Earlier this year, a friend decided to start a blog. I had no idea what I was doing when I started writing Cooker and a Looker in April 2012. Looking back, some of the things I did make me palm my face. Other stuff I totally fluked. Here are my fourteen plain-talking tips for starting a blog.
1. name of the game
Choose your blog name wisely. There are only so many times that you can explain your blog name without it sounding like an apology.
Hi! I’m Amanda from Cooker and a Looker.
Looker? Yes, well, it comes from a joke my husband told….
2. look before you leap
Check that no one else is using instagram, twitter handles or a Facebook page under your proposed blog name. Search the internet for your blog name. Don’t forget image searches. I’d been blogging for a while before I realised that if you searched “cooker and a looker” images, this bird showed up.
3. up for grabs
Even if you have no intention of being a twit, snavel your handle up now. Do the same with a Facebook page, instagram, pinterest, vine, go and get it all. You mightn’t need it yet, but it’ll save a massive hassle if someone else should start using it instead.
4. wordpress or blogger?
I started on blogger and then migrated myself to wordpress. I prefer wordpress because I feel like I have more control over my site. If you can afford it, go straight to self-hosted wordpress. If you decide to use wordpress, DELETE the automatic “hello world” post immediately!
5. write five posts
While you’re dicking around in the background, choosing a theme and grabbing twitter by the handle, write five posts and set them to private. Then, when you’re ready to tell to the world about your site, you’ll have content to hock to entertain and educate your readers.
6. don’t hold back
or hold back. Whatever.
Your blog is your space. There are no rules, except the ones you want to make for yourself.
7. practice makes perfect
Perfectionism is crippling. If you wait until your post is perfect, then you’ll never publish a single post. Do your best, then send it into the ether. Better done than not at all.
8. timing is everything
There’s nothing more satisfying than bashing out a post and pressing publish, but if you’re writing at odd hours it’s likely that no one will read it. Use the schedule function instead. I like reading blogs first up in the morning. I like to picture my readers, like me, slumped on a chair in their jammies, hair unbrushed, sipping coffee. I figure if I publish a post then, they might appreciate something to read until the motivation to make lunches strikes.
9. working for the weekend
In my experience, publishing posts on a weekend are a waste of good content. This might not be true for your readers, but come Saturday, mine seem to find better things to do that read my rantings.
10. out of the picture
Photos are king; at least for food. If you don't have a great photo of your recipe, then people just aren’t inclined to cook it. That said, be honest. Don’t muck with the photo so much that it’s not representative of the real deal. There’s nothing more frustrating than cooking a recipe, only for it to turn out nothing like the pictures.
11. good neighbours become good friends
Read heaps of blogs. Comment on lots of them. Look for Blog Rolls on others' blogs - they're a great way to find some new favourite blogs, be inspired to write better stories + take better pictures and, probably, make some new friends.
12. be prepared not to be liked …
Not everyone will like you or agree with your point of view; be respectful and engage in debate. Try not to be sad when you lose a subscriber. If you notice your numbers drop remind yourself of Dita Von Teese’s quote about peaches.
… but don’t invite the haters
I’d been writing for a while before I learned about a mob called Get Off My Internets (GOMI). They’re a group of people who enjoy critiquing blogs. I made a conscious decision that day that I would never visit their site or read their posts. I’d found something that I loved to do at a very sad time in my life. I was frightened that if I read a critique (I’m using that word very loosely), I’d change the way I wrote or worse - stop writing altogether.
13. take out the trash
Should you receive a comment on your blog that is disrespectful to you, your family/friends or other readers - delete it and don’t think about it any more. Stuff like that doesn’t deserve to take up space in your head or on your blog.
The same goes for spam. I hate clicking to read the comments on a blog post only to discover that they’re just people flogging fake handbags, sunglasses and get-rich-quick schemes.
14. fun and games
Blogging should be fun. I love blogging. It's had such a positive impact on my life, but it can be tough to juggle everything. Sometimes the words just won't come, sometimes work is busy and your kids are sick, sometimes it's more important to be completely present on a family holiday. Give yourself a break, remember you make the rules and step away from the inter webs.
Finally, an insurance-style disclosure statement: I'm not the boss of you. This advice won't be suited to everyone. As they say on the ads: please consider your own circumstances before following any of the advice laid out above. You make the rules, remember?
are you a blogger?
what advice would you give someone starting out?