I’m hoping to take my community and move it to an actual domain in the next few months and expand it into an online magazine, blog and general artist resource on the web. Any tips on transforming a site into something like this? The business side of it is the part that I am the most worried about, I don’t want to forget to do something and having it hurt me a few years down the line.
You’re smart to consider these things ahead of time! The better defined your niche is, the faster you’ll rise. Blogging isn’t all about fun and games, especially when you’re doing it for a larger audience. Blogs are a great format for your online artist resource and magazine. In some ways, I agree that they’ve killed conventional websites.
Some major benefits of blogs are:
a. The ease of updating and modifying content
b. The lack of printing costs / more environmentally friendly than magazines
c. Being in charge of who can advertise
d. Networking and linking for self-promotion
e. 24/7 access for fellow readers
f. Ease of contributions from fans (commenting, surveys, contests)
g. If you love something, it can be bookmarked!
Steps to launching a successful blog:
1. Bookmark Inspiration
What do you like and dislike? What pages will you need? Take screenshots and save a folder of inspiration on your desktop. When the time comes to build your blog, things will be so much easier when you can dive into a pile of things that make your heart beat a little faster! Visual inspiration is overflowing at FFFFOUND! and we heart it.
2. Define Why You Want to Put Effort Into a Blog
Do some soul searching and brainstorming. Ask yourself:
Will it double as your portfolio?
Is your sole goal to provide content to help artists succeed?
Are you also wanting to gain notoriety for yourself?
Is your goal to turn the domain into a primary source of income?
Do you want to make a living off of selling products and advertising?
3. Define a Topic / Niche
If you’re still figuring this out, Darren Rowse suggests that you ask yourself the following questions:
What do I know about?
What topics do I read about and seek out information on already?
What topics do others come to me for advice on?
What topics keep coming up in conversation for me?
What topics would you write about for free?
4. Make a Decision: To Profit or Not?
If your answer is yes, how will you do so? You can sell advertising space, products, and consulting services. The sky’s the limit! Give Blogging for Money the once-over to get an idea of what can be expected if you go this route.
5. Develop a Business Plan
A business plan will help you define and outline your wants, needs, and overall purpose.
Spot-on advice from Freelance Switch:
When someone asks you, “what do you do?” or “what type of business is it?” can you answer in 30 seconds or less? It’s called an elevator pitch.
I did my first business plan for Nubbytwiglet.com as a senior project before I graduated with my marketing degree; this was years before it became a blog, but I still was able to iron out my expectations. I explained exactly how I planned to reach my goals and what I needed to do so; it was the solid foundation that I needed. The Small Business Administration can get you started.
6. Develop Differentiation
Find a minimum of five of your closest competitors and jot down what you admire about them and how you could improve upon what they’re doing. How can you do it in a different way? Give some serious thought about what sets your idea apart from what’s already out there. This is important so you can create differentiation to demonstrate the unique aspects of your product and create a sense of value.
7. Define Your Market
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do and how you’re going to do it better, clearly define your market. If you’re running a business, you’re going to need customers, even if they’re all based online. Who are they? What do they like? What websites do they visit? How old are they?
Remember, marketing is not unethical. We all have the power to make our own choices. There’s the possibility that thousands of people can do the same thing as you and maybe do it better, faster, and cheaper. BUT! Do they have brand recognition? It doesn’t matter how amazing you are if no one knows that you exist, what you do or how to contact you.
8. Pick a domain name
It seems like all the good .coms are taken, but if you can avoid a name that is super long and full of dashes, all the better (use whois.net to see if yours is still available). If all else fails, you can make up something nonsensical like Nubbytwiglet.com! I’ve registered all of my domain names through GoDaddy.com. Besides being reputable, their 24 hour customer service is super knowledgeable.
9. Get Server Space
Buy some server space to store your site files and images on. It’s always a bonus if the domain name and the server space are through the same company so that the changes you make can be as seamless as possible.
10. Templates, templates, templates
Personally, I’m a huge fan of WordPress because there are thousands of free blog templates that are easily modifiable and WordPress.org gives you instructions on how to install its software directly onto your domain.
a. 6 Cutting-Edge, Minimalist WordPress Themes
b. Thousands of free WordPress themes; sort by color, number of columns, etc.
c. 30 Must-See Comment Designs
11. Develop a Unique Logo / Brand / Image
There are 110 million blogs and over 175,000 new ones join the ranks every day. That’s a lot of competition! How do you plan on standing out from the crowd? Give a logo, tagline and header some serious thought. You’ll have the ability to potentially reach thousands of people a day who have never met you in person. Your blog will immediately convey an image of who you are (online, at least). First impressions count!
Are you going to use your own name to blog under, an alias, or do it anonymously? These options all have perceived advantages and disadvantages. Since my domain is the same name as my business, I sign and take credit for all of my posts. The goal of my blog is to make a personal connection with readers and showcase my portfolio, so this was an easy decision for me. If your blog is a general resource and online community, this may take more thought.
12. Think about a ‘Signature’
I use my handwritten signature at the bottom of each blog post while other people use quotes or unique sign offs (Gala Darling’s air of excitement and positivity is conveyed in ‘Super-love & cupcakes’ at the close of each article). This is important so that your posts are easily picked out when someone is quickly scrolling through an RSS feed.
13. Keep a Running List of Future Topics
What are some topics you’ve always wanted to write about? Who have you always dreamed of collaborating with? As soon as you’re up and running and gaining notoriety, administrative tasks begin to eat away at your time; having a list of what to cover will keep you on track.
Related Work That Will Add to Your Success
a. Answer Your Emails (or, as many as you can)
A close friend (who’s got a massive following) once told me that he tries to answer every email because if it wasn’t for his fans, he’d be working at McDonalds. If people are taking the time to write you and are genuine about it (not spamming or being rude), it’s polite to respond in whatever capacity you can, even if it’s not right away.
b. Have A Cohesive Image Across the Board
My blog mimics the colors and feel of my press kit. I try to keep most of my typography choices consistent in online and offline materials. But, there’s no reason to be uptight about branding; the old rules have softened. It would be so boring if everything you did looked the same. I constantly design new business cards, rotate between three logos and occasionally change my blog header. If you do this, give it some thought. Make the dots easy to connect. It’s good to be remembered!
c. Get Business Cards
Order a stack and get your freshly minted domain on there somewhere. You never know who you’ll run into. Who knows who you’ll meet at the bar; it may be your future business partner and nobody wants to jot down important details on a martini stained napkin! This should be all the convincing you need.
Since you’re wanting to start an online artist resource, the 27 Thoughts On Blogging For the Artist is a must read. It’s pretty amazing. If you’re passionate and willing to put in the hard work (and do your homework!), you will be successful. Good luck!