From today, Thursday will be #BlogTips Thursday here on SallyAkins.com. I’ll be bringing you information, tips and advice on how to set up and run a blog. Today I’m starting off with my Blogging Essentials – the first things you will need to organise when you decide to set up a blog.
First things first, I am definitely not claiming to be any kind of blogging expert! However, I have been involved with websites since 2002, and I’ve been blogging in one form or another since about 2008. So I have picked up some useful information along the way.
In this post I’ll tell you what I use on my blog, and give you some useful reading for more information. Some of the product links are affiliate links, marked with *. These links pay me a small commission if you click through and buy – more on that in a future post!
Before you get started with anything else, you will need to choose a name for your blog. Choosing a blog name is an important task, and it’s worth taking your time over it. Try not to pick a name that will limit what you want to do with your blog in the future, or one that you might feel embarrassed saying when you introduce yourself to people! Although it’s not impossible to rebrand in the future, it’s much easier if you don’t have to change your blog name.
If you want to buy a private domain name (e.g. www.sallyakins.com) it’s easy to check if the name you want is available at any domain reseller. If you go with a hosted blog with WordPress.com or Blogger come (see below) then you don’t necessarily need a custom URL. However, there are benefits to having one.
More reading: The Guide to Choosing your Blog Name by Blog Clarity
I have always gone for self-hosted WordPress for blogs, including this one. However, this option does mean that you either need to have a little bit of technical knowledge, or you could pay someone to do any work you need on the blog. I’ve always managed through a mixture of research on the internet and a bit of trial and error – everything you see on this blog so far is my own work.
WordPress.com and Blogger.com blogs are really quick and easy to to set up, but there are limitations to what you can do compared with a self-hosted website. For example, a WordPress.com website can not host Google Adsense adverts. You might not want to show ads at the moment, but it’s something to bear in mind for the future.
There are a number of other options for a blogging platform such as Joomla, or paid options like SquareSpace. As with your domain name, take your time to pick the right option for you.
You will also need to pick a template or design to use with your blog. That’s a huge topic in its own right, and definitely needs a separate post!
I’ve includes this in my Blogging Essentials list, but it’s only actually essential if you decide to go for a self-hosted WordPress solution. If you opt for Blogger or WordPress.com, your website is hosted for free by the provider.
If you do need to look into hosting for your site, then I would recommend starting off with a basic package which includes the minimum requirements for hosting a WordPress installation. You can usually upgrade very easily to a more advanced hosting package but it’s not as easy to downgrade. Bear in mind that cheap or free hosts sometimes display their own adverts on your website – consider if you want that for your blog?
Some hosts offer ‘1 click installation’ of WordPress – I would approach that with caution. I did try using one of those installations but discovered after a couple of weeks that it limited certain changes that I wanted to make to the website. Although it was very quick to install, ultimately it cost me a lot of time because I had to start over from scratch!
I have been hosting on 1and1 since 2012 without any real issues, and I have used Fasthosts in the past for other projects. It’s worth looking around at the various options and asking friends and other bloggers for their recommendations.
More Reading: Web Hosting Guide for Beginners
A Mobile Phone
Next on my list of Blogging Essentials would definitely be my phone. I use it for taking notes when I’m out, taking and editing photographs, checking emails, checking webstats – the list goes on! You don’t need the latest or most expensive phone, but a good quality smart phone will definitely make it easier to run a blog. I’m currently using a MotoG 2nd Generation which costs around £150, and my only slight gripe with it is that the front camera is not amazing in low light.
Of course, you could get by without a phone – you could use a notebook for taking notes, check emails on your computer and take photos with a camera. But you can do all of these things and more on your phone, and it makes life a lot easier!
There are a lot of apps you can install to help you run a blog on the move, and I will look at those in a future post.
More Reading: Best Android Smartphones 2016
Good quality photos really help to make a blog more attractive, and this is something that I am constantly trying to improve on! You don’t need to spend a fortune on a top-end DSLR, most mobile phones come with a pretty decent camera and you could use this as a starting point. The photo above shows my early setup for photos and was taken on my phone – I still take some photos for this blog with my mobile.
If you are looking to buy a camera, consider what you will be using it for. Will you be taking photos when you are out and about, or are you going to be photographing food or products at home? If you are going to be filming videos for YouTube, or think that this is something you might want to do in the future, then bear that in mind when choosing a camera. You might want to pay a little extra for a camera with a flip up screen so that you can see what you are filming.
My current set up is that I use a Canon 550D at home, and usually take a Sony Cybershot HX9V out and about with me. If I was buying new cameras now, I would probably choose the Canon 700D* as a DSLR and the Canon G7X* as a compact camera. Nikon are another excellent camera manufacturer, and it’s worth taking time to do your research before investing.
There is a lot of other photographic equipment that you can pick up along the way, but you don’t need to buy it all straight away. You can do a lot without spending a fortune all at once.
Obviously this is only a basic list and there are a lot of other things that you will either need or want throughout your life as a blogger. But these basics will get your blog up and running.