How to start a blog

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A blog is like an extended resume on steroids and may be the most valuable thing you can do for your career. Provided that you do it the right way, getting your ideas exposed publicly can be a powerful way of building knowledge and reputation.

Creating an article forces you to think, to research a given topic further, and then express your ideas in writing. This doesn’t only increase your knowledge about that topic, but also improves your writing, storytelling and teaching skills.

The blog can also serve as a personal reference for future work tasks and discussions. With every topic you research and write about, you become a little more credible in the eyes of others, and that additional credibility can go a long way.

Once you build a rich collection of articles, a blog opens up a world of opportunities. Every post becomes a little magnet that allows prospective customers and employers to discover you and come directly to you, instead of you going out and hunting them.

Let’s see the high level steps you would have to take in order to create your own blog.

Steps for creating a blog

1. Choose a theme

Meaning what your blog will be about. Think of this as the basis of your personal brand, the central idea of which the articles will revolve around. Don’t worry, you can change your mind later and pivot to a different theme, but it’s important that you pick one now. The success of your blog will largely depend on how well you do this.

Your scope should be narrow and focused. A random collection of topics won’t have nearly as much of an impact in comparison. Many people try too hard to remain generalists because they can’t conceive the real value of being a specialist.

For example, imagine that you need to fix your bathroom ventilator. You search online and you get the following results:

  1. Your Loyal Repairman - I can fix almost anything in your house
  2. Ventilation All Stars - Your indoor air quality expert

Which one would you choose? I would certainly choose the specialist. Moreover, the next time I’ll need to repair anything, I’ll first ask that person if they can do the job before looking for a new contractor with whom I’ll have no relationship with.

2. Set up your blog

There are tons of tools out there to help you set up a blog really quickly, eg. WordPress, Jekyll, Gatsby, as well as many hosting options. For example, the DrinkBird blog is created with Jekyll and hosted for free on GitHub Pages.

I highly recommend that you register and use your own domain name (eg. mine is drinkbird.com). Not only it is a vital part of your personal branding, but it will also enable you to own your content.

If you choose to publish your posts on platforms like Medium or LinkedIn, be aware that this option comes with rules and limitations that you won’t have control over. At the very least, make sure to publish the same articles in your blog too.

3. Make a list of ideas on what to write about

A good practice to get you started is to sit down and brainstorm. Spend at least half an hour and come up with 40-50 topics you can potentially write about. There are no bad ideas, just populate a list with whatever comes to you naturally. Then, after the brainstorming session, you can use tools like Trello, OneNote or Evernote to organize and prioritize your ideas.

You may think that you don’t have much to say, but do yourself a favor and try it out; you will be pleasantly surprised. Here are some ideas on things you can expand upon:

  • Tutorials & how-to’s
  • Book reviews
  • Commentary posts about articles from other blogs
  • Interesting stories about your experience on a topic (as long as it’s related to the blog’s theme)
  • Interviews with people in your field
  • Lists, such as Top 10 ways to…
  • Resources and links
  • Cheat sheets, etc.

There are so many choices!

4. Start getting traffic

Traffic is not going to be the easiest thing to generate, at least the meaningful kind of it. By meaningful I mean the organic type of traffic, that is visitors discovering you naturally witout having to pay for adverts or follow other promotional techniques.

There is nothing wrong with paid promotions, the problem is that if you don’t already have enough material to turn those random visitors to followers, you will probably going to lose money and not even break-even.

A good way of getting some organic traffic is to post comments on other blogs of related themes; just to clarify, I’m referring to meaningful comments that add value, and not shameless self-plugs!

Finally, you can include your blog address at your e-mail signature, business cards and all your profiles across social media and services, eg. GitHub, LinkedIn, etc.

Remember, keep adding value, and people will notice.

Final Thoughts

You may be worried about lots of different details regarding your blog. It may feel uncomfortable at first, after all you are going to step out of your comfort zone and do something new, in public view! But worry not; you will quickly realize that this is how growth feels.

Remember that creating a blog is a marathon, not a sprint. It can certainly take a while before the compound interest of your investment becomes significant enough, so that you can start reaping some of the bigger benefits.

I will leave you with this final thought. You can write every day, or every week, or every month. The pace is totally up to you! Just try to be consistent on how often you want to publish. And if you ever write more articles faster, I suggest that you hold onto them and schedule them for publishing on a date that accommodates your posting frequency.

All the best and happy blogging! Tasos

Anastasios Piotopoulos
Written by Tasos Piotopoulos
Software Engineer, M.Sc.