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The Blogger Files: Getting Started

Eva Amurri Martino wears a pair of tan jeans, a black and white blouse, and poses in the Happily Eva After studio

One of the most-asked questions I get via email is “I want to start a blog! Can you give me some advice? How do I get started?”  If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning, you know that I have always been very open about the fact that when I started Happily Eva After I had NO IDEA what I was doing.  Zero.  I dealt with a vast learning curve to even set up a website, let alone figure out how to finesse and grow my brand.  All I knew was that I had a real passion for sharing my ideas in the lifestyle space, as well as for documenting the good, bad, and ugly of my experiences in Motherhood.  I wanted to bring authenticity and imperfection to a space that– to me– often felt a little bit too focused on perfection and not enough on the differences and challenging truths of an experience that made me feel FAR from perfect every single day: raising kids!  I wanted to explore the topics that I wished I could read about– and to learn more about myself by asking myself the hard questions about life, fertility, pregnancy, motherhood, marriage, and womanhood.

Eva Amurri Martino wears tan jeans and a black and white checked top, and sits at her computer in the Happily Eva After studio

To start this blog, I ended up having to spend many, many, many long hours at a computer screen.  I suffered through lots of heartbreaking technical mistakes that left me in tears. I googled and youtubed, and sifted through hundreds of forums looking for information that might help me figure out how to use a camera, or edit images, or create collages.  It was the first time since college that I felt completely overwhelmed– and low and behold it was kind of awesome.  Because through the tears and the late, late nights of googling and watching informational videos, I figured it out.  I learned something new– and then I was able to sit down and actually write about things that were important to me, which was something that I hadn’t done in a very long time.  Writing about those things led to connecting with an incredibly curious, interesting, kind, and strong readership that I’m soooo blessed to call the Happily Eva After community.  I’m constantly learning more and more about the blogging world, and by no means am I an expert– but I’m proud to say that I know a lot more than when I started all of this two years ago.  Most importantly, I’ve made tons of mistakes that I’ve learned from– and now you can too! LOL.

It’s so very important to have places you can go when you’re passionate about something to get more information.  Even if you have all the passion in the world, you need tools to be able to bring your dream to life– or to even explore if it is a right step for you! Since I don’t have the time to write back to each and every person who reaches out to me, I thought I would start a series of posts called “The Blogger Files”, where I will cover a range of topics over a period of time.  This way, the resources are here if you ever need to revisit them.  Hopefully this series can help answer some of your questions about these blogging topics.  The first topic I’m covering today is about “Getting Started” in the blogging world, but please share if there are specific areas that you’d like to learn more about.  As always, I also encourage you to use the comments section of this post to communicate with each other, offer advice, and introduce each other (and me!) to your own blogs! Blogging is best utilized as a way to grow your community–no matter the topic– to learn and to grow individually, and to inspire others.  I hope you find blogging to be as invigorating as I have!

 

Getting Started

One of the more head-scratching questions I get asked is “How do I decide what to blog about?”  I think if you’re asking yourself what you want to blog about, you’re putting the cart before the horse.  Blogging should be born out of passion– if not it is WAY too much work and you will never keep it up.  I always tell people that nobody knows what blogging entails until they try it themselves– and I include myself in that group.  Blogging is by far the most blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve put in to anything in my life– I often refer to HEA as my third child.  And I promise you I wasn’t expecting that when I started! LOL.  The best analogy is to think of a blog as an online magazine of sorts.  We’ve all read a magazine, right? Have you ever gone to the credits page of a magazine and taken a look at the long list of contributors, from the Editor on down to the photographer, photo editor, models, makeup and hair artists, content producers, marketing, branding, the list goes on and on.  Blogging is taking all those jobs and doing them yourself.  It’s extremely gratifying, but it’s a lot.  The greatest part about blogging is that once you are doing all of these things, you are the only Boss.  You decided what your blog looks like, feels like, the content that is created, and the environment it creates for your readership.  No need for permission from anyone because that is ALL you! Does this creative freedom sound exciting to you? The blogging might just be your thing! Every single person on this planet has their own unique lens through which they view and experience the world.  Tap in to what that is, and above all be authentic.  If you try to emulate the style of a blogger you admire, you will only seem like a lesser version of them! Cultivate your own voice, your own style, and your own interests– and try not to worry about what other people think!  Now that you have a point of view that you want to share with the world, it’s time to build a blog!

Your Blog Name

I wish I still had the brainstorming list I made whenever I was dreaming up my blog names– I’m sure it would be good for a laugh or two! Coming up with a blog name is a challenge, but in the end you need to go with your gut.  I think it’s important to make sure that your blog evokes the vibe of your content whenever you hear it, but isn’t too specific that it can’t grow and change as you do.  I know a few bloggers that got a bit too specific when they began blogging and ended up having to change their blog names as they branched out as bloggers.  For example, using a blog name like Little Miss Makeup or something might not be a great idea if you think you might have kids one day and want to branch out to write about motherhood topics– or cover cooking and lifestyle verticals as well.  This probably goes without saying, but don’t forget to do a thorough search of your prospective blog name to make sure it’s available! If you’re stumped and have a catchy name yourself, don’t be afraid of just using your name as your blog name! It actually might make your life easier long term as you grow as a brand.  I can’t even tell you the number of emails I get that say “Dear Happily” at the beginning of the request.  Hahaha.

I remember making my list, and Happily Eva After was one of the last ones I thought of.  I actually used to use the phrase “Happily Eva After” as a way to explain to people how to pronounce my first name since it sounds so much like “ever”, and has that open sounding E at the beginning.  Whenever I shared my list with my husband and a few close friends, they all jumped straight to that blog name first.  I couldn’t believe that the domain name was still available, to be honest!

Eva Amurri Martino wears tan jeans and a black and white checked top, and sits at her computer in the Happily Eva After studio

The Website

If you want to have a blog, you need a website.  There are tons of ways to do this, but what I recommend hands down is buying and owning your own domain name (your dot com).  It makes things so much simpler as you grow, so you don’t have to transfer your entire site from Tumblr or something once more people start reading it. I used GoDaddy.com to purchase and reserve my domain name.  Then, I used WordPress as my content management system.  You can use WordPress to build a simple blog, or even a more complex website.  It’s the most commonly used system for bloggers.  When I first started HappilyEvaAfter.com, I did not have the website you see today.  It was super basic and not all that pretty.  WordPress has basic looks (they’re called “themes”) that you can select from within their site– but there are other ways to make your site look more unique and pretty, such as purchasing a semi-custom WordPress compatible theme from theme builders.  You literally can google “WordPress themes” and find tons of designers who make them, but here is one site with a few examples for bloggers. Once I was blogging full-time and monetizing my blog, I went through a site redesign with a super talented website designer (Victoria McGinley Studio) who created the website you enjoy today.  A full custom website design is definitely an investment, and can come later in your blog’s journey! Don’t feel like your blog has to be “there” right away. Lastly, I use a WordPress hosting site called Flywheel that runs and monitors my site on the back-end of things.  My hosting site makes sure my site is super fast and doesn’t crash.  It also manages security to block malware and hacking attempts.  Additionally, a hosting site can manage software updates and offer WordPress support if you need it.

Creating Content

I think it’s really important to always create content around your authentic interests, and not based on trends or what you think people want to see or read from you.  Don’t worry so much about churning out content piece after content piece– if there is one thing that blogging has taught me it’s that one pretty, engaging, thought out blog post is way more valuable than three or four mediocre pieces that you rush out.  When I first started my blog I was way too concerned with doling out content pieces evenly among my lifestyle verticals (this is blogspeak for “categories”).  I forced myself to have a different category every day, and to cover all my bases instead of just going with what was organic to my life that day, week, or month. What ended up happening was that I would scramble to put together a blog post without feeling really inspired or excited by the content.  And guess what, if you aren’t loving it nobody else will! LOL.  If I’m ever stumped about content, I always check in with myself and ask myself what I’m thinking about these days. What are the topics that have me curious, or the life changes that we are going through as a family?  I normally can tell that if there is a personal passion, dilemma, milestone, celebration, question, or conflict that is taking up a lot of my thoughtspace during the day (or keeping me up at night!) that it will be something valuable to write about or explore for my readership.  I know that I am abnormally open about a lot of the more taboo topics– and you definitely don’t have to lay yourself totally emotionally bare to be a good blogger! But giving of yourself and really going for it– even if that means creatively and not personally– will always set you apart.

Consistency

My greatest piece of advice about blogging next to being authentic is being CONSISTENT!! The worst thing you can do is randomly produce blog posts without any rhyme or reason to when they appear on your site.  If you can only commit to one blog post a month, pick an exact day of the month and have it post on that day.  Ditto for a weekly post.  It’s so important as you build a readership that your audience knows what to expect from you, and that you deliver when you are expected to! If you haven’t noticed, I post new content on Happily Eva After on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays every week, with “extra” or special content pieces posted on Wednesdays if I have any that week (This usually happens during busier months like the Holidays!).  This is what works for me, but you may have to start slow and build up to multiple posts a week or month.  I actually did the opposite and started with five new content days a week.  This was a huge mistake (I was already so overwhelmed as a new Mom on top of everything else) and I got majorly burnt out.  Perfect your system, and then add days if you’re feeling confident!

Eva Amurri Martino pushes her grey crafting island across the floor of the Happily Eva After studio

I hope these tips help you get started on your own blog!  Blogging involves a ton of trial and error, and can get discouraging at times. I still have at least one meltdown a month where I’m sure I’m the worst blogger there ever was and the only blogger who has no idea how to do whatever thing is currently frustrating me, etc.  Make sure you always come back to why you started your blog and felt so passionately about sharing your unique perspective with the world.  Write a few sentences about that passion on a post it note or in a journal to look to when you’re discouraged. This little trick always helps center me when I’m feeling overwhelmed!  Good luck!

 

Photographs by Courtney Ann Photography

My Jeans by Madewell (similar)

My Top by Madewell

My Booties by Indigo Rd. (similar)

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10 Comments

  1. Areth Tsouprake says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. This is really helpful. I have been curious about how it all works and look forward to this series of posts. You should be very proud of yourself Eva!

    09.21.17Reply
  2. Jordy says:

    This is fantastic! I wish I would have had this before I started my website. Prior to Jordy Reviews It, I had about three other blogs. What was I thinking!? One was lifestyle, the other a sort of journal, and the last was party-centric. It was far too much to handle. Lifestyle wasn’t really my thing, more so what I saw others doing and succeeding at. The journal bred my negative side and I felt it as a vent-forum that wasn’t me. The party one was my favorite, but I didn’t have the time, nor money, to (like you said) consistently turn out content.

    But I loved blogging. So I thought long and hard about my passions. The #1 thing was film and television. So my boyfriend (now fiancé) suggested I write reviews. I honestly was too scared. I started one anyways, but I didn’t tell a soul. I wrote a couple articles, told my boyfriend and gained his full support, then continued to write for almost a year before making it known to family and friends. I wanted to see how I could do without their biased support.

    I think what’s made me feel successful, and see that increase in my audience, is focus and passion. If I would have continued the other three I had, without the passion I have for this one – I would have gone nowhere.

    This is a great idea and I am looking so forward to the rest in the series!

    09.21.17Reply
  3. Hey Eva! I really enjoyed this post, as I am a fairly new blogger. I am so glad you posted this! I started my blog with an Instagram and Facebook page and then finally made a WordPress site in July! Blogging is so much fun and can be overwhelming at times but I love it! – Kara

    09.21.17Reply
    • Areth Tsouprake says:

      What is your blog called?

      09.22.17Reply
  4. Meg says:

    This is great! I’ve followed you in Instagram for a while now and I watch all of your stories!
    I actually started getting my own blog started when I was 6 months pregnant with the hopes of being full time by the time the baby came. That just didn’t happen! Now she is 3 months old and my first “baby”‘ has started school full time I’m working hard on doing it more consistently! I have experience from previous jobs with making website and online marketing so I know what I’m doing! I look forward to reading this series as a lot of people don’t know where to start. I’ve done it all before at work and sometimes I don’t even know what I’m doing!
    Great job and I look forward to reading more!!

    09.21.17Reply
  5. Michaela says:

    Hi Eva,
    Thank you for sharing all your ideas! You’re always inspiring and I really like how openly you write on all kinds of subjects. Your name is pronounced exactly how we’d say it in the Czech Republic. I live in Finland now and struggle with wrong pronunciation in both countries, so for my website I use a more international and shorter version. I started my website in 07 to share paintings and recipes mostly as well as some things people kept asking me about. Now it’s still an online portfolio for my portrait photography and design, but I realized I enjoy writing posts for my blog section and have been putting out a lot more content lately. Always learning something new and helping others with their website content as well. I love the creativity and freedom of it. Best of luck to you and your beautiful family. Watching your insta stories brings me joy every day.

    09.22.17Reply
  6. jo says:

    Just a question about how to navigate your blog.
    If I want to read your blog posts chronologically, I don’t see an archive category or even a way to go from one post to the previous one.
    I only see the four posts on your homepage and the categories at the top.
    Help?

    09.23.17Reply
    • Hi Jo!
      The most recent few posts will be in chronological order starting from the top. Other posts on the home page are featured, which I choose depending on seasonality or interest. If you want to go chronologically, you can always choose a category from the drop down menus on top, and the posts within that category will be in chronological order, with the most recent at the top.
      (I did lots of research within my last site before the redesign and our results found out that the vast majority of my readership preferred to search categorically as opposed to chronologically. So we switched! )

      xo

      09.25.17Reply
  7. Jennifer says:

    Hi Eva!
    Thanks so much for this post. I just started a blog about creating a home you love, including all kinds of DIY projects and general tips and tricks on color, texture, and pattern. I’ve been SO NERVOUS over analyzing every post, trying to think if I’m doing it right or wrong, and beating myself up about not being a professional right off the bat. You helped calm some of my nerves and made me not feel alone! Can’t wait to read more!

    09.26.17Reply
  8. Marci says:

    Thank for sharing! I have been working on a re-launch of my blog/online shop for awhile now since transitioning my little man has started kindergarten this year. I have taken a similar path in learning about the blogging world and taking things on myself… thank you for the gentle encouragement to keep at it and to remain true to what I love! xo

    10.17.17Reply