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In 1994 Justin Hall, Jerry Pournelle, and Dave Winer began doing something that hundreds of millions are doing today. Blogging. Credited by many for being the first webloggers to begin what is now a full time job for many, blogging can be done in a myriad of ways for a variety of reasons.
In 2009, it was estimated that 200 million blogs were in existence. A rough estimate in 2014 put the blog tally at 420 million, but one of the largest blogging platforms, Blogger, doesn’t report their analytics, so again, a rough estimate. Either way, blogging has and is an existing medium that continues to offer individuals an avenue for self-expression, a means to promote their business (traditional book authors are all but required by their publishers to have a blog associated with their online web presence) and any other opportunity to put your voice out into the world without having to spend much, if not any money
Many TSLL readers have asked over the years for me to share in more detail how my lifestyle blog The Simply Luxurious Life began and how it became the blog that it is today read by hundreds of thousands each month from around the globe. Let me first begin by saying, I had no intention or foggiest idea that the outcome you see today could be a possibility. The key, as I share in the first chapter of my book is to love writing and have a sincere relentless, unwavering passion for the content you are sharing. If your goal is to blog as a career, I cannot promise that. No one can promise that. There is a magic mix of persistent, stubborn hard work, timing and risk taking as you are willing to invest.
But before I dive more deeply into the nuts and bolts, what I’ve created today is the first in a three part series of how to create a blog you love. As the title for today’s post I almost put “How to Create a Successful Blog”, and while I could have because if you love what you do, you are successful, sometimes the term “success” can be misconstrued. I believe, and if my blog is evidence to the fact, that if you love something, you already are successful, and if people gravitate toward what you have to offer, all the better. But I can sincerely say, I would write each day for free. Okay, maybe a monthly earnings enough for regular cups of my favorite Parisian tea, but still, truly, I love what I do, I am thankful I have the platform to express myself and am fortunate to work with talented people who have helped put my vision out into the world in a medium that I am proud to call my blog. So the title How to Create a Blog You Love was solidified.
Building the Foundation
Much like building a house, surrounding yourself with quality relationships, the details matter and this takes time and perhaps some investing on your part. So let’s break it down.
1. Select the best platform
There are a handful of free blogging platforms for anyone who is just beginning or knows for certain their blog will be solely a personal hobby or pursuit. Blogger, WordPress.com (not WordPress.org) and Tumblr. TSLL blog began on Blogger for the two reasons mentioned above. But as you will see from this detailed post by StartABlog123, if you want more than a personal outlet, you will want to consider other platform options. I stayed with Blogger for three years before I finally migrated to WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com – free).
If your goal is to sell services, monetize in a way that is efficient and uncluttered, you will want to pay for hosting (we will talk about that in a minute) and select a platform that allows you to have complete control over your blog. The options available for hosting are WordPress.org (1 out of 6 blogs are WordPress), SquareSpace, Ghost, Moveable Type & Expression Engine (learn more about each of these here). There are other options, but these are the most recommended (some have been around much longer than others, but the last three mentioned may suit what you’re looking for).
As I mentioned above, I migrated to WordPress.org without hesitation and have never regretted the move in the least. I have complete control of design, layout, content and while I do pay a hosting fee each month, I write it off on my taxes and continue to create the blog that I have envisioned in my mind when it comes to helping readers live simply luxuriously.
And I must give a shout-out and high recommendation to Joy Miller of Five J’s Design for migrating my blog from Blogger to WordPress. I do not suggest doing this by yourself unless you are skilled in coding. For a few hundred dollars and in fewer than a couple of days, my blog and all of my archived content was on my WordPress site.
2. Buy your domain
The cheapest and simplest thing you can do to brand your blog is to buy your domain name. No more thesimplyluxuriouslife.blogspot.com or thesimplyluxuriouslife.wordpress.com (free hosting sites). Even if your blog is a hobby, for few than $15 a year you can reserve your domain name from a variety of sites (GoDaddy, 1and1 and many others). There are many unique domains beyond .com. For example, if you visit www.habituallychic.luxury, a few years ago she selected to change her domain name to fit her blog’s premise (luxury). Often these cost more, but again, nominal compared to other yearly costs. The key is something readers will remember, limit the extra punctuation marks and then lock it in. I also reserved my name shannonables.com because I thought one day I would have an author’s page. And thankfully I did because I do have an all things simply luxurious living at shannonables.com.
When it comes to renewal each year, I have put mine on automatic renewal to ensure my domains remain in my possession. Even when you choose this option, they will send a one month, two week, one week and day of reminder to let you know that the renewal is taking place (which you can change at anytime).
Note: Before you select the name of your blog, view part two next week when I share my thoughts on what the focus of your blog should be, your niche. This will save you unnecessary changes in the future to your domain and help keep the consistency which is crucial for continued success and growth when it comes to your readership.
If you know or have an idea that you might want your blog to become a business, you will have chosen a self-hosted blog. There are many different hosting services, and having explored the internet for the best one, there is no conclusive answer. I work with both Host Gator and BlueHost. The monthly cost will depend on what you need based on the reach of your blog (page views, hits, etc). I have had to increase mine over the years as the audience as grown, but when you are just getting started, it can be as minimal as $15 a month. Another helpful tip to know is that technicians are available nearly 24/7 if for some reason you have questions, your website goes down, etc. This very rarely happens, but sometimes there will be a database error and nothing will be seen. Typically, it is not just your website and you personally have done nothing wrong. Simply call them up and in minutes they will have it up and running. Over the past year, I think I have had this happen twice for a few short minutes once I recognized what was going on.
4. The design
The best part of creating a blog is designing it as you have dreamed about in your mind. TSLL has undergone a couple of changes, but the best decision I made was to hire a web designer. I cannot recommend more highly Shari Miller of Little Blue Deer Designs. She is still my designer and is highly sought after by the fashion, food and lifestyle blogging community because she offers tremendous service at an affordable price. For Oregonians, and for anyone for that matter, I worked with Jack Wheeler of Blue Hat Designs from Eugene for my author website, shannonables.com, and am very pleased with his eye and talent. He is a bit more in cost, but well below the high-end designers you will find. I would return to him in an instant as well.
Expect to pay between $200 to $500 (low end) for basic WordPress or Blogger designs. I have spoken to many other designers, some who have laid out Vogue‘s website and other high-traffic sites and they can run you into the couple of thousands of dollars on the low end. Truly, $500 is a steal in this world as they are in high-demand and they know the market. Another skill or language for us all to become fluent in if nothing else to save ourselves money. 🙂
5. Optional: Select an illustrator
Hands down, the best decision I didn’t know I was making at the time, was to reach out to an illustrator that I was inspired by and paid for a commissioned illustration. Why? Your design will be completely unique and entirely yours to copyright or use in any business fashion you choose. Inslee Fariss, as you see on the blog, on the cover of and inside the book as well as the image for the podcast, speaks my language when it comes to blending style with elegant simplicity. I thank my lucky stars I had the courage to reach out to her when I did back in 2011. And while Inslee is highly sough after today (Rachel Zoe and Elizabeth Arden have commissioned her talent), there are many talented artists out there. Perhaps you have a friend or a family member. The key is to pay for the commission and sign a contract that gives you complete control of the image once it is complete.
Okay, now that the foundation is laid, let the writing and creating begin! Stop by next week for Part Two when we talk about how to select your content, focus, and how to create posts that are attractive as well as engaging.