Over the last few months I’ve had quite a few questions about how to start a blog. It’s incredibly flattering to be asked these kinds of questions - but to be honest most of the time I don't feel equipped to answer them. This blog is just barely over six months old and while I have learned a lot in this short amount of time - I don’t think I’ve quite nailed down all of the variety of things that go into it.
One of my goals for this Year is to work on it and grow it, whether that means having more people read it, or just to master the process, so In many cases I am in the same boat as people who are just starting a blog, or thinking about starting it.
However, I’ve been lucky enough to have some exposure to people who have a lot more experience than I do, and to learn from them. I’ve only attended one conference, but I got A LOT of education out of it. It would be crazy to try and share all of that with you in one post, so for now I am focusing on the aspect that is THE most important thing to figure out first. It sounds simple but can be very difficult.
Knowing who you are:
This is about more than knowing what you like to write about, although that’s part of it. It affects every aspect of your blog: how it looks, how you write and how others see you.
- Content: What you write about says a lot about who you are. I love coffee, I love cooking and I love helping or mentoring others, so many of my posts centre around these types of things. I love interior design, so there may be posts about things I do around my house, or things that inspire me - but it is unlikely that any of it will include homemade furniture or painted salvaged goods. It’s not really my strong suit. When you are first starting out, you can experiment a little but try to focus in as much as you can as quickly as you can or you run the risk of losing people before you even get started.
- Voice: Once you know what kind of content you want to write about you need to decide how you will communicate those things. Are your posts going to sound conversational? Or do you want to make it sound more professional, magazine-esque? Is this a personal journal, a chat with friends or an article? Will it be heartfelt, educational, ironic or funny? Choosing a few words or sentences to describe the way you want to be perceived can help you narrow this down, I originally chose; "teach & learn" "chat with friends" and "led with the heart". Hopefully those all sound like my blog to you! Again experimenting here is ok but for a short period only.
- Perception: This includes a few things and I could (and maybe will) write a whole post on its own. However, I just wanted to touch on it generally here. Obviously content and voice play a part in how you are perceived but all the visual components of your blog have to line up with this. Does the design of your blog fit what you are trying to convey and who you are? I tend to like more minimalist and modern design, so my blog leans towards that aesthetic - but I also wanted to add fun elements that showed my personality (such as the about photo).
This also goes for the title of your blog – arguably one of the hardest decisions you will make at the beginning. Many blogs use things that convey exactly what you are getting, for example; the budget mama, minimalist baker, the crafted life etc. Other bloggers use personal names, nicknames or variations; Monika Hibbs, Hey Natalie Jean, Janycarb etc. My decision to go with Janycarb was based on a couple of things – it has been a nickname for a long time, it feels like me and I wanted to make this blog as personal as possible.
Next in terms of perception is how your photos work on your blog – do they work together with the design or distract from it? Don’t take your photos for granted – they are an important part of your blog (as well as social media presence) and learning to take good photos is a valuable skill. There are lots of free editing programs, lots of photography tutorials on youtube and resources to improve your skills. An SLR is a great tool – and ultimately I would recommend getting one – but if all you have is an iphone right now, then learn how to make it work for you. These posts here and here are all iphone photos.
Lastly ( I know, I thought we’d never get here too) is your interaction with readers – answer comments as much as possible, if you make a mistake correct it and be honest about your abilities (or lack thereof) they will appreciate it if you are a trustworthy source of information.
In trying to figure all of this stuff out; who you are and what you want to say, I find it helpful to create a list or mood board of other blogs, shops or brands that you like. Highlight the areas you like most and want for yourself, even some of the things you may want to avoid. Don’t copy them, obviously – but this should give you a good starting point for developing your own ideas.
I hope this was helpful!