Before You Start A Blog: 7 Questions To Ask Yourself
By: Jessica Novak

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It’s a new year, a new you, and you’re thinking about starting a blog.  In my experience working and blogging for a technology startup, I’ve drawn several parallels between blogging and entrepreneurship.  Starting a blog, depending on your goals, can be a lot like starting a small company, especially if you hope to scale and eventually to bring in some revenue.

Save yourself a ton of time and frustration later by taking a few minutes up front to plan. Before you start a blog – or even if you want to re-launch or re-brand your blog – I find it helpful to answer the questions below.  This exercise will really force you to streamline your thought process before investing countless hours (and outfits, and dollars, and emotion) into your blog.  It’s also super easy and should take you less than 20 minutes!

One of the most popular philosophies behind starting a company is the Lean Startup, a philosophy based on data-based learning and very fast iteration.  The Lean Canvas is a planning tool developed by Ash Maurya to help you plan your business model using lean methodology, and I think some parts of it apply to blogging as well.

1. What is the goal of your blog (e.g. What problem are you trying to solve?)

 

This is the hardest part of the process; the part where you define your niche, establish your purpose, and set the groundwork for the rest of your writing.  Identify why you are going to write.  Will you provide daily outfit inspiration (like Jessica Quirk of What I Wore)?  Will you create a forum for women who like to dress for themselves (like Manrepeller)?  Will you help men dress better from the female perspective (like Style Girlfriend)?  Decide what your goals are, and phrase them in terms of your readers.  Because without readers, your blog is just a diary!

2. Who is your reader?

 

Define your early readers so you know a) who you’re writing for and b) how to reach them.  In many cases, your early adopters might just be your friends!  Or, they might be other style bloggers, your current Twitter followers, or your family.  Who can you reach first who you think will really benefit from your content?

3. How will you be unique?

 

There are SO many blogs out there, so you need to identify that one thing that will make you stand out.  Is it your writing?  Your sense of style?  Will you focus on a certain part of the country or the world?  Will your niche be shoes??  Figure out why your readers should come to your blog instead of the next guy’s.  Also, make this something that is unique to you.  Like, your superb photography skills, for example.  The more your blog resembles who you really are, the more unique it will be.

4. Release your MVP!

 

No, not your most valuable player.  Your minimum viable product (MVP) will be the least amount of writing and design work you need to get your blog off the ground.  Start with a free hosting platform – like Tumblr or Blogger – and design a header yourself.  Write your “About Me” section and queue up three posts.  In my experience, all you really need to get started are three posts – enough to establish your voice and to have a little bit of a backlog.

One tip I have is don’t spend money until you make money, or until you at least have enough of a following to prove your concept.  You don’t need an expensive camera or Photoshop skills to start your blog; in fact, you can do most of your graphics in Powerpoint!  There are so many free services out there to help you; use them.

Here’s a disclaimer, though: once you resolve to be a blogger, release your MVP fast.  In the wise words of my friend Blair, “if you’re happy with your alpha version, you waited too long to launch.”  The time is now, my friends.  The first step to success is taking a first step!

5.  Define your key metrics and install Google Analytics.

 

You can’t learn from something that can’t be measured, so start tracking how well your posts perform early.  Pick a metric to focus on, and base your future content around that metric.  If you want to work with retailers one day, for example, you might want to focus on unique page views.  If you find that a certain type of post really increases your page views, keep doing that.

6. Pick your distribution channels.

 

Yes, your blog is a distribution channel for your content, but how will people find you at newblog.blogspot.com?  Choose a few distribution channels to get your blog out there.  Some great examples are Twitter, Pose, Stylitics, or Facebook.  Eventually, you might want to start investing in paid Search Engine Marketing or Facebook ads, but for now, just try to get to a place where you’re learning what’s working.

7.  Identify your revenue stream.

 

If your goal is to make money, you should create your blog with this in mind.  You can’t start a blog that’s mostly essays and expect to make money using affiliate links, for example.  Likewise, you can’t write a blog that’s based solely on shoes (ha, get it?) and expect to work with your favorite jewelry designer!  You won’t make money at first, but establishing your revenue model early will help you focus your content, build your brand, and position yourself for success.

 

Visit Jessica Novak at her blog Illtakethatinpurple.com

Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    Thank you so much for the tips and advice. I just started a blog, and your tips definitely make sense! I respect all of the successful bloggers out there because it does take a lot of hard work. Thanks again!

    X
    aaronadorkable.blogspot.com

  2. Andrew says:

    These are all really good points. I think imagining who your reader is is especially important. Having a person in mind while writing your blog posts will help keep the topics and mood connected and consistent. Great tips!
    theinclub.blogspot.com

  3. Avatar of Nadya Helena
    Nadya Helena says:

    These are all great tips! To be honest my blog kind of started randomly, without any real concept or real purpose for it. I’ve completely revamped and rebranded my blog and I love where my blog is going. One question, what number do you think is “enough following” to prove a concept? I mean, I definitely want to do something new and something different with my blog, I just want to know when is the good time. Thanks!

    Nadya

    • Avatar of PurplesPrettier

      Hey Nadya! Thx for the comment! “Enough following” is going to be subjective for everyone, especially depending on your goals. At the early stages, I would look for growth, e.g. more people coming to your site each week than the last.

  4. Avatar of Nasreen
    Nasreen says:

    I don’t understand the MVP concept! but everything else really forces me to sit down with my thoughts and pen and paper and see what my blogs all about. I’ve been avoiding it because I want to write about SOOOO many things and I don’t like the restricted feeling of having my own niche but I will do it!

    btw, love the “solely on shoes” joke at the end hahaha

    http://lazyobsession.blogspot.ie/2013/01/hair-envy-alexa-chung.html

  5. please check out this awesome blog about fashion, and this other one about interior design:
    Fashion: fashionfrommysisterscloset.wordpress.com
    Interior design: passionofdesighn.wordpress.com

  6. Avatar of Lydia
    Lydia says:

    This is some good advice! Thanks for the post!

    ravenmaidenmaven.blogpsot.com

  7. Avatar of Lillian
    Lillian says:

    Am I the only one who clicked on “newblog.blogspot.com” ? Hahaha, great article, it’s useful to me even though my blog is a few months old.

    http://sewoverdressed.blogspot.com.au/

  8. Wow these first lines: ‘ It’s a new year, a new you, and you’re thinking about starting a blog. ‘
    That’s exactly what I did! I don’t feel very original anymore haha. Anyway thank you for sharing these guidelines, I can say I’m following most of them already but it’s always nice to see them written down.
    Love

  9. Avatar of FashionEdible

    Great article! And last but not least, “Is this something I see myself doing every day? i.e. Am I ready for the work involved?” I don’t think non-bloggers realize how much work this takes (I certainly didn’t before starting!). Everyone assumes it’s just a quick and simple task of writing down random thoughts, posing for a few shots, uploading them to the internet, and then people magically following.

  10. Thank you so much 4 your advise…Is always useful to learn from one of the best
    If you have time have a look at mine,trying to learn a bit everyday how to do a decent blog…
    With Love
    Paola

  11. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the advise, I started my blog today and want to write about everything, now I really have to think about what I really want to focus on.

  12. Avatar of Bisous Natasha

    It’s so important to remember who you are writing for, that sometimes I forget. Good advice. I just started a new blog and have been improving things on there that I didn’t with my last one.

    bisous,
    Natasha

    http://www.bisousnatasha.com

  13. Marko Saric says:

    Good advice for starters!

    I would also say it is important to be flexible and to listen to feedback you get via social media, comments or analytical data, as that might lead you onto something totally different from your brainstorming process.

  14. Peet says:

    I though MVP was Mike, Vinny, Pauly.:) Just kidding… The 6th point was very helpful, at least for me. Thanks!

  15. Fernanda says:

    Thank you so much heartfib for this post. Like i have been reading in some other posts you have, it is a great help for starters like me, to have all the basics listed in an easy way!!!
    You have a faithfull follower in me <3

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