Blogging for beginners - 1

Yesterday I wrote about blogging and said then: "now we've all got our own printing press sitting inside our computers and we can all publish whatever we like." I've been thinking about that and it's not completely true. Yes, we've got the ability to print what we want now but we also have to have a belief in ourselves to make it happen. So it's what's inside our computers as well as what's inside our heads that counts. I believe we all need to start with the truth. Nothing will lose readers faster than lack of credibility and while the truth may not always be pretty, you can create beauty with words and by writing with integrity. 

Like many of you, I blog about the ordinary domestic life I live. I see beauty in that and I hope my words and photographs portray what I see, as well as the truth of it, to you. But blogs can be about anything, the subject matter is crucial, so choose your subject carefully because you'll spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. And remember, blogging is not compulsory. There will be many people who prefer to read blogs but not write them.

Before you start you'll have to decide a few things, the most important being who is your audience. Of course your family and friends will be your audience, but who else? If you don't want an audience, if your blog really is for your own family and circle of friends, you can change your settings so that only those people can access it. However, if you are hoping to develop a wider audience, then you'll need to decide who you're writing for and then keep your audience in mind when you write. That doesn't mean you must write about that topic every day but it does mean that most of your writing will focus on that topic. I write about families, ageing, retirement, the value of work and other things in addition to my main topic, simple living. I also try to mix practical posts with more philosophical ones. Writing my blog that way gives me a lot of satisfaction and I hope it shows that I'm not just a work horse; I take time for myself too.

You'll need to choose a blog name. Pick a name that relates to your topic but also means something to you. You won't be able to choose a name that's already in use and Google will check the names before registering a unique one for you. When you're setting up your blog remember the blog only becomes public and available for reading when you have your readers (in basic settings) set to "anybody" (so that anybody can read it) and then you press the "publish" button. All your changes of templates, column width, colour and font can be changed over and over until you hit on the right mix for you, but none of it becomes public until you press "publish". So experiment, change things around and be bold. Remember though that the background should never overshadow your writing and photographs. Aim for clarity and subtlety rather than flamboyance if you're hoping to attract an audience. Dazzle your readers with your words and thoughts rather than your background or template.

The other thing you'll need in the set-up phase is a header. My header is the photo at the top of my blog with Down to Earth and the chicken on it.  Actually, there is the option to have either a header or just the blog name. If you choose just the name, you don't have to worry about a header but if you want one, then you'll need a program like Photoshop, Coreldraw or a free program I use is called Inkscape - available for Mac and Windows. You start off with a photo, crop it, add your blog name and save it as either a jpg or png file. Then you can load it to your blog in the "Layout" section.

Some experienced bloggers advise newcomers to have a number of posts prewritten before starting. I very rarely pre-write posts because I want my blog to be about daily life so I have to wait until I do it to write about it and take my photos. When I started, it took me about a day to look through all the options and find a template and style I was happy with. Then I wrote a couple of blog posts but didn't publish them. I came back the following day, fine tuned a couple of things, re-read the posts and was happy with them, then I pressed "publish". Remember, you can change your template, colours, font etc at any time. I regularly change mine, mainly to keep things fresh and to add interest.

Books are written about building an audience and many bloggers have differing ideas about how to do it effectively. I never expected success when I started I just tried to write well and give my readers information they may not find elsewhere. I guess what I'm saying here is not to worry about numbers of visitors when you start. While it's definitely not a build it and they will come-type situation, you do need to actively build your readership if that's important to you. But we can talk about that later.

I use the Blogger software to connect to you. There are other more complex programs with more features such as Wordpress, Tumblr and Typepad but Blogger does everything I want it to do, it's easy to use, free, and those of us who blog using Blogger have Google looking after our security. On some other programs you have to take care of that yourself. I've been using Blogger for six years and I can count on one hand the number of times I've had problems with it. You may want to move to another program when you're well established, but whatever you do, Blogger is a good starting point.

Here is a very good video on how to set up a Blogger blog. How to set up a blog video. You'll need a gmail account to start, then log in to Blogger and start setting up your blog following the video as your guide. To do that, open two tabs on your computer - one with the video open and one on your Blogger page. Just switch over from one to the other while you go through the process.

Take your time, make notes as you go and enjoy the process. Blogging is a wonderful pastime and one that will give you a lot of pleasure. I had no idea I had so much to say about blogging. This post is getting quite long and I haven't written half of what I want to share with you so I'll stop here. You have the information here to allow you to get a Blogger account and set up a basic blog so go ahead and do that if you want to. Tomorrow I'll have a list of more specific things that will help you on your way to press that "publish" button for the first time.


  1. Good tips!

    I kind of jumped into blogging with no theme or real idea about what I would write - it has stayed pretty random all the way through! x

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean, although I feel I should be calling you Mrs. Hetzel. I'm writing from the Caribbean and I've been reading your blog for a little while now. I do have a blog but I don't post often since I realised that I prefer to write in the privacy of my journal.
    Of late I have been catching up on the archives here and trying my hand at baking. It has been going very well. I find your blog quite inspiring and have shared it with one of my sisters.
    Just coming out from lurking to say thanks for your blog!

  3. Hi Rhonda. For bloggers who have access to an iPad there is a free blogger app. So much more user friendly than trying to use blogger on the iPad safari!

  4. You are so generous with your information. I wish I'd known all this when I started. I'm looking forward to learning more. Thanks so much. xx

  5. When I started, I started as a place to "talk" about my life at home with Jarvis and how I wanted it to be a life filled with conscious decisions. I did not think about my audience. But I have started to question it of late. Do you think being aware of the fact people are reading your blog alters your 'voice'?

    1. Hi Iliska, I thought I write differently when my family read my blog, but I didn't, I just kept on going as I started. Now they all read it - my immediate family as well as cousins, nephews and assorted friends. I think it alters it in that you may write about things your readers ask about but that shouldn't impact on the integrity of your writing.

  6. that is nice to have all the information for new bloggers. I just jumped into the deep end when I started and every now and then tweak my blog a little. I would love to divide my blog through the tabs at the top - keeping gardening posts separate from crafts for instance, but have found it all too hard. I have read the tutorials on it, but somehow cannot get my brain around it. I will keep reading this series and maybe you will cover that at some point! I often start to work on a blog post when I have an idea, and keep it in drafts until I get more information. That way the idea does not get lost! I am continually awed by the blogging world and how many like minded friends I have made through blogging.

    1. I meant to get back to this comment and forgot about it. The tabs in Blogger are called pages and you can set them up in tabs under the header or in your side bar. However, they don't work in the way you want them to. It's jut a page, it won't allow you to have them as sections. You can divide your topics with tags and there is a gadget that allows you to do that. That means that every time you write a new post, you have to tag it so if you tag all your gardening posts under the title of gardening, when someone clicks on that tag, all your gardening posts will come up. I think what you're wanting is available in Wordpress.

    2. Thanks Rhonda,
      and you hit the nail on the head, Blogger doesn't always do what I want, but I will stick with it as it is comfortable by now!

  7. Thanks Rhonda for that info. It will be a great help to those starting up a blog I am sure. I have found that there are so many things to learn with blogging but once I got my head around what 'gadgets' were I understood how to add bits and pieces to my blog.

    africanaussie, I am not sure at what stage of Rhonda's tutorials your question will be answered but if you want to have a look at my blog and what you want is something like the 'Home' and 'A little about me' tabs I have on mine, then I did that in the 'Page' section and I chose 'Top Tabs'. Hope this helps.

    1. Dear Nanna Chel, I just checked out your blog and I must say, I really love the name of your blog, it really made me laugh! Love it!

    2. thanks for that Nanna Chel, I had hoped to be able to post separate posts under different tabs, but I guess that doesn't work. I thought I had seen someone do that, but now I cant find any like that.

  8. I've blog for a while and learn something...inkscape and coreldraw site.
    First thing one my main rule in my blog was to be truthful in all I post...I do use fake names to protect the names have been changed to protect the innocent but all facts are true. Which is part of "Who Am I" statement.
    I know a few time my honestly rocked the boat and got some people up set.

    I don't have much of an audience which is total understandable for I have what I consider a hodge podge blog...I post on variety of subject and read the same way.

    One of my trouble in blogging is; We're still on dial up so there limitation.

    I have to say I enjoy blogging.

    Coffee is on

  9. Dear Rhonda,
    I have been following your blog for quite some years now. Here I always find encouragement on my way to a life more simple. And this post is fitting just perfectly! I have started my own blog a week ago and am willing to take any tips from experienced bloggers like you. Now I know how to get my header under control. As always, you are such a great help! Thanks a lot and best wishes from Germany, Gabi

  10. Very good info. Much appreciated!

  11. Thankyou for all this information, I'm still learning and wondering if blogging is right for me. I want to record family life, but I'm in two minds about sharing my children's lives. Some food for thought, looking forward to the rest of the series :)

  12. Hi Rhonda,

    I actually started a blog recently so it was interesting to see your thoughts - very helpful! Have a look and let me know if you have any tips?

    Where did you get the 'You might also like' gadget at the bottom of your page?


    1. Hello Amanda. I think you've set up your blog very well, it's clear and easy to read. The only changes I'd suggest are to move up your gadget for sharing on Facebook and for subscribing. They need to be where people will see them and few people will look at the bottom of your blog.

      The Link Within gadget is available here:

      Good luck love.

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