It’s been exactly 1,000 days since I sat down at my kitchen table and registered the domain ‘www.indiahattersley.com’ and wrote my first blog post (see here!) Wow – time has gone quick. I would have never thought I’d still be here typing away, creating content and loving it quite so much…! As I launch my brand-new sparkly site, I wanted to take a moment to think ‘Blogging – How What, Why?’ both to reflect on my own purpose and journey so far, but also potentially to help encourage you to think about whether starting a blog could be for you.
In August 2017, I’d just graduated from university and been on a trip of a lifetime with 2 weeks in Antigua with mum and dad, followed by 5 weeks road tripping in the USA with G. As many blogs start, I thought there must be a way to document my incredible summer through more than just Instagram and I had previously ‘ummed and ahhed’ about blogging in the past…
In fact, I actually had numerous websites growing up including ‘Katie’s recipies’ (yes, I registered an incorrectly spelled domain name because I was 8 and didn’t know how to spell ‘recipes’) to document my love of cooking/baking and another one called ‘blondeness’ as a platform to talk about the latest music (S Club 7), my favourite Claire’s Accessories purchases and my love of everything ‘pink’. Both of which failed miserably as I’d been impatient and not known anything about building a website whilst at primary school. Surprise!
However, following my hols, I had a few weeks left at home in Yorkshire before moving down to London to start ‘real life’ and thought I’d give it another go…third time lucky!
I didn’t do too much planning and scoping before I started but I did think of the 3 key things I needed to nail to make it a ‘success’ (although I’m not really sure what I mean by a ‘success’ here because for me it’s simply a passion, rather than a money-making scheme). So here goes on ‘Blogging – How, What, Why?’
The ‘how’ wasn’t too much of a consideration for me, I’d used ‘WordPress’ previously and so that was always going to be the route for me. My dad also has created websites previously so was able to help me set up a domain. The rest – was up to me and YouTube to get me going.
Being completely honest, the ‘techy’ side of my blog has been the part I’ve least enjoyed. I don’t really understand a lot of it and it’s quite complicated (especially when things go wrong). Even now, getting my new site live has caused tears, tension and stressful evenings in our flat (all I can say is thank you G for putting up with me when I thought the world was going to end!)
When I started on WordPress I bought a ‘basic’ plan (for £3 per month), bought a theme for a one-off £60, asked Google a lot of questions and watched many video tutorials to get something live. It took a while, but after bodging something together I had a platform where I could write and upload blog posts and that’s all I needed. It looked alright too!
There are many platforms out there that allow you to build a very basic site – it’s pretty easy, cheap and quick. You can choose from loads of free themes, add pages/categories, upload an ‘about me’ section and after a few clicks – you’re ready to start blogging! Don’t expect the shiniest, most aesthetic site you’ve ever seen at first. For that, it takes time and even I’m still getting to grips with it all.
What’s good about using a fully managed WordPress platform is that you’re supported through most of what you’ll want to achieve for a basic blog – automated emails to subscribers, analytics dashboards all in place and easy templates to add different sections to the blog. It can all be live within seconds!
This year, I changed it up because I wanted more ownership, the ability to further customise my site and to make it a bit more professional (with a hosting platform, custom theme etc) but I’ll describe that process in another blog post (coming soon…!)
If you have any specific questions about the ‘what’ – please comment below or send me a message and I’m happy to help or advise!
Next, it’s the ‘what’ – what are you going to blog about? You see loads of blogs out there from food, fitness, music, fashion, knitting, cars, travel – you can really do it about anything. What I’d say, is you really need to figure out what you ENJOY writing about, otherwise it won’t last longer than a few weeks.
It takes time to write a blog post, create content, edit videos – so if you don’t have a genuine passion for the topic, it will fail fast. This isn’t to say that you can’t change or pivot your blog later down the line but you need to start with a means to go on. I went pretty broad when I started – with 4 themes that have stayed pretty consistent over the last 3 years: ‘food’, ‘travel’, ‘fashion/beauty’ and ‘lifestyle’.
However, what I really found was that the majority of my posts revolved around ‘food’ and creating recipes and now that is one of the main pillars of my site and what generates the most traffic. I posted about travel when I went on holiday, but this wasn’t a regular feature as I don’t travel for a living. I talked a bit about my favourite beauty products and then the rest was filled with general ‘lifestyle’ posts from restaurants in London, events I’d attended and new year’s resolution posts!
I’ve gradually found my real focus and now my new blog reflects what’s genuinely important to me, what I enjoy and what I want to share with others. I’ve split it into 3 main categories ‘Recipes’, ‘Wellness’ and ‘Lifestyle’ as I realised I wanted to share more content on my experiences and love of exercise, healthy eating and becoming vegetarian. I still post about London inspo, beauty and travel but this falls under ‘lifestyle’. I also now have a ‘shop’ page to showcase all the fashion products I love – because I found that although I have a passion for fashion, I didn’t regularly write about it, instead enjoy sharing regular content and #ootd images.
It is quite obvious when a person is trying to ‘force’ content and when it isn’t authentic – so rather than setting up a blog ‘for the sake of it’, you should set up a blog because you have a real interest in sharing content with others and writing about a particular topic. It really can be ANYTHING and you’ll slowly but surely build a following of people who are also genuinely interested in what you’ve got to say!
The last, but by no means least, pillar in my blogging reflections – is ‘why’. Why did I start a blog? Why do I continually write content? Why do I enjoy it? Well it goes back to the ‘what’ and identifying what I wanted to start a blog about. I genuinely enjoy cooking, creating new recipes, travelling the world, testing new beauty products, finding hidden restaurants in London (who doesn’t enjoy these things…!?) BUT, that coupled with the fact I love taking photos and writing, meant that I wanted to do more than it be a memory in my head.
Another reason why I’ve continued to blog, is because it is now a real hobby. I enjoy taking the time out of my day or week to sit down and write a post, I enjoy searching for recipe inspiration in my growing collection of cookery books, I enjoy building my confidence on social media promoting my posts and I enjoy planning and scheduling a strategy for what’s to come. It’s now become more than just a ‘write-a-blog-post-when-I-fancy-it’ type of platform, and instead I’ve now written a plan for the next 3 months of what posts I am going to write about, new collaboration opportunities and other avenues to explore (…subscribe to get the latest updates!)
Just as someone might have a hobby of knitting, Xbox, flower arranging, painting, tennis – I have blogging. It’s not the only thing I do – I have other hobbies that actually all feed into my platform including yoga, boxing, make-up, content creation/social media and spending time with friends and family. But it’s grown and grown over the last few years from something very basic, to something which now has decent traffic every month. I’m learning more every day from how to better my SEO, how to market my brand, web design, analytics, CRM and more (none of these things meant much to be before 2017!)
On top of my interest in blogging, people are always asking me for recommendations for restaurants in London, are always commenting on how nice my dinner looked last night and want the recipe, and relatives love hearing about my travels – so really it’s a win-win situation because my blog is able to provide content that others (I hope) want and enjoy. When it comes to traffic it’s been slow but steady – it’s so hard to build a following in a hugely saturated market, but I’m getting more and more positive feedback about my recipes, have people sharing my content and views are going up by the day. It’s a rewarding hobby and knowing people are taking the time to read my posts is really exciting.
So there is it, my ‘Blogging – How, What, Why?’ and hope that you’ve found it useful. I’ve kept it quite high level and I’m sure there’s some obvious things in there, but over the last few years there have definitely been times that I’ve tried to fit a mould and above all else I want to say that you don’t have to!
It can sometimes be hard to find the courage to set something up like a blog and share your inner most thoughts and feelings. People might think it’s ‘cringey’ posting ‘link in my bio’ and people who you think are close may not support it in the way you hope. But, put yourself out there and you may surprise yourself – don’t let ‘hate’ stop you because starting a blog has been one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do. I really have found my feet over the last few years and am at my happiest now, truly understanding what I enjoy and makes me ‘tick’ which has been helped along the way with my blog as I’ve been able to discover what’s important to me. The blogging community is also much more forgiving and encouraging than it might first appear. I’ve reached out to a number of bloggers on social media who’ve given me advice and shared their experiences. So reach out to people that you follow, people that inspire you and people who have sites you like the look of – most people will want to help (if you have any questions for me, contact me here!)
Now, as I relaunch my blog I’m proud of how far I’ve come and who knows where the next 1,000 days will take me…