No Nonsense Advice for Starting a Blog | SHIFTING ROOTS

No Nonsense Advice for Starting a Blog

Are you thinking of starting your own blog?

I’ve seen a lot of how-to posts around the internet claiming to have all the answers.  Some are excellent.  Others. . . not so much.  How much effort does it take?  What’s the best way to get started?  How do I get followers?  How do I make money?

I don’t have all the answers.  What I can give you is an honest look at my journey and what you can expect if you start a blog and have almost no knowledge or experience with blogging.

No claims of getting 1000 subscribers in 3 days or anything crazy, promise.  (Kudos to anyone who has managed that starting from zero!  I could learn from you.)

starting a blog

Hey readers!  Sorry we’re a bit off topic today, but I’ve had three different friends ask me about this in the past month, so I wanted to give them my answers in a format that doesn’t totally dominate our precious coffee time together.  This will likely be the only post about blogging I will write.  Unless you all suddenly flood me with requests for more.  

Thinking about Blogging

The story of how Shifting Roots began really began with Dominic not being able to fall asleep or sleep through the night anymore.  Why is this connected?  I was re-sleep training him, but he would take up to 90 minutes each night to fall asleep, so I had a lot of time on my hands.  I wanted some sort of outlet for myself that wasn’t musical, so I started reading about blogging.

Oddly enough, I found that I loved blogging because I started blogging on my website for my music studio.  It’s all connected.  I digress. . .

I needed to be more than “just a mom” or “just a singer” and blogging seemed the perfect solution.  The more I read about it, the more excited I got about starting my new blog.  I wasn’t even 100% sure what it would be about.  Definitely DIY, decorating, and home stuff.

The worst part was trying to figure out a name.  I could not get started if I didn’t have a domain name to put my posts on!  From what I read, I realized it’s super important to get the name right from the start, otherwise its a HUGE pain to switch it over to another domain later.

I needed my name to somehow reflect my need to get back to my roots that I neglected once I decided to pursue singing.  After much debate, Shifting Roots was born.  This also should have been my first hint that this blog would not just be about home decor and renovations.

All this is to say that just the thinking and reading about it portion of the process took me around 6 months.  If you’re in this stage, I HIGHLY recommend reading Blog Tyrant and Blog Clarity.  These are my two go-to resources for all things blogging.  Both authors are pros at what they do, but they write in a way that makes everything accessible for the beginning blogger.

A Blog is Born

In the beginning, everything took forever.  I was already somewhat used to working with WordPress, but I never got very fancy with it.  No sidebars or fancy widgets for me!  However, now that I had an actual blog that I actually wanted people to read, I had to try to look as professional as possible.

Unless you are writing a blog that you never intend to promote beyond your friends or family, please pay the extra money and get your own domain name and a self-hosted blog.  (In simpler words, your blog shouldn’t be something like www.blogname.wordpress.com.)  It doesn’t rank as well on search engines, which becomes important when you’re trying to build your following.

The nice thing about the internet, is that you can google pretty much any blogging question and easily find the answer.  However, if you’re not comfortable with technology, it will take more time than you think to figure things out.  For some of you, it might be worth it to pay the money and have a professional set it up for you.  Yes, $500-$1000 seems like a lot.  However, it is money well spent for the time saved.  For the record, I pay around $200 a year for hosting and domain fees, but I do everything on my websites myself.  Right now I’m reworking my other website and seriously considering paying someone to sort things out for me because I’m getting so frustrated.

The Only Way Through is Through.

My first posts aren’t very good.  Seriously, please don’t look at them, they’re embarrassing.  I’m sure I’ll look back some day at my current posts and feel like I could have done better.

The thing is, you have to start somewhere.  Just write.  Don’t worry about how good or bad it is.  You’ll get better at it.  Slowly you’ll start to figure out what your readers actually want to read about.

If you’re really nervous, have a few friends read your stuff before you announce your blog to the world.  I promise you that no one will find your blog in the vastness of the Internet before you actually promote it.

Photography is really important.  Do everything you can to get better at it.  You don’t need an expensive camera to take great photos.  Almost all of my pictures on this blog are taken on my iPhone and edited with BeFunky.  I’ve gotten a lot better at photography, but if you scroll down to the beginning of my Instagram, I had some really terrible photos.  Sometimes I still have photos that bomb.

Build Your Reach Through Social Media

Up to 75% of your blogging time should be spent on promoting your work.  It seems like a lot, but it really is the only way to get your stuff out there.  Social likes and shares don’t just magically happen.  Everyone wants a post to go viral, but you just can’t engineer that kind of thing.

Social media can be a huge time suck, so pick two or three platforms to be awesome at, and be mediocre at the rest.  For me, that means I focus most of my time on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.  I tweet what I can, occasionally post things to a start-up called Fearless Little, and don’t worry about the rest.  I will eventually need to start doing videos, but that’s a worry for another day.  Do what makes sense for your niche and your personality.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time do you spend working on your blog?

I spend at least an hour or two a day working on my blog.  Most days I get up at 6AM so I can get my writing and promo work in before Dominic wakes up.  I divide up that time between writing, editing photos, promoting posts, and sometimes researching things I need to know to take my blog to the next level.

How much time does it take to make one post from start to finish?

I never get to actually complete a post in one day, but I imagine that if I did, it would take at least 6 hours, and sometimes more.  It takes at least an hour to do a project I’m writing about, because I have to stop at every step and take photos.  Next I write the post, edit the photos, and optimize it for SEO and Pinterest.  I like to edit the writing the next day so I can see it with fresh eyes.  Once I publish a post, the work doesn’t end there.  I post it on all my social media channels, Pinterest, blogging groups, and Tailwind tribes.  Longer posts take more time, but they are always worth it.  Ideally I would like to have all long posts on this blog, but there are only so many hours in a day!

Have you made any money yet?

I wish.  From what I’ve read, it takes most bloggers around 3 years to see a return.  This can vary widely depending on your niche and how many subscribers you have.  I tried doing some affiliate links and ads at first, but didn’t see any return.  I later learned that while there are no hard and fast numbers, having at least 2500 readers per month is a good goal to reach before you start posting links and looking for sponsored posts.

If you’re going into blogging only for the money, you’re going to be disappointed.  Blog about something you love with an eye to making money in the future and you’ll be much happier.

Where do you come up with all of your ideas?

Most of what I write about comes from things that happen in my life or that I’m interested in.  I love getting ideas from my readers and will write posts just for them.  Some examples are Guide to Finding Crocuses on the Prairies and How to Decorate a Beautiful Cake.  I also love writing about the seasons and holidays!

I also took a course on content creation called Content Brew by Melissa Culbertson.  She’s the author of Blog Clarity and her courses are top notch and reasonably priced.  Now that I know multiple content creating strategies, I’m never without ideas and I’m able to work ahead and save my sanity.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting their own blog?

Be consistent.  If you work on your blog every day for just a little bit, you will see growth.  If you blog only when you feel like it, you’ll never grow a following.

Don’t get discouraged by the learning curve.  Either pay someone to do it or be proud of yourself for acquiring useful skills.  I’ve paid for a few courses along the way when I’ve run into problems, and they’ve been well worth the investment.

Join a few Facebook blogging communities to connect with other bloggers.  I wish I would have done this sooner in my journey.  My two favourites are Blogging with Heart and Saskatchewan Bloggers Collective.

Pick one thing to focus on getting better at each month.  That way you won’t get overwhelmed and your blog will steadily improve.

Final Thoughts

I’m still learning lots and have a long way to go to reach my goals.  However, it is really fun writing content every week and I LOVE when people tell me that my post really moved them or they actually tried one of my recipes.  I also love the hustle of getting my blog out into the world and its really exciting to see the numbers go up a little every month.

Should you start your own blog?  Give it a try!  You have nothing to lose and now you know another blogger who is cheering you on 🙂

Need to know something more specific?  Let me know in the comments!

starting a blog

 

Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Grow roots with us

Kristen

Welcome!

Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!