Disclosure

The Smart Girl's Guide to Starting a Blog: Part Two

12 July 2014

photo via: Style Me Pretty 

Hi lovelies! Ever since Sparkle & Mine really started taking off, I've had a lot of readers and friends reaching out asking me how to go about starting a blog. I'm often asked what my "secret" is to making my blog successful. And the truth is, there is no magical way to become an overnight hit. The advice I always give is to work hard, be patient, and learn everything you can about the world of blogging.

Of course, that's easier said than done. When I first started out, I was completely in over my head. I had no experience in blogging, and no contacts or resources to help me. So I did what I do best, I Googled. Every question that popped into my head as I went along, I painstakingly combed through page after page on the internet to find the answer. How do you get your blog seen? Where can you find design tools to customize your blog? How can you earn money with a blog? I was definitely giving my search bar a workout.

Since I love you all so very much, I don't want you to have to take the long way like I did. So I've started a new post series where I answer all of those questions and a whole lot more. I hope that by the end of this series, I will have created a thorough guide to starting a blog that makes the process easy and fun! I absolutely love the world of blogging, and I am so excited to share my experiences and insight with all of you!

If you haven't read part one yet, you can find it here!

Now, let's get started on part two!


The Write Stuff
Once you have your blog all set up and ready to go, it's time to start writing! The biggest piece of advice I can give in terms of writing posts is to make sure that you maintain your voice. There are a million blog posts out there about the best eyeshadow palettes or the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. What will make readers gravitate to your chocolate chip cookie recipe is you. Be genuine. Be original. Be funny. My favorite bloggers are the ones that write conversationally, as if you're sitting down face-to-face with them and they're just chatting with you about a product or idea. Of course, it's also important to write in proper English. No netspeak please!

If you're struggling with writers block, think about what you've been doing lately that relates to your blog's theme. Did you just buy a new pair of sandals? Write a post on the best summer sandals. Did you explore a new city? Write a guide to your favorite places there. Did you just try a life-changingly good mascara? Rave about it! Your blog is a reflection of you and your life, so share it! When I started really getting into false lashes, the first thing I did was type away a guide to buying and applying falsies. The trick is to strike while you're feeling inspired.

Get Graphic
Along with great writing, another key element to a successful blog is a quality graphic to accompany your posts. One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make is using generic clip art or stock images on their posts. The graphics you use on your blog posts are like the cover of a book. While it may not be right, readers will judge you for it before they even begin to read your blog. Stylish, clean text and images will draw readers in, while cluttered or amateur-looking images are likely to do just the opposite.

I use an online program called Canva to create cover images for my posts. It's a tool that is made for blogging graphics, so it has everything you need to create beautiful text and image combinations with ease. Other fantastic programs for creating and editing graphics include PicMonkey, Ribbet, and Pixlr. Another great way to spice up your graphics is to download freebies from design blogs. These freebies can be anything from hand-drawn arrows to watercolor clip art. I find most of my freebies by following lots of design blogs, or simply doing a search on Google when I need something in particular. It takes a bit of practice to pull all the elements together, but tutorials like the ones you'll find on Canva really help. When in doubt, go with the tried-and-true formula for a pretty graphic. Grab an attractive (yet fairly simple) photo that relates to the topic, and layer bold, attention-getting text on top of it.

Design Matters
Now that you've written great posts and made graphics to match, it's time to update the overall appearance of your blog. While the standard templates that come with your blog are fine at first, you'll need a custom design if you want to make your blog stand out from the crowd. As I've mentioned before, creating a blog is all about branding. And you want to create a memorable and unique brand for yourself as soon as possible.

The best method for doing this is to simply hire a graphic designer and let them do all the heavy lifting. Designing a blog is incredibly complex, as it requires a great deal of knowledge in HTML coding and graphic design. I found my blog designer on Etsy. She was new to the industry and looking to build her portfolio, so I was lucky enough to commission a custom design for just $25. For that cost, she created my blog layout from top to bottom, and I was able to give my input on what I liked and didn't like every step of the way. I tried reaching out to her recently, and she doesn't seem to be actively working anymore. However, there are tons of other wonderful (and affordable) graphic designers you can hire on Etsy.

If you're not comfortable putting any money into your blog just yet, you can also find free templates and backgrounds at The Cutest Blog on the Block. Obviously these are not going to be custom-made, but they are good enough to do the job when you're just starting out. I do strongly recommend that you commission a custom design as soon as possible, as you want to create a consistent and unique brand for your blog that readers recognize as soon as possible. Plus, custom designs just look way more professional.

That does it for this week! Next time in part three, I'll share everything you need to know about using social media to reach your current readers and gain new ones! Until then, feel free to share your tips or ask any questions in the comments below!

P.S.- If you're looking for a website to host your blog, Bluehost is a fantastic option! They provide you with a free domain, 24/7 support, blog design tools, and WordPress integration- all for about $4!

29 comments:

  1. Thank you for these tips! Now checking out Canva. :)

    http://paolaysabel.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you found this post helpful Paola! Let me know how you like Canva! :)

      Delete
  2. Thank you so much for these!! I just started getting back into blogging and I am loving your series on "How To".


    www.sincerelyalaska.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad this series is helping you get back into blogging, Alyssa! Best of luck!

      Delete
  3. Thank you so much. I didn't know the Canva. I'm used a picmonkey but I was looking for another website. Your post help me. I really liked Canva. Thank you for your help :))))

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Canva is seriously the best thing ever! Glad I could help you find it! :)

      Delete
  4. Thank you for inspiring me to think more seriously about blogging. It has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I started researching it but became very overwhelming so I pushed it aside. I'm sure you will cover this at some point but two questions that come to my mind at the moment are: 1) Photography - when you want to take picture in a store/shop or of and event - how do you get permission and what type of camera do you use? I'm sure many photographs are spontaneous and some are planned. What are you tips to taking pictures - close ups, products in stores or at home, inside and outdoor photography etc. and 2) How so you make money blogging? I am certain it doesn't happen right away but I'm sure the majority of bloggers want to make a profit from sharing what they love. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and for being such an inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katie,

      I'm planning a whole post about earning money with your blog, so look for that in the coming weeks! I wasn't planning to cover taking photos in any great detail, but I'll definitely keep it in mind. In the meantime, here is a link to lots of photography tips from one of my favorite blogger resources: http://heartifb.com/tag/photography/

      Delete
  5. I've been blogging for about a month now, how do I get more viewers, I post my blog on social media websites, but average around 500 views per post. Any tips?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Madison! I'm actually going to cover social media and tips for growing your visitors in the next post. Considering you've only been blogging for a month, 500 views per post is a really fantastic start!

      Delete
  6. What an awesome guide! I never knew something like Canva existed. So excited to use some of your tips! By the way I'm loving the layout and design of your blog! Thank you :)
    -www.freelyfatima.com-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great to hear these posts are helping!

      Delete
  7. thank you for the tips! i will make sure to follow them. I been blogging for 3 motnhs but i want to improve it
    xo
    Orly
    coffeebeansandhighheels.weebly.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Trying to take my blog to another level and these tips are so helpful! It's so nice to have them all in one place and I can't wait to check out Canva and The Cutest Blog on The Block!

    Char
    lattechar.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmm, I've never heard of canva, but I'll have to try it out! Thank you for the lovely post!

    ribbonsandfrills.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Iv been "Googeling" my eyes out so thank you for this it helps a lot. I wanted to ask you on your take on using pictures. I was told by some bloggers that simply 'siting' the images websight or photographer or blog was enough. I'm scared of the copy right issues around this though. From your experience what do you do concerning this?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow-great tips. Thank you

    neliamadeira@blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for Canva is so usefull and saving time. I used photoshop

    ReplyDelete
  13. For your logo, did your web designer make that for you? Great tips on starting a blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, my designer did create it for me. You can actually commission a graphic designer to create just a header/logo on etsy as well :)

      Delete
  14. What a great post! Thanks for sharing my arrows :)

    howsweetdesigns.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just what I needed!! Thanks for the awesome advice!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'd been contemplating starting a blog for so long, and reading your series made it seem so much easier and less daunting than I thought it would be, so I went ahead and did it! thanks so much!

    www.charmingimperfections.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. Did you ever feel nervous you wouldn't know what to write about? Or you wouldn't get enough followers? I love fashion and I've always wanted to be a fashion blogger and share my ideas and designs with the Internet, but I'm nervous I would look like I don't know what I'm talking about half the time, or I wouldn't have any followers!

    ReplyDelete
  18. These "How To" posts are helping me out tremendously on blogging. I have never really put my heart into it but it's something I wanted to try and you've completely inspired me to do so.

    Thank You !!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wow, thank you for all the great advice!

    www.chescamagee.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hello! I just wanted to let you know that this guide finally inspired me to create my own blog and was a lifesaver through every step of designing it! Thanks to you I got to writing my first post after less than a day of set up ^_^

    coffeewithadashoflove.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hello! I'm thinking of starting a blog and your posts are helping me so much. Without these my blog would have been a mess! Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete

Show this post some love! I read all comments before they are posted, so please don't waste your time or mine with spam!

Blog design by