You like writing. You enjoy reading blogs. And, hey, you have stuff to share too. If you are ready to start blogging, here’s how to start a blog of your own.
How to Start a Blog: Your Focus
What will you be writing about? What are you passionate about and want to share? In learning how to start a blog, you should spend some time on deciding what the focus of yours will be. Grab a fresh notebook and make a list of all the things you’d like to write about, photograph or otherwise share on your blog. Then clarify your listso that the topics carry a common thread. This is your focus — the overall theme of your blog. And bonus: Once you have this list, you can also refer back to it for writing ideas once you get blogging.
You should also consider why you’ll be blogging. What are your goals? If blogging is a hobby for you, then write down a few sentences or phrases about what you’d like to get out of your blogging. Hobby bloggers are ones who write for fun or to share with friends and family but who don’t intend to make money from their blog or turn it into a business venture. If this is more about starting a business or making a career move, then write down a few sentences or phrases about what your ultimate goals are for blogging.
How to Start a Blog: How to Choose a Blog Name
What’s in a name? In blogging … well, everything. This is a super important aspect of how to start a blog. You want to choose a blog name that is both easy to remember and spell. But it should also be simple yet unique. After all, you want readers to find you. Though it sounds a little daunting, when you find that just-right name you’ll know.
While choosing your blog name, you will also want to consider if you plan to (either now or at some point in the future) purchase a URL. This should influence your decision because you want your blog name and URL to match up. Also, you don’t want to use a name someone else is already using. You can research potential URLs by visiting any ICANN-accredited domain name registrar and entering your potential domain name or names. I’ve been using GoDaddy for years, which allows you to generate similar URL names when searching to help you find just the right one. But use whatever registrar you prefer.
Also, if you’re reading How to Start a Blog because you do want to move into professional blogging at some point, you should purchase your URL as soon as possible — just because it’s available today doesn’t mean it won’t be snatched up soon.
How to Start a Blog: Selecting Your Blogging Platform
Now, let’s get down to the nuts and blogs of how to start a blog — the blogging platform you’ll use. A blogging platform is a content management system where you write, edit and design your blog. There are many available such as Drupal, Squarespace, Typepad and Tumblr. However, let’s focus on two of the most popular ones: Blogger and WordPress.
Blogger is a free service owned by Google. Using Blogger, takes mere minutes to create a blog on Blogger and start blogging, which makes the barrier of entry so small that it’s really appealing to new bloggers. For the blogging beginner, Blogger offers a user-friendly interface where you can easily create your blog for free and still maintain some control over the appearance of the site. Blogger does allow some advertising, but you have to follow their guidelines (which have restrictions). They also can exert control over your blog — even shutting it down if they perceive a problem with your content.
WordPress also offers a free hosted blog service through WordPress.com. Like Blogger, you can create a blog and start blogging in a short amount of time. And the user interface is also easy to use. However, WordPress does exercise control more over your blog, restricting your ability to alter the blog design and limiting advertising to a few options.
All said, a Blogger or WordPress.com blog is perfect for the person who is starting a blog as a hobby and doesn’t plan to have advertising or earn money from their blog.
However, if you want complete control over your blog, a self-hosted WordPress site is the way to go. You’ll need to choose and sign up for web hosting with a provider (I presently use Bluehost) to get started. Some will even include a free URL with purchase of a hosting package. With this option (and WordPress, which you’ll upload to your site), you get the same user-friendly content management system and be totally in charge of your content, site appearance and any advertising and sponsoring you want. It’s the platform of choice for many, many bloggers.
Now choose carefully. Many of us who started blogging long before there were handy resources on how to start a blog (hehe) started on one platform and moved to another. Although this is totally doable, it’s also an easily avoidable hassle. Choose yours based on what you think you’ll want in a year from now — not what’s easiest today.
How to Start a Blog: Choosing a Theme for your Blog
Next up in how to start a blog: what do you want that blog to look like? The options and advice for this differ slightly depending on the blogging platform you chose. If you’re going with the free Blogger or WordPress options, then there are plenty of free options available through Blogger and WordPress. Exploring the free options available from your blogging platform and choose one that appeals to you. Some, like Presswork, also have options for customizing it slightly so that you can have that semi-custom look without spending anything.
However, if you chose to create a self-hosted blog, you will probably want something that’s more unique to you. A custom logo design, header or a whole custom blog design can accomplish this, but unless you design it yourself, it will cost money. Blog designs, depending on the level of service and customization you are seeking and the designer, can cost anywhere from $100 to $10,000. You’ll want to seek out a designer whose work you admire. Look at blogs with designs you like for ideas. A link to the designer is often included in the footer or sidebar of a blog. You can also check out the blog’s theme (if it’s a paid theme) in the same place.
Blog designs are built on themes, which can be completely custom or built on an existing framework like Thesis or Genesis. These frameworks offer a lot of control over the blog design as well as good support. You can also purchase child themes (think of Thesis and Genesis as the framework of a home and child themes as the sheet rock, paint and molding) for these. If you choose to work with a professional designer, chances are they have a preferred theme to work with. However, there are other powerful frameworks available too.
When it came time for a redesign of Sarah’s Cucina Bella, my seven and a half year old food blog, I wanted a responsive design that could grow with me — and that I could handle myself. In the past, I’ve paid designers to create sites for me. This time though, I felt like I had the time and knowledge to do it on my own. After checking out a variety of user friendly themes, I chose WP-Clear Premium WordPress Theme, which is made by Solostream. The user-friendly backend and capacity for customization made it perfect for me — so perfect, in fact, that I decided to use it for Sarah by the Sea and SarahCaron.com too. I love that I can easily change colors and layouts in simple, easy to navigate menus. You can check out Solostream’s Premium WordPress Themes Store to see all their offerings.
How to Start a Blog: Creating Content
Once your blog is all set up and ready to go, it’s time to start creating great content — the last step in how to start a blog. Here are a few hints for creating great blog content:
- Write like you speak — Really, this matters. Don’t try to sound like someone else because who you are is beautiful and unique.
- Be sure to always use spell check — Spelling matters to a lot of people, and failing to do this could turn off potential readers.
- Read your content before hitting post — Much like spell check, this can help you avoid unnecessary errors.
- Include clear, vivid appealing images with your posts — Both words and photos matter. Use them together to make your posts shine.
- Have fun — Seriously. You should be enjoying yourself.
When you share things you are truly excited about it will show. Ready? Now get going.
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through one of the affiliate links, I receive a small commission. This doesn’t change the cost to you in any way. All opinions expressed here are my own, and based on my own experiences.