This post contains affiliate links.
Earlier this week I asked my Instagram followers if they had any questions about blogging. I wasn’t sure if anyone would respond, but I ended up receiving some really thoughtful questions! I’ve been blogging for so long, sometimes I forget how tough it was to get started and pick up steam.
I thought I’d take those questions and turn them into a blog post! Hopefully this will help those of you who are in the beginning stages of blogging.
The thing to know with blogging is there are no “right” or “wrong” way to do things. You could ask a dozen bloggers the same question and get a dozen different answers. But I also know it’s helpful to hear other people’s experiences, so I’m sharing mine! There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently when I started, but many things you simply have to try and learn on your own.
Your Frequently Asked Questions About Blogging
How did you get started with blogging?
I love this story! Even though it feels like I’ve told it a million times, it never gets old.
I’ve kind of always been a blogger. I built my first websites in high school and would publish journal-like entries on them. Then I joined LiveJournal and kept that going for a few years, until I was distracted by Friendster and MySpace and Facebook. I loved reading blogs, especially wedding blogs like Offbeat Bride, long before I got engaged.
When we did get engaged towards the end of 2010, and started planning our Disneyland wedding in 2011, I was frustrated by the lack of information out there. So I decided to start a blog and share my experience of planning a wedding at Disneyland with the world. I also started a Twitter account and a Facebook Page and a Facebook Group, and slowly other people who were planning Disneyland weddings started to find me. That was so cool! I loved getting emails from people, telling me that the information I was sharing helped them realize they could afford a Disney wedding. I was totally hooked on blogging; it gave me way more satisfaction than my day job ever did.
I became a full time blogger in 2013 when I was laid off from my job. I already had a bit of money saved up because my goal was to quit my day job the following year. So the process was sped up a bit, but everything worked out!
What is a good website to start off for a newbie blogger?
I started on Blogger (owned by Google), so that’s what I recommend. They make it very easy to set up your blog with pre-made templates and everything is free (you’ll have “.blogspot” in your URL). If you’re blogging as a hobby or if you’re unsure about keeping up with it, you can start here for free to see how you like it.
If you know you are going to be serious about blogging as a career and earning money, then I suggest you dive into self-hosted WordPress (wordpress.org). Blogger is a great platform but ultimately everything about your blog is owned by Google. Ideally, you want to own all your content, so paying for your own website is the way to go. (And transferring from Blogger to WordPress is a major pain. Trust me.) Obviously there are some expenses involved: You’ll have to purchase your URL (domain name), hosting, and probably a design template. Here is what I use and recommend:
Domain Hosting: Namecheap
I always recommend hosting your domain with a company separate from your website hosting. I’ve been using Namecheap for years and have never had any issues with them.
When I made the switch from Blogger to WordPress, I went with Hostgator. They have great “first year” deals, but even their regular basic shared hosting is very reasonable. I always tell people, your website is like real estate. If you had a brick and morter business, you’d have to pay rent, and if you want to be in a good neighborhood with lots of street traffic, you’ll pay a premium. Do not go cheap with your hosting.
Once I reached a certain amount of pageviews a month, Hostgator started throttling me. They told me my traffic was weighing down my shared server and they wanted to put me on a dedicated server for hundreds of dollars a month. I searched around and found LiquidWeb, who was able to accommodate all of my websites for a much lower price. I’ve been very happy with LiquidWeb’s product and customer service.
Design Templates: Studiopress
Studiopress (Genesis themes) are a bit pricey but oh-so worth it. I use their themes on all my websites. I purchased their Pro Plus package which gives me access to all of their themes for life. This is obviously an investment but if you have multiple WordPress websites or get bored of your blog style often, it may be a wise choice.
How did you go about building your blog when you got started? Did you have help?
When I first started I did it all on my own! It helped that I was familiar with basic HTML from when I customized websites in high school. But of course things were not perfect and it looked like an amateur designed my websites. However, the design didn’t really matter much to me in the first couple years. I was only interested in building up my content library and growing my page views.
When I rebranded in 2014 I paid a professional to help me because I was changing a lot of things – I was combining three websites into one new URL, I was transferring from Blogger to WordPress, and I wanted a completely fresh rebranding and design. I could have done all of these things on my own, but it would have taken me weeks and I would have broken a lot of things. It was totally worth the few hundred dollars to have someone else take care of it.
I’m interested in blogging but feel insecure. How can I get past that initial feeling of insecurity?
I totally understand feeling insecure and nervous about putting yourself “out there” with a blog. What if no one reads it? What if someone hates you and your opinions? I’m here to tell you that both of those things will happen. You can’t avoid it. But, if you can reach ONE PERSON who needs to hear your specific message, I think it’s all worth it.
Really, you just have to force yourself to get started. The first post is always the toughest, then it gets a lot easier as you go on.
Do you think there is more room for blogs or is it too saturated?
I absolutely think there is room for more blogs! Yes, there are a lot of blogs out there, but yours will be unique. That’s the whole point of blogging, is to get your unique perspective and stories out into the world so you can find your people.
I’m just starting in the blogging game, what are you best tips for beginners?
Just start and don’t think about it too much. Write what you know about. Don’t try to copy anyone else. Network with other bloggers in your same niche on social media. Not the big names, but the smaller bloggers. Give more than you take. Stay humble. Don’t burn yourself out.
How do you come up with new content?
I get ideas for new content from a lot of different places! But my main source of inspiration are my Facebook Groups. I look at the questions members are asking and turn those questions and answers into blog posts.
Do you ever get blogger’s block?
I really don’t! I actually have a huge list of article ideas; my main problem is finding the time to write all of them. In the past, I used to struggle with finding the time to write five new articles every week. But now I don’t worry too much about that. I’d rather take two days to write a well-thought out article than publish two articles that I’m not really proud of.
How did you come up with a blogging schedule when you still had a day job?
Blogging while I had my regular day job was definitely a struggle, but I was really motivated. At first I was motivated to just get all my Disneyland wedding information out there, and then once my blog started to grow I was motivated to keep it growing. And then I started a second blog, and started interning for a big blog, and everything was chaotic for a bit. I definitely had to make some sacrifices. I used to have a wild social life. I went out to comedy shows every night and parties every weekend. When I started the blogs, my social life pretty much came to a halt.
Having said all that, I maintained a pretty rigorous schedule that I don’t recommend. I published articles on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on one blog, Tuesday and Thursday on the second blog, and published three articles a week as an intern (along with answering emails and doing ad sales). I would generally work on the intern articles during the weekend, and write the articles for my own blog at night. The truth is, some of those articles are crap. I did a lot of round-ups back in those days, just to fill space because I thought I “had” to.
In hindsight, while I was grateful for the experience with a big blog, I wish I had not done the internship and instead focused more time on my own websites. I wish I had written one meaningful article on each blog per week, instead of writing just to fill space.
My best advice on this subject is to 1) schedule time to work on the blog, just like you would schedule any other appointment. And 2) be realistic with your time. If you can only write one article a week, or one article a month, that’s totally okay. As long as it’s quality work.
How do you stay motivated? I have a regular 9 to 5 job so it’s hard to find time to write on my days off.
This is a tough one. As someone who had a regular day job and also maintained two or three or sometimes FOUR blogs at a time, I look back now and realize it was really dumb. I wish I had more focus. So aside from scheduling time to work on the blog, I recommend getting clear on your WHY. WHY are you blogging? Why are you starting your website? Is it to eventually quit your day job? Is it to get free stuff? Is it to have a little extra money to go on vacations or hire someone to clean your house? Or maybe you don’t care about monetizing but you just want to have a creative outlet because it feeds your soul. All of these are wonderful reasons. But the motivation is directly tied to your why. Write down your why or your goals and hang them up above your desk if you need to.
What’s the best way you’ve found to get your work out there so people see it?
Studying up on SEO basics is very important. Nearly 60% of my website visits come from a search engine like Google. But, your articles need to have some basic optimization in order for them to have a better chance of being discovered.
Another 25% of my traffic comes from Pinterest, which is basically a visual search engine. So that’s almost 85% of my website visitors from just those two things. I always recommend bloggers pay attention to SEO and Pinterest.
While it doesn’t bring me much actual traffic to my websites, another huge factor for me are my Facebook Groups. The Facebook Groups establish authority for me, which may not bring me page views but it gets my name out there.
What are your tips for growing a blog audience?
The ultimate goal is to find your die-hard super fans who check your website every morning because they can’t get enough of your content, right? So my best advice for that is to:
1) Be consistent. If you blog every day for a week and then stop for a month, people are going to move on.
2) Stay on topic. Pick a niche and stick with it. If you want to be a “Lifestyle” blogger so you can write about several different topics, make sure your voice and style is consistent.
3) Love on your fans. Respond to every comment and every email. Say “thank you” a lot.
I hope all these answers are helpful, and thank you to my Instagram friends for asking such wonderful questions! Perhaps I’ll do another AMA on Instagram and add to this article in the future, so be sure to follow me on Instagram.
Images by Altar Image Photography