Starting a Blog
Was one of your New Year’s Resolutions (or goals or whatever you like to call them) to start a blog? A lot of my friends reached out to me recently for advice on blogging, and since I was getting similar questions, I’ve decided to write up this post to help you get started!
I’ll be covering:
- My story
- Why you should start a blog
- Starting points
- What should you write about
- My writing process
- Writing about a topic that someone else has before
I. My story
I’ve been in the blogosphere since I was 8 years old. Yeah, I know, it shocks a lot of people. You can read the full story here or even listen to the time I spoke about the story of my blog at ScHARR’s “communication for impact” seminar.
To cut a long story short, I started off wanting to re-create a game, got hooked on creating websites and started writing to show off these funky, glittery, “loud” themes that I had made.
You could say I never really “set-out” to be a blogger. But here I am!
Back then, my blog was my “everything” diary, it sort of still is now but with a lot more filters. I used to write about things why High School Musical rocks to very basic tutorials on making text italics, align right and BE BRIGHT PINK. You were labelled cool when you could do stuff like that, back then! 🤷🏻♀️
**I am no way claiming to be the blogger of all blogs and there is countless advice out there online – but I thought my perspective would be useful to some.**
II. So why should you start a blog?
As I outlined in my talk, there are so many reasons why you should want to start a blog, here are my reasons:
- Connecting with the people around the world who are interested in similar things and who inspire me every day and forming the most supportive networks out there!
- Personal reflection and documentation: If it’s not already evident, I love reflecting on different aspects of my life for improvement (e.g. professionally, academically, personally – fitness/well-being) and for future reference. I low key read some of my posts at a time I did something remarkable, e.g. travel for the first time to remind me how far I’ve come.
- Writing for me is a form of self-care. I enjoy writing to help clear my mind – it’s grounding.
- Enjoyment: I genuinely just enjoy writing and publishing! I find it awesome that some of the things I share help inspire a positive change in some people’s lives.
- Improving skills: In coding, writing, photo-editing, social media and other digital skills. I learned how to use Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop, how to code a website from scratch purely from owning a blog.
- Having my voice heard on things that matter to me 🤗
Ask yourself – what are your motivations for starting a blog? Got a few? Great. Use them as grounding points.
III. Starting points
There are loads of blogging platforms out there! My personal favourite (the only one I’ve used, to be honest 😂) is WordPress. You can either directly make your own (yoursitename.wordpress.com) site, or if you want your own website name, you can buy a domain name (mines from Namecheap), find web hosting (a quick Google search will yield you loads!) and install WordPress onto it.
The latter is a bit more complicated; I recommend that you give this tutorial a read.
Once you have WordPress installed, you can browse the many WordPress themes there are out there. I get this asked a lot: I don’t know much about the set themes WordPress has because I’ve been coding my themes myself since I started (and believe me, there have been pretty ugly ones in the past, but I’ve learnt! 😅) But go and explore! Or maybe learn to create your own.
IV. The Content
Okay, so now it’s time for the actual writing part.
What do I write about?
*Suddenly has writer’s block*
And that’s OK.
The thing I learnt about writing is not forcing it. If I’m not in the mood to write a blog post because no ideas are springing to mind, then I’m not going to blog, simple as that!
Remember your motivations for creating the blog in the first place. In the motivations, you should think about what you want to share with the world.
Initially, I used my blog as an everyday dump for my thoughts. Nowadays, the main point of my blog is for me to share topics that are important to me and that I think would be interesting or inspiring to others. What do *I* write about?
Ideas aren’t always there. But when inspiration does hit, I make sure that I write down the key concepts and keep poking at those ideas in my mind until I have a well-structured post. When it comes to structure, I write my posts simply in the introduction, main messages and conclusion format. This helps keep me straight to the point!
A question I received was “how do I maintain a balance between personal stuff and professional stuff?”
You’re in charge of the stuff you write. This is your online space; you’re free to write whatever you feel like writing about. If you want to write personal > “professional”, “professional” > personal or bunnies > professional then AWESOME! It’s your blog and your voice; you can have a ‘balance’ of whatever you want! I live by this and have a mixture myself.
I always try and make sure that I have quality photos to go on my posts. Mainly because I have an incredible camera I like making use of, I enjoy taking photos, need an image to break up the text in my posts, think it helps add sparkles to the post, and I have a boyfriend who likes making sure I have the best angle 😂
With all that said, you do not need the best camera or best photos to go on to your blog. Again, you do you.
My writing process
- Write idea down on a “BLOG” project folder on my to-do list
- Create a mind-map or structured list of the main points and organise it in a meaningful order
- Start writing
- Before I publish, re-read, publish, have David point something out, edit it then boom, it’s out there!
“But someone has already written about this topic before.”
Yes, but are they you? Do they have the same experience? You have a fresh perspective!
This is your space. Your experience. Own it. Write. Publish. Share. And own it.
As long as you don’t copy and paste someone’s content then you can write about the same topics, nobody “owns” a topic! (I’m a little sensitive to this because people in the past have copied and pasted my work, claimed it as their own and got recognition for it 😩 Please don’t do this!)
One of my 2017 goals was to write and publish a post, every week. I pretty much blogged every week last year! It was difficult at first, but during the year, creativity and inspiration hit me a lot! Remember what I said earlier? Blog when you feel like it, and last year, I felt like it a lot.
I even created a schedule for myself:
Now before you start pulling up your calendars, please let me stress. YOU DO NOT NEED TO BLOG EVERY WEEK. YOU DO NOT NEED A CALENDAR OR A SCHEDULE. I had a goal and an action plan, so that’s what I did. Sometimes, I don’t have any ideas, and so a blog will not go out. And that’s OK!! Please remember that! You’re not any less of a blogger if you don’t post as frequently.
In fact, if you look back at my 2015 and 2016 archives, I blogged once a month. Because I simply didn’t have any time or energy to blog and that was completely fine. As I said, I never force things. The best “content” isn’t when I force things, the best is when I pour words straight from my heart.
Nowadays, it’s a habit to publish once a week! That’s on me and my choice, don’t worry if you can’t but if you want to, go right ahead gal, let me subscribe to your RSS feed!!!
Some ideas on posts that can help you start writing consistently:
- Daily life – what did you do today?
- Weekly summary – what did you do this week?
- Monthly achievements
- Reasons why Moana is the best Disney film out there (one reason per week, for a year)
“Nobody is reading my stuff.” ☹️
I always advise new bloggers not to look too much into getting views or getting too caught up in statistics.
I truly believe that as you continue to write, the right people will find you, and if they like what you post, will keep coming back. Don’t expect to click that publish button and receive a flood of readers! It’s a slow process to grow an audience, for sure.
Things that I do to communicate posts well:
1) Social media/communicate/market that post like a baus:
- 🔵 Facebook – This was scary at first because my Facebook is literally everyone I know in real life, but I’ve now grown to get over the fear and become proud and shameless of the work I’ve created online!I set up my own Facebook page to keep all my promotional posts in one place. I like to share these posts on my personal feed because I have a wider reach, it not only allows people to see the post but also have a browse at the Facebook page.
- 📸 I have quite a following on Instagram – by that, I don’t necessarily mean numbers, but the level of interaction I get with my posts and stories so I make sure that I communicate my posts on there. Recently, I’ve gotten a bit more creative with my Instagram story to help drive engagement. Get inventive!
Making use of @instagram‘s Story Highlight feature ✨
— Pauline P. Narvas 🐾💪🏻 (@paulienuh) January 13, 2018
- 🐦 Using Twitter – use hashtags (especially if it’s a hashtag that is being monitored / looked at a lot, I do this often when I write about Tech events!) and tag relevant people (Blogger RT accounts are a great!)
- 👻 Snapchat – I have quite a following on here too because of working with big Snapchat accounts like Women In Tech Snap so I post my blog posts on here and make use of that swipe up feature because I don’t have enough followers on Instagram to qualify (yet!) 😆
- 📊 LinkedIn – I post some of my posts on LinkedIn that showcase development or interesting hobbies, this might be controversial but I think it paints a good picture of me to future employers and other people who would like to work with me!
I even set up my own LinkedIn Company Page so that I could promote it even more to people looking at my LinkedIn profile and those who come across the page.
2) Look into SEO – Check out Yoast SEO for more information.
3) Share on any communities/forums that you may be a part of!
4) Talk about it in real life enough that people put it in official things (I am so extra and not even ashamed of it. 😂)
5) I also focus on sharing and spreading the love and support for other bloggers – I’m still in a community I initially became a part of when I was 8/10? I know the same bloggers and even met a few of them! Like I said above, creating these truly amazing friendships and communities is one of the reasons I continue 🤗
Start spreading the good vibes! You can check out some incredible bloggers here.
With all that said, I don’t focus on statistics. If I did, I’m sure I would’ve lost motivation to blog very quickly. And is, I imagine, a reason why some people who start, quit quickly.
- I like Namecheap, WordPress and writing messy, dirty code to make my themes work.
- Don’t aim to be perfect – just write and publish!
- You can blog whenever you want to, you don’t need a schedule or to put unnecessary pressure on yourself! Homosapien lives are short.
- Spread the love!!
- Remember that this is your space online, you can write whatever you want. Own it.
- Never be ashamed of what you’ve built. Share the heck out of it!
- When/If you start a blog, send me your link so 👏🏼I CAN HYPE YOU UP👏🏼 WOOHOOOOO!!!!
To other bloggers: do you have one advice to share? Let’s get a list of things together. 👇🏼