I am going to write about the “why and how” of blogging, not because I get paid a bunch of money to write, but rather to give individuals inspiration to begin a journal about their passions. For some, that is cooking, or hiking, traveling, and for others it is something as simple as ‘my life’. Personally, I write about my passions: God, Family and Technology. No matter what/where your heart rests, journal about it, and in this case, do it online with a blog. Make it interesting (we will get to that later), make it fun (also later), and make a sort of memory book. Your ultimate goal should not fall short of ‘how can I provide value to someone else’s life?’, Period.
We will be covering the why’s of starting a blog. We will also be covering the how-to’s in starting a blog. And in the bonus round, you can learn more about some advice that I will throw your way.
So here is a list of some Why’s:
- You’ll learn to journal better. Communication is the key here. Journaling is a form of keeping records of those moments in time that capture your thoughts and hearts. Blogging is the same, it is about recording thoughts on the internet and enforcing others to agree with them. To that end, blogging (just like every other form of jounraling) takes a few times to get right. Practice, Practice, Practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better journal writer, forward motion causes change, and it happens as you go. And becoming a better journal writer lends itself to life benefits – whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a résumé, or an anniversary card for your spouse.
- Your thoughts become more clear. Because the process of journaling includes recording thoughts on paper, the blogging process inspires deeper thoughts. You will dig deeper into the core of your being and what shapes you. This is a stopping point for some, with the thought of “what I am going to write about?”, I can only say one thing to that, dig deeper, you’ll find it.
- You’ll live a more purpose driven life. Once you start journaling about your life and the thoughts that shape it, you’ll begin thinking more with purpose about who you are, who you are becoming, and whether you let the world shape your views. And that just may be reason enough to get started.
- Your eyes become keen to importantance. Just like journaling, it is virtually impossible to write about every single event going on in your life. You will begin to develop a keen eye for what are those most important moments in time that you want to capture through jotting them down, or typing them out. As you begin this journaling, blogging path, you will begin to see new angles, and new ways of thoughts creeping out, and the road become less boredom and more value added.
- Healthy becomes customary. Blogging requires time, devotion, commitment, and discipline. Those are considered to improve not only your lifestyle, but your health status as well! Since beginning to blog, I have more energy during the day, I have begun a habitual work-out routine, and can remember all of my kids events. Even if that does not sounds good to you, blogging will provide opportunity for new life customs to creep out in yours.
- Networking with new folks. Whether it be through on-line interactions through comments, twitter, facebook, or email, it will open new doors of opportunity, quickly, through new relationships. The blogging community is friendly, encouraging, and genuinely cheering for you to succeed… the only thing missing is you.
- Possible income streams await. Blogging has no need to build a stream of income. Monetary gains can often deter your thoughts from why you started blogging in the first place. The flip-side is, a little extra coin is better than a stick in the eye.
- Become evangelistic. Blogging not only changes your life, it also changes the life of the reader. And because blogs are free for the audience and open to the public, on many levels, it is an act of giving. It is a selfless act of service to invest your time, energy, and worldview into a piece of writing and then offer it free to anybody who wants to read it. Others will find inspiration in your writing… and that’s a wonderful feeling.
- You’ll become more well-rounded in your mindset. After all, blogging is an exercise in give-and-take. One of the greatest differences between blogging and traditional publishing is the opportunity for readers to offer input. As the blog’s writer, you introduce a topic that you feel is significant and meaningful. You take time to lay out a subject in the minds of your readers and offer your thoughts on the topic. Then, the readers get to respond. And often times, their responses in the comment section challenge us to take a new, fresh look at the very topic we thought was so important in the first place.
- It’s free. Your blog can begin today without spending a single penny now (or ever). I use WordPress and highly recommend it. With an initial investment of less than $0, why not give it a shot?
- You’ll become more comfortable being known. Blogging introduces yourself to the world. It causes you to articulate the life you live and the worldview behind the decisions that you make. Whether you have 1 reader or 10,000, the blogging process opens up your life to those on the outside. It is a good exercise in human-existence to be known by others. Over time, you’ll reveal more and more of yourself to the outside world… and you’ll be excited to find a world that relates to you and enjoys hearing your story.
- It’ll serve as a personal journal. Blogging serves many of the same roles as a personal journey. It trains us to be observant and gives weight to the personal growth that we are experiencing. It trains our minds to track life and articulate the changes we are experiencing. Your blog becomes a digital record of your life that is saved “in the cloud.” As a result, it can never be lost, stolen, or destroyed in a fire.
- You’ll become more confident. Blogging will help you discover more confidence in your life. You will quickly realize that you do live an important life with a unique view and have something to offer others.
- You’ll find a recommendable something. We love telling about a good movie, book, or restaurant. Blogging let’s you take a personal look and have the ability to provide instant feedback/review for something that you took kindly to. So you can turn the tables on the old saying of: the positives are lost in the exponential negatives. You will get a good feeling when someone gives you a positive comment about what you just wrote.
Remember, you don’t need to blog as a means to get rich or as a means to gather worldly possessions, or even praise. You don’t even need to blog as a means to change the view of the world… the change that a blog will cause in your life is reason enough.
How to Start Your Blog: Step-by-Step Instructions
Now you have a bunch of advice and a bunch of homework and you know what you want to write about and you’re ready to get started, but you don’t have any idea where to start. Guess what, neither did I. At all. Literally. I were clueless. The only thing I knew how to do was buy a domain.
But good news, you can learn from my pain and suffering. This is what I did:
- Domain and Hosting. The first I did was go to Bluehost and register my domain for free with hosting (note: I didn’t set up a WordPress page first, Bluehost does all that for you). I also paid Bluehost $7 per month to host my website ($84 for the first year) (note: I’m a Bluehost affiliate, so you get a discount if you use this link). So it basically costs me $7 per month to operate this site. Then I did an advanced install of WordPress through Bluehost (and if I had any questions I could chat with the “live chat” folks at Bluehost for free; they pointed me in the right direction and made it super easy). There are also free WordPress or Blogger domains available too.
- Themes. I am using the Flexible Theme, which made everything much easier since we didn’t know anything about coding or building a website. If you want a theme, we recommend Elegant Themes because it’s easy and not too expensive (only $39 per year for over 70 beautiful themes and you get to use them for life). There are other free (i.e., harder to use) options out there too.
- Get messy. Once I had my domain, hosting, WordPress, and theme, I spent a lot of time tweaking the theme to get the look and feel I wanted (i.e., making my vision a reality). Then I spent even more time tweaking the theme and tweaking it some more. I also set up a free Feedburner account so people could subscribe to my site via email and RSS subscriptions. And I established a free Google Analytics account (to track our stats from time to time). Feedburner and Google Analytics were both easy to sign up for (again, please keep in mind that I didn’t know anything about setting up a website).
- Plugins. I only use a few plugins on our site: “SocialBox” and the “All In One SEO Pack” plugins (it’s important to make your posts easy to share with others). They take just a few seconds (literally a few seconds; it’s just a click of a button) to install once your site is all set up.
- Content. Last, I started uploading my content (via my WordPress site). I designed a logo using some free images I found online and text from a regular word processing program called MS Word for PC. I put my picture on the site and I started writing about real estate (what I was doing at the time. And the rest is history, as they say.
- Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. What are you passionate about? Have you found your passion? If so, write about that. If not, then you must first find your passion. And you probably shouldn’t blog about…
- Define Your Ideal Readers. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to know who will be reading your stuff. For example, I write about WordPress; my ideal readers are people who are interested in what possibilities WordPress has for them, so that they can grow as developers and contribute to others in a meaningful way. If you want to write about your newborn baby growing up, that’s great; your ideal readers are probably your friends and family, and that’s cool. If you want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool too. Tailor your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or your local community or whomever else will read your blog).
- Add Value. Your content must add value to your readers’ lives. This is the only way you will get Great Quality Readers to your site (and keep them coming back). Adding value is the only way to get someone’s longterm buy-in. I learned this after a decade of leading and managing people.
- Be Original. Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing you want to write about. Q: So why is your blog any different? A: Because of you. You are what makes your blog different, it’s about your perspective, your creativity, the value that you add.
Be Interesting. Write epic, awesome content. Especially if you want people to share it with others.
- Be Yourself. Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every person is unique and your story is an important one. The important part of story telling, however, is removing the superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.
- Be Honest. Your blog needs to be real—it needs to feel real—if you want people to read it. Embrace what you write about – talk the talk and walk the walk. That is to say, do you really embody the stuff that you write about? If not, people will see through you. Be the change you want to see in the world, is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should be the blog they want to write for the world.
- Transparency. Being transparent is different from being honest. You needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being honest. Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to what you’re writing. (You won’t ever see pictures of me using the restroom on this site; it’s just not relevant.)
- Time. Blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as I am (I spent over 10 hours testing the fonts on this site. Not to mention the color scheme, the width, height, and functionality of the plugins, phew!). That said, once you have your design set up, don’t tweak it too much, spend the time on your writing.
- Vision. The reason this site design looks good is because I had a vision of how I wanted it to look, and then I worked very hard to make that vision a reality. It’s hard to create a great looking site if you don’t know what you want it to look like.
- Find Your Voice. Over time good writers discover their voice and their writing tends to develop a certain aesthetic, one that is appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing feel more alive, more real, more urgent.
- When To Post. Q: When is the best day/time to post a blog post or an essay? Answer: It doesn’t really matter. I don’t adhere to a particular schedule. Some weeks I post zero. Sometimes I post three, but I average about two a week.
- Social Media. Yes, I recommend using Twitter and Facebook or Google+ to help connect with readers and other bloggers, but don’t get too caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.
- Negative Criticism. Do not let them bother you. Sure, I get a lot of negative comments and emails from people who aren’t really my readers (e.g., “you do not know what you are talking about”). I call these people seagulls: they fly in, dump on your site, and fly away. But I pay them no mind; my site is not for them. Pray for them, then delete their comment and move on.
- Research. Spend your time researching what you’re writing about. The reason I are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in my posts is because I put in the time to research our topics. That doesn’t mean that we read all of these blogs regularly, but we put in the time reading them when we’re doing our research. Giving backlinks will go a long way and come back to you two fold (think of tithing)
- Keep It Simple. No need to place superfluous advertisements or widgets all over your site, just stick to the basics and remove anything you don’t need.
- Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People identify with other people. If I am not too afraid to put my picture on this site, then you have nothing to worry about.
- Comments. You can either turn them on, or keep them off (by choice for each post).
Live Your Life. You’re blogging about your life (or about certain aspects of your life, at least), so you still need to live your life. There are things that I always put before writing: GOD, Family, exercise, health, personal relationships, coffee, technology and gadgets.
credits go to: http://www.theminimalists.com/ & http://www.becomingminimalist.com for inspiration and some content