Everyone has a different reason for wanting to start a blog.
It could be a need for creative expression. A chance for your voice and opinions to be validated or heard in the world. Something fun to indulge in outside of the boring 9-5 or a way to build a platform so that you can launch into a new career or industry with credibility.
For me it was all of the above!
I just kind of jumped in. I didn’t really know much about blogging – I’d tried my hand at it a few times in various incarnations over the years but never really found the sweet spot. So since starting my blog 2 years ago and now having it be something I do full time successfully, you can imagine I’ve learnt loads along the way. Most of the things I’ve learnt are things that could have saved me countless hours of indecisiveness or what I like to generally call FAFFING! Stupid mistakes, time lost, tears cried (ok maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you catch my vibe)!
I thought I’d put together the ten most important things I’ve learnt that you need to have thought about before starting your kick-ass blog. I promise you that if you work your way through these you will have so much of a clearer picture about the road ahead and you’ll be on your best foot ready to take the blogging world by storm.
who is your ideal reader?
This is more important than anything else. Who will you be talking to? In this day and age you can’t just start a blog that you hope appeals to everyone. Sure, people have done it before, but all of those places have been taken by the people who got on blogging wayyyyy back when it first started. It’s harder for you to become the best at something if that area is completed saturated with other bloggers who have been doing it for longer than you, unless you want to spend a shit load of money on advertising yourself.
If you can, think of the niche you want to sit in. Will you just focus on fashion? Or perhaps, food, interiors etc. If there’s an even smaller field within that, like for instance just writing about gluten free desserts then you’re definitely onto a winner. It’s all about being narrow.
Your niche doesn’t need to be industry specific like that reference either, because you may instead want to focus on a niche type of person. I know that all readers of my blog enjoy being a bit rebellious, they’re into showing their own quirks and they like to discover new things and be the first in their group of mates to do so.
TIP – Can you think about what traits your audience member will have? A great way to think about this is to write a customer avatar. Think about who they are, where they live, what they do, what they enjoy in life, what makes them happy, what pisses them off, what they feel passionate about, yada yada yada!
If you have this in mind when you start and you always write every blog post for that person then you’ll stay consistent and on brand, which will set you apart from the rest instantly. Even on launch.
what will be your USP?
Next you need to think about your unique selling point. You now have your customer in mind, so what’s going to make you different to the competition that are already trying to talk to the same audience?
Perhaps you have a very unique tone of voice (something we will come onto in a minute).
Maybe your photography is outstanding.
Your visual brand could be very distinctive and memorable.
Could you go into more depth in your blog posts than others do? At the other end of that spectrum, instead you might find a quick fire way to get the message across, short and sweet, and that becomes your USP.
People often ask me what the No Bull Business School‘s USP is and weirdly I say that it’s me! I have a very distinctive no bull, blatantly honest, warts and all approach and I always back up learning points with real life lessons from my own journey as a blogger. I know that a big corporation wouldn’t be able to mimic the same thing because they can’t build another me. They wouldn’t have my life experiences, sense of humour (though some would argue that this is not humour at all, clearly they’re idiots) or knowledge. Unless it’s google and they create a robot or something. Maybe I should stop talking!
TIP – Find something that you can do differently that will help you to become memorable and distinctive.
will photos make up a large part of your blog?
If you’re thinking about starting a blog that’s heavy on the creative / lifestyle side of things then you will want to think about your standard of photography and your photographic equipment. Photography plays a big part in establishing your brand and how professional you look early on.
Now, that’s not to say that you can’t get a long way just using your smartphone and some nice filters – I did that for years and no-one batted an eyelid! However I did notice that my readership went up a lot more when I started taking photos using a proper camera. It can also put you in better standing with businesses and brands that may want to partner with you on sponsored (paid) content down the line. They will want images to look as professional as possible so it’s a good idea to start working on it as soon as you begin.
There are some great little cameras out there especially created for bloggers. I love the Olympus Pen EPL7 and it’s what I shoot almost everything on nowadays.
TIP – Spend some time always trying to further your photography skills. Again pick other bloggers brains and see if there are any beginners photography courses in your local area. Just watch out because your friends will DEFINITELY make you the designated photographer on nights out from now on!
What will your brand represent?
Ahh branding. It’s that mystery thing that everyone talks about. Their ‘brand’. I like to summarise your brand as what people say about you when you’re not there, and how you make them feel inside. Don’t worry I won’t get too mushy.
Brand values are the values that you have and represent – in your case it will most likely be as a person. Oh yeah, just cos’ you’re a person doesn’t mean your brand isn’t important. Personal branding is one of the most important things that come into play with blogging and social media. What do you stand for? What are you championing?
Having some core brand values to mark yourself against will be like the anchor that stops you going astray. So in the same way with every blog post you need to be thinking about your reader you also need to ask yourself the question ‘is this on brand?’
That can also be a visual brand too. Certain colours or styles that may help you to communicate with your target audience and help to show off your brand values.
On my personal blog, my brand is all about being rebellious, unexpected, irreverent and edgy (I know that word is so cringe but it does serve a purpose). With every colour I choose, every font, every blog post I write and every image I take I ask myself if I am meeting those values. If it’s not then I need to step it up a notch.
You need to be consistently delivering the brand experience that you have planned and so sitting down at the beginning and thinking about that will put you in good stead.
TIP – Your brand will of course adapt and evolve as you grow so don’t overthink it, just find a good starting point.
do you know which platform you want to use?
There are many blogging platforms and website builders out there for you to use. Each has a slightly different brand experience and in my opinion each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Some platforms are better suited to bloggers and others for more complex website building, so if you’re thinking about building a shop onto your blog in the future then you may want to consider a platform that has that option should you need it, rather than having to up sticks and move later down the line. It is possible to move between platforms and some make it very easy to do so, others not so much.
The 4 big players I would research are
I use Squarespace for my own personal blog and WordPress for this No Bull Blog School site as it needed more complex backend stuff like a built in membership site.
TIP – Thoroughly investigate and research each platform and what it’s good at and who it’s good for. If you’re not so great at fiddly techy things but are great at design then one may be best for you. Alternatively, the techy stuff may come quite easily to you but you need a platform with great looking templates that you can just get going with straight away.
Ask other bloggers for their opinion!
how often are you realistically able to post?
A lot of my Blueprint to Blogging students get really caught up in how often they should be blogging in order to be successful. There’s no magic number, in fact I wrote a whole post about it over here. There’s also no magic number to how long a blog post should be either, and that’s something that is covered extensively inside my 6 week intro course to blogging.
Instead, the most important thing you can do is realistically ask yourself how much time you can commit to blogging – CONSISTENTLY. That’s the keyword here.
It’s much better to post less often but be very consistent then write 5 blogs in one week and then nothing for 2 months. It makes your reader feel like you aren’t reliable and that you don’t stick to your word, a dangerous game for a new blogger! Your reputation and trustworthiness go a long way in this world, so make sure you’re not being flaky.
TIP – Look at how much time per week or month you can commit to writing. That’s only one half of it as you’ll need to think about your promotion strategy too (more on that in a sec)! Find a flow that works for you and your work / family / partying commitments and stick to it.
are you already on social media?
Social media plays a huge role in helping to promote your blog, so if you’re not already on the various channels then you want to think about joining and starting to build your brand socially too.
Social media is just like choosing a platform for your blog as we discussed above. Each SM platform has a slightly different audience and its own strengths and weaknesses. If you know your audience well (as we talked about in the first point) then you will probably have a good understanding to where they ‘hang out’ online. I know that my audience is big on instagram and facebook but may not be on twitter or something like snapchat very often.
Not only is social media one of the best ways to find new readers, but it also helps to promote your blog posts to the readers and followers you already do have too. Think of it like cross pollination. I try to share most of my blog posts on instagram and ask people to click through and have a read.
Social Media when done right can also be an extension to really solidify your brand values. Instagram form instance is great at establishing your visual identity, twitter may help you to really hone your ‘tone of voice’.
TIP – Pick one platform to really go all out on to begin with, and then expand once you feel comfortable.
what is your tone of voice?
TOV is a funny phrase that marketers, bloggers and journos like to band about. It essentially means your writing style.
Your TOV is closely linked to your brand values. If one of my brand values is to be fun and irreverent then I’m hardly going to write all of my blog posts in a very formal, stuffy, big-word-show-off style.
I like to write my blog posts as I would say them to a friend. My tone of voice is very casual and conversational. It’s not what you might find in a magazine or newspaper. However, you may have a different audience to me. Your audience may expect and extremely high level of professionalism, so writing about listening to podcasts while you use the loo may not fly that well with them (yes, that’s actually something I wrote about)!
Your tone of voice can include everything from the words you use to how you structure sentences. I’ll often throw in references to things like the Kardashians or hip hop lyrics because I know my audience get it. Think of it as your personality, in writing.
How can you best get your personality across through words?
TIP – Look at how you want your brand to be perceived and use a tone of voice that reflects it.
what will your blog name be?
Your blog name can be just as important as the way it looks.
Impressions are made instantly and your blog can live or die on how memorable it is. Your blog’s name and URL plays a big factor into that.
If you have something in mind have you checked to see if the URL is available?
If you’re not sure yet then think about finding a name that will ride you through the future. Again it needs to be in line with your brand, so don’t go for anything that sounds particularly mumsy or traditional if you’re trying to be young and edgy and vice versa. Beware of words that could be misspelled or that only look good on paper but when you try to say them to someone they don’t roll off the tongue so well.
I used my own name because I knew that over time my blog would evolve around the lifestyle that I had at the time and would also serve as a portfolio of my creative work. If you’re thinking of starting a collective or don’t want to be the one in the spotlight then you may want to go for something more descriptive or industry relevant.
TIP – Ensure that you don’t pick a name that on paper looks weird. I saw a great one recently for a company called ‘Who Represents?’ but as a URL read whorepresents.com. Major fail fam.
how will you get people to read your posts?
It’s all very well and good getting caught up in the excitement of the initial blog design and writing your first few posts. But don’t forget that old saying ‘if a tree fell and no-one heard it, then did the tree really fall?’, or as I like to say ‘if I ate a meal and I didn’t instagram a picture of it, then did I really eat the meal?’
Hitting publish is really only going half of the way of blogging.
Make sure that you have a promo strategy in mind for once you publish your blog.
You should be thinking about which social media sites you can be promoting on. If it’s right for pinterest, if there are any forums or facebook groups that may welcome your piece, if you can put any paid advertising push behind it (like using facebook ads) or perhaps mailing out to your mailing list. Get into a routine of doing the same thing at the end of each blog post and it’ll become easier each time.
TIP – At first the best place to be sharing posts is with your friends on your own facebook profile. Over time you can phase that out so that you’re not annoying people, but when you first start you just need to head to the place where you have ANY kind of following.
Want to make sure your blog has the best chance of becoming successful?
Get my free video training series by clicking here or the image below. it’s perfect for you if you’re thinking about starting a blog or have something up and running already but you’re not very impressed with the results you’ve been getting. This should help!