Have you ever had a dream of starting your own blog or online business?
I’m excited to share with you today what I’ve learned in my first year of blogging. I’ve been getting some questions about how I started my blog and figured my 1 year anniversary is the perfect time to share my wisdom in hopes it can help some of you who also have a dream of starting your own blog or virtual business!
In May 2016, I bought my domain name, and a few months later in August, I launched Vegan Chickpea. I had a dream of having a food blog for a number of years, and finally said to myself, “Sarah, there is no reason NOT to do this!” I didn’t know much about blogging, but what I did have was a deep knowing that this was something I truly wanted.
I really enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I could look at food blogs for hours and talk about food with you all day long. I had been vegan for a year at the time (and gluten free for seven years) and felt inspired to spread awareness about this style of living. Finally, I saw that there were hardly any other bloggers who were both gluten free and vegan, so thought I might be on to something with my niche to help others like me who want both!
I started immersing myself in everything blogging related by listening to podcasts and doing countless google searches. At the time I had a bare minimum, 101 level of understanding of WordPress from when I built a coaching site and blog for myself back in 2013… but hey, at least I knew how to publish a post, right?! I also had been working in the virtual world for 2.5 years at that time with an organization where I supported their online launches and programs, so the virtual world in many ways was familiar to me.
However, blogging – and food blogging in particular – is a completely different world, and one that I have come to love. I still feel like a beginner in many ways and have so many goals and hopes for where I could go with my blogging career, and yet I can also see how much I’ve grown in a year and am giving myself a big ol’ pat on the back for that as we approach my one year launch anniversary! *cue celebration music*
MY TOP 7 TIPS FOR STARTING A BLOG OR VIRTUAL BUSINESS
Whether it’s blogging or something else that you’re interested in, find whatever you can in the field you’re curious about and start making time to research the topic with everyone’s BFF, Google. Listen to podcasts and webinars, subscribe to email lists from others in the industry, and start talking with anyone you know who is further on the path than you in that area, or who is at least interested in the same thing.
I’d listen to podcasts when I was doing dishes, cooking, getting ready in the morning, taking a walk, driving, or anytime I could squeeze in a few minutes! I became totally addicted to the Food Blogger Pro podcast and have now listened to just about every episode!
For me, it was important to get inspiration from those who had already created the life I was seeking. How did they do it? What do they like, and what are they challenged by? What is it really like to be in their shoes? I’d often imagine myself being the one getting interviewed one day in the future, feeling what that would be like and how our conversation would go. I haven’t been interviewed… yet… but still hold that vision of success for myself! 🙂
2. FIND YOUR PURPOSE
Why do you even want a blog or online business to begin with? Without knowing why you even want to commit to this in the first place will make this journey a whole lot harder and more scattered. Is there a certain need you want to fill in the marketplace where you feel like you can give your gifts? Do you simply want more freedom and to be your own boss? Do you want flexible working hours so you can spend more time with your family?
Whatever your reasons are, find them. You’re going to need to remind yourself again and again of why you want this when times get tough and you start to doubt yourself. Knowing your ‘why’ also helps define the rest of your strategy including your ‘what’ and your ‘how’. For example, someone who wants to make a little side money in order to have extra money for family vacations is going to approach this way differently than someone who wants a full time income.
3. LETTING GO OF PERFECTION
Oh my, this is a big one for me, eek! I so want everything to be perfect, and the truth is – it rarely is. What is perfect anyway? There are hundreds of ways I could define it but trying to live up to all of those expectations is utterly exhausting and impossible.
I could spend an hour making small tweaks to a Pinterest image, but ultimately, does that really matter? Are those couple of tiny changes really going to impact my ultimate success? If I instead used that hour doing something like working on an ebook, that is very likely a better use of my time.
There are constant distractions and rabbit holes we can get sucked into, so having a focus, sticking with it and knowing when to stop and say, “This is good enough!” is a huge lesson for me that I’m still needing to remind myself of constantly. I could work on something forever, and then never actually get it out there. One of my friends and mentors often says, “imperfect action is better than perfect inaction” and I feel like this applies to those of us who are perfectionists, often holding ourselves back from just going for it and putting ourselves out there!
Remember, there are so many small things that you will need to do for your blog that all take time, but many of them really aren’t all that important at first or in the grand scheme of things. Just stick with the basics, get your voice out there and then you can always come back to improve it and expand later!
4. USE FREE RESOURCES
I’ve already mentioned podcasts and blogs, but there are a number of other tools that are amazing and totally free. My favorites are:
- Canva – a site where you can design images, with built in templates and frameworks that you can then make your own! I make all of my Pinterest images with Canva and some other blog and social media graphics as well.
- Evernote – an app for desktop and mobile to help you stay organized! Create notebooks, notes, clip from the web and more. Evernote is where I keep all my ideas and notes of things I’m learning along the way as I listen to different experts and want to have the info all in one place, instead of scattered in a bunch of different handwritten notebooks.
5. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PERKS – BUT BE DELIBERATE
Having the luxury of working from anywhere is amazing… and challenging. Over the past year I’ve lived in the Netherlands and the USA, traveling to Hawaii for a couple months, Portland, Salt Lake City, New York City and all over the Southeast USA. I absolutely love that I have a mobile lifestyle and can work from anywhere with internet – a hotel room, an airport or a friend’s house (and in this exact moment I’m at a train station in the Netherlands!).
However – while I love flexibility, this also leaves room for instability and too much flow. Sometimes I just couldn’t get focused or be in an environment long enough to feel grounded into a routine where I knew what I needed to do and could get momentum. While it’s great to be able to do whatever you want whenever you want it, I’ve come to realize that structure is also needed. I’m transitioning right now into creating more of a schedule for myself that I will actually stick to, because this is my job and therefore I want to treat it like one!
Batching my time to do similar tasks all at the same time is one approach I’m going to take (for example, scheduling social media out for a week at a time, vs. doing that daily or every couple days). I also intend to minimize my distractions during those times, like not compulsively checking emails so I can stay focused.
Another free tool I just discovered is called Toggl, where you actually track your time with a timer so you can see how long your tasks take. I had resistance to this for awhile because I wanted to be able to flow with my schedule and not feel so rigid, but now I’m actually excited to embrace this as I know it will help me stay on task better!
6. BE THRIFTY – BUT SPEND MONEY ON WHAT MATTERS MOST
When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to want to buy, well, EVERYTHING you hear about. This shiny app will make your life and productivity so much easier! This ebook will teach you how not to fail! This course is guaranteed to grow your income by 175498 percent!
OK, I exaggerated a teensy bit on that last one but sometimes I swear, the sales pitches really sound like that. The point is, you really don’t need to invest in all that much to get started, and I recommend you don’t. During your research phase, you can start listing out all the things you think you may want to buy now or in the future, and then you can start organizing by order of priority as far as what you truly need right now.
For example, you’re going to need:
- A domain name and hosting, about $60/year – I started with and still use Bluehost, which is fine for beginners when you’re just starting out. As you grow and start to have decent traffic, you’ll need to upgrade to a package with your own server either with Bluehost or another company (Bluehost uses shared servers for their basic package, meaning your page can load slower with the competing traffic, but again, this isn’t a problem when you’re first starting off.)
- A WordPress theme and framework, about $130 (this price varies a lot depending on what you choose) – I highly recommend starting your blog on WordPress – it gives you the most flexibility and I don’t think there are many bloggers who disagree. You can get free themes, but if you have a specific style you’re after and don’t want to hire a web designer out the gate, then I recommend picking a theme you love, even if it costs a little bit extra. I use the Foodie Pro Theme with Genesis Framework by StudioPress. The Genesis Framework gives you some easier design options built into WordPress that have made styling easier to do on my own. Learn more about StudioPress Sites here!
- G suite / Google for Work, $5/month – you may not need this right off the bat, but G Suite gives you an email address linked to your domain so that all your related emails, google docs, etc. can start being directed to the same place. I didn’t want all my blogging stuff co-mingling with my personal email – hey there boundaries! – so knew this was important to me. Plus, I wanted to have an organized way to manage my emails, and already loved Gmail (which is 100x times better than the free email services that come with most hosting companies, like Squirrelmail for example which I used back in 2013 and it. was. awful).
7. GET MENTORED
My biggest tip in order to speed up your process and not have to do things the hard way is to invest in a mentor, coach or course you trust to get you started with more ease and know-how. Someone who has been there before to show you HOW so you don’t waste time, money and energy doing things that don’t matter or that actually hurt your progress in the long run. Of course, finding the right program for you is important – one that you truly feel will make a difference (see point #6).
For me, the greatest investment I made that allowed me to go from having and knowing nothing about food blogging – to having a full blog with about a dozen recipes ready to launch within a few months – is a course called Food Blogger Pro, or FBP. FBP is a monthly membership site that has courses on everything food blogging related – how to start your blog in WordPress, the essential tools you need, how to monetize your blog, social media courses, photography and video courses, and more!
They also have one live webinar each month where you can ask questions, plus a helpful online community forum where you can connect with other bloggers, ask questions and get support. There were numerous times I got stuck on something and someone in the forums knew how to help me, which brought me a ton of relief and joy. Additionally, they offer discounts on other blogging related materials and services.
If you really want a foundation for how to start a food blog, I highly recommend investing in a resource like FBP that will give you the overall structure, frameworks, education and how-to’s that you need to be successful. The membership is currently open for enrollment June 20 – 27, 2017 (and will be closed after that until probably the end of 2017). Take advantage of this awesome resource and sign up for Food Blogger Pro today!
What if you missed the deadline?
You can join the waitlist here for the next enrollment period: Join the Food Blogger Pro Waiting List!
You can also download these useful resources: 10 Mistakes that Bloggers Make – Free eBook! and 7 Essential Tools You Need to Shoot Your Own Recipe Videos.
I hope you’ve found this list helpful, and please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below – I’m happy to answer them! 🙂 Good luck on your endeavors and I hope you take the action to follow your dreams.