A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Blog
Whenever we tell someone new that we run a successful blog, they always ask how the heck we got started doing something that we knew absolutely nothing about. And it’s a good question. The truth is, we figured it out step-by-step as we went along and failed a lot (and we mean a lot!) along the way.
We’ve gotten tons of emails over the past 5 years from others who are looking to start their own blogs, and we often email them back with paragraphs of information and advice. After doing that far too many times, we realized that we weren’t being very efficient with our time. So we are finally putting together a blog post with ALL of the information someone would need to start their own blog. Now we can just send people this blog post so they can start off on the right foot!
Our Guide to Starting a Blog
Choose a Topic
We’ve received lots of emails from people who want to start a blog, but have no idea what they want to blog about. Honestly, this is always really concerning to us. You shouldn’t start a blog to make money or get followers (because that may not happen), but you should start one because you’re so excited and passionate about something that you’re just bursting to share that information with others.
We were both so thrilled when we first started decorating our homes that we wanted to share it with everyone and anyone! That’s why we started The DIY Playbook. You need to be equally excited about whatever topic you want to blog about, or else you’re going to get bored and quit. Whether it’s food, fashion, fitness, home, motherhood, etc…make sure you’re incredibly passionate about the topic you choose for your blog. Or else it’s probably not worth your time and effort.
Oh, and if you’re planning to start a blog with a friend, significant other, family member, etc….be sure to read this post first and check out this post on what it’s really like for us as business partners.
Carefully Select a Name
I remember when we first decided on the name, The DIY Playbook. Bridget & Matt were actually visiting Finn & I in St. Louis (we lived there at the time), and they came up with the name on their drive down. We loved the “playbook” aspect of the name…a go-to resource for everything you need to know about do-it-yourself projects. It’s crazy to think back on selecting that name for our business, because we didn’t really put all that much time and effort into it. We just all liked the name and moved forward.
Today, I’m not so sure we would choose the same name (although we do love it!) because it does have its limitations. As we’ve grown outside of the DIY realm to chat more about our lives, sometimes we don’t think the name really fits. But there is no going back now!
Think long and hard about the name you want for your blog. Make sure it’s unique, gives readers a glimpse into what your blog is about, and it isn’t already taken by someone else! Look to make sure that the domain and all social accounts are still available for your particular name before moving forward.
Buy your Domain & Start on WordPress.org
Once we decided on “The DIY Playbook”, we went ahead and purchased the domain “thediyplaybook.com” using GoDaddy. Depending on the name you choose for your site, it really shouldn’t cost that much. I think ours is about $10 a year (which seems crazy cheap!). When we first started, we wanted to buy “diyplaybook.com”, but it was soooooo expensive. We ended up just adding “the” to the top, in order to keep things on a budget. Looking back, I wish we would have just purchased it and branded ourselves as “DIY Playbook.” But, oh well!
We originally started on Blogger because it was an easy platform to set up ourselves. Again, another mistake we made. Yes, blogger was great for newbies like us, but we eventually had to transfer our site to WordPress.org in order to really get the functionality and design we wanted for our website. We highly recommend that everyone gets started on WordPress.org (not WordPress.com) from the start. While you will have to pay for your domain and hosting, you will have FULL CONTROL over your site. The back-end of the site is so much cleaner, allows for a lot more creative control and WordPress can even provide pre-made templates or themes so you don’t have to hire a professional to set-up your site from the start.
Don’t Forget about Social Media
So you’ve got your website up and running, but don’t forget to snag those social accounts too. Even if you can’t fully devote all of your attention to the main 4 (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter), it’s still important to setup an account so you reserve the name for each one.
It can be difficult to really devote enough time to each platform, so choose a couple and really give them your all. We spend a lot of time on Pinterest because it brings traffic to our site. While we love Instagram, we don’t see as much traffic from it, so therefore, it isn’t the same priority for us.
Whatever you do though, make sure you keep your branding consistent across all social media accounts (& your blog). Have a profile picture of yourself (more information about why that is SO IMPORTANT in this post) and be aware of branding. Someone should be able to view all of your accounts and know that they’re branded to your blog.
Start Posting & Keep Posting
We’ve seen it time and time again. Someone is soooo excited to start a blog. They get everything setup, write a couple posts, share pictures on Instagram and then 3 months later the posting stops. What gives? I think so many people believe that they can write 5 blog posts and overnight their website is going to be an instant success! But the truth is, you need to have quality and CONSISTENT content for a long time before you’re going to see much progress.
Our biggest piece of advice would be to post quality content and often as you can. From the start, we decided that we would only do the blog if we really devoted ourselves to it. We vowed that we would post 4 days per week. We would rather go all in than half-ass it. And have done that (and have since added another day of blogging per week) for over 5 years. We’ve taken time off during the holidays, but other than that we’ve posted consistently for 5 years.
We’re not saying you have to post every day of the week. But choose a doable schedule and stick to it. Readers want to know that on certain days they can count on fresh content from you. So if you only post one day a week, keep it consistent and always post at 6am on Monday (or whatever works for you).
Learn How to Use your Camera
When we first started blogging, we both used our point & shoot cameras from college. Remember those? I remember bringing mine to the bar on the weekends at school and I would lose it alllll the time. Oh, the memories.
Anyways, when we first started taking photos for the blog they were awful. So so bad. Embarrassing actually. But we didn’t know any better. Slowly, we learned more and more about photography and our photos improved. Nowadays, even iPhones take amazing photographs (gotta love that portrait mode!) so there is no excuse for poor photography on your site. We think this is one area that every new blogger should spend some time learning, and we’ve posted A LOT about it. Read these posts for more information on how to improve your photos…
- Our Photography Equipment
- How to Improve Blog Photos
- Newborn Photography: Part 1 & Part 2
- Tips for Family Photos
Connect with Others
One of the best parts of blogging is the sense of community within the blogosphere. We know so many incredible bloggers in the home & DIY niche, and we’ve become friends with lots of the people we admire online. If you’re first starting out, find other people who have the same interests as you and a similarly sized following and create your own little tribe. So if you have 5,000 followers, don’t reach out to people with 50,000 followers. Instead, find people who are at the same stage in their blogging career and grow together!
Conferences are a great place to meet other bloggers in your same niche! We’ve done the Bloom Bash Workshop, Haven (3 times), and other various blogger events like Michaels Makers and Better Homes and Gardens. These are always great opportunities to meet other like-minded people who totally GET the whole blogging thing!
Keep Track of Finances
For the first year of blogging, we really didn’t make much money. So tracking our finances really wasn’t that tough. However, as things started to grow we started to spend more money and we started to make more money. That’s when things got tricky.
If you have plans to make money and really treat your blog as a business, we highly suggest you create an LLC. We opened a business bank account so we could keep all of our expenses separate from our personal expenses. This made things 1000x easier come tax season! Keep track of everything from the start and try your best to stay organized. Here are more posts on the financial side of blogging…
- Blog Finances 101
- How We Make Money Blogging
- FAQ: Money & Blogging
- Tips to Make Tax Season Easier
- How We Organize Receipts
Enjoy Every Step of the Way
We will forever be happy that we took the plunge to start this blog. It has changed our lives forever! Was it intimidating, scary, and overwhelming at first? Absolutely! But it’s those difficult things in life that often change things for the better. And please know that we certainly don’t have it all figured out. In fact, most bloggers are faking it til they make it (as evidenced by this post with rookie mistakes from all of our favorite bloggers!)
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, the timing is never ever going to feel perfect. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the leap. We say go for it! And know that the two of us are right here cheering you right along!
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.