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I started blogging long before people worried about personal branding, building followers, or blogging strategy. That was back in 2007, when blogs were pretty much places online to connect with other people. I had an anonymous infertility blog (now private and closed) and found another tribe of women going through the same thing while we built our families or built lives without children. Those blogs lead to opportunities for some of us, especially those of us who always saw ourselves as writers.
For me, that lead to working with Our Bodies, Ourselves and writing about Pregnancy After Infertility, talking about my experience, and working on the 2011 edition of the book.
A couple years after my first blog, I started a second blog to chart my weekly menu plans, food budget, and share deals with friends. It was mostly a way to keep myself honest, adhere to my budget, and ensure I had quick links to the recipes in my menu plans. I was couponing a lot back then, and this is the time I was able to get over 7 years worth of razors for my husband for $9 out of pocket. (I thought it would be 2 years worth at the time, but after he grew a beard, it vastly extended the life of that stockpile).
I made a little bit of money through blogging and freelancing, but the vast majority of the “wealth” I earned from blogging was in experience, practice, opportunity, and networking. I didn’t have a lot of bandwidth to play around with ideas until I dropped to a contract position last year.
Last spring, before I left my full-time job, I had a big idea.
What if, instead of being a brick and mortar landlord, I became an internet landlord? I would create a series of niche websites that would be about subjects I find interesting and know well enough to be a valuable source for my readers. I would run ads and eventually create products that complement the sites.
The ultimate goal was not to be the highest earner in my niche, but to diversify and earn a moderate amount from 5-10 websites. This blog was the first step. Recently I launched my second site, Best Geeky Baby Names, and am in the process of tweaking it. I have an idea for five more niche sites that I hope to launch over the next two years.
Even if every site only earned me $500-1000/month, that would still be a full-time income for me over the course of the year, all from the comfort of my home.
What steps do you need to take to start your own blog or website?
1. Think of your niche. The process isn’t as hard as it sounds. All of us have expertise or interest in something. One friend of mine makes custom cakes and does custom embroidery and another takes amazing photos. One friend is horse crazy, another builds furniture from essentially junk, and another is raising and homeschooling four kids on a mini-farm with over 50 animals. Your work as a youth minister, art teacher, basketball coach, or mother of seven might give you a fount of wisdom or source of amusement to share with others. If you have an Etsy or an Ebay shop, a website can help drive traffic to your site.
What problem can you solve for others?
2. Buy your domain. You can go through GoDaddy or Namecheap, or you can do it like I did and buy your domain when you also sign up for your hosting service. For me, that was Bluehost.
3. Choose your hosting service. Your hosting service can make or break your website, so you want to choose one that is reliable, responds quickly to problems, and loads quickly enough for your visitors. You won’t be able to make and keep your audience if your site is always crashing or loads so slowly they feel like they are back on their mom’s AOL dial-up connection circa 1999. I use Bluehost for both of my websites, and plan on using it as I launch the other ones. I have had to contact customer service twice this past year, and each time my issue was resolved within 10-15 minutes. My budget is small, and I only pay about $5/month. (If you are interested in starting a blog, on Wednesday August 17th, for one day only, Bluehost is offering their basic hosting plan for $2.95/month for 12 months! If you click on my affiliate link, it will take you right there.)
4. Build your website. Many hosting services easily integrate with the WordPress blogging platform. You can use a basic theme and figure out how to configure it to your needs or pay for someone to build one for you. I spent time looking at websites that I liked and seeing how elements of their layout might work for me, and then bought a custom design. I spent about $100 for each site.
5. Start creating! Don’t expect to get it right immediately. Your site will become a unique work that reflects your interests and your audience’s needs. Remember that you are writing to entertain or to help solve a problem. If your audience is getting nothing out of your site, they won’t bother to come back.
Do you have a great idea for a web niche that you have been sitting on? What’s stopping you from starting?