Show your work – Start blogging today
I watched a video recently that inspired me to look into blogging again. I’ve tried it a few times before, but it’s never really stuck.
This video resonated with me as it showed me that I was not alone in having the feelings I’ve had about blogging and putting myself, or ‘my work’, out there. The creator of the video recommended a book called “Show Your Work” which they said really opened their eyes. I immediately ordered it.
It’s not here yet, but I’m getting started early because the general theme of the video and book is right, there is no reason to wait, or keep things from holding me back. I can do this, and you can too.
I’ll use my first post here to document my blogging journey, not only as a practice but in the hopes it may help some of you reading this out as well.
This isn’t meant to be a step-by-step guide, but just a rough overview of my experience starting this blog up. If you have any specific questions feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
What do I write about?
This was one of the main questions that held me back from starting to blog for many years. I’m not an expert in any one thing, so what should I even write about, and why would anyone read what I have to say?
These thoughts are normal. It’s taken me a long time to understand that, but I think I finally have. I’ve now understood that it’s best to get started, and the rest will come along naturally, and over time.
You can write about your passions, current events, your family, work, sports, hobbies. The list goes on and on, and on. Just start. Don’t worry about what other people will think, either. That’s another big one, at least for me. What if my friends or family find it? Or worse yet, my employer, or future employer?
Truth is, it doesn’t matter, within reason. Sure you may be embarrassed temporarily, but that’s just what it is – temporary. Don’t let that stop you from exploring your passions and ideas.
Where do I blog? There are so many options!
Now that you’ve decided you want to start, the next challenge you have to solve is getting your blog, or website, up and running. There are many options, but I’ll break down probably the three most popular, and ones I looked at, but I’m sure there are many others.
The most common options I saw were for WordPress and Blogger. I originally started with Blogger, because it seemed to be the easiest, but then decided to switch to WordPress, which is what this site was originally built on.
I was a bit confused by WordPress at first, but I’ve wrapped my head around it now. There are two WordPress versions; WordPress.com & WordPress.org.
WordPress.org is usually the one that is recommended to start with, because it’s completely free and full-featured, and is the original “WordPress” that you’ve probably heard about. It’s a completely open-source CMS (content management system) with lots of tools and features to help you build any kind of website you want. However, you need to provide your own domain and hosting, which I’ll get into in a bit.
WordPress.com is founded by the WordPress.org co-founder and is a tiered hosting service that provides the tools to build many different kinds of websites. However, it’s not as feature-rich as the original WordPress.org platform and is typically more expensive overall in the long run.
The last one is Blogger, which is owned by Google. Blogger is a free and simple to use hosted blogging platform, meaning you don’t have to pay for hosting or to use the service. Just pay for your domain name and you can launch your blog in minutes. While free, Blogger is quite limited. However, depending on your goals, it may be the perfect place to start.
Domains and hosting
Picking a good domain name, or URL, for your website is important. The domain name for this website is azzysays.com. Try to pick something easy to remember. If you have a specific niche you plan to focus your website around, then try to find a name that works best for that. Don’t overthink it.
I’ve used a few services for domains, but have now used Google Domains more than once, so I recommend that. Don’t worry too much about which services to pick here either. You can always transfer it later if you find something better in the future.
Unlike the domain which is always necessary, you might also need to find a hosting service, depending on the option you go with. I went with the original WordPress.org, which requires separate hosting. If you choose Blogger or WordPress.com, you won’t need to find separate hosting.
WordPress.org recommends Bluehost, DreamHost, and SiteGround, but as with anything on the Internet, there are loads of other options. I went with Bluehost as I saw it recommended a few times elsewhere, and they’re integrated directly, so it all gets installed automatically. It was very easy to get started.
Styling your blog
With WordPress, Blogger, and probably all other website creation platforms, there are hundreds of themes to choose from. The theme gives your website a general look and feel but still allows you to customize it further.
Many are free, but there are also more premium themes you can purchase. I went with a free one, but I’m still learning about and exploring others.
Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough
Spend some time figuring out what you want your website to look like, but don’t let this hold you back from launching. You can always tweak over time, and make changes as you learn. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough, as they say.
Over time, think about creating a style guide for your website so that everything stays consistent. Continue to learn and get inspiration from other sites, and make improvements and tweaks frequently.
Your first post
I decided to use Google Docs to author my posts, but all of the platforms will have an easy-to-use editor that works fine. Write up a few sentences, and publish your first post! You can, and probably will, always revisit it later and make changes or improvements to it, so just write something up quick to get started for now.
Setting it live
Before you can access your website by typing in your domain name in your browser, you’ll need to configure a few settings to let your hosting service know what URL your website lives at.
In my experience, this is a straightforward process with both WordPress.org and Blogger. I haven’t used any others, but I’m sure they’re the same. If it’s not done during setup, you’ll see a tip or card on the homepage or dashboard letting you know to finish linking your domain name. If you can’t figure it out, this is not a bad time to reach out to the customer service team to get some help, as it can get technical.
Once that’s all set up, your site is ready to go live. You should now be able to type in the domain name you picked earlier and load up your site. It may not look great yet, but continue working on it and it will look better and better over time, I promise.
How will anyone find my blog?
Now that your blog is live, how will anyone even find it? This was another big challenge for me, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’ve got some ideas.
My strategy is to first focus on providing the most quality content that I can and let everything else follow suit naturally. I know that won’t be easy, so we’ll see how it goes over time.
However, there are options. Depending on the topic, you can advertise your blog on social media sites, network and collaborate with other content creators, and pay for ads to drive traffic to your site.
Make sure you’re using good relevant keywords in your posts and following SEO best practices in general. There are many other options and lots of creative ways to drive traffic.
Creating a schedule and sticking to it is also strongly recommended. Consistency is highly rewarded with Internet algorithms, and your readers will appreciate it too. Set a goal to make one or two posts a week, or whatever works for you, and stick to it.
Mixing a bit of all of these will certainly bring viewers to your site, but consistent quality content will keep them coming back and should be at the top of your list.
There are always people out there that will support you and want to hear what you have to say. Just start, follow your passions.
It’s never too late to start a blog, a website, or follow any other passion you may have. The important thing is to get started. Don’t sweat the details, put in the work, and you will be rewarded. There are always people out there that will support you and want to hear what you have to say. Just start, follow your passions.
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Published: March 18th, 2021