Ask Apartment Apothecary – how to start a blog

I’ve had a few emails recently, a couple from friends and a couple from people who read my blog, asking me how to start their own. I know full well that if I didn’t have a partner who develops websites for a living, there is no way in hell that I would have had the first notion of what to do and how to get started.

I would like to use today’s post to briefly outline how to get started for those that have asked me. However, I really can’t go into a huge amount of detail for the very simple reason that Jules did so much of it for me. Luckily, over at Blogtacular there is a weekly series that is currently being published so you should definitely check that out for more in depth information and insight.

What I can tell you is what I have done and where my blog is hosted, as well as a little push to get started, which I will give you at the end of the post because starting a blog is without doubt one of the best things I have done in my life as it has enabled me to realise dreams I didn’t even know I had.

1. Buy a WordPress hosting package

My blog uses the WordPress platform, which I am really happy with. It is one of the most widely used and therefore the most widely supported platform and because it is open source it is constantly being updated and secured. You need to pay for some hosting that will support a WordPress blog (basically a server that sits on the internet so that anyone who searches for your blog can see it). I bought some hosting from 123-reg and it costs about £129 per annum.

2. Buy a domain name

During the process of buying some hosting, you will be asked for your domain name (the address of your blog) on 123-reg. There will be a search tool so you can figure out whether the names that you have come up with are available to buy. I chose my blog name partly because it is difficult to spell and say, which hopefully makes people think about it more – the more generic, the more easily forgotten. When you have found a name that is still available you will need to buy it (mine costs about £11 per year).

3. Choose a theme

When you have bought the hosting and the domain name you will need a blog theme, which will structure the layout of your blog and the way it will look. Go to WordPress and search the free themes and try to choose one that best fits your needs and your style (mine is called Troy). Lots of the themes aren’t particularly aesthetically pleasing and I’ve been hankering after a new theme for a while and I know there are lots of beautiful ones over on Blogzilla, which cost between £30-£40. Check out A Quiet Style and Lapin Blu to see these themes in action. Just remember, you can change your theme once your blog is established, so don’t be afraid that you have to commit to one for life.

4. Create a header

Once your blog is all set up you will need a header with the name of your blog. This can be text, a logo, an illustration – it’s totally up to you.

5. Set up social media

If you want as many people as possible to read your blog, you will need to set up any or all of the following:  a Facebook page, Pinterest account, Instagram account, Twitter feed. You can advertise your most recent blog posts through these channels. You can also sign up to Bloglovin’ which will display your latest blog posts for your followers. Another good idea is to have an email subscription button on your blog, which you can get through the WordPress plugins page.

How to start a blog - Ask Apartment Apothecary | Photograph by Katharinepeachey.co.uk

Photograph by Katharine Peachey.

These are the barest bones for starting a blog and exactly what I did. There are loads of tips and guidance for how to do each step e.g. how to choose the best name, how to design the most effective header, how to use social media to its potential. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I would say don’t get too hung up over the finer details; get a basic blog up and running, focus 100% on creating great content and the rest will follow. There is so much to learn and I think it’s best learnt along the way otherwise you will never get started. I tried to make my blog look perfect for six months before I could publish anything (“but what will people think if it’s not as good as Design Sponge?” Ha!). Obviously, I failed dismally and all I achieved was wasted time. Jump in at the deep end, figure it out as you go along and learn organically. For me, that is what makes a blog authentic and makes the learning process so much more enjoyable. It’s also exciting to discover your style through the process and there’s no way you can have a really clear concept of that before you begin, in my opinion.

Nearly two years down the line and there are still hundreds of things I want to change about my blog from the ‘Follow Me’ buttons to the ‘Categories’ to the lack of an ‘About Me’ page but I always try to remind myself that progress is a lot more important than the quest for perfection, which doesn’t exist anyway.

If you would like any more specific information about the five steps above, leave a comment below and I will try my best to help (or in other words I will ask Jules ;)). Otherwise, do follow the Blogtacular Starting a Blog in Five Minutes series as it is really clear, thorough and provides loads of invaluable insight.

Katy x

 

 

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35 Comments

  1. Louise 27th January 2015 / 12:18 pm

    Very helpful. Funnily enough I was thinking about starting a blog this morning, and hey presto – there you are talking about it! It would be about my inexpert attempts at gardening. Last year was the first year, and we did OK, but I have so much to learn and I thought that maybe I should start one up, as much for my own learning/remembering (a bit like a diary, and what does and doesn’t work, design ideas). I already have a website for my aromatherapy business which my husband (a programmer) set up, and I do a newsletter for that, but a gardening blog would be something very different. Thank you, again.

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:17 am

      A gardening blog sounds wonderful, Louise! I, for one, would definitely be interested. I always find it difficult to find good ones. And you are so right about using a blog as a diary of ideas – that’s exactly how I felt when I started mine. I had so many ideas and nowhere to put them. I look forward to your new blog x

  2. Emma 27th January 2015 / 2:18 pm

    Such a brilliant post, I often get asked how to set up a blog, and I can never remember everything involved. I know where to direct people now 🙂

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:18 am

      Thanks, lovely. I always direct myself and others to yours as an example of a clean, beautiful theme x

  3. Sarah~Lou 27th January 2015 / 3:12 pm

    Perfect! The best advice is to just start isn’t it…I procrastinated for a year before I started, and I wished I’d just got on with it! It’s absolutely a journey & the best bit is learning along the way x

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:21 am

      I think I thought about it for six months, set it up and then spent another six months trying to make it look amazing, which was never going to happen as I know nothing about computers. Your beautiful new theme has spurred me on to make more changes to mine or perhaps change it altogether. There are just so many things this theme doesn’t do that I need. xx

  4. Jessica 27th January 2015 / 4:01 pm

    Brilliant post Katy! I’m barely 4 months into blogging & it’s something I’d been just ‘thinking’ about for a couple of years…I’m now discovering {as with most things} thinking & doing are 2 very different beasts! I would Echo your ‘jump in’ approach…once you’re out there & creating content, you get a much clearer idea of your style & voice…both of which you share beautifully! x

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:23 am

      That’s so true – as soon as you start and begin exploring what you are capable of and seeing how others do it you do get a much clearer idea of your style and voice. Your blog is amazing considering how new you are to it x

      • Jessica 8th February 2015 / 8:51 pm

        Just saw this Katy & had to say a massive thank you …kind encouragement is gratefully received x

  5. Cally Feather 27th January 2015 / 5:25 pm

    Lovely blog post Katy, as you may be aware, it was your blog that inspired me to start my own. I’m still a real newbie and have masses that I’d like to do to improve the look of my blog, but as you say, content is the most important factor, the rest can follow. Thank you for the reminder.
    xx

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:24 am

      It makes me so happy that my blog inspired you. so, so happy x

  6. Emily 27th January 2015 / 9:31 pm

    This is such a great post Katy. I will be sharing it with my lovely students.
    Thank you xo

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:29 am

      Thank you so much, Emily! The fact you want to share it with your students has made my day xx

  7. Olivia 27th January 2015 / 10:18 pm

    great tips, thank you. am 4 blogs in with my journey – this is reminder I needed to ‘just do it’ xx

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:29 am

      Yes, Olivia! Do it! x

  8. EileenW 27th January 2015 / 10:50 pm

    Perfect timing as this is top of the list and I have been overthinking it. Yours is one of my favourite blogs and even more now for the generous spirit in which you share your findings. Thank you. Xx

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:30 am

      That’s so lovely of you to say, Eileen! I really look forward to seeing your new blog x

  9. Abi - These Four Walls blog 28th January 2015 / 8:08 am

    Such a useful post – huge thanks. I would encourage anyone to start a blog. I set mine up 6 months ago and I love every minute I spend on it. Does anyone have any tips on increasing visitors? I’ve hit a bit of a hurdle there x

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:08 am

      Hi Abi,

      So, this is what I have learnt along the way and I did most of these things naturally as part of entering the blogging community.

      1) Comment on blog posts that you have enjoyed – small blogs and the big blogs. People will always visit your site just out of curiosity.
      2) Join in with blogging challenges like urban Jungle Bloggers or Styling the Seasons (hint, hint!). The organisers of these challenges will share your posts with their followers and your fellow participants will check out your posts too.
      3) Take part in Instagram challenges like #FloralFridayCompetition #natureinthehome #theeverydayspruce #stylingtheseasons (another hint!)
      4) Post consistently whether it be once a month, once a week or daily.
      5) Advertise your posts on IG, FB, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin and on the days where you are not posting drop in on all your channels of Social Media and say something or post at least a photo.
      6) Link to other blogs or companies in your posts (those that you love) and tag them on Twitter so that they will share your post too.
      7) Use google analytics to figure out what your popular posts are and do more of those.
      8) In each post create a ‘pinnable’ image (if you look at this post I have put a label on the pic of me blogging). This will make it clear to people on pinterest that this image comes from a blog and they will be more likely to click through if it interests them.

      Phew! I think that’s it. Hope it helps x

      • Abi | These Four Walls 28th January 2015 / 12:19 pm

        Hi Katy,
        That’s all really useful – thank you! I can’t wait to put your tips into practice. I’ve been following #stylingtheseasons for a while now so I think it’s time to get involved! It’s also great to see so many bloggers who are keen to share ideas and encourage others – very heart-warming on a grey morning!
        Abi x

  10. Leanne 28th January 2015 / 9:48 am

    Hi Katy! So useful and I completely agree that sometimes it’s best to just get started, the finer points can come later. I always tell myself not to get too hung up on the detail and instead write about what I love or am feeling and just go from there. I’ve loved seeing Apartment Apothecary grow and I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. 🙂 Leanne x

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 10:31 am

      Thank you, Leanne! It must be nice starting a blog for the second time as you must have learnt do much the first time round x

  11. Lorna 28th January 2015 / 10:54 am

    Love this post. I totally agree with you that just jumping in and doing it is the best way to go. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a small business and website/blog for years but always found reasons not to because I wasn’t good enough or it didn’t look the way I wanted to etc. Eventually I decided just to go for it and learn as I go along, sure I don’t have a slick website and thriving business yet but I’m learning lots and if I’d have waited until I had all those things I never would have started!

    Would love a blog post from you about photo tips? That one thing that stops me from posting more to my blog because I’m not confident enough in my photos.

    Love all the tips you’ve written above to Abi too! Going to start on some of those 🙂

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 11:40 am

      Hi Lorna. I am definitely no expert on photography (that’s an understatement) and I have to say I kind of bodge my way around with taking photos for the blog. However, I could post what I do and open it up to other bloggers, who are far more pro with a camera than me!) to share their tips. Stay tuned xx

      • Lorna 29th January 2015 / 11:53 am

        That would be great, in some ways it would be more encouraging to read the story of someone who isn’t an expert and learn how they’re bodged their way around it as that’s what I’m trying to do too! x

  12. Cate 28th January 2015 / 11:09 am

    Really lovely, insightful post, I wish I had read something like this before I started! About a year ago I discovered Oh Joy’s Blog, Inc book, I found that super helpful.
    I just went for the free wordpress (being stingy and skint) but I wish I had gone for the wordpress hosting package, some of the plugins aren’t available for the free blogs, such as the Pinterest widgets etc. I’m constantly scrutinising over the tiny details too!

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 11:42 am

      I will have to check out Oh Joy’s book, thanks for that tip. I still feel like I have a mountain to climb in terms of learning but I suppose I have realised that improving my content is going to make far more of a difference to my blog overall than the colour of my follow me buttons 😉 Ha! Just writing that down makes me realise how silly getting hung up on that stuff is xx

  13. Louise 28th January 2015 / 11:17 am

    Absolutely fab!! … I have been faffing around in my mind thinking all of the things you said (having it all spit spot and perfect) – and you have just knocked me ever so nicely off of my faffing fence! I am going to just ‘do it’ and as you say, work it out along the way organically.

    You are a darling xxx

    • katy 28th January 2015 / 11:45 am

      Delighted to hear it, Louise! It was actually my partner’s business partner who made the difference for me. He just turned around to me and said very bluntly: ” WHat on earth are you waiting for? No one else is going to do this for you. Take control and get on with it, if it is what you want. WHat on earth have you got to lose?”. That certainly knocked me off my faffing fence (love that saying!) x

  14. Lucy 29th January 2015 / 4:20 pm

    Hi Katy, this post is great timing! I created my blog at the start of Jan and have been doing WordPress’ Blogging 101 course. As nice as it is to get an assignment each day that works on a different part of having a blog, it is so nice to read a concise and hugely useful article about starting! I put it off for months for fear of not knowing what to do / being rubbish.

    Anyway, what I mean to say is thanks as I’ve had a bit of a posting paralysis recently, and your post has given me some great tips and a kick up the bum to get back on it!

    • katy 29th January 2015 / 5:25 pm

      I am so, so glad to hear that, Lucy! Enjoy the first few months of blogging and try not to over think it – good luck! x

  15. selima 5th February 2015 / 8:31 am

    Hi Katy!! Great exlpain and thanks for sharing this informations.. I created one blog from canalblog but it’s not ergonomic, I would change for wordpress :)))

    • katy 6th February 2015 / 9:37 am

      Glad you found it helpful, Selima 🙂

  16. Margie 30th April 2015 / 5:31 pm

    Hi Katy,

    I’ve only just discovered your blog (via Pinterest) and can’t believe I’ve been missing out! Your makeovers are exquisite. I love your taste and ability change a room so drastically without a large budget. I’m looking forward to following along 🙂

    Regarding blog questions…I was wondering how you came to do house tours. I’m very interested in featuring them myself and don’t know where to start! Any insight would be most appreciated.

    Thanks for doing what you do!
    Margie

  17. Mike Carlo 19th May 2015 / 7:32 am

    Hi Katy, This article is actually outstanding . Excellent details being shared. Thank you very much for the useful info.

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