how to start your blog or business | part I

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I absolutely love working from home now. I love the freedom, the flexibility, the lack of dress code…BUT (of course they’re a but), it’s not all unicorns and rainbows all the time. Working from home and being your own boss is something so many of us dream about. It’s this fantasy we play out in our minds — we’ll leave our corporate jobs and work for ourselves and be able to do whatever the eff we want, whenever we want. But I think what many people don’t realize is that it is so. freaking. hard. It’s hard when you don’t have a typical routine. And it’s even harder when you realize you aren’t totally sure if you’ll be able to make enough money every month to cover your bills and expenses.

All that being said, it is totally possible, and I’m here to lead by example to tell you exactly how I was able to go from teaching full time to working for myself full time. It wasn’t an easy road to get here (and it still isn’t easy), but it is 1000% worth it.

My job as a teacher was sucking the life out of me. I was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Only six years into my career and I was already burnt out. I knew if I stayed where I was, I would eventually be compromising my health and happiness. While the steady (but very small) paychecks and benefits were nice, I had to put myself first and do something risky: leave. And I did just that.

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Based on my experience, I’ve started a series for you on how you can start your brand — whether that be in the form of a blog or a business. Today’s post will go over some things to do in the very beginning stages, and the posts that will follow will be increasingly more specific. All that being said, here is my advice for those of you chasing your dreams of working for yourself, and the first steps you need to take:

  1. Decide. Do you want to run a product or service-based business? Do you want to start a blog? Pick ONE of those things to start with. If you love blogging but have a specific product that you make and people love, choose one or the other to devote your time and attention to when you’re first starting out. Trying to grow two new things at once will just be too overwhelming. If you want to start blogging first and focus on growing that platform, you can always introduce a product later on down the road once you’ve established yourself and grown your audience. Same goes for starting a business. For me, my hobby of making natural bath and body products grew into a business, and once I was able to grow my brand I knew I was ready to start blogging again. I was at a really good place in my business that I felt like I could juggle the two without going crazy or overwhelming myself.

  2. Determine what you will sell or blog about. Does your product or service solve a problem? Who will want or need to buy it? These are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you are going to start a product or service based business. Ultimately, your product or service will fulfill a need for your potential customers or clients. Think about what type of customer or client would be likely to purchase what you’re offering. To give you an example with my business, I was tired of buying expensive bath and body products that were filled with harmful chemicals and questionable ingredients, and I knew other people were too. I also wanted to find a way to give affordable gifts to my family and friends for the holidays and special occasions. After some research and lots of trial and error with ingredients, Lotus Soap Shop was born. Now, I’ve had customers tell me my scrubs have helped their eczema, psoriasis, and other skin-related issues. It solved a problem for people and fulfilled a need.

    Blogging is slightly different, but can certainly still help solve a problem and fulfill a need. When you find yourself wanting to start a blog, the important questions to ask there are: what am I passionate about? What can I offer to my future readers that will be of value to them? What do I want them to take away from my blog? This is your “niche.” I actually really, really hate that word, niche, because sometimes I don’t believe it’s always necessary to pre-determine your niche when you sit down to start your blog. I’ve had several blogs over the last decade, and it took me a long time to finally figure out what I truly wanted to write about that would be beneficial to others. When I started this blog, I told myself to just start. To just write whatever was on my heart and from there I would find my “niche.” And guess what? I did. I started to see a pattern in the content I was creating and realized I wanted to take it and run with it. There is so much I could say pertaining to this specific topic, so I will add another detailed post about that in the near future.

  3. Establish Your Target Market/Audience. Who do you envision reading your blog or using your product? What is the age range you are targeting? What do they look like? Where do they live? What do they like to do? Think about your ideal customer, client, or reader and cater to them. I often browse Pinterest and create a private board to come up with a target market “profile” that will help keep me on track.

  4. Create your brand name. This one is always tricky. Luckily, coming up with Lotus Soap Shop was a no-brainer for me. The name was inspired by a tattoo of a lotus flower I had gotten a couple months before I started my business, and I knew I wanted to incorporate that into my brand. How She Does It didn’t come as easily. I had previously named this blog Blissfitly because I was focusing on health and fitness topics at that time. When I changed the direction of this blog, the name How She Does It literally came to me while I was trying to fall asleep one night, and now here we are.

    My advice to you if you’re stuck on a brand name, is to write down whatever ideas you already have, and use a thesaurus to help you come up with different variations of those ideas. Seeing everything on paper will help spark some creativity.

  5. Make Sure Your Brand Name Isn’t Already Taken. So you’ve established what you’re going to sell or blog about and now you’ve come up with this really awesome name for your brand. You are SO excited to introduce it to the world! But then you enter it into google or Instagram and see it’s already taken. UGH! I’ve been there and it really sucks. But sometimes it’s as simple as adding an additional word to the end of your brand name (@howshedoesit was already taken on Instagram so I changed it to @howshedoesit.co which is the same as my domain name), or making some minor adjustments; other times it’s not so easy. Find out before you start a new Instagram, or make any sort of graphics for your new brand. Once you’ve established your brand name, grab your domain name and social media accounts (more on these specifics soon).

  6. Set Up a Pinterest Account. I’m OBSESSED with Pinterest. It’s no secret that Pinterest is one of the best tools you can use to drive traffic to your blog or website, and in my opinion, I think it’s even better than using Instagram for that purpose. There’s a post coming that talks all about Pinterest, but for right now, once you have your brand name ready, sign up on Pinterest. If you have already chosen a domain name and started setting up a website, you will definitely want to create a business account so you have access to your analytics, and so your followers can be directed to your website. I’ll be doing a full tutorial on how to do this soon, and why you need to do this for your brand.

  7. Work On Your Blog or Business in Your Free Pockets of Time. When I was teaching full time I would use every free second to work on my business. This meant getting up earlier, staying up later, and working on weekends. It meant forgoing plans sometimes. Even if I had just five minutes of uninterrupted time, you bet your ass I was working on my business. I was so determined to leave my job, and I loved my business I was creating so much that I would do whatever it took to grow it, even if that meant being insanely sleep deprived. You have to want this to work so badly and have to put in countless hours of your precious time. Your determination and dedication to building your brand has to be so unshakeable that it will withstand any and all skepticism, desires for sleep, and moments of self-doubt. If you’re not willing to do that, then this might not be right for you. But if you are, figure out where you can fit in the extra work. If you can work on your lunch break, your commute, etc. that will really pay off in the long run.

  8. Be Ready for Criticism. I was very lucky to have a lot of support when I started telling people I was leaving my job to go full-time in my business. Even my boss was supportive of my decision and understood my reasons for leaving. I have had plenty of people though think I was completely crazy, and people who just didn’t understand my choices. Pay these people no mind. You need to stay laser focused on your blog or your business, and you simply just don’t have time for any negativity or judgement that will come your way. Surround yourself with those who support you, and find other creatives who will lift you up. There are a lot of great Facebook groups out there for small business owners and bloggers who are in your same position.

  9. Find Helpful Resources. Look through Pinterest, blogs, Facebook groups, personal development books, listen to Podcasts, watch YouTube videos — always be open to learning more about your “niche”. Look for information on growing a business or growing a blog, but don’t stop working on yourself either. I did a post on my favorite books for personal development, and there are some great books in there for bloggers and business owners, too.

These nine steps are so important at the beginning of your new blog or business venture. They will lay the foundation for the other steps that will be outlined in this series; steps that I personally followed and continue to follow as my brand and blog expand. Wherever you are in your quest to become your own boss, stay focused, stayed determined, and always believe in yourself. Keep putting in the hard work and you just may find yourself right where you want to be sooner than you think.

xxElizabeth