This post contains some affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.
Have you been thinking about starting a blog? Don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place!
Just a heads up – this is a fairly lengthy post but if you’re serious about starting a blog and just don’t know where to start, it could be well worth reading it all. You may have experienced the same frustrations – and I have a solution! 🙂
Wanting desperately to start a blog
I have wanted to start blogging since early 2014 and spent numerous hours researching and reading everything I could get my hands on about starting a blog, running it, monetizing it, making it look good, creating relevant and helpful content, etc etc etc. But.. that’s as far as it went because I had a stressful, demanding full-time job with a tough commute morning and evening. There was NO way, physically or mentally, that I could find enough time to put aside for being active on social media to create the content, write posts regularly and create graphics to go with them. And not to mention the tech side of starting – and then running – the blog! I had very little clue where to start, despite all my research. I had come across A LOT of “start a blog in 5 days” type courses which were free if you signed up to a blogger’s email list and as helpful as some of them were, they just didn’t touch on the tech side. Some would walk you through installing WordPress and then publishing your first post…
…but then what after that??
Don’t you need a theme on your WP first before you publish a post?
A free theme is okay, right?
What about parent and child themes? (No, not mom and daughter, lol – it’s technical!)
Don’t worry – all those questions will be resolved in this post 🙂
Anyway, going back to all that research I had done, still working full-time, I had to take some time off work to have major surgery for which the recovery time was 6 months. Seeing half a year stretching before me, not working, not bringing in an income and not being productive was not very appealing! I did think it would be a great time to catch up on all the books I wanted to read and also to learn the tech side of blogging but I knew I needed to bring in some income, and since I had also been dreaming of being a virtual assistant and being able to work from home since 2010, I had been doing a lot of research in that area too (it was a great fit for me because I was already a PA and office manager).
But that is for a whole ‘nother post 🙂 In the meantime if you’d like to read about how to start your own VA business, including a really thorough VA course I’d highly recommend, click here for the post.
Side hustling on hold
Before the operation I started a side hustle freelancing as a transcriptionist and virtual assistant for a few months before the surgery date, and thankfully I managed to get a lot of work during that short period of time. I thought I could continue with the transcription during the recovery, but unfortunately, for the first 3 months I was not allowed to sit up in a chair for longer than half an hour a few times a day and typing that much while lying flat on your back is just not feasible unless you have proper tailor-made equipment which I did not.
So, for the first 3 months I had to put the VA and transcription work on hold because with not being able to sit for longer than half an hour at a time, combined with the strong painkillers, it wasn’t possible to be a productive help to anyone. This is when I decided to try and really learn how to start a blog and everything that goes with it, including all the technicalities… Not just which platform to choose (WordPress, SquareSpace, etc.), and not just what to call your website and how to buy a domain and get your hosting, but actually how to design your site (in WordPress), how to link the hosting and the domain, how to make your site look good, work with WP themes, how to add content, images, logo, sidebar, widgets, plugins (what the heck were widgets and plugins anyway?!)
I need a blogging course that shows me everything!
I really needed a course that could show me everything. I didn’t have a full-time salary at this stage, and had a credit card for emergencies and to tide me over until I was physically able to start working again, whether that be freelancing from home or back at the full-time job. But should I be charging an expensive blogging course to the credit card? Well that particular course was made out to be an amazing course which had forum support, allowed you to connect with the other would-be bloggers who were taking the course, ask questions and have them answered by the two course tutors but also get the opinions of your virtual class mates.
After weighing up the pros and cons, evaluating the cost and how I could manage it, I decided to go for it. The course creator’s website was great, full of information, and what the course included seemed like it would tick every box I was looking for in a course and upon completion, I’d be a blogger with a real live blog! Plus, since I’d be at home, unable to go anywhere or do anything except lie down for the duration of the course (due to the bed rest/recovery), I could fully concentrate on all the lessons, participate in the forums and do the homework. Excited and full of motivation, I paid the $350 (gulp) and waited for my log-in details. The course was starting the next day and I couldn’t wait 🙂
Starting the first (unsuccessful) blogging course
Over the duration of the course, unfortunately my enthusiasm waned and I became less and less interested in following the lessons. I kept going but the whole course wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and I wasn’t learning what had been promised. It’s the kind of course I should have pushed to get my money back for but many of the other students seemed to be enjoying it and getting value out of it – and even progressing with their blogs.
The one thing I did learn from that course is that the two main options (leading platforms if you will), for your blog are WordPress and SquareSpace. WordPress is more difficult but you can customize the look of your blog to a greater level, and SquareSpace is easier for those with limited technical knowledge and they provide good support as a company, although there is a heftier price tag attached for this convenience.
That’s it. Literally.
Sad but true, and a big waste of money 🙁
Giving SquareSpace a whirl
So about a month later, I decided I would give SquareSpace a try and signed up for a 2 week trial. I had purchased a domain name (aka website name/web address) and signed up for hosting with Bluehost.
Hang on a second… what for? Why sign up for hosting with Bluehost when I was going to use SquareSpace for my blog? Exactly. Because I didn’t have much of a clue how that side of things all worked. And later, while signing up for the trial with SquareSpace, it turned out that I could get a free domain name. Well, yet another waste of money because I’d already paid for one with a domain registrar!
But on reflection I realized that if I decided not to go ahead or stay with SquareSpace in the future, what would happen to my domain name? I felt it could potentially be a ploy to make you stay with them and I didn’t want to be stuck, just in case it was true (I still don’t know).
Ahead I went, adding images to the website, uploading the logo I’d had designed and created by a chap on Fiverr, creating the different pages and menu bar. Apparently you shouldn’t have too many menu items so as not to confuse your reader…
Time to actually write
And then it was time to write. Oh dear.
What was I going to write about first?
It was going to be a vegetarian healthy living blog and I was a big fan of cooking and creating recipes, but when I started to really look at my food photos, now that the time had come to write recipes and posts about them as well as display the photos on the blog, they felt seriously lacking. They didn’t look anywhere near as perfect as the other food bloggers out there – not the way the end result food looked, nor the quality of the photos.
And there was no way I could afford to buy a good digital camera, background props, lighting props and all that other fancy stuff. It just was not going to happen at that moment in time. So I thought maybe I could just write healthy living, nutrition and alternative therapy articles to start with and then for the recipes, I could try to find stock photos that looked somewhat similar, until I reached the point of being able to buy all the fancy stuff.
Well, I filled out an about page, added a cute picture with my dog, managed to add some health-related ebooks for which I had a license to resell (couldn’t get the images to display properly though!). Managed to get one post up but, again it didn’t look like I wanted it too and after hours of tweaking, the tech side of uploading those images and making them display as they should, completely defeated me. This whole process took close to 3 months by the way. Ridiculous, I know!
It was just all way too frustrating, having to constantly be on live chats asking for help, or on calls speaking to customer support and not even understanding what they were directing me to do. None of it was logical and it just wasn’t my idea of blogging from all that time spent researching. I just didn’t see it being something I could continue and make into a little business. So unfortunately, I gave up on that one. (I still have the domain because I love the name and have a real vision for it so will definitely be doing something with it in the near future! It’s so different to this blog, but when you have more than one passion, you have to make a plan to follow them 🙂 )
Frustration aside and back to side hustling
By this time, I was able to get back to transcription and VA work and managed to bag myself a key client, billing 40 hours a week – just for them – so added to the other work, there weren’t many hours in a day for trying to start a new blog. Then a few months later I stumbled across freelance writing. Writing had always been something I was interested in but due to the full-time job and being on call 24/7, that creativity hadn’t come out of me. A lot of you will know exactly how this feels. Not having that creative outlet can really get to you!
To read more about the journey to freelance writing and actually having a lot of clients paying to have you write content for them (a dream come true!), check out this post.
While supporting clients as a VA, doing transcription work and freelance writing, I continued to research and read all about blogging, dreaming about the day I’d be able to eventually have the time, patience and knowledge of the tech side of blogging, to actually start and run a successful blog. Not only would it allow me to have a “job” in which I could research, learn and write for a significant amount of the time, but also use Pinterest, read non-fiction and also create helpful content and courses (the latter are coming soon) to help people who are in the position I was in – desperately wanting to quit the 4 hour daily commute to a job, and be able to stay home while being able to work from anywhere while working the hours that suited me….
Location independence and working from home
This last bit could sound really cliche – so many people online say that type of thing to hook you into buying some course or book, but it’s true for some! It’s a lot of work and you need to put that work in to earn the money, it’s just that you can do it from a beach in Thailand (that literally happened and there’s a post out soon to let you know all about it so hopefully you can do it too in the near future if that’s your dream!).
The point is, you can work the hours that suit YOU best. Sometimes it’s from 6am and sometimes it’s from noon, and sometimes you might get a night time productivity boost and work ‘til the wee hours… all depends! And that extra time you have from not having to commute goes a long way when you’re working for yourself! Of course there are times when your clients need you and you adjust your working hours to suit, but you get the idea 🙂
Angela, when are you getting to the point of your post??
Okay, trying to stop babbling, LOL… but, it’s necessary to lay out the timeline 🙂
Starting the second (unsuccessful) blogging course
Still working hard as a VA, PA, writer and transcriptionist, in late 2016, I read about a super blogging course which a lot of people were saying was the ultimate in blogging courses and, because it was one of my huge goals to start (and run) a blog, I read everything I could about this course to be sure it would help me reach this goal. It was way more expensive than the first one I did so I wasn’t taking any chances.
It wasn’t a course that was always open and the registration was only during that week when I had stumbled across it. As much as it seemed like the course for me, the really hefty price (at least in my view), was making me think twice. Besides, I couldn’t afford it at that moment in time, but vowed to save for the next registration dates which would be March 2017 and at least I wouldn’t have to be impulsive and could take some time to decide. To be very honest, I was a slightly annoyed at that time-sensitive selling technique on such a high ticket item but the reviews were all great which means it would still be great by the time the next registration dates rolled around…
March 2017 arrives, I’ve managed to save and am ready to sign up! Rearing to go I dive into the course and it happens all over again.
Where do I start?
Why is this course not telling me about the technical side of this blogging business?
What does this mean, what does that mean?
How can I link this to that?
Where should I buy this and where do I need to get that???
Oh my gosh. It drove me crazy.
Having to ask so many questions and not getting the support or answers, a couple of modules in, I lost all motivation because I had had to skip over a large portion of the content. I had also asked the course organizers prior to signing up if it would be the right course for me because I didn’t have a blog yet and was told it was the perfect time to take the course.
Ok…… but that wasn’t entirely correct! Now what??
Well, right from the first lesson it was referring to what to do on your blog before you go any further. I don’t have a blog! I told you this before I paid! You said it was good!!
A little (ok, a lot) annoyed, I continued through the modules, watching the videos, reading the PDFs and reading posts in the course’s FB group. I could see it may be a good course for those bloggers who already have a blog, a fairly decent-sized email list AND a substantial social media and Pinterest presence. But for people just starting out or that haven’t yet started, I definitely would not recommend it. It’s impossible to implement what is taught through the course if you don’t have the above in place already, so you wouldn’t get the value you should be getting. Luckily once you buy it, you have lifetime access to the course version you started at, so I can come back to it in the (hopefully near) future because some already established bloggers are getting some fantastic results from implementing what they’re learning in the course.
(Oh… and I don’t believe in plastering adverts from ad networks all over your blog which is one of the subjects taught in the course. So had skip over that lesson too!)
Finding the next teacher (and still not getting very far!)
Then one day I stumbled across someone who seemed to have a great free course to get you up and running on WordPress and again it started out really well and I was feeling confident but her teaching method was all over the place, she wasn’t organized and it was all too distracting. To learn more in detail, she was urging her audience to sign up for her academy. It was one of the more affordable options but I couldn’t get past the disorganization of the free training so didn’t go ahead and pay for the academy.
A dream come true
Then as luck would have it…
One day I stumbled across someone who seemed to be knowledgeable, her blog had lots of helpful information and she was personable.
Which brings me to the whole point…
Finding Suzi Whitford and her blog, Startamomblog.com, was literally a dream come true. No exaggeration. I find her teachings so easy to follow and they follow a natural progression – and she is natural. I think the fact that I wanted to take all her courses after following her for a while on social media and doing her first course also has a lot to do with the fact that I like her as a person and can relate to her. I can’t wait to watch her live teachings on FB when she does them, and I get great value from watching her videos on YouTube – she is immensely knowledgeable on blogging and I find that watching a variety of training videos from different bloggers and trainers just lands you up feeling all over the place, back to square one, not knowing who’s tips to implement.
I thought it was helpful to follow loads of different bloggers who were teaching blogging but it turns out over the years I’ve come to realize that actually, the best way (at least for me) is to follow just a handful of bloggers / trainers / entrepreneurs and soak up what they have to teach rather than take bits and pieces from a bunch of them and never really gain much in-depth knowledge – it’s that jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none thing…
Suzi sometimes puts her courses into a special bundle and offers a discount, so if perhaps you can’t afford to pay the full price right now but are still burning to start your own blog, watch some of her YouTube videos and wait for those discounts. But even if you love a discount, for what you’re getting, Suzi’s courses are seriously well-priced.
I really can’t speak highly enough of Suzi and Start a Mom Blog.
Don’t let the name of her blog put you off either in case you’re not a mom – although her target audience is moms, I’m not a mom and still think her courses are the best. And her little ones feature in the intros sometimes and they are just adorable! 🙂
In case you couldn’t quite tell by now, I’m probably one of Suzi’s biggest fans and I’m a sponge for her trainings. It was thanks to finding Suzi’s course, Blog by Number that I was able to finally launch my blog. It gave me just the right level of technical know-how to start, was easy to follow and she doesn’t just suggest a whole lot of programs and software to get affiliate sales.
I purchased at a time she was running a special bundle of 3 of her courses for a discounted price, so managed to get Blog by Number, Niche by Number and List by Number. I also signed up for her free PicMonkey course and her free blog plan which is also really popular!
So to end off this (very!) long post, if you’ve been wanting to start a blog for some time now and just don’t know where to start, begin by taking Blog by Number and you will learn most of what you need to know to get started! Suzi’s also really helpful, so if you have any questions during the course, just ask her! I would be happy to help where I can too, so feel free to drop me a line anytime 🙂
And good luck on your blogging journey for when you finally take the plunge!