I wanted to start a blog for years before I took the time to do it. While working very demanding corporate jobs in public relations, communications and copywriting, I was just never able to devote the time I needed to begin a blog or even research how to begin a blog. However, shortly after getting married in 2012, the perfect opportunity to begin my online journal or “weblog” (as they used to be called) came about as Dave and I decided we were going to move across the country from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, California. Even before we left Florida, I came up with a name for my blog — aptly “A Lady Goes West” — to share all of our adventures, and the rest is history. But of course, A Lady Goes West has come a long way …
Starting slowly using the free route
Although I immediately purchased the domain name of aladygoeswest.com, I didn’t pursue self-hosting (which is what you must do to have ads, affiliate links and tons of functionality) for another year-and-a-half. For the first year-and-a-half, I used Wordpress.com for a free blog, on a couple of free templates. I wrote once-a-week updates, sometimes less, sometimes more, describing the fun activities and explorations that Dave and I were pursuing in San Francisco. I also wrote about healthy living and fitness, because those were and are such huge parts of my life.
While only my friends and family knew about my blog, it still gave me the opportunity to write down my thoughts, add a few pictures and push “Publish.” But I never really shared my posts further than that. I was a little unsure as to what I was going after, and didn’t spend a ton of time working on my blog, even though in the back of my head I really wanted to. (And if you’ve been around since the beginning as a reader, I thank you so much!)
Committing to take the blog to a new level
Finally, in March of 2014, I decided to spend more time on my blog. First up, I purchased a custom theme and did a redesign of my site, no longer relying on a free template. Second, I selected a “host” of my site, which is the step you must take to begin monetizing your blog and adding cool features. After researching other blogs, I settled on HostGator, which was a great decision. The folks at HostGator handled the transition of my blog from the free WordPress.com to a more functional WordPress.org and made sure everything was up-and-running. In addition, whenever I had a question, I just sent a Tweet to the HostGator customer service team, or opened a ticket on the site. All of my issues have been resolved in less than a few hours, and my site rarely goes down. HostGator provides 24/7 care, and I’ve always been incredibly pleased with the service.
Professional headshots were another piece of the puzzle. And I had these taken in February, compliments of the lovely Leah Bentley Photography. These shots are now the image on the front-page of my blog, as well as on most of my social media accounts.
I’m a writer by trade, so it wasn’t a huge leap to think that I could start and maintain a blog. However, I didn’t really know everything that was involved at first. And I didn’t really expect my blog to take off as it has, but boy am I loving the fact that it continues to grow. I began blogging because I love to share my words and write, but what has come about for me from this little piece of the Web has been pretty awesome.
A lot of work goes on behind-the-scenes
There’s a lot to learn about blogging, once you leave the free platform. In addition to the WordPress.org dashboard, which is what I use to create my posts, I also have to work with the back-end site information for A Lady Goes West, like having enough bandwidth for my site’s usage, backing up my site and updating all of my plug-ins (the apps I use within WordPress.org).
Here’s a look at the cPanel inside HostGator, which is where you can access many tools to work on your site.
But it’s been fun to learn new things. Much of what I learn is from Google research, however, HostGator also helps me with plenty of hosting questions.
Sticking to a schedule to grow my blog
Right after I transferred my blog to a self-hosted site and had officially invested in it, I told myself that I would blog every single week-day starting in March 2014 and have done so without only missing one or two days here and there. And I know that I love blogging, because it is not a chore at all. Many times I have more than enough ideas to fill my posts each week and sometimes wish I posted more. It takes me hours and hours to create a post, and I am proud of the content I put out, because I try to write posts that I would want to read.
Over this past year of posting regularly, reading and commenting on other blogs and beginning to promote my posts, little-by-little, my blog has become a legitimate business. I’m now associated with FitFluential, Sweat Pink, POPSUGAR Select, IDEA Inspired Bloggers, Clever Girls Collective and a bunch of other blogger networks, which help me to connect with other bloggers as well as brands. And I’ve even been named one of the Top 20 San Francisco-based Blogs by TripAdvisor’s FlipKey, which just makes my day. But of course, I’m by NO means a big blogger and may never be. But I do have a brand and a business, and I couldn’t love it any more than I do. (And you can see more about what I’ve been working on and where I’ve been featured on my Press + Sponsor page.)
How I make money off of my blog
Through my affiliations with network groups, I started writing sponsored posts, much like this one right here. While a brand can offer me money to write a post and mention their name, they do not dictate my words nor sway my thoughts on whatever I am writing. And I’m pretty selective with the brands I choose to work with and have said no to a lot of well-paying campaigns, because they just didn’t fit into my interests of fitness, food, fun, San Francisco, travel and blogging. These sponsored posts range in compensation, but I have seen the compensation for my posts quadruple as of late, and I see it continuing to grow.
In addition to sponsored posts, I also put ads on my site. While I started out with Google Ads, I was eventually invited to join the BlogHer/SheKnows Media Group, and have been running those ads for about seven or eight months. The money I make from these ads is based on the amount of visitors I have to my site. And of course, if someone clicks on an ad, that is worth even more.
I also use affiliate links, which are special links associated with my name, and if someone clicks on that link and makes a purchase, I get a few pennies of credit for it. I use affiliate links to introduce new services that I’ve reviewed and tried like StitchFix, LE TOTE, POPSUGAR Must-Have Box to name a few, as well as to link to everyday products that I enjoy on Amazon.com.
Getting business cards was another step in the marketing game for A Lady Goes West and my brand. I bring these cards with me to blogger events, fitness events and even dinner parties. You never know when you’ll need to share your blog and contact information!
I’ve also done freelance writing for other websites, which is not only a way to make money, but a way to get more published work.
How I promote my blog
Writing a blog post takes me a ton of time, because I tend to spend a lot of time proofreading, perfecting and removing content. But even after pushing publish, there’s more to do.
It took me a while to get the courage, but after a couple of months of regular blogging, I finally created an A Lady Goes West Facebook page, renamed my Instagram account to include my blog name, as well as returned to Twitter after a several year hiatus. Now, I use all of these accounts to connect with other bloggers and promote my content. Once I hit publish, here are the other steps I take each day …
- Share each post in my ambassador networks, like FitFluential, SweatPink and IDEA Inspired blogger groups on Facebook.
- Share each post on Google Plus.
- Add a link to my post on a blogger link-up, if appropriate.
- Share each post with different text and images about 5-6 times on Twitter each day.
- Pin all the images of the post on Pinterest with a clickable link.
- Share each post on the A Lady Goes West Facebook page.
- Occasionally share an image from the post on Instagram with information on how to access the post.
- Comment on a few other blogs, which will sometimes automatically include a link to my most recent post.
I also spend a lot of time looking for publicity opportunities, working on guest posts for other blogs, applying for campaigns, emailing with brands and planning out content. Overall, blogging could totally be my full-time job, however I also work every day outside the home in various gyms as a trainer and group fitness instructor. But when I’m away? I’m always thinking about new posts and ideas for the future.
I truly enjoy every single thing about blogging and will continue writing this blog, no matter what happens on the business side. There’s nothing like hearing stories from readers and getting to know so many of you online, as well as in person. Blogging is rewarding. And being a blogger is the best job I’ve ever had. So I must say to you — if you have been thinking about taking a leap to start your own blog. Don’t wait, just do it!
How you can start a blog
You can also use HostGator for the following services:
- 24/7 live support via chat, phone and email
- One click WordPress installs
- One click and start easy to use website builder
- Design services for your site
- Marketing services (SEO and PPC) to generate traffic
- Domain names
And isn’t that logo cute? Makes me think of the mascot from my alma mater, The University of Florida Gator!
That’s it, folks! I have a full day ahead of blogging, working at Orangetheory Fitness (did you see my announcement about my new gig there) and teaching a BODYPUMP class. Have a great Tuesday, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for some pictures of food.
Disclaimer: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Questions of the day
Are you a blogger? If so, what’s your number one tip for growing your blog?
What’s your favorite kind of post to read on A Lady Goes West?
What are some of your favorite blogs to read?