How To Start A Blog

Blog Tips How To Start a Blog: a Beginners Guide by CGScreative

A while ago I was part of  Caitlyn DeBeer's Creative Business Series, a really great creative series in which a bunch of us bloggers got together and each wrote about something we specialised in. It's a little out of date and there seem to many broken links as most of us have updated our blogs since then but what I shared about blogging then still holds true! And so today I'm going to re-post my tips for those who want to start a blog but have no idea where to gegin. I hope you enjoy this post and find it helpful. I have a number of other posts on blogging that you might like too, click here to read more.

What is a Blog?

A blog is a 'mini-website' in that you ideally are able to run by yourself, without having to have designers make changes for you. A blog is a space for you to share what you love with the world, to journal, to keep memories and of course as a space for you to market and sell your product.

Here are some of the most popular blogging platforms, all of which cost nothing to set up:

Wordpress (to be clear I am referring to the free version of Wordpress, click here for more info), BloggerTumblr

My blog used to be on "Blogger" and that is why it had the 'blogspot' segment on the end. It is completely free and was my favourite platform due to it being so very user friendly and easy to navigate around. Also, it is implemented with Google so if you use Gmail/Google Plus etc everything works seamlessly.

Wordpress is another favorite in the blogging world, but I find it isn't as user-friendly as Blogger. But, if you have to time to fiddle and play around it can be a lot more powerful!

To go "dot com" and drop the 'blogspot/wordpress" you have to buy a domain name through a site like GoDaddy for Blogger, and through for Wordpress (to learn more about the difference between Wordpress & click here).

I launched my new website (this one) last year on a relatively new platform called SquareSpace (see image above). It doesn't have a free version (only a 14 day trial for users to test to see if they like it) but with the paid for package it includes a domain name, so you don't have to worry about going through an external site like GoDaddy. And the templates are just gorgeous! Have a look for here. Their target markets are artists (photographers, designers, small business owners and bloggers) and their platform is built on providing users with a media rich experience. Think clean lines, and beautiful design. I am so happy with them! My blog looks a lot more professional with SquareSpace and I am able to change all the design myself without any coding!

At the end of the day, what platform you choose is all about personal preference. I know people are often very interested in Wix as their marketing is very good and you often see their adverts all over Facebook, but I found Wix was to hard to make changes an their free platform is very limiting. I would stick with bloggger or make the move straight away to Squarespace if you want to be taken seriously. 


Why Blog?

This is a really important question to ask yourself before you even think about starting as it will form the building blocks of your business/brand. This is different for everyone. Some people enjoy seeing their words and thoughts come alive on the page, others enjoy the feeling of affirmation that comes from gaining another follower or like on Facebook. I have loved meeting new friends through my blog, as well as the outlet it has given me to be creative, something I never dreamed was possible.

Whatever your reasons are for first wanting to start your blog, write them down (I've created a fun brainstorm printable for you to download and print out to help you along your way), so when you start to feel guilty for not having written a post in months don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, go back to your list and remind yourself of the real reasons you wanted to blog in the first place, I'm sure you will feel inspired to get started again. You will go through times of frustration with your blog, and sometimes all thats needed is a little time off to feel inspired again.

BUT if the main motivation behind why you want to start a blog is to make money or to get sent items to review, then I am terribly sorry to bust your bubble but this only happens to a tiny amount of bloggers. If your main goal is to make money, your readers will very quickly pick up on this and stop reading. Your readers want to be entertained, inspired and motivated, so give them that. If you are passionate about your content your readers will be too!

Your Blog Name & Branding

As important as the why is behind your blog, your branding is what differentiates you from everyone else and makes your blog special. If you take your blog seriously, so will everyone who reads it. One way to make that leap into the realm of 'seriousness' is by building a brand around your blog. To help you with this, you need to create a consistent message, and have everything you do, on and off the blog, send the same message. Think email signatures, blog headers, blog side bars, business cards, stamps, personalized stationery...the list is endless. And all of this needn't cost a fortune. The simplest way to build the foundation for your brand is with choosing a particular colour scheme, fonts and a basic design. You can get the help of a graphic designer if you really want to go that extra step, but the majority of the basic blogging platforms like Blogger, offer loads of customization options built into them. Think about your target audience (are they young and funky, in which case bright colours would work well. Or are they slightly older and more conventional in their thinking? Then a modern, clean and classic design and layout would probably work better).

By filling in the free mind map printable found below, you will be able to build your brand around the 'What do you love' section. If you love nature and the outdoors, your chosen colour scheme might revolve around earthy colours like khaki and emerald. Here is a great website to get your mind around colour combinations...Design Seeds. Here are a few more tips for the basic design of your blog to help you formulate your brand {click here}

After you've given some thought to your branding, now here comes the hard part. Picking a name for your blog. Your blogs' name sets the tone for your brand (and of course will have implications for showing up in google searches) so pick carefully. See who already has your name, or anything similar to it with a basic google search. Choose something that won't be outdated in a few years (and you should definitely be seeing your blog in terms of the future and "In a few years time" kind of way. 

Don't let this overwhelm you. We all have to start somewhere (click here to see my first few blog posts, eek...I'm glad I have them to look back on!) we learn by experience and our tastes change as we get older. Embrace that and let your blog grow with you into something you are proud of. 


How to Find or Create Content

I find I am at my least creative when I stare at other peoples awesome blogs all day. I find I am unable to think of anything new or original to write about. How I deal with this (and I have my incredibly creative husband to thank for most of my ideas) is to go for a walk, camera in hand, and snap away at anything and everything that takes my fancy. Sometimes I take a notebook and jot down notes about my day, about the people I see around me, about the things I want to do with my life. Pretty soon I have a messy jumble of potential content for my blog. Look around your world, your office, your family, your community for idea's. Do you work with some strange and fascinating people, what about interviewing them on your blog? What about doing a post about a day in your life (with photo's of everything that makes your day unique)? The world around us is so rich with colour and life, its an endless supply of idea's if we just take the time to look.

Your Blog Photographs

I used to think that my blog would become popular by just reposting great content I found on sites like We Heart It and Pinterest. I've now come to realise that there are too many mediocre blogs out there that just repost other peoples creative content. That's why I try to post original content on my blog. That doesn't mean I don't 'borrow' idea's from other bloggers, but it does mean that if I want to showcase an awesome DIY lampshade, I will try to make that lampshade myself, take my own photo's and write in my own words how to go about making one yourself. And I always make sure to link back to the original source of the idea, as a way of saying thank you for the idea.

But now I'm getting distracted...the title of this tip is to take your own photographs. You really don't have to have an amazing camera to take incredible photo's. You just need to play, and fiddle with your camera and the angles to get your photograph just right. This is how I started getting into photography. Etsy has a great article on taking better product photographs, click here to have a read. And I also wrote a post on styling photographs for your blog using just your phone. Click here to read more. 

Don't Over think things

Most bloggers would probably think I'm crazy for saying this, but for me it works. I am a very organised person, I love to plan EVERYTHING and my favourite past time is making lists (can you say *nerd*). But I find that if I spend too long planning a blog post, I lose interest in it and it stays in my draft box for weeks, even months without ever seeing the light of day. If an idea comes to mind, I straight away log onto my blog, start a new post, and I just roll with it. I try not to leave it till the next day to finish it, as I often get distracted by the next post. In some ways I find this helps me stay inspired as I am always putting new content up, and my readers know that they can come back every day or so for something new. This pressure helps me to stay motivated to continue putting posts out there!


Always Be Yourself

Your readers want to know about you, so be true to yourself. This doesn't mean gushing about each and every last detail of your day and how depressed you feel after finding out that your local Woolies Food was out of fresh basil. But rather, this means writing in your own voice and letting your personality shine through the page. Don't be scared to put yourself/your business/your idea's out there, your readers will respond to your 'genuineness'.

Gaining Followers

This is the question I get asked the most by my readers, and it's what I still ask myself! But, I'm afraid there is not secret. There is no hard and fast way to gain 100 new followers on twitter, or to get 1000 new page views in minutes. 

You just have to be patient. You have to provide content that your readers will enjoy, and you have to do so constantly. There is nothing worse than stumbling onto an awesome blog only to see they haven't updated since last year January. A good way to share the blog love is to leave comments on other blogs that you enjoy reading. It's a wonderful feeling getting just one comment on my blog (I am speaking from my own experience here) and if that is the case with you too, then why not take some time to leave thoughtful and meaningful comments on some of your favourite blogs. Don't feel that your one comment may mean nothing if there are 999 others on the blog, as a blogger I can tell you that each and every single comment leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Take some time to connect with your favourite bloggers on Twitter and Instagram, reply to each and every tweet your receive, as well as to each comment you may get on Instagram. This helps to build meaningful and long lasting relationships with your readers and followers.

Find your niche, whatever that may be, and stick with it. I have had a real hard time in narrowing down my focus here on CityGirlSearching, I was trying to do too much and was scared to commit myself to one box. I'm not a beauty blogger, but I like writing beauty reviews, I am not a travel blogger, but I do go to some amazing places and I want to share the photographs with my readers, I'm not an expert in fashion but I do like sharing the odd outfit post. All of these different elements led me to define myself as a 'lifestyle blogger' but I still don't let that term fully define who I am here on the blog. This blog is a space for me to share it in fashion, beauty, in the home or in another country.


Inspiring Blogs

Here are some of my favourite bloggers (some are local South African ladies, and others are International). Use this list as a guide & to learn from what these ladies are doing right. Focus on their blog design, their photographs, their content, see how they engage with their followers, and then apply it to your own blog:

Nadia vd Mescht beautifully crafted blog by Durban (South Africa) creative Nadia

EmmaJaneNation one of the first blogs I ever started following by lovely local SA blogger Emma (her photography is gorgeous!

Vivianna Does Makeup one of my all time favourite beauty blogs written by Vivianna

A Beautiful Mess a funky and fresh lifestyle blog by Emma & Elsie

MilkTeef lovely beauty and lifestyle blog by the sweet Emma

WishWishWish fashion done right! A gorgeous blog by Carrie

SuperficialGirls another local SA lady; Carlinn, who focuses on fashion & beauty

PinkPeonies lovely Luzanne writes this beautiful beauty blog

PuglyPixel design tips and tutorials from the fabulous Katrina

Lost in Travels a travel blog to inspire your wonderlust (and lots of tips for traveling with your hubby, as well as keeping on a budget!) by Chelsea

I also recently shared a post on my favourite Creative Business inspiration bloggers, click here to see it. 

I could go on for days about starting up your first blog, but the biggest piece of advice I can leave you with today is don't ever give up. I {often} have days where I feel like no one reads this blog, and that I put so much time and effort into it and I get so little back. Other days I want to high five ever person I see because I got more than 3 likes on a photograph on Facebook. So keep at it!


Above is a freebie printable I've created to help you in your blogging journey.

Try to fill it in before you start your blog, to give you more focus and direction. Here is mine, filled out and taped onto the wall, to help remind me of where I am and where I want go. Below is more detail to help you fill in the blog brainstorm printable.

  • Why blog: jot down all the reasons you want to blog, from wanting to be a superstar celebrity to wanting to create a place to journal your thoughts and dreams. Nothing is too small or insignificant.
  • What do you Love: write down all the things you love (eg family, friends, God, nature, fashion, beauty, design, interiors, photography...) then cross off those that are too personal, or those you wouldn't want to publish all over the interweb. What you are left with is a list of elements that make up you! This will help you with later on with your branding.
  • Sharing your Love: list the ways in which you want to blog (through photographs, by writing, by drawing and illustrating, by creating cartoons and other graphic based content). This is how you will express yourself on your blog.
  • Creating Content: List some of the ways I have outlined above here, and any others you can think of (reading other blogs, going for walks, photographing random events and elements, journaling...etc)
  • Growing Readers: List some of the ways I have outlined above (networking, leaving comments on other blogs, tweeting, Facebook mentions, emailing potential clients/others in your industry) and add your own ideas too.
  • Your branding: create a board on Pinterest (you can make it secret if you don't want anyone to see it just yet) and start pining every thing that takes your fancy from colours to fonts, to design, to blog layouts. Have a look at this board for some inspiration. You need to choose a maximum of 3 or 4 colours, then 2 fonts that you want to use to help keep your brand cohesive.

I hope you have enjoyed my post on blogging, and I hope that some of it has been useful to you. If you have any questions, please drop me a comment below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Happy blogging everyone