Do the words ‘pyramid scheme’ give you goose bumps? Have you every been roped into a scheme that involves 1) doing something that sounded great initially but quickly becomes time consuming and 2) and then required you to convince god knows how many other reluctant people (or more so lying through your teeth) to do the same? Well, I think I got caught. I never get caught. But this time I did. She was so nice and loving. So bubbly and enthusiastic too. She looked like an angel.
Thank goodness the pyramid scheme doesn’t involve any financial outlay and my wonderful-friend-who-I-haven’t-(yet)-met friend Kellie from The Blonde Nomad hasn’t used any emotionally-manipulative techniques either. Kellie asked me to write an article about ‘why I write’. Which I kind of started doing and then realised that if I tweaked the content a little I could craft a much better article that could actually help others get start with their travel blog (it’s the coach in me sorry Kellie). So I have ditched the requested headings – they didn’t float my boat – and hopefully come up with something useful! See, as a blogger, we re always on the hunt for some new topics to share with our ‘virtual’ audience – so what I have done is turned this post into a short and sweet how-to guide on getting started with a blog.
You may wonder what Kellie and I have in common? Well, a few months ago Kellie and I have both decided to swap the 4-bedroom, 2 bathroom comfort for 14m2 of rectangular aluminium on wheels. Compared to other travelling families though, we have it easy. Our caravan is fully equipped with a queen size bed, 3 bunks, a shower, WC, hot water and a front loader washing machine. Warrick and I are on the road for 2+ years and travelling with young children is challenging enough so we went for the family van instead of the camper trailer. Kellie also just happend to win the Dometic Follow The Sun project so her van is now fully equipped with the latest appliances and goodies.
Kellie and I each run a travel blog – ours is called This Is Our Australia and generally gets some TLC early in the morning when the kidlets are still asleep or when we move camp from one town to the next!
So why did I decide to share our caravanning experiences around Australia with the world wide web?
Because I needed a new challenge.
What????? I can hear you say – isn’t caravanning around Australia a challenge in itself? Don’t you have enough on your plate with moving every 4 days and playing mum non stop (I used to have an au pair, oh bliss…)? Well it seems that no I don’t. My brain has been stuck on fast forward mode for the last 2 years and I am on a mission to turn those crazy ideas it spits out into realities. I am all about adventure you see
Because I want to Inspire YOU to explore you own backyard
I write this blog to inspire other families to escape the ordinary and explore the extraordinary. Step out of your lounge room, out of your house and out of your comfort zone. Start by a day trip in your region and take your family to a place you have never been before. See – I have even written it on our car:
It’s my job
Writing also helps me generate an income: my ‘day to day’ job is a tourism and small business digital consultant. I have been writing training documentation for ever and a day, one of which is the Tourism e kit which explains everything tourism businesses (and small businesses alike) need to do when it comes to marketing their business online (it’s free and has got thousands of neatly-organised tips. Get it from www.tourismekit.com.au. Enough about me though, I have dedicated this article to help YOU get started with a blog!
4 tips to start your hassle-free online blog
If you do this you will be on the right track and save hours.
1. Get the right tools for the job or it will take you hours
You may have heard about different blogging platforms – maybe your cousin/neighbour/hairdresser recommended an amazing one. Well trust my 20 years of web expertise on that one. If someone tells you to use another system I’d recommend you do a 180 degree turn and run in the other direction.
WordPress is a website and blogging platform in one (and yes it’s free). Just like your iPhone or Android, it is super user friendly and popular. It is compatible with thousands of plugins (imagine apps on your smart phone) to allow you to achieve any of your objectives quick-smart. For example, you can add a Facebook feed, integrate Maps, add a form or a poll all on your own, without paying a web developer to help you. WordPress is free and most of the plugins you will require are free or very very cheap.
Get WordPress (self hosted if you have a tiny bit of geek in you, or hosted by WordPress if you don’t), select a theme (layout) that fits your niche on sites (http://theme.wordpress.com if you don’t host yourself, ThemeForest.com if you chose the self-hosted otption).
Remember: technology is simply a tool, what you want to focus on is creating quality content and not having to play McGyver with code and trying to build your website from scratch. WordPress focuses on just that.
2. Select your favourite note taking program or little red book
There is nothing worse than a blog without content. Once you start travelling or thinking about travel article ideas will just come to your mind and you will need somewhere to write them down before your minds switches to finding a kid-friendly place to stop for lunch. Write one article idea per page, at the top of each page (I will explain below why)
My notebook is called Evernote – it’s with me everywhere, at all times. On my phone, iPad and computer. This is where I download my brain and blogging ideas. Evernote is a program and not a hard paper book but select whatever tickles your fancy and stick with it.
3. Structure your blogging calendar
Once you have got a few ideas going in your little red book organise them by weeks. Aim to write one post a week.
Structuring your blogging calendar in advance is key as it allows you to have an overview of the topics you are covering. Most importantly, you won’t have to rack your brain every week to come up with a topic to write about.
4. Share on social media
Once you have published you post (see below for the process), make sure you share it on the social media channels your ‘target market’ uses. We use Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest and Twitter. Make sure you select a great picture as image for your social media channels as just providing a link won’t get you as many reads!
Proposed process to craft a readworthy blog article
Here is the recipe I use.
- Grab your red book or your favourite note taking app such as Evernote. Select one of your topics (you should have one per page). Go grab a coffee, and have some thinking time. On your selected topic page (right below it) write down 4 sub topics that are relevant to your topic. To come up with those, think about what questions your audience would be likely to ask if you were to present this topic to them. I feel this is a very important part of the process to organise your thoughts. You may or many not use headings to introduce those topics but at least your article will be easy to read and understand. This is what your little red book should look like by now.
- Sub Topic 1
- Sub Topic 2
- Sub Topic 3
- Sub Topic 4
- Now add 3-4 bullet points to each topic and add some meat to your topic. You may also have ideas for images or photos already in your possession. Add that as a note. So you have:
- Sub Topic 1
- Bullet 1
- Bullet 2 + use photo of Johnny on the ladder
- Bullet 3
- Sub Topic 2….
- Select the images and videos that complement your headings and bullet points. You will need to prepare your images so that they are web ready. I’d recommend that you resize them to max 1,000 pixels wide and a resolution of 72dpi. Use Photoshop, Gimp, iPhoto (by exporting them for web resolution) or Irfanview (free, Windows only) to resize your images. If you are using a paper book now might be a good time to move to WordPress or a writing program on your laptop once you reach this stage of the writing process. Allocate 1h to turn points 3 and 4 into sentences that are targeted to your audience.
- Now paste all your text content into a WordPress post and add your images and links. Write your headings.
- Sleep over it
- Review and update
- Optimise your page titles and descriptions – I use a WordPress plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plugin also allows you to select which image you want to use when publishing to your favourite social media channels.
When is the best time to write?
When travelling around Australia with a 2 and 3 year old and still running a business I have very little time to write – so what I do is allocate different time slots to the different steps. It can take me a week to get a post publish-ready and I generally have a couple of posts on the go.
I generally come up with the blogging ideas all the time so as soon as they land in my brain I make a note in Evernote.Coming up with the topics, sub topics (bullet points as described above) is generally done in the car when we move from one location to another. Warrick’s driving and I pull out my iPad or laptop and get a head start.
Crafting the content is when I really need peace and quiet and 100% focus. I generally do this when Celeste my 2 year old is asleep for her afternoon nap (but it happens less and less) or I wake up 1h earlier in the morning.
Photo and video editing: this one I can do with a glass of wine as it’s almost fully automated – however I need my laptop (can’t use the iPad or iPhone). Evenings are best once the girls have gone to bed (so I have no one climbing on top of my laptop). Car also works fine.