For the longest time, people always told me that I should start a blog. My friends and family said that I’m so creative and crafty, I should start a blog featuring all my projects. Of course, I found most of the information for my projects from other blogs via Pinterest. So I certainly didn’t feel “original” enough to start blogging (let alone tech savvy).
But (honestly) out of sheer financial desperation as a broke college student, I took the plunge and started a blog. I setup a WordPress site and wrote an assortment of posts. I hoped that I could gain some traction and eventually write sponsored posts to bring in some extra cash. How cool would it be to make money writing from home right?
Fast-forward to now and my blog is completely different than when I began. I shifted from a vague, focus-less lifestyle blog to one dedicated to encouraging and empowering others. My viewership has grown and I finally started taking my blog more seriously than just a side hobby.
And I have to say: I LOVE it. It seriously feels like I was born to blog. In all honesty, I never would have thought I would be doing this. But here I am loving every minute of it! Blogging is the creative outlet that I desperately needed when I switched from an English to a math major (oh that’s a story for a later date!). I love connecting with people in the way that blogging allows me. Plus I finally found a subject that speaks to me, I’m passionate about, and goes far beyond the simple recipes and crafts I was posting for months.
*Note: Absolutely NO disrespect meant towards food, lifestyle, fashion, DIY, etc. bloggers. I mean, I would seriously not know how to cook or sew a button without y’all. My blog focus is just what’s meant for me! 🙂
If you’re looking to blog for your business, hope to make money from sponsored posts and affiliate links, or simply crave a creative outlet in (sometimes overly) logically structured world, I’m here to support you 100 percent! This post is going to walk you through all the steps of starting a blog from planning to your initial website setup to setting up your presence online. I also included a few mistakes that I made and would love to spare you from in the future! I hope you enjoy and if you have any questions or need any advice, feel free to comment below! I’m sure others have the same questions that you do!
PHASE 1: PLANNING
ONE: ANSWER THESE 3 QUESTIONS
Before you start a blog, you should have an idea of what you want to blog about. This should be a focused area, or niche, that you want to become an expert in. Naturally, you want this to be something you’re interested in, passionate about, and have some experience in personally. Of course, you don’t already have to be an expert. No worries! You just have to know more than your audience does.
So, take some time to brainstorm and think on it. But don’t be afraid that’s what you’ll be stuck with forever. You can always expand as you go along!
You can find the 3 questions you must answer before you start a blog here.
TWO: DECIDE ON A NAME & LOGO
Now that you know your blog purpose, it’s time to choose a name that embodies your mission. Try to go for something simple and easy to remember. If you want to expand your blog eventually, avoid extremely focused names. For example, you wouldn’t want to name your blog “All About Coffee” when you want to eventually make dinner recipes too.
If you’re afraid to commit to a particular name, use something that incorporates your name or expresses a sentiment that’s very “you.” This is what I aimed for with Be Simply It and what my dear friend Meredith did when she started Orchid and Pine. It’s also good to check that your name is available across social media platforms (see Phase 1 Step 3) and as a domain name (see Phase 2 Step 1).
If you’re really stuck thinking of a name, write down your top three and pick the one you feel the most in your gut. Which are you drawn to instantly? Pick that name and move on. Sure, you want to have a “good” name. But there’s no point in trapping yourself in decision paralysis over the name alone. Ultimately, it’s your content that will matter. Choose one that feels right and move forward.
Once you have your name, it’s not a bad time to brainstorm a logo. (Although you can also complete this at some point in Phase 2.) Some people might say you should have an entire logo and media kit ready to go once your site is up and running. But I think you can definitely change this as you and your blog evolve. For now, just make a “working” logo that you can further develop as you get a better sense of your blog.
Easiest & Cheapest Route: find a free font that you like and type the words. You can change the color and add some embellishment if you’d like. But for now, this is simply a placeholder until you can design something yourself or hire a designer.
How to: You can easily make a logo for free in PicMonkey or Canva. These are some great feminine fonts and other unique ones I love available in Canva. You’ll know the exact dimensions once you build your site. For now, this is just about having a general idea of what you’d like.
THREE: SNAG YOUR NAME ACROSS SOCIAL MEDIA
Ok, so you’ve got your name. Now it’s time to claim it across social media so your readers can easily find you! Luckily for me, @besimplyit was available everywhere. If your blog name isn’t an option, try to aim for at least having the same handle across platforms. And depending on the availability of your name, it might be easier to switch to one of your top three you decided on in Phase 1 Step 2.
Quickly setup on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and start a Facebook page. Set your Instagram to private since you won’t have any content. But don’t worry about these now. We’ll set them aside for later in Phase 3.
FOUR: (OPTIONAL) DECIDE ON CONTENT CATEGORIES & WRITE 5-10 BLOG POSTS
While this step certainly isn’t required, it’ll definitely help you once you open your site. If you do this ahead of time, you’ll have a decent base of content. Once your website is up and running, you can instantly start promoting and sharing!
If you’re not sure where to start for blog post categories, you can definitely look to other blogs in your niche for ideas. Here a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:
Category examples (food)
Breakfast Recipes – Lunch Recipes – Dinner Recipes – Kid Friendly – On the Go
Category examples (frugal living)
Make Money – Save Money – Affordable Recipes – Budgeting 101
PHASE 2: WEBSITE
ONE: HOSTING SERVICE AND DOMAIN NAME
I absolutely LOVE Bluehost*. They’re extremely affordable if you buy a few years at a time. They have an excellent 24/7 chat service and make WordPress install a breeze. Plus I’ve never had any issues with my site crashing on me. Whoop!
Now that you have the basics of your blog in progress, it’s time to build your corner of the internet! Visit Bluehost.com* and select your plan based on your desired blogging and financial needs.
Prices as of January 2017
Next, check if your desired domain name is available. If not, you might want to consider changing your name to one of the other top three you listed in Phase 1 Step 2. Otherwise, you can made small adjustments to the name. I originally wanted “Simply It” but added the “be” at the beginning based on the availability of the domain name.
Money Saving Tip: Sign up with Ebates* and use it to get $20 cashback! $10 for signing up and $10 for Bluehost. What a deal!
Be sure to sign up for domain protection. This will keep your personal information (address, etc.) private. Otherwise, the Internet can stalk you. And we definitely want to avoid that!
The rest of the bonuses are completely up to your discretion, but I opted out of them.
Pro Tip: Signing up with Bluehost still gives you a 30 Day Money Back Guarantee*. Still not sure if blogging is for you? Set a notification on your phone 3-5 days before your 30 days are up to decide if you want to keep going! Totally did this myself!
TWO: INSTALL WORDPRESS
As I said earlier, installing WordPress from Bluehost* is nice and easy. Once you have your account set up, scroll down on your Dashboard to the “website” category. Find the One-Click Install button and select WordPress.
One-Click install in your Bluehost Dashboard
Bluehost Dashboard >> Website >> One-Click Install >> WordPress
Select WordPress from the available options
Hooray! Now that you have WordPress installed on your site, you can tinker with the design.
THREE: FRAMEWORK AND CHILD THEME
If you want your site to look professional, I highly recommend choosing a framework and child theme. You can try to hack it with a free theme from WordPress (like the automatically installed theme). But a framework and child theme will (1) elevate your look and (2) protect you from spammers hacking your site through a free theme download. I personally think a framework and child theme are a great investment from the beginning!
Your framework is how your website works while your child theme is how it looks. So, if you’re looking to buy a new fancy computer, the framework is the processor and the child theme is the physical design. Make sense? One of the benefits of this setup is that you can freely tweak the child theme without worrying about damaging the functionality of your site.
I chose the Genesis framework* by StudioPress and paired it with Brunch Pro* as my child theme. I highly recommend anything from Feast (Brunch Pro, Foodie Pro, Cook’d Pro)* because they have stellar customer service. I changed my header size and they graciously helped me tweak the code once I botched it. It’s comforting to know I have people familiar with coding in my corner.
You can find all themes available on StudioPress here*. These are also some of my favorite looks:
Elegant and Simple: Infinity Pro*
Glamorous and Feminine: Glam Pro*
Wispy and Airy: Simply Pro*
Bold and Modern: Altitude Pro*
You can also find a ton of affordable themes on Creative Market*. I admit I wish I checked them out first before investing in my child theme (not that I don’t love it still). Creative Market offers a playground of affordable design resources. These themes don’t need a framework, but you’ll have to be especially careful of tweaking any code.
Now that you’ve gotten to browse the gorgeous world of website design, purchase your framework and child theme. Then download and install them to your WordPress site. If you’re using StudioPress, check out this free guide from StudioPress* for all the visual follow through.
FOUR: MENU, HOMEPAGE, WEBSITE DESIGN
Now that you have your framework and child theme installed, it’s time to play! Set up your menu, decide on a homepage design, write your about me page, etc. This is the fun part! I’m not going to go into too much specific detail here because this is your opportunity to be creative. Experiment and get the lay of the land and let your look evolve.
Just be sure not to promote your site quite yet. Then you can tweak as you go without worrying about someone watching the entire transformation.
FIVE: HAPPY DANCE & TAKE A BREAK
You did it! It’s time for a happy dance! Celebrate your success. Now GO OUTSIDE. Seriously, don’t sit in front of the computer for much longer; especially if you haven’t taken a break yet.
It’s time to clear your mind. Engage in another activity, go for a walk, workout, do some errands. This will freshen you up to return and tackle Phase 3.
Visual Learner? Try this video from James Stafford that outlines everything from A-Z
PHASE 3: PLATFORM
ONE: ORGANIZE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Before you go too crazy focusing on followers, set up your social media platforms. Write your bios for each platform. This is a great article on writing a killer Instagram bio that you can adjust and use for all of your platforms.
(a) Make a “Best of [Your Blog]” board that will host exclusively your pins.
(b) Make a board for each post category and put related keywords in the description. Fill these with 10-20 high quality pins (high quality = images that reflect your brand, appealing visually, and link to useful, high quality content).
EX: Post category = board name = delicious dinners description: easy dinner, dinner recipes, affordable recipes, kid friendly dinners
(c) Make a few secret boards for your personal research. For example, I have a secret board with blogging tips, social media tips, personal research related to self-love, etc. You can easily come back and reference articles you want to read without clogging up the feed for your followers.
(d) Make a secret mood board for your brand image and Instagram feed. This board will host pins that reflect the look and feel that you want to have across your brand image and Instagram feed. Having a mood board to reference will help keep your branding on track and your Instagram feed visually consistent.
Get 9 tiles arranged and posted for your Instagram feed. Once you have the 9 tiles posted (with great captions and limited hashtags), take your account off private (more on that in Phase 3 Step 2).
Pro Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with Instagram, be sure to read up on Instagram etiquette!
TWO: FREEBIES, FREEBIES, FREEBIES
Now is the time to set up as many free systems that will make your life easier. Being a blogger requires A LOT of work. So for everything that you can: automate, automate, automate!
I love Buffer for scheduling automatic posts for Twitter and Facebook. It easily lets you set up a posting schedule and post to both platforms at once. UNUM is great for Instagram planning and Unsplash is full of free stock photos that you can basically do anything to and repost.
While BoardBooster* isn’t free, it’s only $5/month and quickly schedules all my pins and loops my favorite boards. I’m hoping to incorporate Tailwind* in my system arsenal soon. It’s another (more user friendly system) than BoardBooster.
Check out my full list of awesome blog freebies and cheap tools here.
Pro Tool: This free course from Think Creative Collective will get you automating like a boss in no time!
THREE: FIND YOUR TRIBE
Don’t try to go it alone! There’s plenty of free resources out there, but nothing compares to interaction with a real person. Find a group that you can go to for support, help, and community.
I’m a part of the TCC Tribe for creative entrepreneurs and I’ve never felt better taken care of online. These ladies are endlessly amazing! Plus, I highly recommend basically anything they produce.
If you’re looking for a group to support you through your blogging struggles, life struggles, and tackling self-care and self-love as a busy creative, be sure to join the Be Simply It Self-Lovelies as well! We’d LOVE to have you!
FOUR: GET ORGANIZED & FIND YOUR SYSTEM
If you’ve made it this far with me, you see that there’s clearly a lot of content and systems to manage as a blogger. A killer organizational system is a MUST.
Recently, I’ve been loving on Trello*. It’s a free online platform that brings the satisfaction of paper planners (crossing off the to-list) with the ease and convenience of an online system. This is a serious lifesaver for bloggers since we have so much to organize, manage, and complete. And it’s perfect for visual people!
Pro Tip: My Trello* boards currently consist of “Daily To-Do,” “Blog,” “Webinars,” and a few more big-picture categories. Make boards related to your big areas then use cards to break them down.
For example, my Daily To-Do board has “Today,” “Tomorrow,” “Weekly Goals,” “Monthly Goals,” and “Things to Learn/Research”. Then I put checklists and additional notes on each card.
I also love Google Drive like none other. I have folders dedicated to each post category I feature on my blog plus a monthly journal (outline of posts for the month, monthly goals, etc). I also keep a blog post brainstorming document so I can quickly jot down ideas for blog posts. Download the Google Drive and Google Docs apps to your phone for access on-the-go.
Google Drive also makes photo storage simple across my phone and computer. My editing process is admittedly all over the place (depending on where I get the photo from). So it’s nice to quickly open a folder with my images for Instagram, Pinterest, etc. and I can post from my computer or phone with no issue.
FIVE: EDITORIAL CALENDAR
Ok, you’ve got your website up. You have your social media platforms ready to go. Now it’s time to get to the actual blogging part! Write up an editorial calendar of what you want to post over the next month or two. Decide how frequently you want to post and how you want to organize your posts.
I try to post at least every Monday. And those posts are usually directly related to self-love or self-care. If I have enough Mondays filled in, I might add in a recipe or a blogging post on a Wednesday or Friday.
Then I use my blog post brainstorm sheet in Google Drive and add the posts as events in Google Calendar. This helps me see a comprehensive, visual layout of my frequency of content between blog posts, newsletters, webinars, etc.
Pro Tip: Color code calendars in Google Calendar to easily see what content you have coming up. Ex. Blue for blog posts, purple for newsletters, green for webinars, etc.
Want this post as an easy to access PDF? Download the FREE eBook! The eBook comes with bonus sections “Mistakes to Avoid” and an easy to print checklist for beginning bloggers! Grab this awesome freebie while you can!
I wish you the best of luck on your blogging journey! I can’t wait to see the fruits of your creativity. Once you get your blog up and running, feel free to share with me on Instagram! I’d love to see what you create!