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So you’ve decided to take the leap and want to start your own blog? That’s so exciting! Blogging has been such a great creative outlet and hobby for me and I’d love to help you get started on your own.
The amount of blog info on the web is literally everywhere. So much so that it is overwhelming AF.
For someone who is new to blogging, it can be quite the feat to remember everything you need to do:
- Think of a niche that will be enjoyable to write about day in and day out…
- Create a domain name…
- The self-hosted or free site question…
- Register previously said domain name…
- Download/install WordPress…
- Choose a theme in the masses of blog themes available…
- Learn WTF a widget is…
- And how to use those widgets…
- How to customize your theme for your particular site…
- Writing your very first blog post/about me/work with me page etc…
Those 10 things are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blog information. All of that will just get your site up and running…blogging longterm is much, much more complex.
So, grab a coffee and get cozy – this is a long one!
Let’s get started!
Start your own blog
I remember how scary that sounded just a few months ago. When I started LLB I literally knew nothing about the blogging world. However, I have spent a
lot tremendous amount of time researching, trial-and-error-ing and crying out of frustration. I have survived the first few months in the trenches and have learned so much.
Choosing your niche
Deciding on your niche is very important and deserves some quality time spent thinking about it. There are so many niches to choose from:
- Bucket list adventures
- Mommy stuff
Pick a couple of those that you are most passionate about. What do you think you can write about longterm and not get bored with?
When I first started I went with a general “lifestyle” niche. I thought if I narrowed my niche too much I would either
A: get bored
B: not have any readers
As a result, I had categories on my page about everything from holidays to whole30 recipes to travel to fashion and beauty. Don’t do this. Choosing one broad category is gonna be more of a headache than you realize now.
What you want to do is pick one or two niche areas and then narrow that down into smaller categories. Trust me, you won’t write yourself out of topics by having a more defined niche. It is actually just the opposite – you’ll have pages of things to write about.
Say you wanna keep the overall lifestyle niche, that’s fine, just narrow that down. It can be more defined to regional lifestyle (southern living, midwestern blogging, east coast lifestyle, etc) Or you can talk about simple/minimalist living, health/organic/homemade living, homeschooling children, or pet care. Someone, please write an article about how to actually keep boots on little dogs.
From this, your structure could look like: Lifestyle –> Southern living –> health/organic/homemade living –> you can write about anything from whole food recipes, organic gardening, indoor gardening, homemade cosmetic products, raising animals like chickens or goats, sourcing high-quality meats/vegetables from local farmers/farmers markets etc.
If you want a beauty blog you can write about cheaper beauty products that dupe well for their expensive counterparts. I would actually read this. I cry a little everytime I check out at Sephora. Or you can write about beauty products for people that are chemical conscious, or people that travel, or how to keep your makeup on in the humidity. Or delve into hair care or body care.
The options are seriously endless.
Don’t worry about making your niche profitable at first. Write things you’re passionate about and you’ll start building the followers and then the money will come. Don’t straight away choose a blog that has a profitable niche because readers know when you’re only in it for the money, your posts will be sloppy and uninteresting. And blogging is not a get rich quick scheme.
I realized about a month into blogging that I was already bored with my writing. I had categories I cared about – I love whole30 eating, I get schoolgirl giddy over the holidays, and absolutely adore Stitchfix but I didn’t care enough about those topics to keep my blogging sustainable.
So I went back to the drawing board and thought long and hard about what it is I truly care about and what do I love more than anything. I actually turned to my bucket list for inspiration and found that most items on the list were either travel related or food related.
There ya go.
Travel and food blogs are some of the most popular around and there are some real heavy hitters doing great work with their niches, but whatev. Dream big.
If you’re having trouble with your niche just think about
- what you would do if you had all the money in the world
- or had all the time in the world
- or what would you enjoy teaching/talking about the most
You name it, you can write about it. Seriously.
There is even an article about grandmas dying their hair bizarre colors.
Choosing your name
I’ll admit – this is the suckiest part. Choosing a name is SO painful. I don’t know how parents name their children without feeling 10 tons of regret or spend everyday second-guessing themselves.
Remember in grade school when your English teacher made you brainstorm before writing a paper? She was on to something. That’s what we’re gonna do here.
Now that you have your niche figured out, write a list of some of those narrow niche topics you plan to write about. From there write down words that are associated with it.
We can take our example above:
Lifestyle –> Southern living –> health/organic/homemade living –> whole food recipes, organic gardening, indoor gardening, homemade cosmetic products, raising animals like chickens or goats, sourcing high-quality meats/vegetables from local farmers/farmers markets.
Words that come to mind include food, meals, comfort, family, fresh, fruit, vegetables, local, animals, the south, pastures, farm, healthy, exercise, fit, etc. Think about how those words play with each other, the tone of your site, how they look squished together in a web address (don’t want consecutive letters), and how you plan on writing.
I knew that I was writing about travel and bucket list things, but I knew I did not want anything related to travel in the name. With so many great travel blogs and people using “nomad”, “traveler”, “wanderer”, “wanderlust” etc I knew that my little blog would probably get lost, and besides, those words are so overused and boring.
There was a blog post I read somewhere about alliteration and how that always works well for bloggers. I started thinking about the blogs I follow and realized that most of them have an alliterative title.
Choosing a name is tough and will take some time. Don’t rush through this because once you buy your domain you’re pretty much set. I suggest coming up with a couple different names and variations because more than likely the first one, two, or seventeen names will not be available. I can’t even remember how many names I went through until I found one that was open.
Feel free to play around with site names using the box below. This will let you know if a prospective site is available for purchase. Spoiler alert: I use and LOVE Bluehost.
Don’t make my mistake:
Don’t just search Bluehost for your prospective name. Once you have something that is available for purchase go on ALL the social media channels and search that name. Make sure you check the obvious ones like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram. But also check the less obvious ones too – Snapchat, Google +, and even Etsy.
After probably 20 different site names (I wish I was joking) I found one that was available on Bluehost. Hallelujah! I checked around on Facebook and Instagram – still open. I was over the moon because this was finally over and I immediately purchase the name on Bluehost before anyone else could take it. The next day I was registering my blog name to the social channels and found someone with a VERY similar name on Twitter and someone else with THE EXACT SAME NAME ON ETSY.
I wanted to cry and give up on blogging before I’d even began. It was back to the drawing board and eventually I came up with my current name: Lilies and Lightning Bugs. I checked every site I could think of to make sure the name was free. When I found that it was I called Bluehost and they very graciously changed my name for me.
Moral of the story: do your research.
Free or self-hosted…that is the question
The next decision you’ll need to make is whether or not you want a free or a self-hosted blog. I don’t think this is much of a decision, but I’ll throw it out there for you anyway. I like transparency.
Free blogs are just fine if your end goal is to keep a journal or update family members on your life, trips, daily musings etc.
Free blogs come from Blogger or WordPress.com. These are the blogs that are yourcoolblogname.wordpress.com. There’s a lot going on there and it doesn’t look nearly as professional as a self-hosted site does. If you ever have any plans of monetizing your blog, just start out with a self-hosted site and save yourself a lot of heartaches. Free blogs make it very tough to do anything other than writing and you don’t own your site. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pour my heart and soul into something and not have a say over it.
On the other hand…
A self-hosted blog, which is what most quality blogs are, come from WordPress.org.
The .com and .org extensions can confuse people and it took me a while to remember which one is best. A self-hosted blog is one that resides on your own server.
Most people use Bluehost or Siteground as their hosting providers. Think of it this way…you’re essentially renting a small piece of the internet for your blog and the host is your landlord.
I like to be completely transparent here and say that I have never used anyone but Bluehost. When I was doing my research I consistently saw them being the most highly recommended by bloggers everywhere and I can totally back that up now. You already know about my hiccup with the domain name, but I also had a few problems during those first couple days and they were always there to help me. Like I said, I knew nothing about this world but all I had to do was call. There was never a long hold time and a real person always answered the phone.
Bluehost is the best and I cannot recommend them enough.
How to register your domain name
Let’s review: you’ve selected a niche, found a site name that is available, and have decided on your hosting provider.
Cheers to that!
I obviously use and recommend Bluehost so this part of the tutorial will discuss registering your domain name with them.
You can click the link above or the picture below to head over to Bluehost. Once there, you’ll click the green “get started now” button.
You can choose a plan based on what you think you will need. I went ahead and selected the prime right away based on my plans for the blog. I wanted unmetered website space and bandwidth so, based on price and options available, it made the most sense to select prime.
After choosing a plan you’ll be asked to input your domain name. For new sites, type your prospective name under the “new domain” box. Hopefully, you’ve already checked to make sure it’s available. If not, you’re about to find out!
Bluehost makes it easy to transfer a domain from another host. You’ll want to type your current domain under the “I have a domain name” box. I’m not certain what happens when you transfer a domain, but I’d imagine there is some sort of verification process.
After that screen, you’ll be asked to input your account and payment information, then boom. You now have a blog.
Downloading and Installing WordPress
This is super easy and probably self-explanatory. Once you’re logged into Bluehost and are looking at your home screen/cpanel, you’ll see towards the middle of the page a heading called “website builders”. Under that, you’ll see “install WordPress”. Click it. Then you’ll proceed through the next set of steps – accepting terms/conditions, selecting the site you want WordPress on, and then click install again.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. You’ll start to see different options for themes and you can browse those if you wish. Or proceed on and choose a prettier theme :).
Decorating your blog
Now comes the fun part, choosing your site design! There are a lot of options available for themes and most of them start around $50. I personally use the Genesis framework from Studio Press with the “travel pretty” child theme from Pretty Darn Cute Designs.
It was super easy to customize and has tons of widget space. My track record with blogging has been the second time around is the charm. I had a different theme prior to this one and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to look right. Spend time looking at the theme carefully and make sure it can do everything you want before you purchase.
One major tip- you want your theme to be mobile responsive. So much traffic comes from mobile devices so in order to be successful your blog must look good when being viewed from a mobile device.
If you’re not feeling the whole site design thing and would rather leave that to the professionals, Pretty Darn Cute offers a WordPress theme set up with a 24-hour turnaround.
Blogging takes a lot of effort. Like, a lot. If I am not at my day job I am constantly working on the blog. It can be so overwhelming because there is so much information out there. It takes a lot of know-how and a great plan to go from an okay blog to a great blog.
I don’t know about you, but why start something if it’s not going to be great?
When I first started blogging I had so many useful tips from all over the place, but nowhere to organize them. It suddenly became very overwhelming and I thought I was in over my head. Quickly cue the self-doubt and tiny violin.
Five-day crash course for new bloggers
Enter the five-day crash course. This course was everything I needed at exactly the right time I needed it. Heather and Pete blog over at It’s a Lovely Life and have been very successful for many years…to the tune of greater than $30,000 A MONTH.
$30,000 a month.
I cannot even comprehend that. And the last few months they’ve earned upwards of $80,000 a month. They know what they’re doing and I definitely want to learn from them.
The free email course walks you through the basics of securing a domain name, installing and choosing a theme on WordPress, joining their popular Facebook groups, social media, and writing your first blog posts, to name a few things.
After this course, I became hooked. It was like a breath of fresh air. I had options and I had a HUGE community of people to help me. Blogging has come so far in the last decade and there really is no reason to go at it alone. Reach out to the community and make some friends!
30 Day Blogging Fast Track Course
From there I went on to enroll in Heather and Pete’s Blogging Fast Track Course. I was looking at a couple online blogging courses from several reputable brands, but I couldn’t decide on one. They ranged in price from $400-$2500 (a class in Bali) and I could not justify spending that much money on a class this early on.
Even though Bali is where. it’s. at.
Then I saw a post about the 30-day course, it was significantly cheaper and I figured I had nothing to lose. I felt so grateful for the 5-day course, I couldn’t imagine how much an actual class was going to help me.
The blogging fast track is an incredibly comprehensive blogging course that teaches the foundations to run a successful blog. No list of tips here, you will actually learn how to do this. Like I said, why mess around and reinvent the wheel? These guys learned from the ground up and it took them years, so go ahead and fast track that shiz for yourself.
You can check out the link here to be directed to their page to view the course outline as well as register if you so desire.
30 Day Travel Blogging Fast Track Course
I enjoyed the blogging fast-track course so much that as soon as they announced their new course the 30-day travel blogging fast track, I immediately signed up!
I said earlier when I first started my blog I wanted to write about everything. At first, I had such a broad niche that I didn’t know where to start. Content on the blog was less than stellar because I was just churning out content so I could have a post in each category. It wasn’t all that good because I didn’t really care about it.
After the 5-day email class, I started thinking about what makes me happy. I have an extensive bucket list and upon evaluation found that most of those items were related to travel and food.
Hey, girls gotta eat.
And see the world.
So, why not take those two passions and turn that into a blog? Duh!
Now here we are.
So, do yourself a favor and at least sign up for the crash course. It’ll change your entire thought process and possibly give you the direction you need to be successful.
This page will be updated on a continual basis as I learn and grow in the blogging world. I’ll always bring you my best tips and thoughts.
If you need any help just shoot me a line – [email protected]
Happy blogging y’all!