So you want to start a blog

So, you want to start a blog? Now what? There are so many different options, and so many things to learn that it really does take on a life of it’s own…but it doesn’t have to! I have been blogging for the past two years over at Cooking with Curls, so I have a pretty good idea of what works and what should be avoided.

So, you want to start a blog | caffeineandcurls.com

The first thing you need to figure out: What are you going to blog about? Cooking with Curls is obviously a food blog. People follow me expecting to find mouth watering recipes, not how to reupholster a chair!

The key is to pick one area of focus. People need to know what to expect when they follow you. What is your passion? What is your area of expertise? What will you still love blogging about when only your immediate family is commenting?

  • Food Blogger: I will only write about food.
  • DIY/Craft Blogger: I will write mostly about fun craft projects, and how to fix or remodel things around the home.
  • Lifestyle Blogger: I will write about anything and everything that makes me happy…recipes/fashion/crafts
  • Niche Blogger: I will write about my love of; craft beer brewing, crocheting, landscape photography, frugal living, travel, or fashion/beauty.

The next thing that you need to figure out: Why do you want to start a blog? Is it for fun, and you don’t plan to make money off your blog? Are you starting a family and need to earn an income so you can stay home? Or maybe you have a business that needs to expand and reach potential new customers through blogging.

Your needs will directly affect the type of blogging platform that you choose. There are 3 main blogging platforms to choose from:

  • Blogger.com {owned by Google}: This is a free blogging platform, which makes it attractive to bloggers that are just starting out. It is easy to customize and use, and you still have to ability to monetize your blog with advertising and posting sponsored content.
  • WordPress.com: This is also a free blogging platform that is easy to use and customize. However, you cannot monetize a WordPress.com blog, it is against their terms of use. This option is best for hobby blogs that do not need to generate an income.
  • WordPress.org: This is a self-hosted option {completely different from WordPress.com} with more upfront costs, but you own it*. You will purchase your domain name and website hosting. The possibilities with WordPress.org are limitless. There are thousands of child themes available to customize your blog to look exactly how you want it to. There are also plug-ins available for just about every function that you could possibly need.

Are you still with me? Do you need to go refill your coffee cup?

coffeemug1big

*Blogger.com and WordPress.com are free to use, but you do not own the site or the content. If either were to decide to eliminate their service or feel that you violated their terms of use, they could delete your blog.  Poof…gone!

With that being said, I have several blogging friends that have very successful blogs on Blogger. It is possible, but there will some limitations in design and functionality.

I have been using WordPress.org since day one. I started with a free, pre-made template, but customizing was limited. Whenever I found a blog design that I really liked, I scrolled to the bottom to to find out what theme they were using, or who built their website.

It is best to stick with a simple, clean look for your blog {less is more}. A simple color scheme, with easy to read fonts and a well organized design will keep people on your site longer. Loud music on your site will send them away…..forever!

I am currently using the Foodie child theme on Cooking with Curls {with a lot of customizing}, and Foodie Pro on this site. Most of the areas that I had to customize myself in the Foodie theme, are simple edits in the Foodie Pro theme. The designer listened to everyone’s wishes for the perfect theme and she delivered!

You want to choose a child theme that is updated regularly. You don’t want to find yourself without any tech support after a WordPress or Genesis update. You also want a theme that is mobile responsive. More and more people are using smartphones rather than their computers to search the web.

mobile phone

Both of my child themes run on Genesis framework, which I absolutely love!! It allows you to make design changes without the possibility of messing up your actual framework and functionality. If you purchase them together, you can change child themes as many times as you like in the future without having to purchase Genesis again. It’s yours forever.

Whichever platform you choose: learning basic HTML is a must! The basic website will be built for you, and the visual editor will allow you to create posts and post them. But at some point you will still need to know how to create links, add images, and add widgets to your sidebar. I have broken my site many times with an extra (</div>) tag that went unnoticed! You need to know enough to be able to fix little problems that arise at the worst times possible.

There are plenty of HTML cheat sheets, books, and you tube videos available to help you get used to this new language.  I will also have lots of resources at the bottom of this post to take you exactly where you need to go for more detailed information.

Once you have your blog defined, your domain name purchased, your blogging platform and website hosting in place, you need to determine: Where your images are going to come from? Have you noticed that I have cute little graphics every few paragraphs to break up all of the text? Your eyes will start to get tired without something to break up all of the text. Whether it’s images of food or a diagram describing how to fix a turbine engine, your blog will need images. Even if it is just so you have something to pin to Pinterest.

If you will be taking your own pictures, learn as much as you can about photography! Most of my traffic comes from pinterest, so I need large {730 x 1200 is ideal} high-quality photos that will catch people’s attention, like this Chicken au Champagne.

Chicken au Champagne  cookingwithcurls.com  #France #foodoftheworld

This blog is very different, so I am having to get creative {like taking a photo of my laptop, coffee cup and pen}! You can use graphics {which I purchase on etsy}, or you can find images online that are royalty free or that can be purchased for a small fee.

Which brings us to: Understand copyright laws for content and images. NEVER NEVER EVER steal an image or content from someone else’s website to use as your own. It is illegal and just plain wrong!! Just because it is on the internet, does not make it public property.  Be smart, use your own images and content, and you will have nothing to worry about.

Bloggers are very protective of their work…..and so are their friends! Find a group of bloggers for networking and support. I have been incredibly lucky to “meet” so many amazing blogging friends!!  I have learned so much from them, and their support is invaluable. I am in two different facebook groups where we share each other’s posts, ask for technical advice, or yell and scream when a “troll” leaves a nasty comment.

Only another blogger can understand what you are going through. I will tell you right now, your friends and family will never understand what you do or why you do it! You will start talking about link parties, or how your image was rejected by Foodgawker, and they will look at you like you are speaking a foreign language! Your blogging friends will become as close to you as your best friends from high school, even though you have never met in person.

Social Media Button Graphic | caffeineandcurls.com

You cannot have a successful blog without: social media and exposure. If you are going to monetize your blog and add sponsored content, you will need to have a solid social media following. As soon as you decide on a blog name, start signing up for accounts with facebook, google+, pinterest, twitter, instagram, and stumbleupon. You don’t want to wait until your blog is gaining traction, to find out that the your user name is already taken.

You may not get your exact blog name, but try for something close. My pinterest name is cookwithcurls and my twitter handle is cooking_curls. After awhile people will figure out that it’s you.

The more you get yourself and your blog posts out on social media and linked up at link parties, the more exposure you will have. Exposure equals blog traffic, which in turn will lead to more income.  If you are starting a blog to make money, leave now! Sorry, I guess I could have started this post with that bit of advice.

Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme, it requires a lot of hard work. Endless hours sitting in front of a computer screen, researching your next blog post, creating the blog post, promoting the blog post, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the money needed to start your blog; hosting, domain name, photography equipment, props, backgrounds, supplies, annual membership fees, this list goes on and on as well.

We are at 1,582 words, are you still awake? Do you need a snack?

cupcake tray

 

In general, it will take 2 to 3 years before you start making money…..assuming that this is your goal. It will probably be closer to 5 years before you will see a consistent income that you might be able live live on. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but no one should count on that. We can all dream about becoming the next Pinch of Yum or Tatertots and Jello, but they are exactly that…..dreams…..goals to work towards.

This is a very long, but basic overview of what you need to start a blog.  I will continue to add more posts on individual topics in the future. For now, I will leave you with some links to resources that you might find helpful. If you have any questions, or need additional support getting started let me know…..I can help!

– Lisa

Resources:

I purchased Genesis framework and my child themes from StudioPress – actually I bought the entire collection, just in case.

My domain names and website hosting are through GoDaddy {disclaimer: my son works there} My blogging friends also recommend RFE and Orange Geek as other good options.

ProBlogger is an awesome resource for all things blogging, including this Basic HTML Tags post by Darren Rowse.

I also love these two books: Head First HTML and CSS & HTML5 and CSS3 All-in-One For Dummies {affiliate links}

If you need photos: iStock Photos & shutterstock {you will need to register}

I purchase my clip art graphics from various vendors on etsy. You can also do a web search for free clip art.

If you are on pinterest, I have several boards filled with lots of useful information:

Blogging InfoBlog Design InfoFacebook InfoGoogle+ InfoInstagram InfoPinterest InfoTwitter Info – Food Photography

All of the link parties that I am currently linking up to are listed on my Party Page in the navigation bar.

So, are you ready to start a blog?

 

So, you want to start a blog? Now what? There are so many different options, and so many things to learn that it really does take on a life of it’s own…but it doesn’t have to! I have been blogging for the past two years over at Cooking with Curls, so I have a pretty…

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Comments

  1. says

    These are all really helpful ideas. Thank you for compiling this list. I wish I was better at Twitter and Google+
    It is on my todo list to get more acquainted with these two platforms this month.

    • says

      You are so welcome Molly, I’m glad they were helpful. 🙂 I need to get better with Twitter and Google+ as well, so you’re not alone!! Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. says

    It’s so great to see someone list more than just self-hosted WP as a blogging platform. Don’t get me wrong, that’s how I started. But I also knew I could commit to writing regularly. The cost of a domain and hosting has been a worthwhile investment. But I’ve seen SO many friends start a blog and quit after a month or two. If you’re not positive you can keep it up, I recommend starting on a free platform. I think a lot of bloggers tend to forget that when writing out advice to people who are still just *thinking* about blogging.

    Here via the Pretty Pintastic Party!

    • says

      Thank you Brita. 🙂 Some people tend to be very stubborn and opinionated about how everyone should do things, I am not like at all!! LOL Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂

  3. says

    This is great Lisa. I’ve just scheduled it to share with the Online Blog Con Groups! Do you mind if we link to it from our site as well?

  4. says

    Thanks for posting this. I have been ‘having’ a blog for some time, but just merely used it as a showroom for my work. In the close future I would like to change it to be more than just pictures. Reading this was really helpful on how I could improve my blog and helps me with my question if I should move it or just upgrade it. Study work to be done.-) Thanks

  5. Lisa says

    Thank you for the post. I have been thinking of starting a blog for fun. Another blogger told me how much work it is and so if I do start one it would not be a daily post as some of you bloggers do. I work full time so I just don’t think I will have the time to dedicate to a full blown blog – just a little baby blog I can call my own.

    -Lisa

    • says

      You are so welcome, Lisa. 🙂 You have to do what works best for you. I only post 3 times a week on Cooking with Curls. My goal was to post once per week here, but life had other ideas, lol. In the long run it’s quality not quantity that makes a good blog!! Good luck. 🙂

  6. says

    I am Soo in love with this posting!! You came to at just the right time. (no marriage proposal coming). My goal for 2014 was to start a blog. Ok so it’s now 2015. Just off a little. But I spent all of 2014 researching (yes I said the same thing in 2013) and just when I think I have it down, I have more questions! Teh I get my questions answered and I think of more. Yes I know the answer, Stop Thinking!! But I cant. I must be either chicken or over thinking this.
    I want to blog about my escapades while finding that great find at a estate/yard sale. The deal of the century I got at the thrift store. How I shipped packages home via Greyhound in New Orleans during vacation. Yeah my husband laffed but I just shipped sails to my son for their boat that way. Laff Now Buddy!!
    Things I find and refurbish & resell on my etsy shop. SO I will want to link up to that.
    But first things first what is “Both of my child themes”? Is it the design of your blog??
    Do you know of any classes or forums I can go to to ask all the stupid questions, you know the ones where everyone says, “Ther are no Dumb questions” OR can I just talk off your ear?
    Thank You in Advance.
    Joining your blog so I can get a sugar rush as I read…
    Barbara Ann
    etsy.com/shop/barbaraannscreations

    • says

      Thank you soo much, Barbara Ann!! I am a strong supporter of research. Blogging costs money, so you want to make sure you do it right. 🙂 But yes, at some point you do need to just jump on in the water and go for it!

      I think your blog sounds like fun. I purchase way too much on ebay, so I know all about shipping on Greyhound!!!

      Sorry, I have two different blogs, so each of my blogs use the same child theme. 🙂 WordPress.org is the blogging platform. Genesis is the framework, and “foodie pro” is my child theme. So yes, the child theme is the design that gives blogs their “look”.

      The only class that I know of is this one from Blogelina: http://blogelina.com/your-dream-blog-is-in-reach-2/. It was VERY helpful and you type in your questions during the online course. You can also send her emails if you need more clarification. Tanya has been teaching blogging for a lot longer than I have been blogging, but I am more than willing to answer any of your questions that I can. 🙂

      Good luck, Lisa