Building a Blog You Love: Creating a Remarkable Product

{Poster created by Sian Richardson. Download the high res version and Pin to Pinterest using the button at the bottom of the article}.

Welcome to another installment of my Building a Blog You Love series, and let me just start by saying – you are in for a serious treat today!

I’ll hazard a guess you’re familiar with my gorgeous friend Jess Ainscough – writer, health coach, cancer kickin’ creator of The Wellness Warrior and all-round joyful soul – but what you probably haven’t heard as yet is just how much of herself she’s poured into her revolutionary guide to mind-body reinvention, The Wellness Warrior Lifestyle Transformation Guide.

Below you’ll find Jess generously sharing the process of creating The LTG in full detail (for the first time!), as well as her strategies for growing The Wellness Warrior over the past two years. This is the kind of juicy, insight-packed resource I know I’ll refer back to when I’m creating products myself and I hope you do too.

Bookmark it, print it, share it with your friends (help ’em out!)… and enjoy!

Let’s start with your gorgeous site. The Wellness Warrior is my go-to for inspiration on healthy living and it never ceases to amazes me what a brilliant job you’ve done growing your tribe. Can you share what’s worked for you over the past two years when it comes to attracting readers/ subscribers/ raving fans? 

Sure! I think the reason my blog has gained such a loyal following is because I’ve shown up to speak to my readers every day for over two years. When I write for them, I speak to them like they are my friends and family – because they are!

The people reading my blog have listened compassionately as I’ve bared my soul to them – the tough times and the breakthroughs. We’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions together, but the whole time we’ve had each other’s back. Like any family, we’ve argued, we’ve cried, we’ve consoled each other, and we’ve collectively cheered. I don’t censor anything from them – I’m totally real and raw. This has really been the major key to my growing tribe.

There have also been some strategic steps. Guest posting on other blogs with big audiences has helped, so has conducting interviews with people with large followings (they will usually share the interview for you). My newsletter subscribers grew substantially when I changed my opt-in offer to my current 80+ Green Smoothie Recipes e-book. This was a game changer for my newsletter list, growing it from about 2000 to 10,000 in seven months.

I committed to my blog like it was a lucrative job right from the beginning (I didn’t make any money for about 18 months). I’ve treated it with the same respect, making sure everything is top standard, putting my own money into it, and working with the best people to turn it into something that actually would make money.

Tell us a bit about The Lifestyle Transformation Guide and what the drive force was behind creating it. 

The idea for The Lifestyle Transformation Guide was born from the burn out I was experiencing when I was doing one-on-one coaching. I had taken on too many clients and my self care and happiness was being compromised – however I didn’t want to stop coaching, so I decided to package my program into an online format, with a few tweaks here and there. It was a way I could help more people, at a lower cost to them, without harming my own health.

The Guide is made up of 12 steps, designed to take you from where you are now to wherever you want to be on your wellness journey. Each step is also designed to build upon the one before it, so that you are only moving on to the next once you’ve made a habit out of the one before it. Before you know it, sustainable transformation has been achieved!

In each of the steps you will find gorgeously designed mini e-books and worksheets, video demonstrations, video and audio lessons, recipes, and lots of interviews with amazing wellness experts. It also includes bonuses like The Wellness Warrior Manifesto and desktop backgrounds with inspirational quotes – all designed up all stunningly, of course. (psst: you can get access via this link {affiliate}. It’s freaking amazing!)

How long ago did the idea take shape in your mind and what have you done since to bring it to life?

The idea formed in my mind at the end of last year, but I didn’t start totally focusing on it until about April this year. I launched my e-book Make Peace With Your Plate in February, and then took a month off before diving into the next one.

Step 1: Mapping out the plan

I used a Word doc to come up with each of the steps I wanted to include in The Guide. To decide on the steps, I looked back at my own personal transformation at gave a lot of thought to what worked, what didn’t, and in what order the steps needed to be taken to be most effective, enjoyable and sustainable.

I decided I wanted a range of elements in each steps: written, worksheet, video, and interview. I then decided what content I wanted in each step, what could be turned into a worksheet, what videos I wanted to film and which experts I wanted to approach for interviews.

Step 2: Branding and design

Because I knew this was going to be a pretty big job, I gave my designer a heads up pretty early on. We came up with a logo design first, and then she carried that branding out into the other elements of both the sales page and the members site.

Step 3: Website set-up

I have DIY’d in the past, but this time I knew I wanted to hire some help to set up all of the website stuff. I am so thankful that I did! My VA is an absolute whizz. She set up Optimize Press and Wishlist (the two WordPress plugins that were needed for The LTG), and she has done all of the coding, page layouts, and been at my service whenever I came across something that is way to technical for me.

Step 4: Line up interviews

I aimed high for this one, approaching all of the people on my interview wish list. Some declined due to other commitments (it’s tricky when they are in hiding writing books or travelling), but most of them agreed. Yay!

I sent each of them an interview packet outlining everything about the program, everything about me, and everything about my website including stats. Then, I booked in a time to chat with them over Skype. This can also be tricky when you’re talking with people in a different time zone. There were several mornings when I was sitting at my computer with a face full of make-up at 6am talking to someone in the US.

I recorded all of my interviews using Call Recorder for Mac.

Step 5: Marketing plan

I did a big 21 days of giveaways promotion when I launched my e-book and while that was awesome, it really drained me. So this time I decided to keep it simple. This is what I did:

1 // I gave sneak peeks into The Guide by posting a short snippet of the interviews on my blog each Wednesday during about 10 weeks leading up to the launch.

2 // I created a newsletter list purely for The LTG updates, and sent them teasers like behind the scenes pics, launch info, and a free gift.

3 // I enlisted the help of awesome affiliates to spread the word.

4 // I filmed a gorgeous promo!

5 // I did a launch month giveaway to create urgency – everyone who bought the program during the first month went in the draw to win either a Vitamix blender or one of 10 runner up prizes.

Step 6: Content creation

Writing all of the copy, gathering all of the interviews, and collecting all of the bits and pieces from all of the contributors.

Step 7: Film videos

I did this over a couple of days, and spent money hiring the best so that they would be amazing quality.

Step 8: Content design

I sent all of my content to my designer for her to work her magic.

Step 9: Pricing decision

This was tough. I originally thought I was creating a program that would be $150, but as I continued to create I realised that The Guide was growing into something far beyond what I first anticipated. So, after A LOT of debilitating, throwing numbers around and consulting with my power posse, I decided on $979. I wanted to keep it under $1000, and my speaking coach told me that I have to end in a 79 because people respond better to 7s and 9s (and you have to have them in the order of small to big because that’s good feng shui).

But then, things changed again. After I launched it at this price something wasn’t feeling right in my gut. I wanted to make the program more accessible to my readers, while still keeping it at a price that reflected its worth, so I eventually landed on $579. As soon as I changed the price the icky feeling in my gut went away.

The moral? Always trust your intuition.

Step 10: Film promo

I left this until the very end, but ideally it should have been done sooner around about this step. I wanted to tell the story of my own personal lifestyle transformation and illustrate it with gorgeous shots from my life. I am SO stoked with how it turned out. This is probably my favourite part of the whole thing ha ha.

Step 11: Set up membership site

I uploaded all of the designed content and videos into each of the 12 step pages.

Step 12: Set up sales page

I uploaded all of the copy (which Alex Franzen helped me come up with) as well as the videos (I have a video on almost every page), and badges.

Step 13: Set up affiliate program

My VA set this up for me, and then I created the content for the affiliate centre – all of the copy & pasteable language and promotional badges.

Step 14: Test that everything works

I had my power posse help me test that the affiliate program process and the membership sign up process works smoothly and makes sense.

Step 15: Approach affiliates

A week and a half before the launch, I approached all of the people who I wanted to become affiliates, and also put a call out to my LTG newsletter list.

Step 16: Launch!

First I sent an email to everyone on the LTG newsletter list, and then posted a blog on my website and sent an email to my Wellness Warrior newsletter list. Then I posted it on Facebook and Twitter. I also sent all of my affiliates a reminder to start promoting.

I know a high-density project this in-depth takes a village. Who have you worked with along the way? Who helped take this idea from inspiration to reality?

Okay, my dream team includes:

+ Susana and Nicola – my power posse who helped me shape the idea, kept me accountable, were there for me to bounce ideas off of, helped me with any confusion and told me to keep breathing. I couldn’t have done it without them!

+ Sian Richardson – my freaking amazingly talented designer. One brief and the girl totally gets my whole vision, and then lays it out for me so much better than I could ever imagine. She is the best.

+ Tina Caldwell – my super star VA. She is so fast, so nice, and so patient.

+ Luke Middlemiss from Playback Films – Luke is my videographer and he is a genius. His regular gig is as a wedding videographer (he makes wedding videos look like high-budget movies), but I snapped him up to film all of my videos – the demonstrations, in-person interviews, and of course, the promo.

+ Yvette Luciano – Yvette is my new customer service virtual assistant, and she helps me answer all of the LTG related query emails.

You’ve interviewed plenty of influential souls both on your site and for the LTG. Can you give us a bit of an insight into how this usually plays out? 

I love doing interviews! It’s the best way to get quality information and advice, as well as make some great connections. I outlined my process for The LTG interviews up above, and it is pretty much the same for The Wellness Warrior ones. I just email them with an introduction about me and my story, my website stats, and tell them that I would be over the moon if they would chat with me.

Any tips for contacting and connecting with busy, important people? 

Make it super easy for them. Give them all of the information, including what you are interviewing them for, who you are, what your website stats are, and tell them that you just need them for 30 minutes max (less if they can’t do that) at a time that suits them. Work in with them and their schedule as much as you can.

What lessons have you learned along the way?

Ooh so many! The main ones are:

1 // Launches ALWAYS take more time and work than you first expect. If you choose a launch date, be willing to have this stretched to accommodate any unforseen bumps.

2 // Hire a VA. This will save so many headaches, and stop you from fighting with WordPress into the wee hours.

3 // Be assertive and stand up for yourself when working with creatives. It used to be really difficult for me to tell designer and other people I’m working with if I don’t like something. I don’t like conflict at all, so this lesson has kept coming up for me. It’s still a skill I’m working on, but I’m way better than I used to be.

4 // Breathe.

Pretty amazing, huh? I love how Jess has brought so much clarity to the product creation process – something that can definitely be overwhelming and confusing without a roadmap!

I’D LOVE TO KNOW: What did you learn from all this? Feeling inspired to create a product of your own? 

Other posts in the ‘Building a Blog You Love’ series:

Start with Heart
Design Essentials
Brands, PR’s + Making the Money

And don’t forget you can get instant access to Jess’ Lifestyle Transformation Guide by clickety-clicking here!

Building a Blog You Love: Brands, PR’s and Making the Money

{Download the high res version}

Welcome to another installment of my Building a Blog You Love series!

So far we’ve covered everything you need to know to get your blog set up along with the design essentials, and today I’m thrilled to bring you a chock-full-o-goodness interview with Nikki Parkinson from Styling You, who has generously shared her impressive knowledge on Navigating PR, Sponsorship and The Blogger-Brand Relationship with Style.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with Nikki – award-winning Australian blogger named ‘best in the biz’ last year for her fashion and beauty know-how – but if not, you’re in for an absolute treat. I’ve seen Nikki speak twice (most recently at the Problogger Event, recapped here) and let me tell you – she knows her stuff. Inside out, back to front.

One of the things I love about Nikki’s approach to earning a living online is that not only is she a consummate professional, but she always brings it back to the reader. Her community is highly engaged because she’s highly engaged. I can’t recall who it was but someone once said to me about Nikki: “Isn’t it great that she still replies to most of her comments? Love that.” I couldn’t agree more.

Pour yourself a cup of tea and soak up a wealth of actionable insights on working with brands and moving towards monetising your site.

Again, the lovely Sian from Fresh By Sian has whipped up the poster above with Nikki’s top tips for you to refer back to so download it, save it, print it, Pin It. Enjoy!

Let’s start with PR. If you’re pitched to by a PR rep or a brand directly, how do you respond to them? Tell us a little bit about how the process usually plays out.

I would receive on average about 50 PR emails a day. These range from a straight PR release through to a personal pitch. Coming from a media background, this is something I’m used to. I don’t take it as a front that a PR rep is contacting me for possible inclusion for their client on my blog. They’re just doing their job.

PR companies generally work two ways – the blanket saturation approach or the targetted pitch. The blanket approach is usually not addressed personally to you (unless in a mail merge in which case it seems like it is!). The personal pitch shows a bit more creativity – the PR has chosen your blog as a possible target for a reason.

With the sheer volume of emails I have to deal with, I process them by either:

DELETE if not personally addressed to me and not relevant to my blog.

FILE if not personally addressed to me but of possible relevance to my blog.

REPLY if personally addressed and pitched to me, I’ll reply in a timely manner with my thoughts on the pitch.

REQUEST PRODUCT if the pitch is about a product that I think has relevance to my readers then I will request a sample to try. No sample = no coverage, unless I really, really want it and buy myself. I cannot risk running a promo about a product on my blog if I haven’t tried it first. People buy off my recommendation. You can’t afford to fake a recommendation.

On event invites… If I’m invited to a launch or an event I will ALWAYS rsvp. If you’ve ever organised an event, you will know that you are making the event organiser’s job easier by indicating whether or not you can attend.

On products… I’m quite frequently sent product I have not requested. Over the course of the week, this builds up. I have a “filing” system for this and rotate new product that I think will be of interest to my readers to my bathroom for trial.

When I have a group of similar products together, I’ll create a post around that theme. It is extremely rare that one brand or product would receive an exclusive post on my site. Exclusive posts are reserved for sponsored posts.

How can bloggers go about making themselves known to PR agencies and brands?

1 // Follow PR agencies and brands on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

2 // “Talk” to them via these social media channels.

3 // If you have a list of brands you’d like to make contact with, search for their PR contact via their website. This might not be listed on the site but there will be a number to call. Pick up the phone and make that call. Get the name, number and email address of the person you need to talk to. Often it will be someone working in an agency and contracted to that brand.

4 // When you have those details – pitch them. Have your media kit ready to email as well as a brief outline about you and your blog. You need to sell yourself to these agencies. Many are still very much “old school” and will concentrate on the glossy magazines (especially in the fashion and beauty fields). You need to sell what makes you worth their while working with you.

5 // Don’t lie about your stats. Quote Google Analytic stats – brands want to know monthly stats for Unique Visitors (UVs) and Page Views (PVs). Blogger and WordPress stats are not reliable for this information – stick with Google Analytics and send a screen shot of your latest months’ stats.

6 // If you feature a brand’s product, email a link to your blog post to the relevant PR person. This keep the lines of communication open and show how much you’re interested in the brand.

Authenticity. A desire to add value. A deep respect for your readers. These are all things that you embody and I think you’ve absolutely got the blogger-brand relationship nailed. What are your personal guidelines when working with brands? How do you ‘keep it real’ for your readers?

This can be broken down into two sections – paid and unpaid brand work.

When deciding what products to include editorially (unpaid), I will base those factors on a “news sense” for what I think my readers what to read and find out about right now. If I have received free product in association with this, I will disclose it at the end of the post. Free product does not equal sponsorship. You can’t buy groceries with free product!

For paid/ sponsored work, I still use my news sense when deciding which brands I will agree to a commercial relationship with. The brand has to fit. Ideally it’s a brand I already use and love as it’s a blogger’s personal recommendation that brands are looking for. If I can’t tell a story around a brand or product then I won’t accept a sponsored post from them. All my sponsored posts are clearly marked as such at the top of the post – that way I people can click away if they do not want to read sponsored content.

It’s sometimes the case that blogs with less traffic can have a more engaged and powerful readership, but coming from a PR background myself, I know metrics and measurement are still a top priority for agencies. While traditional media exposure is measured in “dollars,” online coverage often comes down to “eyeballs,” so I’d love to know: what kind of numbers should bloggers be hitting before approaching brands?

I’m not sure about exact numbers but an engaged and influenced readership is what a brand will want to see signs of – as well as decent traffic. Remember bloggers are competing in the digital space with big online sites as well as mainstream media. Even a “big” blogger in Australia is very much small fry in the media landscape.

“How much should I charge?” It’s such a big question and something we all grapple with at some stage or another. Can you talk a little about the process of defining your rates?

There are no standards as such. Rates are determined by what the market will pay and they are based on readership statistics. I’m very lucky that I now have an agent who sells my blog on my behalf. It’s such a difficult thing to put a monetary value on yourself.

There is a definite rate of scale when it comes to what brands and agencies will pay bloggers for sponsored posts but it is not uniform across the board. I would love to see something like a union’s rate of pay in place but just like freelance journalism rates, it’s all very well to have a rate of scale but rarely is it stuck to. It comes down to market forces.

What are the essentials for a great media kit?

1 // Keep it short and succinct – particularly the first page – get your point of difference across here.

2 // Include up to date stats and a Google Analytics screen shot.

3 // Include prices for sponsored posts and banner advertising.

4 // Include ways that brands can be involved in giveaways and other editorial (free) opportunities.

5 // Include your contact details and how you’re best contacted.

Let’s touch on opportunities that aren’t quite right for you and your readership. I remember reading somewhere when I started my blog that “99% of the time you’ll say no” – which at the time seemed slightly ridiculously but I now know to be pretty accurate. Do you have any tips or a standard spiel you’d like to share with us that says ever-so-graciously “Thanks but this one probably isn’t for me?”

Get clear on what your blog is about and who your readership demographic is. Once you are clear on this, it is easy to respond to a pitch that is not something your readers would be interested in.

I usually keep it short and sweet: “Thanks for your email, I’m sorry but my readers are unlikely to be interested in the latest styles of cut-off denim shorts … my demographic is busy women aged 28-45 years and mostly they like to wear pants that cover their bottoms … etc.”

When you run a giveaway on Styling You, how long does it generally run for and how do you go about promoting the comp to ensure its success?

I had to get clear on my competition guidelines as I could no longer give brands an exclusive post in return for giveaway products. If brand want that, it’s sponsored content.

Instead, I run monthly multi-draw competitions. Brands inquiring about these receive a pdf document outlining the minimum value I require from them and what they receive in return.

They start on the second Wednesday of each month and run for two weeks. I promote them via Twitter and Facebook throughout the competition and average about 1000 entries. The entry form is linked to my email marketing Mail Chimp account so those entering have the possibility to subscribe and opt in to my weekly email newsletter.

I also occasionally promote the competition via Win Free Stuff but mostly, they get picked up by other competition sites and referred and linked to. I’ve also started doing a little Facebook advertising around these competition posts.

Nikki was never allowed a Barbie doll as a child. Her politically correct mum thought Lego and Tonka trucks were more fitting. Now the Queensland-based blogger advises women what to wear and put on their face for a living.

The former journo and magazine editor manages an award-winning blog Styling You – offering real world fashion and beauty advice for busy women. Don’t tell anyone but she’s secretly a closet dag who likes nothing more than relaxing at home with her family but open a champagne bottle and she can have her heels on and hair done in minutes.

Connect with Nikki on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


Do you work with brands/ PR reps? Are you looking to make money from your blog or is it solely a “passion project?”

Working in PR “by day,” this topic is one that’s close to my heart so if you have any questions for me – or Nikki – please ask away in the comments below.

Image: Who What Wear | Castles Crowns and Cottages | Muhs Home | Matthew Taylor Wilson

Building a Blog You Love: Design Essentials

{This is the second installment in my series Building a Blog You Love. See Part 1 here.}

When new visitors land on the home page of your blog, the first thing they’re greeted with is your design. The way your blog looks – the header, the colour scheme, the fonts, the imagery and the other design elements – immediately evoke an emotional response and tell a story about what it is you do. More often than not, before a reader even starts on your insightful, carefully strung-together words, they’ll have an idea whether your blog is for them.

We all know the blogosphere is well and truly soaked with inspiration. Millions of sites jostle daily for attention and while, of course, quality content is hugely important (because what’s the point otherwise?), in my opinion, having a functional, aesthetically appealing design is right up there too.

You don’t have to spend a fortune having your online home professionally designed within an inch of its life (in fact, plain, simple layouts that let the content ‘breathe’ are all kinds of awesome) but with the abundance of great templates and free fonts floating around the web these days, I definitely think it’s easier than ever to create something beautiful. Something that doesn’t look like this. (Hello, brain explosion!).

How did the In Spaces Between layout come about?

When I started this blog I knew what I wanted it to look design-wise (soft colours, plenty of white space) but being not-so-fancy on the coding side of things, I had no idea how to make that happen.  I didn’t want to spend too much on my blog from the outset in case this blogging caper wasn’t for me, so I end up creating the logo myself along with a mock-up of the layout Photoshop and had a developer do the back-end for me.

After almost 18 months online, however, I’ve decided to freshen things up around here and will be investing in a redesign for my site in early 2013 – implementing the bejesus out of everything I’ve learnt along the way. Seriously can’t wait!

Let’s start at the beginning – the essential elements. I recently chatted with the lovely Ana Degenaar from Blog Milk, who has generously shared her wisdom on everything you need for a killer blog, as well as her thoughts on design costs.

To make it super easy to save all the information from this series, another design whiz friend of mine, Sian from Fresh by Sian, kindly whipped up the below graphic for you to Pin to Pinterest or save to file (download high res version). Winner.

Ana says:

+ A good and complete blog makeover goes anywhere from $500 – $900. When I say complete I mean your designer will do the graphics, the coding and any additional work to ensure your blog functions properly.

+ Coding alone costs approximately $300 – $500.

+ Branding packages that include logos, business cards and the whole shebang cost around $1500 – $2000.

Now that the basics are covered, I want to share a few design and functionality-related tips and tricks I’ve discovered myself, so read on:

Or at least give it some thought. I can’t count how many times I’ve given up after trying to leave a comment under a post, oh, 10 or more times. Think how many other readers may be doing the same.

PS: this will make you giggle.


In the same vein as the above, if you want a reader to take action in any way once they visit your site – signing up for your mailing list, purchasing your product, liking your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or booking your services – make it easy for them to do so. Put the most important information front and centre, smack bang in their line of sight.

Want more people on your list? Place your opt-in box the top of your sidebar, in your header (like this or this), in your About section or at the bottom of your posts (aim for at least 2 out of 4 here).

Want more Facebook fans? Consider using a Facebook Like Box so readers can join your Facebook tribe without even leaving your blog.

{Hot tip: If you have a reasonable following on Facebook, this is also great ‘social proof,’ showing a first-time visitor that people are digging your content.}

Want people to share your posts? Use a plugin like ShareThis and ask people to share.

{Hot tip: It’s all in The Ask. Don’t be shy – there are people who are hanging for your words, so help close the gap by getting your existing fans to spread the love using those tiny buttons with oh-so-much-power.}

Want people to buy your eBook or visit your Etsy store? Place a button/ logo/ graphic of the cover where they can see it.

Extra tidbits:

1 // At the end of your posts, keep The Ask to one or two things – eg: ‘I’d love you to leave a comment and share with your friends!’ – to ensure you’re not overwhelming your readers.

2 // When I compile my Blogs to Bookmark posts each week, I include the Twitter handle of the bloggers when I share the link on Twitter. I often struggle to find the social icons on a blog, only to discover them buried in a random area of the site, so remember that visibility is key.


{Opt-in box examples: 1. In Spaces Between; 2. Marie Forleo; 3. Social Triggers}

Want me to let you in on a little a secret? This is something I learnt from Derek Halpern from Social Triggers through the B-School training – add the words “It’s FREE” (or some variation of that) where you want people to subscribe to your updates. You’ll see it in action above. Simple and powerful.

If you’re interested, Derek also has some fantastic information on using Feature Boxes for building your email list.

When it comes to the type or the fonts you use throughout your site, you can stick to the defaults (Arial, Verdana et al) or alternatively, trawl through the Google Webfonts site for a plethora of font-y options.

Check these posts out for inspiration:

+ The Best 20 Webfonts

+ Jo from August Empress shares her favourite webfonts.

+ The Top Notch Type series curated by Eva Black for Emma Dime is a veritable goldmine.


Colour, glorious colour (or color if you’re a U.S. of A baby!) See the infographic below for some brilliant insights on the emotions different colour schemes elicit.

When you’re going through the design process, be sure that there is enough contrast between the background colour of your site and the colour you use for the text. I’ve found myself squinting to read light grey text on a white background many a time (and I have no problems with my eyesight). Font size is also important for readability.

Aaaaaand, that’s a wrap! Congrats on making it to the end.

If you have any questions, please ask away my loves. If you’re feeling share-y, I’d love you to spread the cheer on Facebook and Twitter using the buttons below (thank you so much). x

Images: Jessica Comingore | Emma Dime | BobolingPrint Media Center

Building a Blog You Love: Start With Heart

I’ve been blogging since June 2011 and along the way, and through my full-time job in PR/ digital communications, I’ve learnt plenty. This series is about sharing everything I know.

Born out of requests from you guys, over the next month I’ll be posting on what’s worked for me along with a collection of wise words from an incredible group of guest interviewees who’ll discuss design essentials, working with brands and PR’s, creating and launching a product, mastering Instagram and more. I’ll also share the key takeaways from the Problogger event in Melbourne next week.

I’m so pumped to show you how to build a blog you truly love, so before we start – are you ready for an onslaught of blogging how-to’s? Yes? Ok, let’s do this!

In Spaces Between is the manifestation of two simple desires:

1 // To be creatively fulfilled. I needed a outlet separate to my full-time job and the blogging platform allowed me to carve out that sacred space beautifully.

2 // To connect and be of service. I wanted to start a conversation, share useful resources, join the dots with like-minded souls and spread the message that living from a place of empowerment and creating a magnificent life is something available to us all.

A third, more hopeful reason for starting this blog was that eventually it would become the backbone of a future business – probably not the primary money spinner, but an essential piece of the pie.

One look at my sidebar will show you that over the past year I’ve approached blogging from a broad perspective, covering a range of topics that interest me rather than a super tight, super defined niche. I chose this path originally because, to be perfectly honest, I’m a multi-passionate creature and I saw blogging as a freaking excellent opportunity to express all sides of my personality – the creative side, my inner personal development-lovin’ word-nerd, the parts of me that love styling and decorating, the health lover and for a while there, my journey as a bride-to-be (more on this approach in later posts).

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I just knew I wanted to start. And so I did.

A nostalgic wander through my Google Analytics shows that back in June 2011, there were 1925 visits to In Spaces Between (755 unique visitors) and by the second month that had more than doubled to 4650 visits (1905 uniques).

I’m not entirely sure where the traffic came from in the first instance – I suspect friends telling their friends and the word spreading that way – but from the outset there were definitely three essential elements in play: (1) A helluva lot of passion (or should that be obsession?) (2) an optimistic view that my blog would reach the right people at the right time and (3) a commitment to being authentically me.

I certainly haven’t followed traditional blogging advice to the letter but if I had to sum up everything that’s worked for me in short form, those key principles would be it. While the first post was the hardest one to write (you know it!) since then, I’ve posted 337 times… and counting. Blogging has, quite literally, changed my life.

There’s one question I’ve always asked myself when it comes to writing here and I’ll continue to do so as the site evolves. It’s profound in its simplicity.

How can I be useful? 

I’m hugely passionate about you guys and the desire to be generous, add value and make your lives better! brighter! happier! has always underpinned everything I do on In Spaces Between. The spin off has been that you can’t impart wisdom without learning something new yourself (or about yourself), and I think my favourite thing about this blog is that we’re all progressively growing, moving forward and embracing change together.

So with the ‘Why I blog’ bits covered, let’s dive headfirst into the foundations of building a blog that makes your heart sing, shall we?

3 quick questions to discover if blogging right for you:

1. Do you like to write – or alternatively, communicate your message through visuals or by speaking on camera?

2. Are you disciplined and self-motivated?

3. Are you willing to put yourself and your work “out there?”

If you answered yes, we’re golden. Let me just quickly interrupt programming here to say that – in case you’re feeling doubtful – there’s more than enough space in the blogosphere for you and your soulful wisdom. There’s a tribe waiting out there, just for you.

I truly believe the world is a better place when we’re out there unleashing our passions, so if you’re on the precipice and looking for a nudge in the right direction to go out and shine your light, this is it!

Take a look at the blogs you read. 

+ What sort of content are you drawn to?

+ If you’re reading several blogs covering similar areas of interest, which one do you seem to visit first, and why?

+ Is it the design? The author’s writing style, or swagger, or they way they throw together a vintage outfit like nobody’s business? Is there a weekly feature you always hang out for? The fact the blogger also happens to be an amazing photographer? Are you stoked that they update often, or love that they don’t update too much?

Just like there’s a reason you bought the books on your bookshelf and the songs on your iPod,  there’s a reason you continue to go back and read the blogs you do. Trawl through your Google Reader, grab and pen and a notepad and start scribbling. Bookmark inspiration a-plenty. Get to the bottom of what makes these blogs ‘sticky’ for you and let that guide you as you come up with a topic/ topics of your own.

+ What are your short and long term goals with blogging?

+ Who’s your “ideal reader” (or customer if you plan on selling products or services?) Can you describe the type of person you plan on writing for/ selling to in detail?

+ What image do you want to portray?

+ How do you want people to feel after they leave your site?

+ Who will you align yourself with? (list the top bloggers in your category and start thinking about how you can make contact in completely un-douchey, genuine way)

Your answers to these questions will no doubt change as your blog grows and changes form, but knowing why you’re blogging and who you’re blogging for is insanely useful – especially when it comes to dealing with brands down the track and evaluating whether a product is the correct fit for your audience.

The final step in the pre-planning process is deciding how to hone and own YOUR unique perspective.

Cast your eyes back to the first point and consider:

+ What can you add to the conversation that your counterparts may have missed?

+ What do you “know some things about” that you’d be willing to share?

+ Instead of following the standard formula, how can you buck the trend, ever-so-slightly or completely, and infuse your blog with ‘you’ – your experience, opinions, personal taste, mad skills?

A personal example: 

I’ve always enjoyed link roundup posts on other blogs because I’m an information sponge and love the expansive feeling of discovering something new.

In my experience, most link roundups seem to be done the same way – a numbered list with a short description and a link through to the article. It’s a tried and true format but because I love a good visual, it wasn’t The Perfect Format for me so when I was developing my plan for In Spaces Between I knew that, yes, there would be a regular feature pimping out cool cats, but I wanted to present it in a way I wished it was done elsewhere (also known as “identifying an unfulfilled need.”)

The decision was that not only would I link to five blogs I was digging each week – the whole blog, not an individual post, although I do that underneath as well – but I’d include a screen capture so readers could get an idea straight away of the look and feel of the sites I was recommending.

I hadn’t seen link roundups done like that anywhere else, so analysing what was been done by other bloggers and then presenting it a little differently on my own blog was my way of adding a new dimension to an existing formula.

Question: How can you do the same on your site?

I’m going to be honest with you: the techy, back-end stuff is not really my area of expertise (or interest). I know enough to get by so I’ll provide you with an overview on setting up a WordPress blog here but I suggest you do some research for a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to setting up your site if you choose to do it yourself.

If you’re like me and go down the path of setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog and want to keep things as stress-free as possible, I can’t speak highly enough about paying a developer to do the full setup for you.


You can set up a free blog with Blogger or in no time or go straight to a self-hosted WordPress ( blog (my recommendation), which will allow you more flexibility and more freedom to customise as you please.

Choosing a platform definitely requires further reading so check out thisthis and this.


Decide what you’re going to call your blog and check the availability/ register it on a site like Crazy Domains or Go Daddy. For more, Amy Andrews has some great advice on choosing a domain name.


Blue Host are a reputable hosting company but when I was hosted with them I had quite a few problems with my site loading slowly or not at all (I assume because they’re based in the U.S) so I changed to a local host 123host earlier this year and haven’t had a problem since (they also sell domains). Do some research to find the best option for you depending on where you’re based and what the plan looks like. An important step! 


Download WordPress and install the software yourself using this easy guide or have a web developer do it for you.

* This is also the part where you can install your theme (the way your blog looks). Blog Milk sell stunning themes, as do Theme Forest


Once you start getting traffic to your site, you’ll want to know where it’s coming from, how often people and checking in and what content they’re digging, and Google Analytics will deliver all that valuable information in spades. The ‘Real Time’ feature is pretty sweet too. Follow the steps to set your account up here.


This one is a definitely case of “do as I say, not as I do” because I only set up my mailing list a month ago! While it might seem like just another thing you have to worry about at the start (I know that was the reason for me) building your list is super important if you want to eventually create a business from your blog. Mail Chimp – who I use – are free up to 2000 subscribers or you can set up a paid account with Aweber.

* Note: I had my newsletter template professionally designed and my designer tells me Mail Chimp offers greater flexibility when it comes to templates.  


If you haven’t already, jump on board with Twitter, set up a Facebook fan page (this is different to your personal profile), create a Pinterest account and if it’s of interest, hop on Instagram. I don’t personally use Google + but by all means, set yourself up there as well if you think you’ll use it.

I’m all about doing more with less and given Facebook is the number one referrer of traffic to my blog, it’s where I spend most of my time “socialising,” followed closely by Twitter.

So there you have it – the nuts and bolts of planning and setting up a brand spankin’ new blog. This is just the beginning and in the next week I’ll be sharing oodles of tips on design and the essential functionalities for a successful blog.

I’d love to hear from you so if you have any questions about today’s post or future topics, please leave ’em below!

PS: If you found this post useful, use the buttons below to share or tweet it out. Huge thanks for your support! 

Images: A Merry Mishap via Design Love Fest | Cygne NoirTrendenser