Blogging is a great way to express yourself and keep a journal of your thoughts. For me, my blog has become my sanctuary – a place that I can just lay it all out there, warts and all. It’s helped me connect with so many people across the world and form many special friendships.
I first started blogging in high school using old social media sites like Windows Live Spaces and Bebo (that should give you an indication on how old I am, haha). I would write about my day, my insecurities, my ambitions and my thoughts. It was like an extension of the physical journals I would write in. Eventually, my brother helped me set up my own website where I could start formatting my words into something more wholesome. I never intended for my words to reach strangers. I never thought that I could really make anyone feel things with the sentences that I strung together. But somehow, I have.
For those of you who are thinking of starting up a personal blog, I hope that it’s with the intention of being true to yourself. I hope you’re starting up a blog for you. Not for anyone else. Not for the ‘fame’ and certainly not because you have a façade that a blogger’s life is the dream life (it most certainly isn’t).
With that being said, I feel like I have some insights from my decade or so of blogging that may be useful for you and your blogging venture. Here is my 10 step guide for starting your personal blog.
1. Establish your purpose
I’m sure if you’ve landed on this page, you’ve already thought about why you want to start up a personal blog. Still, it’s important to think about the purpose of your blog.
Your purpose might be something as simple as documenting your thoughts and feelings about life. It might be something more complex and niche, like writing reviews about your favourite TV series, or documenting your journey in developing medical cures for human diseases. Your purpose may just be to have somewhere you can showcase your photographs or creations.
I’ll reiterate this again because it’s the single most important thing that will keep you blogging: make sure whatever your purpose is, it’s for you. Make sure it’s something you genuinely want to express.
2. Choose your blogging platform
The next logical step is… to find a blogging platform! This is where establishing the purpose of your blog can come in handy. There are blogging platforms out there that can cater really well to one type of blogging purpose, but be a huge hassle for another.
Here are some free platforms that you can choose from:
I’ve always used WordPress and I highly recommend it if you’re savvy with the technical development side of things. A sound knowledge of HTML and digital knowledge will give you lots of flexibility when working with WordPress. I’ve seen a lot of WordPress blogs that frankly, just look terrible.
I actually think Tumblr is a great blogging platform especially if you’re not confident with your tech skills. In fact, if the purpose of your blog heavily leans towards showcasing visual content, I would go for Tumblr.
Be sure to do your research into each and every blogging platform… and, if you’re willing to pick up new skills then don’t be afraid to go for a platform that looks a little more complex!
3. Consider domain and hosting options
A domain name is the URL of your website and hosting is the server where your website is stored.
You don’t need your own .com URL or web hosting to begin with. It costs money and honestly isn’t worth it if you’re just starting a personal blog that’ll initially get few views. And anyway, having a free hosted site is nice because who doesn’t like free things?!
It’s a different story however, if you’re already established and know that you have a legion of loyal readers that’ll be at your beckoning. Just do a Google search for ‘domain name’ and register your domain. Some sites will have domain and hosting packages.
4. Find a theme that suits your purpose
This is pretty straightforward. Depending on your blogging platform of choice, just google ‘WordPress themes’ or ‘Tumblr themes’ and the Internet will spit out dozens of sites that offer themes for your blog. If you’re willing to fork out a little money for a theme that has your heart all wobbly, then go for it (keeping in mind that for some themes, you’ll need a sound technical knowledge to install it without any hiccups).
ALSO. PRO TIP. KEEP YOUR THEME SIMPLE. This is probably just propaganda instilled in me from my ‘Designing for the Web’ subject I took at university (along with being a web user myself), but there’s nothing worse than having a website that’s just going bonkers with unnecessary flashy things. Yeah, it looks impressive but nah.
5. Keep notes of your branding
I wouldn’t think too much about branding at first, but it’s definitely something that you want to keep note of. In the course of my blogging life, my ‘branding’ has changed several times to keep up with my current state of mind.
Start off with something simplistic. Choose 2-3 brand colours that you can implement on your blog. Color-Hex is a simple website where you can browse through colour hex codes. Note each code down that you’d like to use as your brand colours. Think about the small things like link colours and font type.
Remember, these small things give your blog a personality – and hopefully that personality reflects you!
6. Map out the categories for your blog
The biggest nuisance I’ve found after all my years of blogging is categorisation.
When I first started blogging, I paid no attention to categories. I kind of just threw my articles into random categories. At the time it was no big deal, but when you start publishing more content, it becomes harder to organise your blog in a logical way. It’s also a major pain in the ass when you decide to give your blog a total revamp and you’re left with redundant categories.
Before you start your blogging journey, grab a pencil and some paper and flesh out your categories. Go a step further and plan out your sub-categories. Think about how these categories link to each other and how they’ll look in your navigational menu.
7. Develop templates for easy publishing
I highly suggest creating a template that will help you get your content published efficiently. Here are a few things to think about:
– How are your posts going to be laid out?
– Are you going to start off with a write-off?
– What resolution size will your hero/feature image be?
– What size images will your images be in the main content?
– Will different topics have a different layout?
For more design-oriented templates, Adobe Creative Cloud is your best friend, especially if you want to get a lot more detailed and technical. If you’re a Photoshop newbie, no worries. Try out Canva to get started on your design journey.
8. Write content, for you. Audience, second.
Okay, so perhaps all the digital content marketers out there in the world will rip this point apart. But hey, we’re talking about a personal blog here. The great thing about a personal blog is… the right audience will find you.
Write about the things that you’re interested in. Write about your thoughts and experiences. Write about the things that you want to share with the world. That’s how you add flavour and personality into your posts, and that’s what will differentiate you from any other blogger who’s only thinking about what will give them instant fame and gratification.
9. Take your own photographs
Should you take your own photography or use stock images from the web? Well, why not both? Of course, it depends on the type of blog you’re looking to run.
You should always aim to take your own photos, especially if you’re running a personal blog. They don’t have to be professional photographs, but they just need to be authentic in telling your story.
If you do end up using stock photography, make sure it aligns with what you’re trying to express. And, ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE.
10. Market and promote your blog
Ok, so you’ve set your blog up and made your first blog post. Hooray! Now, how the heck do you get people to read your masterpiece?
Honestly, marketing and promoting your blog is a whole different ball game and there’s an array of techniques that you can implement to help your blog reach the people you want it to reach.
I’ll leave the more technical aspects on how you can optimise and improve your reach for a different blog post, but for now the easiest way to promote your blog is through your own social media networks (but please, go easy on the hashtags – this really bugs me and I’ll delve further into it in a different post).
Well, that covers the basics! I know it was a pretty long post, but I hope you’ve taken away some helpful tips so that you can get started on your blogging journey.
Remember, blog for yourself.
I wish you all the very best on this exciting adventure! Not only will you be documenting your life from here on out, but you’ll also develop a love for words and storytelling. And, if you find that blogging takes up too much of your time, don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm – you can also use social media platforms as a way to document your journey (aka microblogging)!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll put on my advice goggles and try my best to help you out. If you have a blog of your own, I’d love to have a peruse, so leave a link!