The ONLY 3 Things You Need To Invest In When You Start Your Blog
I started my very first lifestyle blog back in 2007. It was called Tea Travel Treadmill (super cringey, I know) and it was basically just me talking about my gym routine, making fun of reality shows and reviewing movies, like I thought I was Roger Ebert or something. Needless to say, it went nowhere and I basically only updated it for a couple of months before getting bored. Back then, most people’s blogs were basically just a daily log of their (often mundane) musings. Instagram didn’t exist and Facebook was still just a place where you connected with your friends (ie. not a digital marketing platform), so really the only way your blog could be discovered by new readers was via WordPress’ ‘featured’ section or the RSS reader.
Fast forward a decade and things couldn’t be more different. Blogging is a huge industry and there are countless courses, apps and websites that promise to explode your traffic and make you a full-time blogger. So much so, that it can super overwhelming for new bloggers just starting out. With a limited budget, it can be hard to know where to invest your money that is actually going to make a difference and help you move forward. But don’t worry girl, I’ve got you covered! In my opinion, these are the only 3 things you need to invest in when you’re first starting your lifestyle blog. Whether you’re investing your time or your money, these are the 3 things that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck!
1. A domain name
One mistake I see a lot of bloggers making is setting up WordPress.com blog (or the equivalent on a Wix, Blogger or Squarespace platform), rather than a self-hosted WordPress.org website. It’s an easy mistake to make. Heck, I did it myself when I first created the website for my copywriting business! That said, there are a few issues with this. Firstly, you end up with a domain name that’s along the lines of agirlinprogress.wordpress.org. Not only is this waaaaaay harder for people to type out when they’re looking for your site, but it simply doesn’t look as professional or polished. People automatically take .com domain names more seriously — that’s just how it is!
The other issue with the free WordPress blogs is that you’re limited with how much you can customise it. There’s only a certain amount of templates you can choose from, and you can’t do any custom coding to modify a theme to your own taste. Then, there’s the fact that free WordPress blogs aren’t as good for SEO (which is hella important when you’re a blogger) Not only is the set-up of free WordPress blogs less SEO-friendly, but you don’t have access to amazing tools like Yoast that make it super easy to optimise your content.
Yes, it costs a bit more to have a self-hosted website. To give you an idea, it costs me around $100 a year for my hosting and domain name (you could definitely get it cheaper if you shopped around and got it on special) But when you consider how much you could potentially earn from blogging, it’s so worth it (personally, I earned this back within a couple of months) It’s also slightly more time-consuming and difficult to set up a self-hosted website than a blog. But trust me, it’s going to be far more difficult and annoying when you inevitably decide a few months down the track that you decide you want to change over to a .com website!
There’s no point splashing out on these fancy digital marketing tools if you have no freakin’ idea how to use them. Aka. all the gear and no idea! If you’re going to invest in just one thing when you first start blogging, make it your education. That way, you can DIY everything until you have the budget to pay someone else to do it for you! In my opinion, the most important things for new bloggers to learn about is email marketing (especially building a mailing list) SEO, Pinterest (the number one driver of traffic for many bloggers!), content writing and social media marketing (particuarly Facebook and Instagram) These are the strategies that are really going to propel your blog forward in the early growth stage (pssttt… you can read about the 20 strategies I used to get my first 50,000 blog views in 3 months here) There are plenty of excellent free resources out there where you can learn about these things, including Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger Podcast and of course, the Bloggers In Progress resource section!
However, if you really want to accelerate your learning and give your blog a headstart, I highly recommend Institute of Code’s Social Media and Content Marketing Bootcamp. Here, you’ll learn from professional bloggers about everything from building a strong personal brand, growing your email list, exploding your Instagram following, taking and editing beautiful photos, content marketing and monetising your blog — all within 10 days, in a beautiful villa in Bali, Indonesia! I attending in June last year and it absolutely helped me get strategic on taking A Girl In Progress to the next level. You can read more about my experience here.
3. Visual branding
It’s a wonderful start to be a good writer and have a great idea for a blog. But here’s the thing — humans are visual creatures. If you don’t have a strong visual brand that compliments your story and message, you’re not likely to hold your target audience’s attention for long. Plus, having a consistent aesthetic automatically makes your brand look more professional, polished and established. Visual branding was the very first thing I invested in before A Girl In Progress even launched. I recruited the very talented Kira Hyde to bring my vision to life, creating not only a logo but a consistent visual brand guide I’ve been able to contractors who work on other visual aspects of the brand (ie. Instagram tiles, Pinterest cover images, newsletters etc) Having a beautiful visual brand from the get-go made all the difference in getting people to take A Girl In Progress seriously — whether that was readers or potential contributing writers.
The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to spend the big bucks to create a memorable visual brand for your blog. A good start is to create a mood board on Pinterest, where you can narrow down 2-3 colours that you’re going to use across your branding. Apps like Canva make it super easy to DIY branding assets like your logo and banner images, even if you’re not a designer.