There are several questions I receive frequently, and one of those is, “How do I start a blog?”. I totally get it. It’s such an amazing way to share your creativity, whether that be cooking, crafting, DIY projects, kid crafts, etc., blogging is a fabulous outlet to share those ideas that start to boil over. It’s also an amazing way to document your journey, be it your new home, first time apartment, or your marriage. The topics for blogging are endless.
When I first started blogging 3 years ago, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. I had a general idea, but there were so many details that I had no idea even existed. I started the blog as a way to share the journey of building our home with family. It seemed the easiest way to keep everyone updated, and it gave me the opportunity to post pictures and describe our progress. At the time, I had no idea what it would really mean. I started gaining followers, and that was exciting, but for the longest time, it was just family who read the blog. It wasn’t until we started making changes to our home, adding new paint colors, and beginning all the DIY projects that many new readers started following along on our journey. And I’m so glad that they did. It’s completely changed my world, and I’m not sure what I would be doing if I couldn’t share my passion with all of you.
In the beginning, blogging wasn’t as easy to figure out. When I first started, there weren’t tutorials telling you exactly what to do, or how to start up a blog. I relied heavily on Google. Things have changed, and it’s now easier to follow a guideline on steps you should take to start sharing your content with the world. So, in hopes that I can help others who are just starting the journey, here’s how I started my blog. It has been, and still is, a huge learning curve, but it’s all about making steps and progress bit by bit.
When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. As I mentioned above, it was my way of keeping family up to date with our building process. With that, I couldn’t imagine that I wanted to actually pay for a service platform, or hosting, so I chose to go with the free version of WordPress, WordPress.com. It gave the option to have a nice looking blog, while operating at zero cost. In fact, my first blog name wasn’t even The Wood Grain Cottage, it was Brightly Inspired. But soon after I began blogging, I knew it wasn’t the right fit. After that, I spent countless hours mulling over different fitting names, and made the switch to The Wood Grain Cottage. I haven’t looked back. We were always meant to be The Wood Grain Cottage and I knew it as soon as I came up with the name.
Once I started posting regularly, my blog started gaining followers and traffic. I quickly realizing people liked, and enjoyed, what I was sharing. My passion was coming alive, and I enjoyed sharing our home, DIY projects, and the decorating changes I was making.
Everything was sailing along smoothly, except I was starting to realize the limitations with WordPress.com. Since it’s a free platform, you can not offer any type of advertising. Basically, I couldn’t have custom widget spaces, Etsy marketing, or ad spaces. Not only that, I knew the audience I was building through WordPress.com couldn’t be transferred to a self hosted WordPress.org blog. I knew I didn’t want to lose all the readers I already had, and didn’t want to gain anymore that couldn’t transfer, so I bit the bullet and signed up for the basic plan of a self hosted blog on WordPress.org. That platform required me to sign up for hosting and register my domain name, which is The Wood Grain Cottage.
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I bought the domain name through Bluehost , and also began using their hosting services for my WordPress.org blog.
Up until last year, Bluehost worked fabulously for my blog and amount of traffic/ page views I was receiving. But, my blog really grew last year, so I signed up with a larger hosting company, RFE. They are fabulous to work with as well, but BlueHost was my jumping in point and it served me well. They have great customer service and their monthly servicing fees were very reasonable!
Signing up for a domain name and the self hosting, was the most difficult part. I’ve got you covered though, here’s how I set it up:
First, you need to know what you want your blog to be named. Spend some time really thinking about this. And don’t just name it for the time of your life now. Give it a name that can grow, something you will be happy to still “own” 5- 10 years down the road. It could potentially be what you are known for, so make it good. Once you have your name, do some checking to make sure it hasn’t already been taken. You’ll also need to make sure the domain is still available. This is a great website for checking name availability.
Once you know your name is available, Bluehost will let you register one domain name for free with hosting! Like I said, they’re very reasonable and a great starting point!
Select your account plan and any other extras you may think you want. When I signed up, I also chose the Sitelock Domain Security. I didn’t want anything happening to my domain, or any type of viruses or malware attaching to my domain. Sitelock monitored my site, and I felt better about that. I would also highly recommend doing the Domain Privacy. I didn’t want people contacting me about my domain, or having any of the information associated with my domain, so it was an easy choice.
Then, you have your very own BlueHost dashboard, which was really easy to use and navigate! Make sure you save the BlueHost log-in page as a favorite on your computer, because you’ll need to log in regularly.
BlueHost also offers e-mail, and I highly recommend setting up an e-mail address at your domain name. For instance my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. But back to the BlueHost control panel, once you sign in, you will now need to set up your WordPress.org blog, or transfer your existing blog from WordPress.com, or Blogger.
It’s very easy, just click on the WordPress link and start on a brand new install. However, if you are importing an existing site, like from Worpress.com, and you aren’t comfortable transporting your data, you many want to reach out and have someone do that for you. I was beyond worried about losing my content, so I chose to hire someone to do it for me. But, if you’re comfortable doing it, go for it!
Once you have it downloaded, add in your new domain name! Woop, Woop! Get excited, because you are about to launch something amazing!
Now, you’ll need to choose your log in username and password. You’ll also add in your most used e-mail address. Any type of comments and blog notifications will come to this e-mail, so make sure you know what you want to use…
And once you do that, your blog is ready to install!
Just like that, you have a blog!
BUT, now what? What comes next? The blog design, of course! 😀
Making your blog look unique is very important, so make sure you have a site design that reflects you! People want to know you, so the more you can make your blog feel like you, the better. I chose to work with a designer on my blog, but there are so many different options. One of which, is to buy a pre-made blog theme. That basically means you can pick exactly what you want your blog to look like. A theme is your shell, and all you have to do is fill it with your information and content! It’s very easy!
Here are a couple of great options for blog themes:
Those sites offer some lovely blog themes, and will give you the professional look you’ll want. I would highly recommend you first choose a theme with the Genesis Framework. I truly think it’s the best. You can buy it here. Once you have the Genesis Framework, it’s yours! Several themes you can purchase run on Genesis Framework, so it’s a great investment, as you can grow and grow again with it!
And can I just tell you how much I love the themes on Restored 316 Designs? They are so lovely, those ladies have nailed it. Just take a look around and navigate through their themes. I think you’ll see exactly what I mean! They also offer great customer support and they will even install the theme for you, if you choose to have them do it! Easy, Easy!
Creative Market is like a one stop shopping place. You can find utterly beautiful themes, lovely fonts, vectors, and endless other things you’ll want to take your blog to the next level! Once you browse around, I’m sure you’ll see why I love it so much!
I can tell you that the design process is very important, so don’t rush it. Be patient will yourself. Chances are, you won’t get it right over night and it will take you a bit of time to make things just how you want them. Heck, I’m even still working on that part! We’re in the process of a full site design that will incorporate our new online shop! 😀
AND PLEASE know, it takes time to build an audience and readership. So many of the questions I get are specifically geared to those wanting to be successful and have the opportunity to make an income. I’ll be frank with you: Blogging is a lot of hard work. I kid you not. Coming up with fresh content, building/ making said item, taking pictures, editing them, writing & proofing the post, and sharing on social media all takes time. Loads of it. Blogging is absolutely NOT a get rich quick scheme. You have to LOVE doing it before you will ever see a penny, plus invest a bunch of time, attention, money and blood, sweat and tears. No joke.
I don’t say that to detour you, but I am a realistic person, and I know that for the majority of bloggers, it won’t happen overnight. Blogging is unlike any job I’ve ever had. It’s hard work and primarily driven by passion. That’s the only way it works. If you don’t have a passion for your topic, you will quickly burn out.
Many of you have asked for my tips, tricks, advice and strategies for things I have found helpful over the years I have been blogging. While I don’t have any big secrets, I can say there are things I have found to build and maintain a happy readership:
1. Content. I can’t even say enough about this. Content is king and it’s the driving force to keeping readers coming back for more. With a first time visitor, you have about 15 seconds to grab their attention and make them take a look of what you have to offer. If your content is weak, they will move on. Now that’s not to say you can’t have “filler” posts in between, because we are not machines and we can’t constantly bust out amazing, ground breaking content. You can’t create fabulous, new projects every day and have a personal/ family life. You have to find a balance that works for you, and once you do, your readers will know what to expect.
2. Photography. While content is king, I truly believe photography is queen. Blogging is a business and community entirely ran on pictures. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, couldn’t be more true with blogging. That is the instant connection you will make with readers and it will show your point of view/ project in a much better light. Investing in a good camera (DSLR), lens and photo editing software is crucial. Don’t make it intimidating, but instead play around with your camera. After a bit of time, you will get the hang of your camera and photography style. A good camera and photography skills will change your world.
3. Consistency. In the blogging world, there are thousands of home decor/ DIY blogs. In order to gain readers, you must have a consistent posting schedule. Be that once a week, three times a week, or everyday. Find what works for you, but keep in mind content is king. Don’t just write something to have it on your blog. Let it be quality work and something you would be proud to have other people read. When you hit the “Publish” button, think of it as “Permanent”. Use an online calendar to keep track of projects, and plan in advance. Don’t let yourself get behind, then realize you don’t have a post for the day, and quickly throw something together, take fast pictures, not edit them, and then expect great results. Plan ahead.
4. Personality. Another huge aspect of blogging is to know your “voice”. How do you want to come across to your readers? Do you want to be funny, serious, sarcastic, or your normal self? Remember that you can’t actually have a daily conversion with your readers, so your blog and writing is how they will relate to you. How you write is how they envision you would talk. Think about what you want your voice to be, and stick with it. Sure, add in humor and your emotions, but keep a constant voice and consistency in your writing.
5. Collaborate. One of the best ways to get out there, is to make friends with other bloggers. You need them. From growing readership, to supporting each other & gaining advice, and everything in between, create a genuine friendship with other bloggers of your same size. Some of my very best friends are other bloggers who I’ve met because of my blog. They are absolutely wonderful women, and some days I don’t go without talking to them. We bounce ideas off of each other, be it blogging or designing, and we know what is going on in each others personal lives. We have grown from our friendships.
6. Take It Serious. As you grow, one of the most important things I can share, is the undeniable fact that you have a voice. You have an influence on how your readers see things. Like it or not, bloggers are in the advertising business, and many of us start out by not being aware of that simple fact. We share products we use on our projects, and therefor we are endorsing them. Choose wisely, and remember, you never know who’s reading. Respect the voice you have and take it seriously. When it comes time, only work with brands your really love. If you mix and match so often, your readers will lose faith in everything you show them. Your readers are the most important thing about your blog, so value them.
Blogging is a wonderful community, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I have grown as a person, in many different aspects, right in front of my readers. Don’t be afraid of sharing your world and creative talents.
I hope that helps answer some of your questions. If I’ve missed anything feel free to ask questions in the comment section below and I’ll be happy to answer them!