I had my one year blog anniversary at the end of October but I didn’t really mention it because I was busy with other commitments and my head was somewhere else. Oh, and I was really mad at Instagram because they shadowbanned me for some unknown reason at the end of summer. On top of that, my engagement had been dropping since August and continued into September so that was discouraging too. It also didn’t help that I was comparing my blog to other more successful ones on Instagram. So, I decided to shift my focus on something else in order to get out of my funk.
After distancing myself from Instagram and my blog for a little bit I had time to analyze things. I realized all the great things I had accomplished in the past year both personally and professionally. A year ago, I knew nothing about blogging but I wanted to figure it out on my own. I started by reading articles on how others had done it because I had no idea where to begin. And now, I feel like a Girl Boss using my spare time to grow something meaningful to me. Let me tell you, it feels freaking amazing!
Today’s blog post is obviously not about “How to Grow your Instagram Followers” because I can’t help with that. But if you’re thinking about starting your own blog or just curious about my process, read on. I’m going to share with you the basic steps you need to begin creating a professional-looking blog from scratch that reflects your personality.
Find a Blog Name
This one was tough for me. I spent months waiting to launch my blog because I couldn’t find a name for it. I’d waste time by constantly checking Instagram handles just to see if they were still available without deciding on one. I’d complicate things even more by mixing names together hoping that something would stick. And I’d even say some choices out loud to hear if it sounded right. I was constantly second guessing myself and not making any progress because I didn’t want the name to sound cheesy.
Then one day, my mom and I went to brunch and she looked me straight in the eye and told me, “Do it! What are you waiting for?” I was like, “Yeah, what am I waiting for? Fuck it!”, and so I finally chose “The Belle Avenue” mainly because I like the sound of it. It just felt like a good fit. I’m a perfectionist so I was obviously looking for the perfect name but I realized it’s more important to choose something that you like, instead of trying to please everyone else. Pick one and stick with it!
I do sometimes wonder if I made the right choice but please don’t waste as much time on this as I did. (I’ll probably have this same problem if I ever get pregnant. I’m going to spend the entire pregnancy searching for the perfect baby name! Haha)
Choose a Domain Name, Web Host and Template
After you pick a blog name, make sure the domain name you want to use is available. You can choose between Bluehost or GoDaddy as a web host. I chose GoDaddy because my domain name wasn’t available on Bluehost. You pay for the whole package (which includes domain name, web hosting services and WordPress.org) and then you choose the plan you want (I chose the “Deluxe” option on GoDaddy). The next step is to install WordPress on your website. This is a great tool for professional bloggers because it offers a lot of templates to choose from. It gives any blogger a lot more freedom to pick and choose what best suits their style.
When I first started my blog last year, I was using a template that I had bought on Etsy but I wasn’t crazy about it because it felt too complicated to use, so I decided to go with another template I found on Pipdig. I love their templates because they look professional and the instructions are well-explained and easy to follow. You can even customize your website the way you want by changing colour schemes, tweaking and moving graphics or text around with ease, and being able to add social media icons to make you webpage look more legit.
When I first started out, it was hard understanding how everything worked but after a while you’ll get used to navigating your WordPress page with ease. I also looked up online tutorials if I was really stuck on something in particular, like, “How to change the colour of your Snapchat code”.
Create Multiple Social Media Accounts
I kept my name as my handle for my Instagram page and Youtube channel, but a lot of bloggers use their blog’s name as their handle. It’s up to you. I feel like I’m not just a blogger behind a blog so I kept my name. You can also create other social media accounts for your blog to better promote it. It really just depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to invest. Every time you post, share the link on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, We Heart it, Tumblr, etc, so you have a better chance of expanding your audience and getting new followers. I wish I had learned that trick at the beginning!
Plan your Weekly and Monthly Content with a Content Calendar
I usually brainstorm a bunch of blog post ideas and then spread them out over the month on a content calendar. You can either buy or print one out and stick it on your wall and use post-it notes to keep track of everything you plan to do (Instagram and blog posts, Youtube videos, shooting dates, etc.). I’ve been using a wall calendar since the very beginning and it helps me from getting too overwhelmed if I’m trying to do a bunch of things at the same time. Then I take a step-by-step approach for each blog post or Youtube video: I shoot, write, edit, put pictures up and revise accordingly.
I try to post a new blog once a week but sometimes life gets in the way. I’m trying my best to be consistent but it’s something I’m actively working on. Bloggers are always saying how consistency is one of the most important things about maintaining a blog or YouTube channel, and I’ve realized over the past year that they’re absolutely right.
Learn the basics of Photography, Photoshop and what Equipment to Use
A year ago I had no clue what shutter speed or aperture was, or how to use Photoshop properly. I actually used Photoshop in university years ago but of course, silly me, I didn’t listen most of the time because I thought it was going to be useless down the road…. I was wrong!
But I’ve been lucky to have my friend, Katerine Photoartiste, a professional photographer (who was actually the best in her class) shoot pictures for my blog a couple of times already (for my Spring, Summer and my recent Beauty Edit on Face Masks post).
When I first started, I called her asking for a little tutorial in photography. I wanted to understand the basics, like the difference between aperture and shutter speed. She was kind enough to help me better understand all that stuff. On top of that, I even got a quick lesson on how to use Photoshop so I am really thankful to her for that.
Before using Photoshop, start with the basics first using online tutorials. When I have no clue about something, I always check to see if there’s an online tutorial. More often then not, there is! Now that I’ve got some experience with Photoshop, it’s a lot more fun to use. I don’t feel like banging my head on a wall anymore every time I use it.
Instead of buying Photoshop, I chose to go with a monthly subscription from Adobe. This way, I can use it and Lightroom for $15 CAD a month. I use Lightroom to select my pictures and to mainly adjust the brightness, colours and saturation the way I want. Then I use Photoshop to correct, crop and create a montage.
The camera I use is a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 that actually belongs to my Dad. He bought it for a trip he took to Africa and he hasn’t really used it since he came back so I’ve been lucky enough to “borrow” it a lot. I bought the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens to take sharper pictures and to get the “blur” effect in the background but I’m now thinking about upgrading the camera or the lens. For my Youtube channel, I got the Sony a5100 , the Joby gorillapod hybrid tripod for vlogging and I recently bought a LED ring light to get better lighting for tutorial videos or for when it’s too dark in my loft.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, it can be tough figuring out who’s going to take your pictures. Not everyone has an Instagram husband to help them out. You can either pay a photographer for a photo session, or ask friends and family to lend you a hand. My boyfriend takes a lot of my photos since he knows a bit about photography so I usually take him out to lunch on weekends to thank him. He seems happy with our arrangement which is great because I have a hard time asking someone to help me out (for free). It’s not super easy finding someone to shoot multiple outfits for a few hours at a time. I prefer getting the right look for each pic.
I usually always shoot around four looks per session because I don’t have someone following me around 24/7 who can take pictures of my outfit every single day. Plus, most of the time, I look like shit walking around in my sweatpants without any make-up on. I don’t think that would be a great Instagram photo!
Anyway, it’s good to organize your photo shoot every time to maximize the time you have! This winter though, I’m going to be screwed because I dread shooting outside when it’s cold! And it gets really cold here!
I’m also lucky to have a boyfriend who helps me out with a bunch of things. I’d say it mostly as my photographer and editor too. To be honest, I don’t know what I would do without him. He corrects all my francophone mistakes, so a big thanks to him!
If you didn’t notice it already, my mother tongue is French but my boyfriend is anglophone. He told me recently that my English writing skills have improved a lot since last year so yay to me! Either way, whatever language you choose to write in, it’s always a good idea to get someone else to revise your posts before publishing it.
Hope these tips can help you on your way to starting your own blog!