Whether it’s a creative blog, a lifestyle blog, a business blog… most posts with this title end up disappointing me. They are all about getting a domain, setting up your site on their web host and starting WordPress. I’m never looking for those things when I click on a post about starting a blog.
I want to know what makes a creative blog tick, what keeps it going, how they find juice for new ideas and what inspires them. So, as a long time blogger, however good I may be, I will give my own version of how to start a creative blog.
1. You need a focus.
One niche idea which you can sustain (and promote if you are hoping to get noticed). Finding the right idea is more important than anything else. Your niche is what will keep you going when you run dry, lose patience, or give up on keeping your site. It is also how you will find kindred spirits among the masses of people online.
2. Brainstorm ideas.
Before you buy a domain and set up web hosting, push yourself to come up with a list of at least 100 posts you could make about your niche topic. Don’t skimp and don’t settle for half baked post ideas. Really work your brain muscles and make a great list. Think about the type of posts you would read yourself. Take a look at other people writing the same topics, not just online. Come up with an excellent list – posts you almost want to stop and start writing right now.
3. What can you sell?
Yes, it does come down to commercialism at some point. If you are going to create a site it will help you to see it get readers and make some money. Traffic alone won’t sustain you and reader comments occur far less often these days. So you will be happier if you can find your numbers coming from another source and money is nice.
You may think you have nothing to sell. But, put on your thinking cap and see what you can do. Think digital content. If you have art, illustrations or photographs you can sell those, or create digital downloads with your art on calendars, stationery, etc. You can sell information by having a paid membership site – but you need some authority in your topic for that. You can sell patterns for craft projects. See what other people in your niche topic are selling. As a last resort consider putting together an ebook and offering that to your readers. (In my opinion, ebooks have had their day in the sun).
You can also sell a service to creative people. Like workshops and courses they can download or have sent to them each week in email. You might offer to proofread for other writers. You might offer yourself as a reviewer and social media poster for book writers. Avoid making yourself a spammer but a lot of creative people would like help with the marketing side of things.
4. Build your site.
Design your site before you start looking at themes and templates. Get an idea of what you want – then find a way to make it work. If you are new to running a site consider Blogger, it’s simpler and you can always convert a Blogger site to WordPress later. (There are a lot of good plugins to make the change over easy). If you want to use WordPress, don’t use WordPress.com. It’s ok, but it is only ok and has a few too many limitations and options you can pay extra for. If you want WordPress, get WordPress on your own domain.
A website is all about navigation. Content may be king but navigation is what will make or break a site. Keep it simple, easily found and make sure it all works. Navigation starts by having a link back to your own site as a “Home” link in the navigation bar. Categories, tags and labels are also great to help people find their way around the contents of your site. Don’t forget an “About” page to tell readers who you are, what you are writing about, what you’re selling, and what your plans are for the site.
A pretty picture is nice but not enough. Make your site look nice but keep it readable. Pick fonts which are not too light or too complicated. Pick colours which keep your site readable. You can find out a lot more about readability and standards for things like alternate tags in image files.
There is a lot of work, planning and DIY (learning) behind a site. Invest in a good guide book, and if you use it, you aren’t likely to regret it. Try to build your own site because it can be done, without paying someone else to do it for you.
5. Start talking to yourself.
Write your first post, to yourself. Give yourself goals and a to-do list as your first post. Afterwards start using an editorial calendar to keep on track with goals and ideas as they come along. Use the draft post feature to keep ideas saved as posts while you work on them.
Everything you would have written as a first post would work as your “About” page, the introduction to your site and yourself.
6. Write your second post.
Pick your favourite idea from your list of 100+ post ideas and write that post. Proofread it before you publish it. Don’t take too long to write it, don’t make it overly dramatic or particularly perfect. (You can always go back and edit it later).
Post and go look at your blog, from the reader side (not the admin/ edit side). Admire what you have accomplished and plan what you will do next.