Blogging

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

There have been quite a few of you who have had reached out to tell me that you have dreams of someday starting your own blog and/or creative business. I also have some dear friends and family members who have considered taking their passion to the next level by starting their own blog, but don’t know exactly where to start. If you fall into one of these two groups, or if you have no idea who I am, but have stumbled upon this article and have a desire to do build a business on something you truly care about, this post is for you…

Step 1: Get inspired.
There is nothing more encouraging than hearing and seeing success stories. My journey as a blogger began with this book. It encouraged, inspired and educated me on the basics of starting an online business and opened my eyes to infinite possibilities. If that book was my spark, reading blogs and listening to podcasts from successful and forward thinking individuals became my fuel (and still continue to be). Here are a list of the guys and gals who I have found to be particularly inspiring and helpful in building my business:
– Pat Flynn { Smart Passive Income }
– Cliff Ravenscraft  { Podcast Answer Man }
– Shane & Jocelyn Sams { Flipped Lifestyle }
– Jaime Tardy { Eventual Millionaire }
– John Lee Dumas { Entrepreneur on Fire}
– Corbett Barr { Fizzle }

These folks will help you to launch your blog and business, but you still need inspiration from individuals in your own field. Do some googling, look around on Pinterest, and identify other creative bloggers who you consider to be successful. I keep a folder of bookmarks in my web browser so I can easily add to my growing list of favorite blogs. Remember, the key isn’t to copy, but to be inspired. It’s your individuality that is going to make your blog stand out in the crowd!

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 2: Brainstorm.
Once you start to get inspired, you are going to be so anxious to launch your blog asap. Let’s hold those horses. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I get an idea in my head, and I’m so excited to get the ball rolling, that I don’t take the time to make a game plan— an essential key to your success.

Start brainstorming ideas for your blog— topics you’d like to cover, articles you’d like to write, or tips you’d like to share. I find it helpful to keep a spreadsheet of blogging topics that I can plug into my calendar when I’m creating my blogging schedule (see #5). I’ve also found Evernote to be a fantastic tool for cataloging ideas as you come across them.

Chances are, if you’re a creative person, you will have more ideas than you know what to do with. It’s during this brainstorming step that you may want to hone in on a particular topic or niche. Your blog can be as broad as “creative lifestyle”, like mine, or on something specific like “watercolor painting” or “selling on Etsy”. There are pros and cons to both, but the most important thing is stay true to yourself, your interests and your passions.

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 3: Decide on your platform.
Now that you have lots of content ready to share, it’s time to get your actual blog set up. This is the part where most people freak out, and run away. I promise you, this is one of those things that seems way scarier than it actually is. Here are the three important ingredients needed to get your blog off the ground:

  1. A Domain Name
    This is what you are going to call your blog (the www…). I actually found this step to be fun and enlightening. You’d be surprised to discover how many names are already taken! If you’re having trouble coming up with a name for your blog, Panabee is a great resource to help you generate the perfect one. Once you’ve got your name picked out, you can reserve and purchase it using my favorite, Bluehost (they actually give you a free domain name with their web packages ).
  2. A Hosting Site
    The place where all of your files, blog posts and data are stored online. The company I mentioned above, Bluehost is where everything for my blog is kept safe and sound. In the three years I’ve been with them, their service has been top notch, and I love that they have support on call 24/7 (which is helpful for those nights when you find yourself working til 3am)!
  3. A Blogging Platform
    This is the actual program you will use to operate and publish on. I’ve worked on WordPress since the beginning, and I’ve never looked back. I find it very easy and intuitive to use. If you can operate Microsoft Word, you can do WordPress! Bluehost will be able to walk you through linking up your domain name, your files and your WordPress account so everything runs smoothly, in the background.

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 4: Design or invest in a blog theme.
Once all the back end stuff is taken care of, you can start on the fun stuff— designing the look of your blog. If you’re both creative and tech-savvy, you’ve got this one in the bag. If you don’t quite have the skills to design your own website “theme” from scratch (I certainly did not), you can purchase a ready-made theme and customize it to your liking. Here are my two favorite sites for finding gorgeous, professional looking themes:
Restored 316 Designs
Creative Market

When you purchase your theme, it will come with instructions on how to install and integrate with WordPress. Once it’s installed, you can start playing around with colors, fonts and placement. And like magic, you have a blog!

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 5: Make your game plan.
Congratulations! You can now officially call yourself a blogger. It’s time to take those topics and ideas you came up with in Step #3 and put them into action. I like to plan my posts about six weeks out. This doesn’t mean I write them six weeks out (maybe someday), but it’s a good idea to be thinking ahead to what you want to share and when. Write your proposed publishing dates out on a calendar and then set aside time every week when you can write up your posts. There is no right or wrong way to do this— everyone works differently. I use a service called Co-Schedule which has been really helpful for me to stay organized in my planning (I’ll be gushing more about them in step #6).

When you first start blogging, ESPECIALLY if you are working a full-time job, and/or have children, extend yourself some grace. Blog at your own pace and on a schedule that makes you feel fulfilled, but not to the point where it’s becoming a burden. Some bloggers find it helpful to write a few posts at a time, so you have them set up and ready to publish throughout the week or month (WordPress + Co-Schedule makes this really easy to do).

Step 6: Promote.
After you’ve published your first post, it’s time to get it out there! You will definitely want to set up social media accounts for your blog on these platforms:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
Instagram
Pinterest ( this one is the most important )

I mentioned that I use a service called Co-Schedule in Step #5. Not only does Co-Schedule help schedule your blog posts, but also lets you directly publish right to your social media feeds, all in one place.

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 7: Start an email list.
The social media platforms above will get the word out about the content you are sharing, but unfortunately, we are really just guests in each social media space, and are limited by the operation of each site. For example, your Facebook posts will only show up to a fraction of your Facebook “fans”, unless you are willing to pay more money to “boost” your posts and get more eyes on them. Pinterest recently switched their algorithm to behave in a similar manner.

The bottom line is, the only place where you are truly in control, is on your own site, so you need a way to be able to reach your readers directly. This is where the importance of an email list comes into play. When your readers sign up for your mailing list, you will have a built in audience of people who you can reach directly when you have an announcement to make, a coupon to share, or just when you just want to connect and get to know them better. The mail service I use is called MailChimp (or for you Serial fans, Mail Kimp)— it’s totally free to operate for your first 2,000 subscribers and has a pretty and easy-to-use interface. MailChimp also has an RSS feature that turns your blog posts into emails, and puts them out to your subscribers, so they will never need to worry about missing one of your wonderful posts. Start up your email list from the get-go and you will be way ahead in the long run.

Step 8: Fine tune.
As you blog, you will get to know yourself better and may want to adjust exactly what you are blogging about. When I first started blogging, I was a newlywed and really passionate about weddings. As the years ticked by I knew in my heart that my interest in weddings had waned, and I decided to return to my roots as a designer and switched over to blogging about creative life. Without that passion your blog will flat-line, so it is essential that you stay true to who you are and what you love.

As you get more comfortable in the online world, you may find that another platform like YouTube or Podcasting are better fit for you and your audience. Don’t be afraid to change course, try new things and play around. Remember, this is supposed to be fun! 🙂

Step 9: Be social.
Speaking of fun, one of the best parts about blogging for me has been the opportunity to connect with some really awesome people. I’m not the most outgoing person, so when I first started blogging, I operated in the same way. When I finally put myself out there, I realized how silly I was being. Not only are my readers and blogger friends incredibly kind people, but I have found that I have more in common with them than most of the people I know in “real life”.

The growth you will see in your blog will only be the icing on the cake — the relationships you form will be your biggest takeaway. Here are some ways to branch out and connect with your fellow creatives:

– When you read a post that really speaks to you, leave some comment love! Another thing I like to do is to go to the bloggers “about” page, to really get to know who they are, and what we have in common.
– Attend a “link party”. There are a bunch of bloggers out there who host these parties on their blog, once a week. It gives you an opportunity to share a link to one of your most recent posts and for you to check out some of the other blog posts that are shared at the party. Here’s a link to my favorite parties.
– Consider starting a Facebook Group like the one I started for my Creative Challenge. If you are blogging about something specific like Photography or Sewing, this is a great way to connect with other people who share in your passion. If you aren’t up for starting your own group, consider joining one that already exists. A quick search on Facebook will give you tons of options!

10 Steps to Starting a Successful Creative Blog from Elegance and Enchantment

Step 10: Create a product.
If you already sell your artwork, or designs, or crafts, a blog will only help that side of your business grow. If you haven’t started yet, this could be the perfect time for you to start turning your hobby into an actual career. Lots of bloggers rack their brains trying to come up with a product that will appeal to their audiences. We have it easy, because we already have a built-in passion to create and an organic way to share our products. Etsy (the online marketplace where I share my designs) has really been the other component of my business that has allowed me to live this dream of doing what I love.

I’ll leave you with that little teaser for now, but plan to share a follow up post that will outline the steps you can take to open your own Etsy shop. I realize that I just threw a ton of information your way. Please take it one step at a time, and bookmark, or pin this so you can refer back to it along your blog launching journey.

I’m a little bit obsessed with online business and helping others to follow their dreams— so if there’s anything in this post that I haven’t covered, please leave me a question in the comments. If I can’t answer the question directly, I’d be happy to point you to a resource that can help you out. If you’ve decided to take the leap towards starting your own blog, I’m SO excited and happy for you. Leave a link to your new blog below, so I can come cheer you on!

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