I started blogging as a hobby. I'd graduated & moved up to the big smoke. I hated Facebook but wanted a way to keep in touch with friends & family. There are only so many times you can say what you've been getting up to before you start to go barking mad. I also wanted to be able to share recipes & restaurant recommendations without bothering old school friends who just want to look at pictures of each other's babies.
I was working in social media & a blog that people could visit if they wanted or ignore if they didn't, seemed like a great idea.
I barely imagined my own friends would read it, never mind people from half way around the world! I've been blogging for less than 2 years, so by no means consider myself an expert. None the less I do get asked for help and advice again and again so I thought I'd pop it all into one post, for anyone who needs it.
First you have to decide which platform is right for you.
The 2 big contenders are Google Blogger (which is what I use) or Wordpress. Wordpress is more complicated but you have greater control over the layout & look of your blog. Blogger holds your hand a little more & you should never really need tech help. If you're a bit of a whizz at coding I would almost certainly choose WP.
Naming Your Baby:
Once you've found a home you'll need a name for your new little bundle of joy. The importance of this is pretty questionable. You want something short, memorable & a bit catchy. I had the audacity to call myself The Londoner despite only having lived here for about 6 months when I started. It's your own little slice of The Internet, call it whatever you want! To give you an idea here are the most popular lifestyle blogs in the UK according to Bloglovin:
Name your blog after you, your pet, your favourite food... whatever you like. Just make sure no-one else has nabbed it first.
Now you're going to need to get your plot of Internet spruced up & lookin' pretty for visitors. In my opinion your personality should shine through from your content. I like a nice clean, simple blog. No distracting backgrounds or flashy, glittery bits... but that's my feeling on it. Lots of really great blogs have bright colours, backgrounds, music, bells & whistles. I guess it's down to personal taste. Try and be objective and make something you would like to stumble upon yourself. Kenza is one of the biggest bloggers out there. When you go to her blog you're greeted with an enormous picture of her...
Whereas Olivia Palermo has a fairly restrained outlook...
I'd say do whatever makes you happy, but make sure it's easy to navigate & you have an easy to read font.
Even if you're blogging about your little family trip to the beach for the benefit of your cousins & no-one else will ever ever read it... social buttons are worth having. In the same way that people "like" that photo of your cat, it's nice to be able to "like" your new blog post.
If you do have big blogging ambitions, social buttons are absolutely essential. People are lazy and forget to Like/Tweet/Pin unless you give them a nice simple button to press. It's only a little bit of work for you & saves a lot of work for them.
If you're using blogger here's how to add a Facebook like button, Tweet button & Pin It button to your blog.
Select & copy this-
***change the red bit to your Twitter username*** Go to your Blogger dashboard, click Template and then Edit HTML.
Press "Expand widget templates" and find this (press control and the letter F and paste it into the search box to find it): <data:post.body/> Just below it paste the big piece of code above. Save template & you should be good to go. Here's how to do it if you're using WP.
(Yes those are Like stickers)
Putting Pen To Paper...or Keyboard:
Lots of people are intimidated by the actual writing of a blog. Don't be. I am not the best writer. In fact I am off the scale Dyslexic. I was almost completely deaf when I was little so when everyone else was learning to write & spell, I was sitting in the corner reading. Thankfully, I'm not writing a novel, I'm writing a blog. Just relax & enjoy it. I always say, just pretend you're sitting across from your friend on a sofa with a nice cup of tea telling them about your day. Write as you would speak. Not only will it make it much easier & more fun for you, but your readers will get a real sense of you & your personality. Use slang, pop in a joke now & then. You're talking to a friend, not writing a report for your boss, yo!
Blogs need pictures. If I wanted to read an article or a book, I would. What I want is to see into your life & your world. Show me, don't just tell me. If you're serious about blogging I'm afraid you do have to invest in a camera. Yes, a few years ago people were able to blog with nothing more than a camera phone, but the world & his dog (literally in some cases) has a blog now & those grainy little pictures aren't going to get you noticed. My weapon of choice is the Lumix GF5.
I've had a lot of cameras over the years (mum was a photographer) and this is my champion. It's a compact DSLR, so you get the quality of a huge SLR without the hassle. It's small enough to go everywhere in my handbag, and I can use it one handed when I'm cooking...
It's subtle and unobtrusive in restaurants & just takes the most fabulous photos, even in very low light. It has detachable lenses & I use a pancake lens on mine.
Not everyone's lifestyle blogs will include as much food as mine does. Food is a huge part of my life, so I like talking about it. Maybe shoes are a big part of yours, so you'll want to talk about those. Whatever your focus, natural light is key when taking photos. You don't need some fancy-pants studio or lighting set up, just some daylight & your trusty camera.
You don't want direct, blinding sunlight.
It will be too contrasty and just make everything look a bit rubbish. A window is ideal.
If you can drag your food/shoes/bike/watches/books near a window, you'll get a much better photo.
The same goes for lifestyle/fashion shots.
A lovely sunny day is perfect for taking pictures of your outfit outside, but don't stand IN the sun if you can help it. It will blast out all the details, desaturate colour and you'll have a hell of a time trying not to squint.
Try and find shade & look out into the sunshine...
You can always play around, try with the sun behind you.
And pictures at sunrise/sunset are generally much nicer than those taken at midday.
Don't allow yourself to be embarrassed taking photos. Grow some balls & just do it.
It can be tough sometimes but later you'll be pleased that you plucked up the courage and took the shot.
What To Write:
I'm a big believer in writing a blog that you would want to read. I talk about food, fashion, restaurants, travel, parties, etc. because that's what I would want to read about. Lots of people don't want to read about those things, so they have other blogs that they go to. Thankfully The Internet is big enough for everyone to have a plethora of places they like & enjoy. If you like talking about Batman patterned teacups, write about them! You can guarantee that there are other people who like them too and are just dying to read a blog about it. A blog doesn't have to be massive for it to be 'successful'. If you enjoy writing it then it is already a success. You are succeeding in making yourself happy, which is in itself a triumph. If you have readers who enjoy it to then that's just the cherry on top. ...I don't have a picture to illustrate this, so here's Custard enjoying himself in a field of buttercups.
Lifestyle blogging is scary. You're opening up yourself, your world, your family & friends to people you've never met. People can me nasty, vindictive, jealous & cruel. People can also be lovely. Don't let the seeds keep you from enjoying the watermelon. If you read someone's blog & enjoy it, leave them a comment telling them. It only takes you a few seconds & could very easily make their day. It will aslo help your blog's popularity as people will click through from the comment section, and Google will rank you higher in searches because your blog is linked from lots of different places. Win win! I have made friends for life who I would never have met had it not been for blogging. Get out there and do the same.
While we're on comments, turn off Captcha . That's the thing that pops up saying "type this word in to prove you're human". It is freaking annoying & creates a barrier between you & those wanting to say hi. On blogger go to Settings > Comments > Turn off word verification. If you're worried about spam, just set it up so you have to approve comments. Not sure if this even happens on WP... please let me know if it does & I'll research.
Bringin' Home The Bacon:
Your blog can make you money. Whether it's through advertising or links. As far as I'm aware the most popular tool for this is SkimLinks . This is an affiliate company, so say you blog about your jeans, and I love them so click your link and by them, you will take a (very small) percentage, paid to you buy the company. Basically it's Mr Denim saying "Thanks blogger! Here's a tip for sending a customer my way!" He gets a sale, I get my jeans, you get a tip.
Everyone's happy. It doesn't work with every company, just those signed up with SkimLinks. You can also use "skim words" so every time I mentioned "washing machines" you would see a link for somewhere that sells washing machines.
I don't do this because I think it's a bit spammy, but it's your show, you decide what works best for you. If your blog starts getting around a bit you'll find PRs start to get in touch asking to send you stuff. Don't be bullied into saying yes or posting a suck-up review of a product just because it was free. I'm very open with people, I say that you can send me your product if you want, but if I don't like it I'm putting it in the bin, I will not post a fake review.
People may even offer to pay you for a positive review, whatever they offer it's not enough. You can't put a price on integrity & trust. If I started telling you that McDonalds was the best burger ever & totally not that bad for you... you'd smell a rat & stop reading my blog. Trust is far more important than money.
Please remember, there are dark corners of The Internet. Not everyone is a kind meaning reader sipping a cup of coffee while they peruse your holiday photos. Don't mention where you went to school, your university, your workplace & obviously keep your address secret.
Most importantly, have fun! Don't stress about blogging, if it stops being fun stop doing it.
You are interesting.
Your world is totally different to mine, your parents, even your best friend's world.
You see things differently and take different things from each experience.
Blogging is your way of showing the world a different view & a window into your life. I actually found a whole new appreciation for my life when I started blogging, mundane things that I thought everybody did were suddenly new & exciting to some people. When I'm cold & complaining, people will comment from Australia & tell me how their day's going. It makes the world a much smaller, friendlier place. And at the very least, you'll have an awesome scrapbook to look back at when you're old & grey.