A New Pro’s Guide to To Starting Your Own Blog

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By now, you’ve probably heard all of the reasons why you should start a blog. Maintaining your own website and blog helps you further develop your personal brand, improves your writing skills and can even lead to new career opportunities and freelance gigs.blogging-blog2 But what you might not know is how to start a blog.

Here are six steps to help you launch your own blog:

1. Select a topic (or don’t pick one at all). Before you begin blogging, you should have a general idea of what you want to blog about. Many pro bloggers advise new bloggers to select a niche for the best chance at getting noticed in a sea of other blogs. I personally ignore this advice. When I started my blog almost two years ago, I knew I wanted to blog about many topics: PR, writing, running, yoga, personal branding. Instead of picking a niche, I selected a more general theme (Get Gutsy) and have been blogging successfully under that umbrella topic ever since. Don’t feel pressured to pigeonhole yourself into a niche you may lose interest in a couple years down the line. Think long-term.

2. Choose a platform. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr…the options for choosing a blogging platform are endless. However, if you ask me, the choice is simple. If you have any interest in using your blog to make money at any point or simply want a more professional presence, go with WordPress. WordPress.com is completely free and even allows you the opportunity to buy your own domain (i.e. JessicaLawlor.com instead of JessicaLawlor.Wordpress.com). When you’re ready, you can upgrade to WordPress.org, which allows you to self-host and gives you access to many more design and plug-in options. Still not sure? This The Next Web piece can help you select a platform.

3. Make it pretty. Of course, your blog’s content should shine, but aesthetic is important, too. When someone stumbles onto your blog, a visually-pleasing and easy on the eye design will help them stick around to consume your content. WordPress.com offers many free themes with limited customization. That’s a great place to start. When you decide to get more serious about blogging, you may consider hiring a web designer for a more advanced and professional presence.

4. Help readers find and get to know you better. Before your blog launches, there are a few very important things you should have in place to allow your readers the opportunity to get to know you and your blog.

  • About page: Develop an “About” page where readers can learn more about who you are and what they can expect from your blog. Down the line, you may also use this page to direct new readers to some of your most popular posts.

  • Portfolio: If you’d like to use your blog to attract potential career or freelance opportunities, be sure to showcase your resume or links to guest blog posts or other writing and work samples.

  • Contact: Be sure to make it easy for readers to contact you! I personally have a tab on my site called “Contact” with a form

  • Social media buttons: Help your readers connect with you on other platforms by including social media buttons on the main page of your site.

5. Pick a frequency. Many people don’t start a blog because they think if they don’t have the time to blog every day, it won’t be worth their while. This is completely false! There are many, many successful blogs out there that don’t post as often as you might think you need to post to make a splash. Pick a frequency you can commit to; maybe that’s once a week, maybe it’s just twice a month. Whatever your frequency, stick with it, so your readers know when to expect you!

6. Get started! What are you waiting for? Many people wait for the *perfect* time to launch their blogs, but in reality, there is no perfect time. It’s challenging (especially for us Type A PR pros) to start something without a solid plan in place, but know that your blog will always be a work in progress. My site has been live for almost two years and every day, I make tiny tweaks to it to continue improving my reader’s experience. If you start now, you will reap the benefits much faster.

Have other tips for starting a blog? Share them in the comments below!

Jessica-44Jessica Lawlor is the marketing and communications coordinator for Visit Bucks County, the official tourism promotion agency for Bucks County, PA. She serves on the PRSA New Pros executive committee as a PRSSA liaison. In her free time, Jessica is a freelance writer and blogs at JessicaLawlor.com about getting gutsy-stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Interested in freelance writing and personal branding? Jessica Lawlor is teaching a session on personal branding for freelance writers in an online course called Launch A Freelance Writing Career. Click here for more details.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/tressalynne tressalynne

    Excellent tips, Jess! On the side, I’m teaching a class on blogging this semester at Southeast Mo State. I’ve already covered most of this but it will be good for them to see it from someone other than me ;).

  • http://jessicalawlor.com/ Jessica Lawlor

    Thanks for the comment, Tressa! So glad you liked the post and excited to hear your students may benefit from the advice :) How awesome that you’re teaching a class on blogging! I’d love to chat with you more about what is involved with that- sounds like a class I would have loved in school!

  • Linda

    Jess, I have a question about the Contact suggestion. Someone else suggested creating a special email for your blog. Though I’ve read many blogs, I haven’t participated in the discussion part, and I guess I assumed that contact would happen in the comment section. Do readers frequently contact the blogger by email outside of the comment section…

  • http://jessicalawlor.com/ Jessica Lawlor

    Hi Linda! Great question. I definitely recommend including your personal email address (or a blog email address if that makes you more comfortable) somewhere very visible on your site. Comments are great, but remember that they are public. What if someone wants to contact you with an awesome career opportunity, but they don’t want to share that publicly on your blog? You want to make it very easy for them to find you and reach you in other ways :) Sometimes a reader also just wants to reach out to share a personal story or ask for advice that they may not feel comfortable sharing publicly. I like to make sure they have an outlet to do that. Hope this helps!