The Creative Entrepreneur's Guide To Setting Up A Profitable Blog + Biz in 2018
This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking an affiliate link, I get a few cents (at no additional cost to you). And I get to keep providing tons of free resources to you on this blog every week. Sounds fair?
Are you getting a bit tired of posts promising to help you set up a profitable blog, then stopping after they reach the “Create Account” button over at Bluehost?
Yeah, me too.
True, having a self-hosted website is crucial to enabling you to make money on your blog, and Bluehost is also my web host of choice.
But, let’s face it, it’s 2018.
Setting up a domain name and web hosting is just a small part of actually creating a money-making blog.
The other stuff is much more confusing, and much more overwhelming than that.
The worst part? Not knowing what to tackle first (and how much time to spend on it before moving on to the next thing).
That’s why I have created a step-by-step guide to setting up your online blog, business or website - featuring everything from starting to think about your brand identity, to ironing out the legal details of actually making money from your blog.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be following each of these up with a separate blog post that goes into the nitty-gritty details of each step. But for now...
Grab a notebook. Jot down some thoughts for each of the steps below. Then move on.
That way, when you are done reading this post, you will have something already resembling a game plan.
And that’s all you need in the beginning anyway.
Now. Got your notebook ready?
STEP 1: Create a Brand Identity
Do this before you do anything else - don’t even touch web hosting, or website themes, or any of your copy before you’ve done this.
The basics you absolutely need to cover:
Just answer this one question: who is your new business going to help?
The Overall Feeling of Things
Are you funny? Serious? Inspiring? Pick three words, stick with them (for now), and browse Pinterest for a few minutes to grab some pictures that fit the feeling you are looking to project to your audience.
If you don’t already have some in mind, do this: grab one of the pictures you just looked at on Pinterest and put it into a color palette generator like this one.
Then play around in Coolors for a bit to adjust the palette to your liking.
This one is going to take some internet research, because, chances are, you are not going to have a clue about this topic (I sure didn’t).
Pick two main ones (keep it simple) + a fun brush font to play with, then move on.
Here’s a post from Digital Synopsis to get you started.
At this point, you probably already have something in mind for this one.
Both have free trials, templates and a ton of helpful tutorials teaching you how to create your own logo.
PS - If you do have money to invest in professional branding right at the beginning, this is where I would splurge. Logo design is hard, man.
Putting it all together
It’s okay if you do all the work and it still feels like you don’t have a leg to stand on.
My advice? Create a DIY brand board. Both Picmonkey and Canva have excellent templates, and seeing your brand colors and fonts together can do wonders for your confidence.
Remember, your brand identity doesn’t have to be perfect - it just has to exist before you try to build anything on it.
STEP 2: Put Together A (Super-Basic) Website
Nothing fancy here - just something solid enough to show a potential client without dying of embarrassment.
Again, the basics steps you need to get through:
This is non-negotiable. Do it now. (Bluehost is what this site runs on, and for less than $3/month they are pretty awesome, if I have to say so myself.)
Pick a theme
You can start with the free themes Wordpress gives you for free, or save yourself some headaches down the road.
If you're not into this whole Squarespace craze, Divi has served me well over the years (and put up with my non-existent web design skills).
Find some royalty-free stock photos (or take your own)
What are some of the best places to get free photos?
Oh, and if you need some of that “cool start-up” feel, there is actually a site for that as well.
Write some (super-basic) copy
Put some words on the Home Page, About Me, Services, Contact Me, Blog - just enough to make it clear who you are, what you do, and how to contact you.
While I’d love to get more into how to actually write awesome website copy, many would-be entrepreneurs get stuck on this step, and never launch their websites at all. Don’t be one of them, okay?
Write some content (even if you don't think it's Pulitzer-worthy)
The advice from above applies, but the pros are still divided on how much content is enough to launch a website.
Personally, I’d go with enough that your blog page doesn’t look sad and empty. 6-10 blog posts will usually accomplish that.
A higher post count may enable you to gain credibility faster, but be careful - quality always trumps quantity.
Check the functionality of your website
Just a couple of things here:
Are all of your buttons clickable?
Do your social sharing buttons point to your actual social media accounts?
Does the “Contact Me” form work?
If you can say “yes” to all of the above, you probably have a pretty functional website. Hooray!
STEP 3: Set Up An Email List
A lot of people put this off. Please don’t do that, okay? It will cost you many happy, bill-paying dollars in the future.
Pick an email provider
If you are looking for a free plan, MailChimp offers one if you have less than 2000 subscribers.
Create a super simple lead magnet
Remember one of those blog posts you wrote to make your blog page look a bit less sad and lonely?
Turn it into a checklist. Or a worksheet. (A simple PDF document will do.)
You’ve got yourself a lead magnet.
Write a welcome sequence for your new subscribers
Or a simple welcome email, if you’re short on time and resources.
Make it personal by telling a little bit of your story.
(FYI, Melyssa Griffin does a fantastic job with this. I even have her welcome sequence saved in my “Copy I Love” email folder.)
Create something vaguely resembling an email marketing strategy
That means figuring out:
If you are going to send out a newsletter (Hint: You probably should.)
How often you are going to send out said newsletter (Once a month is perfectly okay when you are starting out!)
What you are going to include in said newsletter (Extra tips, blog posts and resource roundups from all around the internet tend to work really well!)
Step 4: How To Get Started With Social Media
(Are you still with me? Good. I know this stuff is exhausting but we gotta keep going.)
Figure out which social media accounts you actually need.
(You definitely don’t need all of them.)
As a creative entrepreneur, prioritizing Pinterest is a good idea.
Then, when you’ve learned the ropes a little and have some free brain space, go for Twitter and Facebook next.
And when you really have the basics down, you can also look into getting a helper tool like Tailwind.
Set those accounts up (for real)
That means writing those profile headlines, Pinterest board descriptions, and twitter bios, preferably while including a keyword or two. Or three.
To quickly get a better sense of how that looks, check out the profiles of online influencers you admire.
Follow people you want to work with one day.
Search for some companies in your target market, or take a look at who your favorite online entrepreneurs and influencers are following.
And remember - this is just a starting point. Your social media presence will grow organically over time as you find more people in your field to fall madly in love with.
STEP 5: The Behind The Scenes Stuff
Make it legal
Before you can put a single affiliate link on your blog, or invoice a client for your services, you must get a business license or permit to do so.
Check if setting up a business something you can do online (in some European countries you definitely can). If not, you’re probably in for a few hours of waiting around at your nearest government office.
Bonus tip: If you are a freelancer of any sort, get a contract template like this one from Digital Freelancer, adapt it to your needs, and use it. Every time.
Figure out how you will get paid
If you are a service based provider, starting out with PayPal is totally cool.
But if you’re ready to invest in your business right from the get-go, I really like FreshBooks. (Mostly ‘cause the invoices come out so pretty.)
Figure out the workflow
What happens when a client emails you saying “I’d like to hire you”?
What are the next steps? Do you email them to set up a Skype call, or send them a brand questionnaire to fill out? Do you require payment upfront?
Figuring it out now will help you answer these questions and avoid looking like a hot mess when that first client actually calls.
And they will call - because you are well on your way to a profitable online business now.
PS - If you need a little more help figuring out how to write copy that reflects your brand identity, I'm here to help. Click here to work with me.