Starting a Blog: 5 Essentials That Gave Me Trouble + The Solutions

Lately, I’ve been seeing “how to blog” posts EVERYWHERE. It is turning into such a huge topic.

I think this is mainly because so many people are becoming interested in the business side of blogging (guilty). There have been so many success stories lately, how could you not be interested?!

I’m also guilty of reading just about every “how to blog” post out there. Hey, I wanted to be more than prepared when I started mine, what can I say?

Starting my blog was a difficult decision for me because I was scared to take a chance on it. Deep down I knew that I have what it takes to be a successful blogger.

But that doesn’t stop the doubts! I doubted that I was going to be able to get enough content out, that I wouldn’t be able to monetize my blog like I wanted to, that I was going to invest money into something that I wouldn’t be able to figure out, and that the technological aspect of it would be too confusing for me.

But… I did it. I’m doing it. I’m learning and I’m working and I’m growing every single day that I open up my laptop and log in to my website.

So, if you’re starting a blog and you’re getting stuck and having doubts about your capabilities… Don’t. You can do this. Just keep at it and embrace the learning curve! You might also want to check out my post on the 12 mental truths about blogging that I learned within the first month.

But first…

This post contains affiliate links. Check out my  disclosure policy.

Let me give you a little rundown. Tiptoe & Tidy is a WordPress blog that is run through Bluehost. I highly recommend signing up for Bluehost to host your beginner blog because it is affordable, easy, and allows you to download WordPress in one simple click (which is amazing for ultimate blog customization).

Using Bluehost (as opposed to free hosting sites like Blogger) means that you will OWN your blog, you will control it, and you will have your own specific domain name. This is all especially important if you are trying to monetize your blog because you will have the ultimate control over any money making opportunities and your profit.

Using my link, you can get basic hosting for your beginner blog for the discounted price of $3.95 PLUS a free domain name.

Now let’s get to the point of this!

I’m assuming you’re here reading this because you’re starting your own blog. Good for you! I’m also assuming that if you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely having a few setbacks when it comes to setting certain things up.

I’m going to go into some depth and share with you the 5 things that gave me the most TROUBLE (and when I say trouble… I mean had me about to pull my hair out) when I first started up my WordPress blog.

I’m also going to give you the solutions on how to achieve these things without going through all the trouble like I did of trying to teach myself. Let’s consider this a troubleshoot post of sorts. So, here we go!

The 5 ESSENTIALS that took the longest to figure out when starting my blog:

1. Widgets vs Plugins

2. Pages vs Categories vs Menus

3. Setting up my contact form

4. Adding an “About Me” in the sidebar

5. Content writing process

1. Widgets verses Plugins

I’m not sure why this was such a confusing concept for me to grasp when I started my blog… But I just didn’t understand the difference between widgets and plugins. Hello! It’s easy!

Widgets can be accessed through the “appearance” menu in WordPress.

Plugins can be accessed from the main WordPress menu.

Widgets are basically small little building blocks that you can add into the sidebar of your blog to perform specific functions: insert photo or text, follow me buttons, email subscription, archives, recent posts, search form.

Plugins are larger pieces, the bones, software that you can download into your website that give you more control over appearance or functionality.

2. Pages versus Categories versus Menus

THIS. This was a killer. I spent a good few hours googling and trying to make sense of all this NONSENSE. But now that I’m familiar with all of it, it’s SO so simple to use.

Pages:

Pages are pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a page of your website where you can write and attach photos, such as a contact page, an about me page, a disclosure and terms page. They’re the simplest of the 3 to figure out. You can create these pages from the main WordPress menu. You can then take these pages and attach them into your main header menu so that they are visible on your blog at all times.

That brings me to my second point, menus.

Menus:

Menus are accessible under appearance on the main WordPress menu. You can go here and create a header menu to be visible on your blog. In this menu, you can attach pages AND categories that will be shown in the header of your blog at all times.

So, let’s discuss categories.

Categories:

Categories can be found from the main WordPress menu under posts. Basically, categories are pages that you can add your main header menu, that contain all of your posts that you put under them.

For example, I have DIY, Organization, Lifestyle, and How To Blog categories. When I write a new post for my blog, I select to include that certain post into the category that it fits under. So this post about the 5 things that caused me the most trouble when starting my blog, will go under the category “How To Blog”. Whereas, a post on kitchen storage will go under the “Organization” category.

Once you’ve created these categories, you can go back the menu that we just discussed, and add these categories to be shown on your header along with your about me and contact pages. Scroll up and check out the top of my blog to see my categories and pages located in my header menu.

3. Setting up a contact form

Download it!

To set up my contact form, I downloaded a plugin called “Contact Form 7”.

To do this, go to the plugins area that can be accessed from the main WordPress menu. Click “add new” and search for this plugin, download the plugin, and click “activate” once the download has completed. It’s important that you click the activation button because if you don’t, the plugin won’t fully be usable. Once you’ve done this, a “Contact” button should appear on the main WordPress menu located on the left. It will appear under where posts, media, pages, comments, and feedback are located.

Configure it!

Go to the Contact page, and you will add a new contact form. I simply name mine “Contact Form 1”.

Now, you can customize your contact form by changing the labels in the coding from “Your Name” or “Your email” to something else. But I choose to leave mine the way it comes because I just need it to serve its purpose: be a place where readers or brands can contact me.

Once you’ve done this, just click “Save” and right under the title of your form, you will see a code. Copy this code. You will need it.

Make it visible!

Here is where I might lose you. However, since I’ve already discussed the difference between pages, categories, and menus… we might not have a problem.

First step, click “Pages” in your main menu and add a new page. Title it something along the lines of “Contact Me, Work With Me, Contact, etc…” Title it however you feel will work best for your blog. Next, write a small message inviting readers or brands to get in touch with you. You can visit my contact page to gain some inspiration. (While you’re there, send me a little message and let me know if I’ve helped you through this post. I love chatting!) Once you’ve added your message, simply paste the code from earlier that you copied right below it and click “update” to save the page.

Second step, go to your “appearance” settings in the main menu and click “menus”. This is where you can place your Contact page into your header to make it visible. Expand the “pages” that are on the left and you will be able to select the page that you titled earlier for your contact form. Add it to your menu and place it in the position that you’d like by dragging it up or down. Click “Save Menu” and you’ve done it! You can go view your blog and take pride in seeing your contact page available at the top in your header for easy availability.

4. Adding an “About Me” in the sidebar

In my opinion, adding an “About Me” into the sidebar of a blog is an ESSENTIAL. It is one of the first things I look at when visiting a new blog. This is what draws me into the blog, and from here I’ll decide if I’m interested in seeing the blogger’s actual “About” page and getting to know them. A blogger’s personality and story is what draws me in to their blog even more than their content will.

Typically, an About Me section in the sidebar will include a small photo of the blogger and a smaller description of either themselves or their blog. Some bloggers even treat this as a “Welcome” area and just give a short introduction of themselves and welcome their readers to their blog.

The About Me in my sidebar contains my photo, and a condensed version of my “About” page. Overall, adding an About Me into your sidebar may not seem like a big deal because it doesn’t contain much. However, I promise it’s important and it’s EASY to add once you figure it out.

What NOT to do…

So, my first issue I had when trying to figure this out was that I had NO idea how to put ANYTHING on my sidebar. All you do, is click “Appearance” in the left bar of your WordPress site, and then click “Widgets”. This is where ALL of your sidebar options are located. Now, when I first found this page I read through all my available widgets and found the one titled “Image (Jetpack)” and set up my About Me through that by adding a picture and a caption. But I couldn’t get it how I wanted it because I’m a complete perfectionist.

What TO do…

The solution is to use the one titled “Text”. Okay, so don’t get alarmed when you see that there’s no place to attach a photo of yourself here. We’re going to have to do a little bit of coding. I’m going to provide you with the exact codes to copy and paste into that little “Text” widget:

<img src=”PASTE HERE” alt=”ALTERNATE TITLE HERE” />

Once you’ve copy and pasted that code into your Text widget… in another tab in your browser, open the “Media” section located in the left bar of your WordPress site. Click “add new” and upload the photo that you’d like to be in your About Me. Once the photo is uploaded, click on it, and you’ll notice the attachment details to the right of your photo. Copy the contents of the box titled “URL”. This is what you’ll paste into the coding that I provided you with where it says “PASTE HERE”. Now, where it says “ALTERNATE TITLE HERE” you just write what your photo is. I simply write “About Me”. (Side note: you can use this code anywhere to include a photo when you can’t directly upload one).

The only thing left to do is to actually write your condensed About Me or Welcome paragraph. You simply just type this content right below where you’ve pasted that code for you photo. Once you’ve done this, you can publish it and go to your blog to check out the success!

Because we all like to be a little EXTRA sometimes… right?

Another little tip that I have for you guys is a code to center your content in the widget. I find that the sidebar of my blog looks much neater with my About Me paragraph centered under my photo. To do this, paste the code:

<div align=”center”>TYPE CONTENT HERE</div>

And simply type your content where it instructs you to! This will ensure that your paragraph is centered and neat!

5. Establishing a writing process for producing content:

The problem…

Now some of you may be thinking, “Ali… if you didn’t think you could write content then why would you start blogging… a career centered around writing…” But seriously, it wasn’t the writing that got to me. I can write and write and write with no end in sight. I’m great at talking to myself on the internet.

However, in the beginning I got to caught up in the editing process and was trying so hard to make my content “blog worthy”. Which is extremely important! Your content absolutely has to be blog worthy before you post it. Quality over quantity, right?! Right.

But writing and editing at the same time wasn’t a process that worked for me. It gave me writer’s block, took the fun out of writing, and made me sound less personable.

The solution…

My solution: establish a new process.

Now, instead of trying to write and edit one post at a time, I devote entire days to each step of the process. I devote a day to just sitting down and writing, getting my ideas out onto paper (computer screen, really), and forming the basis of my content. I can write several posts a day by doing this.

Next, I devote a day to just editing. I go back and look at all the content I previously wrote and edit edit edit. This is where I make my posts “blog worthy” and get them ready to be posted on my scheduled posting days.

By changing up my process, I’ve figured out a way to be more efficient with my time. I also enjoy writing way more than I ever thought I could!

Did you learn something?

There you have it! The 5 things that drove me crazy trying to figure out in the first week of setting up my WordPress blog.

I hope the solutions that I gave are easy to follow and that you are able to set these up on your blog with a higher amount of confidence than what I had.

If you are struggling with anything else on your blog feel free to reach out to me! Use my contact form in my header or you can comment on this post! Another reader may even have an easy solution for you.

ALSO — Newbie bloggers, check out this post on the best affiliate networks to monetize your blog during WEEK ONE after launching + this post about how to keep your blog organized to the max and why it’s an absolute must.

Don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest to keep up with my ideas and for more blogging tips!

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