March 30, 2015

5 Questions to ask yourself when you want to start a blog


My blogging journey began end of 2012, beginning of 2013, so not even that long ago. I had stumbled upon several beautiful food blogs in search of certain recipes. Before that I had heard of the term 'blog' but never really submerged myself into the subject. When I came across these food blogs however I began to realize how nice it would be to have such a place of my own. To connect to people, to share my stories and to express myself through the layout so that it reflected my inner self.

The first blog I ever started back then was indeed a food blog. I was really into healthy eating the vegetarian way, so I started a blog to share my vegetarian kitchen creations. It was so much fun, but also so much work ;-) I had to learn how to make food photographs that were at least appealing enough to draw readers to my site (recipe blogs often flourish or fail because of the quality of the pictures). I had to learn how to manage all the parts of my blog (the food blog was a self hosted one on Wordpress). I learned about how important it is to share your content and to connect to your readers and other bloggers. I even found out I could earn a little money through having a blog, but most important, I found out that the most important reason for having a blog is that it has to be something that makes you happy.

A while ago I read a post somewhere that claimed that blogging had reached it's top and the near future would give us different and even better ways to express ourselves. I'm sure we will continue to find ways to express ourselves on the internet, but I have doubts whether blogging is losing popularity. I still get more than enough clients that are starting a new blog. So the blogging community isn't dead yet ;-) And if you're one of those new bloggers you might want to ask yourself the following 5 questions first before claiming your own little space in blogosphere.

#1 - WHAT WILL MY BLOG BE ABOUT?
When I started my food blog this was pretty easy to figure out of course. I would use the blog to share my recipes and cooking tips. But what if you want to write a personal blog, or a so called lifestyle blog? How do you determine what your blog will be about and how to express this to your readers? Personally I think it's totally possible to have a blog that covers a lot of different subjects. It might be a good idea to communicate this to your readers somewhere on the front page or the about page. A tagline under your blog title can have some keywords to describe what the blog is about and a welcome text in the sidebar or a story on the about page can hold an explanation on the topics you write about.

Right now I have two blogs. This one, where I share information and stories on digital design, blogging and having a small business is clearly more business oriented. While on my other blog The Daphne Files I share my personal stories. That blog was set up for the purpose of being a personal and inspirational blog only. And I made the choice to separate my personal stories from my business oriented stories. But there are blogs that successfully combine these two. So there are no rigid rules about how many topics you can cover in one blog. But it might be a good idea to think it over before you start a blog. After all, you might want your blog layout to fit the topics you are going to cover.

#2 - WILL MY BLOG BE A FOR-PROFIT BLOG OR NOT?
It is possible to make money with your blog and become a so called 'for-profit blog'. Some ways to do this are:

- placing advertisements on your blog and get paid per view or for a monthly fee
- placing blog advertisements of other blogs in your sidebar for a monthly fee
- joining affiliate programs (this means that you link to the site of a company you're affiliated with, and when a reader clicks through and they buy something from the company you will get a percentage of the sale)
- doing sponsored posts where you highlight or review a product or service of a company and you get paid for it in cash or with products

Before you can generate income from your blog you need of course a steady stream of readers. This blog for example has an average of about a 100 pageviews a day, but these kind of numbers won't bring in the big bucks. So before you can start earning money you need to focus on getting a large readership.

With my food blog I joined an advertisement program. I had about 7.000-9.000 views per month which resulted in a monthly income of around $1! Yep, you read that correct. One dollar. I know there are bloggers that make a full income out of their blogs, so don't get disappointed yet, but it shows that if you are really planning on making serious money with your blog, you should put in a ton of work first.

With this blog and my personal blog I decided not to aim for making money with it. I just do it for fun. I like to share tips and freebies with my readers on here and the stories on my personal blog are hopefully an inspiration for my readers over there. My income nowadays comes from the graphic design business and I'm satisfied with that. The benefits are that I don't have to worry about how many pageviews I have or how many new readers have subscribed this week. I don't have to post a certain times a week to keep the advertisers happy and I don't have to be on social media constantly to promote my content. Some people are really good at this and even like it, but I found out I don't. So try to figure out if a for-profit blog and all the pressure that comes with it would make you happy. 


#3 - ON WHAT PLATFORM SHOULD I HOST MY BLOG?
You've probably come across blog posts that tell you to either go with Wordpress or Blogger and which one will be better for attracting readers and growing your blog. And it's a good thing to read about the pros and cons of blogging platforms. Next to Wordpress and Blogger there are other platforms as well. Squarespace, Joomla and Weebly are a few examples.

I have had blogs on both self hosted Wordpress (which means you buy a .com address and a contract to use server space - which is not the cheapest option) and Blogger (which is totally free - although I paid some money to buy a .com address for this blog). Both platforms have great things, and both have some issues. Do your homework, read about all the different platforms, what they offer, how much they cost, how well you will able to manage your blog and its layout etc. And then choose the one that gives you the best feeling.

In case you are thinking of making money with your blog I slightly lean towards self hosted Wordpress. I love Blogger, otherwise I wouldn't be on it myself, but advertisers might require you to have a self hosted site before they want to work with you. So definitely check all these things out before you make your choice.


#4 - WHAT WILL MY BLOG LAYOUT LOOK LIKE?
Whether you are techy enough to create your own blog layout or you hire a designer to do it for you, or you decide to buy a premade design, one thing should be clear: the layout should feel like coming home to you! This is your personal little corner of the world wide web, the stories on it are an expression of who you are, so should your layout be!

While you should chose the layout according to your own wishes, you might want to keep your readers in mind as well. A good looking blog is more attractive to readers than a dull or messy one. But good looks don't only come from the layout design, they also come from how you decide to fill that layout. I personally like it when a blog is not too messy and all over the place. I don't like sidebars for instance that have a ton of junk in them. Or blog posts that have teeny, tiny pictures scattered all over them.

The story on the blog can be brilliant, but if the layout is too distracting for me a as reader I'm out of there. This also goes for advertisement on blogs. While advertisements bring in money, they can kill your blog as well. Ever came across one of those blog where you have to search for the content between a ton of advertisements? Right, that's what I'm talking about. These layouts drive you nuts and I get out of there as soon as possible.

Of course layout is a personal thing, and one person might like a clean and sterile look, while another wants more decoration and illustration. But even with more decoration in the styling you can make your blog look clean and professional.

I, for example, learned how to display my photos and text over the full width of the blog post so that it has a clean look. And I use my sidebar to share the information I think my readers can benefit from and no more than that.

#5 - HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO WRITE A POST?
The best thing about having no strings attached to both my blogs (advertisers etc.) is that I can post whenever I want and as often as I want. So if I'm suffering from temporary writer's block I don't have to worry about sponsors expecting me to come up with at least 4 posts a week. 

To attract a lot of readers though you will have to put in the work and write on a consistent basis. It definitely helps if you manage to promote all your content regularly as well on social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram an many more. But this kind of blogging has to suit you. It didn't suit me. I'm not really into Facebook and Twitter and just did't feel comfortable being in everyone's face all day long with my shout outs and posts. One more reason for me to keep this blog and the personal one simple and just for fun.

Even when you aim for a for-profit blog when you start a blog, it's probably best to just experience the whole blogging community first. Find out if you have ideas enough to post 3 to 5 times a week. See if you like to be present on social media, sharing everything you do. Do you like to communicate with your readers and other bloggers a lot? Once you've tried out blogging and all that comes with it for a couple of months you can decide to step up your game if you want to go pro, or just keep blogging for fun and see where it leads you.

Because the most important question you need to ask yourself is: am I getting fun and satisfaction out of my blog? Whenever you start to feel your blog gives you more pressure than satisfaction, it might be time to review the goals and visions you had for your blog. 

Whatever choice you decide to make with your blog, whether it is going the for-profit route or the non-profit route, I wish you HAPPY BLOGGING!

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