How and Why to Start a Blog

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I started my first blog way back in 2003 when I barely knew what blogging was. At the time, it was a fun way to interact with friends and family – I never knew that it could be a full-time career, nor did I believe that it would eventually impact my life so much. Those were the days when I would take photos with my camera, get them printed at a shop, scan them onto my computer, and then upload them onto my blog. Needless to say, a lot has changed.

I believe that blogging can be an excellent way to hone your writing and photography skills, to create a solid portfolio, and to get your name out there. Now more than ever, blogging is taken seriously as both a career and a creative output, and plenty of agents and publishers actively seek out writers online. If you haven’t created a blog yet, or if you are in the beginning stages of blogging, here are a few things to consider.

Think about your motivation behind your blog. Will it be filled with daily musings, poetry, short stories, or personal essays? Are you trying to monetize, i.e. create a blog that may have ads or affiliate links? The best way to start is to think about what your passion is, and what exactly you want to present to the world. This will help you to come up with ideas for those first blog posts, and even help shape the design and functionality of your blog.

You also may want to consider a niche. If you’re a travel blogger, for example, think about what kind of travel you want to write about most: budget travel, solo travel, family travel, and so on. Having a more specific niche will help your readers understand what your blog is about, and will also help with SEO (search engine optimisation) in the future.

Choose a blog name that really represents you and what you’re writing about. It may be as simple as your name, which is totally fine. If you’re choosing another title – my blog is called This Battered Suitcase, for example – make sure that it is easy to remember, looks good when written as a URL, represents your content or at least has a meaning behind it, and that it can be easily shortened or transferred to social media channels. Both Twitter and Pinterest limit the amount of characters your username can be, so choose wisely. You should also check that your blog name is available as a URL and as a social media handle before registering anything.

Invest time into your blog’s design. Even if you have the greatest content in the world, the unfortunate fact is that most online readers do judge books by their covers, meaning that a complicated or unappealing blog design may turn some readers off. The design trend these days is very sleek and minimal, and more and more blogs are adopting a cleaner look. There are hundreds of themes to choose from (you have to pay a small fee for most), and you can customise the design however you’d like. My recommendation is to start with a self-hosted WordPress blog from the beginning; it’s the most professional platform and also the one that offers the most design and plug-in options.

Create a solid “About” page. One of the first things a new reader will click when he or she visits your blog is the “About” page. Make sure that it fully explains who you are and what your blog is about; this is especially important if you plan on attracting the attention of agents or publishers. Link to relevant work you’ve done, talk about what you’re working on, and say if you’re open to freelance work or if you’re looking to be published. You can also create a separate page for these things, as many blogs have media/PR pages, “work with me” pages, or “around the web” pages with relevant links.

Get involved in social media. I’ll admit it, I used to despise social media. “It’s so superficial!” I’d cry. “Who cares what I ate for lunch?” But social media isn’t just about posting pictures of your perfect avocado on toast. It’s intended to be, well, social. By getting involved on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and whatever other social media channel you prefer, you’re creating a way to network and to share your content. Almost every single publishing house has a Twitter account, and many agents, publishers, and editors have individual accounts. While there’s no guarantee that people will add you back or answer your inquiries, your chances are a lot better than if you simply didn’t get involved with social media at all.

In terms of social media etiquette, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:

1/.
Photos always do the best in terms of shares or likes, whether that’s on Facebook or Twitter.

2/.
Try to post every day on each channel, but vary the content you’re posting. Don’t worry, you don’t have to post every hour on the hour, but try to remain as active as you can (ideally one or two posts per day on each, and five or six posts on Twitter). Some platforms, like Twitter, allow you to schedule posts through sites like Hootsuite. Take note of when most of your audience is online and try to post then – just because you’re awake at 3m. doesn’t mean everyone else is.

3/.
Share your own content, but make sure to share other people’s content, too. This is a great way to network and to gain reciprocal sharing.

4/. 
Do not buy followers and do not play the follow/unfollow game (i.e. following hundreds of people and then unfollowing them all a few days later). These methods will only backfire.

5/.
Remember … be social! Interact with people, comment on other people’s channels, and always respond to comments you receive.

 

Create a realistic blog schedule for yourself. In the beginning, you might feel that you’re bursting with ideas and want to post every day (or even twice a day). While you should probably only start promoting your blog on social media after you’ve posted a few times, creating a realistic blog schedule will help you to maintain the site and hopefully keep your creative energy flowing. While many sites are successful even when only posting once or twice a month, I would aim for posting once or twice a week. Even more important than how many times you post, however, is when you post; readers like consistency, so try to post every Monday and Thursday, for example. The days to avoid posting are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, when not as many people are online.

Editing matters. While we would never think of sending off an article to a publication without editing it, some people take a different attitude to blogging, imagining it to be a more casual form of communication. While speaking in your own tone of voice or using colloquial phrases are both fine, make sure to edit each blog post for spelling, grammar, and consistency, just as you would an article for a publication. Creating well-written posts will help attract new readers and help keep old readers. Remember … you never really know who’s reading your blog, so don’t let sloppy editing turn a potential employer or publisher off from your writing.

Stick with it. In the beginning, blogging may seem overwhelming, especially if you compare yourself to other established bloggers. Remember that all of those bloggers were once in the same position you are, so it is fruitless to compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle or end. The most successful bloggers – no matter what your definition of success is – are those who keep it up and stay determined to produce great content. Don’t become too obsessed with your statistics; if you stick with it, those numbers will eventually grow. 

Have fun! At the end of the day, you should enjoy blogging. Create content you love, and others will pick up on that passion. As mentioned in the introduction, blogging can lead to so many great things; through my blog, I’ve become a better writer, I’ve made tons of amazing connections, and I’ve launched a career. After all these years, I still love blogging, and I always look forward to putting together new posts. While it may be a difficult slog in the beginning, blogging is, for the most part, an extraordinarily fun way to showcase your creativity and your passion. Who knows? Creating a blog might just change your life.

 

Photo Credit – This Battered Suitcase

 

NEW FEATURE
Become a Blogger Today with Bookpres. 

At Bookpres we believe that blogging is a very good way to reach out to your existing audience but also to attract new ones. So besides displaying your work, social media and collect email subscribers on your Bookpres Profile Page, you now have the opportunity to reach your audience with your own blog.

It´s free to get started with a profile at www.bookpres.com

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