How to Start a Blog – Begin By Finding Your Focus

How to start a blog - part 1: focus

Starting a blog is one of the best decisions you could make. A blog can serve as an excellent place for you to express yourself, share your thoughts and ideas, and meet other people who have similar interests. Having a blog and being part of a new community can even help you find passions you never knew you had, or even start a business like I did.

There are two ways to start a blog

Well, maybe there are more than two ways, but there are two that I can think of:

  1. Just do it. Don’t think, don’t plan, just dive right in.
  2. Plan carefully. Do research, make decisions, and then do it.

I think both of these are perfectly viable options. Different methods work for different people. I think I was more like #1 when I started, but for the sake of this blog series I’m going to focus on #2.

Get started planning your new blog

Before you even launch your blog, there are a few things you’ll need to do:

  1. Find your focus.
  2. Get involved in the community.
  3. Decide on a blog name.
  4. Choose a blogging platform.
  5. Find a suitable design.
  6. Work on your about page.
  7. Add an email opt-in to your blog.

I’m going to touch on all these points, but let’s start with #1: finding your focus.

How to find your blogging focus

Your blog doesn’t have to have a single topic or focus. For example, you don’t have to pick books and then only blog about books. You don’t have to box yourself in like that. Your blog is your personal space and it can be about whatever you want, even if that means changing things up every week.

But when you’re first launching your blog, it helps to pick a focus (or a few) so you have an idea of what community you can get involved with. Finding a community is the key to growing your reach and finding long-term happiness with your blog. But in order to get to that point, you have to figure out what your blog is all about.

What do you enjoy?

This is where it will help to create a list. Think about the things you enjoy doing regularly and can talk about from a variety of different angles.

When you’re first making the list, you don’t have to think about how each item relates to blogging. First work on getting all your ideas down, then prune the list later.

Here’s my starter list:

  • Blogging (advice, tips, practices, growth)
  • Coding (HTML, CSS, PHP)
  • WordPress (platform, development, tips)
  • Books (reading, events)
  • Movies and TV
  • Designing
  • Eating/cooking (sometimes, hah)
  • Freelancing/business (creative, young entrepreneurs)
  • Lifestyle (Couch to 5K, exercising more, etc.)
  • Romance and relationships (young love, long distance relationships)
  • Hot chocolate

What can you actually talk about regularly?

So you have your list and now it’s time to break it down. Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can talk about it on a regular basis. There’s just more to say about some topics than others. So looking at this list, there are a few I can scratch off immediately:

  • Movies and TV: I do love movies and TV, but I don’t really like to talk about or analyse them. They’re just something I like to watch and maybe shout about on Twitter, but they don’t have a big place on my blog.
  • Designing: I am a designer and I love it, but I’m not sure I actually like writing blog posts about it that much. I do want design to exist on my blog in some capacity, but I don’t think I want it to be a main focus.
  • Eating/cooking: I’m not a great cook or a super diverse eater. I have certain things I love and eat often. I can’t talk about those same things over and over again, so food isn’t a good topic for me to blog about every day. I would run out of material VERY quickly.
  • Lifestyle: Yes I am trying to exercise more and I am going through C25K, but this isn’t a huge part of my life. I don’t have different things that I do daily that I can share. It’s pretty much a regular routine. It’s not a big enough focus in my life for me to talk about it.
  • Romance and relationships: I actually used to have a romance blog and it didn’t last. Although I love romance books and chick flicks and I adore my own personal love story, I’ve realized it’s not something I’m going to be able to talk about long term.
  • Hot chocolate: I don’t even know what a hot chocolate blog would look like. In order for that to have a big spot on my blog I think I’d have to be some kind of official chocolate connoisseur and travel around the world tasting/reviewing different hot chocolates. That’s not happening for me anytime soon!

So once I’ve scratched those off, my list now looks a bit like this:

  • Blogging (advice, tips, practices, growth)
  • Coding (HTML, CSS, PHP)
  • WordPress (platform, development, tips)
  • Books (reading, events)
  • Freelancing/business online (creative, young entrepreneurs)

Now if we look at this list in a more general sense, what do you see? Well other than books, I see topics that are all about technology and online activity. Blogging happens online, coding is for the online world, WordPress is a blogging platform, freelancing can be anywhere but my particular focus is online businesses. It all comes back to that word: online.

More specifically, you could even say that it all comes back to blogging. Coding is used in blogging, WordPress is used in blogging, and a blog will help you launch and grow any online freelancing business.

Suddenly, I have a focus.

When you’re fine-tuning your own list, here are a few questions you can ask yourself about each of the ideas you wrote down:

  • How much is there to say about this subject? Will I run out of material?
  • Is this going to be in my life for a long time? Or will it be gone in three months?
  • Do I enjoy this enough to talk about it every day?
  • Are there questions I can answer or tutorials I can create about this topic? Is there some way I can help people with it?

Remember your focus, but don’t limit yourself to it

I think the most interesting blogs have a bit of diversity. They have a strong focus, but they aren’t afraid to go outside it now and then. You should feel free to do the same!

Just because I scratched a ton of things off my list doesn’t mean I can’t blog about them. In fact, I do! You can read about my Couch to 5K journey and my venture into the keto lifestyle and even some of my favourite hot chocolate mixes.

But the point is, those aren’t key focuses of my blog; they’re once in a blue moon posts. I spice things up now and then with what’s happening in my personal life, but when people think of Nose Graze they don’t think “lifestyle” or “exercise” or “hot chocolate”. They think “blogging tips” or “coding tutorials” or “WordPress”.

Think about what you want other people to associate with your blog

You don’t have to start writing blog posts yet (we haven’t even chosen a platform for you yet!), but just consider what words or phrases you want people to think of when they see your future blog’s name. What should they associate with you and your blog?

If you think you’re ready, you can even start coming up with a short paragraph about you the focus of your blog. This will help guide you when you move onto deciding your blog name and actually publishing blog posts. I’m still finalizing mine, but here’s what I have so far:

I’m Ashley and I like to help bloggers and entrepreneurs create their own magical online spaces by sharing my love of design, community, and <code/>. My epic nerdom allows me to create tutorials, tips, and plugins that will make your blog or business rock peoples’ worlds.

This way I know that my blog is all about helping people enhance their online spaces. I offer tutorials, tips, plugins, and code snippets that make blogs and businesses better. See how this matches up with all my bullet points from the list? It all ties together!

It’s time to find your focus

What does your list look like? Do you have a focus or mission for your blog?

Coming up next: get involved in the community.

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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22 comments

  1. Great post! When I started blogging (omg 4 years ago), I just dove right in. I didn’t even KNOW that book blogging was a thing. Haha.
    I spent about two years (mostly during the wedding planning), not really having an idea of where I wanted my blog to go. Now that all that is done, I have more ideas than I can write! In hindsight, if I had done some research (like blog naming, etc), I could have saved myself lots of time, money and headaches.

    Jennifer @ BookShelfery recently posted: Release Day Review: Little Peach by Peggy Kern
    1. Yeah I definitely think there are benefits to doing research first. You might feel lost or in over your head if you just jump in without any thought.

  2. I started a sculpting (polymer clay) blog before my book blog, and it was my first serious blog (I’ve had a few non-serious ones). I used it for years before realizing that it wasn’t a forever hobby, though it comes back now and again. When I was on Goodreads one summer day, I saw a link to a book blog and thought, huh, that’s something new, and I quickly figured out that’s what I wanted to do. I knew right away exactly what I was going to do (after a bit of research) with my own blog and how I wanted it to look and feel. I’m definitely a planner- I could never just jump in and figure it out as I go along, although I’m still learning. I like research.

    Alicia Notarainni recently posted: Dangerous Reflections by Shay West
    1. Thanks for sharing, Alicia! I definitely think that doing research first will help you feel more confident about your blog and give you a better idea of what direction to take it. πŸ™‚

  3. Ashley, this looks like the start of an amazing post series, and I can’t wait to read the rest! It’s a little funny, really, because I was thinking of branching out soon and sharing some of my lettering, and it’s like this post is a nudge to do it! Talking about books is fun and all, but when I was happy to do just that a year ago, now, I want to talk about a bit more.

    1. Thanks Shannelle! I’m really excited about the rest of the series because I have a lot of details I want to go over. πŸ™‚ Hopefully newer/aspiring bloggers will find them useful!

      I think it would be awesome if you started sharing your lettering. A lot of people are REALLY into lettering these days, so I think it would go over really well.

  4. What a super helpful post! I accidentally chose the first option (diving right in) in starting a book blog recently… but this is at least retroactively making me think about what exactly I want to talk about and how flexible I want to be with it. Looking forward to reading the future instalments!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful to you. πŸ™‚

      I don’t think we ever get “too old” to re-examine and refine our blogs. Even if we’ve been blogging for a year, there are still things we can do to fine-tune everything!

  5. Awesome tips πŸ™‚ I definitely did the research and plan thing, and I’m glad I did! Sometimes I get overwhelmed as it is, I would not have done with just flying by the seat of my pants haha. Not my style! I keep thinking of other topics that I want to write about other than books, which is why I like to say my blog is a PERSONAL book blog haha. If it ever gets to the point where I get off topic too much, I guess I could always branch off and do a separate blog for that haha. But that just sounds like too much work at this point!

    Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm recently posted: The Taylor Swift Book Tag
    1. Yeah managing two blogs is A TON of work. I couldn’t do it! I’d personally rather put everything on one blog, even if it does feel off topic. πŸ™‚

  6. Hey! I am starting a blog and have been doing loads of research these past few weeks. I have come across many posts about how to go about starting a blog and yours is the most helpful I have found yet. You are a really good writer and educator, and you are able to convey somewhat abstract blogging concepts in a very clear way. I feel your “how to start a blog” series is really going to help me narrow my focus and organize my thoughts so I can make an effin amazing blog too. thank you for sharing this info freely!

  7. Thank you for this post! I recently started a blog and would like to incorporate fashion into at some point. I am a mom of three young kids and always enjoy finding new fashions that fit my style and life as a mom.

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