Over the years, I’ve received so many messages asking me “how to start a blog”. Recently I asked you guys for help with my logo on Instagram and it brought up a lot of blogging questions. I usually receive messages asking about how to take photos, how to grow a following, but now I am flattered to be asked about blogging. It’s something I really love doing and I’m glad to help a fellow blogger in any way I can because so many others helped me.
My blogging story is pretty simple – I graduated from college with a Bachelors in Interior Design the same year of the housing market crash. I became discouraged and my dreams of designing were put on the back burner. A year or so later I discovered Pinterest (back in the day when you had to be on a waiting list to join) which then led to my discovery of blogs.
I saw bloggers posting things I KNEW about. Things I DID ALREADY. Things I WANTED to share. My love for blogs grew over the next few years and then Joe and I started building our house. I figured the best way to document that time of our lives was with a blog. It was also around that time that the “decorating niche” on Instagram really started to grow. I was hooked.
Then, I really learned how to make a blog a business. Yes! You can make money from blogging! It is possible with ad networks, affiliate marketing, sponsors, etc. (post contains affiliate links, see disclosure)
HOW TO START A BLOG
First, you have to choose between Blogger and WordPress. Blogger is a free service owned by Google. I started out on Blogger and really liked it. It is user friendly and there are many tutorials online for setting one up and running it. If you are just starting out and not sure if blogging is really for you, it is a great option.
However, if you really want to monetize your blog, have custom features, and a more professional look then WordPress is the best choice. I made the switch to WordPress a couple of years ago and it was the best decision ever.
With WordPress you will also need a host and there are lots out there – Bluehost, Go Daddy, etc. However, a friend referred me to Siteground and it is THE BEST. I have never experienced or heard any horror stories (like with other hosts) and their customer service is phenomenal.
You will also need to have a domain name (i.e. designedsimple.com) and a name is pretty important. If you have been wanting to know how to start a blog then I’m sure, you’ve already thought of a name. Be sure it’s a name you can live with for a while and one that doesn’t limit your growth and opportunities. And if you have followed me since the beginning then you already know I changed my name a couple of times.
Next, you will need a theme. This step applies to both Blogger and WordPress. I had themes for both and most web designers offer both options. A great place to browse themes is Etsy. Remember to make sure the theme you choose is mobile responsive, as now more than ever people are looking at blogs on their phones and tablets instead of desktops.
Some of my favorite themes have been from:
Now you’re ready to start writing. Pick a few topics you are passionate about and blog about them. Blogging has really become my passion. DIY projects and decorating is something I would be doing even if I didn’t have this platform to share it. When you are passionate about something, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
Email and Social Media:
One thing I have recently learned and something I would tell my past self is the importance of an email list. Instead of focusing on growing your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST. You can never control the algorithms of social media or if your followers will even see you in their feed. However, you can control if you show up in their inbox! There are many email subscription services out there and most are free to use (with subscription limits).
Pinterest is one of the biggest platforms and something a lot of bloggers, including myself, use to drive traffic to their blogs. Pinterest is actually a search engine and not really social media. One of my favorite Pinterest strategies is Tailwind. It’s a scheduler that helps me pin from my own blog and fellow bloggers I’m inspired by. It’s great because I can’t be on Pinterest all day, nor do I have time to be. So for a few hours a month, I can schedule out my pins weeks in advance and let Tailwind do the work for me.
They now also have Instagram scheduling and great analytics! And they are the only certified third party app that Pinterest or Instagram allows! So you won’t get penalized or ghosted for using them.
Courses and ebooks:
Blogging is something you have to learn about and study if you wanna do it right. E-courses, ebooks, online classes, etc are everywhere and everyone is sharing their information. However, if you can find a few people you trust and admire – learn everything you can.
I recently took an online e-course with live training, Q&A sessions, and a great support group. The course will be available again soon and I highly recommend it whether you are a seasoned blogger or just starting out.
One thing that can really help you is knowing basic code and how to fix little things on your blog. One book that really helped me was What the Tech? by Leslie Clavijo. She teaches you all the basics and how you can change things on your own without having to hire a techie for help. It will save you tons of money to know the basics!
To keep me organized and on track, I use an editorial calendar. In Angie’s ebook, she shows you just how easy it is to plan your blog posts for an ENTIRE YEAR! Yes, you can do it. She shares ideas on what to write about, how to brainstorm them for yourself, and a list of seasonal post ideas.
If you really want to take your blog to the next level, photography can do that for you. In Anika’s book The Ultimate Photography Book for Bloggers she teaches you how to use a DSLR camera in manual mode to capture stunning interior and food photos.
I am no expert in photography at all and am still learning. It’s usually what everyone notices about a blog right? The photos. I bought my camera a few years ago and I love it. It’s great for beginners but still gives the quality photos I was looking for. I also use a tripod and shutter remote when taking most of my pictures in manual mode. The tripod and shutter will allow for clear and crisp photos.
Once all my photos are uploaded to my computer I use Lightroom to tweak them. I try not to use it too much because it can look heavily edited if you are not careful. I learned everything I know about Lightroom from Beth’s course The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Lightroom. You’ll learn the quickest and easiest way to batch edit your photos and make them look awesome!
I also use Photoshop to do a lot of my e-designs, blog post roundups, and pinnable images. Adobe offers a monthly subscription for both programs and that is what I use, so I always have the most up to date software.
One of my favorite programs and the easiest one to use is Pages on my MacBook Air. It is the program I use the most for my shopping guides and pinnable images. I can create templates with fonts and colors specific to my brand and then import the different photos or products. It makes it so easy! I also use my Magic Mouse for my MacBook. It makes it much easier to edit photos and do e-designs in Photoshop.
I use the AirDrop feature to share photos between my computer and phone to make posting to Facebook or Instagram very easy. However, if I do take a photo on my phone I will use the Lightroom app or VSCO app to edit the photo. I also use the app Plann to “plan” out my Instagram posts and get a preview of how all of my photos will look in my feed.
One of the very first ways I started making money as a blogger was with affiliate earnings. Affiliate marketing allows you to earn a small commission for promoting company products. Every company has different rates and commissions, rules, etc.
One of the largest and one of my favorite affiliate networks is Share-A-Sale. They have companies like Wayfair, Minted, Balsam Hill, Antique Farmhouse, Decor Steals, etc. Another large affiliate network is Commission Junction (CJ). They have companies like Pottery Barn, West Elm, etc. Target also has one of its own affiliate networks.
However, when you belong to a lot of different affiliate programs it can get a little overwhelming and is a lot to keep track of. One of the reasons I use an affiliate program like Reward Style is that all of these companies and more are in one place. The commission is a little bit lower, but once you are approved through Reward Style you are approved for all the companies. With other affiliate networks, you would still have to apply to each company individually.
Reward Style is Like to Know It. Like to Know It is a program used mostly on Instagram by design and fashion bloggers. It allows followers to screenshot or “like” photos to receive direct links to the products featured in the bloggers’ photos. It is very convenient and a quick way to earn some affiliate money. If you would like to be referred to join Reward Style as a blogger or Instagrammer, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Once you build up enough page views, adding ad networks to your website can really earn some extra income. There are many ad networks out there starting with Google Adsense which is great for beginning bloggers. Eventually, you can work your way up to higher-paying ad networks (Monumetric, Mediavine, Ad Thrive) with more page views or sessions. You are paid from views or clicks and rates for each are different. I personally have been using Monumetric from the very beginning and love them!
Sponsored posts and social media promotions:
Sponsored posts are how a lot of bloggers make money, myself included. Brands will contact you for a promotion on your blog and a few social shares. The terms and conditions are different for each post or brand, but it’s a great way to make a nice chunk of change.
There are so many networks out there that use bloggers as influencers to help promote other companies and products just on social media. Social Fabric, Collectively, and She Knows are just a few. So instead of spending time writing a full blog post or tutorial, it is just a short blurb on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Brands will also work with you directly.
And last but certainly not least, join a tribe. Everyone needs a group of friends who really understand the dynamics of blogging. There are many Facebook groups to join and ironically some of my best friends are my blogging buddies. It’s fun to have someone to chat with, ask questions, and learn from. Most people in your life won’t understand all the ins and out of blogging like your blogging friends will. You can help each other with ideas, tech stuff, and even just to vent.
The community aspect is really one of my favorite parts of blogging. It’s women supporting women (and some men) to help each other grow successful businesses. There is enough room for all of us in this blogging world, so if you have a story to tell or a voice to share and are thinking about starting a blog. Go for it!