I started this blog a year ago, and it’s been a fun hobby of mine ever since.
For those of you who are interested in starting a website or blog, here are the steps I took to make the vision a reality:
1. Have an idea.
This sounds obvious and a little stupid, but it’s the truth. Make your idea broad enough to where people will want to read what you have to say, but specific enough to make you stand out in some way.
I knew I wanted a place where I could officially put my recipes, but also share what I’ve created to the world. There are millions of food blogs out there (broad), but having a vegan and gluten-free blog makes it stand out (specific). Now, I am only competing with THOUSANDS of other blogs! I hope you can sense my sarcastic excitement.
2. Get a name.
The name of your blog should be something others can easily remember, but also be “you”.
In my house, we always use demonstrative pronouns to describe each other. If my dog, Mia, has a big smile on her face, we call her, “This happy girl!” If my bird, Fleegle, is sitting on his favorite stone, we call him, “This stoner boy.” So, you can see how the name This Vegan Girl came along. Matt has been calling me This Vegan Girl a long time, so that is the name of my blog. It’s simple and it’s me.
Now that you have a name, you need to buy that domain name and get a web host. What’s that, you ask, and what is the difference between the two? All a domain name does is take an IP address, such as 123.456.789.123, and puts a name on it. No one wants to tell people that their website is 123.456.789.123, so you pay to put a name on it that will be accessible and memorable.
Imagine that a web host is a space you need to rent for your business. It is where you are going to upload entries and pictures, or “furnishings and shelves”, for your product.
I use Bluehost for this. Bluehost is an all-in-one domain name/webhosting site, and through all my research, this is the best that’s out there. It costs $4.95 per month if you sign up for 3 years, which is a great deal. The customer service is awesome if you need any help. The storage is also unlimited, which is great when you upload tons of pictures (like I do!).
When you’re signing up, opt for the Domain Whois Privacy (see below). It’s a little more pricey, but it’s worth it. When people search your information, such as your personal address and phone number, this helps keep your information private.
4. Create an email address specifically for your website.
This can be done when you log in Bluehost and see the Email button. (see below)
From there, it’s takes one minute to create a name and password for your email address. I used my first name as my address, which is email@example.com.
5. Design your website/blog.
I use WordPress, which is free to use. It offers great pre-made templates for you to personalize, so you don’t need to be a web designer to create a great-looking website. If it’s any indication of how awesome it is, most websites out there are designed by WordPress.
Once you have installed WordPress and have logged in, you can begin the design process. (From now on, you don’t need to log in through Bluehost to post entries or change the appearance of your website. Log into the WordPress website for that. Use Bluehost to check your email and to look up stats about your website.)
When you’re in appearances, click the Add New Theme button to browse all the website layouts they have. From here, you’re going to have to toy around with the layout and find something that fits your needs. You can make those changes in the Customize link under the Appearance link (see above). Have fun with it!
6. Buy yourself a sweet camera.
A legitimate camera will definitely be your biggest expense in creating a reputable blog, but it’ll be the most worthwhile investment.
It can be a bit overwhelming figuring out which camera to buy. I did a ton of research on brands, models, lenses, and price.
My max budget was $800. My research and gut-feelings led me to the Nikon D5100, which at the time was running a sale on Best Buy’s website. I received the camera, an 18-55mm lens, a 55-200mm lens, and a carrying case for $750 plus tax. I checked on the website, and they are not offering that bundle anymore. Luckily for you, the camera is now a lot cheaper, so you can purchase the Nikon D5100 with the 18-55mm lens and the carrying case separately for a way better price than I did! I also purchased a 16gb flash drive for $12 and a tripod for $25. (The tripod is something I never use for food photography, by the way, so you may or may not need that option.) My total, with tax included, was $838.12, which was a little over my budget, but the tripod put me over a bit.
The absolute best lens to buy for food photography (for Nikons) is a Nikon 50mm lens. It doesn’t zoom, but when placed at the proper distance from the food being shot, a 50mm lens provides bright, incredible pictures. Unfortunately, this is not a lens that came standard with my camera at the time, so it’s an added expense. I have yet to buy this lens myself, to be completely honest. It’s something I will buy when I feel I am able to afford it. In the meantime, sometimes I pretend I have a 50mm lens by putting on my 18-55mm lens and adjusting the zoom factor at approximately 50mm… so lame, I know, but that’s what this ~starving artist~ needs to do. I digress, if you search, you might be able to find a 50mm lens that comes standard with a DSLR.
7. Learn how to use that camera.
You have this fancy-schmancy camera now, but it’s a confusing contraption that makes you feel like a total newb/failure. Your camera might come with a DVD on how to use it (mine did), which is helpful to watch. Even then, it still took time for me to get used to taking great pictures of food. I feel like I’m still learning.
If you’re less of a do-er and more of a planner, and food blogging is your thing, I suggest you try Pinch of Yum’s Tasty Food Photography E-Book. These guys are expert food bloggers, and are nice enough to share all they’ve learned in their food blogging journey. It does cost money, but the knowledge they pass down to you is well worth it. The website’s gorgeous photos say it all.
As a teacher of young children, I wish there was a simple formula on how to be a good writer (that doesn’t sound forced/robotic, of course). Here are all the tips I can give:
- Use correct grammar. Please, for the love of all that is intelligent, make it something people can read without wanting to pull their hair out. Proofread, proofread again, and then proofread later on to catch mistakes you missed the first two times. If grammar isn’t your strong suit, almost everyone has a friend that is. Get that person to proofread your entry for you. Also, capitalization and punctuation go an extremely long way.
- Use lots of pictures. As a reader, a lot of times, I’ll skip the words and scroll down until I see pictures. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. This is why I post step-by-step pictures in my recipes. Let your pictures tell a story.
- Words are important, too. Let the words supplement the pictures. Try to write the same way you speak, with perhaps a bit more description.
- Be you. When I write, I write something I would like to read. When I go back and look at old entries and smile at something I wrote, I know that I wrote it well. It’s a good idea to consider your audience, but it’s not enjoyable anymore when they are all you care about. You started a blog because you want to share YOUR story, right? So, share it your way and screw everyone else.
I think that’s it, for now! I hope I’ve helped some of you newbs out there. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.