This article contains affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.
Have you been thinking about starting a blog to document your travels and experience living and working abroad? Or maybe been meaning to start one and haven’t gotten around to it?
Maybe you actually did take the leap and took the preliminary steps to start a blog but haven’t been writing much…
Or maybe you:
- Don’t realize how having a blog or personal website can help you after you leave teaching or living abroad and continue on a different career path.
- Feel intrigued by the idea of keeping a blog about your adventures.
- Aren’t quite sure what you’re doing or how to get started.
- Get overwhelmed at just the thought of starting and maintaining a blog.
- Feel excited but don’t know where to start or how to get organized.
- Have concerns that you’re a “bad writer” and you’re allowing that self-lie to hold you back.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, worry not. This guide is for you – to educate you, help you get started, keep you organized, and finally spread your wings and take flight on your own blogging journey.
Busting Myths: “You shouldn’t start a blog because…”
There are plenty of people out there who will tell you you’re wasting your time and that no one is going to read what you put out. (You don’t have to confine yourself to writing, either! But more on that later.)
Here are a few myths you’ve probably heard and possibly bought into:
- The world doesn’t need another [insert your favorite topic here] blog.
- There are too many “influencers” and there’s no place for another one.
- You’re not a good enough writer.
- You’re too shy to get in front of a camera.
- You don’t take nice enough photos, OR
- You don’t take any photos!
- It’s a waste of time because nothing will come out of it in the end.
- No one but your mom and grandma will read your blog.
- You don’t know what to do and it will require too much effort to figure it all out.
These are all bullsh*t. The internet is a big place and, believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons why you should start a blog and maintain it.
You need a blog and/or personal website – full stop.
More than likely, if you're reading this, you fall into one of two categories:
- Like me, you’re teaching English and using your earnings to pay off student loan or credit card debt or simply trying to save money, OR
- You’re a military spouse along for the ride while your other half works as an active duty service member and you haven’t been able to land an on-post job or found something that keeps you occupied.
Regardless of which bucket you fall into (or if you don’t quite fall into either one), here are the realities: teaching English isn’t going to net you much income in the end and the fight for nabbing SOFA-approved jobs isn’t worth the energy – at least not in many cases.
Having a personal blog and/or website is a fantastic way to stand out in a crowd and potentially make more money or help you prepare for whatever future you’re hoping to have or create.
Here are a few reasons why having a personal website or a blog is a smart move:
- A blog gives you a place to point potential future employers. Depending on what you choose to write about, having a consistent and polished-looking blog can help you look more professional. It can also help you demonstrate your communication skills.
- You can build an audience and possibly make a little money on the side. You may not be making enough money from your blog to quit your job and write and travel full-time, but things like affiliate links and advertising can earn you a few extra hundred dollars every few months (or more!).
- You can start a side gig and turn it into a bigger, more profitable business. When you’re teaching English and/or living abroad on a special visa, there are a lot of restrictions. As a teacher, you likely aren’t allowed to hold another job outside of your employer’s school and academy. As a military spouse, you’re confined to the agreements made by your government and the government of the country where you’re stationed. But no matter where you’re living – South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, or elsewhere – if you’re earning money on the side and funneling it through a bank account in your home country, you’re not doing anything wrong.
There may be a million of them out there, but blogs are still valuable and relevant.
Setting Up Shop
Now, do you have to spend a lot of money to make a fancy website?… Nope! You sure don’t.
What you do have to do is commit to your blog or website. Regardless of whether you’re finally open to getting a thing up and running or picking up where you left off months or years ago, you’ve got to be willing to make a plan and put in a bit of work because, in all honesty, it’s not a complete cakewalk and the writing and editing and publishing isn’t going to do itself.
Let’s start by talking logistics. You’ve probably heard of different places to start a blog or set up a website, like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. While they all have their strengths in one way or another, I highly recommend starting and sticking with WordPress.
As an expat looking to get started somewhere simple, I recommend setting up shop with WordPress (which I may also refer to as “WP” moving forward).
WordPress is a great place for new bloggers to get started for a lot of reasons. Here’s a quick snapshot of why:
- There’s nothing technical you have to do. Believe it or not, setting up a blog or website from scratch can be hard work, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing (like most people, including me). WP has tons of free and paid templates you can use to make your website and blog look super cool without the headache of designing and organizing things yourself.
- There’s a built-in community. If you want to get started building a “real” audience, starting a blog with WordPress gives you a leg up by creating opportunities for you to be found by other WP bloggers.
- You can always change things later. The flexibility of WP means that even if, someday, you do want to move to private hosting and have a super-fancy website design, you can!
- You can add features as you grow. In the past, you weren’t able to add any external apps or “plugins” to a WordPress blog that was created on WordPress.com. (WordPress, the company, actually has a few different ways to build blogs and websites, but that’s not the direction I’m pointing you toward in this article.) That was a bummer because to get and use a lot of those amazing plugins, you had to host privately, purchase or “rent” a theme, and set up everything yourself. BUT NOT ANYMORE! You have more flexibility now and can add things as you need them.
If you’ve been considering other blog platforms like Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, or even Medium (there are a lot of options out there), I can say with confidence that you’ll be happiest with WordPress in the long run. I have firsthand experience with all of these platforms and they’re simply not as robust or advanced as WP.
The Strategy: Planning for Your Blog
Finally, we’re getting into the fun part!
Before you can write, record, or publish anything, you’ve got to pick a name and actually plan what you’re going to write, record, and publish.
1. Pick a blog or website name.
This is probably the simplest part of getting started with a blog, but not necessarily the easiest!
There are a few steps to finding the perfect blog name.
- What will you write about? List a few broad ideas, then get really specific.
- Who will read your blog? Think about what you have to offer or want to share and consider who would be interested.
- What do you want your blog name to “say” about you? Choose a few adjectives that you feel like describe you.
Here’s the reality you need to be prepared for: Your super creative name may already be taken by someone else. That’s the reality of the internet this late in the 2000s. But even if your original idea isn’t available, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed.
Remember those adjectives you wrote down? Go to Thesaurus.com and pop them into the search engine. Write down a few synonyms that you like equally (or almost!) as much. Be ready with both lists; you might need them.
Don’t forget, too, that you can always use your own, actual name. Case in point – that’s what I’ve done! I have a couple of other websites by different names for different purposes, but I decided that my brand for this website would be best if I simply went with my own name: Krissi Driver. This might be an easy fix to your “cute name” being unavailable.
2. Research available domain names.
This is an important next step. You’ve already done a little homework to choose a name for your blog and hopefully, you’re going to nail down an exact-match domain name ending in “.com.” There are a couple of ways you can do this.
I recommend using Google Domains to search for domain names. It’s quick and it will tell you if your full domain is still available on the internet. Google sells domain names for $12 USD each, but don’t buy it from there just yet! Right now, you’re only checking availability. (You can also do this when you sign up for your WordPress account. The WP engine will tell you if your preferred domain is available or not.)
If you’re not lucky enough to be able to get your first choice, here are some ideas for finding a close second:
- Use your name. Like I said above, if your chosen name isn’t available, you can always go with your own name. If you have a unique name like me (Krissi Driver), chances are your name domain will be available. If you have a rather popular name like Sam Smith, you may need to also incorporate one of your adjectives from your lists or use a middle name or initial.
- Try spelling one of the words a little differently. Don’t get too crazy because you want your domain to be easily memorable. Something like “cre8ivejane.com” might work instead.
- Add a dash. If your blog name is “Diane’s Adventures” and the domain “www.dianesadventures.com” isn’t available, see if you can add a dash in the middle to break up the words. This way, it will read “www.dianes-adventures.com.” That may be all it takes to get the domain you want. (If you go this route, be sure to stress to folks asking for your website that there is a dash. Otherwise, you’re sending them to a different website, very possibly a competitor!)
3. Decide what you’ll write/vlog/talk about.
As we already discussed, there’s more than one way to run a blog and it doesn’t all have to revolve around writing.
If you’re a writer, great. If you’re not, try incorporating videos or podcasting to take the pressure off all the writing.
Better yet, combine 2 or all 3 of these options. Keep in mind, though, that for the internet to know who you are and find you via search engines (if you’re at all concerned about that), you will need to incorporate at least some written content into your posts.
Once you’ve determined what you’re going to do, start writing out an initial topic list. Over time, you’ll likely add to and delete from this list: Things will change and you may decide you want to shelve some topics or dive into new ones. Eventually, you’ll probably revisit the same topics in a different way.
Remember: Blogging is a long-term game and it’s not a one-time deal. All of your content is (or should be) valuable and will remain so for months and years to come. This isn’t a be-all, end-all list. It will evolve over time but for now, you need to have a solid idea of where you’re going.
4. Decide how often you’re going to publish a blog.
Consistency is key, my friend. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t commit to writing or recording a video or podcast more than once a month, don’t. Keep it simple and call it good.
You’ve got your list and you’re ready to set up shop, so get going!
Be sure to share what you’re doing with your friends and family so you can build up a small following. Do some research and learn about the importance of building a mailing list and how to do use social media to grow your audience. No matter what you’re putting out, there are people out there who want to hear it.
This article contains several affiliate links to brands I know, use, and trust. I receive a small commission when you purchase services through these links.