Hi Sweet Friend!
This is the next post in a series I’m calling “Dear Stephanie: Questions and Answers From My Inbox.” This is one of the most common questions I get asked each week, and so I’ve been working super hard to put together my best, most comprehensive answer to share with y’all!
I want to give a slight disclaimer that this is going to be a MONSTER of a blog post (it’s the size of a full eBook!), not only that, it might not be relevant to all of you. Which is totally okay. If this isn’t your jam, pop over to the blog where we’re talking about:
– A Guy’s Advice On: How Do I Find “My Person” And What The Heck Am I Supposed To Do In The Meantime?
– How To Share Your Life On Instagram Without Missing It In The Process
– To The Girl Who’s Lost In His Mixed Messages
– and more!
And make sure to check back next week. I promise I'll have a more universal topic. 🙂
Without further ado, here’s this week's question!
I’ve been thinking and dreaming about blogging for a really long time, but I have absolutely no idea where to start. I really love what you’re doing, and the space you’ve created here, and I wanted to ask — what advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? Thanks so much!
Hi sweet friend!
I am so glad you asked this, because I get this question all the time, and I’m so happy to be able to share with you what I’ve learned!
I have done my very best to pull together my very best blogging advice. (The comprehensive version — I told you, this is going to be a MONSTER of a blog post). I’m covering the tiny details, the big topics, and everything else I get asked about on a regular basis.
I hope that this is helpful to you in your blogging journey. I hope it’s encouraging, and inspiring, and illuminating in a world that can feel totally complicated.
One other thing before we dive in:
I made sure to break this monster resource down into smaller topics and questions so it’s more skimmable (in case it’s not all relevant to you where you are today). I'm also hoping to add more to this post as I learn more, and as I receive more of y'alls questions (that I might have missed this first time around!) So keep checking back to see the latest specific questions and answers!
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. What’s the most important thing I should know about starting a blog?
Just get started!
The biggest mistake I see most people make (I’m guilty too!) is thinking things need to be perfect before we share them.
This idea that things have to be perfect before we can press “go” takes a hundred different forms.
People think that they have to have the perfect website before they can start blogging, or that they have to have the blog post exactly perfect before they can hit publish, or that they need a full, 10-year plan before they can ever get started, or that they have to take every course under the sun about blogging before they can share it with anyone.
I had this moment while working on my book, The Lipstick Gospel. I worked and worked and tweaked and tweaked and edited and sent it to more friends for feedback and looked over it again. And at some point, I couldn’t even see the words anymore. They were a huge blur, and I was the least objective person about the work ever, so I really was just spinning in circles.
At some point, I just had to decide to share it. Yes, it could have been better. Yes, if you look hard enough you might find a typo or two.
But at some point, I realized the book would never be good enough in my mind, and that it wasn’t helping anyone just sitting on my hard drive. So I shared it — imperfections and all — and it has been amazing what God’s done with it.
That’s been the case with everything I’ve ever done — it’s never been perfect, not once, but God’s blessed that. He uses our messy tries, our attempts, our imperfect masterpieces. He really does!
So — that is what I’d say, more than anything else. Just get started. Get going, get moving. Get a site up, it’s fine that it’s imperfect. Just give it a shot and get moving. You'll learn so much of what you need to know by just getting started.
2. How do you figure out what to write about?
Blogging is so much fun for the first month or so, when you have lots and lots of things to write about. But pretty quickly, you’ll discover that you really only had 10 or 12 things to say, and now you still have this blog and it still needs content every week!
It’s like how my husband and I get to the end of the day and ask each other the question we both dread, “What do you want to do for dinner?” My husband one time said it perfectly when he said, “I can’t believe we have to eat dinner every single night!”
Blogs are like humans — they need to be fed, and regularly. So naturally, we ask the question, “How do you figure out what to write about?”
There are lots of thoughts on this subject, but what I’d say is to find the intersection between what you would want to read, and solving a felt-need of your audience.
1. Write what you would want to read
There are blogs about everything under the sun, because there are people under the sun who are interested in such a wide, and crazy variety of things. So write what you would want to read, and it’s probable that there are people in the world whose interests mirror your own.
I love this about blogging — we’re able to connect with people all over the world who have the same interests we do!
But here’s the other thing…
2. Your blog can’t just be about you
It can be if you want it to be something you just share with your family and friends. But if you want your blog to catch on, if you want it to be a place people go to for information or advice or encouragement, you have to give your readers something that’s valuable to them. You have to think about what they want and need and provide them with it!
But there’s a trick to this:
A lot of times as artists and writers and creators we say, “I want to create this,” and we just expect people to show up. But it’s like on Shark Tank when someone creates a contraption to fluff your pillows. The argument is that everyone fluffs pillows. Right, that’s true. But nobody is feeling this great lack of pillow fluffing help.
You have to help people with something they actually need help with — something they feel as a need in their lives.
If you’re anything like me, you might be drawing a total blank. Or you might have a few ideas but feel like you are totally not equipped or certified to help people with these things.
I once received the advice to look for things that feel obvious to me, but miraculous to other people.
Here’s an example:
My sweet friend Heather is a master menu planner. She has this God-given ability to plan healthy, affordable meals for each night of the week. Not only that, but she knows how to make a grocery list from those meals, knows how to plan the meals so she’s not wasting any food, and knows how to do it all on a budget. Sweet Lord, I wish I had that gift!
But it wasn’t until we all had dinner one night and were talking about it that Heather realized this was one of those things that was obvious to her, and totally miraculous to everyone else.
Heather, unfortunately, has no interest in creating a meal-planning blog, but if she did, this would be a perfect example.
So many of us (myself included) have the hardest time planning meals, not wasting food, eating healthfully, and doing it all within a budget. And so this would be one of those great places where what’s natural to her is miraculous to everyone else. Boom! Insta blog! 🙂
So start by asking around.
Ask your friends what kinds of things they’d want to learn from you. Think back to what people typically ask for your advice on. Listen to the kinds of conversations you’re having, to the questions people are asking on Facebook. If you start to listen, people will begin to tell you what they need, and also how you can help them!
So when it comes to what to write about on your blog, think about a combination of writing the kinds of things you would want to read, while also trying to provide ideas, or education, or inspiration, or encouragement to your reader.
(Also — give yourself space and grace to figure out what those things are. You don’t need to know right off the bat. Again, just get started. You’ll figure it out along the way!)
3. Okay, so that’s what we should share, but as a blogger, what kinds of things shouldn’t we share?
This is a great question. In a world where we’re more publicly vulnerable than ever — what should you share on your blog, what’s too much information, and what should you keep private?
The short answer is that everyone's different!
I have a friend who has decided that she doesn’t want to show her baby’s face on her blog or social media platforms. So she’ll share photos of him from behind, or from above, but nobody has ever seen her baby’s face, and it’s just because she wanted to protect him in that way. She wanted to keep that part of her life and her family just for the people who are in her life and her family.
I love that!
We all have different boundaries for what we feel comfortable sharing, and that’s entirely up to you.
Check in with yourself, gauge your gut reaction when thinking about sharing something. Remember that blogging is scary, and blogging vulnerably is even scarier, so it’s natural to feel some fear. But listen to your gut! You don’t have to share what you don’t want to share.
That begs the question, “If you have a story that would be helpful to your readers, shouldn't you share it?” Nope. Not if you don't want to!
Your life is your life, your stories are your stories, and you are not under any obligation to share any of them.
Something I am willing to share about (with my husband's blessing of course) is both my past relationships, and the things I’m learning in our marriage right now. But I always check in with him before I share things. I always make sure he reads them first.
Something I don't always share is what I’m currently wrestling through in this very moment. I find it much easier (and more beneficial for y’all!) when I write after a few days, or weeks, or even years, once I have more perspective on the subject.
Sometimes I’ll write in the heat of the moment, but I rarely post that way because I know I’m not in the best place to be able to give great advice when I’m still so in it. I need to feel it, really experience it, record what it felt like and what happened, and then have some time away from it in order to give myself some good perspective from which to share.
It makes it less vulnerable when the sting has left the experience, and we’re just able to serve our readers better when we’ve taken some space from the whole thing.
But those are just a few guidelines I think about.
I have a dear friend who wrote all the way through her season of dating her husband. After just a few months of them being together, he left the country for almost 6 months. So her blog became a respite for her — a place to work through and (beautifully!) express how she was feeling.
But once he came home and they got married, she stopped sharing about their relationship. She decided that she wanted to be more private with their lives and their stories. It’s not that she was afraid to share them. There were nothing but beautiful stories to share. But she just decided that she wanted to hold their stories close to their hearts, she wanted their stories to be their own. And I love that!
So when it comes to what you share — check in with yourself and what you feel comfortable with. Pray about it, see what God has to say about it. Check in with your family and what they’d feel comfortable with you sharing. (These are their stories too, so make sure you've checked with them!)
As a blogger, and someone who writes about their lives, you are not obligated to share anything you don’t feel comfortable sharing.
So authentically and vulnerably share the things you and your family are willing to put out there, and save the rest for you and the people around your dinner table. That is more than okay!
Oh — and a note on privacy. The internet feels safer to me now than it did years ago, but there are still some good rules of thumb. Don’t give people your address, don’t put pictures of your house on the internet, don’t give too many details about where you are and when. Just be safe and cautious. It is still the internet, after all.
4. I’m new at this, and so I was wondering if you have any tips on how to write a good blog post?
Absolutely! There’s a formula I just love when it comes to writing blog posts, and I know that for me, it’s incredibly helpful.
Here’s the formula:
Tell me a story + Tell me what it means + Tell me what to do
1. Tell me a story
In the beginning of your post, you want to make sure to connect with your reader, so tell them a story! Tell them what happened to make you start thinking about this topic, or what the situation was where God taught you this new lesson.
This is such a beautiful part of the blog post, because this is how we connect to each other. We get to vulnerably let someone into a part of our lives so they can see that they’re not alone in what they’re going through!
So start out by telling them the story that led you to the conclusion you’re going to make.
The last blog post I wrote was all about how to share your life on Instagram without missing it in the process.
So I started off by telling a story about being in Florida with some of my friends. We were on the beach together watching the sunset, and I realized that I was thinking more about how to take a great picture of all of us there together, and about the caption I was going to write for Instagram, than I was actually being present with my friends.
I missed the sunset over the beach because I was too busy writing a caption, telling the world how much fun we were having! (Isn’t that the worst?!)
2. Tell me what it means
This is where you tell your reader what this story taught you!
So after having just told you that story, this is where I’d tell you what I realized. I realized that in being so concerned about sharing my life, I had forgotten to really be present for it.
This is where we share the lesson we learned, or what God taught us, or what we discovered.
3. Tell me what to do
This is the part where we get to really include our reader. Our reader is not just there to hear our story, but to learn something new about themselves and their lives. So this is where we get to connect what we’ve learned to what they are experiencing.
This can be 3 tips for how to do something, or a question you ask them to answer, or a challenge you give them to do something differently in their lives for the rest of the week.
In the blog post about Instagram that I've been telling you about, I finished the post with three tips for keeping Instagram in its rightful place in your life. They're three tips I'm using in my own life, and I thought they could be helpful for my reader as well!
There are so many different ways to write blogs. Everyone has a different style, different preferences, different ways they like to go about it. This is just one way to try. Take this formula, make it your own, toss it out, create something new. Blogging is such a personal thing, and everyone does it differently. But if you're feeling stuck, hopefully this little formula of mine helps get you started!
5. I’m starting to get frustrated that my blog isn’t growing faster. Do you ever feel this way? How do you handle it?
When you’re building something that you want to grow, it’s really easy to feel frustrated and defeated when your creation doesn’t immediately explode with popularity. I hear from girls all the time who are feeling sad, and confused when for awhile they have approximately 5 readers (two of which are named Mom and Dad).
But the thing we have to remember is everyone starts that way! Everyone starts small. Everyone starts with one reader, one champion, one fan, one customer.
So if you’re feeling frustrated by your small audience, I hope you get some comfort from the fact that EVERYONE starts small. Don’t despise small beginnings.
Here are two decisions I made at the very beginning that have helped me remain hopeful, grateful, and have help keep my heart in a good place:
1. I set my sights on helping just one person
As I was getting started, I knew that it would be tempting to look at the numbers of people reading my blog and to feel my worth grow or diminish depending on how a post did that day. And so I sat down and really thought about what my goal was.
I decided then and there that my goal was to help one person. If I could make one person’s day better, or encourage them when they were feeling down, or bring one person closer to Jesus, I’d be happy. If I could make one person’s life better, my job would be done! Anything above that would be just a cherry on top.
So even now when I feel wrapped up in numbers, or popularity, or progress, I remind myself of that goal to help me keep things in perspective. Just one person. If I can help one person, I’ve done what God has called me to do.
2. I've tried to treat my readers like gold
When we don't have exactly what we want, it's so easy to forget all that we do have. And that's never more tempting than it is with blog readers. But at the very beginning, I decided that I was going to be incredibly grateful for every single person who showed up to read my blog, and that I was going to do everything I could to treat each and every one like gold.
One of the ways I've tried to do this is by responding to every email I receive. Lots of bloggers decide that they serve their readers better by writing for all of them, instead of responding to each and every email. I understand this, but I have always wanted to have the personal, one-on-one connection to my readers. So I decided a long time ago that I was going to respond to every single email I receive from my sweet readers. And I still do!
In every way possible, I've done my best to treat every single reader like gold, because I just adore them and am so grateful they stopped by my little corner of the internet.
This has been a huge help in keeping my heart grateful, and helping me focus on what I do have instead of what I lack.
But it also turns out to be a great growth strategy!
When we take great care of our readers (or customers, or whoever), they are more likely to invite their friends! And that's how my blog has grown the most.
So do your best to really appreciate your readers — every single one of them. It'll help you keep your heart in a good place, and in a beautiful synchronicity, it's the best way for your blog to grow as well!
6. How do you gain momentum with your blog?
Imagine that you were a musician and you went to a street corner to perform one day. You play well, and a few people are walking by. They hear you, and decide to stop and listen for awhile.
Well, if you went back the next day, and the next day, and the next day still, those first few people would know to expect you, so they might come back. And when they come back, they might bring a few friends. Those friends bring a few friends, and more and more people gather on that street corner to hear you play, because they know you’ll be there playing beautiful music that they and their friends want to hear!
But if you show up sporadically, people won't catch on as fast because they won't know to expect you. They might show up again to hear you play, and if you’re not there, they may try again once or twice, but eventually, they’ll stop coming!
I'm totally not saying you have to write every single day (I have never posted more often than 3X per week), but consistency really helps build momentum. It helps people know that you're there and have great things to say, and that’s something they can count on and invite their friends to.
7. What about growth? How do you grow your audience and how long does that usually take?
Growth is a tricky thing, because it’s never as quick or easy as we anticipate it being.
The internet gives us this impression that we can put a post online and be famous overnight. And that’s just not the way it happens.
Yes, blog posts do go viral sometimes, but it doesn’t happen that often, and it’s rare that a viral post leads immediately to a huge following. It’s totally possible to have a post go viral, and have your next post be read by just a hundred people or so. The internet is funny that way. It’s not as instantaneous as it sometimes feels.
It might feel as though people become overnight sensations. But the truth is that most of the people you’ve heard of, or read, or who are famous had been working their tails off for years before that first day you heard about them.
I was listening to an interview with Jen Hatmaker a few days ago, and do you know how many books she’s written? Two? Three? I’d only heard of two or three. Nope. 11. She’s written 11 books. She wrote 8 of those books before anyone had ever really heard of her, and that’s just how it goes.
I saw my very favorite writer Shauna Niequist post on Instagram the other day that this was the 10 year anniversary of her getting her first book contract. It took her 10 years to get to a place where lots and lots of people have heard of her.
I heard Donald Miller say the same thing one time. He said, “Give yourself 10 years of being a writer before you really expect to be anywhere.” (We could talk for days about what “anywhere” actually means, and how the journey is really more important than the destination, but we get the general idea…)
And I think all of them would say that those 10 years were incredible blessings. In those 10 years they got to do something they really love. And in those 10 years they got better. In those 10 years they transformed (through really hard work!) from beginners, to amazing communicators the world loves to read!
And that's such a gift!
My first blog posts were BAD. Like, really bad. But it was okay, because when I first started out, I only had a few readers. I wasn’t on the Today show, I didn’t have millions of people reading my words. And thank God, because I wasn’t ready for that!
I’m a thousand million times better now than I was then, but I still am totally not ready to be on a super tall stage. We grow and our audience grows, we grow and our audience grows, and this is a really beautiful thing. There are no overnight successes, and if we think there are, that’s just because we hadn’t heard of them as they were working in the trenches.
So really embrace this beginning – embrace every moment of these first 10 years. (I’m right here with you!) Use them to love the work you’re doing, the words you’re putting on the page. Celebrate the one person who’s life you touched, celebrate those first five readers. Celebrate every milestone on the way, and be thankful — both for the people who showed up to read your work, and for how much better you’re getting each time you show up to the page.
8. Okay, that's helpful. But how do you grow?
Okay, okay. We can talk details. 🙂 The biggest way you grow is by showing up on your blog, and writing inspiring, helpful, encouraging content every week for years. Like we talked about with a street performer, more people will show up, and keep showing up if they like what you read, and they’ll start inviting your friends. That’s how it works.
Ways you can speed up the process is by finding places to guest post. Magazines, and bigger blogs, and blogs with different audiences — see if you can submit an article, or do a guest post swap. Writing for other people’s audiences is like a band opening for a bigger band on tour. You’re being introduced to someone else’s audience. So that’s one way you can grow bigger.
Another way is by making relationships with other bloggers. You can promote each other, and cheer each other on. Just like in business, or in school, networking is an awesome tool. Having a great network of people doing great things is only going to help you get the word out there faster.
Another more sure-fire way to get more eyes on the things you do is to pay for advertising. I think this is something bloggers are just now starting to think about, because in a way, it feels like buying a whole bunch of tickets to elect yourself as prom queen.
But really, ALL businesses advertise, because that’s how they get their amazing products in front of people who might love them but haven’t heard of them yet. You can do this through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google. I am by NO MEANS an expert on this, but if you Google around, you’ll find some wonderful people who can show you how it’s done.
One note on this: I would not recommend spending a ton of money on advertising your blog unless you have a plan for how to make money from your blog. It's just not sustainable to sink a ton of dollars into something that will never give them back.
But again — more than anything — show up consistently, write things that are informative, or encouraging, or relatable, and do it for a long time. That’s the very best way to grow. (Don’t you wish there was a magic formula!? Me too!)
9. Speaking of which, how do people make money from their blog?
There are tons and tons of ways, but here are just a few.
You’ll notice that some blogs have advertisements in different places on their website. This is usually because a company paid them to put them there. Sometimes they get paid just for having the ad on their blog, and sometimes they get paid a portion of whatever people spend after clicking on that ad. This is only a great strategy though if you have lots of people visiting your blog each month. Companies will pay more when they know their ads will be seen by more people. So this isn't the best way to make money right as you're getting started.
2. Sponsored posts
This is similar to advertising, but with this strategy, companies give something (usually free) to the blogger in exchange for a blog post about the product. This works particularly well for lifestyle bloggers and fashion bloggers. So if you’ve ever seen a post where a mom re-decorates her child’s nursery using only products from Pottery Barn Kids, (and mentions Pottery Barn Kids a lot) you can safely assume that the blogger was given free things, and also probably paid for that feature. (Bloggers usually mention somewhere that it was a sponsored post.)
If you’re already talking about home improvement, and decor, and food, and party planning, it is an AWESOME way to go. But also, you do need quite a few people coming to your blog each month for companies to be interested in hiring you to use, endorse, and share about their product.
Neither of these routes are my go-tos, because I'm really serious about protecting this space. The last thing in the world I ever want it to be is a giant promotion-fest. Also, I can’t picture a blog post I would write where I could seamlessly work in a plug for a Turbo Vacuum of some kind. But other people definitely can, and they do it beautifully! It just depends on what kind of blog you write.
Some companies’ business model is that when you promote their product, they'll give you part of the sale! So for every person who signs up for their program because of you, you get 10 dollars of the profit, or something like that. These are called affiliate programs and if you Google more about them, you should be able to find some.
The only thing I’ll caution you about with this is to make sure you’re only promoting things you really, really, really believe in! You want your audience to really trust you. That’s incredibly important.
4. Creating products
This strategy is becoming more and more popular, and I’m a big fan of it myself. 🙂
I’ll tell you about it by telling you why this is the strategy I’ve chosen.
I say this all the time, but one of my favorite parts of being a writer is getting emails from my readers. I’ve been writing for a long time, and getting emails from my readers for a long time. And over the years, I started to notice that there were a few specific topics that my readers would always ask me about. They were felt needs — things people were actually struggling with, and they were needs that I actually felt uniquely equipped to help solve!
That’s where my products have come from. I’ve created several resources to help women through some areas of life that I know are totally tricky. They’re topics that are too big to cover in a blog post, and I wanted to be able to really dive in deep with them on these subjects. So I created products to help!
I love this, because I get to share more of my heart, and my story. I get to be super creative with what I make, and I get to tailor what I make specifically to the needs my readers are sharing with me. It feels like a perfect combination of ministry and business, and I just love it!
There are tons and tons of strategies, these are just a few of them. But instead of listing them all out for you, I’m going to send you to a podcast I listened to recently that share “27 Ways To Make Money Online.” The episode is broken into two parts, and I know they'll get your wheels turning. Here's part one, and part two of the episode!
10. Let’s talk technology: I don’t know the first thing about building a website, can you tell me what technology you use?
So the short answer is that I have a self-hosted wordpress site (If you're looking for hosting, my sweet husband Carl does web hosting (he's who I use!). He'll do all the setup for you, and is always available for questions, and to help if things go awry!). But if you’re anything like I was, you have absolutely no idea what that means. So let’s break it down a little.
When I was just getting started, I had my blog on wordpress.com. wordpress.com is like a one-stop-shop when it comes to blog websites. They take care of the hard, confusing parts for you, you get to pick a template (also called a “theme”), and get started almost right away!
The problem with wordpress.com is that there’s a cap to how much you can customize your blog. That’s why lots of people move to wordpress.org. wordpress.org is less of a one-stop-shop, you have to connect a few different moving parts, but once you do, you can customize absolutely everything.
Last I heard, the New York Times website was hosted on wordpress.org. It’s a super powerful system, and you can do pretty much anything with it.
Another route you can take is Squarespace. Squarespace is super pretty, user-friendly, and you can have a great-looking blog up and ready pretty quickly.
There’s a monthly fee for Squarespace, but it’s fairly inexpensive, and definitely worth it. I host my shop page on squarespace.com!
If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend either Squarespace or wordpress.com.
The goal isn’t for it to be perfect, the goal is to get the easiest thing set up that you can and start writing. Just get started. And then as you grow, your website can grow up with you.
It’s like graduating college and buying a house. You do not need to own your own house yet. Get an apartment with friends, then maybe get an apartment by yourself. Then maybe buy a condo, and when you get married and are thinking about having a baby, get a house.
You do not need a perfect website when you’re just starting out. Just get something going.
If you’re thinking, “easy, and user-friendly, yeah right!” you’re not alone. I’m not a super tech-savvy lady, but even I have been able to figure it out.
I’ve built all of my websites by myself (with tiny bits of help from my husband, but not much!) and I taught myself to do it all!
When I first began building my first website, it felt like trying to write with my left hand, blindfolded, wearing hockey gloves (awkward, confusing, messy, etc.) BUT… I messed around with it enough that I finally got the hang of some things, and I was actually able to figure it out.
There are tons of tutorials, and it really is figure-out-able, and so I’d suggest that you do that! That way you can fix problems yourself, it’s cheaper than hiring a developer, and when you get good enough at blogging that you want to outsource it, you can! So just get started, mess around with it, you can do it. I believe in you!!
11. How DIY-able is blogging? When is it time to call in the pros?
When you’re just getting started, blogging is incredibly DIY-able.
So if you’re just getting started and are on a budget, don’t feel like you need to pay a whole team of experts to make your site perfect right away.
If you do have some money you’d like to spend on your site, here are a few places you can start:
1. Hire a photographer
The first thing I really did to make my blog look more professional was I asked my sweet friend Lacee to do a photoshoot
It feels totally, totally weird to ask someone to take photos of you, but all bloggers do it. It’s necessary to have some good photos of you to show who you are, and to set the tone for the personality of the blog!
If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you’ve seen the photo of my pink heels standing on a pile of books. My sweet friend Lacee took that photo, and that photo set the tone for the colors I use, the feeling I want my blog to evoke, and all of the photos that have been taken of me since!
Normally websites are pretty plain. The text and the layout are important, but it’s the photos that give it the color and the personality. And a great photo shoot can make your website look 100000 times better.
So find a photographer in your area that you like — maybe ask your favorite wedding photographer if she does lifestyle shoots. Or find a friend who is looking to grow their photography business and see if you can trade her a photo shoot for some babysitting or something.
Having great photos on your site will make all the difference.
2. Hire a graphic designer
I’ve only just recently done this, but graphics for your website make such a difference as well. A graphic designer is the person who creates little buttons for your sidebar, or a logo for the top of your site, or a fun header to use on your emails. A good graphic designer is just another way of making your site look more fun, more professional, and more like you!
3. A website designer
While it’s totally possible to build a website on your own, having someone who really knows what they’re doing build a website for you is a great way to take it up a notch. They're able to customize it to look exactly like you want it to look, able to make it super functional, and incredibly professional.
If the thought of building your own site is giving you anxiety, you may want to take this step sooner. Don’t let the building of your site keep you from writing!
Here are a few people I have either used, or just highly recommend:
3. Web developers
- Carl Wilson (my sweet husband! He does graphic design and website building, along with a ton of other awesome things. He isn't cheap, but he's amazing. You can reach him at Carl@HelloLuum.com!
12. What should I call my blog? Should I use my name? How do I choose a URL?
This is an awesome question! The real answer is that it’s entirely up to you. Some people prefer to use their names for their websites (StephanieMayWilson.com for example!) while others come up with names using their street name, or their favorite words, or something having to do with what the blog is about.
Really, you can’t go wrong either way. It’s entirely up to you.
But here are a few questions to ask yourself as you decide:
1. Is the name available?
This is tricky because so many URLs are already taken, but you need to find something that’s still available. (I buy my URLs on GoDaddy.com, but there are several sites you can use!)
Another thing you want to do is to have your social media handles match your URL as closely as possible. So as you’re making your decision, you want to look for something that has both the URL and the social media handles available.
In order to see what’s taken and what’s not, check out a great little tool we use all the time called http://namecheckr.com. It’ll tell you the availability of the words you’re picking across all domains and social media channels!
If the name you want is taken, you can make slight modifications. You can add your middle initial, opt for a .org website, or .net. But as you’re making these modifications, you want to keep in mind #2.
2. Keep it clear, simple, and easy to remember
This is super key, because your URL and the name of your blog is like your address. If you have a super complicated address, it’s going to be harder for people to find you.
I’ve had a few wonderful friends ask me about names for their blogs, and the names they were looking into were in different languages, but for an english speaking audience. For example, a cute word in Italian, or something meaningful from scripture in the Greek.
The problem is, your audience most likely doesn’t speak Greek or Italian, and so the likelihood that they know what your blog title means is low, and the likelihood that they’ll be able to find you again and again is even lower.
You want something your audience will understand, be able to spell, and be able to remember.
Remember: This is the address people use to come and find you. The easier the better!
3. What will last the longest?
While it’s possible to change the name of your blog and your URL once you are already blogging, it can be confusing for your reader.
So as you’re choosing a name, you want something you’re going to like for a long time. (Do the opposite of how you chose your screen name in middle school. Mine was SKTRbaby2000. If that doesn’t have an expiration date on it, I don’t know what does!)
Not only that, but you want something that’s going to be able to contain everything you want to do on your blog for awhile.
Blogs are just like us — they grow and change and mold. You may start out wanting to talk about fashion, but you may realize you want to talk about the heart behind fashion — about beauty and identity and worth. So you want a blog name that is general enough that it allows you to make changes like that without starting from scratch.
That’s why I chose to use my name. My name isn’t going to change, so I can learn, and grow, and develop under an umbrella that will still cover it all.
But that brings up a really good question: What if you’re not married, but hoping to get married in the future? Do you use your name even though it might change?
I think you absolutely can.
You can either use your first and middle name if you want to make sure it never has to change. Or you can go ahead and use your full name, and change it when you get married. I changed my URL and social media handles when I got married, and my sweet readers caught on almost immediately. It really wasn’t a huge deal.
So don’t feel like you have to be married before you can use your name.
More than anything, don’t let this trip you up. If you really need to, you can change this later. Just pick a name and get started. (Remember Tip #1? It doesn't have to be perfect.)
13. I’d love to write a book. Do you have any tips or advice?
I’d say do it! 🙂 I loved the process of writing my book, and it’s something I’d recommend to anyone who wants to give it a shot!
I have to tell you, I am totally not an expert in this process, but I will give you the three things I learned during the process of writing The Lipstick Gospel that I’ll definitely be doing next time around.
1. An outline is key
Full disclosure: I am the worst when it comes to outlines. I start to create an outline, but then a thought comes to me, and all of a sudden my bullet pointed outline is 4,000 words long. I’m off on a rabbit trail, never to be found again.
But really, outlines are so key. (I have to do mine on paper to keep me focused!)
They help you know where you’re going with a story, what points you want to make sure you cover, where you’re starting, where you want to end, and how you get from A-Z.
So one of my best pieces of advice would be to really work on your outline. Look at books similar to the one you want to write, and make an outline for that book — see how they got from A-Z. Learn how other authors do it, and then make an outline for yourself.
This will make the writing process SO much easier, and you wont get lost on a rabbit trail like I do. 🙂
2. Set deadlines, get it done
The toughest thing about writing a book is actually getting it done. It’s so easy to start, and then lose steam. It’s almost impossible not to. But setting clear deadlines for yourself will help immensely.
Set clear, hard-and-fast deadlines along the way, and keep to them. This will help you keep moving, keep momentum, and actually get the book done.
There are so many half-finished manuscripts on people’s computers, and this is so sad because a half-finished manuscript can’t do anything to help the world. An imperfect, finished book is so much better than a perfect, half-finished one.
So set deadlines for yourself and keep going. Especially with your first book, done is better than perfect.
3. Find great editors
Editors are the absolute key to a great book.
When you’re writing a book, you are so close to the story, and so invested in the project, you have lost all ability to be objective about it. So you need people to come in and help you see the holes in the story, the flaws, the parts you missed that you can’t see yourself.
So bring on the editors!
When I was working on The Lipstick Gospel, I got it to a place where I felt like it was done-ish, and then sent it out to a handful of friends. Now, most authors and editors would say, don't send it to your friends, and I’d echo that if your friends are the kinds of people who always tell you how great you are.
I definitely didn’t send it to my mom for that reason. She would have said it was wonderful and not to change a thing. So I sent it to friends who I knew would be honest. And they were! They showed me areas where I’d missed things, parts that I could take out, places that didn’t make sense, etc.
While it’s never easy to get constructive feedback, we really need it. We want to make the book as great as possible, and we need other eyes to help us see what can be improved.
Another kind of editor that’s important is a proofreader. This is the person that helps you clean up your grammar and your spelling. I am not a pro in either area, and so having a proofreader was absolutely crucial in making The Lipstick Gospel not look like a 4th grade paper.
If you’re working with a publisher, they’ll have editors and proofreaders assigned to you, so you don’t have to worry about that. But if you’re writing the book on your own, or self-publishing, you’ll want to ask a few sweet friends to help you, or hire someone who does editing on a freelance basis.
Okay — those are my best book-writing thoughts, so now, because I'm totally not a publishing pro, I'm going to send you to some people who are! I haven't used all of these resources, but people who I love and trust have, and swear by them. So check them out for yourself, and see what resonates. 🙂
- How to write a winning book proposal
- Advice to first time authors
- How to write a book (a blog post by Donald Miller)
- Step by Step Guides for Growing Writers (a free eBook!)
- Resources for authors and writers (she has a TON of info!)
- A resource for those of you who want to write a memoir
- You could participate in National Novel Writing Month (I have lots of friends who have!)
- Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing
14. Can we address a heart issue? Do you ever feel like everything worth writing about has already been written — like there’s no room left for you?
Oh, all the time! I think that’s the biggest fear so many of us have when it comes to creating or blogging or writing. It feels like all of the good ideas have been taken, and maybe they have.
But when I come to a moment like that in my mind, I ask myself, “Are all the women in the world empowered, and whole, and do they all know their worth? Is the world overflowing with good things, no bad things left, just too much good stuff in the world? No.” Until those things happen, until everyone is too inspired, too loved, too valued, the world is too beautiful, then there’s still room for us!
Not only that, but every single one of us is unique. We have unique stories, perspectives, and ways of sharing our stories. I may have the same story as another blogger, but the way she tells her stories may resonate with you far more than the way I tell mine. There are so many different people in the world, we all learn differently, and we all connect to different people and styles of storytelling differently. There is room for us all!
15. I feel like blogging is such an intimate, and also public thing. How do you keep your heart in a good place?
You’re totally right. Blogging can be a hard thing. I think it’s just like anything else, where your temptation is to put your value and your approval in how many people are reading your blog, instead of in Jesus.
But the most important thing I do to keep my heart in a good place, is to surround myself with really good people and to stick close to Jesus.
My people are my cheerleaders — they keep me going when I feel like quitting, they wipe my tears when I feel like giving up. They remind me of what’s true when I start to forget, and they remind me of who’s in charge when I start to make this about me, instead of about God.
And I try to stick as close to God as possible. The Holy Spirit is so faithful to guide us in all ways, and He’s so good at gently reminding me of things when I start to steer off course.
Overall, blogging is just like anything else — some days you do it well, some days you have to come back to your people, or to God and say, “I think my heart is off with this. Can you help me?”
It’s a journey, just like everything else, but it’s absolutely a journey worth going on!
16. Would you recommend blogging?
Oh, absolutely. Always and forever.
One of the kindest things we can do for one another is to tell each other our stories, because it does two things for the people that hear them. First, it tells them that they’re not alone — and I’m convinced there’s no kinder thing we can say to someone than, “I’ve been there, or I’m right there with you.” It’s the most connective, kind, “it’s going to be okay” thing we can ever say to each other. So that’s the first reason.
And the second reason is the same reason that testimonies are so important. When we share with people what God’s doing in our lives, it shows our readers what God’s capable of doing in their lives too.
When we hear that God showed up miraculously for someone with the exact amount of money they needed to pay that bill to stay in their house, it reminds us of the kind of God that we serve — a mighty, miraculous God that answers prayers in big big ways. And that builds up our faith.
So we have to tell our stories, and I think blogging is an incredible way of doing it.
I love blogging because it’s such a great community. I’ve made great friends through my blog — I’ve met people and had opportunities I never would have had if it weren't for my blog. I love the community aspect and the people blogging helps you connect to.
But maybe my favorite thing about blogging is what Anaïs Nin says about writing, ““We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
Blogging forces me to slow down, to actually go back and tell myself the story again, to fully taste the moment, savoring it, paying attention. It forces me to connect dots I never would have connected. It helps me remember moments that I otherwise would have forgotten.
In blogging, I really do feel like I get to taste life twice, and what a gift that is!
I am so excited for you as you’re embarking on this journey love. It’s a great, amazing, challenging, wonderful journey, and you’re to love it.
If there’s anything you wish I’d covered that I didn’t, send me an email! I’d love to hear your question, and would love to make this resource as comprehensive as possible! 🙂
And without further ado, let me send you to some friends of mine who are just absolute pros at this whole blogging thing. You’re in good hands with them.
All my love and 10000000 blessings to you on your blogging adventure,
- ConvertKit (The platform I use to send emails to all of my readers. I cannot recommend them enough!)
- Bird by Bird (a great book about writing by Anne Lamott)
- Big Magic (all about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert)
- Goins Writer (Jeff is an amazing teacher all about how to build a tribe of readers)
- Elle & Company (a great resource!!)
Resources for starting a business: