Blogs may have been around for years, but now, more than ever, is the perfect time to start one to share your writing and insights with the world. Whether it’s a time for social distancing or not, good writing on the internet can provide a sense of community and connection that is a blessing, when used mindfully.
If you feel called to start a blog, here are a few tips to help you set up your website, start writing, and help your ideal readers to discover your work online.
Think about who you’re trying to reach, and why
You might be tempted to come up with a blog name, purchase your domain, and get started on creating a beautiful-looking website right away, but it’s worth taking some time out to pause, reflect, and brainstorm some ideas to help you pinpoint your “who” and “why” before you get to that stage.
Whenever we claim a patch of digital space as our own, we’re doing so because we want to connect with others, in the hopes that other people will read, engage with, enjoy, and share our work. After all, if you didn’t want anyone to see your work, you’d just keep a personal journal in a notebook in your desk or on your desktop.
Thinking about who your ideal reader is and why you want to connect with them before you get started will help give your blog a deeper meaning and focus right from the get-go, and set you up for success in the long run.
Ask yourself these questions, and note as many thoughts as come up for you in response (you can always refine them into a simple mission statement for your own reference later):
- In an ideal world, who would read and engage with my writing?
- What are some of our common points of interest and shared passions?
- What are some of their favorite books, movies, TV series, magazines, websites, podcasts, artists?
- Where’s their dream vacation destination?
- How do they like to spend their weekends?
- What are some of their daily struggles, things that niggle at them, worry them, annoy them?
- What are some of their dreams, hopes, and aspirations?
- Who are some of their biggest role models? Whom would they like to sit next to at a dream dinner party?
- What impact would you like your writing to have on the world or your community?
- How would you like to be described by someone who’s telling their friend about you and your work?
If you’re finding it hard to visualize your ideal reader yet, don’t worry. Try answering those questions for yourself — you might very well be your own ideal reader.
Be intentional about what you want to share
Now that you’ve thought a bit about your blog’s purpose and future readers, it’s time to brainstorm content ideas for your writing. This doesn’t have to take long, and you don’t have to hold yourself to any ideas you have at this early stage, but it can help to have a bank of topics to get you started.
Note down every potential blog post idea that comes to mind, and then take a step back and see if you can notice any general overarching themes or topic areas that you can sort the ideas into.
Next, try to tease out the big-picture “what” of your work. How would you describe what you want to write about — overall — on your blog, in just a few lines?
Once you have that big “what,” it can be helpful to break it down into a few smaller subcategories. For example, perhaps you want to write about slow living, and within that you’ll cover how slow living applies to your home (with natural cleaning tips, recipes, décor, etc.); travel (exploring trips you’ve taken or are planning, travel tips, staycation ideas, etc.); style (outfit ideas, ethical brands, thrifting tips, etc.); and parenting (covering things like screen time, daily rhythms, homeschooling tips, and so on).
So now you should have a short description of what you’ll be writing about (your blog’s “elevator pitch,” so to speak), as well as your main blog categories that can provide some structure and organization to your blog posts, plus a whole variety of ideas for each category to get you started.
Choose a name for your blog
The next step in creating any blog or website is to choose your name. It’s easy to start overthinking at this stage, so make sure you don’t get stuck on this step of the process. Hopefully, the work you’ve done in the steps leading up to this one — brainstorming your blog’s purpose, thinking about your ideal audience, and listing out and organizing ideas of things you want to write about — will help you gain some clarity on your blog’s name.
Bear in mind that you want to pick a name that is easy to remember (so, not too long or complicated), and that has longevity so you don’t grow out of it or get tired of it in a few months. If in doubt, keep it simple.
You also want to choose a name that reflects your why, who, and what. If you have a lot of clarity about what you’d like to write about — for example “slow living” — it’s a good idea for this to be reflected in your blog or domain name because this will let Google know what you’re all about and help readers find you in the future.
Purchase your domain and choose a website platform
When starting a blog or any kind of website, you need to decide if you want to purchase your own domain name (such as www.theglutenfreelondoner.com) or if you’re happy being hosted for free at a sub-domain (e.g., www.wordpress.com/theglutenfreelondoner.com). Obviously, what you decide about this will depend on your budget, and how professional you’d like to look. You can purchase your own domain name through a service like Google’s domain finder, and it will cost you an annual charge of around $10-$20. Website platforms like Squarespace also offer domains along with their templates, so that’s worth looking into, too.
You’ll also want to decide what website platform to use to build your blog. There are plenty of easy-to-use drag-and-drop options like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress — sites like these provide templates you can tweak to your own style and preferences. Just remember that if you want to use your own domain name, you’ll have to also pay a monthly or annual subscription to whichever website platform you want to use.
Whichever platform you end up choosing, all you really need to get started at first is an About Page where you briefly describe what your blog is all about and whom it’s for (the work you did earlier on your why, who, and what should come in handy for this), a Home Page, and your first few blog posts. If you have a clear idea of the categories you’d like to use, too, you can go ahead and set these up at this stage as well — though if you’d rather write a few blog posts to get started before deciding on your categories, that’s also totally fine.
Remember, you can always get fancier design and branding later on. The main thing is to get your blog online and just get started writing.
Share your work with the world
Once you’ve set up your blog, written a few posts, and are starting to feel confident about your writing, you’ll want people to come and read your work. Writing is, after all, all about connection, and hearing positive feedback and having people engage with what you’ve written is one of the most rewarding experiences of blogging.
It can be tempting to get distracted by shiny metrics like Instagram followers and Facebook likes, but the most important thing is to have something of quality to share. Before you start worrying about growing your audience, go inward to offer the world something we can only get from you. Start by really honing your craft and developing the quality of what you write — the rest will flow naturally.
Share your work with friends and family or anyone in your life who might enjoy or benefit from it. If they appreciate it, they’ll start spreading the word wider for you. It’s also a good idea to learn some SEO basics so that you can get to know your website’s audience better, and how to serve them and grow your website traffic organically over time.
Above all, though, enjoy the process, and have fun experimenting. A blog can be a great creative outlet, and when you’re enjoying what you’re creating, it shows. This joy is what will spark the deep connection with your readers that every writer is striving for, in the end.