Lately, lots of people have asked my best advice for starting a successful health blog or launching an online business…
…and I’ve gotta be honest:
Everything I’ve learned about writing a health blog could fill up a giant book
with a convoluted plot.
But in this post, I’m gonna break down the most important things you need to know. Plus, I’ll throw a few cautionary tales your way, share some of my favorite resources for getting your health blog up and running, and tell you about the one thing that made the biggest difference for my business.
So You Want To Start a Health Blog…
Seriously, get a WordPress account, choose a theme, and start writing. Do it. Go. Come back and finish reading this later.
Welcome back. Now that you actually started your health blog, it’s time to get down to brass tacks.
If you want to have a successful health blog, it boils down to this formula:
Do good work +
Be consistent +
Have patience +
Take chances +
Don’t be a dick =
Wildly successful health blog.
Okay, okay…that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but those are the basic concepts.
Let’s take a closer look at each one.
1) Do good work.
You’ve got to put your best work out there into the world.
I’m not saying you need a degree or lots of fancy certifications in your field, but you have to give a crap about helping people. And you’re going to do a lot of it for free.
You don’t have to be the most polished either. (I mean, looking at some of my old blog posts makes me cringe.) But every time I wrote, photographed, or created something, I did it with zest and passion and the very best effort I had in me.
By giving away your best work, you’ll gradually build up trust and respect with your audience.
2) Be consistent.
You don’t have to blog every day. (I don’t really recommend it unless you wanna turn into a crazy person.)
But you do have to consistently post good work. (See #1 above.) To build that like-know-trust factor, you have to show up regularly. I’ve been posting, on average, at least once a week on Stupid Easy Paleo for almost 6 years. Yes…6 years.
Whatever frequency you decide to post with is up to you. Make it manageable. But avoid getting gung-ho for a couple weeks, then going MIA for 4 months, then coming back for another month, and so on.
Yes, life happens, and you may need to step away every now and then. Just try your best to develop consistency so readers can know they can count on you.
3) Have patience.
We need to have a real talk moment here:
Don’t expect your health blog to become an overnight success with viral blog posts, Oprah invites, and millions of fans.
You’ve got to be realistic.
I understand that’s hard in today’s blogging world where people routinely brag about their 7-figure incomes. I know that you already feel like you’re behind. I get that today’s instant gratification society makes us feel like we should be famous already.
But even those you see who appear to be overnight success stories aren’t. Trust me on this.
Becoming a blogger because you want to be rich and famous = disappointment. Consider your parade rained on.
Now that that’s over with, you can really get to work. Remember to keep your purpose – the thing that drives you every day, the real reason you want to help others – in mind at all times.
Do good work and be consistent even when it seems nobody is reading or watching.
On a related note, don’t sink tons of time and money into writing a book or creating a course before you’ve started your blog and worked at it for a while.
Build your community. Get to know how their needs and your talents intersect. Then create something you can sell that will help people solve their problems.
4) Take chances.
If you’re constantly afraid of doing the wrong thing or fucking up, you’ll never move forward.
The benefit of starting your health blog is that, at first, not a ton of people are watching. Relish it!
Use that time to try new things, take chances, and explore your voice.
When your blog grows to a sizable amount, the stakes will grow. Until then, take as many chances as you can. Read more in Reconnecting to My Roots.
5) Don’t be a dick. (DBAD)
I’ve seen some really dickish things from health bloggers in the last six years.
Spamming, advertising without permission on others’ social media accounts, stealing content…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You don’t have to be a brown-noser or suck up to people…
…but mark my words: If you’re not a good person, it gets around fast.
Here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Do: Connect authentically with bloggers or influencers. Become part of their communities. Sign up for mailing lists. Participate on their social media…without expectations.
- Don’t: Spam others with your links. It’s gross.
- Do: Offer to help others first.
- Don’t: Just start asking for shit.
- Do: Create value for your readers.
- Don’t: Add email addresses to your newsletter or marketing without permission. (It’s illegal.)
- Do: Properly attribute ideas to others. Even little kids know that copying is wrong.
- Don’t: Steal things, including blog posts and photographs. Respect intellectual property. Ask for permission to use content. If someone says no, end of conversation.
- Do: Say you’re sorry if you screw up.
- Don’t: Blame other people for your mistakes.
Do people use these “don’t” tactics and grow an audience? Yes. But their reputations quickly precede them. It’s not pretty.
I could go on all day here, but I’m quite sure, in your gut, you know what’s right, wrong, and straight up icky. Remember: DBAD.
On Being a Quitter
I want to tell you about something that made a giant difference for my blog.
In 2011, I was 10 years into a high school science teaching career. I’d invested thousands in a Master’s degree and built a successful biotech program at my school.
That fall, I participated in an online mastermind for CrossFit athletes to improve mental toughness. At the beginning, we did a survey of all different areas of life: health, fitness, relationships, career…
…and I was kinda dumbfounded when I realized I ranked career lowest in satisfaction. (Even lower than my failing marriage. That’s saying something.)
I mean, I wasn’t feeling happy in my job, but that survey hit home: Something had to change.
The ONE Thing That Made the Biggest Difference For Me
Quite by chance, at the end of 2012, I learned about a program for budding online entrepreneurs called B-School created by Marie Forleo. I was super nervous, but I signed up to watch the free training videos. I didn’t know anything about taking my hobby blog and turning it into a business, but Marie’s message spoke to me.
In early 2013, I signed up. I swallowed all of my fears and joined B-School, faithfully completed each week’s module.
Without B-School, I would’ve been lost. Terms like ideal customer avatar, email marketing, and freemium were totally foreign to me…
…but I learned the foundation that set me up for a successful business while staying true to my values. (There’s no way I was about to chuck all my integrity out the window just to make a living online.)
And in June of 2013, thanks to the foundation I built through B-School, I quit my teaching job and embarked on this wild, awesome ride of entrepreneurship.
Now, if you haven’t even started yet your health blog yet, B-School might be a bit of a stretch. (Watch the free training videos anyway. They’re fantastic.)
But if you’ve had a hobby blog on the side, putting energy into that and your day job, and you’re ready to turn it into a business, it could be a match.
In either case, I really hope you’ll watch Marie’s free trainings because they are packed with real deal, valuable tips.
I’ve got something an awesome B-School bonus package for anyone who signs up through my links. I’m so excited!! Stay tuned because B-School sign ups start on February 22.
(And to be 100% transparent, I may earn a referral fee if you purchase through my links.)
Tools and Resources for Your Successful Health Blog
Here’s where I’m telling you exactly what I use to run my health blog…and tools I’ve used in the past. Frequently, I’ve started off with free or lower cost versions before eventually leveling up. I started out with $0 to invest so I worked up slowly.
So. Many. Bloggers. I know try to start with the most complex, feature-heavy options, then get frustrated, spend a shit-ton of money, and then realize they don’t even really want to blog at the end of it all.
If you haven’t even started your first blog yet, don’t waste thousands on expensive designers and pricey hosts.
Note that there are TONS of other options besides what I’ve presented. This is what’s worked for us.
In simple terms, a platform is what I use to run the website…to write the blog posts, to run programs like the Harder to Kill Challenge, to offer products in my online store, etc.
If you’re just starting out with blogging, I recommend starting with WordPress.com. It’s a free version of this platform with pre-made themes.
A theme is how your blog looks…the design, if you will. The tricky thing is finding a theme that’s just right for you and what you like. Yes, pre-made themes can be modified, but it takes someone with knowledge of coding.
The great part about a WordPress.com blog is that hosting taken care of for you. A host is the place your website is stored and served onto the Internet. Every website needs a host.
Once your health blog and biz get rolling, most people prefer to upgrade to WordPress.org. This gives you way more flexibility, but it comes at a price. You’ll need to supply your own webhost.
There are pros and cons to both the WordPress.com and .org options.
If you’re a newbie, I’d go with .com, use WordPress’s hosting, and begin blogging.
There are other platforms like Squarespace, but you’ll probably find them inadequate in the long run. Better to start on WordPress.com, learn to use it, and then when you switch to .org, it’s smooth sailing.
WordPress has a reputation about being confusing to learn. It can be. The curve is a bit steep at times. But like everything else, it gets easier with practice.
I know so many people that want to work online, have no money to hire anyone, and then complain because the technology is hard to figure out. That’s where your elbow grease comes in.
You have to be willing to figure this stuff out if you don’t have thousands to burn on consultants, etc. If I can do it, you can do it. I’m self-taught in almost everything I do today to run Stupid Easy Paleo.
So to sum it up, WordPress.org gives you a self-hosted domain with more options (and costs more to run). WordPress.com offers subdomains with fewer options, but it’s lower cost.
Look, hosts run the gamut from bargain to Bentley. Just consider that with hosting, you get what you pay for. Considering your webhost is your site’s lifeline – determining whether your site stays up or crashes – it matters who you choose.
Remember, start with a WordPress.com blog option, and they’ll provide the hosting for you.
But when you’re ready to upgrade to a fully functional .org site for your health blog, do some research into hosts. I’d recommend putting a little more money toward reliable hosting and a little less on all the bells and whistles at first.
3) Social Media
One of the easiest ways to share what you’re creating with the world is by opening a social media account.
Trust me when I say that some bloggers and brands have teams dedicated to social media. You don’t need to try to beat them. Just start posting.
You also don’t need to be on literally every social platform. Pick 1-3 that really make sense for you and go from there.
Remember, give lots and lots of awesome, free, quality value. Teach, inspire, and empower your followers. Don’t let your social media become purely about advertisement. Mix it up.
4) Email Service / Marketing
You may have heard that a “list” is really important for your health blog.
Once you’re ready to take your hobby blog to the next level, a service like Mailchimp can help you collect email addresses from your readers and add them to a “list” so you can communicate with them.
You might start with a monthly newsletter. In time, you might offer a beefed up free resource for your readers in exchange for their email addresses. (That’s often called an opt-in, lead magnet, or freemium.)
Again, don’t put the cart before the horse. When you first start off, focus on creating good, useful, free content and sharing it with the world via your blog and social media.
Avoid the urge to tackle everything all at once. Let it unfold and evolve at a comfortable pace. You aren’t falling behind. Your journey is happening at the exact pace it’s supposed to.
Trust me, things can go from easy to omfgthisisconfusing in an instant when it comes to email so don’t rush it. For Stupid Easy Paleo, I used Mailchimp’s free (and then paid) options for the first several years.
In 2016, I switched to a beefed up email & customer service system called Infusionsoft. It’s not for beginners, but if your health blog has grown more advanced – running multiple opt-ins, products, e-courses, etc. – it might be time to upgrade.
Of course, there are many other small services and programs that I use to run my health blog…
…but I’ve slowly added them over time. Nobody expects you to master it all in a week.
Creating a successful health blog is like running a marathon: It takes putting one foot in front of the other, consistently, over a long period of time.
Follow this formula:
Do good work + Be consistent + Have patience + Take chances + DBAD
Remember, there are TONS of resources for getting started, like this free 3-part training series for building a business you love from B-School.
And stay tuned because I have a special bonus that I’m planning for you if you sign up for B-School using any of my links.
Finally, be sure to steal any of my ideas for the tools I use to run my health blog.