Heads-up: This is a lengthy post. I thought you might be interested in the nitty-gritty details of starting a new blog. I'm no expert. At all. I launched my first blog, Little Known Life, on April 21, 2017. Here's how it went...
Blog set-up and expenses:
Squarespace hosting and domain = $72 a year: I received a sweet educational discount for the first year because I'm a grad student. Next year this will be 2x as much. Plus, I'll have to pay $20 per year for the domain name.
G-suite - for a domain-name email = $50 a year or $5 a month: I'm doing the free trial now, but assuming I'll keep it. I'm sure there is a lot more I can do with G-suite. When I figure it out, I'll let you know.
Stock photos = $100 for 10 images from Shutterstock: While I do like the photos I purchased, I probably paid "stupid tax" on this one. In other words, it wasn't a necessity, and I should have looked for freebies or lower-cost options. That said, I have used Shutterstock for all of my book covers to date, and I'm quite pleased with those.
(Hindsight 20/20: I'd try my best to find free images before paying. I haven't paid for a stock photo in a while.)
Email newsletter platform - Mail Chimp = Free for the foreseeable future: Mail Chimp is easy to use, and I'm already familiar with it from my day job. I opened a free account and will be able to use it for up to 2,000 subscribers.
(Update: I switched to ConvertKit, and I'm happy with that decision. But if you need free, Mail Chimp is a good choice.)
Pinterest Ad = $25 or $5 a day: I was mainly just curious and wasn't expecting much at this $5 a day price-point. I have to say: not bad. I spent $20 for 9,150 impressions; 221 engagements; 9 pins; and 36 clicks. I don't consider this paying "stupid tax." It was an experiment. Would I do it again? Maybe.
Educational materials = $50 for two e-books and two workbooks:Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a complete learning and self-development addict. Mostly, that revolves around books. I won't spit out the number, but let's say I have a LOT of books on my Kindle. Plus, I love to download free workbooks, and I also enjoy online courses. Part of me wants to say, you don't need these resources to start a blog. The other part says, you better learn as much as you can if you want to be successful! While I did use a lot of free resources, I also purchased a few items. I'm not quite ready to share because I haven't had time to read/use yet. Once I do, I'll let you know what I think.
MONEY SPENT (INVESTED) = ABOUT $200
MONEY EARNED = $0
What I did this week:
Time commitment = about 20 hours. I did a lot this week, by my standards anyway. So here goes:
SETTING UP AND LAUNCHING BLOG/WEBSITE
I started April 20 by playing around with a Squarespace trial site. Squarespace is pretty easy to use; it's clean and professional looking. So far, I really like it. Squarespace offers a 50% educational discount, which helped me decide to go for it. I bought a domain name and a year of hosting.
WEBSITE DESIGN: FORMATTING AND SETTINGS
Yes, Squarespace does a lot of the work for you. But I still had to tweak some things, such as colors, to make the site suit me. Included in this step is finding stock photos. I also had to dig into website settings and figure things out. There's a learning curve, but nothing too drastic. Disclaimer: I've done communications and marketing, including website content management, as a career for 15+ years. So, I'm not a total newbie.
I wrote those in that order on purpose because that's how I did it - backwards. Going forward, I'll get myself together and plan my posts before I start writing.
I'll admit I felt pressure to quickly "get some posts up." Of course, I'd much rather write one great post, than four sorta okay (or bad) posts. To remedy this, I've been putting pen to paper in an awesome free blog planner, which not only helped me plan posts, but figure out why the heck I'm doing this in the first place, who my people are, and what they may need!
I'm a creative person, who likes to work on multiple projects at once. I feel like I lacked focus this week, So, I desperately need tools or systems to help. (I'll be posting about this soon.) To be fair, I'm a writer, and I already had a list of ideas for blog posts, as I'd been mulling this over for quite some time. It took time to research, write, edit, and revise posts.
READING, LEARNING, ABSORBING A LITTLE WISDOM, I HOPE
I spent a lot of time in this space. I'm a compulsive learner and tend to go all out, when I'm really interested in a project. I spent a lot of time this week, researching successful bloggers, reading their advice, downloading their freebies, and watching a couple of free video courses.
I'm an introvert. Like REALLY introverted. I call myself a 90+ percent'er. (You 50/50's ain't got nothing on me!) Of course, writing works well for me because it's not face-to-face interaction.
Social media. Meh. I'm not that crazy about it. I do it for work. Plus, I have a personal Facebook page, an Instagram I hardly use, and as of this moment, I don't tweet. I got into Pinterest last year, and I really like it. But as Melyssa Griffin says, it's not truly social media!
You're probably getting the vibe that self-promotion makes me a little queasy. You're right. It does. I don't think I'm very good at it, as a result. I plan to get myself together in this area as well and streamline my focus. For example, I joined a bunch of blogging groups this week. I'm going to whittle that down and decide what/who//how much is deserving of my attention social-media-wise. So that I don't lose my mind. Hint, Pinterest will be top of my list.
WROTE/DESIGNED A WELCOME EMAIL IN MAIL CHIMP AND SENT TO TWO SUBSCRIBERS
Yes, I did. Best believe I'll treat those two subscribers like gold.
Right, I did actually work 40 hours at my job this week. And I'm mom to a sweet five-year-old daughter. I do a lot of my writing/researching/working while she sleeps, and during my lunch-hour at the job. I'm not going to be holier than y'all and say I never work while she is awake. I do. Oh, I'm also in grad school, but only taking one course this semester.
How I goofed up this week:
SQUARESPACE LEARNING CURVE
Soooo it turns out if I change the title of a post, it doesn't change the url. It all makes sense now. Well, I had already shared and pinned in my excitement. Naturally, the links no longer matched the title. I fixed it and made a mental note.
Apparently, fixing a typo on a post changes the date in the post title and pushes it to the top like a new post. I don't like this. I'll figure out how to make that not happen automatically.
I spent $100 on 10 stock photos. Yeah, I won't do that again, unless I have to. I do love the pics I bought though.
I didn't plan my blog posts before writing. Duh. I do "communications" for a living. I plan the crap out of that stuff.
Here's what happened: Someone asked about my pen name, and that led me to venture onto my free Weebly site. Nothing against Weebly, and the site is not that bad, but yikes. I hadn't updated it in a few years. I had recently come out of a three-year writing coma (post about that coming soon), but I hadn't gotten around to the website. I got to thinking: "I do this type of work for a living and have for 15+ years. Why can't I blog about things I care about?" So, I decided to step up my game and expand into real blog territory. I got really excited and jumped right in.
BEING TOO SCATTERED AND NOT BEING WISE ABOUT MY TIME
I consider myself a fairly organized person at work and at home. But when it comes to my creative projects, I'm all over the place. I get hyped and go nuts, trying to do all the things. At once. That's because I have new ideas, and I jump around from project to project. I realize this is a form of procrastination, and I need help in this area. I really do.
Here's what I plan to do differently next week:
- Make a schedule: I need to plan for different tasks related to blogging, fiction writing, and yes, my life.
- Plan blog posts: I'm using a free blog planner. And it's very helpful. I'm also using Work Flowy to outline and draft.
- Prioritize: I'm going to whittle down my digital overwhelm and focus on a few key things.
- Have a life: By now, you are probably thinking, "Wow, that's a lot. But get real. Something had to give." Right. I slacked big-time on daily exercise. Aside from that, I'm not superwoman, and I don't pretend to be. I don't Martha-Stewart my life on any level, and I don't have a spotless house. I don't fill my calendar with endless I-said-yes-but-didn't-want-to obligations and social events. I just don't. Why? Well, I'd rather be spending time with my family, writing, or reading. Sleeping too. I must get enough sleep to be semi-friendly.
- Audience size = 101 after 8 days (only a few of those are people I know in real life)
- Page views = 324
- Visits = 130
- Popular content: The blog, naturally, at 37% of views
- Most popular blog post: "5 things that actually help with my depression" at 34% of views
- RSS subscribers: 14 (Not sure how significant this is because it's not as simple as counting email subscribers.)
- Email subscribers: 2 (I haven't done anything to build this yet.)
- Referring websites: Direct: 44%, Pinterest 33%, Facebook 20%
- Desktop vs. mobile: Split almost 50/50, slightly more on mobile
I'm taking a nap now (no, really)
That's it! A detailed summary of week one at Little Known Life.
I know that was a lot of info. What else are you curious about? If you're a blogger, what was your first "live" week like? What did you do right/wrong? Please share in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
This post originally appeared on my now-defunct blog, Little Known Life.