OK y’all, I’m back with the blogging tips series! I was so excited to see all the positive feedback from my first article, so I’m glad that this is useful info. Thank you to everyone who added their thoughts, and please make sure to let me know if there’s anything I’ve left off or you want to see in future articles within this series.
As a reminder, here’s what the series will look like:
Part 1: Finding Your Niche
Part 2: Creating your site
Part 3: Incorporating social media
Part 4: Managing content
Part 5: Making it a career
…and maybe more?!
Today we’re kicking off PART 2: Creating your site! You should be confident and clear in your direction after reading PART 1: Finding Your Niche, and now you’re ready to hop on the web and create something beautiful.
P.S. When in doubt with all this technical stuff, consider hiring someone? This is kinda my overall theme for this step. Of course you can do it your own (I’ve done most of it myself honestly but I wouldn’t recommend it), but if it’s not your strength, don’t give up on your blogging dreams just because you’re not tech savvy.
K? Here we go…
How to start a fashion blog – Creating Your Site
This is the technical part of how to start a fashion blog, and honestly it can be kinda overwhelming, but I’m going to do my best to keep it pretty basic. But please feel free to ask questions in the comments below if there’s something I missed or forgot to cover. To be honest, it’s been over 4 years since I started my blog so I’m actually pretty rusty when it comes to remembering what it was like to get started!
The main gist is: depending on the type of site you want, you need somewhere to HOLD your data (a.k.a. your content) and then somewhere to HOST your site (a.k.a where you’ll design and create your site). I’ll get into each below, but keep that in mind as you’re reading and getting started with your blog design thoughts.
1. Pick a Blogging Platform
Basically, you’ve got free options and not-so-free options. Right off the bat, I’m going to suggest AGAINST going with the free options which (to name just a couple) are (1) Blogger (Google’s blogging platform) and (2) Wix and a few more I’m sure. Instead, I would recommending jumping right in with WordPress and getting yourself a self-hosted blog.
Word Press is by far the most popular blogging platform or space to HOLD your data/content. It’s really easy to use and is great for bloggers – definitely what I’d suggest. You can also see some analytics on there, and WP lets you mess around with SEO.
Why go with WordPress versus any free option?
The quick answer is that you get so much more freedom, ownership, customization options, scalability for when you grow, security (!), and so much more with WordPress. If it’s any indication, most of the biggest bloggers you follow use WordPress and there are actually 72 million active users on it; it’s secure and WordPress is always improving their platform for the better; plus, it’s going to be the most customizable platform out there giving you the most control over what your site looks like which is a HUGE major bonus.
2. Choose & Purchase Your Domain Name
What’s a domain name? Basically, my domain name is “brightontheday.com” which means it’s my address on the world wide web. I purchased the rights to it back in the day and now I technically “own” this and so nobody else can use it as long as I keep paying for it. As far as cost is concerned, most domain names are going to be around $10/year. Typically, you can purchase your domain name with the same company that you choose for your hosting.
3. Set up Hosting with a Web-Hosting Partner
If your first thought is, wait what does web-hosting even mean? Don’t worry. I’ll break it down for you. Just don’t let this part overwhelm you because you can handle it, okay?
Basically, when you have a self-hosted blog (aka not a free one), it means that you take 100% ownership of your website and it’s content – which obviously a really good thing. That being said, you’ll need to get a web-hosting partner to hold all your online stuff (more on this in a minute). With regard to WordPress, it means you’re choosing the wordpress.org option instead of using wordpress.com.
Wait, what does “hosting” as a verb even mean?
It means what it sounds like. All of your “stuff” you put out into the internet world needs to LIVE somewhere. Without web-hosting, you won’t be able to use your domain name that you purchased in step 2. So you need to get a server to STORE all your content and give it a home on the internet. Think of it like a hard drive or a cloud server or something. Make sense?
There are companies that specialize in this and what separates a good hosting company from a bad one (in my opinion) is simply 2 things: good customer service and solid servers (aka minimal down time).
I recommend you use Bluehost because they’re easy to work with, reliable, have great customer service and very minimal down time! Follow the steps on their website to purchase a hosting plan. It should be pretty self-explanatory but feel free to ask questions if you have any.
4. Set up Blog on Purchased Domain Name
I mentioned it above, but I would recommend purchasing your domain name at the same place you get hosting. The alternative is to purchase your “URL” rights at another company like GoDaddy or something, but then you’re just adding more steps to your process. Just do it all in the same place.
So now that you have a domain name and hosting, you need to install WordPress on that domain. If you’re using Bluehost they make it VERY easy for you.
- Navigate to the “hosting” tab in the top navigation.
- Click on the WordPress icon under “Website Builders”.
- Click Install and then select which domain name you’d like to install it to.
- Now you’ll see “Advanced Option” – click on this. This is where you’ll determine your username and password.
- Check the box titled “Automatically create a new database for this installation.”
- Click install now.
I could be WAY more specific on all these steps, but I feel like it’s pretty self-explanatory. If not, please feel free to comment below and I’ll try to help. I’d just rather not bore you with technical details. But I’m MORE than happy to help!
5. Get Branded
I contemplated doing an ENTIRE other blog post on this (because there’s so much to talk about), but I decided to go ahead and include it in this step. It’s also very connected to what you’ve decided your niche will be – your branding should be a reflection of your content and align with your voice too! We can get into more specifics later, but I wanted to at least give you a few tips if you were looking to get all this done ASAP. Let me know if you have specific questions regarding branding or anything in the comments and I can dedicate another post later to it.
Back to branding.
While you can definitely do all the logo and branding stuff on your own (I guess?), hiring a designer to help build your site and develop your branding is a much better idea. I know, it sounds expensive. But that’s because it is. But trust me, it will be worth it in the long run. You’ll want to have branding and a specified logo to represent your “look”. Do some research on designers that fit your aesthetic or look up student designers if you’re worried about cost, or even offer some sort of skill swap and call it even.
For me personally, (I’ll be honest) I did it ALL myself. However (!), I would NEVER recommend anyone doing this – especially not now that the competition and rivalry within the blogosphere is so intense. I feel like some cutesy font and a domain name just isn’t gonna cut it anymore – you’ve got to have an actual BRAND. I taught myself photoshop and illustrator and created my “look” and aesthetic but I’ve always been unhappy with it and felt like I lacked a certain professional edge that other bloggers had over me.
I wasn’t planning on announcing this until it went live, but about 7 months ago I decided to finally bite the bullet and get myself a legitimate logo and “brand” session with a qualified graphic designer. I think the final straw for me was when I saw another fashion blogger who had totally replicated my overall look and aesthetic, which is bound to happen if you’re just banking on a particular font to define your overall “look” (like what mine is right now as you’re reading this blog post). But stay tuned my friends, BTD is undergoing a major branding sesh right now and I’m hoping to launch the new look THIS summer if all goes as planned! Don’t worry though, it won’t be anything too crazy or unfamiliar – just what you already know but a little more refined, unique and sophisticated.
Before reaching out to a graphic designer though, I would do some ground work first. You need to flesh out what your brand is IN WORDS before you can do so in a logo or any sort of branding.
Like I said, you really need to make sure you’ve got a good idea or feel for all the stuff we talked about in the “finding your niche article” but now let’s take it a step further and figure out how to TRANSLATE that into something more concrete – like colors, fonts, styling, and a logo. I would suggest doing the following before taking any steps towards branding::
- Create a Pinterest mood board that exemplifies and embodies your “ideal” personal branding. Or just think of it as like a tangible reference for all the “vibes” you want your brand to encompass. Don’t limit yourself here and think outside the box when it comes to the types of images you’re including. I would suggest looking at big retailers imagery and look books (also magazines, newsletters, inspo photos) to see which “feels” you most resonate with. And put those all on your board. You can always delete later – just try gather as much inspiration as possible and then you can REFINE later.
- Make a list of 5 adjectives that you think describe your brand. Write them down and keep them in mind throughout the entire inspiration process.
- Create a mission statement. Ugh, I know this is hard and it’s difficult to put into words what you’re trying to do but FORCE yourself to do it. I promise, it will help you make decisions and keep a focused mindset throughout this somewhat intangible process.
- Determine your demographic. Figure out which kinds of people you want to connect with. How old are they? What are they interested in? What kind of job do they have? Do they have kids? WHY do you think they’ll connect with you and your content?
- Nail down your “so what” factor. What purpose is your blog going to serve? Why should people come and visit it? Figure out what problem (this could be really general) you want to help them solve or what kind of value you’re going to add to their life. It could be simple like “I want to inspire” or “I want to motivate people who feel stuck” – idk just write it down.
- Lastly, how do you want to be perceived? And what do you want people to feel or think when they come across any of your content or visit your website. Think about it and jot some notes down.
I know that seems like a lot, but these questions will help A LOT when working with a designer and determining your personal aesthetic.
Also, consider freelance websites for hiring a graphic designer if you’ve got a really good idea of what you want it to look like. Here are a few that might be helpful:: Fiverr, Upwork (previously Odesk), Toptal, 99designs, Demand Media, GetaCoder, and iFreelance.
6. Customize Your Website – Choose a “Theme”
Assuming you’re using WordPress, get yourself a kickass theme. A “theme” is WP’s version of a premade design that you can use for your website. They have a bunch of themes you can choose from, and each are different colors, fonts, header options, and different options for how your blog will look within Word Press. It’s a super simple way to make everything look pretty and to your liking.
In the past, I thought it was a good idea to code my own theme. NO NO NO. Please don’t do this. Find yourself a super simple and versatile theme and then hire a coder from one of those freelance websites to modify or customize it to your liking (remember my tip on hiring people…this is essential here!). Or don’t change it and use it as is. After all, it’s not really about how pretty your website is as it is about how amazing your CONTENT is! Some of the BEST bloggers out there use the simplest of websites and themes on the market. Heck, some of them still use blogger! All that to say, content is more important than anything, so don’t get stuck on picking a theme. Choose one and get to makin’ that awesome content!
If you’re totally overwhelmed and are looking for some solid recommendations (or you just don’t feel like figuring it out yourself), here are some recommendations of FABULOUS themes that would work JUST FINE for your fashion blog (assuming you’re going to be using wordpress)
- Glam theme
- “Grateful” Theme
- Sugar Blog Theme
- The “Rachel” Theme
- Olive Theme – super girly and cute with a variety of offered features included in the theme
P.S. If you are on Blogger, I highly recommend switching over to WordPress sooner rather than later (if you think you’ll want to eventually). I’ve heard horror stories on transferring content from Blogger to WP, so the less you need to move over the better.
WHEW! okay y’all. That was a BIG ONE. I’m sure I should proofread again, but I have a meeting at 9 and I gotta go! Hopefully this is helpful and let me know if you have any specific questions – I’m ALWAYS happy to help!