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It has been a long journey since this blog began to take shape in January. Actually, I had been thinking about starting this blog for many months before I actually began to put pen to paper and write content. It was another month before I worked up the courage to begin trying to set up a blog site where I could share that content. And what a ride it has been!
I actually became interested in blogging three years ago and had attempted to set up a blog/website using a different platform other than my current platform, WordPress. At that time I was looking at using a blog to market myself as a life coach. Having my background training in clinical psychology made this a natural option for me, or so I thought. I was also in the midst of trying to figure out what I wanted my life to look like professionally because what I had been doing at the time was not making me happy. Therefore, I set up a free website (that, honestly, looked unprofessional but not completely unfortunate), and started writing a few posts. What I learned from that experience was 1. I LOVE writing! and 2. I really didn’t want to be a life coach. In fact, I wanted to have a blog that showed who I was outside of my professional life. Unfortunately, life stepped in and I never got past writing a few posts on that site. The idea remained in the back of my mind, though, but I had no idea how to follow up on any of my ideas.
Fast forward to January 2017. At this point I FINALLY decided that if I was ever going to start to develop a blog it had to be now. By this time I was convinced that what I really needed to build was a lifestyle blog. That would allow me the most freedom to post whatever content I wanted to post. I knew it would focus heavily on creative projects and living a good life on a reasonable budget, so I started writing some content related to that.
I did some research through books and some of my other favorite blogs about blogging and eventually contracted with a web hosting site, Bluehost.com, that allowed me to set up a domain that I own through WordPress.org (that’s the site name- PrettyJoyful.com), and began the task of trying to sort out how to use WordPress in order to build a site. I chose Bluehost after researching many different recommendations for sites. They are very reasonably-priced at under $6.00/month for hosting services, often run sales on their hosting services to make them even more affordable (like less than $5.00/ month for hosting services), and provide easy and free access to the WordPress site builder. It comes with a number of free blog templates that can be customized to your liking.
So… this all sounds easy peasy, right? Well, let’s just say that it is not overly hard but learning to work with WordPress and develop the site has taken me some time. In fact, I am convinced that I still have a website that, while not completely unfortunate-looking, looks a little like an amateur put it together- me! I am a psychologist, not a web designer, and right now it is beyond my budget to hire a professional to put together a really sleek, creative website. Since this is a website that honors any and all DIY experiences, I would have to say that putting together a website from scratch with only my wits, a few books, Google, YouTube, and other resources counts as one heck of a DIY experience. One that I am proud of, lumps and all.
What have I learned from this experience? As the title states, here are my top 5 lessons that I have learned from creating this site.
- There is a learning curve to doing this. It took me a while to figure out how to set up pages, add photos, and add posts in a way that is easy to navigate and, hopefully, somewhat attractive and engaging. I had days where I fought with it and couldn’t figure out how to make something look a certain way. When that happened I got up, walked away from it, came back, and often found the answer. So anybody who is trying to sell you the notion that you can set up a respectable blog in 5 minutes is selling you a line. You probably can set up a blog in 5 minutes, but it takes more time, thought, planning, and creativity to create a blog that people want to visit and read.
- It takes a bit of money to set up a site. Many people hire professional web designers to do all of the work for them, and that’s great. If they have the money to do that I would highly suggest it as a way to get a great-looking site. Many designers are also willing to do the work of setting up the site but allow you, the owner, to do your own content updates on your own schedule. That can save time and money. in the case of this site, I chose to purchase a hosting plan on my own that allows me to do everything for myself. This was the least expensive choice available. Honestly, the development of WordPress has taken out the need to know how to do any coding at all, making it much easier and faster to set up and update sites. Knowledge of coding is wonderful, though, for being able to create really sophisticated web designs. One way to get around this- for about $50-$100 you can purchase a premium theme after you install WordPress that fits your blogging or site needs. For this site I ended up purchasing a premium theme called Extra through a site called Elegant Themes. This uses a specific tool called the Divi Builder that has made it easier for me to develop a higher-quality site than if I used only WordPress.
- There are some things I can’t do. This was tough to take, but a great lesson to learn. As I said before, I am not a professional web designer. Until I started blogging I had no idea what goes into developing a website or a blog. I had great ideas on how I wanted things to look, but my skills level limits me to what I can and can’t do. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help me work through most problems. I have hit a few snags along the way, and there are parts of the look of the site that I wish I could change but don’t know how to fix. Those will have to stay for now until I become better at working with site design. However, there are also people who do freelance work on everything from logos to content creation, often for very reasonable prices. Right now I am looking into hiring a freelance graphic designer to create a customized logo for PrettyJoyful.com to make it look even better. In the end, this small change may make a large difference.
- The most important thing to focus on is awesome content. This can’t be stressed enough. Your content needs to rock. People don’t want to read boring or unhelpful content, and if people don’t want to read your work, you don’t develop an audience and traffic to your site. great photos help as well. Most of the time that I spend on this blog is in developing content. I am always trying to come up with topics for posts that will be interesting, helpful, inspirational, and enjoyable to read. Since this blog is lifestyle-based, I have a lot of room to play with topics. Pinterest is a wonderful inspirational resource. So are some of my favorite blog sites on Bloglovin’. The best inspirational resource, though, is my life and my experiences.
- Finally, I am always learning and changing. My blog is the same. Don’t be surprised if the look or feel of the site changes from time to time. As I learn more about blogging I like to add the new material to my blog. My hope is that this will be interesting and inspirational to you. It is very freeing to know that it’s okay to change things around. That’s the nature of life, and without it we wouldn’t grow and develop.
If you have any interest in creating a blog of your own I would encourage you to try it out. Being able to share ideas and thoughts with you every week has been very rewarding. If you love to write, have great ideas, or just want to share your experiences with others, there’s no better place to do that than on a blog. Stay tuned for more blogging tips and inspiration in future posts. Until then, have a PrettyJoyful day!