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five things I would tell you if you told me you’re thinking about starting a blog

I get the question all the time, why did you start your blog? And the second most asked question is, how do you start a blog? I also get asked, why should I start a blog? I’m not going to answer the latter question here (that’s a whole other post on its own) and while this post will not answer how to actually start a blog, hopefully you’ll find the advice useful.

A few months ago, a good friend introduced me to her cousin (via email), who wanted to start a blog, and asked me to give her some advice. The long, long response I wrote back was motivation for this post. I have given the same general advice back to many people who have asked for initial advice when starting a blog and I thought I’d share it here.

**************A lot of what I know, I learned from others. For that I’m eternally grateful and I believe in paying it forward. Thanks to Lindsay for giving me a bunch of ideas for #2!

So here are five things I would tell you if you told me you’re thinking about starting a blog…

Angel & Charley thinking about a squirrel…

1. Start now!! I mean right now.

I talked about starting a food blog for at least 6 to 7 months before I started The Little Kitchen. I kept telling my sister, Connie, that I wanted to start one. One of my excuses was I needed a ‘nice’ camera and my sister said, “stop wasting time talking about it, just do it.” Best. advice. ever. I think I bought thelittlekitchen.net domain within a day after she said that to me and started the actual blog within a couple.

When starting a blog, it’s impossible to learn everything you ‘think’ you need to know, it’s impossible to have the perfect site designed and laid out exactly the way you want and it’s impossible to think of everything before starting. Those are the most important things I learned.

So my advice is don’t waste time talking about it, doooo it. I have told everyone that will listen, my only regret is not starting my blog when I said I wanted to.

2. use wordpress

I’m not going to go into all of the blogging platforms and I won’t go into the whys. I initially didn’t start on WordPress but transferred my blog from another platform (I’m sure most people have never even thought what I used was even a blogging platform). I just tell anyone that asks to start on WordPress and self-host. If you can’t start out by investing a little capital going the self-hosted route, start your blog on WordPress.com (it’s free). But be sure to register the domain name that you want as soon as you decide on the name for your blog!

If you’re using self-hosted WordPress, then you can install plugins. You don’t want to overdo it and install five million plugins but there are a bunch that I love and can’t live without. Here’s a list of some of the ones I like:

  • Akismet – catches spam comments so you don’t have to use those awful recaptcha plugins for comments
  • Comment Reply Notification – I actually wrote a quick tutorial for this plugin, it’s a must have…it sends an email to a commenter if you reply to their comment.
  • WordPress Database Backup - back up your database, back up all of your files. I can’t say it enough, back everything up!
  • RSS No More – it drives me nuts when I subscribe to a blog and the blogger truncates their RSS feed to just one or two sentences! Use this plugin to truncate your feed and give your readers a little bit more. It will cut it off at the “more” tag or wherever you place another “cut” tag. I use this plugin and cut the feed off right before the recipe. If you’re worried about content scrapers, this will help a little bit because they can’t scrape your entire post since you’re truncating it. And it’s a really good way to figure out if they are scraping your site via your RSS feed.
  • some kind of contact form plugin or provide some way to contact you. You never know why someone would want to contact you. And you won’t believe how many people have NO way to contact them on their blog. It’s frustrating when you want to ask a question or contact them for a good reason!

Other WordPress and non-WordPress-related advice:

  • Feedburner – or sign up for any kind of RSS syndication, especially if you’re using Blogger or WordPress.com. Subscribers will not forward if you finally decide to switch to self-hosted WordPress or another blogging platform. Which means, you can lose a lot of subscribers. *Also, something I recently learned the hard way myself, if you’re signing up for FeedBurner, be sure to use the same gmail or google account you signed up for AdSense or vice versa. If you ever decide to add AdSense ads to your feedburner feeds, you’ll thank me.
  • Sign up for a Gravatar account. If you want your blog logo or your photograph to show up when commenting on other WordPress blogs, sign up for it!
  • Statistics – Use either WordPress stats or install google analytics. You’ll be happy that you set up statistics from the beginning, you never know when you’ll need to reference them.
  • Image cropping – Crop and resize first, then upload. When I first started, I resized but the image was still pretty big. My site took a long time to load and I slowly cropped and resized smaller but even up until last year, I was using a file size that was too large and topping out the bandwidth in my hosting plan. Keep your images between 100 and 200 kilobytes (or even less than 100 kilobytes) and your site will load faster and you won’t use up your bandwidth (which in some cases can bring your site down).
  • Before I hired a designer to redesign The Little Kitchen, I actually used Thesis and customized it myself.

3. Sign up for at least two social networking sites.

And add the links to them in a prominent location on your site. When I first started, I signed up for twitter and found that I loved it. Later on, I created a fan page for my blog on facebook and loved being able to interact with people who read my blog but at the same time keep my personal profile private.

And of course, there is so much social media now and you can easily become overwhelmed. I’m on all of the above in the collage (instagram, Google+ & Pinterest) and I love it. Yes, that’s a lot but I’m passionate obsessed with about social media and I love teaching others what I have learned along the way.

It’s not just about self-promotion though on these social networking sites. Promote others and…

4. build and foster community

Make friends, comment on blogs that you like to read. Teach others and learn from one another. Support each other and cheer each other on. We grow and become better people when we support each other. Each blogging genre has a community and whether you know it or not, when you start a blog, you join that community.

I had no idea I would join an amazing food blog community when I started this little ol’ food blog. It’s filled with generous people and I have been lucky to make some amazing friends.

5. be genuine, be authentic & always be yourself

and be positive. I love blogging, the people I have met and the wonderful opportunities it has provided to me. I love being on social networking sites. What I always want to shine through is me. I’m not trying to be anyone but myself. I think it’s very important that we’re genuine.

You know as well as I do, it’s very disappointing when looks are actually deceiving. I always want to be truthful and to share who I am. There’s no reason for me not to. The best blogs that I enjoy are that way…and when I have the opportunity to meet a blogger in person and they are just as they seem online, it’s very refreshing and invigorating. So just be you!

This by no means is a comprehensive list…if you’re a blogger yourself, any advice you would add to my list?

Any questions, feel free to ask away!

Read my other {five things} posts.

Disclosure: There are a couple of affiliate links in this post.

121 Responses to “five things I would tell you if you told me you’re thinking about starting a blog”

  1. 81
    Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen — September 12, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    Great tips, Julie, and thanks for sharing!

    I’m in the process of switching to a self-hosted WordPress site….oh how I wish I started out that way.

    [Reply]

  2. 82
    Kathleen — September 12, 2012 @ 9:00 pm

    Could not agree with this more, especially the one about starting on WordPress. Wish I had!

    [Reply]

  3. 83
    Kelly @ Texas Type A Mom — September 14, 2012 @ 10:11 pm

    Great advice! I agree that you need to start right away. There’s always something to learn and some way you can make your blog better but you’ll never know if you have what it takes to be a blogger until you try. And definitely start on WP right away and then you won’t have to worry about the headache of switching from Blogger to WP. Yes, it’ll cost you money from the get go but you should have faith in yourself and your blog that you can make it successful and it’ll be beneficial to you overall.

    [Reply]

  4. 84
    Lisa | With Style and Grace — September 18, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    This is great, Julie! I will certainly be directing some of my readers to this. I’ve been working on a post for a while about blogging and getting started because it’s the #1 question I get!

    [Reply]

  5. 85
    Julie Vaden — September 18, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    I just started my blog about a month ago and had actually talked about doing it for a year! Like you, I felt that I needed it to be perfect even before I started it. One night I was watchng Julie and Julia and it inspired me to sit at the computer and just do it. The name was so hard for me and even now I want to change it! LOL! This was such validating and perfect advice and information! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  6. 86
    Shanna@ pineapple and coconut — September 20, 2012 @ 12:16 am

    I came across your blog today looking up recipes using candy corn m&ms for my blog, and I was thinking blondies of some sort and saw your recipe, and now I may make something different! I also started reading a ton of your posts. Love your blog. Love this post too. I had a blog on blogger for 3 years. I sort of stopped blogging as frequent since I was SO busy with a two year old and a new born. Now they are 2 and 4, and while still very busy, I decided to blog again. Totally started from the ground up. New name, new style everything. I was so torn between staying with blogger ( it was what I knew or so I thought) or switching to wordpress. I am kicking myself for not trying wordpress. All my favorite blogs are on wordpress, it seems one has more opportunities to make a living off a wordpress blog, and blogger has changed so much I hired someone to help design it, and its taking forever and I think I could have eventually figured it all out on my own. Saying that, is it hard to switch to wordpress?

    [Reply]

    • Julie Deily replied: September 23rd, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

      For me it wasn’t hard when I did it myself but I have a technical background…I did however lose all of my comments. I think it’s important and worth the investment to hire someone who knows what they are doing to do it for you. You don’t want to lose any posts or comments and you want the links to not be broken (from pinterest, facebook or twitter), a professional would be able to redirect your blogger blog posts directly to the correct posts after you move to WordPress. Good luck!

      [Reply]

  7. 87
    Linda — September 21, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    Hi Julie,
    Just got a chance to read this and this is awesome. I think every point you wrote is very meaningful, esp. feedburners and stats. I really enjoy WordPress, compared to other sites, too. But, totally – you’ve motivated me!

    [Reply]

  8. 88
    Faaiza.O — September 22, 2012 @ 9:35 am

    I currently have a wordpress.com blog but have just purchased my domain, will be moving to wordpress.org very soon. This is an absolutely great post, extremely helpful, thanks for posting. The only question I would have is what are the costs involved with a self hosted blog?

    [Reply]

    • Julie Deily replied: September 23rd, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

      Hi there, it really depends on who you use for your hosting service and how much bandwidth you need (depends on traffic), it can be $5 a month to upwards of $50 or $100 a month.

      [Reply]

  9. 89
    Faaiza.O — September 23, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

    Thanks for that Julie. I’ve decided to go the free web hosting route for now and if traffic increases I’ll swap to something better. Thanks again for your post and Thanks for visiting my blog :)

    [Reply]

  10. 90
    AmyRuth — September 24, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

    Julie, I hope you are enjoying all the wonderful feedback! Isn’t it inspiring and fun. Thank you for all your great tips for those of us on the fence and still waiting to “DO’ it.
    AmyRuth

    [Reply]

  11. 91
    Amanda McNeil — September 26, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    This is so great! Wonderful advice that I will pass along! (and some widgets I will now go install!) Thanks, Julie!

    [Reply]

    • Julie Deily replied: October 2nd, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

      So glad this helped you out, Amanda! :)

      [Reply]

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  15. 92
    Liz — December 11, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    This makes me feel better. I actually started a blog this past weekend. I’m excited to see how it all goes.

    [Reply]

  16. 93
    Christina — December 17, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

    Thanks Julie! I’m in the process of setting up my blog and came across this post. Very helpful! I am also in Orlando so I hope to meet you at an event or conference one day. You have an awesome blog.

    [Reply]

  17. 94
    Sandra Butler — December 31, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

    I’m just setting up my blog and I found this incredibly helpful! Thank you so much!

    [Reply]

  18. 95
    Kimberly — February 12, 2014 @ 9:55 am

    I am in the process of researching how to start a blog as I have been thinking about doing this for quite some time. There is SO much information out there, that I have to remind myself to start with the basics and grow from there. I found you comments helpful and simple, which gives me a good starting point. Thank you and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    [Reply]

  19. 96
    Pamela — March 14, 2014 @ 8:33 am

    I’m so glad I read this post! I just started a blog about a month and a half ago. I also had been thinking about it for about a year before I actually started it. No one I know is blogging so I have been reluctant to tell too many people yet since my blog still doesn’t have a lot of content I’ve been afraid people will think I’m crazy, and I don’t have a fancy camera either. I’m still feeling out how to do it. So it was encouraging to read that it really doesn’t have to perfect right off the bat. I have no following yet so I guess, really, now’s the time for trial and error!

    Pam

    [Reply]

  20. 97
    Senorita Tijerina — March 15, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

    Thank you! I recently began a blog and after reading this I feel so much better. I pretty much said, “check, check, check, check, check.” I will be keeping an eye on your blog.
    Best Regards,
    Senorita Tijerina

    [Reply]

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