Whether you’re a small business or consultancy owner looking to grow your business, or a solo writer looking to put more of your work in the world, you may have thought about starting your own blog. Your blog can be a powerful vehicle for getting more eyes to your brand, a unique corner of the internet in which you express your perspective, or even the start of your own publication, complete with contributors at all.
The question is though: how do you get started?
In this article, we’ll outline exactly what a blog is and six key steps for turning your blog from an idea to a fully-published reality. Refer to this article whether you’re setting up a blog for the first time, or you’re looking for a refresher on where to begin.
What is a blog?
The simplest way to think about a blog is as your own online journal. A blog is a website that is updated regularly, where you share new information in the form or articles or posts. It is distinct from other websites in that the core form of content shared is editorial in nature (meaning written words or visuals that convey information), unlike say an e-commerce website that is updated regularly, but mostly with products available for purchase.
Blogs are often considered solely for personal use or a small group of individuals under a common theme, but a blog can serve many purposes. It certainly can be used as a space for journaling or sharing personal experiences (think: travel diaries) or opinions (think: a movie review or restaurant review blog). Companies can also use blogs to help build their brands, answer commonly asked questions, and better serve both the needs and attentions of their consumers.
6 Steps to Start a Blog
The hardest part of starting a blog is figuring out where to start. Below, we’ve outlined six chronological steps to get going.
1. Consider your goals for your blog
A good question to ask yourself first is: why do I want to start this blog? This can lead you down a path to some additional questions, such as:
- Do you want to grow your business?
- Do you want to establish yourself as a writer?
- Do you want a place to house your thoughts and opinions?
- Are you trying to just get into a regular writing practice so that you can apply for roles as a writer?
- Are you a chef who wants to share your recipes with the world?
- Do you want to make some side income through your writing?
These questions can go on and on, and every person is likely to have one to three answers that are uniquely theirs. Your goals will help determine several things: how often you write, what the theme of your blog is, and where you choose to build it.
Let’s start with an example of how these questions can get you closer to understanding your blog goals: Your name is Sandy Smith and you’re an aspiring writer looking to earn more freelance writing income. You want to build a blog as a central repository for your writing elsewhere, but also to publish original articles as you want to write them. You imagine you’ll update your blog once a week.
2. Determine what you want your blog to be about
A simple framing question for yourself here is: what is the theme of my content?
If you’re running a business, that can be a straightforward answer: you want your blog articles to relate back to your business in some way. For instance, Uber can have a blog that is specifically tips for drivers and riders or you can have a blog that highlights travel guides throughout the cities in which Uber exists. Either themes are great options and on brand, but those themes will tie back to our first question – that is, your goal in creating the blog.
When you establish a cohesive theme, it gives order to your content and allows audiences to grow a relationship with what you’re publishing.
When you establish a cohesive theme, it gives order to your content and allows audiences to grow a relationship with what you’re publishing. If you publish anything under the sun, it becomes harder for readers to know what to expect. Whereas, let’s go back to our example of Sandy Smith and say she wants to review television shows. If all of the articles on her blog are the latest and greatest episodes of TV she watched and her opinions of them, she may eventually develop an audience who desperately wants to know what Sandy has to say after the latest episode of The Last of Us airs.
3. Find a platform for your blog
The goals for your blog will also help determine what platform you choose to host your blog on, as well as the resources at your disposal. If you’re working on behalf of a company with an editorial budget, you might look to a blogging option like WordPress or Ghost, where you can develop a beautiful theme and have a very distinct look and feel to your blog that matches your company’s branding.
If you’re an individual looking to publish content for yourself, you may look to a less designed option that you can start writing on immediately, like Medium or even Tumblr. If you’re thinking about having your blog as a portfolio for your achievements, you can even use your Polywork profile and highlights to write about your latest achievements.
Then again, if you’re looking to make money from your writing, you’ll want to consider other options. Platforms like Substack or Patreon allow creators to establish subscriptions for their content, so you could charge readers a monthly fee or per piece of content you publish. Alternatively, you can look to something like WordPress and try to grow your audience substantially, and then develop plans for sponsored content that can come with a fee for brands.
The former option allows you to bring in revenue immediately and is best suited for creators who have an existing audience or a specific niche in which people really want to pay, while the latter option works if you’re looking to the longer term and do not need to make money tomorrow. In our example for Sandy, she may opt for the latter, hoping one day that streaming platforms like Max or AppleTV+ will pay for her to review their specific shows after she’s established herself.
4. Do your creative legwork
Now that you’ve spent some time thinking about the infrastructure for your blog, it’s time to get creative! This often starts with the name of your blog. You’ll want to choose something that is memorable and allows you to stand out. That is, you wouldn’t want to choose to name your blog “Target” because if someone googles that, they are never going to reach your blog (they’ll get hit with the big box store every time).
Your name will also relate back to the goals in which you set. If you’re looking to build your personal brand, you may want to tie your blog back to your name or your niche. For example, best-selling chef Molly Baz publishes recipes (among other things) weekly under the name The Club. It’s a simple name, but also is a nice play on words for a chef, as a club sandwich is a tried-and-true deli order.
After you’ve selected your name, you’ll want to consider the other creative decisions that are within your control. Those decisions are often dependent on the previous step, that is, the platform that you chose. On a platform like Medium, you’re fairly confined in your design decisions, whereas with WordPress or Ghost, you may want a custom font or colors or designs.
With any of the platforms, you’ll want to consider if you need or want a logo to go with your blog, at which point you can try designing your own or work with a designer to make your dreams come true. Once you have your blog set up and designed to your liking, you can also determine if you want to keep your blog on your given URL or choose a custom URL, in which case you’d want to buy a domain and link up your blog to your custom domain. Then, you’re ready to publish!
5. Write and publish your first blog post
It’s time to write! You’ve got so many of the important decisions behind you now, and it’s time to just get to creating content, publishing, and sharing it with the world. Think again about your goals for your blog. If you’re the brand looking to grow your footprint, you may want to consult an SEO tool to discover your keyword opportunity. If you’re Sandy, and you’re looking to showcase your work and potentially grow some side income over time as a TV reviewer, you might want to consider choosing to write about shows that have big or devoted followings as that will increase your chances of discoverability.
You’ll also want to decide on how much you want to publish to start. On a more designed platform like WordPress or Ghost, your site will look empty with one article, so you might want to bank eight to 10 articles before you publish, and then release those all around the same time before you share your work with the world. On a platform like Substack or Tumblr, you’re less beholden to the aesthetics of a good homepage because your articles are published as more of a feed.
6. Develop a marketing checklist
Congratulations, your blog is live! Now, how do you get people to start reading it? You’ll want to consider a marketing checklist every time you publish a blog or whenever you do a major update on the blog in general. That checklist can include the following questions:
1. Did you share with your friends and family?
2. Did you send out an email to your mailing list?
3. Did you share on social media (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, etc.)?
4. Have you set up analytics, such as a free Google Analytics account, to measure your progress and impact?
The list of social platforms is endless, but you’ll want to consider how (and to whom) you’re distributing what you’re writing if one of your goals is to grow your audience over time.
Developing a personal blog: Time to get started
You did it! You have a blog that you’re publishing regularly and sharing with the world.
Be sure to regularly check analytics on your blog to see what’s getting the most attention and to help you strategize or readjust your goals as you need to. If you’re looking to start publishing your achievements and projects in actual minutes, be sure to give Polywork a try.