If you are thinking about starting a creative blog, or want to improve your current blog, either as a hobby or turn it into an online business, then this is one of the best practical ‘how to’ books to get.
Even if you don’t want to blog regularly or share stories, but you want to create a very affordable website (often even free!) that you can easily update with new images (without needing to work with a designer or web developer) then get Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success as it will show you how easy and cheap it is to get started with blogging software and how to keep your website up to date.
This book shows you in practical steps how to upload and start creating and promoting your own blog, but it also will provides a great overview and starting point if you decide to work with a professional blog developer.
It’s a great book to read cover-to-cover if you need a thorough introduction to blogging, or just pick out specific topics or chapters if you are more advanced. This is great resource book, inspirational, full of technical details and practical insights, with loads of online resources and links to other creative blogs at all levels of maturity and profitability. It’s packed with practical and detailed information, and 100’s of full-colour images of creative blogs to inspire you and screen shots to show you how it works.
In a way this book looks and reads a bit like a blog or magazine with lots of images, colourful headings, expert columns, tips and quotes.
If the idea of blogging is a little scary for you, rest assured! When I started The Design Trust website in January 2012 I didn’t even realise that I was actually blogging…
In the last year I have had to teach myself quickly how to:
- update our website (turned out to be easy!)
- identify what topics and blog formats work best ( bit trickier!)
- develop ‘my voice’ (still learning)
- keep driving traffic to our site (ongoing challenge)
- keep our existing audience informed and interested so that they return
- manage my time and getting a decent financial return for my efforts.
Conclusion: I learned an awful lot in the last 12 months, but still a lot to learn and discover!
As blogging and running online businesses is still very much in its infancy many professionals are prepared to share their own experiences and advice with newbies. There is lots of advice online (see our blog post about The Design Trust’s favourite blogging resources) but what’s great with this book is that all of it is put together in one place.
I would have loved to have had Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success when I started out with The Design Trust website as it would have explained many of the above challenges. It also would have made me understand the basics of blogging software, which would have made it even easier to work with our professional web developer.
The author Robin Houghton has worked in internet marketing since 2000, and has run her own business in the last nine years from Lewes, near Brighton. She is a social communications consultant, who has trained thousands of small business owners in best practice email marketing, internet business essentials, blogging and social media.
Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success starts with the basics: what is a blog?, how do you find your niche?, what type of blogger are you?, what do you want to achieve with your blog?, will you blog by yourself or in a group?, how to choose blogging software, what hosting options to select, different blog layouts, difference between pages and posts, and choosing a name.
It gives a great list of ten popular plugins and widgets (which will allow you to accessorise your blog and add functionalities such as twitter and ‘like’ buttons, newsletter subscription boxes, polls and games, tag clouds, top posts etc).
The author explains really clearly how easy it is to start a blog, but also makes it very clear from the start that you really need to stand out in the very competitive blogosphere and that it is hard to get (enough) traffic to your blog, let alone make any money with it.
As Amy Ng of Pikaland (page 19) says: “Be careful of burnout when you’re starting a blog. Lots of people start up quickly, throwing on lots of content and working hard around the clock to maintain it. But in your rush to start, always remember to pace yourself. Blogging is a slow jog, not a short sprint.”
The third chapter gives a really thorough step-by-step guide on how to load your (free) software and how to post your first article. There are really useful screenshot images of Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr software, which you can review to decide which software is best for you.
Blogging software allows you to create your own web design within the constraints of the structure of a blogging theme. It is essential that before you start posting texts and images that you decide how you want your website to look with colours, images and typography.
The fourth chapter is all about creating this eye-catching blog by using colour, typography and images. The author mentions and shows images of some great online tools for using colour schemes – showing which colours compliment each other and how your specific colour combination would look like on a template blog page.
There is a good explanation of how themes or templates work, and what you can customise, and what not. Just understanding how the layout structure behind your website works will help you to create the kind of website you want. If i had known this before creating the Design Trust site it would have avoided much confusion and frustration!
The next chapter about ‘creating great content’ is my favourite chapter. Fantastic good overview of 12 popular types of blog posts, the structure of a blog post, using pictures powerfully, how to use and make a video (!) and audio podcast, and best of all a template blog content plan. Throughout there are great images of existing creative blogs or software illustrating the information. In this chapter the author really shows her experience in the field of creative blogging with really relevant tips and suggestions.
Even as a semi-experienced blogger I got so many tips, insights and ideas from this chapter. Plus the practical blog planner really helps to structure your potential content and use your time more effectively (and lessen the stress of ‘having to blog’ or ‘what to blog about’). Yes, I am using this now for planning The Design Trust posts!
Another useful chapter is all about ‘promoting your blog’. There is a little bit about SEO ( Search Engine Optimatisation), but more importantly (and effectively) info on how to build links, getting links from directories, the importance of email marketing, and offline promotions such as blogger meetups. In this chapter Robins shares:
7 great tips to grow your blog community:
1. Keep them reading How can you encourage people to stay longer on your blog? Use video, polls or ‘if you like this, then you might like this too’ links.
2. Encourage people to subscribe to your blog by email or RSS feed, or by offering free e-books, news or competitions.
3. Post original content
4. Post regularly and frequently
5. Recognise people: write about people you admire, support others, attribute pictures appropriately (use photo credits!), say ‘thank you’ to people who comment on your blog, listen to feedback.
6. Make it easy to share: include social media share buttons on each post (e.g. The ‘like’ button for Facebook).
7. Show the real person behind your blog: include a portrait or video of you, show a little bit of passion or vulnerability. Make your blog unique and give it a personality!
How will you turn your blog into a money making machine? Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success gives a good intro into affiliate marketing, advertising/sponsorship, getting paid to blog and other things you might like to sell. The next chapter talks about PR and your blog, and the importance of your blog as a profile and credibility building platform and PR tool. Robin gives some great tips here on how to connect with journalists in a professional and effective way.
The book finishes with a useful short chapter on monitoring your blog’s performance, what to measure and what the best online tools are. Very useful here is a worksheet to set some specific goals of what you want your blog to be and do – now and in three years time.
The last chapter about troubleshooting is really good in raising some major challenges as a new blogger. It talks about respecting copyright and disclosure, but also about tricky situations such as what to do with trolls (abusive people online) and how to stop procrastinating and to stay motivated to keep your blog up-to-date and exciting – for you and your audience!
I highly recommend this book. There is only one assumption across the entire book, which is that you do the entire design and creation by yourself without any input from professional designers or experts.
From my own experience I would suggest you use this book to get a good overview of blogging, maybe even design a couple of pages or draft some titles of blog posts. I would recommend that you then start to work with a professional graphic designer and or a specialist developer to set up the structure of your blog. Of course you can do it all yourself without getting the experts in, but I have found that a little bit of expert advice at the start of my blogging journey was very worthwhile, minimised frustrations, and definitely saved me money and time!
One other final warning from me: This book shows many well established blogs. Although the book doesn’t provide visitor numbers of these, make sure you don’t feel too daunted or overwhelmed to start your own blog in the presence of these highly successful blogs. Get started, and just take it from there and grow at your own pace – blog post by blog post.