Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How to start a blog

I recently got asked the question "How do I go about starting a blog?" by one of my readers.
My answer is in short: Just go for it!

The longer version of my answer has some tips I've learned along the way, from both blogging myself and reading hundreds of other blogs. (These tips are for people wanting to start a personal blog. A business one would have a different approach - basically the opposite is true for most of my points)

  • Make it personal: You are not writing for a magazine, you are not writing for a specific audience. Your blog should have your voice, your experiences, and your view on things.
  • Pick a subject matter, or not: You could choose to review every film you've ever seen / write your love-life history / detail your holidays etc. You could do that, or you could choose not to. I started out thinking I'd blog about style tips for nursing moms, but it quickly became more personal, a kind of scrapbook of my life parenting my boys, with recipes, crafts, poetry and my life philosophies thrown in too!
  • If you are going to write, write with passion: Readers can tell if you are speaking from the heart or not. I've come across blogs that read like a dissertation/school assignment, and I move on pretty quickly. Write as you would speak, curse if you feel like it, imagine you're telling a story to a good friend, keep it real.
  • Don't worry about getting readers at the start. You can choose to write a blog and not publish it online for a while, in fact that's a good tip! All too often I've been directed to a blog (via another one), which starts out great, one witty post, but I go to read more and there is no more yet. I would rarely take note of the name and decide to re-visit again in the future. So maybe have 4-5 posts there before you publish it. I can spend an hour reading through a great blog, I'll join up to receive their feed, and I'll be a loyal reader. Readers will come when you have something for them to read. "Build it and they will come"!
  • Don't worry about taking your blog in a new direction, as long as it's under the same loose umbrella. For example I have labelled my blog an "attachment parenting blog", people can find it easily, and they know from the start what they're about to read. I don't get many Gina Ford fans, and that's how I like it! Define your space, but feel free to introduce new topics as you feel like it.
  • Read other blogs: I was an avid reader of some blogs for a good while before I started mine. It gave me an idea of what layout and "feel" I wanted for mine. Get following some other bloggers, not necessarily in your "area" and see what inspiration you get from them. Maybe it's a certain kind of photography, a shabby-chic layout, a witty use of the comments box etc. It will help you form an idea of the blog you want.
  • Feel free to change up your blog: I was constantly messing with the layout / colour scheme / gadgets until I got a "look" I was happy with. I still add and change elements, removing what's not working and tweaking here and there. Imagine it's your living room, you are free to re-decorate whenever you want to! 
  • Anonymous or not: If you're sharing deep personal details / family details you may wish to keep your blog anonymous. Or you may want to shout from the rooftops! This is a hard one to change once you've gotten started, so think about it carefully.
  • Remember why you're blogging: Everyone goes through fits and starts, blogging loads, then not at all. That is life. You may decide to jack it all in, it may get bigger than you ever imagined and become a burden. Remember why you started, that can be a great motivator in the tough times. For me it was wanting to practise writing, to have a voice and to get some parenting ideas "out there" to share with other parents. If I ever get overwhelmed by it I take a step back. I can delete it all in an instant if I like. I am in control. That's very reassuring.
  • Unwanted guests: From time to time I will get a nasty comment, that's the luck of the draw. But 95% of the time I get positive ones. I moderate all comments now, and only allow the positive ones space in my mind and on my blog. There are difficult comments too, which are in a grey area, but I like to address these and answer the questions they bring up, so I publish them with a reply, and sometimes write a post about the issue they brought up. Remembering that some people are challenged by my beliefs helps when I get all "hackled" with a negative comment. But at the same time this is my space, my "living room", so I don't have to entertain them.
  • Don't pressurise yourself: If I told myself I had to write 4 posts per week, I wouldn't do it. I'd freak out, and start fretting about it. As it goes, I have 228 posts published, and 95 sitting there waiting to be finished or deleted. I'll blog a lot some days, collecting photos, setting up posts for the coming week(s), other days will go by and I'll do nothing. I may get the urge to share an idea, so I'll trot off a post in 10 minutes and hit "publish", other ones will take a couple of weeks of planning. Accept how you work best, and go with that. 
  • It's a hobby, not a job: There are some professional / superhero bloggers making a living out of it. Most of us do it because we like to do it. You might be lucky and make it big, or you might not. It shouldn't really matter, if you're enjoying it you'll be happy either way.
  • Re-read your blog posts: I rarely edit what I've written. I like a conversational "train of thought" style. But I will find one or two typos in each post on the second reading, which I clean up. I'm a real pedant, and a blogger goes down in my estimation the more typos they have (unless English is their second language). Spell-check is your best friend!
  • If you're a "mom blogger" think about your kids. Discuss with your partner and/or kids what you are happy to share, and what should remain private. Some "mom bloggers" are the online equivalent of pushy "stage moms", sharing photos and videos of their children's private moments for the world to comment on. This is your space, not your children's. They are usually too young to understand what a blog actually is. Do you want them berating you in ten year's time for showing that video of their tantrum / describing their first poo in the toilet? We don't know the long-term implications of sharing children's lives online, so let's be careful and protect them. 
  • Just do it: You could sit around for years thinking about it, planning it, coming up with excuses about it, but you should just do it! If you have time to watch 30 minutes tv in the week, you could spend that time writing your blog instead. You might blog for 10 minutes a day, after breakfast, or do 2 hours at night twice a week, whenever you get the chance, just do it!
  • I'm a total technophobe, I have trouble answering my phone some days (not even a smartphone!) but I've still figured out how to upload photos, write and publish posts and check my stats. It took a while, and I had to google a lot of questions, but it's like any new skill, you get better the more you do. If I can do it, you can! I'm on Blogger, but I hear Wordpress is good too, and I haven't a clue about any other ones! I registered a domain for 10e and have my own ".com" which is easier for people to remember. 
That's all I can think of for now, hope it encourages some of you to get started! If I've missed anything out please leave the details in the comments below, and if I've inspired you to start blogging please link it below!
Nee x

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Niamh! Very helpful, and so I begin ...!


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