I get questions about this topic fairly often, so I wanted to finally write up a post about how to start a blog in 2020, or anytime there after. I also plan to write a separate post on growing an authentic following on Instagram soon, because the two are very different.
These questions usually come from aspiring “influencers”, as well as those who are a little more established with blogging, but still feeling lost and overwhelmed.
The social media world can be tough to navigate, especially as a blogger/influencer; a market that seems way over-saturated at this point. But trust me — there is room for all of us, and you are the only YOU! Whatever you aspire to be or do, I hope that this can be a helpful resource for those of you who have questions on these topics.
I’m not a fan of the word influencer and will mostly use the word “blogger” throughout this post, especially since we are focusing on just that – blogging!
how i got started with my instagram account and blog
I want to preface this by saying I am not an expert by any means. I have been blogging since May of 2015 (before it was a big thing and WAY before Instagram blew up), but I definitely don’t have all of the answers!
I’m just going to start off by telling you a little bit about my personal experience over the years and will briefly touch on what has/has not worked for me throughout this post.
I started my blog and Instagram account right after graduating from Kansas State University with my Nutrition & Health and Dietetics degrees, and right before I started studying for the RD exam. At the time I just thought it would be fun to have a place to share healthy recipes, fitness motivation & nutrition information as an RD-to-be.
I had no idea at that time that blogging OR Instagram would become what they have over the years. I definitely didn’t think it was something that I would make money doing and could turn into a side business!
Blogging in 2015 vs. 2020
Honestly, I’m glad it was that way when I started. There was a lot less pressure, a lot less competition, and it was genuinely just a fun hobby and creative outlet. I had zero anxiety about what or when to post. I don’t think there even was an Instagram “algorithm” back then; posts just showed up in chronological order.
I also had no clue what I was doing when I started either one, and that’s one of the main things I tell people when they ask me how to begin. My response is always: “JUST START!”
A lot of the expert’s podcasts I listen to (listed later in this post) say the same thing. Just. Take. Action. Adjust later! If you wait until you are 100% ready and know “everything” you need to know, you’ll never do it.
Trust me: you will learn so much as you go. You’ll inevitably make mistakes along the way, and that’s how you figure out which direction you want your content to go. It’s always possible to switch things up once you’ve learned more about your own style and passions, your target audience, etc.
how to start a blog: what are the steps?
I am going to briefly walk you through the steps of starting a blog. At the end I’ll link a resource that provides much more extensive information about each step. I’m sharing about my personal experience and what has been helpful for me along the way.
Determine your niche.
What are you good at and/or what do you want to share on your blog?
Some examples include:
- Food: healthy, baked goods, plant-based meals, simple recipes, etc.
- Beauty: hair, makeup, skincare
- Fashion: casual, dressy, work-place, etc.
- DIY projects
- Home decor
And so much more! What will be your main focus?
You might have noticed that I share a little bit of everything these days, but my “main” niche is still food and health/wellness. What will people look to your site for the most?
Choose a blogging platform.
What website will you use to create your blog? Back in 2015, I started by using WordPress.com and purchased my domain name (AKA, the name of my website) through WP.
I used WordPress.com for several years and did a lot of the back end stuff on my own at first, such as picking from one of their design “themes”, formatting, colors, headings, page organization, etc.
Personally, I think this is a good place to start out. It’s a very small investment; you just pay a small annual fee for the domain name. It is low-risk when you are just figuring out what you’re doing and how much time you truly plan to dedicate to this. It would suck to put a ton of money into it only to find out that a) you’re not that passionate about it, or b) you simply don’t have the time.
Now that I am more established and dedicated, and have started to make money blogging, I had someone else revamp my site, so I am “self-hosted” on WordPress.org instead.
I used my friend Amy’s company Spark Media Concepts. Check them out if you want to learn more about what they can offer and other websites they’ve designed. They provide great ongoing support and it has helped optimize my site to improve user experience and increase traffic, which has allowed me to start making ad revenue.
You might be able to do all of this yourself if you feel comfortable, but I wanted to leave it to people who know this world much better than I do. I still don’t feel very comfortable with the web design side of things and/or SEO, so I was happy to pay to have someone else do it.
Pick a domain name.
My domain name is wellnessforthewin.com. Yours can be anything, but it has to be unique or not already exist. Head here to plug in some ideas you have and see if they are available.
I spent weeks brainstorming names before I found something that stuck. Take some time to really think about it. I saved ideas to the “notes” section in my phone and finally my name came to me. Take your time with this.
These days it seems like more and more people are just using their personal name (i.e. Shanna Hutcheson) for their blog and IG, but it’s totally up to you. You can make it more specific to whatever your niche is, whether that is food, fitness, beauty, etc. but I would be pretty certain that is what you want to focus on before committing to that domain.
I’m thankful that “wellness for the win” really allows me to encompass all areas of life — nutrition, fitness, mental health, family, self-care, and more. I don’t feel tied to one specific topic because of my name, so keep that in mind!
Get a web hosting account.
This article can provide more information on what that entails. Now that I have my friends at Spark Media Concepts, I haven’t had to dive too much into this, so this article does a better job of explaining it than I ever could! : )
Now is the fun part! You get to be creative and put your content out there! Before you launch, you might consider having several posts and pages ready to go with content for your readers to check out so they can learn about you and your mission for your new blog. Definitely create an “About Me” page with some of your background and what makes you you!
If you’re a fashion blogger, maybe you’ll want to have a “shop” page ready, or if you’re a food blogger, have some recipe posts up or a post about your favorite kitchen gadgets, etc.
You might consider getting some photos taken to add to your blog as well. If you know a photographer who could do a quick shoot with you to capture your personality and/or your niche (fitness, cooking, fashion, etc.) it would be a good idea to have some content ready to go. You can even do this with your BFF or significant other and a newer iPhone if you can’t pay someone to take photos right now.
You get the point — just get started on what you want to create!
Do some research on SEO.
SEO = search engine optimization. I would be lying if I said I’m an SEO expert – I’m definitely not. I have some software in place on my new site that helps me optimize my posts so that they are more likely to be seen on Google, bringing me more site traffic, and therefore, more ad revenue.
My personal opinion is that when you’re first starting out, I wouldn’t overwhelm yourself TOO much learning about SEO (I’ve been doing this for 5 years and learning about SEO still overwhelms me), but I wouldn’t completely ignore it, either.
Just know that it is an important factor if you want to grow and eventually monetize (or make money from) your blog. If you Google or Pinterest search “SEO tips”, you’ll find countless resources that can help you more than I can. : )
Promote your blog.
It does take some time to build up site traffic and get people to learn that your site exists, so having an Instagram account or other platform where you can drive people to your blog can be helpful.
Of course, building up an Instagram following can be beneficial, but you can absolutely have a successful blog without having 50K+ IG followers. (That’s where the SEO part comes in). Like I mentioned before, blogging and IG are VERY different worlds.
Pinterest is also a HUGELY important part of a blogging strategy, especially for food blogs. It is essentially a search engine, just like Google, and can potentially drive tons more traffic back to your site. I would not ignore the value of Pinterest, like I did for the first 5 years of blogging. ; ) I’m still working on this, too!
If you want to help a sister out, go follow me on Pinterest and share some of my pins! SO much of this blogging world is about community — support others and they will often do the same in return! We are all in this together.
I’m linking this post again because it’s very thorough on each of these steps that I mentioned and provides additional helpful resources to help you get started.
I’m talking a little bit about the money aspect below, but will probably do a more extensive post specifically on how to make money blogging, sponsored posts, partnering with brands, and all of those fun things. : )
how to start a blog and make money
All bloggers have the potential to make money, and usually have multiple revenue streams, such as: ad revenue, sponsored posts with brands, affiliate commissions, etc.
Some people blog full-time and make a very substantial amount of money doing so. However, some make no money at all. You definitely have to be strategic and dedicated to start earning money this way. It usually takes some time.
As I mentioned, when I started, I had no clue that I would eventually be able to make money through blogging or Instagram, and I think that was a blessing. My intentions were very pure and I was simply sharing what I was passionate about.
I truly wanted to help people by providing meal ideas, nutrition tips and fitness inspiration to help them pursue better health. It is still very much a goal of mine to encourage and educate others on how to live a healthy lifestyle in a balanced, realistic way.
The fact that I get to make money doing this is an added bonus on top of having the opportunity to help and connect with amazing people online and in real life.
A couple more thoughts on making money blogging.
Do some serious brainstorming before you start. Focus on your target audience. Who are they? What kind of value do you want to provide? What knowledge do you have to give? Is your goal to educate, inspire, entertain, sell products/services, or a little bit of everything? Have a rough “plan” in place.
1) It is 100% okay to want to make money doing this. I definitely could not afford to spend all the time and effort that I do on my blog if I was making $0. However, I did it for free for years. (Granted, this world has changed a lot since 2015 and there are a lot more opportunities to partner with brands now.)
But just know that you do have to put in the time/effort and grind for a while. It will eventually pay off if you stick with it. You’re not going to start making significant amounts of money blogging overnight.
2) Making money or getting “x” number of followers should not be your #1 source of motivation for starting a blog or IG account. Choose topics that you are passionate about and want to share with others to help them in some way.
That could be through delicious recipes, workout tips, fashion/beauty advice, stories about your personal struggles/lessons in life, comedy, entertainment and so much more. I just want to drive it home that if money or numbers are your main goal, you’ll be doing yourself and your followers a disservice.
resources to learn more about creating an online brand or business
I have loved listening to certain podcasts to learn more about growing an online business and brand and wanted to share those with you! All of these have great episodes on blogging and Instagram and strategies to help you. And their podcasts are FREE and provide so much value.
Most of them also offer courses that go more in depth if you are interested in investing in that. I’m sharing some of my favorite podcasts and other resources below.
Podcasts on Building a Brand and Growing an Online Business
- Jenna Kutcher’s The Goal Digger Podcast
- Julie Solomon’s Influencer Podcast
- Lauryn Evart’s The Skinny Confidential Podcast (not all blogging related, but lots of good episodes on this)
Resources for Aspiring Bloggers
If you are specifically interested in food blogging, food photography and recipe creation, here are a few resources you might be interested in! Some of these are beneficial for other niches as well.
- Broma Bakery’s Foodtography School Courses
- Replica Surfaces — beautiful, lightweight surfaces that are amazing for food photography backgrounds
- Tailwind — scheduling posts for Pinterest (this can be beneficial for other niches too, but especially food blogs/recipes) — it is not free
- Canva — good resources to create visuals like blog banners, pins for Pinterest, media kits (for pricing to share with brands) and so much more. You can do a lot with the free version.
I hope this post on how to start a blog in 2020 was a helpful guide to get you started! There is SO much to cover on this topic and I know it can feel super overwhelming. Like I said before, JUST START. I promise you, you will learn and grow so much as you go. I know I have!
Things in the blogging world are constantly changing, too, so the learning never stops! The internet is a beautiful thing and there are SO many free resources out there that can help you on your blogging journey.
You just have to put your put your head down and put in the work if you are serious about growing and monetizing. You got this!
More posts coming in the future on working with brands, sponsored posts, how to grow an authentic following on Instagram, IG do’s and don’t’s and anything else you want to see! Just let me know in the comments or shoot me a DM.
Thanks for reading!