This post was inspired by a reader and friend of the Seeking Grace community. After compiling this information for her, I realized there may be others who could benefit from it.
It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point. And where I lack, I’ve pointed you to others who can take you further than I.
After all, I am no expert, but a sojourner on this road.
Q: Have you created your own website or do you know a good resource that’s not costly.
After blogging on multiple platforms, such as wordpress, weebly and vistaprint (among others), I recommend creating a website using wordpress:
- I’ve found it to be the most successful at acquiring and building an audience (people finding you)
- For me, it’s been the most compatible with google search engine optimization (SEO)
- While more difficult to navigate and use than other platforms, it has better functionality and customization. When you run stuck, a quick google search will offer tons of advice and tutorials on how to do things
- There are thousands of gorgeous templates to choose from, with drag and drop features; minimal-to-no coding or tech skills required
- It grows with you, customizable to the degree you want it to be. As you learn more and grow in your blogging needs, so too can your blog, without having to start over from scratch.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
- Self hosted (you can get a template and host in one spot)
- Very easy to set up and use
- Preset templates with drag and drop features
- Customizable using their exclusive features and plugins
- Caveat: You cannot use 3rd party plugins, therefore it can be limiting with intermediate and advanced functionality needs (ex: online shops, email marketing, e-course integration etc.)
Recommended for those brand new to blogging, with limited-to-no experience with wordpress
- 3rd party hosting required (such as blue host, go daddy etc.)
- Easy to learn, but will require some training and/or assistance to set up
- Preset Templates available- some require manual setup or you can build a completely custom template using a hired graphic designer
- Unlimited customization – much requires manual setup
- Unlimited growth potential
- Advanced customization and functionality (ex: online shops, email marketing, e-course integration etc.)
Recommended for those with wordpress experience and/or the ability to hire a graphic designer, developer or coder to set up blog and maintain aesthetic changes
Pros and Cons
This website was designed and is maintained on wordpress.com. I didn’t actually realize the difference between the two, when I set it up 8 years ago! But for the sake of everyday blogging, it has served me just fine. Only now, as I’ve launched a bible study and look towards a book launch, do I find myself toying with starting all over on wordpress.org, for functionality and customizations sake.
My other website- a service based business was set up around the same time, but using wordpress.org. I used a graphic designer to design a custom template, as well as, a coder/developer to set it all up.
I am a self-starter and eager learner, thus I’ve spent hundreds of hours googling, reading and taking webinars, learning basic coding and back end work, so I could update my blog myself. Over the years, I’ve made thousands of changes with functionality and design of both this blog and my service website. Even still, I worked with coders and developers, from time to time, when I ran stuck (or was ready to punch my computer screen in frustration.)
If you have the time and patience, there’s nothing wrong with going the route of wordpress.org. It WILL be trial and error, but you’ll eliminate the middleman and save yourself some money.
If time is precious, you’re easily frustrated and if you struggle with troubleshooting and logistical analysis, then do yourself a favour: hire a graphic designer or a developer to set up and manage your wordpress.org site OR use wordpress.com depending on your long term goals.
Best of Both worlds
Jeff Goins is a professional writer and educator. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon him, but suffice it to say, he had me at hello!
His free education, resources and blogging tools were exactly what I needed, without realizing it.
Before deciding, I recommend you check out the following… it’s worth the time (and money):
- Step by Step Guide to Launching your Own Blog in Minutes
- Tribe Theme – wordpress.org template designed for writers, with back end technical assistance and built in short codes
- Intentional Blogging Ecourse– Everything you need to know to go pro with your writing, find your voice and build a following
- Free Webinars for writers
Be sure to sign up for Jeff’s newsletter at the bottom of his website- it has proven to be one of my most valuable assets!
Q: Where do I host my blog? What if I already own a ‘domain’ name? Can I merge it with a website hosting platform?
Here’s everything you need to know about setting up a blog, hosting, and purchasing/transferring a domain name. (again, courtesy of Jeff Goins)
Q: I feel overwhelmed with blog templates and styles. Should I consider what I’m writing and offering/ selling when choosing my template?
In short yes, but don’t get too hung up on this one. Whatever platform you use, there will be pre-designed templates to choose from. Short list ones you’re drawn to aesthetically and then check out the live demo’s for each- see what they look like in use.
Finally, read each templates descriptions for built in features and functionality. Many times, they will say what use their intended for, such as blogging, photos, online shops, etc.
Q: Any advice for those starting out with a blog, in terms of frequency of posting, copywriting and image use? Any ‘need to knows’ or do’s and don’ts?
Frequency of Posting
The key to finding your voice is simply to write! Don’t worry so much about the topic or even who’s reading it. Just get used to writing from the heart and posting is publically for others to see. This takes some getting used to. As often as you can, make writing a habit, even if it’s just 15 – 30 minutes a day. If you don’t have that time, aim for 2-3 times a week.
Images and Copywriting
Whatever images you use, be sure to give credit and source the owner (not just where you found it.) For example, if you find an image on pinterest, instagram or facebook, be sure you click the links and follow the trail until you find the photographer who took it. Personally, I use all my own photos so I don’t have to worry about this. But if you find that idea stressful, stick with borrowing images.
If you know of a photographer whose photos you like, try reaching out to partner with them. Ask if they’d be willing to provide you with images in exchange for credit and link backs. Ps: I’m totally open to this!
There’s also a great website, unsplash, with free stock photos that are contemporary and professional, no credit required.
If you quote writers or other blogs, credit them and provide a link back to their site. (Bonus tip: Email them, to let them know.)
Quick tips and Advice
- You’re most creative and open in the morning, so if possible, try writing then. You’ll likely find it’s easier to be authentic, without fear or reservation.
- Write and edit in two different sessions- they use two different parts of your brain. Plus, the time and space between gives you clarity and fresh perspective.
- If you’re worried about what others think, don’t connect or share your posts to social media right away. Simply write for an audience of one until you’re ready to take the leap.
- Find a community of writers you can learn from and possibly collaborate with. I personally like (and am a part of) The Influence Network, A Little Light Community, Our Village and Tribe Writers.
Welcome others in
Invite your trusted friends and family to read your blog. Send them the link once it’s live and welcome feedback.
Don’t forget to post your website in the comments below… I’d love to see what you’re up to and cheer you on!
Note: I did not get paid to endorse Jeff Goins.