Why Create a Professional Blog?
I’m not a tech person. Or a visual person. Or a business person. For a long time I wrote posts on the free wordpress.com site, not even considering a professional blog.
But then I had a baby, which meant I was suddenly very intrigued by the notion of making money from blogging. Because every time I leave the house for work, I end up paying a large chunk of my earnings to a baby-sitter. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a little cash money doing something I want to do anyway?
I started looking into how I could create a professional blog and set it up to one day (hopefully) make money.
Almost immediately I felt overwhelmed.
Everything about the task was daunting. The tech stuff: themes and widgets and plugins (oh my!) The visual component: fonts and layouts and color schemes. And the business aspect… I don’t have time to list everything I didn’t know about social media and online marketing.
I went through a major crisis, wondering why I was attempting this in the first place.
First I took a deep breath and gave myself permission to move slowly and to not be perfect. Baby steps and settling for good enough are the keys to making progress.
Next I did research, but NOT TOO MUCH of it. I chose a few websites to read and a few tutorials to watch and THAT WAS IT.
Because you WILL go insane if you read and watch everything the Internet has to offer about creating a professional blog. Learn enough to get started then get to it!
My 7 Steps to Creating a Professional Blog:
*Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on my link and purchase one of the products I recommend, I get a small commission, with no extra cost for you. It’s a win-win!*
#1 I took Jeni Stewart’s advice and bought the Blog By Number course from Suzi at Start a Mom Blog.
Full disclosure: I did this because Jeni is a friend of mine, and I know she’s both really smart and really good at doing research. In her (excellent) posts on how to start a money-making blog, she highly recommends Suzi’s course, and I figured she knew what she was talking about (because she always does.)
The course was the first thing I paid for, and it made me take creating a professional blog seriously. You don’t have to be starting a “mom” blog (I wasn’t) to use it, although Suzi does use a lot of “you go, Momma!” language.
The course breaks everything down in simple, easy-to-follow videos and slides. I learned how to create and market a professional blog (and how to make pinable images!), and although perhaps you could learn the same information after hours of overwhelming Internet research, it was nice to have everything laid out for me in a simple, non-threatening guide.
And what if you go through Blog By Number and still have questions? (Because if you’re a tech dodo like me, you might). Well, when I emailed Suzi with a question she emailed me back with answers almost immediately, even though she was pregnant and had two young children. Impressive, no? She seems like she genuinely wants to help us newbies be successful.
#2 I signed up for hosting with Siteground and switched over to WordPress.org, where all the cool kids hang out.
The free wordpress.com platform doesn’t allow you to monetize your blog or customize your theme. Plus they actually own your content! Yikes!
In order to upgrade to WordPress.org, I first had to get a self-hosted domain. Suzi explains it in the Blog By Number course this way: Your hosting company (Siteground, for example) is like your landlord – you pay them rent for server space. WordPress.org is like your apartment building – the actual location of your website. Your domain name is your address – where people can find you.
When you sign up for Siteground, you automatically get WordPress and a domain name. I haven’t tried any other hosting companies, but Siteground’s 24/7 online chat support is fantastic, which is a MUST for non-tech people like myself. I’ve already used their chat support
three four times — once at 9pm on a Friday night. I LOVE not having to call, and they are SO NICE, SO FAST, and SO HELPFUL.
When you are not a tech person, like me, choosing companies with fast and friendly 24/7 customer service is a MUST.
#3 I broke down and bought a paid framework and theme.
Your theme is what your website looks like. At first I thought I’d choose a free theme on WordPress.org. There are literally thousands, some much better than others, although I’m not enough of a techie to be able to tell the difference.
I spent a week looking at different free themes and reading online articles about “the 50 best free wordpress themes.” And then… OVERWHELM and DECISION FATIGUE. Plus, I started to notice that the free themes didn’t look quite so professional.
Finally I decided to pay for a framework and theme. Not only do paid themes look more professional, they tend to be safer (hacking and whatnot), they work better (faster load times), and the customer service is better.
I went with the Genesis framework from StudioPress Themes for WordPress and a child theme from Restored 316. Not only do the Restored316 themes look pretty, modern, and professional, but their site is also full of easy-to-follow video tutorials.
And even though Restored 316 says their customer service is only for questions about installation, if you email them with questions about, say, how to change the font on your website, they will totally get back to you right away. Again, good and fast customer support is key!
(BTW, I was very confused at first about the phrase “framework and a child theme.” Here’s the deal: you need a framework to support your paid theme. The Genesis framework is what most professional bloggers use, so I went with that. You buy and install the Genesis framework (it’s the “parent” that gives the underlying structure to your site), and then you buy and install a child theme from somewhere like Studiopress or Restored 316. Don’t over-think it or research it to death. Just accept it and move on, like I did.)
#4 I chose a theme
The nice thing about deciding on a Restored 316 theme was that it narrowed my choices considerably.
BUT, I was still spinning my wheels trying to pick one. I couldn’t decide, even after I took Restored316’s Which theme is best for your website? Quiz (Decision fatigue!!)
Here’s something to remember: You can change the colors, fonts, pictures, layout… basically everything. It’s hard to make a wrong choice because you can do a lot of the same things with all of the Restored 316 themes. So just pick one and get on with your life. I chose the Glam Theme, and I’m happy with it. I probably would have been happy with any of them.
What I like about the paid theme is I feel like it made it (relatively) easy for a non-visual person like me to create a sharp-looking site. And, I’ll say it again: once you’ve invested a little bit of money, it motivates you take this professional blog thing seriously.
As far as my blog’s color scheme, I found a photo I liked and thought I might use on my homepage, then I used this tool to get the HTML color codes from the image. If you’re looking for more help with a color scheme, check out this very comprehensive guide to website color schemes from Website Setup.
#5 I followed online tutorials for basically everything
As I’ve mentioned, I am NOT a tech person. But here’s the nice thing: there are free online tutorials about EVERYTHING! By following the Restored316 and WordPress tutorials step-by-step, along with my Blog By Number course and a bunch of other videos, I was able to create this lovely professional site you are now admiring.
WordPress is somewhat intuitive, but whenever I ran into a problem or couldn’t figure out how to do something, I took a deep breath and googled it. There was always a tutorial (or several). When I got frustrated, I walked away from my laptop for a while. As it turns out, I didn’t need to be a tech genius to make a professional blog. I just needed to be super patient and willing to learn.
#6 I finally figured out what widgets and plugins are.
Maybe this makes me sound dumb, but when I finally understood what was meant by the words “widget” and “plugin,” the whole WordPress world opened up to me.
A widget is simply a small block of space on your site where you can put an image or text or whatever you want. That’s all it is.
For example, the first widget on my sidebar is my picture and the accompanying text with a link to my “About” page. Below that is the sign-up form for my email list: that’s also a widget
I can rearrange the order of my widgets. Or I can add more. There’s a list of possible widgets for me to choose from: a calendar, a video, a link, custom text, custom image, etc. Choosing which widgets to use and in which locations is one of the ways you can customize your site so that it looks and functions exactly the way you want.
A plugin is sort of like an app for your site. Usually they’re free (although sometimes there is a paid “pro” version.) You download them from WordPress and use them as much or as little as you want.
For example, I got the Pinterest Pin It Button plugin that makes all of my images “pinable” on Pinterest. See how when you hover your mouse over an image the Pinterest button shows up? That wouldn’t happen if I hadn’t downloaded the plugin for it.
Both Suzi from Blog By Number and Jeni Stewart have a list of what they consider essential plugins, so obviously I got the ones they recommend then watched tutorials to learn how to use them. And whenever I run into the question of “how do I make my site do ______?” the answer almost always seems to be, “there’s a plugin for that.”
#7 I did everything else
I wrote new content and created images and played around with my site. I made a professional Facebook page and got the free Mail Chimp email service so I can start building my email list. I had a few friends look at my site to get their feedback (when you do this, just keep in mind that you can’t please everyone!) My site was far from perfect, but I went ahead and launched it into the world.
Finally, I went back to my Blog By Number course and started learning how to get traffic to my site through Pinterest and other social media, along with how to make money through blogging. And THAT will have to be a post for another day!
So take a deep breath, my non-techie friend! With time and patience YOU CAN DO THIS! Trust me, if I can create a professional blog you can, too!!
Are you thinking about starting a new blog or improving an old one? Tell me about it!