Photo by Alexa Fernando
Starting a blog is easy, quick and affordable. But making that blog successful? Now that’s gonna take some investment.
When I started This Renegade Love, I spent a serious chunk of money to bring it to life, from design fees to camera upgrades to a fresh new laptop. Hell, I quit my job to launch my blog – so you better BELIEVE I invested in it straight from the start. Because here’s the thing: if you don’t invest in your blog, no one else will. Brands and agencies look to work with blogs that are clean and professional, and your readers want to spend their time on a site that shows time and effort was put into it. It’s important to have great content (duh), but if that content is lost amongst a shitty website or no one can find it because your SEO sucks, then your efforts are going to waste.
If you’re looking to turn your blog into a business, here are 7 smart investments you can make to ensure your blog gets the attention it deserves.
1 Seek out Custom Design
If there’s one thing I’m glad I invested in when launching my blog, it was a web designer + developer. I couldn’t find a basic theme that had all the elements I was after, and I didn’t want to compromise the vision I had for my site. Luckily, I teamed up with Angela of Saffron Avenue to design my site from scratch, also working with her developer on custom functionalities. It was a three-month collaborative process that covered branding + design, bringing my ideas to life. And although it was a big chunk of money I spent, I still love my site a year and a half later and it still stands out as a design that no one else has. Cash well spent! Tip: web design and development can be done remotely, so don’t limit yourself to designers within driving distance – expand your search to designers around the world.
2 Get the Right Camera gear
The second most important thing I spent money on was a good DSLR – both body AND lens. The internet is a visual place and if someone stumbles across your blog and finds grainy images or food that’s been shot in low light, they’re just gonna click away ASAP. Listen guys – get a good camera. It will change your blog tenfold. I use a Canon 5D Mark III and have a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens that I use as my main, as well as a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens that I use when I want extreme depth of field. I learned my fundamentals of a DSLR using a Rebel T3 and then a 7D, so this recent upgrade to the 5D was a smart investment for me. If you’re new to photography or on a tight budget, go to a camera store and play around to find what you need or even rent for the weekend, then shop for a deal online or purchase a used body and lens. Tip: once you’ve got your gear, check out the tutorials on Skillshare for lessons on everything from the basics of using a DSLR to food styling for photography to the fundamentals of Photoshop.
3 Become Friends with the Adobe Creative Suite
The Adobe Creative Suite has programs for any type of creative work from illustrating to page layout, but for a blogger, you’ll likely want to focus on the photography elements – Lightroom and Photoshop. I use Lightroom for most editing functionalities because it’s easy to use and you can house all of your images within its library – great for image organization. Photoshop, on the other hand, has more advanced editing tools, and you can also use it to do some basic design work like collages and text overlay. These programs used to only be available for a one-time purchase and could run you thousands of dollars, but now you simply pay a monthly fee for a cloud-based program that gives you all the updates without having to purchase the latest edition. I suggest the ‘Photography’ package, which will give you both Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.99 USD/ month.
4 Hit up Conferences, workshops + networking events
As much as a blog can be a great way to become part of a community, it can also be very isolating – just you, and your computer and your thoughts. It definitely takes some effort to immerse yourself in the online community, which can luckily be done virtually, but there’s also nothing like meeting an online buddy face-to-face and networking with your peers. Do some research into conferences in your area or networking events where you can meet likeminded people in your field that you can learn from and even collaborate with (or if you have the funds, check some out abroad!). Not only will you develop new skills (#alwaysbelearning), but you’ll create real relationships with people who deal with the same blogging ups and downs that you do.
5 Work with an SEO specialist
Having a blog is great, but what’s the point if no one is going to see it? Because they live and breathe keywords and analytics, working with an SEO specialist will ensure that your page ranks high in search engines. They’ll look deep into the core of your site and customize the back-end to reach the people you want reading your blog. You know, all the tech-y stuff that you can’t be bothered doing yourself (but is super necessary!). Tip: to keep on track with good SEO practice, install Yoast in the back-end of your site – it ranks each post in terms of its SEO quality, and offers tips in how to improve each post.
6 Snag a Domain name + Email hosting
What seems more professional – an address of thisrenegadelove.wordpress.com or thisrenegadelove.com? Buying a domain name is essential for a blog, not only because it’s more concise, but also because it’s your identity – you’ll use it everywhere, from business cards to pitch e-mails. If you’re using WordPress, hosting services like Bluehost do all-in-one packages – you can buy your domain name AND an e-mail package that gives you a custom address (usually for a decent price). Website builders like Squarespace also offer one-stop shops where you can get your domain name and design a website using their templates – it’s all about finding what works for you. Tip: if your domain is cheap enough, purchase the address with your regional extension in addition to the .com so no one else can take it (like a ‘.ca’ for Canada or ‘.co.uk’ for Britain).
7 Hire a brand consultant
You’ve got your website design, your logo and are ready to blog – now what? If you’re looking to grow your blog and make a business out of it, it’s hugely beneficial to work with a branding consultant to develop your brand identity – tone of voice, overall aesthetic, business plan, social strategy and marketing plan. As much as your brand will be about the visuals like your logo and photography, it’s also about the way you speak about your brand, how you carry your tone-of-voice and core values through everything you do. A brand consultant will help define all those things so you’re ready to go and create kick-ass content.
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