It’s hard to believe it’s been four months since I finally pulled the trigger on my dream of starting a blog. It was on my “to-do” list since 2015.

Don’t dream your life, live your dreams.

While I can’t say it’s been an easy road, I would do it over again in a heartbeat (albeit a little different).

Accomplishments in the first 4 months

Before we get to the fun part of where things went horribly wrong, I’ll start with what keeps me writing.

By the numbers

Here are my favorite stats and a look back at my accomplishments by the numbers.

  • 22 – The number of new posts/pages I created over 4 months.
  • 27 – The number of new pins I created on Pinterest.
  • 101 – The number of tweets I created to support my page.
  • 38,036 – The number of words written. Right on par with C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (coming in at 38,421.) Not that I’m counting. 😉

“If it doesn’t get measured it won’t get done”.

Peter Drucker

Drucker was right, even if I sometimes curse him for it.

I count my cheese every day.

By the task

When I first started my blog, I had no idea how many regular tasks would be needed to have a successful site. In the first four-months, here are the things I accomplished:

  • Signed-up for web-hosting
  • Chose a domain name (go savetheeffort.com!)
  • Set up WordPress
  • Linked my DNS server to my newly minted website
  • Hardened the security on the site
  • Set up a back-up system for the inevitable site crash
  • Finalized the website theme and set up the site structure
  • Started my-email list
  • Wrote a privacy policy, disclaimers, and terms of use
  • Wrote an about me page
  • Figured out how to post my content in an easy to read format
  • Re-wrote my about me page, site structure and many posts multiple times

It makes me tired just thinking about all the things I had to figure out.

Personal growth

This is the number one reason I haven’t given up on my blog yet! It may not be the techiest or best blog out there, but it’s mine.

Each of the items I accomplished setting up the blog took a tremendous amount of effort, thought, and perseverance. The most difficult to overcome was the decision I made to run my WordPress blog on a self-managed VPS server with Linux (when I had no coding experience). Not the smartest decision.

A few unexpected benefits of my new found hobby:

  • I learned more patience than I ever thought possible.
  • I learned that “done” and “not perfect” really is OK.
  • I learned my favorite part of the website has been the graphic design. I love Canva, and I love Corel Paintshop Pro!
  • I love the feeling of accomplishment knowing something I created can be shared with others.

Now for the fun part. What didn’t go well? Pretty much everything else.

What didn’t go well

If you’re considering starting a blog, it’s important to choose a great web host. This is more important if you have plans to monetize one day. While you may be tempted to open a free account on blogger, you won’t have the control you will ultimately need to run a successful business. You’ll also be limited in your monetizing efforts.

Hosting

As with anything in life, there are times to spend money and times to go the “frugal route.” I knew enough when I started that I needed a self-hosting option, so I set out to find the best deal.

I have a long-standing track record of trying to “figure it out myself,” and refusing to pay “good money” on well, anything. I’m looking at you 14-year old trusty jeans that needed to be replaced about 12 years ago. So, when it was time to start my blog, I wanted to find the cheapest option possible. I was determined to do it all myself. That means minimal plug-ins, far too many lines of code and a low-up front investment.

My solution was to sign up for a web host that offered Ubuntu, a Linux based program that I would use to run my very own WordPress site in a very cheap way. Ubuntu is a free open source program offered by Linux that is fast, efficient (did I mention free) and could run through a web host for a few dollars a month with no upfront contract.

The only problem? I don’t know how to code and didn’t realize what I was getting into.

Excitedly, I signed up with the web-host, downloaded my very own Ubuntu program and lo and behold I was greeted with this black DOS looking screen that has haunted me since I last used it 20 years before. The flashing indicator was smirking back at me, just waiting for me to type in a complicated (and completely gibberish) line of code. I shudder just thinking about it.

Thank goodness there are multiple resources and kind-hearted people out there that write how-to articles on getting WordPress set up through Linux. Without them, I would have been lost. Alright, I’m still lost with all that stuff. When things get really bad, I turn to Fiverr to fix coding issues that are beyond my abilities.

What should I have done instead?

I would have chosen a far easier route and signed up with Bluehost (which is what I finally did for my other websites). My next website was up and running in less than an hour and when I have a problem, I call them up to fix it. If you’re just starting, I highly recommend starting your first website with them.

WordPress Theme Design

I had the same thought process for my theme design as I did for web hosting. Find the cheapest option available. There are tons of free themes out there you can build your website on and they are free for a reason. I’m still shaking my head on this. It is important to find a good theme that works for your needs. If you’re like me and you aren’t sure if this whole blogging thing is for you, you can download the most recent official WordPress theme, 2019. It’s the first official WordPress theme to use the Gutenberg block system (which I love) and you can have it up and running in a few clicks.

The downsides of using the free WordPress 2019 theme

Since it’s newer, there aren’t as many blogs out there with customized code that can help you tailor the website to your liking. Again, I’m not a coder and I pulled my hair out for hours trying to figure out the simplest thing. If you use the 2017 WordPress theme, at least there are tons of resources on how to customize the site. If you know you’re going to be in it for the long haul on your website, I recommend going with a paid version. Hop on over to Elegant Themes and do a trial run of their themes before committing. It’s one of the best investments you’ll make for your website.

My Biggest Nuggets of Wisdom

If I had to sum up the advice I would give to any blogger, it would be this:

  • Don’t compare yourself to every other blog out there. It doesn’t matter how many blogs are already talking about what you covering. If you enjoy blogging, ignore all that noise!
  • Just start! That’s right, don’t wait until it’s perfect. You can always go back and update your post later. There’s a horrible statistic out there of the number of blogs that get created and never get around to posting a single post. Don’t join them.
  • Your first website may not turn out as you think. The topics may change, the graphics will certainly change and it will take time to find your “voice.” These things are normal! Don’t give up.
  • You will get more “feedback” than you ever wanted (or perhaps needed). Just remember, feedback is a gift! If your family or friends critique your writing or get their feathers ruffled because they don’t agree with your content, it doesn’t matter. Your website is just for you! Take the advice that works and file the rest away for a rainy day.
  • SEO matters. It sucks, but it matters. The best saying I’ve come across is “the 2nd page of google search is where websites go to die.” Don’t ignore SEO.
  • Never give up!