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Happy sort-of 4th birthday to And Possibly Dinosaurs! I started blogging on January 14, 2014 under a different blog name, and on April 17, 2014 switched the name over to And Possibly Dinosaurs. While I consider January 14 the official birthday of And Possibly Dinosaurs, I wanted to still honor April 17, since it’s a big deal for my blog as well.
In honor of April 17, I want to help you start a blog! The technical aspect of blogging can be so intimidating, but I don’t want it to hold you back. To help, I’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to start a blog!
Commit the Time
First, you have to commit the time if you want to start a blog! Planning, writing, scheduling, promoting, etc. takes a lot of time.
Don’t let this discourage you from blogging, though! Just keep it in mind as you’re prioritizing how you spend your time. You can absolutely ease into it, increasing your posting schedule as you get more comfortable with your process. But know that if you already have a pretty packed schedule, you might need to cut something else out in order to make time to blog.
I recommend committing to a set time each week to blog. Consider it your “office hours,” when you’ll sit down, plan out your content, and write. If you do more outside of that, great! But try not to move it around too much so you get in the habit of spending time with and on your blog.
Decide What to Write About
Once you’ve committed the time it will take you to run your blog, decide what you’re actually going to write about! You want a really good foundation of what your blog’s purpose is. While your content can change and adapt over time, it’s better to have a consistent umbrella over it the whole time, so your audience can adapt with you!
For example, I’ve changed my focus a few times since I started my blog about 4 years ago, but it’s always included encouraging content for 20-something feminist women. So even though I went from a lifestyle blog to a “blogging and design” blog to a “side hustle and career” blog, it’s always been consistent.
So, what do you want to write about right now? What about it excites you? And will those topics be able to evolve with you over time? Try to pick a few main topics (4-5 to start) so you’ve got a focus. But remember to be personal and experiment! You never know what content your audience will resonate with most.
Figure Out Who You’re Writing For
And speaking of your audience, figure out who you’re writing for! It makes it much easier to come up with content in the future. This can be a fictional person, someone you know in real life, or even yourself a few months or years ago!
My ideal reader, for example, is one of my best friends. She works full-time and has a packed schedule, but also loves being creative, writing, and sharing her story. So any time I’m in a blogging rut, I think of questions my friend would ask me (or what questions she already has asked!) and I instantly have a ton more ideas.
Who cares about your topic? What does their day-to-day life look like? What are their problems, and how can you help solve them? Keeping these in mind will help you create content, and keep your audience coming back because they feel like you understand them!
To help, I’ve got a free Ideal Reader Profile worksheet available in my Resource Library that I recommend checking out! Sign up for my email list below and you’ll get it emailed to you right away.
Create Your Blog Name
Next, it’s time to create your blog’s name! This is a lot easier once you know what you’re writing about and who you’re writing for.
The blog name is something a lot of people get stuck on, because there are so many options and it has to last! While it’s true that I don’t recommend changing your blog name (it’s a lot of work and you’ll likely lose a lot of your audience in the transition), choosing a blog name doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s a fun part of the process because there are so many options!
Option 1: Your Name
Some people, like Kory Woodard, go with their first and last name. And that’s awesome! It’s easy to come up with, it’s highly aligned with you, it can easily adapt if you change your focus. However, it doesn’t automatically tell your audience what you write about, and depending on your name, it might be hard to say or way too common.
Option 2: A Variation of Your Name
You could also go with a blog name based on your name, but not your first and last name. My friend Randi did this with her blog, Randi with an i. It’s got her name in it, but it’s got a little more of her personality than just Randi Shaffer would. But, just like with using your first and last name, it doesn’t necessarily tell your audience what you’re about.
Option 3: Nothing to Do with Your Name
And finally, you could be like me and not use your name at all. It can clearly tell people what you write about (or not… I don’t think And Possibly Dinosaurs tells you what I write about) and it can set you apart from everyone else. But again, there are so many options! I’d caution you against doing the classic blogger “_____ & _____” because there are already so many blogs out there that use that formula. Try to stand out a little more!
Domain Name & Social Handles
No matter what option you go with (again, all 3 are great options!), you’ll want to keep in mind your domain name and social handles. Make sure they’re available! If you can, have the same social media handles as your domain name. For example, my Instagram handle is @andpossiblydinosaurs, which mirrors the exact spelling in my domain name. If they’re different, your audience might find it hard to remember.
And be careful when you’re deciding on a brand name, because your domain and social handles will have no spaces and they’ll all be lowercase. Make sure you don’t unintentionally spell something else! My friend Kenzie wanted to create the Instagram account KC Loves Makeup, but when it’s shoved together for her handle, @kclovesmakeup, it looked like “K Cloves Makeup,” which isn’t what she wanted. Instead, she swapped it out for @kcdoesmakeup, which works perfectly!
Create Your Branding Elements
Next it’s time to create your brand! This is not only the look of your website, but also how your blog makes your audience feel when they visit you.
What is the first word you want people to think of when they visit your site? Encouraging? Relaxed? Exciting? Fun? Keep that word in your mind as you’re creating your brand!
Now, look around on Pinterest and pin images that remind you of your word. Keep in mind colors, photographs, fonts, words and phrases, etc. Once you’ve got a pretty good library of images, pick out the colors and fonts that you see the most. Try to limit yourself to 3-4 colors and 2 fonts. For those with little design experience, it’s easier to create a cohesive brand when you’ve got fewer choices to pick from.
Create Your Website
Now that you’ve got a pretty good foundation for your blog, it’s time to get it online!
Choose a Web Host
First, you need to choose a company to actually host your website. I’ve used a few in the past, and I recommend Siteground. I currently use Siteground and it’s amazing, and it’s not very expensive, either.
Once you choose your hosting plan (if this is your only website, I recommend StartUp, but I currently use GrowBig because I also host my online portfolio on Siteground), you’ll be able to choose your domain name as well.
Install WordPress on Your Domain
Once you’ve purchased your web host and set up your domain name, you’ll want to install WordPress onto your domain. To do this on Siteground, go to the My Accounts tab, and at the top you’ll see a red button that says “Go to cPanel,” which is what you’ll want to click on.
From there, find the section that says “Autoinstallers” and click on the W icon that says “WordPress.” Click on the blue “Install” button on the next page and select your domain from the drop-down menu (it should be the only one if you just set up your Siteground account).
For the Admin Account section of the WordPress installer, I recommend setting up a username that is not admin, as that’s the most common admin username and is therefore the easiest to hack. Select your password and type in your email account. It might auto-fill email@example.com, so make sure to change that to an active email address like your personal Gmail account.
Once you’re done with that, click Install and you should be good to go! You’ll be able to access your WordPress site by adding /wp-admin/ to the end of your domain name.
Choose a Theme to Install
Next, you have to choose a theme to install, which basically means you have to choose the layout of your blog. I recommend checking sites like Creative Market, Coded Creative, and ThemeForest.
As you’re looking at options, make sure you’re viewing the live demos so you can see what it will look like when it’s live. Also, as difficult as it will be, try to ignore things like the demo content! You’re buying the functionality, not the overall look of it. It’s your photos, blog posts, and branding that will be on the website, not the developer’s!
Once you’ve picked out a theme, purchase it and download the file to install. It should be a .zip file. Once you’ve located it on your computer, log into your WordPress site and go to Appearance > Themes and click on the “Add New” button at the very top of the page. Once the Add New page comes up, you’ll see the same button, but it says “Upload Theme,” which is what you want to click. That’s where you’ll be able to upload the .zip file that you downloaded. When it prompts you, upload and activate the theme!
Create an Editorial Calendar
Now it’s time to create an editorial calendar! This is how you’ll plan out what content you’ll be creating and when they’ll go live. This should include both blog posts and newsletters if you’re going to start an email list (which I recommend!).
Don’t overwhelm yourself when you first create an editorial calendar! You’ve probably seen bloggers who have new blog posts 5 times per week (or even more!). Don’t base your editorial calendar off of their standards; they’ve been blogging for a long time, and they’ve likely got a team who helps them.
Start with 3-4 blog posts per month and see how much time and energy writing a blog post takes. Once you get comfortable with it, increase your frequency!
Consistency is key here: if you’re not going to post every day (which you shouldn’t at the beginning), pick the day of the week your blog posts will go up. Maybe you want a new post to go up on Tuesdays. Set up your editorial calendar for Tuesdays, then! Remember, you can always write a post in advance and schedule it to go live on a certain day, so you don’t have to write it that same day.
That’s really it! Stick to your schedule as best as you can, because consistency will help your audience come back and remember who you are.
As you’re writing your blog posts, remember to be yourself. The most successful bloggers are the ones who can infuse their personality into their blog posts! Your audience is more likely to trust you if they know who you are!
And remember, be as helpful as possible. As you’re writing each post, ask yourself, “what’s in it for my audience?” Because, while this is likely a great creative outlet for you, in the end, you’re writing this for someone.
Blogging is such a rewarding experience! It can be overwhelming to start a blog, but with a little guidance, you’re sure to find your groove!