Starting a Blog

Well this website has been a process and the site’s first anniversary is coming up Feb 5th!  I have never spent so much time and burned so much midnight oil on one project, and had so much fun doing it.  I am so happy with how my site looks and feels and I hope you do too.  Of course, as my own worst critic, I’ll probably change things every now and then but for now I have a good platform that works so I can focus on adding content.

As my “About” page says, I’m not doing this because I have some incredible home and life like Ina Garten or Martha Stewart, but I do have a good amount of  knowledge and I’m the “go-to” person for my family and friends when they have a question.   So I thought I would share that with the world and hopefully my site will help somebody.  If it helped at least one person, it’s all worth it.

I’ve never been one to withhold information and I want to help every single person on this planet I possibly can so I’ve put together a little guide with links to help anybody interested in blogging to get started.

THE ADVICE:

As far as the budding blogger, my best advice would be to make a schedule and stick to it.  Once you take into account the hours spent adding content, making the content (taking pictures, coming up with recipes, doing crafts) plus socializing on Twitter and Facebook to build your following it can take a lot of time out of your day so it’s best to pick a time of day that doesn’t interfere with work.

If you are doing a food blog then be prepared for a lot of discouraging words from other food bloggers.  There are little twerps out there that think food photography is more important than the recipe but that is just plain wrong.  The food should taste good, first and foremost, and if it takes a pretty picture, so be it. I make food for the food and for the taste, not because I have good lighting.  I’ll get off my soapbox now but that is one of my pet-peeves of the food blog world, plus they all think they personally invented gourmet food or something, get over yourselves!

THE DESIGN:

$ WordPress first and foremost is amazing.  SiteGround (what I use) has WordPress built in so it makes it REALLY easy.  I run all my sites through SiteGround and they really are pretty good about support and pricing.  For pricing click here.

$$$ Artisteer is what I use to design the layouts of every page on my site.  Aren’t they pretty??  I only know basic CSS and HTML so it was imperative that I find software that could cut out a lot of the work.  It is a little expensive but when you think about all the hours it would take to program yourself, it’s already paid for itself.

$$ BannerSnack is my flash and banner designer when needed (although I haven’t needed it in a while).  It can get pretty pricey (around $4 per download) so make sure you are in love with your sample flash before downloading the un-watermarked copy.  BUT it is well worth it, so easy, so many options.  BEST OF ALL!!  The files can be uploaded to Artisteer so it makes my job a piece of cake because I would have no idea how to change the CSS code to fit the banner in WordPress.

$ When I do need a custom Flash movie or something,  I make it with Amara.  It’s not as custom as I would like but it’s cheaper than having to pay $4 every week when I change my flash.

Favorite Free WordPress Plug-ins: AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget, EasyRecipe, Slideshow Gallery, MailPress & Social Media Widget.  Those are the ones I recommend but there are lots of other plugins out there.

Favorite Free Tool: HootSuite.com – This site controls Facebook, Twitter, MySpace etc all from one place.  I can schedule updates, make sure they look right for Facebook and track how many people clicked on the links.  It really helps me control the flow of information and see what is “trending”.

THE MONEY:

What money?  It’s really hard to make money from a beginning site but I use Google Affiliate Network to get access to Williams-Sonoma and hundreds more advertisers.  You can also do Google AdSense if you don’t want to mess with contracts and terms.

Amazon has been amazing.  They have so many easy applications and widgets that easily fit right into WordPress.

That’s pretty much all I can think of to give a “shout-out” to right now.  I’ve sourced and researched and I think I have come up with some easy and economical solutions to anybody who, like me, doesn’t know the first thing about code but wants to start a good looking blog.

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