Every day there’s a post in a forum, Facebook Group, or even in our customer ticket queue that goes something like this:
“I’m just getting started and bought my domain name. I haven’t figured out hosting or anything like that but I’m passionate about my niche and ready to build my blog… but I’m stumped as to what to do first. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the tasks of starting a blog – what should come first?”
And it’s a perfectly valid question. There are many tasks you self-assign when starting a blog. Some of those tasks matter more than others. To keep you from getting caught up in the less important tasks (like adding on 27 plugins, getting a super-fancy logo design done, carefully building Pinterest-worthy images, and making all of your social media accounts match) I’ve pulled together the 4 simple things you must do to launch your blog.
Before we dive in I want to get clear on something. 95% of bloggers give up before they ever really get started. That’s why it’s important to take these steps to set yourself up properly, to find focus on what matters most. For any blog. The likelihood of you becoming the next Danielle LaPorte or Pat Flynn or Bloguettes or Yes and Yes overnight is slim. But when you start here and work your way into those other things you’re worrying about right now (I see you, Mr. Complex Sales Funnel) you’ll watch your blog grow into a powerful and profitable business.
Setup a basic theme
Yes, designing your brand is a hot topic of discussion in online forums. It’s also a super shiny penny in the sea of tasks and to dos when you’re starting a blog. But picking your platform (like WordPress, Squarespace, or Rainmaker) and choosing a theme is the easiest way to get started quickly. But don’t be swayed by it right away.
So spend a few minutes (no more than 20 per platform) doing your research and seeing which option feels good to you. Listen to your gut and pick your platform, then choose a theme. You can go with a basic free theme or invest a bit in a premium theme – the choice is yours. If budget it tight, as it usually is for new bloggers, choose a simple yet elegant free theme and move forward. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger advises this:
Don’t stress too much in the early days – we all start with a design that we later look back on and cringe a little at. The main thing is to get set up and evolve from there. My key tip is to choose a simple, classic and clean design that you can add a simple logo to to make it a bit more individual and then get on with blogging!
Write blog posts
When you’re starting a blog, you want to be sure you are interested enough in your topic to write about it over time. It’s likely that your writing style and even topic will shift with the years (like it did for Mariah Coz who has had 7 different businesses in as many years) but you want to know that coming out of the gate with your blog you’ll have a few posts ready to go.
A lot of times I’d be searching for the next thing to hold my attention. I would really easily get bored or reach my “limit” with these first few businesses. I would think of another “amazing-can’t fail-must do this” idea every few months.
Have anywhere from 4-10 blog posts ready to roll. Starting the blog with at least 4 posts live is ideal since your readers can get to know you more with a higher volume of content on the site. Since many niches have sub-topics to cover, it’s nice to have one in each category. For instance, if you’re starting a blog about the Paleo lifestyle you could have 3 recipe posts (one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner) and a workout post. Think of your main sub-topics and try to organize your blog topics around those themes to make blog planning easier.
Start an email list
This one feels like a no-brainer for us at ConvertKit but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t making an email list a priority when starting a blog. When Chrystie from Living for Naptime is asked about her top advice for new bloggers, she offers this:
The best advice I can give you is to build your email list with people who actually want your information. People who crave your knowledge and would pay money to get into your brain. THOSE are the people you want in your email subscriber list.
And Chrystie isn’t alone in her love for email list building. Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has some (strong) opinions about list building:
If you’re not building an email list, you’re making a HUGE mistake.
Back when I ran ad-based websites, I thought to myself, “why would I EVER want to build an email list?”
I didn’t want emails. I wanted pageviews… because more pageviews meant more ad revenue TODAY!
To put this in perspective, had I built an email list, when a publicly traded company approached me to buy out my blog, I could have asked for 7 to 10 times MORE money than they originally offered.
How dumb, right?
Fast forward to today, I see people making the same mistake I made years ago. Instead of building their email list, they’re focusing on pointless things like social media… or worse… pageviews (STILL!).
Start building your list by creating a landing page for your site or simply adding a form to the sidebar of your blog. There are a number of other places you could add opt in forms on your site but, remember, we’re keeping it simple to start. Just…. start.
Connect with other bloggers
This final step in starting your blog is something you’ll continue to do throughout the life of your blog. Connecting with a community of fellow bloggers and like-minded people will not only fuel your fire when you’re starting out, those connections will support you even more as you grow.
The best news is that you don’t even have to leave your house if you don’t want to. While you can certainly head on off to an industry conference or find a local meetup of other bloggers and business owners, you can start right in the comments of your favorite blogs. In fact, Sarah VonBargen (pro blogger and founder of both yesandyes.org and her own business blog) believes so much in the power of connections, she’s built her entire business on it.
No matter how big and famous they are, bloggers read their comments and if you’re regularly saying awesome things, they’ll start to remember you. Of course, some blogs and posts engender better commentary – it’s hard to leave a mind-blowing comment on an outfit post. But personal essays, tutorials, or thought-provoking posts are an opportunity to chime in.
When you connect with other bloggers as you’re building your blog, you’ll develop relationships with people who are doing what you’re doing. You’ll also likely also see some other commenters on those blogs show up on your own blog (and email list) too. When your blog launches, you’ll have a built in network of people who can help you share in the success and spread the word like wildfire.