11/27/11

Starting a Blog


In the past few months, I've had several emails/comments/facebook messages asking me about how to start a blog.  I figured there were probably a few of you out there wondering the same thing... so rather than address those questions individually, I'm going to try to sum up my best advice here in one blog post.
Granted, I don't consider myself a "super successful blogger." I'm not up there with Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge or Holly Becker of Decor8--two design bloggers who I kinda idolize. ;)  For me, blogging is a way to marry my interest in decor with my passion for writing.  It also happens to coincide nicely with my dream job of writing, editing, or producing for a decor magazine.  Plus, it's fun and inspiring!  It doesn't pay the rent.  It hasn't landed me my dream job (though it helped with getting my internship!).  But blogging is highly rewarding in many ways... so let's get down to business. 

Why blog?
Well, there's lots of reasons to blog.  I started Lovely Undergrad (called Miss Scholastic once upon a time) to keep track of inspiring photos and decor ideas I came across while planning my fall dorm.  It was a personal hobby.  Comments and readers were just icing and sprinkles on the cake.  Blogging opens your eyes to lots of inspiration.  I love the whole circle of sharing that goes on.  On top of that, you can connect with some pretty awesome people that share your interests--people you might not have ever met otherwise! In this day and age, there are so many more reasons to blog: networking, self promotion, marketing, staying in touch, showing off your skills, and the list goes on and on.  My top three personal reasons: 1. Inspiring and getting inspired is fun! 2. Connecting with other bloggers, readers, and fabulous people.  3. Working on something and attaching my name to something I can be proud of, that marries my interests with my passions and shows my writing style and taste... to friends, family, and even future/present employers.

What's there to blog about?
You should blog about what you're interested in and what you're passionate about.  It's as simple as that.  Think about what you really like to talk about--about what you tend to ramble on about.  Is it fashion, decor, or beauty that really gets you going?  Are you on a mission to end poverty, spread the word about your religion, or read 100 books in one year?  Blog about what gets you excited.  That excitement will shine through to readers.  Plus, blogging can take a lot of work.  It's hard enough to keep up with writing a lot of posts as it is... so having a topic you're very interested in can hopefully keep writers' block at bay.  

Setting Up Home
There are lots of blog host sites out there.  I'm partial to Blogger because it seems to be the most user friendly and customizable to me.  There's also Wordpress and Tumblr, to name a couple popular ones.  Explore lots of different blogs and take note of what host they use.  You might find yourself drawn to a lot of Tumblr blogs.  You might find yourself hating on Blogger or Wordpress.  Another trick would be to set up an account and blog on two or three different hosts.  Blog on each platform, essentially getting a feel for how things work.  I went back and forth between Wordpress and Blogger for several months before finally settling on Blogger.  

What about domains?
On most blogging platforms, your blog's url will be something.whateverblogplatform.com.  Honestly, it's best to keep it that way for a while.  You might want to change your title, change platforms, and do other types of experimentation in your first few months blogging.  Stay flexible.  When things start to get serious and you feel committed to your blog's title, purpose, content, etc... it's time to start thinking about buying your blog a big, shiny domain.  Which means you drop the .whateverplatform from your url. And you get to be something.com.  I went ahead and bought my domain through Blogger just because it is simpler to me.  You can do the same through other platforms, or register a domain through a site like GoDaddy.com.  

HTML, CSS, and design... oh my!
Don't have a knack for web design?  Don't fret.  Everything I learned about html and css, I taught myself.  If you feel the itch to be able to customize your blog template yourself, there are tons of great tutorials out there on the web.  You really only have to Google it and you can learn everything from the basics to more intricate coding.  Not so into the html and css?  Again, don't fret.  There are also plenty of pre-made blog designs out there.  Lots of free ones, and lots of designers eager to make you one for a little (or a lotta) money.  

Getting Readers & Comments
A lot of people ask how to attract readers and how to get comments on your posts.  It's a lot of self promotion/marketing and a networking.  Joining blog networks like 20 Something Bloggers, Blog Catalog, etc. help to an extent.  But what really does it is reading others' blogs and leaving comments.  Not shameless self promotion like "I'm Jessica! Read my blog Lovely Undergrad!"  That probably won't go over well.  Read their post, leave an insightful comment with your opinion, what you like, what you don't like, etc... and just include a link to your blog.  Give love, get love.  If you're getting super serious about promoting your blog, get it its own Facebook and Twitter account.  Leave post-it notes all over campus with your url.  And also, write regularly.  If you write daily or almost every day, readers are more likely to keep checking back for a new post as opposed to writing sporadically once or twice a week or month.

Writers' Block and Running Out of Ideas
Ugh. Writers' Block. Been there, done that.  It still happens.  Sometimes you run out of ideas.  And while simply sharing the same photos you found on another blog is all too easy, you don't want your blog to consist solely of borrowed, recycled, unoriginal content.  If you write about things you're interested in, that helps a lot.  But sometimes that doesn't keep the writers' block away.  There are lots of blogging prompts out there if you want someone to shoot an idea at you.  Don't be afraid to go out on a limb.

How much is TMI?
When it comes to blogging, you can attach your name to it or you can remain totally anonymous.  It's all up to you.  It's also up to you how much personal information and experiences you reveal on the blog.  If you're thinking about blogging about sex, controversial topics, crazy college parties, etc. things along those lines... consider anonymity.  You can always reveal yourself in the future if you find you're totally comfortable with that.  We live in the age of Google.  Before attaching your name to your blog... consider this:  Would you be comfortable with a family member, your significant other, your current employer, or a future possible employer typing your name into Google, pulling up your blog, and reading everything that's on it?  No?  Stay masked a little.  Yes?  Then by all means attach your name.  I didn't attach my real name to my blog for at least a year.  

Blog-etiquette: Minding Your P's and Q's
This is basic stuff that mostly pertains to respect.  Don't steal others' content.  Give credit where credit is due (photos, music, quotes, etc).  No plagiarizing.  No copyright infringement.  Don't leave nasty comments or start comment wars.  If someone leaves nasty comments on your post, delete them and move on.  Use language suitable to your blog and how you want to represent yourself.  Be nice! Karma applies to the blogosphere, too. ;)

Now I know that there's a LOT here that I didn't cover.  So now I'm opening up the floor to you, lovely readers.  Feel free to leave comments and questions below. :)

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19 comments:

  1. <3 Love this! Thank you. I'm just starting to get my act together to blog on a regular basis. Perfect timing.

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  2. I thought this was an excellent post, and if you don't mind, I might share it with a few friends who are interested in blogging. I think the biggest challenge I faced was finding a style that I liked. I've now dabbled into the html/css world, and it's been pretty simple!

    Thanks for sharing this, Jessica!

    xoxo,
    megs [at] Shine On

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  3. Thank you so much for writing this up. I really do appreciate it. I've contacted a few blogs asking for some words of wisdom because I really want to have a blog people like. I've been in a community college for a couple of years now majoring in English but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it. The past few months I have really been thinking (actually, I've been obsessing) about online magazines. There are a lot of blogs/sites that I check daily and I always catch myself being inspired to just start my own. It used to be a dream. As a kid I actually created a 'zine. lol I would make up a few articles in an email and send it out to other kids in my class and family members. I think I was like.. 11 or 12. haha. But I never thought of it as something I could actually pursue as a career. The past few months the excitement of that past dream has been seeping its way back into my brain and I think I want to actually try and achieve it. I know it will take time and patience and a lot of learning but its something I want to do. I don't know if you've ever been on xojane.com but thats the kind of thing I want to create or be part of one day. I have a passion for it.

    But anyway, the only thing I want to ask at this moment is how did you get your internship? I'm sure you've written about it before and I'll look through the archives for it if you have but if not could you go a little deeper into that? How to go about finding one etc.?

    Again, you are absolutely wonderful for helping me (and I'm sure lots of others) out by posting some stuff on starting a blog. I check this blog often and tell my cousins about it all the time because they will be freshmen in college next year! And you post awesome ideas.

    Well, have a lovely week!

    xo Alex

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  4. Hey :) Thank you for your great ideas. I started my blog a few months ago but its just an experiment. Lately I hardly had any time to blog but now that my exams are over i will get back to it.
    But I also just wanted to say that I really love your blog. I found it by chance and I spent hours and hours just looking through everything.

    xoxo
    Nadine

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