Saturday, July 27, 2013

How I started blogging - & how to start your own blog!

Since this week is really blog-focused as is with my being up at BlogHer13, I thought I'd continue the theme and talk a little bit more about the beginnings of my cozy little space on the interwebs.

As some of you already know, I started up The Naptown Organizer blog very shortly after Little Man's first birthday - almost a year and a half ago - to share some organizational tips with friends.  Since then, it has blossomed into a happy place for me to share and connect with other ladies in the same phase of life.  But - setting up a blog takes a lot of work, a lot of know-how, and a lot of time.  So, let's chat about that a little more.



The first decision I had to make when starting my blog was where to host the blog.  Not having a clue if it was something I'd actually stick with, I wanted a free blog versus a self-hosted option to begin.  Two of the main free options are Blogger.com or Wordpress.com.  Starting out, I had not a clue of technical knowledge regarding the internet, so I stuck with the slightly-less-techie Blogger, and have stayed there ever since.  Blogger tends to be fairly easy to set up and easy to utilize, but doesn't have as many of the bells and whistles you can add on your own in Wordpress.  {I do use Wordpress when I blog for theBump.com, but as a low-tech mama I still prefer Blogger!}  Since I set up my own blog in Blogger, I'll focus on using Blogger to set up your own blog for the rest of this post.

Once you decide to use Blogger, then you have to choose your site name and layout.  Thankfully, Blogger has a TON of free blog templates you can use to get yourself started.  I know when I first began, this blog was a green background with grass and a dandelion on the top, prior to me upgrading to my self-designed yellow/linen/chevron look and then now upgrading to my current design by Tiffany Kuehl Designs.  I've had a bunch of questions from friends looking into starting their own blog about layout initially.  In my humble opinion, you should definitely use a free template to start.  Whether it's through the Blogger templates or a free template you find on the internet - you don't want to spend a ton of money on a hobby blog that you're not sure you'll even use yet.  Once you've been blogging consistently, for some time, then go ahead and upgrade your blog if you feel like it's a good time.  But don't drop the cash until you're sure it's a serious endeavor.

Well, you know.  Unless you have a ton of cash to spare?

{One note - throughout the initial phases of blogging - it is extremely helpful to find a friend or mentor who can help you through.  As someone who had never even heard of HTML prior to starting this blog, I had a few - and still have a few - lovely friends who held my hand throughout the way.  If you can find a friend or mentor for your blog, I highly recommend it!!!}

Now that you have your URL, site name, and layout set up - your next task is to decide your content.  I began the blog with organization in mind, but it has blossomed to so many things in addition to that.  A good tip is to let yourself just write for a little while.  Once you've had a few months of posts under your belt, that may be a good time to decide further what your theme is.

But, let's talk about theme a little bit further.

Here's where you have to sit down and think about the intentions of your blog as well.  Many people begin blogging just to tell a story - their story.  Then, after writing for a little while, watching their stats, and realizing that no one is reading it, they become frustrated and stop.  When you're starting your own blog, you have to take a few things into consideration.  The first is - you have to love writing and expressing yourself creatively through this space.  If not, you will stop sooner rather than later.  The second though, is to consider your intended audience.

Do you want more than just your family and friends to read your blog?

If not, then keep on with your bad self.  Write because it makes you happy, no matter who is or isn't reading your content.  If so, then you have to have something to offer outside of just your story.  {Because, I mean, your mom loves to come read about your kids and your dog and the dentist appointment you had last week... but if you want anyone else to care about those things - you have to give them other reasons to come back as well.}  Whether that information be informational content {of any nature, really}, advice, data, recipes, reviews, giveaways - whatever.  There has to be something of redeeming value outside of your and/or your family's lives to amass new readers to the blog.

While talking with a friend of mine a few months ago, she expressed interest in growing her blog.  At that time, she was posting quite a few recipes in addition to her personal life story at the time.  Since my friend was undergoing a drastic weight loss, I suggested to her that she refocus her blog just a tad to intertwine those concepts - to make the blog a resource for not only her story and her cooking, but for healthy cooking that enabled her to lose the weight.

It seems simple, right?

In reality though, it takes a little bit of time to discover who you are as a blogger and where you feel your story and content fits - even if that's into the space uniquely you that only you create.

The last big question about starting up a blog I hear is always the same:

How do you make money on your blog?

I know every blogging tutorial begins with this, but it's true so I will say it again - if you're in it for the money, you should get out now.  The amount of work you'll put into a blog to get it to the point where you can even make money at all is so not worth it if money is your only goal.  Going back up to my statement above - you really have to love writing and creating and expressing yourself through this media.

However, once you do have an established blog with some readers and frequent content {and by frequent I mean at least 2 posts per week, as some bloggers will post up to 6-7 times or more per week!}, then you can return to the question of that pretty penny.  I've heard many bloggers say how they began to monetize their blogs, but for me - it was simply reaching out.  My first foray into this area was receiving a review item and hosting a giveaway for a company I had contacted and requested information from about various products.

{Take away tip: companies initially aren't going to just find you.  If you're interested in collaborating with a company, respectfully help them to discover you and your blog!}

While a good portion of my blog sponsorship at this time comes from companies finding me, because of the nature of TNO blog, I still do seek out quite a few sponsors/reviews/giveaways for you lovely readers.  If I see an item I think you all would go gaga over, you better believe I'm sending my statistics to the company to request an item that I may review to share with you all.  Many possible partners will ask you for your statistics, and initially - you will be turned away.  That's okay.  If you work at it long enough, your little engine that could blog will get up there to the point that your stats are amazing and companies are seeking you out for collaborations and partnerships.

{On this topic though, you want to make sure that any item you're receiving or any product you're promoting fits the content of your blog.  If you blog about your pet, a collaboration with a ironing board company doesn't make sense for you - for example.  Your readers - who are likely mainly pet owners - will not be interested in this content nor will they be engaged by it.  Be wise about choosing your sponsors/partners and be sure that it flows with the theme of your blog.}

At the end of the day though, whether you're a brand new start-up blog with 10 followers or become a massive business with 100,000 followers - the beginnings are typically all similar.  Everyone starts somewhere - and for almost all the great blogs I follow - it comes from that inner desire to write and create.  If you keep that in mind, your blog will be successful no matter the size, shape, or make-up - because it fulfills a part of you.

Anyone out there thinking of starting their own blog?  What are your concerns?

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2 comments:

  1. I think the biggest piece of advice that I'd give is to blog for you. I agree with you - don't do it for the money. I put in 3+ years of work building my blog, making relationships, seeking out brands to work with, building my readership, and now my blog is definitely putting groceries in our (new because of my blog!) fridge. Can I quit my job to be a full-time blogger? Nope...but I love the extra income it provides to my family. You definitely have to put the time in and the money is just a bonus.

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  2. I am seriously so green about your fridge. That is freaking amazing. It doesn't really surprise me though, because both you and your blog are awesome! :)

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