blog. Do what you can, when you can.
Nowadays, a social media presence is just as important as your blog. I think the reason that blogger social media is so popular, is because it shows you a more day-to-day personal side to your fave blogger.
My advice is to start employing social media from day one. I set up an Instagram account at the same time as starting Curves n Curls, and the others pretty shortly followed. People engage with bloggers in lots of different ways, and there are different channels for different audiences. But just do as much as you can handle, and what you feel comfortable with in the beginning. Remember, this is your blog.
Before starting my blog I had never really used Twitter properly. In fact, I acknowledge that I was a little intimidated by the whole thing. Like, where do you even start? A little while ago I read a really helpful description of Twitter. They compared it to London. When you first arrive in London it is huge and sprawling and overwhelming. How can you ever get to know London? How can you meet people? How do you begin to comprehend it? But then you find your neighbourhood, and you get to know people. You know where the shops are, the post office, the local pub. And slowly you explore more of the city. Twitter is the same. You need to find your neighbourhood, and work from there.
There are loads of Twitter chats that are blog specific (to help you find your neighborhood), and they are a great way for you to find other members of the blogging community, ask questions that are blog specific, find new blogs to follow and get new followers yourself. Some of our favourites are:
- The Girl Gang – #TheGirlGang – Mondays, 18.00 (GMT)
- Bloggers Do It Better – #bdib – Mondays, 19.00 (GMT)
- Fashion, Beauty, Lifestyle Bloggers – #fbl – Tuesdays, 20.00 (GMT)
- 30 Plus Bloggers Chat – #30plusblogs – Thursdays, 20.00 (GMT)
I love me a bit of Instagram. Instagram is full of style gurus, fashionistas and makeup mavens. And they’re so easy to find because of instagrammers flagrant use of hashtags. When I was starting out Instagram was my best friend. I tried to post every day, usually a picture of what I was wearing, and maybe some sort of body positive message or art. That’s still largely what I want my account to be about – a safe space for body positivity. I picked a few hashtags that I posted to, and started following other accounts that were posting along these lines too. Post regularly, generously “like” pictures posted by accounts you like, follow what you love. Instagram sorted!
Being in my thirties now, Facebook is easily the social network I am most comfortable with. And yet, it has been my slowest to grow a decent following. I think that’s just the nature of it though. It’s hard for your posts to compete with people’s personal lives. Sometimes the other pages you follow can feel like an intrusion into a very personal space. So I try not to over post, to make things fun and relevant, and to not worry too much about my Facebook numbers. Facebook can be really good for your blogging network though. There are loads of blogger specific groups you can join for support, and to meet other people to share idea with etc. I am a member of UK Bloggers, Plus Size Blogger Network, #PSBloggers among others.
Blogging is wonderful. Writing this blog has changed my life so much for the better. I have made some truly wonderful friends that I have no doubt I will have for life. I have a sense of purpose that I sometimes lack in my day job. I have found a new sense of confidence, and I love spreading that to other women too.
I would say that it is really important to remember that if you start a blog it is your blog. Write about what you care about, what is true to your purpose, and what you would like to read about. Don’t do something just because other people are doing it. We all have our own voices. And those voices all have value. So be authentic. The best writing comes from places of truth. And enjoy it! That’s the whole point!
I hope that was helpful. Do you have any other questions? A longer version of this post first appeared on my blog Curves n Curls here.