Good morning and happy Saturday, everyone. It’s officially been 7 months since I launched this blog. How time has flown! I thought now would be a good point to explain how, after blogging as a hobby since 2010 with no real purpose or direction, I launched my new healthy food blog, Ricotta and Radishes.
It wasn’t easy. There’s so much more I still need to learn, and lots of room for improvement, but I thought it would be interesting for some, and perhaps helpful for others, to share how I did it and what I learned along the way.
Why I decided to build my blog myself
First of all, I completely understand why regular people like me hire web developers and designers for their blogs! Setting up, maintaining and growing a blog is a lot of work and can be extremely complicated.
Why did I attempt it on my own, then? Well, for one, I’m a bit of a nerd. I’ve been dabbling in design and tech ever since I got my first Mac and have always had a passion for writing and media. Second, I couldn’t really justify the cost of hiring someone to design a blog I wasn’t yet making money from.
(Side note – I’m not suggesting that DIY blog building is for everyone, nor that hiring a designer isn’t a worthwhile investment! It is, and my blog would probably look and function a lot better if I did. The point is, I genuinely wanted to do it myself. Maybe I’m addicted to learning, who knows!)
How I did it
I completed the following steps over the course of a few weekends back in March. It took a lot of Googling, many cups of tea and a supportive, joke-cracking husband to make me laugh whenever I felt frustrated.
Here’s what I did, step by step, to design, build and launch my food blog:
Planning and writing
- Decided on the blog’s purpose and came up with a name that fit with my vision for the blog – simple, healthy and flavourful. Read more about my blogging journey and why I chose this particular niche.
- Chose the colour scheme and fonts; designed the blog header image
- Planned out the sitemap/page layout on paper and wrote the content for all pages in a Word document
URL, hosting and WordPress.org
- Purchased the domain name www.ricottaandradishes.com from GoDaddy
- Set up web hosting through GoDaddy using the cPanel hosting platform for Linux
- Configured WordPress.org account and installed WordPress to the website’s root directory
- Exported all content (pages, posts, photos, comments) from my old blog into an .xml file in case I wanted easy access to previous posts and photos; installed WordPress importer plugin on the new blog and imported all the content
- Downloaded FileZilla, an FTP client that allows you to transfer files from one host to another (you need it for self-hosted blogs)
Designing, building and tweaking
- Purchased and installed Thesis Theme (affiliate link), a customizable WordPress theme framework that allows you customize to your heart’s content without too much coding.
- Watched numerous free video tutorials on html and css and used this knowledge to design and build my blog. This part took the longest as I am self-taught and had to look up how to do absolutely everything!
- Downloaded fun new WordPress plugins to improve the user experience, including a printable recipe at the bottom of each post and a visual recipe index. My old blog lacked these features because WordPress.com doesn’t allow the use of plugins
- Updated all my social media accounts to reflect the new blog; deleted my old blog’s Facebook page
- Designed new branded social media icons and other images for my blog sidebar. Graphic design is another area in which I’m completely self-taught, but I have Lynda.com to thank for all the amazing video tutorials
- Decided to nix any sidebar badges that don’t serve a purpose other than advertise and link to other sites, including the “food porn” sites I’m a member of, to reduce clutter
- Set up an RSS-driven Mailchimp email campaign for new post notifications and monthly post roundups
Photography and food styling
- Bought (ahem, received as a Christmas gift from my husband) a new 50 mm f/1.4 lens for my DSLR camera last year. I’ve had the Canon Rebel T2i since 2011 and had been wanting a lens upgrade for a long while
- Took a new, more professional looking head shot and added it to all my online accounts, blog and social media profiles for consistency
- Organized all my photography supplies and styling props in one easily accessible bin in the kitchen
- Spent time actively improving my food photography skills with the help of the e-book, Tasty Food Photography (affiliate link). Of all the resources I’ve utilized for my blog thus far, this has been the most useful by a long shot. Check out the following before and after photos which illustrate how much my photography has improved since getting this book. Hopefully they speak for themselves. (Note – The “after” photos weren’t selected because I think they are perfect! In fact, I can already point out some areas that could use work in each of them. The point is to show how my photography has gotten better over time.)
What I learned and next steps
Phew. And that was just the beginning! There’s so much more to do, including promoting and monetizing, but these past six months have already taught me so much. Food blogging certainly takes a lot of planning, work and time, but it’s my passion and I love every minute of it.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission from purchases made after you click through. It’s important to me that you know this, and that you also know that I only recommend or promote products or services that I am passionate about and/or use personally!