But with a heaping dose of motivation and time management, I have learned that writing, editing, crafting, and teaching my child are the most important things in the world. So, I built this blog to share my tips with you, so you can do the same thing.
As I've written this blog, I know that I have more to offer you all. I want to provide a full homeschool curriculum that includes online classes for your kids (like a Learn How to Read program), and books that help you stay on track as you try to build your writing career. And maybe a few cookbooks and lit guides. Of course, I'm not there yet, but someday. This coming year, I plan to increase my traffic views and readership in hopes to give the blog more attention.
But before I expand my reach in the blogosphere, I want to tell you how I started this blog, what I am currently doing to build it, and how you can do the same thing (if you're interested!).
I cannot stress this enough. It took several years for me to hone in on the subjects I wanted to write about, when I could've figured that out on day one if I hadn't been pulled in other directions by other voices. That's what I get for allowing myself to be pressured, though. But I know what I love and I know what I am good at talking about: eating, education, and writing. After all, I bake every day, I home school and write curriculum for schools, AND I run an indie press while writing my own work at the same time. Blogging lets me share with you my expertise in those subjects. Win-win.
Choose One to Three Topics (or just one) and Be Okay with It
When I first started blogging, I went too far. I stretched and stretched myself to the point that I couldn't keep up with it. It resulted in not blogging for nearly four months. I was trying to operate a blog that talked about everything (food, writing, working, editing, education, books, fitness, crafts, DIY...you get the point).
After a while I realized that I loved doing crafts and DIY stuff, but it wasn't regular enough or exciting enough for me to talk about...mostly because when I do crafts, I don't want to waste time taking Pin-worthy photos to share with the world...I want to enjoy that valuable time with my family or myself making things. Not everything should be shared; in fact, I am a big believer in keeping my personal life private, which is why you don't see pictures of my family on this website. It isn't my place to spread my child's life around to strangers when she has no say in the matter...that's just not me.
SO-- I sat with a pen and paper and asked myself what I am really passionate about and what could I actually share with you that would make blogging worth my time (I don't have a lot of spare time and I prefer to be outside when I get it!). It made so much sense to select the things that I am very knowledgeable in and that readers would need to know about. So, when you are starting a blog, sit down with yourself and limit the topics to 1-3 umbrellas.
That doesn't mean that you must stick with them, but starting small is so much easier than reaching for the moon only to realize that you don't have enough gas to power the shuttle.
Pick A Domain
You can go through plenty of routes to get a domain, but you will not find better and more affordable service than GoDaddy. I've tried several places, and I've even lost domains because I used a company that wasn't selling legitimate, secure domains. Don't let this happen to you. Choose GoDaddy.
GoDaddy allows you to buy domains in bulk or one at a time. When I first started this blog, I secured several domain names until I knew exactly what I was going to call it. You don't have to do that...if you know the name, snag it before some other like-minded creative does! You can get really crazy and secure the dot com, dot org, dot net, etc...to avoid any competition later. I should probably go do that.
Choose Your Host
A lot of bloggers use BlueHost and I can see why they do (although, I do not use Blue Host for this website). Bluehost offers a wide range of secure and supportive hosting services. They are one of the 20 largest web hosts in the world. The company has a lot going on for them with hundreds of major bloggers swearing that they are the best. And that's fine: they're cheap and easy to use.
So you could choose BlueHost and make your site for less than six bucks a month OR you could go against the grain like me and choose somebody else. Now, before I go any further, I will say that I have worked on several sites hosted through Blue Host and have found it to work wonderfully for sites driven by WordPress. The Domestic Beast is not hosted or built via the traditional WordPress+BlueHost combo.
I chose to build my site using Weebly. With the help of a designer, I built the website design, and am hosting the blog on Weebly. Yep, I've drank the Kool-Aid and it tastes refreshing.
A little background: In 2012, when we were building Unsolicited Press, we wanted a secure and reliable host. We also wanted to be able to build a fantastic site that could incorporate a store without the headache of plug-ins and other integrations. We started with Wix and that was a nightmare. And then, like a break in the storm, Weebly popped onto the scene. We transitioned to Weebly and haven't looked back! I can't attest enough to the wonders of Weebly's hosting, email services, apps, and other goodies that they offer.
After I decided to start The Domestic Beast, I knew that I would be using Weebly. Here are a few of my favorite things about Weebly:
- Free and Simple App Integration
- The latest feature of Weebly is the plethora of apps (mostly free, some to subscribe) available to users. For example, Weebly allows you to quickly integrate tools such as Privy, JotForm, and PayPal with a simple click of the button...and for FREE.
- Adding Authors and Members
- I love that I can give others access to my site if they are guest posting. You can provide quick access to the blog page and use a password to keep everything safe. And when the person has finished writing and posting the post, you can restrict the access.
- Weebly allows you to create a membership site when you subscribe to their Professional package. I am currently building another business that is a membership feature...thank god for this one because I have no problem paying a few extra dollars a month to have this feature installed and monitored for me.
- More than one site
- That's the beauty of Weebly. You can start as many websites as you want, connect the domains, and control them from the same interface.
- Newsletter and Email Services
- Weebly helps you promote your website with newsletter and email marketing services. While I haven't used them for The Domestic Beast, they have been a godsend for the press!
You can sign up for Weebly through this link (yes, this is an affiliate link. Remember, all profit made from this website is donated to education nonprofits such as Teach for America and The Bill Gates Foundation).
Make a Plan
You'd think my experience as an acquisitions editor would have taught me this lesson, but I dare say that I forgot my own words of wisdom when I first started my blog. I didn't make a plan. I didn't think ahead. I just plunged in and got a little caught up. I'd even venture to say that I am still recovering and learning how to keep everything planned and organized. Some weeks are much better than others, but when I have things going on at the press and at home and writing deadlines, well, my blog gets neglected.
BUT, I am working on it, people. I've started a plan and I am sticking to it! So, don't make my mistake. Plan early on in your blogging. In fact, you should set up an editorial calendar and decide what you will write each week, how you will promote them, when you will check social media, etc... have a plan. Know your goals and achieve them. If you aren't achieving them, then reevaluate what you are doing and find what needs to be addressed.
I would suggest buying a sturdy Moleskin journal to plan each month (actually, I would plan the entire year for the major posts).
Part of planning should be deciding how many posts you can commit to each week/month and hit those posts for sure. Anything else will be a bonus. Let your readers know that you are there for them with new information each week. When I first started blogging, I bought the Content Calendar Workbook which was a total lifesaver. It might help you too if you don't know where to start or how to plan a blog (again, you'd think with my position as an editor, I would have figured this one out!).
You should also schedule in 20-30 minutes per week for social media engagement. And you should find at least ONE guest blog to apply for each week. This will help you connect with others--something I'm not very good at, but am working on spreading my little blogging wings, one week at a time.
SEO is how you get readers to find your blog posts. Without SEO, or Search-Engine Optimization, your blog may be dead in the water. Many hosts and platforms such as Weebly, WordPress, Tumblr, and others allow you to enter in SEO information for each page and blog post to help your website pop up on Google searches.
If you are unsure about how to optimize your blog or your website, I would be happy to do it for you. You can contact me at my work email and we can talk numbers. I guarantee that my services will heavily increase your traffic...which hopefully will turn into loyal readers. Oh, and when you do email me, please put SEO HELP in the subject box.
When I am talking about SEO, I am not talking about the SEO used in copywriting or sales writing. Your blog posts do not need to be loaded with specific keywords to get attention. In fact, Google says that too many loaded keywords will hurt your rankings. It's best to stick with titles, your search data and the metadata.
Connect to Social Media
I am the first person to say that I hate social media, but I know that it is important to success. When we first started Unsolicited Press, we got the word out via Twitter and Facebook. And it works. As long as you are engaging with readers, it works.
I would suggest picking one or two at the most to use and hone in on those. Each platform offers something different, and depending on what your blog is about, you want to select the right ones. For example, if you are writing about finance, LinkedIn and are great options. However, if you are a brilliant jeweler, then Instagram and Pinterest may be your best bets. Why? Well, I don't know tons of crafters on LinkedIn, but I do know tons on image-focused social media sites. Likewise, the best financial information I get comes from my friends on LinkedIn...just sayin'.
I am currently with several social media sites, not for The Domestic Beast, but for Unsolicited Press as well. You can find me on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Reddit. I only use Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for the blog...and I am not super active on them because I just hate it (and don't have the time). But I make 30 minutes a week for social media to set things up, respond to messages, etc... I want to be engaged, but I prefer the engagement to happen directly on the site.
Build a Readership
This one is hard. It's the hardest thing to do as a blogger. I currently have 300 subscribers and it took years to do it. I won't give you much "advice" on building a readership because I am not an expert, but I will say that offering free downloads or advice is a great way to get subscribers. For example, when you subscribe to my email list, you get a monthly newsletter, free recipe eBooks, and early information on writing information before others get it...you see, I am in a business where the secrets are coveted...and whoever knows them early wins. It pays to be on my subscriber list, especially if you are a writer.
Expand Beyond Your Writing
Expanding beyond your writing can include things like affiliate marketing, eBooks, consultations, or courses that take your blog to the business level. These options connect you to your audience on a much deeper level. They aren't for everyone or for every blog.
I would choose two of these options to start with before branching out. That way you can set up a revenue stream before diving into another potential stream. Minimize risk, while maximize income (if that's your goal). If money isn't the thing you are after, you may just want to offer eBooks or video tutorials that take your information to the next level. Let's look at these ones individually:
Right now, I am using affiliate marketing (all afflink profit goes to nonprofits because I make a living doing other things...this blog is simply a method for me to share my information and help others). I have signed up for Amazon Affiliates, Linkshare Rakuten, Commission Junction, and ShareaSale, but I haven't used them all, nor am I an expert in making money from affiliate marketing.
EBooks are perfect for infopreneurs. If you are amazing at researching and writing accessible content, then you should consider writing eBooks once you've gotten comfortable in blogging. You can write informational eBooks, workbooks, tutorials, etc... sell them directly to your readers, on Kindle, and more.
EBooks are also great for nabbing subscribers. You can offer a free eBook to subscribers. This creates win-win situations and starts a foundation of trust between you and your readers. I would only make one eBook free and the rest at a reasonable market cost ($2.99 is the current market rate).
Do you make things? Do you blog about cooking? Or what about finance? Or anything that people would want to learn about? Then you should offer courses on how to do these things. You could create a "How to Create a Monthly Budget" or "How to Build Your Crafting Brand" course that teaches your readers something specific and achievable.
Always use SMART goals when creating a course. SMART stands for Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-Based. That should be the framework of your course. The course could be a few hours long or last for months. I am currently working on a yearlong course that teaches young children how to read...it is literally set up like a classroom course so parents can feel good knowing their kids are getting the foundation they need. We can't do everything ourselves, and the Internet makes it easy for us to connect with the village designed to help us achieve our goals.
I am making the course using a variety of software programs. I am still deciding on which "teaching" platform I want to use. I was leaning toward Udemy, but I also have a free Basecamp account because I am teacher.
If you are planning to make your blog a business from the get-go, I suggest looking at my colleague's site: Skinny to Strong. She works as a nutritionist and personal trainer. When she started the site, her team wanted to make their services a prominent feature of the site, with the blog providing valuable information surrounding their company's ideology.
You can do that to. Simply start a blog and immediately provide services. Services can be offered on another page and you can use your blog to build credibility. You could even offer services for free during the first few weeks of your start to garner readership, testimonials, and other credworthy tools. But you don't have to!
These are just a few ways you could add income to your blog. You could also integrate an Etsy site or sell your goods straight from your website if you are a craftsperson. Tons of possibilities!