I’m not typically a “how to blog” blogger. In fact, if you’ve followed me for awhile, you know that I really like to steer clear of all of the “expert advice.” But, I keep getting asked how to start a blog, so I really want to give it a shot.
Umm…can I be totally honest here, guys?
I’m probably the last person you should be asking.
But…maybe that’s why I should be sharing, right?
I started my blog 2 1/2 years ago, because I felt called to write. I’ve felt that calling most of my life, but I finally felt like I had a message worth sharing.
So, I dove in and started a blog. Don’t get me wrong. I did a ton of research, first.
I read posts written on how to set up a blog, how to market your blog, how to grow your readership, and how to monetize your blog. For months, I bought every course that was recommended, and implemented most of the advice I heard.
Trust me. This isn’t the story of someone who had no idea what she was getting into. I had a long-term plan and goals that I wanted to accomplish with this blog.
I followed all of the expert advice to a “T.” And…fell flat on my face.
This blog had turned into something entirely different than I’d envisioned it. I knew if I kept it up much longer, I’d quit and never look back. That’s not what I wanted, so I did something a bit unconventional.
I threw nearly all of it away. All the knowledge I had about starting and running a blog. Basically, I started from scratch and decided to do things my way.
I’m still confused at the fact that so many people ask me how to start a blog. In my mind, I’m technically doing it all wrong. However, it’s working for me. The tips I’m going to share are those that have helped me fall in love with blogging again and grow a legitimate business out of it. I want to help you do the same, so let’s get right to it!
This post contains affiliate links. To learn more, see my full disclosure here.
1. Set Up a Self-Hosted Blog
I’ve already written a huge, long post about how to set up a self-hosted website, so I’m not going to go into detail on that here. If you need help with that part, either click here, or search Pinterest for the other thousand blog posts sharing the exact same thing. This was the most challenging part of blogging for me (I’m not a techie at all), but having a self-hosted site is worth it if your goal is to build a business.
With a self-hosted WordPress site, you have a lot more options for customization, which makes it easier to monetize through ads, sponsored content, affiliates, and even a storefront. My blog has changed a lot in the last two years, and I’m confident in the fact that I couldn’t have done 90% of it without a self-hosted site.
Disclaimer: there are small costs associated with this format of blogging. You’ll have to pay for hosting and a domain (I use Siteground for both). You may also have to pay for a blog theme to get it all set up and looking pretty. It’s what makes your blog look like your blog. My website wouldn’t be recognizable without my theme. (I use Tweak Me V.2 by NoseGraze, if you want a customizable suggestion).
Setting up your blog will take work, but don’t let this step keep you from jumping in. Don’t let perfection stop you from ever publishing your blog. While you want a clean, pretty face for your blog, you don’t need to strive for perfection on day one. Publish it when it’s good enough, and make tweaks as you see what your blog actually needs.
2. Decide What You’re Blogging About.
I really don’t like the popular blogging advice telling new bloggers to “niche down,” and only blog about one thing. Maybe that’s good for some people who have a very specific idea in mind, but I think in general, that gets a bit boring.
If I’m searching for living room organization ideas (for example) and find a great blog post, I’m going to click on their home page and start digging around for more great posts. I get really excited when I see a variety of posts that can hold my interest and help me really get to know the blogger. But, if every single post is strictly about household organization, I’m most likely not going to come back again and again.
For me, blogging is about building a community and connecting with like-minded individuals. It’s a way to express my interests and share them with the world.
It’s important to know what you want your blog to be about, but I don’t think you should get super specific. Especially as a brand new blogger.
My advice: choose a few topics you love, and write about each of them. But, unless you can talk about only one aspect of your life over and over, every day, on social media, in emails, and on the blog, I don’t recommend “niching down” to an extreme.
3. Start Collecting Emails.
The number one advice I want to give to anyone hoping to make money on a blog is to start building your email list from day one. No. Scratch that.
Start building your email list before day one. That way, on launch day you have a list of people waiting to hear from you!
So, how do you start an email list? I wrote out a full post on the subject right here, but here are the bullet points:
- Pick an email service provider (I highly recommend MaileriLite)
- Decide on a killer opt-In that will entice the readers you want to attract (think printables, courses, private groups, etc). Be sure to make it something really valuable.
- Set up a landing page via your ESP (this should be a built-in feature on most)
- Plug that link everywhere on the internet. Your blog landing page, your instagram bio, your facebook page, pinterest, everywhere!)
4. Be Choosey with Classes
When I first decided to start a blog, I took a lot of classes. I got a great deal on a bundle of courses desgined specifically for bloggers and I jumped at it.
Over the next 6 months, I slowly and methodically went through every course that caught my eye. I implemented as many changes as I could, and learned a ton.
Still, there aren’t many I’d recommend anymore. Honestly, I couldn’t even give you the names of most of them anymore. They all started to blur together. One blogger after another, regurgitating the same advice that had been said already.
There’s really only one course that I still recommend to new bloggers. Building a Framework was the most all-inclusive course I took, with information that actually helped me. Abby was a blogger (and a successful one) long before she started teaching others to blog. If you ask me, those are the bloggers we should be listening to. The ones who ran successful blogs and made an income before teaching anyone else how to blog.
Honestly, I feel like this course covers everything you need to know. Once you finish it, you’ll have a more firm grasp on what you need more help with, and you can pick and choose the courses you need then.
Outside of that course, I mostly recommend personal development books that teach you to break through your own barriers!
5. Learn About Monetization
The good stuff. The part everyone wants to know about when they start a blog.
How do you actually make money?! And…how much can you make?
So, let’s break it down. There are a lot of ways to make money with a blog. I’ll give a brief overview on a few of them below:
The most common and beginner friendly way is to utilize affiliate marketing. This is where you drop a special link to a product you use and recommend in your blog post, and earn commissions from any purchases made. This really only works when you have built trust with your readers and they know you’re truly recommending something you love. (Great example: My link to Building a Framework above is an affiliate link. I believe in the course and think it’ll help you, because it helped me!)
My favorite affiliate marketing networks are:
- The Amazon Affiliate Program: You can link to any product on Amazon and earn commissions from them. The biggest perk is that buyers don’t have to actually buy what you linked to. As long as they get to Amazon through your link, anything they purchase while on the site earns you commissions. To help you understand, that means you could link to a $5 book. Someone clicks on that link to check it out, and while they’re there, they decide to buy that Instant Pot they’ve been eying. You earn commissions on that Instant Pot.
- Share-A-Sale: This is an affiliate network that basically acts as a “middle man” between you and a company. They’re partnered with thousands of companies, so once you have an account, you have access to apply to any of them! Using a network makes it a lot easier to manage affiliate accounts and track income, because it’s all in one place.
- Ultimate Bundles: If you haven’t heard of Ultimate Bundles, yet, you need to! This company puts out niche-specific bundles multiple times a year, and they’re always an amazing deal! Most bundles include thousands of dollars worth of ebooks, courses, and printables, for around 98% off. Some of their most popular bundles are the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, The Healthy Living Bundle, and The Genius Bloggers Toolkit. Each campaign only lasts for a few days, each, so it’s a great opportunity to really boost your income in a short amount of time. You can sign up to become an affiliate and check out all of their upcoming bundles right here!
This is another popular way to earn money as a blogger. When you write a sponsored post, it means that you’ve partnered with a company to promote their items at a charge. How much you make from this will vary by company, but I’ve seen campaigns for $800 and more! (On the same note, I’ve seen campaigns for $50 as well, so know your worth, and decide what you’re willing to work for).
While sponsored posts is something I had in mind when I started my blog, I’ve only just started dipping my toes in. I didn’t feel I was ready for that, or that I’d honed my brand enough, until now. That’s not to say everyone has to wait years to get started (I’ve seen a lot of brand new bloggers doing sponsored posts), it’s just what I personally felt most comfortable with. My number one goal on this blog is to build a community and garner trust from my readers. I was worried that diluting my blog with too much paid content from day one would turn readers away. However, you decide what is best for you! The two networks I’m currently signed up with are Linquia and Massive Sway. If sponsored posts is something you’ve thought about, you should give them a shot!
Creating and selling your own products is another way to earn money as a blogger. Actually, it’s been the most fun way for me to earn an income so far!
Don’t get wrapped up in the conventional idea of selling products. While it can mean handmade goods, inventory, and shipping, it doesn’t have to.
I currently have 3 different types of products I personally sell on this blog, and they’re all forms of passive income:
- Essential Oils: As a Young Living educator, I help those interested in swapping out the toxic products in their homes for essential oils. I mentor them through the process and help them get set up with an account of their own. No inventory, no ordering, and no shipping. I know network marketing and MLMs get a lot of bad juju lately, and it’s certainly not a field I ever saw myself in, but done correctly, it can benefit everyone involved. If you’re interested in starting the journey with me, click here to read a bit of my story and learn how to get started.
- Digital Product: Digital products can be anything your readers might enjoy. What are your talents? What do you enjoy doing? For me, I created a digital printable pack with essential oil users in mind. (See it here). Some other great ideas I’ve seen from bloggers are: fonts, digital artwork, homeschool curriculum, or ebooks on any subject you can imagine.
- Physical Products: This isn’t always passive, but I’ve partnered up with a dropshipping company to handle all of my inventory, production and shipment! In the past, I ran a handmade business that ate up all of my time, and I didn’t want that again. This is a happy medium for me and my customers. I’m able to design and market the products I want to offer without staying up until 2 am creating and shipping. In turn, my customers experience a faster turn-around time and more affordable prices! You can see my line of products here. If you want to try your hand at a similar business model, I highly recommend Printful! They have a wide selection of brands, fast shipment, and everything I’ve received has been high quality. Plus, they automatically link with several platforms to make listing and selling easier.
There are other ways to make money with a blog, but those are the ways I personally have used. More popular options include offering a service to your clients, advertisements, paid mastermind groups, and courses. Of course, when it comes to monetizing a blog, there are so many options available. I’m sure there are some I’ve left out!
6. Be Selective with Endorsements
Can I get on my soapbox, here? Because this is one topic I feel like every blogger should consider.
I love getting to make money from my blog. It’s really rewarding to be able to support my family with something I love so much.
Here’s the thing, though. If you’re not selective with the companies you choose to endorse, your readers will know that you’re just out to make a buck.
Nothing is more disheartening to me than when a blogger I love starts churning out nothing but sponsored content. It feels inauthentic and I lose the connection I once had.
I know we all have bills to pay, but I personally feel that a better approach is to be choosey.
For me, personally, that means only recommending products that I would recommend whether I got paid or not. If I wouldn’t tell you about how much I love it for free, then it’s not good enough for me to write a blog post about.
Your criteria for recommending products might be different, but take it from me and figure out what that criteria is now. Once you have it figured out, stick to it. It really helps resist temptation when you know what’s worth your time and what’s not!
7. Have FUN!
Lastly, and (I think), most importantly, have fun.
Blogging is really fun! Brainstorming fun ideas to share, taking pictures, making connections, writing…
There are less fun aspects, but the bottom line is…don’t take this too seriously. This is your creative outlet, after all. Let your personality shine through and really lighten up as often as you can.
I promise, it’ll help you stand out from the crowd and keep you returning week after week, year after year.
Ready to start a blog? Now is the perfect time! Be sure to head on over to this post to learn how to set up a website, and grab your copy of Building a Framework to help you get started on the right foot!
If this post encourages you to finally start a blog, I’d love for you to link it in the comments so I can come check it out! You can also be sure to share with your friends by using the share buttons here on the blog!