Welcome to my first blog post! That's right, I'm writing my very first post (on this site, not ever) to show you just how simple it is to get started!
When it comes to starting and growing a successful business, creative or otherwise, you have to wear MANY hats, at least until you're in a position to hire contractors or employees. One of those hats involves writing copy. After all, how will any of your prospective clients or customers find you unless they hear about you?
I'm guessing that if you've read this far, you already know how important copy is to driving traffic (i.e. potential customers) to your site.
For many, writing a blog can sound intimidating. It's one of the biggest struggles I hear from new clients when it comes to marketing. Here are some of the most common concerns :
How the heck do I start?!
I'm not tech savvy - what's the most user-friendly platform ?
How do I make it look good?
Posting regularly sounds overwhelming. How can I keep up with it?
Any of these sound familiar? If so, you are NOT ALONE! The great news is, Every one of these concerns can be tackled easily. Let's go through them in bite-sized chunks.
How Do I Start?
Before you write a single word or plan a single post, I recommend that you first make sure you have a really good idea of WHO you're writing to. This is a step that's often overlooked, but it's a really important one, as it helps you create good content and actually saves you time in the long run.
Know Your Audience
Really think about your ideal customer avatar (ICA), and be specific (age, location, income, hobbies, style, where they shop, what they care about, etc.). —you need to get clear on these details so that you can speak their language and create connection.
Think about how much easier it’ll be to write amazing articles for, let's say, a 35-year-old mom who's busy, but takes the time to buy and cook from locally-made, organic products because she’s passionate about being healthy and supporting small businesses. She loves Anthropologie and wants her home and her closet to feel more 'put together', but she's short on time and isn't sure how to pull off that look on her own.
Now that you’ve got your audience figured out, you need to set some goals for your blog.
Set Specific Goals
Publishing an article once a week is one type of goal, but probably not the most motivating kind. Try to think about what the long-term goals are for your blog. Are you trying to educate people on a particular topic? Are you looking to grow your email list? Promote a service? Drive sales? If so, how? Through affiliate links? Direct sales? Both? How much do you want to make?
There’s no right answer, it’s just important that you know what your vision is. Specificity is key when it comes to setting and following through on an effective action plan.
When you have goals, you can create a plan. And when you have a plan, you can make progress.
Ok, now that you've thought about who you're writing to and what your goals are, you most likely have a lot more ideas for content. Now it's time to start creating!
Pick a Platform
There are so many great options for hosting your blog. When deciding on a platform, there are a few key factors to consider. Do you only need a blog, or do you want to list and sell products as well (eCommerce)? Do you want to showcase your work in a portfolio? Do you want to collect email addresses and send your subscribers regular emails (hint, you should!)? Do you want to offer freebies or alert users of sales or other promotions? If you think you'll add these other elements to your blog, it’s important to choose a blogging platform that’s flexible, with room to grow.
Here are my top 3 platform recommendations for blogs:
Arguably the most user-friendly platform, Wix is one of my favorites for getting started. Its basic plan is inexpensive and its responsive (mobile-friendly) themes have come a long way over the years. It's intuitive and offers a ton of features and add-ons, whether you want to start a standalone blog or add a portfolio and shop. You can add pages, blog posts, products, send emails to your list, and even include a live chat, all within the admin panel using their simple drag and drop builder.
Price: It's free to set up, then when you're ready to use your own domain name and remove Wix ads, plans start at $13/month, or $17 if you'd like to include a shop. Domain name renewal is typically $12+/year.
Difficulty: EASY. You can even use their ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) feature to build your site for you - you just enter the main details like what the site is for, what style you like, and it will build everything you need so you can just add your text and images!
Known for its beautiful, image-rich sites, Squarespace is another great option. It has a small but mighty selection of templates to choose from, each of which are simple and clean. They have just added an email marketing feature and third-party extensions to help you manage, optimize, and expand your site.
Price: Plans start at $12/month or $18/month if you'd like to include a shop, plus the domain name.
If you have or plan to sell products and in addition want to blog, Shopify is a great option. It has all the important features you'd expect to see on an eCommerce-focused platform such as high-converting themes, online sales channels, fraud analysis, manual order creation, discount codes, abandoned cart recovery, finance reports, customer support, and access to a wide range of apps. The blog is a nice extension of it.
Price: Plans start at $29/month, plus the domain name
Honorable Mention: Wordpress
Wordpress.org is still the world's most popular blogging platform, which is why I'm mentioning it here, but in all honesty, it's not a platform I typically recommend to clients.
On the plus side, it allows you to have a lot of control over what you include on your site - simply a blog, or a shop, membership site, forum, etc. And you'll have access to thousands of themes and plugins, many of which are free.
On the flip side, it's a self-hosted platform so you'll need to use a hosting provider like Bluehost, who can auto-install it for you and work with you on site backups, updates, and security (you are responsible for these things with a WP site). I have seen many accounts of WP sites being hacked, so it's worth doing your research and installing security apps or having a provider like Bluehost handle it for you.
Price: Wordpress itself is free (or paid if you use a more attractive theme from somewhere like Creative Market, Envato, or Etsy) plus the domain name ($12+/year and hosting fees (upwards of $3/month)
Difficulty: Medium, or Hard, depending on how tech-savvy you are. There's definitely a bit of a learning curve, and managing the site, in my experience, feels clumsy in comparison to Wix and Squarespace's all-in-one solutions.
Tips for Creating Content
You already have ideas for content; you wouldn't be reading this otherwise. You may have found that people come to you for advice on a particular topic, e.g. how to decorate/pick an outfit/host events/take great pictures, etc. If so, start there. Pick a platform and just start writing! However messy or jumbled up your thoughts may come out, just get into the habit of writing them down. You can always edit and refine your posts down the road, and the more you write, the more you will develop your own style of writing.
Here are a few tips you might useful to support your online voice
Don't overthink it! Write like you're writing to a friend.
Write first, edit AFTER. It's easy to fall into the habit of writing and editing as you go, but this will often actually restrict your creativity and take much longer. Try to get into the habit of just writing - get it all out, then go back and edit once you're done with the first draft.
Treat it like a story. Start with a beginning (a simple hook, to draw readers in, like a question that addresses an interest or concern they have), a middle (where you discuss the topic or solve the problem they may be facing, like where to find the perfect rug, how to take better photos with your DSLR, decorating a kids' room, baking the perfect sponge cake, etc.), and an end (this is where you wrap up what you shared, closing on a positive note and including a CTA, or call to action. This is REALLY important if you want readers to engage with your blog. Keep it simple - something like "tell me what you found most useful in a comment below", or "join my email list to receive more tips".
Make it scannable. Break the content up into smaller paragraphs that are easy to scan, use bulletpoints, lists, quotes, and sprinkle in some relevant images.
Add a personal touch. Including personal stories can be really powerful when done in the context of learning and sharing valuable lessons, it makes for great content because it's so relatable and encouraging.
Schedule. If you think about what you can blog in advance, it takes the pressure off of sitting in front of a blinking cursor. Pick a day of the week to plan out your post topics for the month, or longer if you can.
Be consistent. It’s hard to cultivate readership when people don't hear from you for two weeks. At the very minimum, a blog should be updated once a week.
Bring VALUE to your readers! This can take many forms - education about a particular topic, product or service recommendations, your take on a difficult situation, humor, the list goes on. You want readers to take away something special when they interact with your content. That way, they'll be excited to come back when you add something new.
There you have it! I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post, please feel free to leave a comment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.