I originally posted this in July 2015, but have since been updating the post to deliver the newest and most current information I’ve shared yet as of January 2017! I get emails streaming in daily through all my inboxes about how to start a food blog, how to become a dietitian, how do I manage it all, etc.; and I’m really excited to kick off a new series about life + work skills and share what I’ve learned in the last 4 years with Nutrition Stripped, thus far! I wrote this simple guide on how to start a food blog, but remember, it can apply to any kind of blog you wish. All of the elements are fundamental to any type of blog and I hope you find this useful. I wish I had some resources like these when I first started blogging! Let’s read on, guys…
This is the most important “tip” that I can share: “Be you. Everyone else is already taken.” It’s one of my favorite quotes, as in speak through your unique voice and do what only you can do. The blogging industry since I started 4 years ago in 2013 has blown up, and now it’s incredibly saturated which might make some of you who are just starting out feel overwhelmed and lost in the shuffle. I promise you, if you share your unique voice, you’ll come up with original content that only you have created and break through the noise and find your path. If you’re getting into blogging just to “blog” and repurpose other people’s content, you may not break through as much as you’d hope to. I know it can be really easy to see someone else who is successful at blogging and pick up what they might be doing, but challenge yourself to harness your own style, creativity and find inspiration from within. You’re amazing and your voice should be heard, so speak it (or type it?!).
Find a topic that you’re passionate about.
Blogging doesn’t have to revolve around food. You can blog about your daily life in hopes that it inspires someone else, your passions about art, your city, etc. The possibilities are endless. The only mega tip I have here is write with passion, experience, and knowledge. Too often I stumble across blog where the passion is there, but the author is writing incorrect things or writing outside their expertise. People and your readers will love transparency and respect your work if you come from a place of goodness and integrity. Make sure whatever you’re writing is for the greater good and going to inspire, help, or provide some sort of good vibes to the universe.
Learn how to take pictures.
Photography is such an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to having a successful blog. You don’t need to be at a professional photography level, instead just take pictures of things you enjoy and that represent what you’re writing about and practice, practice, practice! Practice really makes your photography so much better no matter where you’re starting from. Here’s a personal example you guys… take a look at where I started back in 2013. This was shot with my iPhone4 and edited with nothing but Afterlight which is an editing software on the phone. Now you can look at examples of what I do all the time – huge difference in quality and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Below is a list of equipment for getting started taking quality photos:
- Camera: There are a couple different camps when it comes to what camera to use, but I’m biased to the Canon DSLR Rebel or the Canon 70D
- Lens: I shoot primarily with a 50mm or 100mm. Other options are the Canon macro 60mm lens, and Canon 24-70mm Zoom lens
- Tripods: these can be really helpful for overhead shots- shaking equals blurry shots! Velbon tripod, Slik Sprint Pro Tripod
- Props: get a couple go-t0 backgrounds that you love and that work with your style and brand. You can get colored paper at a craft store, antique baking sheets, marble slabs, or wood boards and paint them yourself
- Software: a must have is Lightroom for primary editing with colors/filters if you use those and Photoshop for adding text and crops, etc. to images
Obviously, these pieces of equipment are investments and you don’t have to start out by getting ALL of them at once. Ask yourself if this is just a hobby or a career based blog – that’ll help center your costs. When I first started out, I had minimal equipment because the blog was just a creative outlet, then it took off and I was able to merge NS with a private practice as a registered dietitian (to make a long story short).
Find your schedule and stick to it. Whether that’s posting a blog once a week, twice a week, or daily! Do what works for you, and only you, and maintain it. Your readers will start to expect and look forward to your blog post days so share that with them. From a work productivity standpoint, keep an eye out on the Life + Work Skills category for related blog posts about building your daily work routine.
Using social media is a great way to let people know you have a new blog post up to read or just give your readers a little more behind the scenes action on what you do with the blog and why it’s important to you, etc. You don’t have to get on all social media if you have a blog, but try to get on at least one platform that you really love and enjoy doing such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or all of them! Do whatever works for you. Some people like one platform more than others – my favorites are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you have a food blog, you can also share your content with recipe galleries. Check out these delicious looking food galleries to start sharing your recipe creations on these sites to increase traffic and eyes on your posts: FoodGawker, Tastespotting, Tasteologie , Finding Vegan, PotLuck, Healthy Aperture.
Engage and be mindful
My philosophy, is that if you’re going to put yourself out there on social media or a blog, you should also be ready to take on the responsibility to engage with your reader and followers. That means answering their questions, talking to them, and commenting back as much as possible and in your honest way. Honestly, THIS is my favorite part of having Nutrition Stripped, connecting with you all over the world. My pet peeve is seeing bloggers or large social media accounts totally ignore their readers/followers, c’mon now! Okay so now that we’ve covered some simple tips from a mental/emotional side of things, let’s get to the nitty gritty of what you actually need logistically to set up a blog.
- Come up with a name: Use a name for your potential domain that represents you well, is catchy, easy to say, and one that you like – and obviously one that is different from others out there. You’ll be doing more damage if you use a name similar to someone who already has a large blog or following since they’ll get all the SEO priority.
- Buy a domain name: BlueHost (about $15 per year) and GoDaddy (about $19 per year) are just some to choose from. Basically you’re buying your .com
- Find a hosting site. I use WPEngine for how large the Nutrition Stripped site is now. I have thousands of images, blog posts, WooCommerce, and quite a lot going on behind the scenes! But if you’re looking for a blog only, you got it easy. I’ve used BlueHost, GoDaddy, and A Small Orange in the past when the blog was smaller (though I no longer recommend A Small Orange after the site crashed while using their serice and very disappointing customer service including refusal to refund a charge after canceling service). I enjoyed BlueHost the most and the price point may be more reasonable if the blog is a hobby rather than part of your career choice at around $4/month. Some hosting sites/servers are $250 a month depending on your traffic and needs. When your site grows you may consider using Cloudflare and MaxCDN, which help with high traffic spikes and keeping your server strong. I also recommend buying your own server– dedicated server versus sharing, this is what NS does now since it’s grown and it works great!
- Find a blog platform you enjoy: WordPress is the most used in the blogging world, followed by SquareSpace, and both great for different reasons. For the sake of my guide, I recommend WordPress.
- Install WordPress: They have great customer forums that can help you during any stage of the setup process. I remember doing all of this 4 years ago on my own and it went just fine for someone who knew NOTHING about blogging!
- Install a theme: Once you have your domain, the host, and now the platform, you can customize it with a theme. A theme is how your blog will look. When I first started blogging, I used the Foodie Pro theme which is so awesome, modern, and highly customizable. I also am a big fan of the Genesis theme from StudioPress. Nowadays, I completely design my site from scratch and work with my IT team on developing my vision. Again, if blogging is a hobby, finding a theme you love visually is perfect enough! Themes on WordPress can start as little as free upwards to $150 for a one time purchase.
- Install plugins: Plugins are widgets and/or operating modules that help your site perform functions like: clicking to tweet, hover over a picture to pin on Pinterest, show off your social media feeds on your sidebar, recipe function, or get people to sign up for your newsletter so they keep in the know! These are most often free unless you get into customized plugins and advanced needs.
- Set up your analytics. First you need a Gmail account if you don’t already. Google Analytics and Webmaster tools is where you’ll want to start to track your traffic, see your progress, and have some data on what your blog is all about. Getting the Yoast SEO plugin will help you make sure your posts and content are SEO friendly and optimized for Google search. This isn’t a must have, but if you want to take blogging to the next level this is an important tool!
- Mailing lists/Newsletters: I could write a WHOLE blog post on the importance of mailing lists and setting one up as soon as you start your blog! I LOVE sending out monthly exclusive newsletters that have recipes, wellness tips, challenges for the month, and special stories I only share with the NS newsletter folks – it’s also an amazing way to keep communication open and close with your community. Oftentimes I’ll have readers reply directly to an email I’ve sent from the newsletter and I can chat back (and do!) asap. I use ConvertKit and that’s really the only email marketing tool I recommend. I’ve tried so many in the past but this one is the best out there from functionality, to design, user friendliness, automations, email marketing templates, and it’s the optimal service to use for bloggers!
- Develop your editorial calendar: This might sound fancy and complex, which it can be, but if you’re just starting out try planning out what blog posts you want to share and write and stick to your timeline and keep it consistent like I mentioned before! I’ll be sharing more on how to manage time and productivity with blogging too.
- Start blogging! Do it, just do it.
EXTRAS to think about…
- Money: How will you generate revenue from operating your blog to help cover food/operating costs and your time? Read up on How to Monetize your Food Blog (it’s an incredible resource on how to use ad networks as well!)
- Time management tools: Redbooth, Teambox, CoSchedule, and good ole’ Google Calendar are just a few to help keep organized.
- Mental exercise: All of the Zen Habits archive articles are fantastic to read through. Many times I’ll take a scroll through his wonderful blog posts about general mental and emotional health. Running a blog can be a lot of work, it’s important to stay in the game and know your limits to avoid burnout/stress.
I hope this helps answer your questions, let me know what else pops up and comment below. Best of luck to you!
Healthy body and mind = higher productivity.
If you want the tools to give your body a major reboot, join me in doing the Stripped Reset and get your body back on track. Learn more about what you get in the Reset by clicking here. And to all my Stripped Resetters, I love seeing your pictures, snaps, and comments about how much you’re loving the Stripped Reset! #strippedreset
Edited and updated: 01/2017