This is a blog, therefore I am a blogger.
This is what I want to do with my life, be a writer.
I don’t like being shouted at, and even though my entire experience of editors is from Gilmore Girls and one creep in Australia, I feel like editors do lots of shouting.
So I write freelance and Carry On Or Bust is where I live.
There are a lot of people out there who will make it seem like you start a blog in five minutes and three minutes after that you will be inundated with offers for free accommodation and press trips, and by the end of the week have replaced your 9-5 income and now you’ll be free to travel the world!!
Oh…oh sweet thing, no.
There are ALWAYS exceptions to the “it takes time” rule, but very often there are unseen factors in those peoples lives that make their success somewhat less miraculous.
I would always say, take all claims of quick success with a large pinch of salt.
This is my experience in starting a blog, some of the pitfalls, and what I wish I had known before launching.
I have been blogging since 2012 and have decided to make this my full time just this year in February 2018. This is not a sales pitch. I am not going to try and sell you my guide to blogging, a course, or a membership to my super secret special club.
This is a guide on how to start a website, not how to get rich or quadruple your traffic in 1 day. There are some affiliate links in this post, but to external services or products I think are useful.
I have a few questions for you:
Do you like working for hours on a single aspect of your business, perfecting it, letting it out in to the world and then getting little to no feedback on it?
Do you mind dealing with the occasional asshat who thinks they are funny, or derives pleasure from being vile?
Do you enjoy being the new kid on the block, seemingly surrounded by nothing but success stories and humble bragging?
Humble Brag The Blogging Definition
While posting on social media ‘ok so I know 30 thousand views a month is NOTHING and I only make a few thousand dollars‘ no honey, you know exactly what you’re doing.
If you can deal with the kinda crappy side of blogging – then keep reading!
I mean, keep reading anyway, but just know that not everyone in the travel blogging world is the peachy keen bundle of loveliness that they claim to be in their About Me section.
So this all sounds hella negative, why do I bother?
I do it because I’m a nerd.
I love statistics, I love systems.
I also love travel, writing, and pretentiously typing away on my laptop on long train journeys while pretending to be writing something deep and meaningful when in fact I’m trying to find a family friendly way to talk about people who have sex in hostel dorm rooms.
Why Start a Blog
Your reasons to start a blog have to be right.
Now there’s nothing wrong with doing this for money. I’m a fan of money, it allows me to have food and I like food. In fact I’d rather like to make some money at this blogging game. But if you’re thinking you can start a blog and immediately start raking in those denominations, you’re likely to be disappointed.
I can’t emphasise this enough:
Do you like writing?
I have met bloggers who hate writing, they are in it for what they thought would be a glamorous life style and a nifty press pass to wave under bouncers noses.
Writing is, shockingly, a big part of blogging. Funnily enough it’s not the biggest part in my experience, but more later.
You will also need to be at least kind of ok at writing.
People aren’t going to struggle through crappy prose – they’ll exit. Google will see that they exit. Google will note that people don’t find what they’re looking for on your site, and stop showing it to people. You don’t want google to do that.
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So, work on your craft and the people will come. You will also need to do a lot of promotion so that they will come, but content comes first.
Do you LOVE what you’re writing about?
I have spent a lot of time writing about things I don’t care about in academia. Regardless of effort, the subjects you love will always shine a little bit brighter.
You can’t just ‘kinda sorta be a bit into’ the thing you write about.
You’re going to be writing about this thing A LOT. Not just regularly, but all the time. When you aren’t writing posts you will be writing intros and snippets and chatting about it on social media and promoting it on any channel that allows.
Do you want to?
So, you like writing and you have a thing you love to write about.
Do you WANT to blog about it?
I am reminded of an episode of Lizzie McGuire, yes I am old, where she discovered that she is frickin amazing at rhythmic gymnastics.
You know, that thing with the ribbons… and the balls and the loopy looping and … I don’t know I don’t get rhythmic gymnastics.
Regardless, she is amazing at it – and she hates it. She hates getting up early, doesn’t get why it’s a thing, and ends up miserable.
Conversely, I am a terrible runner. I’m fat, I’m slow, I have a bad back – but I love it.
Because You Want To That’s Why
Not because you want to make money, although you can.
I ran Carry On Or Bust long before any type of money making was on my mind.
Do I wish I had started then? Well, duh. But the best time to start was 20 years ago, second best time is now.
Who cares if you monetize it? If you just want a blog because it’s fun then more power to you!
How To Start A Blog
Pick a Niche
This is not as life or death important as people make it out to be.
Yes, you need to have a focus.
Delicious food, yoga, running, motorcycle maintenance, and pole dancing are all things I am interested in.
However the audience who like that exact combination of things is probably small. Individually however they all have their own dedicated audience. Don’t dilute.
Carry On Or Bust’s niche is as nerdy as I am – Travel, Eat, Read, and do it in one bag or less. Take less luggage with you while you visit nerdy stuff, and when you’re not travelling read about travel.
Sorry but “Travel” is not a niche, its a multi-bajillion dollar and blogger industry. Be more creative.
Pick a Name
Carry On Or Bust is a weird name and I love it.
It’s Unique. Accurate, yet sarcastic – If it doesn’t fit in my carry on, then it’s bust. And my dad helped me think it up when I first made this blog in 2012. So, yeah, I’m keeping it.
There are a ton of bloggers out there who are NomadicSomeones or AdventurousSomeoneElses. But come on, the only ones who get any google attention or human recognition are Nomadic Matt and Adventurous Kate.
Avoid the big buzzwords because 77,382* other people also have ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Wandering’, or ‘Nomad’, in their blog names.
*Not a real statistic, but true in principle
Also, I would avoid the word Gypsy. Yeah I get it, in western media and Instagram it has become synonymous with a certain type of lifestyle – free and wild and connected with nature.
But that isn’t what it is.
Historically, it’s an English language word for the Romani people, and it does not have a nice history. It has been used almost purely in a derogatory way until very recently.
In English law, first enacted in 1960, it relates to anyone who lives a nomadic lifestyle regardless of race or ethnic origin. However, considering the existence and prevalence of “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Gypsies” signs in the 1960’s and history of racial attacks in the UK on people from this community, I wouldn’t call that law conclusive evidence for positive or neutral public opinion.
So, whatever side of the argument you fall on – I’d avoid it, unless you actually are a Gypsy.
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If you want to sell your site later on I would avoid using your own name, but this is probably the best way to make it personal and unique to you.
Your name kinda can’t be changed, a re-branding is doable but not advisable – especially if you generate a following. So make sure you like the name you pick!
Pick a Platform
Oh my god did I spend hours worrying over this.
Don’t. I’ll break it down for you.
You need three things to have a website – a platform , a domain, and hosting.
Wait, what even are these words?
Platform: The place you do the website design, writing, and management of your website. Think of this like the workshop where you create.
Domain: What your site is called. The domain here, for example is – “carryonorbust.com”. Think of this as the street address of your workshop.
Hosting: I am going to way over simplify this, don’t sue me. Websites live on servers (special computers). People use the internet to access websites. Hosting companies provide the servers, technologies, and services so that people can use the internet to access your website.
They don’t just supply the server and the technology etc they also look after you in a whole bunch of ways – they help with security (you don’t want to be hacked), site speed (ever exit a page because it’s taking forever? Yeah, so will your readers).
So this is a super important decision. But more on that later.
Think of hosting as the delivery system for what you create in the workshop.
There are several free platforms like Blogger, Blogspot, Tumblr. But by far the most common one is Word Press.
There are two options for WordPress : WordPress .Com or WordPress .Org
THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT
They are both free to use use, they just provide different things for different features.
Provides the web hosting – you just sign up and go.
Your domain is owned by WordPress
Your site URL will look like this: newblog .wordpress .com
You have restricted use of certain features, like plug ins.
You need to provide web hosting, this is referred to as “self hosted”.
Your domain is owned by you
Your site URL will look like this: newblog .com
You have complete control over your site.
So, What’s The Difference REALLY?
A couple of big things
You don’t have to organise hosting
You can’t earn any money
You can’t use plug ins (very useful)
You do not own the website or domain
You have to organise, and pay for, the hosting
You have complete control
You can start a store, sell, and monetize how you like
You own the content
If you are serious about blogging, and maybe want to make some money, I vote for WordPress .Org and self hosting.
The options like Squarespace are completely different, I haven’t had any experience with them and therefore won’t comment on them here.
Pick a Domain
This is closely related to picking a name.
- spell it correctly
- try not to use numbers
- funky suffixes can be cool, but can also look spammy to readers
- phonetic spellings are easily misunderstood
- shorter is better
The best way to test if it’s a good domain, is the important phone call test, you only have one shot to explain to someone over the phone your URL.
‘go2dabeechtravelz(dot)guru’ might be available, but it is also WAY more complicated and much harder to understand than ‘gotothebeachtravels(dot)com’
A better version would be ‘ToTheBeach (dot) com ‘ *I don’t know if this is a real domain or not if it is, well done I like your domain name!
You also want to take into account what words look like when they don’t have spaces or punctuation.
For example, my friends paediatrician- Doctor Sarah Laughter. Or, as the unfortunate font on her business card would have you believe – Dr. SLaughter.
Register the Domain
This can be done in a bunch of ways, choose one you like or choose a hosting company which also registers your domain.
I don’t use any third party registration companies, because my web hosting registers domains for me.
It is super important to choose the right host for you and there are some good choices around – and boy oh boy will you find some ANGRY PEOPLE on the internet about this.
Do a little research, choose one that is suited to your needs, and the people who get angry about it can toddle off on their own and rant at walls. Because being rude over … website hosting … is so far beyond the realm of I don’t care.
I chose Siteground.
The price was a big reason, but so was the reputation for customer support.
I am not the technical genius my html formatting may have you believing, and during my swap to self hosted I had a slew of noob questions and they were lovely.
They have three choices, from £2.75 a month, depending on your needs and your traffic.
I am even a SiteGround affiliate, because they have been fantastic for me.
If you have a thing you love, and you like writing about it, and can put up with the internet, then go for your life!
I vote for WordPress .Org and SiteGround for hosting.
If you do decide to go ahead and start a blog, let me know I would love to check it out!
This article may contain affiliate links – read more about this here.