I love it when I meet someone who says they're thinking about starting a blog. I always tell them, “DO IT!!! It's never too late and there's PLENTY of room for everyone.” But starting a blog can be SUPER overwhelming. Where do you even start? What do you write about? How do you pick a name? And the MOST frequently asked question for sure is this: how do you grow a following? Since I've been part of the blogging world for just about 6 years now, I'm sharing some tips I wish I would've known when starting out, the list of resources I trust and rely on to keep my blog running smoothly, and the pointers I think you should have for the best chance at success. Let's get started.
Just to give a little background, I launched my blog in April of 2013. I had just given birth to my first baby 6 months earlier, in late October 2012 and I quickly fell into postpartum depression. I will never forget Neil coming home day after day from work and asking me, “Corrine what's wrong?” And I would just start crying and say “I don't know…”
A lot of my friends and my mom encouraged me to just GET OUT of the house every day instead of sit in my pajamas all day long alone, with breastfeeding and changing diapers as my only agenda. But it was WINTER in Utah, snowy and freezing and not the type of weather where you could take a baby out for a walk very easily. So I'd bundle both of us up and we'd go walk around Target or the mall every day to kill time and just get out!
At the time we didn't have hardly any extra money. I had just quit my full-time job to stay at home with Anabelle and things were tight, so I couldn't spend money every day on our outings, but I liked to find deals, and I was good at it. So I kind of made a game out of finding deals, and I'd post them on my personal instagram with the hashtag #someonegobuythis. My friends and family were loving it and a few of them encouraged me to do something with it, start a business or start a blog, so that's what I did!
Here's a screen shot of my very first blog post:
It's so fun to see how far this has come! So many site redesigns, so many ups and downs and learning experiences and things I've learned along the way. Here are some of my tips on how to start and grow a successful blog:
1) Pick a good name! I had my friends on one group text, and my family on another group text, to try to come up with my blog name! My family ultimately helped me pick Mint Arrow. Mint was supposed to represent money (and the saving aspect of this blog) and Arrow was supposed to represent deal hunting. Nobody has ever guessed that or put it together haha, but it means something to me! It's now the name people call me when they see me at the airport or Disneyland or Target and I'm so glad I picked something I'm okay with being called because it has basically become my second name.
When you pick your name, make sure it's something that's available on ALL social channels (facebook.com/yourname, instagram.com/yourname, twitter.com/yourname, pinterest.com/yourname etc.) and most importantly, .com if possible. At the time, MOST of these social channels were available and mintarrow.com was, so I went forward with that. I had to work REALLY hard to claim my pinterest and twitter handle, and basically got lucky with obtaining both eventually because they were previously owned by people whose accounts eventually became inactive. But it's just a lot easier to start out owning all of those.
I think it's best also to pick something that is easy to remember and easy to spell. You don't want people to have to go on a wild goose chase to find or remember the name of your blog or how to spell it, especially if they're telling a friend about your blog and why they love it!
2) Pick a good hosting company: when I started my blog I started on blogger.com which is free and TOTALLY FINE if you're literally only planning to use your blog for recording memories for your family. Mint Arrow was actually the 4th blog I had started, with the previous 3 all personal blogs (that I've all now retired!) and for all of those, a blogger.com hosted site was a great way to go.
But if you think you want to try to make money off your blog and have customizable features, even down the road, you WILL want to pick a hosting company to host your domain. Think of it as like real-estate on the internet. Someone has to run the space that your blog lives on.
I've had absolute NIGHTMARES with my site crashing from several very popular hosting companies that totally let me down at my highest traffic times like Black Friday or for an entire week right after a huge launch where my blog received a surge of traffic, or one time when hackers got into their system and hacked hundreds of bloggers from the backend (including mine) and after so many bad experiences almost losing my blog, I'm extremely picky with who I trust to host my blog.
If you're just starting out, I really like and trust Godaddy. I've purchased many domains through them and both my mom and sister have hosted with them with really great luck. I think their beginner rates are super reasonable!
Now that blogging is mine and Neil's full-time job and we rely so much on the blog running smoothly, I host with WP Engine. I trust them 1,000,000% – they have lightening fast customer service, they've resolved every tiny problem I've had with total confidence and speed, and my last TWO site redesigns went flawlessly when I migrated ALL of my old posts from my old design to my new design. Every designer and developer I've worked with has been blown away by how incredible WP Engine is, and I CANNOT recommend them highly enough!!! You can get 2 months free off your first year of hosting here.
3) Write about what you love: when people come to me for advice on blogging, the most common question I hear is, “how do I start a blog that will make money.” And my answer is usually “well…that's your first problem!” Ha.
If you're blogging JUST to make money, you won't. People can tell when you're in something because you LOVE IT, versus when you're doing something just because you're hoping to make money. And when you first start off, most people have to work for a long time for FREE before you'll start making anything to write home about.
My first year or so I made almost NO money, but hustled 5-6 days a week, several hours a day JUST because I loved it and it was so fun to find deals for people and help them out! I still have never, ever woken up and dreaded “going to work” and I don't know if I could've said the same if I had started a blog with an angle that I hoped would make money. Find something you LOVE whether it's fashion or yoga or cats or food or photography and blog about what you're really passionate about. The money will follow if you work hard and are consistent.
4) Be consistent! This is a super common suggestion from seasoned to newbie bloggers, but it's for a good reason. Think about why you love your favorite TV shows – they always CONSISTENTLY show up on the same day, at the same time. You know when you can look forward to a new episode, and I don't care HOW much of a die-hard fan you are, the reruns are just not nearly as satisfying. So pick something you can stick with, whether that's daily or weekly (I post 5x a week typically, Mon – Fri) and show people you're here to give them amazing content that they can count on and come back for over and over.
5) BE REAL, BE TRUE, BE AUTHENTIC, BE YOURSELF. This sounds so basic but you'd be surprised how many people miss the boat here, and how tempting it can be to look around and want to be just like bloggers who “have it made.”
I totally get it too, when you first start out it's hard to know what will work but I promise you even if you are stumbling at least you're stumbling authentically! Don't rip off other people's ideas and call them your own. Don't post about things you don't actually love just because “everyone else is” or worse, because someone offered to pay you.
When I first started getting brand partnership offers, it was about the same time that Neil had just lost his job and we also had just found out we were pregnant with our second daughter. In other words, money was a need! Which made these offers even more tempting. But because my parents raised me to have integrity and I had committed to always be honest in all my dealings, I said no to the offers that didn't feel authentic, even when they could have really helped us out financially. I really believe one of the reasons my blog has grown and I've been able to do so many cool partnerships is because my decisions early on, and even now, to always say no when it doesn't feel genuine. I turn down way more offers than I accept, from small to large collaborations, because the trust with my readers and my personal integrity is worth more than any amount of money to me.
Don't feel like you have to wear something just because everyone else is. Don't feel like you have to do paleo recipes just because it seems like everyone else is. DO post about things that really matter to you and your heart, even if it seems like not everyone will love you for it. One of the best decisions I ever made was to finally be open about my religion a couple of years into blogging. I'm certain I've grown slower than I could've without doing that, but I'm also certain I'll never ever regret looking back at my life and knowing I shared what was the very most important to me with the world.
I hope this helps some of you guys with the right foot to start on with blogging! Here are some of my other favorite resources that I love and trust and recommend to anyone who has a blog or would like to start one.
FAVORITE BLOGGING RESOURCES:
Blogger: (free!) and best if you don't plan on making money blogging but just want to record stories and memories
GoDaddy: a great host for beginners, and where I've purchased domains in the past
WP Engine: who I use now – try them month to month or get 2 months free off your first year!
Canon Rebel camera – if you're just starting out and want to take your own pictures (I did my first year!) the canon rebel is the most commonly recommended DSLR camera I know of and what I used. I like to shoot with this 35mm lens for outfit photos. It still gives you a great depth effect but the lens is wide enough to capture your whole outfit.
Mailchimp: who I started with at the very beginning, I left and tried other newsletter companies who promised more bells and whistles, and eventually came back to my roots.
But we're actually right in the middle of switching to Convert Kit, a new SIMPLIFIED newsletter platform that I really love because their formatting is so easy to use — even if you don't know complicated coding! It offers the smarts of really robust newsletter companies like Aweber and Infusionsoft, with tagging and segmenting, with a simplicity that blows all of them out of the water. I am obsessed with how simple and easy Convert Kit is to use, yet how much it can actually do!!
I will be thinking of other resources and add them as I think of them. I hope this helps!!