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 going the extra mile to write about your life so that everyone knows that you’re ok…

Ok, so let’s get started…

Choosing a domain and hosting

So many people hesitate to start a blog because they’re afraid it’s super complicated. It’s really not. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. 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.

There are really two things you need when it comes to having a professional blog. And by professional, I mean a blog that is self-hosted, with your own domain name. Some people opt for the free blogging platforms such as wordpress.com (not the same as the highly recommended self-hosted WordPress) or blogspot.com. The reality is, if you have one of these free accounts, 1) you don’t actually “own” your platform — they do, and they can shut down your blog at any time, and 2) it looks way more professional to have a domain name that doesn’t end in .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com.

If you choose one of the free platforms, your blog name have the domain format:

www.yourblogname.wordpress.com

or

www.yourblogname.blogspot.com

This makes your blog look unprofessional. In fact, if I see a blog that has a .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com extension, I won’t even visit it because I assume it’s going to be poorly designed and amateur.

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 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 luv2sail4ever.com. That’s L-U-V, the number 2, S-A-I-L, the number 4, E-V-E-R.” No one would ever visit that site. NO ONE.

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:

  • Adsense
  • Affiliate Income
  • Sponsors
  • 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!

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