6 months ago
How to Start and Grow a Blog
I started my first blog 15 years ago, and last year was my first year as a full-time blogger without another income Could I have gone full-time sooner? Yes. Definitely. But I had a design business and then two other websites to run, so my blog was always something I did on the side. If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, it’s never too late. There aren’t “too many blogs” out there – if you have something to say, you should say it. So let’s talk about how to start and grow a blog.
How to Start and Grow a Blog
I never put the time or effort into making blogging a full time gig, but once I did, I saw a ton of growth. So you have an idea of growth and where I’m at, my annual page views went up 73% (from 1,022,000 in 2020 to 1,769,000 in 2021). I had to look those numbers up – it’s not where my focus is.
Is it too late to start blogging?
There is hardly a shortage of bloggers, but I would argue that there is always room for someone new. We all have something to say. Our own style, stories, and experiences to share. So no, it’s not too late, but it’s competitive. You’ll want a site that’s well-designed but can achieve that without spending thousands on a custom theme. Plan on posting at least 3-4 times a week and learn about how to optimize SEO. That is something I wasn’t doing on my personal blog until this year, and it’s made a difference. More on that in a minute.
But no, it’s not too late.
And to the person who said they’re too old, you’re not. Some of my favorite bloggers are 40+ and I’ll be joining them this September. Grace turned 40 this year, and Erin and Athena Calderone are in their 40s, too. Babs is a grandmother and mom to a blogger. I can’t imagine doing this in 5-10 years, but we’ll see what happens. If you can find your groove, it can be very rewarding and enjoyable. A lot of work, but on your terms.
Where to focus when you’re just starting out?
Between a blog, instagram, Tik Tok, Youtube, Pinterest, and Facebook, there are too many places to be. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to start slow and avoid burnout. Someone asked about choosing between a blog and instagram. I would focus on blogging over instagram, but it’s ideal to do both. You have full control over your blog, and the content lives there forever. Write great content, use keywords, optimize posts, and hope they rank. Google “indoor olive tree” “best toys for 18 month old” or “stairway gallery wall.” My blog comes up on page 1 of google which means more traffic. More traffic means more ad revenue, and if people shop those posts, that means affiliate income.
I promote my content on instagram and will see an average of 1000-2500 swipe ups per story, so that’s great, but not the bulk of my traffic. It’s also not something I want to rely on. Instagram users rely on a platform that is just not what it used to be. When the algorithm changed, many of us suffered, and it’s just not where I want to focus. But – most of my paid partnerships are on IG, so it’s complex. And this year, paid partnerships are the bulk of my income. I can’t say that instagram isn’t worth pursuing, but I wouldn’t make it your main focus. It’s hard to grow.
How do you start a blog?
Buy your domain (.com), get started with WordPress, and buy an affordable theme to start. I recommend hosting your blog on Flywheel. Their customer service is phenomenal – much better than Bluehost. Once you grow and have some money coming in, you can consider a more expensive theme or custom build. That’s what I did.
How do you make money blogging?
I’m going to write a more extensive post on this but will say that I would not start a blog because you want to make money. It needs to be something you want to do, because you will enjoy creating content or because you have something specific you want to share. I started in 2007 and think I had my first paid partnership in 2015 (ish)?
How can I get started with Affiliate?
You’ll need to show that you have been posting regularly for 4 months before signing up on LTK, so get started, wait 4 months, and sign up. If you need someone to refer you, I’m happy to do that.
Is there an easy way to set ads up on a blog?
I work with Mediavine and have had a great experience. The more traffic you have the more you make. It’s just nice to have a little extra coming in, and that amount covers almost half of what our nanny makes per month (passive income!).
How do you partner with brands?
Ok, so this might not be very helpful, but I haven’t reached out to a brand about a paid partnership in years and years. All of my partnerships happen because the brand (or a marketing agency) contacted me. I turn down the ones that aren’t a fit and say yes to the ones that are. If I did want to partner with a brand, I would find the right contact by doing a little online detective work. Look for the brand’s PR/marketing team on their website, or via google. If you can’t find them, message on IG to see if there might be a good contact for you to connect with.
How do you set your rates?
Partnerships are so time consuming, so if you’re going to do them, consider your time and talent on top of your following. A common formula seems to be to charge $10 for every 1000 followers, but that seems very low to me if you have an engaged following. Creating content for a brand to share with your 5k followers is worth more than $50. It just is. wouldn’t shoot something for less than $200 – consider photography, time, and then sharing online, and the brand being able to use that image. It was honestly just years of slowly raising rates, seeing what people said yes to, and seeing what works.
Is the income steady? Doesn’t it vary from month to month?
I can’t speak for everyone, but LTK (affiliate) and and Mediavine (ads) are pretty steady. The goal would ultimately be to have a lot more traffic because that would mean more passive income on old content. I have a baseline number for LTK, but if I don’t post, I’ll make less than I would otherwise. I’ve signed contracts for 12 brand partnerships this year, but have only completed 4 of them. It could easily be the case that I not hear from a new brand for a few months.
When I first started out, I was designing an average of 8 blogs a week to pay the bills. It took a while to grow my blog, so I’d say you need some time before you’re making money. 2021 was the first year since 2007 that I did not have another job to pay the bills on top of blogging. It’s a lot of work, but something you would ideally do on the side until you’re making enough money.
Do you need permission from brands to use their photos in a blog post or mood board?
The rules could change, but brands want to be featured, so no, you do not. But you cannot use the image to create something and not link to the brand/product. Does that make sense?
What’s coming next for bloggers?
I have no idea but if you do please let me know.
How do you create graphics and product roundups?
I wrote a whole blog post on this. And it’s surprisingly easy.
How do you come up with ideas for new content?
I keep a long, running list in my notes app on my computer (also synced with my phone). There are times I’m really excited to work on a post and others when it’ll take me 3 months to write one. I try to mix up the types of content I write: wellness, family, home, fashion, etc. Sometimes, I feel stuck, and when I do, I take a little break and regroup. Revisiting my list and thinking about ways to rework things helps.
Deciding what to share/not share.
This is really a matter of personal preference. I have some basic ground rules that feel right for our family, and most of that “what not to share” applies to my kids. You will not see my children unless they’re fully clothed. I won’t talk about anything that could be embarrassing (like potty training or behavior issues). I have made the decision to keep a lot of Margot’s journey private. If it feels like I’ve shared a lot, trust me when I tell you that you’ve seen a tiny glimpse.
How to take good photos without spending $3000 on equipment?
You can definitely take good photos with an iPhone. When I want to take a really good photo, I do pull out this camera, which was a very worthwhile investment.
The best ways to make your blog visible when you’re starting out.
It has been an actual 15 years since I was just starting out, so i’m a little rusty on this one. I would learn about SEO or invest in an SEO team (there’s a $100/monthly package) so you can improve your chances of being found online. Take great photos and share them on social media (especially Pinterest). Learn to create eye-catching graphics and share those on Pinterest, too. My SEO team posts all of my content to Pinterest for me, so you can follow me to see what they’re doing. I have less than 12k followers but over 2.4 million monthly views.