So, you want to be a blogger?

how-to-start-a-blog

I got an email from a reader last night, and it’s an email that I get quite often about blogging. It’s from the beginner blogger. The thought of blogging can be overwhelming and seem huge. HUGE. So, I thought I’d try to help by answering some of the questions here.

Grace wrote:

I would really love to get a bit better at blogging, but there are so many blogs nowadays, it’s really hard to develop a unique flavor that will attract readers.

I guess my question is – how did you start blogging? What is your “blogging story”? Obviously you now have a following and your blog looks AMAZING {haha}, at what point did you decided to get it looking professional? And how did you get it designed? And do you ever get “bloggers block”? Do you plan all your posts, or just do them when it suits? How do I get my blog “out there”?

Take a breath Grace. Here are my answers:

What’s my blogging story?

Six years ago I’d just had my daughter and I was intrigued by blogs created by my friends Zoe and Sky. I’d recently given birth to baby Lacey and decided I wanted a space for myself, so I created Fat Mum Slim. At first it was a private weightloss blog, but then became a blog about anything and everything. I was lucky that blogging was so new in Australia, and I guess relatively new around the world too, so that there weren’t as many voices as there are today. Over the past 6 years I’ve grown and so has my blog. It’s an extension of me, so as I change {or my life changes} so too does my blog.

How did I start blogging?

I Googled ‘free blogs’ and started on BlogSpot. It was really easy to use. I could change the designs a little myself, but most of all I just wanted to get started. You can see my very first blog post here. It’s super boring, no pictures, not engaging, but it was a start.
If I had my time again, as well as the tech-knowledge and the finances, I’d start on WordPress, just because I like it as a platform for blogging. It’s more professional, has more functionality. I may not like Blogger very much anymore because my old blog got hacked and Google won’t do anything about it. Yes, I think I’m scorned.

At what point did I decide to make it look professional?

I’m absolutely no designer, but I’ve always dabbled in doing my own stuff. I first got design help from Freckled Nest. Kyla designed my blogspot blog in 2011.

Fat Mum Slim 2011

And then when I moved to WordPress in 2012, I employed the help from Sarah of Castle Design. I use Sarah for any website work, I use Xman Online for blog hosting {can’t stress how good it is to have a good host} and with any difficult coding I get Liz to do her thing.

If you can afford Photoshop, I think Photoshop Elements is a great starter program for designing things for your blog. I have Photoshop CS6. I just teach myself how to use it, but you can always YouTube or Google things you want to know how to do.

And if you don’t want to go down the Photoshop route, there are great alternatives {i.e. easy to use design programs}. Picmonkey.com is a free online resource that allows you to add text to photos, as well as crop, resize, add shapes and design elements. I use it almost daily. I’ve heard great things about Canva too, if you want to try that one.

My best advice when it comes to designing elements on your blog is keep it simple. Choose two or three fonts and stick to them, as well as a beautiful colour scheme. If making things yourself is just too hard, but you can’t afford a designer – head to Etsy. You can get a premade blog design from $25. I like this one, and this one, and this one.

One last thing on design, I just want to stress how important it is to have a good looking blog. It doesn’t have to be the most beautiful, but it does have something special enough about it that when people land on your blog they want to stay and read.

Do I ever get blogger’s block?

I don’t really get blogger’s block, I get something else instead. I’m a really creative person, and as soon as I get stressed or overwhelmed, and I just can’t function creatively. It’s been hard for me to juggle client work {where creativity can often get hampered} and my own blogging. I wrote this post yonks ago about banishing blogger’s block, if you ever need help. And there’s this post with 50 Things To Blog About. I’ll also be sharing a blog post next week with some fun ideas for writing blog posts.

Do I plan all my blog posts?

In an ideal world I would, but at the moment {with a small baby on my hands} I just don’t have the time or brain space. I usually print out a blank calendar and do a rough schedule of what I want to blog about. I like to regularly share recipes, and do some posts about blogging, so I jot those down. Then on my wall in my office I have loads of post-it notes scribbled with blog post ideas, so I’ll plan some of those too. At the moment I’m just blogging when I get time and creativity to do it. I think everyone blogs differently, so you just have to figure out what works for you. {But whatever you do, especially in the beginning, do it regularly. Don’t blog 5 days in a row, and then abandon your blog for months and expect it to thrive. You have to nurture it!}.

How do you get your blog ‘out there’?

This is the hard part in blogging, but it’s good, hard work.

♥ Write regularly, let people become engaged with your blog and start a relationship with it. Keep them coming back for more.
♥ Find your voice. One of the biggest compliments I got was when a neighbour read my blog for the first time this year. He said to his wife, “She writes just like she talks.” This is what I want, to read like we’re having a conversation in real life. Find your voice too.
♥ Offer readers something valuable. Be interesting or useful.
♥ Find two social media platforms that you think you’ll enjoy using, and start with those. I think Facebook is great because your audience is already there {it has gazillions of users so the people are already at the party, you just have to entice them over to drink your wine!}, and depending on the niche of your blog Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram will work for promoting your blog.
♥ Be consistent on social media too. Don’t update your Facebook twice and then let tumbleweeds float on by.
♥ Be social. Comment on other blogs. You truly need to be part of the blogging community to actually be part of it. Don’t be afraid to join conversations on Twitter, even if you don’t know anyone. Reach out to established bloggers and say hi or ask for advice {well done Grace!}. Email another beginner blogger and become support buddies.
♥ If you’re in Australia, sign up to Source Bottle to get notifications. You can find writing opportunities that can give you some great exposure.

I hope this helps Grace {and any other newbie bloggers}. Just keep at it. I love what my blogging friend Mrs Woogs did when she started blogging. She promised herself that she’d blog everyday for a year, not matter what and so she did. Perhaps you could give yourself a similar challenge?

If you have any other blogging questions, or want to know about something else in more details, please leave your question in the comments below. I’m happy to help. Also, if you’re a blogger and have some advice for Grace, feel free to leave it below too.

Comments

  1. Catherine says

    Thank you so much for this post. I am a new blogger and I had no idea I could get affordable and professional themes from etsy. In fact, this whole post was helpful and I’ve bookmarked the page :)

    I’m an English teacher and one way I get my students over writer’s block is by getting them to do 5 minutes of free (or nonsense) writing. When you read over it, find a sentence that is interesting and then use that as a prompt

    http://golightlyglam.com/

  2. Elleembee says

    Thanks Chantelle! Super helpful. I have a question about advertising though. Many of the blogs I follow have a sponsors section on the side. I know these are ads, but I actually like looking through them as they are often related to the blog….anywhoo, how do you go about getting these sponsors and does WordPress allow it?

    Thanks again for the super helpful post!

    • says

      Hello!

      Yes, WordPress allows it. They have a widget that you can use to put ads up and track them. I use Passionfruit which does the same, and is really easy to use.

      People that want to advertise just email me and let me know. I often giveaway free ads too, to small businesses trying to get their business out there. x

  3. Χριστίνα says

    Hello Chantelle!
    All these tips are really useful. I love blogging but have a full time job and a family and sometimes (like these days) I get overwhelmed. I don’t want and won’t give up on blogging but I think it’s better to get more well organized.
    Will stay in touch
    Christina

  4. says

    Great post about blogging Chantelle and mostly that’s what I did for almost 3 years. I did fork out the dollars and commence with WordPress and I must say after some time with guidance from my techie guy I was/am able to manage it myself.

    Blogging is a wonderful way to connect and meet new people. I blogged when I was needing social interaction and made it my goal to comment on others’ blogs and use social media (FB and Twitter) to let them know I also had a blog! The way in which I first used blogging to meet up with real people was by becoming a part of the digital parents’ community and attending the first ever conference held in Sydney in March 2011.

    The one thing I need to add is that when I started I had in mind there was money to be made via blogging. I see that there is in some cases, and of course we know of the success of bloggers such as you, Mrs Woog, Nikki Parkinson and so on. What I know happened for me is that my blog did get me some sponsored posts and some opportunities to attend lifestyle events and conferences. However, it became clear that making money as a blogger was not for my blog.

    That said, I never regret my foray into blogging. I became part of a wide group of wonderful Aussie people who blog. I still blog a bit…and of course have made life-long friends from this connected world.

    Denyse
    PS. Hope Lacey is going well at school and can you please share with me how you do the side bar images using triangle spaces.. I am totally into triangle, art, photography. Enough about me. Take care.

  5. says

    Yours was the first blog I started reading when I first started blogging Chantelle! I’ve got so many tips from you. I would say the most important thing to do is find your voice and be true to yourself – don’t just try and copy other blogs. I get so many comments from readers who love my honesty and how I write like I’m talking to them. That way they feel like they’re part of the conversation and really connect with your words and want to come back. Networking is also great for getting your name out. I try to do as many link ups as possible when I have posts that will fit with the themes. I’ve also started my own linkup/photo challenge to create memories of my baby and that has had a really good response from followers on instagram and facebook :)

  6. Sally Finlay says

    Great post – and thank you so much for sharing your tips. I am just starting out on the “journey” – I have some great support but am always after more tips to increase my confidence.
    I have purchased my ticket to ProBlogger in August – so excited to network with people there – from those I know who have been there before, it is a great experience!

  7. Sarah Derrig says

    Thank you so much for these tips Chantelle. I started a blog a few years ago, put her to bed and only recently decided to bite the bullet and start again properly. This has been fantastic advice for me and I’m sure all other new bloggers out there.

  8. says

    I’m only 6 months in and read your tips with great interest. Thank you for sharing! Btw, I love the design of your blog and the way you have built your community, among many other things!

  9. Cate Brickell says

    My number one tip would be to just start writing. The rest of the stuff sorts itself out over time, but writing is what it’s all about.

  10. Arianna says

    I wish I’d found this article when i first started blogging. I feel that with the blogsphere growing and with the influecne of the many thousand blogs, it’s so easy to ‘lose’ your ‘voice’ and writing style. I’ve recently started another blog as i wasn’t “feeling” my first one and will definitely follow your advice x

    ariannathegrace.blogspot.com

  11. Dawn Aldridge says

    Great blogging tips! I especially agree at least having some ideas for upcoming blog posts put on a calendar is a great way to make sure you write consistently.

  12. Signe Banke says

    Great adwise! There are many post out there like this, but they all recommend for you to have a bran new idea to make your blog work, and that is kind of depressing to hear, if you for an example as I, just write about tea, shopping, school and whatever comes into your mind. ! exellent!

    http://www.signebanke.blogspot.dk

  13. says

    Hi Chantelle, this is very timely advice as I finally had the courage to hit “Publish” on my own blog only 2 weeks ago. Wow, that was scary!! I started using WordPress (which I’m thrilled with) but as a “newbie” I’ve still got so much to learn. I’ve used etsy for logos and other things and I’m loving pic monkey. The main focus of my blog is cleaning, decluttering and getting better organised and I love creating Planners, Checklists, Birthday Invitations plus heaps of other goodies which are all totally free to download – gotta love that! But I’ll also be writing about just about anything. For someone who nearly failed English at school, I think it’s hilarious that I now spend most of my time writing – go figure! Anyway, that’s the start of my journey … to be continued …

  14. Chantelle says

    Hi Chantelle,
    I’m Chantelle too! I have only just discovered your blog within the last week, & I’m glad I did. Thank you for this piece about starting a blog. I’ve just purchased a domain & host with the intention of starting a blog in a few months (i’m about to give birth within the next week so now is not the best time to put my all in :) ) & it definitely has felt overwhelming. I’m just steadily researching for when I have some time & energy to start. & putting some things into action now – like leaving this comment! As you advised ” Be social. Comment on other blogs. You truly need to be part of the blogging community to actually be part of it.” (i’m usually not a comment leaver – just reader!) Thanks again. I’ll be having more of peruse through your site & look forward to your future posts :)

  15. says

    Ohh thank you! My blog isn’t new but I’m only beginning to blog more frequently and getting it “out there.” Not sure if I’d be able to blog every day for a year though. That sounds insanely challenging.

  16. says

    This is great advice! I remember back when it felt like it was only you and me (and Gala Darling!) blogging in Australia. How things have changed since then. I think we’re both very lucky that we started blogging when we did but I also think it takes hard work, consistency and felixiblity to keep a blog alive. Love this. xxx

  17. Leanne Faulkner says

    Thanks for these great tips Chantelle. I love writing my blog, but I often find it a struggle to stay consistent with social media. I’m just not able to tweet all the time, for example and I think this makes it a bit tough to really connect with some people. I’ll have to find a way to revisit this I think. I’ve also just discovered (and embraced) Google+ – it’s fabulous! I don’t know why I was so scared of using it before. Do you find it is a growing outlet for your blog/presence?
    Thanks again,
    Leanne

  18. says

    Great advice! I’ve just started and finding advice like this is fabulous. It can be very confusing and overwhelming especially when you have little ones. BTW love your blog

  19. Grace says

    I’m currently have a blog with blogger, should I switch to wordpress? Thoughts? Looking for second opinions :)

  20. says

    Excellent tips, Chantelle. I must be doing something right because I frequently get told that I write just like I talk. I call it conversational writing. I’m quite excited to hear that you have received the same compliment. x

    I decided to start off with WordPress and my own domain first, just because I lucked onto a Google search that gave me a great deal, so I figured why not.

  21. Chelsea Girl says

    Hi Chantelle
    Thanks for the tips. I’ve been blogging for about a month now. I actually contacted a blogger who does the same type of blog [I'm an English expat living in USA] and asked her for some tips and she gave me a guest spot, which has been incredible. I’ve seen visits to my blog increase over the last week or so. Still a way to go and your tips will help greatly. I also wonder if I should move to WordPress and how easy would it be to transfer my blog over?
    thegobbybrit.blogspot.com

  22. Two Pretty Birds says

    Great post, thank you for the advice! We started up last year and I adore working on our blog, it’s been a slow build to be able to pre-plan posts and have a good lead time but we are getting there!

  23. Fallyfale says

    This is amazing! You are all so ahead of the game.. I can’t wait and start using these tips not just at my family’s business @monroeaguadulce but on my own personal page too! Check me out @fallyfale. (I only have a few posts but I’ll make sure to catch back up with you in a few months…wish me luck!

  24. Annelise Fagan says

    I do enjoying writing and blogging. However, my life is quite dull so I feel no one would care. I’ve also been getting bullied online for almost two years.. I’m one who likes to post photos so I can’t just hide behind a name. It’s sad. Really sad.

  25. says

    Great tips :) I got my template from Etsy and tinkered it myself, and I get complimented on it A LOT. Cheap way to look good I reckon! I get thousands of visitors to my blog but no comments… where am I going wrong?!

  26. says

    These tips are fantastic. I recently started a blog and have struggled trying to find my place in the blogosphere, I totally understand a lot of it is trial and error. Reading these tips really helps me focus on what my brand should strive to embody!

    http://thewayfarer.me

  27. Kmfrosting06 says

    Thank you soooo much for this me and a fellow fms player just started a writing class and were all told blogging is a great way to get your writing out there, but I was with grace I had noooo idea where to start. Great tips. Thanks! From kmfrosting06 ;-)

  28. Frederiek says

    Thanks Chantelle, these are great tips. They are {almost} giving me the final push to finally start my own blog. It’s just… Scary! Hopefully soon :)

  29. Michelle Eades says

    Loved this post ~ thank you! I think it’s a wonderful idea to read someone else’s suggestions and hear about their experiences with blogging when you are a regular blogger, as well. It’s like a boost of motivation and inspiration. Thanks!

  30. Ms Bee says

    So glad I stumbled across this!! I only popped over for April’s photo a day list! I’m a new blogger… Kind of… I’ve blogged before but that was for specific things…. Now its about me, my business, and everything that’s relevant to both! So thank you!
    If anyone would like to have a read its here http://www.msbeesboutique.blogspot.co.uk its super new so please be gentle with me!! xxx

  31. Jordan Price says

    I love this! I was searching for photo challenges when I stumbled across your blog. This post caught my attention because while not technically a beginner, I am returning from a blog hiatus and want to post more consistently and attempt to engage more people. Great advice! Thanks!

    -Jordan from a-little-slice-of-my-life.blogspot.com

  32. Eleaca Young says

    Love this. I just read an article in Somerset Life about a blogger who went on a 30 day love affair with blogging. She had fallen out of love with her blog and needed to find her way back. She took 30 days to do it. The only goal I think she had was to write from the heart. I have decided to do the same this month. I am a creative person and always have creative projects in the fire so I am going to share those and write from the heart. This post was extremely helpful in my quest to fall back in love with my blog.

  33. says

    These are wonderful tips! I am glad I find your wonderful blog :D
    It’s awesome to see how many creative, inspirational and intelligent people are around the world. Never met an Australian blogger before. Now you have a Spanish reader :)
    Much love, take care!

  34. Nikki says

    Can I ask, you state at the top of this blog post that you kept you blog private to start with, why and how ? Did you set it to invite only and when did you decide to have your blog not private no more

  35. ajira says

    Consistent posting is where I really struggle. Usually because I talk myself out of posting a lot and then confuse myself about what I want to have on there… sigh. I’m getting better on both counts though.. Thanks for sharing awesome tips.

  36. Jenny Langmaid says

    Thank you so much Chantelle. Your advice is so easy to inhale and digest …and motivational! Given you too once had your L plates on its great that you can pay it forward helping others. I love your blog, your posts, photography, your “inspired life”. Thanks for sharing …here 3 months after you posted, people like me starting out in the Blog hemisphere are being helped by great people like you!

  37. Petra Harmer-Shrowder says

    Hi Chantelle,
    You make some great points. I struggle with regular postings as I get distracted with other obligations easily. If you can’t post daily what is a realistic benchmark?

  38. Lynsey says

    Thanks for this! I have just started blogging so it came at a good time. You were definitely one of my inspirations! Love from Scotland xx

    29yearoldnothing.blogspot.co.uk

  39. says

    Thank you so much for this post! I absolutely love your blog and it’s one go my inspirations for writing as I’m new to blogging :) Keep up the good work PP xo

  40. Sandra Kraus says

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. I found the information most helpful and inspiring. Here goes!

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