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