Tips for Starting a Blog (2020)

So you want to start a blog but don't know where to begin? I'm answering your questions as openly and honestly as I can. I believe if there were ever a time to start a blog, it would be now!! Look at all the free time we have been given. Get those creative juices flowing, take your mind off it all, and start a side hustle! 

Where do I begin? What is the best platform for starting a blog? What do I name it?
First things first, come up with a plan. Think about what you want your blog to be about, what you like about other blogs, and write down some goals (small/short term and big/long term). Then brainstorm a name/theme for branding.

Then you'll want to search for your name to see what is already out there. For instance, naming your blog "Alphabet" is probably not the best idea. I suggest naming it something you won't grow out of -- like my first blog, Serious Southern Shopaholic, lol -- or even this one! I clearly didn't learn my lesson. Your name is a great place to start!

Once you have a few ideas, you'll want to secure a domain name. It's relatively cheap and easy to do (GoDaddy is a popular service) and this is a good first step if you're thinking about taking the blog seriously or having it around long term. It helps legitimize you and your business and makes sure that no one else can take it in the meantime. It also makes sure that your blog name is available. You don't want to start a blog and not have an available domain account. 

Once you have a name and domain, you'll next find a host website. The most popular one is Wordpress, but there are others like Blogger, Squarespace, and Wix. Look around on each site and see what you like, what your budget is, and what you envision for your blog long term. From there, you can start to either design and create the website layout yourself or pay a designer to help it come to life. You can always update and refresh as you go along, so no worries committing to something right off the bat. 

What are 3 things you wish you knew before you started?
1. To start on WordPress. I started on, and -- don't judge me -- still use Blogger and I'm either too stubborn or too lazy to move over. If it ain't broke don't fix it, I guess? I've been here for over seven years and don't feel like transitioning over even though I know that Wordpress is the better and more intuitive website I should be using. 

2. Come up with a better name. In the beginning, it was all about the dumb names and when I rebranded to CTB, I really did think I would be working in baseball forever. But alas, I am not (lol) and while it still kind of works, I wish I would have gone with something more simple like my name.

3. This isn't super relevant to the current times, but I wish I paid more attention to Instagram in the early days when it was easier to grow. I had a full-time job and didn't really care that much about it. It stinks now, but oh well!

How do I find my niche?
I'd say the best place to start is to come up with a list of things you do in your day-to-day life. What are you knowledgeable about? What do you do for fun? What blogs, influencers do you follow? What makes you happy? What do you wish people knew more about? What drives you? What are you passionate about? Where do you think there is a hole in the space? Answering questions like these should help you come up with an area of blogging that you can hone in on.

How do you come up with post ideas? What do you post about? How often?
I usually write about things I like, what's going on in my life, what I'm doing or wearing, and what my readers ask to know more about. I'm in the life and style category of bloggers, so that leaves a lot of my posts open-ended, but most all posts just focus around my day-to-day life. Whenever I have an idea, I usually jot it down somewhere to refer back to when I go to write a post. 

When you're starting out, I would come up with 10 post ideas to get an idea of what you'll be covering on the blog. I usually do this at the beginning of each month (especially around the holidays). As for quarantine Krista? It's much more off the cuff. 

I post on the blog 5x a week M-F (although I'm letting myself post 4x a week during quarantine because some days I just need a break and would rather have no post live than a throwaway post). For people starting out, 3x a week is a good place to start. But the most important part (even if you're posting 1x a week) is to stay consistent so people know when they can read a new post! Also, try to post the same time every day. I aim for 8am ET.

Advice for staying authentic/true to what you believe in?
I think this is one of the most important parts of blogging, and one that I hold myself to. Without you being you there is no blog. Influencers are a dime a dozen nowadays and everyone else is already taken. Being you is the best thing you can be! It's why people want to follow and read along. Without that, you can't succeed! 

Best way to get your name out there?
I would say first and foremost is to share your blog with everyone you know. Sure it can be embarrassing at first but who cares. Tell your friends, your family, share it on all your platforms. People will read and share. If you write about great topics, people will continue to share. Collaborating with others who are similar -- either in age (of the blog), region, style -- is another great way to pull together readers.

What types of equipment do you use (cameras, apps, software)?
My main blogging tool is my laptop. I have the MacBook Air, which isn't the best laptop to have because the processor is so small, but it's thin and easy to travel with. It's held up after all these years and we're still going strong. I also have a desktop Mac, which I use a lot (less now that Andrew and I share a computer). It has a ton of memory so I can use it for heavy workloads (like video and photo editing). 

I use iMovie to edit my movies (I have Final Cut Pro but I just don't like it), Lightroom to edit my photos, PicMonkey to make collages and graphics, MixCaptions to caption my IG stories, and Facetune to edit any unwanted things in my images. For photography, I use a Sony AR7ii and have a 35mm 1.4 lens as well as a 25mm 2.4 lens. For videos, I use a lot of my iPhone and a Sony A5100 small camera.

How do you figure out behind the scenes information (like newsletters, SEO, etc)?
I do a lot of Googling. Almost everything you need to know is out there on the internet or on YouTube. Everything! Anything I don't know I usually search for and find the answers. I also hit up blogger friends or blogging groups and ask for advice when needed. 

What are tips for taking photos without a photographer?
For people who are asking this because they don't want to pay for a photographer, lean on your friends and family. My mom used to take all of my photos and still does when I need her to. Same thing with friends when Andrew (my husband who takes my photos) isn't available. When I first started out, I would meet up with other bloggers and we would take each others photos. Since we both needed it, it worked out really well and you make friends along the way!

If you're asking this because you don't have anyone around, tripods are your best friend. There are a lot of apps now where you can set up the camera and shoot via your phone. Just set up your camera or phone on a tripod and snap away. This is where I would start searching the internet to see how to best set this up. I know many successful friends who still do this!

I also have an older post about tips for taking blog photos you can read!

How to start when you love fashion but hate photography and writing?
I don't know that this would be the best idea for you, seeing as most blogs are a heavy mix of photos and writing. Maybe look more into the fashion industry/space for a job there? Or work for a blogger?

How long does it take for your blog to get going?
I imagine this answer is going to be different for every single person! Technically, I'm still getting my blog going to where I want it to be. Some blogs can take off overnight, and some can take years. I would say I started seeing a consistent stream of readers and collaborations about two years into blogging. 
What are the best tips for growing your Instagram following?
If someone could figure this out and share it with me, that would be great! But really, share content people want to see. Collaborate (authentically) with bloggers similar to you, engage (authentically) with your followers and other bloggers, and be consistent in what and when you post. 

How do you build a following?
There are many ways but it almost always starts out with your family and friends who love and support you. Then it continues with consistent and helpful/useful/beautiful content. Whatever you do, be authentic about it because cheating to get somewhere quicker will not help you in the long run! 

How do you stay motivated when you have slow growth?
It is definitely hard, but make sure to celebrate your successes and focus on what is working. Analyze your content (on the blog and on social), pick out your top posts, and find a common thread between them. Talk and listen to your audience for feedback, what they like, and what they want to see more or less of. Just stay consistent and try to not compare yourself to others.
How do you eventually make money from a blog? How long did it take to see a consistent income?
There are many ways to make money on a blog the main three are: affiliate revenue (like Shopstyle or rewardStyle) where you get a commission or payment per click for any sales you generate; sponsorships, which is where you work with a brand and they pay you a direct fee to post about them.; and banner ads, where you set up ads to run on your site and get paid per click and impression. I don't use banner ads because I hate seeing it elsewhere. 
As for when I started seeing a steady income, it's a little hard to say. I started my blog in college (2011) but didn't really stay consistent with it, or take it seriously until I moved to New York in 2013. So if we're talking since 2013, I would say about two years? Was it something to live off of at that time? No, but it was a steady second income. I think around 2016 I was making the same salary at my full-time job and within the next year, I was making more. Each year has been my best year lol.

Why did you start and your thoughts on starting just to make money?
I started because I worked in a boutique in Lexington sharing the daily new arrivals in the store on Instagram. A friend of mine suggested I start a blog and share it there and one day I did it. At the time there wasn't really such thing as a full-time blogger or influencers in general. I started it out of boredom and a place to write freely and share my daily life. I also thought it would bode well on a résumé since I wanted to work in social media. 
And if you're doing it just to make money, don't. Honestly, it's not worth it because it's hard. I know it may seem easy from the outside, but to be successful it takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. And when the money doesn't come easily or right away, you'll find yourself unmotivated. You need a better reason to start blogging to help you stay in the right frame of mind. 
How much time should I dedicate to the blog if I work full time?
This is totally dependent on your schedule and how much you want to put into it. BUT right now is probably the best time to start since you're working from home and have a little more free time. When I was working full time (9-6/M-F), I would work from 7pm to about 1am answering emails, writing posts, and editing photos. Then on the weekends there was shooting, writing, editing, planning. It was a lot but I loved it. I liked being busy, having something creative to do and most importantly, I had fun doing it!
Whew!! Ok, this was FUN to write about! I hope it was as fun and helpful to read. I would love to do more posts like this if you guys are interested. Maybe a little peek behind the curtain into blogging? I know fellow bloggers and non-bloggers usually love posts like that so I am happy to help answer where I can. Just leave a comment, send a DM or email me with any questions for the next post.
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