7 Things to Know Before Starting a Blog

Social media is a popular method of creating a community online, but a blog or website can also help you take your content to the next level. Creating a blog is relatively simple on the surface, but you should know these seven things before you start a blog, as each point can help you create a solid foundation for becoming a successful blogger. Taking a few minutes to do some planning and setting intentions for your blog can help you focus your content and even turn this popular hobby into a successful business, if that's your goal.

A woman working on her computer

1. Know your "why"

It can be tempting to start a blog quickly when inspiration strikes, but before you start, consider why you want a blog in the first place. Knowing your "why" will help you make the best decisions for your blog early on, so it can grow in the direction you want.

The best way to know your "why" is to answer this question: what do you hope to get out of having a blog?

This will help you understand what your main objective or approach is, and will help you decide between having a blog as a hobby or as a professional or business option. Your focus and hopes can change as your blog progresses, but you have to know where you're starting and what your goal is before you get into picking a name and creating content.

Blogs typically fall into two categories: hobbies or businesses.

  • A hobby blog is where you express your thoughts and opinions, share posts with friends, and create a community.
  • A business blog is where you take your hobby to a new level, offer insight, and partner with companies to create sponsored and paid content.

2. Consider an expert focus

Now that you know your "why," the next step is to have a specific genre or topic to blog about. This will help you focus your hobby and can connect your hobby to a business down the line. Approaching your topic like an "expert" will help keep your blog posts feeling cohesive and curated, which helps build a brand rather than being a general place to share random thoughts.

Don't discredit or discount yourself when you're getting started. It's easy to think this is just a little blog that won't go anywhere, but you don't know where this venture will lead. It's important to consider how your blog can evolve over time. If the blog is too specific, you won't have room for new variations on your theme. You want your blog to be exciting to you for the long-term, so consider this when choosing a topic.

Here's an example of how a blog can naturally evolve. You want to have a blog to update your family while you're traveling and have a place to document your travels. From the start, your blog is a general location to post messages, but once your posts start stacking up you have the foundation for a full-time travel blog, which could evolve into a business.

With this example, when you start your blog, the "why" is to update family while you travel and the focus is a digital journal, but this "why" can shift to sharing travel advice and documenting your experiences with practical advice. Considering an expert focus from the start gives you a chance for your blog to evolve from hobby to business down the line.

3. Blogging quickly becomes its own hobby

You may be starting a blog to talk about your hobby, but once you get started, you'll see that your blog becomes a second hobby. When you first start a blog, you'll probably use a default layout for your site, but as your blog finds its footing you may need to learn some coding or web design to create a layout that works for your specific needs. A large part of blogging is photography, and you'll need at least a photo or two per post to help highlight your points and draw attention to your text.

There's also a social aspect to blogging. It isn't just a passive place to share thoughts (unless that's what you want it to be) and adding this social aspect to the blog quickly turns running a blog into a new hobby. You'll spend some time writing posts and preparing content, but will also start networking with other bloggers in your field to make connections, support other blogs, and gain traffic.

Eventually, blogging involves social media like Twitter and Instagram to push traffic to your blog and grow your audience. Considering social media as a place to trial your blog is also a good idea, as you'll have a smaller starting point, but you can test out the content, photos, and networking before launching your own full website for the blog.

4. Blogging and making money

Along with knowing your "why," consider if you're starting a blog as a way to earn money. As illustrated in the travel blog example earlier, you can start a blog with no intention of making money or turning it into a business, but if you see an opportunity to monetize your blog at some point, it will eventually affect your content and how you run your blog. This transition may be natural, turning a journal into a resource, or it can be part of the foundation of your blog from the beginning.

It's important to consider if monetization is what you may be interested in down the line when you're starting because this can help you decide from the start if you want an independent blog host or your own website, as well as how you'll lay out the blog and what your focus is.

5. Shop around for a host

Blogs are typically hosted on an existing site, or are self-hosted with your own website. Many bloggers start with a free host because it's easy to get started, but this can lead to issues later when you want to transition your blog to a business and need to migrate data and move content. If you're considering a long-term blog and monetization later, think about it like you're building a community and you won't necessarily want to have to pack up and move later when things are growing.

The best way to approach hosting is to look at blogs you read and enjoy. Find out where these blogs are hosted and how they operate. Do they have their own domain name, or are they still hosted at wordpress.com? Consider this as a starting point to choosing a host for your own blog. It's important to think about this before starting a blog because the host is the "home" for your blog and can directly impact your ability to build a community.

6. Opt for a trial run

It may be useful to try a free platform for a test run to work out the kinks and get a posting schedule, and to find a rhythm. Many bloggers start out on WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, or even Tumblr. Choosing a free platform is a good way to start out, but remember to evaluate your progress often, as the longer you blog for "free," the harder it may be to transition your content to a new site.

Another great trial run option is using an Instagram account for microblogging. This is a great way to work on your photography skills while building a community where people are already talking about your topic. This can be a good introduction to blogging, and your established Instagram will help you transition your community to a website-style blog.

7. Be willing to learn

The last thing to know before you start a blog is that you have to be willing to learn throughout the process. Classes and research can help you reach the next level with your blog. Popular blogging research includes understanding search engine optimization (SEO), writing better blog posts, and improving your photography skills. You'll start to learn many of these skills as you go, but with research and specific training you can excel.

In the beginning, you will get the feel for how the website works and what content you want to make. As you write more content and find a posting schedule, you will see where you need to increase your skills, like with SEO and social media, which may lead to pivoting to a different blog host, adjusting your layout, or expanding your content.

By considering these seven things before starting a blog, you'll be more prepared to make the best decisions for your blog from the beginning. This will help you create a solid foundation for your blog, whether it's a hobby that you're excited to join the community of, or as a business that you're looking to grow.

About the Author

Cory Lee

After being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, Cory Lee's thirst for adventure never ceased. He went on many trips around the U.S. when he was younger, and then started taking things internationally when he turned 15. Since then, Cory has traveled to 21 countries across six continents, all while managing to start up his travel blog Curb Free with Cory Lee, where he shares his accessible, and sometimes not-so-accessible travel adventures with others. Cory is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). He has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, in a nationwide segment for CBS News, Lonely Planet, and many others. His blog won the 2017 Best Travel Blog Gold Lowell Thomas Award. He hopes to inspire other wheelchair users to roll out of their comfort zone and see all of the beauty that the world has to offer.

Cory Lee's ride is a Quickie QM-710.

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Date: 7/14/2020 12:00:00 AM


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