Reading a great blog is like curling up in a comfy chair opposite your best friend, deeply chatting. You’re both wrapped in what each other is saying, and you can’t miss a word. You get comfort, humour, answers and inspiration – all from a conversation.
Conversation is an intrinsic part of being us. We live for the interaction, the connection, the expression.
It’s the same with a blog. It’s much more than just reading and writing.
A good blog will keep its reader from ‘doing the do.’ The content will almost be a guilty pleasure. It will keep you from the housework, the bookwork, and even the work-work!
And the pleasure isn’t one-way. It’s not only the reader that gets the buzz from getting their regular fix from your posts; it’s also you, the creator.
Yes, you’ll be the creative director of your own project. Just. For. You.
I often hear people say “I’d love to start my own blog, but I just can’t find the time and don’t know where to begin.” The important thing is to NOT get overwhelmed.
Learning anything new can be difficult at times, but just hold onto three things – it’s fun, empowering and uniquely satisfying. They’ll get your through.
So, where do you start?
Starting a blog isn’t difficult. First off, there are five decisions you need to make before you can begin setting up house:
1. Your neighbourhood – Hosting
This is where you’ll hang out a lot from now on – so it’s an important decision to make before creating your new home. You’ll rely on your neighbourhood for technical support and help.
A hosting service gives you a place to hang (or store) all your data and content on the internet. Think of it as your big, deep cupboard.
You can either pay for your hosting service (recommended) or you can use the free service provided by some platforms, such as Blogger.com and WordPress.com However, if you use their free service then you cannot have your own unique address/domain (see point 2) nor will you control your own content, because you will not own the domain.
Hosting services are relatively easy to find with a Google search. Important things to consider are local technical support (versus overseas time delays), set-up (see point 3) and reliability.
Starting out you will only need the most basic of packages that includes at minimum – bandwidth, email, preferably multiple domains (if you decide to start more than one blog) and database storage.
You are generally able to purchase your domain name through most hosting services, so that means all your technicalities are with one provider.
2. Your address – URL/domain/name
Your name and domain is a very personal decision. It’s a bit like naming your first baby. This will represent your home to the outside world.
Take time to think about what you want to say and choose wisely (remember how you agonised over how your kids names would be abbreviated and misused), because it may turn out to be a forever thing.
Changing your URL/domain/name isn’t easy. It’s like moving house – you have to bring everything with you and set up all over again – and you don’t want to lose friends (readers) because you’ve changed your address.
Most importantly, if you choose to use a free web hosting service (see point 1), then you will not be able to have a unique domain name. In that case, your URL will contain the name of the domain host along with you blog name. It will be something like – yourblogname:yourbloghostname.com.au
3. Your builder – Platform
Another personal choice. Choosing a platform can be likened to choosing the builder for your home. You can have it architect designed with a specialist builder, select a project home builder or somewhere in between.
Most beginner and moderate web users (ie non-techies) choose the project home option – Blogger or WordPress. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.
However, the majority of blogs are now built on the WordPress.org platform due to its flexibility, user friendliness and choice between self hosted or free hosting services. It also allows you to easily do a ‘knock-down-and-rebuild’ if and when you decide to redesign your home in the future.
After you’ve decided on your platform, you’ll need to install the software that will manage your content – pages, posts, images and media.
Most hosting services that are worthwhile (but may cost a little more) have something like a one-click (or more) installs. They are worth asking about in your research. They will save you time, heartache and are a good indicator of a host that will give you great support when you need it the most.
Don’t let me mislead you, it’s a bit more than a few clicks, and you need to fill in bits like usernames and such, but its much less painful than messing around with it yourself. And remember, if you have problems, your hosting service should be able to help you out if you get stuck – that’s what you’re paying them for.
4. Your decorator –Walls and furniture
Ah decorating. We all love this bit. What’s it going to look like, feel like and say to people when they visit you? You need a theme – a design for your new home. And of course, it’s yet another personal choice – but remember you can change this one later.
The best place to look for free WordPress themes is the WordPress Free Theme Directory. These are free of malware and other nasties that you could get if you just download a free theme from a Google search.
Free themes are great to start off with, but if you want something a little more polished (or can’t find one that matches your needs, colours and layout), then you may be interested in either a premium theme or framework.
Premium themes don’t cost that much and are just as easy to set-up, but if you don’t wish to spend the money at the start, you can easy migrate to one later. A framework is a further step-up (think interior designer and stylist), and requires more work to set up, but provides a more custom look.
When choosing your theme you need to consider a few things: colour; font; header; layout – meaning number of columns, sidebar etc; menus – if they have dropdowns for subpages off the main menu; and flexibility – ease of changes if you are non-techie.
Believe me, this is where you will waste spend the most time. The choice is overwhelming, so it’s best to do your homework first and know what you want, otherwise you’ll get lost looking.
5. Your community – Entertain, engage or educate
What’s your new home going to do for you and your new friends? What are you going to fill it with? Who are you going to invite over?
Some people blog for bliss, some blog for business and some have seamlessly merged the two. Blogging for bliss satisfies the need to share your life, crafts, thoughts and passions – as a means of self-expression, and this is especially true for many mummy bloggers. On the business side, a blog can be an invaluable tool to promote services and wares.
The creation of a community and new friendships is vital for any blogger, no matter their motivation. You need to create a safe haven for people to feel comfortable, know they are being listened to and that they can share their thoughts, views and secrets.
Take time to think about how you want to create that tone, before you write your first post. And remember that it doesn’t have to be all text – it can be a mixture of words, images, video, audio and handwritten notes or drawings – especially if writing is not your strong suit.
Think about how you want to involve your readers. Before you start filling your home with content, it’s helpful to decide on three things: what is your purpose, who is your audience and what do you want to say?
And always create with the reader in mind.
What works for some may not work for others.
All blogs have their own style and uniqueness. Each is an expression of its creator.
Learn, read and search, but be your own guide. Remember it’s your laboratory. It should give voice to your bliss (or business) and paint the pictures that you want to share.
It should be therapeutic, cathartic and most of all, fun.
Blogging should always feel like an option and never an obligation (unless you’re a professional blogger who makes a living from your site). If it becomes a chore, you need a break.
The creation of your blog should be an enjoyable, stretching experience. It should take you to new places that comfortably make you uncomfortable. That’s good; we all need that at times.
But whatever the genesis for your creation, in the end it’s about building a home that expresses you.
That you’re proud of.
And want to invite friends over, to visit.
Have you started a blog? What was the hardest part for you? Still waiting to start? What will help push you over the edge? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Other posts in the series:
About the Author: Di Mace is a wildly hire-able freelance writer and ghost; thinker and mother (are they mutually exclusive?) and storytelling fiend. She blogs at WORD SWORDS about slaying your writing foes by using smarts over strength. In her world the straw at hand is always spun into gold and some days working from home, she never gets out of her PJs.