How Do I Get a Blog?
Welcome to Episode 2 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. Today I will be helping you work out what sort of blog is best for your business, skills and budget. If you have ever asked yourself “how do I get a blog”, this article will hopefully help you.
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Transcript of Episode 002
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number two, How do I get a blog?
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
In this episode I will be talking about how you can get your very own blog, what you need to know and how much it will cost.
Blogs come in two main flavours. Hosted or self-hosted. What is the difference and which is right for you?
A Hosted Blog
A hosted blog is usually basically free and ideal for craft sellers who are looking for something that is very easy to set up and use.
All you need to do is create an account with the blog host company. Then you can log in anytime and add new content to your blog. You don’t need to worry about any of the technical stuff.
The blog’s files are stored on the host’s computers, known as servers.
Blogger is very popular with hobby crafters. When I am looking at craft tutorials online, they seem to be more often than not on Blogger. Because Blogger is owned by Google it works very well with Google Plus and YouTube. Blogger does allow you to use Google Adsense to monetize your blog – ie you host other people’s adverts and get paid for this.
WordPress.com is also very popular, is robust and well supported. It has more customization options than Blogger or Wix. But you will not be able to monetize the blog or include any adverts.
Wix’s hosted blog option has a nice drag-and-drop interface. It is not as popular as Blogger and WordPress.com but may be worth checking out.
By the way you could even use Tumblr as a very basic blog, but it has a lot less options than Blogger or WordPress.com.
You may be thinking, so these are free and simple to use, what’s the catch?
Well, for many crafters there really isn’t one. There are many, many millions of beautiful hosted blogs out there.
There are, however a couple of important restrictions to using a hosted blog. These may not be issues to someone blogging about their crafting hobby, but some of these restrictions could be more significant to a craft seller who wants to market their products and appear professional.
Firstly, there will probably be extra costs if you want some features, such as ecommerce.
Premium extras could include something as basic as being able to link your own domain name to the blog. Whilst many hobby crafters don’t mind having a URL that includes the name of the blog host too if you are trying to build a brand you may consider having your own domain name as a professional essential. This is the difference between a URL of www.TinTeddy.wordpress.com or www.TinTeddy.blogspot.com and the simpler www.TinTeddy.com.
You may also need to pay to remove the host’s own adverts from the blog. You will probably not be able to remove their branding.
These extra payments can add up quite significantly. Be sure to check out what the host includes – or doesn’t include when investigating your options.
Secondly, there may be restrictions on what you can post. It could be very hard to market your products from the blog, for example. Or you may not be allowed to promote certain types of goods, such as adult products.
A hosted blog will have a limited amount of customization available. I have heard it said that “all blogger blogs look the same”. Whilst many people clearly don’t mind this, you may want something a bit different for your business site.
You will be restricted to whatever themes the blog host offers. How much you can change them may vary.
You do not “own” your hosted blog. If the blog host decides to shut down, or to shut your blog down! They can. And you may not be able to easily transfer your blog elsewhere.
Summary of hosted blogs
So although hosted blogs are free, you may need to pay to get access to some extra services. They are easy to set up and get started and trouble free to maintain. They are ideal for new bloggers. Some craft sellers may find the hosted blogs restrictive or not conducive with their branding. There will probably be some limitations to monitizing the blog. They may be better suited to a hobby craft blog rather than a business one.
A self-hosted blog
Self-hosting means you are responsible for storing the files that make up your blog. Very few bloggers literally store the files on their own computers, for many reasons. Instead one rents space on a professional server. This is called “web hosting”. You pay the web host monthly, or yearly and they ensure that your files are always accessible by visitors to your blog. The price of web hosting depends on numerous factors including the location of the servers, how modern and fast they are, the amount of storage you require and how many visitors you expect to get to your blog. Some include a free domain name or other useful extras.
If your blog starts to get a lot of traffic (hurray!) you may need to upgrade your hosting plan as some have bandwidth limits on them. Bandwidth can be thought of as how busy your site is, how much it is being used. A new blog will probably be fine on the cheapest plans available for a good while.
Here in the UK you can get a reliable host for your starter blog for around £3-10 a month. In the USA you can expect to pay between $7 and $15 a month. Some web hosting companies have great introductory packages offering heavily reduced rates.
My websites are hosted on GoDaddy, who are one of the biggest and most well known webhosts. I would recommend them, because I have been with them for many years now. But do shop around, there are many good hosts to choose from.
Ooh, handy hint – Check your internet service provider’s contract too (ie who you pay for your internet connection), there are still a few out there who offer free web hosting as part of the deal!
Once you have access to your hosting, you then create the website using specialised software. The software is available as a boxed product, downloadble file or an online service. These may have a one off or recurring cost. There are very few of these nowadays, probably due to the dominance of WordPress!
The most well known self-hosted blog solution is WordPress.org (usually called just WordPress). This is different to the hosted blog service called WordPress.com that I mentioned earlier (yes, I know it is confusing that they are almost the same name).
Remember: WordPress.com is hosted WordPress.org or just WordPress is self-hosted.
The actual WordPress software is free. You need to install it to your server and then you can log in and use it from any internet-connected computer.
Self-hosted WordPress blogs now make up over 25% of ALL the websites on the internet! From tiny blogs to massive corporate websites, WordPress offers solutions for many types of user.
Another handy hint! When choosing a web hosting site, check to see if they have a simple WordPress installation service included – many do!
In episode 4 I will discuss why I personally use a self-hosted WordPress blog and how you can do so too.
One of the biggest benefits of a self-hosted blog is you can customize it to match your ideas. You will not have to worry about any other company’s branding appearing anywhere. Your blog will feature your branding and only what you decide you want to include. This is why so many professionals use WordPress for their blogs.
You have more control over your data than with a self-hosted blog. It is quite easy to switch web-hosts if you wish. You can also control what data you share with third parties – something that may not always be the case with a hosted blog.
WordPress features an ever-growing range of plugins that you can add to the basic software. These plugins give you all sorts of extra features such as ecommerce systems, Facebook-style social communities, fancy photo galleries, surveys and specialized forms and seamless connections to other software and services. Many of these plugins are free, or have a free version. Whatever sort of website you require, you can probably build it with WordPress and the right plugins.
You will be able to choose from an ever growing pool of themes to make your blog look attractive. There are already many, many thousands available, loads of them free. You can find themes that make it easy to get your blog looking just how you like. Themes can be customised to match your branding etc. You can even create your own themes if you fancy a bit of a challenge!
The disadvantages of a self-hosted blog need to be considered too though. For many the biggest one is that there can be a bit of a steep learning curve to get set up. Although many web hosts will include “one click” WordPress set up, you will still need to learn a few things to get your site looking how you want.
You will also be responsible for keeping your site up to date. WordPress, or whichever blogging software you use, will probably have regular updates as will your plugins. Whilst updating is often automatic, you might find you need to do some yourself. You may also benefit from having a little knowledge of HTML or CSS coding to get the best out of it too, though this is not essential.
Having said that, there are countless books, magazines, websites, YouTube videos and forums where you can find tutorials, information and help. There are also lots of courses, both online and otherwise, to learn the basics.
I taught myself to use WordPress. At first it seemed quite complicated and scary, but now I am much more confident. I was always able to find information online when I needed it. Bear in mind that I am an easily confused 50 year old. If I can do it….
I created my first WordPress blog about 3 years ago, and I have since built three more WordPress based sites. I still have a lot to learn, but it really does get easier as you get more used to it.
For me, the flexibility, value for money and control all made WordPress a good choice for my needs.
Some bloggers pay to have their self-hosted site initially set up for them and this is a great solution if you are nervous about doing it yourself. Once set up, it is not too hard to learn how to add your own content. I would recommend this route if you want a self-hosted blog but have doubts about doing it all yourself.
You are not restricted in how you use a self-hosted blog. It is “all yours”. You will be able to make it look how you like and use it how you like (well, as long as you aren’t breaking any laws!)
The only adverts on your blog will be the ones you place there. For many online sellers this is a very important point.
For more about adverts and monetizing your blog, check out episode 29 Monetizing Your Craft Blog.
In episode number 4 I will look further into using a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Summary of Self-hosted blogs
Whilst self-hosted blogs do require the financial commitment of a monthly or annual web hosting fee, there may be no extra costs needed (depending on your requirements).
Setting up a self-hosted blog can be a bit tricky at first, especially if you are not very computer savvy. You may need to get someone to do the initial setup.
A self-hosted blog is the most popular choice for business use because it is very flexible, customisable and one is not restricted in how one uses it.
WordPress blogs are hugely popular and there is a lot of support available for users of them.
If you are keen to have a blog but not very confident about setting one up, or if you want the cheapest possible solution to get started with, then I recommend one of the free hosted blogs – either Blogger.com or WordPress.com.
As they are basically free, you have nothing to lose by trying for a while to see if you like it.
There are ways to transfer a blog from Blogger or WordPress.com to a self-hosted WordPress.org site, but this may require a bit of technical fiddling and it may lose your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which means it could become much harder for your blog and content to be found.
If you want a longer-term, and perhaps more professional, solution, maximum control and customization and/or the option to expand your blog into other types of website in the future (such as an online shop) then a self-hosted blog might be a better solution for you.
I would definitely recommend having a self-hosted site if you want to monetize your blog. More on that in a later episode!
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast I will be talking about ways to sell your crafts online. What are your options and which is right for you?
Thanks for listening to How Do i Get a Blog. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, bye
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson and Matthew French
Original music by Matthew French
Episode 3 – Ways to Sell Your Crafts Online – will be out on 15th May 2018.
Helping craft sellers to sell their crafts.