Simple Tips on How to Start a Blog and Make Money Writing About Mental Health
Are you interested in learning how to start a blog about mental health? In it’s simplest terms, a blog is a website with posts that appear in reverse chronological order. Most often, a blog is written in a casual voice by a single person about a topic that interests them. More and more, blogs are becoming businesses, and people are earning anywhere from part-time income to millions of dollars a year for their efforts.
If you have any connection to mental health issues, be it through personal experience, living with a loved one struggling with mental health, or from working in the mental health field, creating a blog can be an opportunity to share your experiences, build a community with others going through the same things, as well as to potentially build a side income.
In my case, I took a bit of a winding road toward starting this blog. I’m no stranger to writing for the Internet having been a contributing writer to Verywell (formerly About.com) since 2007. In 2017, I decided to launch this blog for two reasons: 1) Verywell no longer had a site specifically dedicated to social anxiety; and 2) I’m an entrepreneur and have a bigger vision than simply being a writer was offering me.
In this article, I’d like to help you figure out whether starting a blog might be right for you and some basic steps to make it a reality.
Find Your Reason Why
The first thing I suggest you do is to identify the reason why you might start a blog. Some good reasons might include
- having an outlet to express yourself
- being able to connect with like-minded people
- challenging yourself to learn something new
- potentially earning a side income that is passive
A terrible reason would be that you want to get rich quick. Blogging is a long-term strategy that probably won’t pay off for at least a few months. If money is an issue, you are better off finding a job or way to earn money while you blog on the side.
Choose Your Topic
Next, you need to choose your topic, also known as your niche. It’s important to write about something that is familiar to you, and that interests you and you are passionate about. Remember, you are likely going to need to work on this for a year or more before you really start to see progress. It’s your passion for your blog topic that will keep you going when you aren’t seeing fast progress.
Once you’ve chosen a niche, you’ll need to choose a domain name for your blog. I went straight simple: aboutsocialanxiety.com. I wanted people to instantly know what my site was about. Maybe it’s boring, but at least when people see the name they know what to expect. It’s also helped me approach larger sites like Psych Central to be listed as a resource. If I’d named my site ArlinCuncic.com or girlwhotalksaboutanxiety.com I might not have gotten very far asking for a link.
Identify Your Reader
Along with choosing your topic, you will need to identify your reader. We call this an “avatar,” or the person for whom you are creating your content. You want to be creating value for this person, so you need to be aware of who this person is.
In the case of my blog, this is actually multiple people! I’m still sorting out who the “ideal” reader is. But – it would likely be
- students with social anxiety struggling with making friends or doing class presentations
- their parents and friends who are trying to help them
- adults with social anxiety struggling with work and social demands
- professionals struggling with performance aspects of their work
Which one are you? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know which category you fit in, or if you are from a completely different camp.
Set Up the Technical Stuff
I’m not going to go into details on setting up the technical aspects of setting up a blog. There are tons of resources on this if you Google. Amy Lynn Andrews has an excellent post. Just remember: the technical stuff can slow you down if you don’t take the time to learn it.
In a nutshell, to start a blog, you need a domain, a hosting provider, a blogging platform, and theme. While you can get by with a free blog if you just want to write for a hobby, if you have any interest in turning your blog into a side income, I recommend you spend money on two things at the very least: domain and hosting.
Keep it very simple: Sign up at Bluehost for your hosting, buy a domain through them at the same time, and use WordPress.org as your content management system (CMS).
I think my first year I paid around $85 for all of this combined for the year. The cost will go up when you renew, so if you can, I recommend paying upfront for as many years as you can afford. Consider it an investment and that you are putting a bit of “skin in the game” so to speak. If you’ve paid for your blog, you might be more willing to put in the effort.
The other thing you will need is a theme. While you can purchase a premium theme (such as those that run on the Genesis Framework), I don’t recommend buying a theme until you feel you can afford it. Just make sure the theme you choose is simple, clear, easy to read, mobile friendly, and SEO friendly. I started out with a free theme (Crimson Rose), and eventually purchased the Anchored theme from Restored 316.
Finally, you will need to set up some plugins to get things configured before you start writing. I strongly recommend Yoast SEO to help make sure your posts are optimized for search engines. A social share plugin such as Sumo or Social Warfare is also important. Finally, a backup program is necessary to protect your content.
Create Some Content
Okay, now we’re at the point that you are ready to create some content! You probably want to have at least five posts on your site before you send it live. This gives people some things to read when they first land on your blog. At a minimum, you also should have an About page, a contact page, and a privacy and disclosures page.
As far as creating posts, brainstorm ideas but then also check them out in a keyword research tool such as KWfinder.com. You want to create content that people are looking for, but also that you can rank for in Google.
Why is this so important? I think it’s particularly important for mental health niche sites because these types of articles are less likely to be shared on social media. It will be easier for me to reach people with social anxiety if they can type in a search request and find me on Google.
There is still stigma around mental health, and so it’s harder for posts to go viral. It happens, but you’re better off getting seen on the search engines. I know this from my time working for About.com. At the height of popularity, my articles on the site would receive 300,000 views per month, the majority of that coming in from search engines. If you can rank high in Google, you will be more easily found by the people who are looking for you and need you.
As far as the actual posts, try to write with the reader in mind. Give them the best bang for their “reading” buck. How do you feel when you land on an article that is short and sparse? Probably a bit cheated. I like to spend one hour researching, one hour organizing my ideas, and one hour writing. From there, I edit, link, add images, etc. In total, I probably spend four hours writing a post. I’d rather post quality over quantity. In the long run, I see more value in a few well thought out posts than a bunch of shorter ones.
Make your content easier to read by using lots of white space, images, subheads, bold/italics, etc. I’m still trying to get better at this. My tendency is to write long blocks of text that are hard to read. That’s just how my mind rambles.
One more thing is to make sure you are cross-linking your posts as you write them. Go back to old posts and link to new ones. Oh, and be yourself. What makes you unique is what will keep people coming back to read more. Be interesting or weird. It’s ok, it will make you memorable.
Network and Promote
It’s not enough just to write posts, you also need to get the word out. I’m fortunate to have several thousand followers on social media because of the 10+ years I’ve been writing about social anxiety. If you write a post about mental health that relates to social anxiety, share it in the comments below! I’ll do my best to share your blog on my Facebook page to give it some exposure.
The basics are important: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I have a strong presence on Facebook, but I’m lagging on the other three. Pinterest can be a huge traffic driver, especially if you can learn how to use Tailwind to schedule pins. Instagram is hot, and a great way to connect with younger generations. Twitter is good for connecting with other bloggers in your niche, or news/industry related contacts.
Another way to gain traction is to submit posts to other platforms. I just recently had a post accepted to The Mighty, which will expose my site to their readership. Try submitting one of your posts to Medium or offer to do a guest post on another blog. If you have something relevant to social anxiety, I’d love to hear from you!
Finally, you could interview people in your niche, write up a post with the interview answers, and then mention them in your social media post for the blog! The people you interviewed will likely share your post which will get new eyes on your content.
As long as you keep trying to help people, you will be networking. Share other bloggers content, comment on their posts, follow them on social media, and send other people to their articles. Join groups, join forums, and take online courses. Keep showing up and people will take notice.
Keep Showing Up
On the topic of continuing to show up, be sure to set a publishing schedule and stick to it. I am still learning to do this. We are all busy, including me. Find at least an hour out of every day and put in the time. We are all starting from the same place. If someone else starts a blog the same day as you, you have as much chance of succeeding as them, as long as you put in the effort to be consistent!
Build an Email List
Another thing you need to be doing from the start is building an email list. The reason for doing this is to take control. If Facebook shut my page down tomorrow, those 4000+ followers on my page would *poof* disappear for me. Meanwhile, the people on my email list would remain. I can still reach out to you if you are on my email list regardless of what social media platforms decide to do. That’s critical.
How do you get people to your email list? The best way is to offer something to people for free in exchange for their email address. In the case of my site, I offer a CBT workbook for social anxiety. The great thing about this freebie is that it is tightly aligned to the goal of my site. People who want this freebie likely want to know more about social anxiety. It’s a win-win. Identify some freebies that people might want who are coming to your site. I personally use Mailerlite for all of the signup forms you see on my site and when I send out my newsletter. It’s free for the first 1000 subscribers so it’s a great way to start building your email list.
Make it a Business
If you really want to get serious about your blog, it’s time to make it a business. Include beautiful or informative pictures in your posts. Purchase a premium theme so people see you care about the design of your site. Sell your freelancing services as a first step to earning money from your blog. Sell online courses. Sign up for an ad network. Sign up for affiliate programs.
This isn’t pie-in-the sky stuff. Tons of bloggers are doing all of this and making good money. But it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Most bloggers take a couple of years to make a full-time income. Most actually quit after 9 months. If you can be consistent and keep learning, you will get there eventually.
Why I Want You to Start a Blog About Mental Health
This might be a bit selfish on my part. But I want you to start a blog about mental health because I want us to start breaking down the walls and the social stigma. I want it to be as commonplace to say you are going to therapy as it is to say you are going to see a personal trainer at the gym. I want people to get help for social anxiety in their teens and not in their 40’s when they feel like most of their life has already passed them by.
If YOU are a person living with social anxiety, and you feel like you’ve been held back in some way, what’s stopping you from starting a blog? If you’re struggling to earn a living, struggling to find a relationship, struggling to make friends, these are all stories that other people like you, out there, want to hear. And you might even end up making a full-time income doing it. If you’re looking for inspiration or someone to tell you that you can do it, let me be that person. I think you can.
If you start a blog based on this post, please share it in the comments! I’d love to check out what you’ve written.
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