Wednesday, 24 September 2014

So, you want to start a blog?


I've been writing as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who used to talk to themselves all the time, I loved English at school at I was always scribbling. I started dabbling in blogging for the first time about four years ago, when I first graduated from university. I was totally thrown by the transition from living with three girls at uni to working in a male-dominated industry and I wanted somewhere to ramble. I blogged for a bit here and there for the next few years, until I went through a really bad break up last year. It was awful, and I deleted my old blog completely because I didn't feel like I could write anymore and it was full of pictures of a life I no longer had or felt connected to.

I stopped writing completely for nearly a year, until around christmas last year I found myself scribbling and talking to myself again. I was spending more and more time in London, I was making plans for the future, even if they were baby steps, and I kept thinking about blogging again. I didn't want to do it for a long time- I was worried about the same thing happening- a man, a job or a friend becoming a big part of my life, and therefore, my blog, and then if things changed it not feeling relevant to me anymore. I was also really scared that I would want to make it my job and end up failing or compromising my brand because I'd pushed myself too hard.

I decided at the beginning of this year that I was going to do it again, but I was going to do it differently. I decided that occasionally friends will appear in my blog, but I would keep my work and love life completely seperate from it. I also thought about what I would write about, if I would spend any money on it (answer: $18 a year on my domain name) and that my primary goal would be to enjoy myself! From that rough plan, Annadorabel was born.

How to set up a blog?

The two main competitors for blogs are blogger and wordpress. I've written on wordpress before and I prefer blogger 10 fold. Blogger is a Google product, so all my phone pictures are automatically shared with my blogger account, I have one easy login, and it's all synced with google products. When you first set up a blog, all you really want to think about is how much of a tech geek you are- with wordpress there's more customisation but you have to be able to code. I went with blogger because it's easy, I'm not a coder and it is easier to turn into an income if you want to go that way. Give your blog a name and you're off!

Design

As I said, I'm no coder, and I didn't want to spend money on a proper design for my blog until I'd got it going a bit. It is something I do want to do down the line. Because I was limited on budget and ability I went with something very simple to let my photographs do the talking. Generally I prefer nice clean layouts and I just played around with the blogger templates until I found what worked for me. 

Social

The most important thing if you want to grow your blog at all is to get socialising and enable easy sharing of your blog. I used this youtube tutorial to add the social media buttons to my sidebar to get people to connect with me, and use the addtoany widget to add the share buttons to the bottom of my posts.

Becoming a .com

I chose to add a custom domain to my blog, and bought www.annadorabel.com for $18 a year. I then used blogger's instructions to add my custom domain and google for troubleshooting. It was the only cost of my blog.

What to write?

It can be hard to start a blog because you overthink what to write. Basically, remember you are writing to make yourself happy, so write what you like to read about! I write about fashion, beauty, and London lifestyle because that's what I like talking to my friends about. Don't get too hung up on being an amazing speller or wordsmith- there are lots of really successful blogs where there are mistakes. Remember you are writing for you and not for other people's judgement. There will always be critics (haters gonna hate) but just imagine telling your friends about your day and then write like that. It will give your posts much more authenticity and voice. Read other blogs, but have the confidence to do your own thing because there is no-one like you.

Photographs

Blogs need photos!! Decide what kind of blog you want to be (I'm still changing and learning!) and match your visual content to that. Initially I used my phone or a small point and shoot camera for blogging, but I invested in a DSLR for travel in June and I've used it for my blog ever since, because it makes such a huge difference. It's a Canon 1100D.

I'm lucky, because I have someone in my life (ahhh, I said no talk of love life!) who's interested in learning about photography and takes most of the photos you'll see here. But in essence, be brave, pick up a tripod from a boot sale (mine was 2 quid!) and practise!

Making money

If you are writing a blog solely for 'free stuff' or a job, then you'll be disappointed. If you are really, really lucky you might end up making a little bit of money from your blog. If that's enough to consider making it your income then you're one in a million. Blogging looks easy but actually takes a lot of work. 

Having said that, if you genuinely love it and it becomes successful you can monetize your blog using affiliate networking and adverts. I have adverts in the side bar and my links to things I've bought are monetized if you buy something through Skimlinks. Say for example I show you a Topshop dress that I bought, and you click on the link and buy something from Topshop, I would get a very, very small tip from topshop for the referral. Like a 'thanks' for the custom. I will never use pop-up, roll-over or ad words- in other words, intrusive advertising, the same way I will never talk about something I don't like because it's free. It's way more important to have a voice people trust and a brand that's strongly 'you' than sell yourself out and lose your readers trust over some free tat.

After all my rambling, I think Rosie puts it the best:

"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."
Annabel xxx
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