They say you can’t swing a cat in an anchorage without hitting another blogger – it seems as though everyone out there on a boat has a blog. What do you mean you don’t have a blog? Shame on you, you unblogger! I mean, what better way to make your friends and family back home insanely jealous of your carefree lifestyle? Yes, the same friends and family who thought you were c-r-a-z-y when you told them you wanted to sell everything to move into an area the size of most of their master bathrooms and travel under five-thousand-year-old-technology. Of course you want to start a blog. It’s the greatest way to
get revenge let your loved ones know that you are safe after battling the high seas. Yep. Safe and sound…with a rum punch in hand…looking out at the sun setting over the crystal clear blue water… See how thoughtful you are for taking the steps to assure everyone that you’re ok?
Ok, so let’s get started…
Choosing a Domain Name That Won’t Make People Hate You
The first thing you need to do is decide what purpose you want your blog to serve. Is it strictly going to be a journal of your travels, written much like a logbook that you and your family will read, but will bore most everyone else to tears? If this is what you’re going for (don’t worry, I was only kidding about the bored to tears part… kind of), you can easily create a blog for free through WordPress.com or Blogger. There will be a bit of a learning curve, but there are plenty of online tutorials you can find to help you with these and they’re easy to learn if you’re just blogging and want to keep it simple. If you get a free account with either of these, your blog will have the domain format:
For most people, this will be fine. However, if you want your blog to serve a bigger purpose – let’s say you are a fantastic writer or photographer, and you want to use your blog as a portfolio of sorts… or let’s say you want to monetize your blog and use it as a source of income (more about this in another topic), then you will probably want to purchase your own domain name, such as www.SavingToSail.com. This makes your blog easier for people to remember and also looks more professional.
You’ll want to pick out a domain name that is easy to remember, contains no numbers, dashes, or anything that’s a pain in the ass to type. Don’t get too cute with plays on words, either. Keep it as short and sweet as possible. Nobody wants to type in luv2sail4ever.com. I mean, why would you do that to people? My rule of thumb is to pick out something that’s no more than 15 letters that you don’t have to spell out to people. If you had the above-mentioned site, your conversation would sound like this: “Check out my blog at love-to-sail-forever-dot-com. L-U-V, the number 2, sail, the number 4, ever.” No one would ever visit that site. No one.
After you’ve picked out the perfect domain name, you’ll want to see if it’s available and if so, register that baby! You can purchase a domain name from WordPress directly, but you’ll pay more. I choose to set my blogs up a little differently because I’m trying to be frugal, so I buy my domains through a domain registrar. My personal favorite is Namecheap.com <—- (AFFILIATE LINK ALERT!) because they are easy to deal with, have great customer service and good pricing. I highly recommend them. You can get a decent domain name for about eleven bucks a year or less.
Hosting Your Blog… Don’t $%#t Where You Eat
Once you have your domain name, you’ll then need to host it. Again, my way is not the only way, but I’ve found it works for me. My preferred hosting is through Bluehost or HostGator. <—- more affiliate links
Why don’t I just purchase my domain through my hosting provider, you ask? Well, that’s a good question. Really it boils down to this. Let’s say you’re not happy with the host provider you chose for some reason (luckily I’ve not had this problem), and you want to switch, moving that domain to a new host is like getting a divorce. It’s a huge pain in the ass. They make it this way because your hosting provider doesn’t want to lose your business, so they hope you’ll finally just throw your hands in the air and stick with them. If you keep it separate, though, it’s as easy as changing one little thing on NameCheap’s website (or whoever you choose to purchase your domain with) and voila! You can be with a new host in minutes.
Now, We Blog
Once you get the domain and hosting sussed out, you can finally have a little fun. My advice is to not spend too much time picking out your theme or doing some fancy design work to your blog at first. I know, I know. You see all the other pretty blog designs out there and you want to make yours look pretty, too, but people are coming to your blog for the content, not the design, so put your best storytelling hat on and start writing. You can always tweak your design once you have some content up. This is especially good on days when you have writer’s block.
Speaking of writer’s block, chances are you will suffer from it occasionally. One thing I like to do is make a list of potential future blog topics that will be fun to write, or that you think would interest your readers. This will come in handy if you need ideas later.
Keep ‘Em Coming Back
The biggest weapon a blogger has…the proverbial ace up the sleeve, so to speak, is his/her readership. If you’re blogging for friends and family, then you don’t have to worry about this so much, but if you’re doing it to showcase your writing, photography or other skills, and especially if you want to monetize your blog with advertisers and sponsors, you want to attract as many readers as possible. Not only that, you want to keep them coming back. How do you do this? First, you have to be a good writer. Write content that is fresh, interesting, useful, or funny. Second, spell-check. I’m a self-proclaimed grammar snob, so whenever I read something poorly written, the misspellings immediately jump out at me and distract me from what the reader is saying. He or she could be writing about a cure for cancer and instead, I’d be thinking, “Why didn’t they use spell-check?!”
Another thing I cannot stress enough is to put really good photos to put in your posts. Not only do photos help break up the text, they also help set the mood for your blog post. Images stir up emotions, so use them often and smartly. If you can’t take good photos, learn how, or use stock photography. My personal favorite stock photo website is SXC.hu. You can get really great stock photos there for free. You will need to check the rights for each photo to make sure there are no restrictions. NOTE: do not just take images off the internet. Images are copyrighted material and just because they are online doesn’t make them fair use, so know what you’re getting and don’t steal someone’s work. If you want some pointers on editing your photos to make them look fabulous, check out A Lesson in Basic Photoshop – Tips to Improve Your Cruising Photos, written by Jessica, a fellow cruiser.
Making Money From Your Blog
This is a topic that I will cover in another post in more detail, but there are lots of ways you can make a little side income with your blog. Below are a few:
- Affiliate Income
- Sell Advertising Space
- Acquiring Writing Gigs
- Sell Your Photos
- Sell Other Goods or Services
Don’t think that the readers will just come rolling in, though. It takes a long time to build your following. It also takes a lot of work, so just know that you will get out of it what you put in to it, but if done right, at the very least you’ll have a diary of sorts to revisit later when the memories of your travels have faded. Who knows, you might even make a little extra money if you so desire. Regardless, you’ll have the satisfaction of having some really awesome readers who comment and interact with you, and most importantly, your friends and family will be totally
jealous happy for you.
Got questions about starting a blog? Leave them in the comments!