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During my time off from the blog, I really took a step back and tried to decide where I want to go next. As I’ve stated before, my goal with The Winter Of My Discontent has always been about educating, advocating, and creating community around people with brain disorders. That continues to be my mission.
One of the things that I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about mental health blogging, Mental Health Blogging: 8 Proven Do’s and Don’ts and One Year: How Mental Health Blogging Has Helped Me Heal, is how scant the information on mental health blogging. Mental health blogging differs greatly from other types and it was a great source of frustration for me that there wasn’t more information out there.
In that spirit, I’m going to start adding a series of mental health articles in the hopes I can reach anyone who is considering their own mental health blog. Hence, this very first post in the series, How To Start a Mental Health Blog. Let’s get started, shall we?
Why mental health blogging?
The reason for starting a mental health blog is going to be different for each of us. For me, it was anger and a dash of hope that brought me here. I found myself for the first time in the descriptions that other people wrote and I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “IT WASN’T ME!! I WASN’T MY FAULT!!” I wanted every person in my shoes to find that same validation; to have that heavy load lifted from their shoulders.
In order to do that, I knew I would first need to educate people. People with brain disorders, but especially people without. Stigma can only be fought with knowledge and hard work. I would need to advocate; fight like hell to make sure that our voices get heard. I would need a community of people around me who were understanding and supportive. If I couldn’t find one, I would create one.
That became my why. I am my why. You are my why. The 2 women who have come to me this week and told me that they are getting or have gotten a recent ADHD diagnosis because of my posts…they are the reason. The mother who left a comment saying that she recognized certain behaviors in her daughter that she never understood until she read my posts; that little girl and her mother are my reason.
My first piece of advice to you is this: always remember your reason. Never lose sight of the mission. Do whatever you want with your blog; write it however you like, market it however you like, even monetize it if you want to. But never lose site of why you started in the first place.
Choose a Niche
So you know you want to be become a mental health blogger, but what are you actually going to blog about? You need to figure that out. Brainstorm topics and pick out the best five. What topics speak to you? What do you feel passionate about? Niche down as far as you can, but don’t back yourself into a corner. Make sure there is plenty of material to write about so you don’t run out of ideas.
I write about living with ADHD and mental illness. I use the term “mental illness” because it’s easier than writing out my whole long list of disorders…and let’s be honest, there’s a lot of them! I stick with writing about my disorders, their symptoms, how to deal with them. I also write posts about mental health stigma and (as we can see) mental health blogging. I also tend to write about whatever I may be dealing with in the moment; work stress, friendships, therapy, etc. Even if you write outside of your core niche, try to stay on topic.
Once you’ve chosen your niche, sit down and have a good brainstorm on topics. Use any resources you can find to give you inspiration; Google, other blogs, you experiences, news headlines, etc. Ideally, you want to have between 25-50 good blog post ideas before you ever get started writing.
Choose a Name
Next, you want to choose a name for your blog. Let me tell you, choosing a name for something can be TOUGH. I agonized over what to call The Winter Of My Discontent. It worked out well, a phrase that I had been using my whole life took on a whole new meaning when I did some research. However, no matter how agonizing, a name must be picked.
You want to choose something catchy and, if possible, relevant to your niche. You also want to keep the length of you name in mind Let’s be real…The Winter Of My Discontent is catchy and it’s a damn good blog name, but it is on the longer side, especially when it comes to domain name. It’s easy to remember, but a pain in the butt to type. I probably wouldn’t have made it anything different, either way, but keep it in mind when naming your blog.
Do a good brainstorm. Write down as many names as you can think of. Whittle them down to five. Pop those five into some Canva templates and see how they look on a graphic. Do whatever you have to do until you’ve arrived at the perfect name for your mental health blog.
It’s time to create your mental health blog
There are a couple of different ways you can get your blog started.
- A free blogging platform like Wix, Medium, Blogger, or WordPress free. No access to plugins and few monetization options.
- WordPress.com – you pay WordPress for one of their paid plans and they host your content on their site. Gives you access to plugins, premium them, as well as other premium features.
- You can go self-hosted using a service like BlueHost and use WordPress.org to build your site. Gives you access to most premium WordPress features.
I started out with a WordPress free account for a couple of different reasons. The first was, I had no idea what I was doing. The second, and most important, reason is that I honestly didn’t know how long I was going to stick with blogging. My intuition proved correct because one month after starting The Winter Of My Discontent, I gave up on it and it sat dormant for 5 whole months before I picked it back up again.
I went to a paid WordPress plan in January because I was a little intimidated with self-hosting. Honestly, I have really liked having it and it has served me well. I have no real complaints…except the price. They rope you in by giving you a steep discount for the first year and the price goes up to $318 a year after that. I will be moving to self-hosted in December. It will come out much cheaper and I’ll still be able to use WordPress.org to build my site.
Start writing your mental health blog.
Now that you’ve set up your blog on a free site or on one of the paid alternatives, you’re ready to start writing your first blog post! While I’m not a fan of stifling creativity with a lot of unnecessary rules, there are a few things that you should keep in mind while writing your posts.
- WRITE QUALITY POSTS!! I cannot stress this enough. Your focus should be on writing quality blog posts at all times. They should be well-researched and well-written. You can use an editor like Grammarly, which I find to be extremely helpful in catching typos and errors. Your posts should either teach something, solve a problem, or answer a question. Your readers should leave your blog with something.
- If you can (it will be a lot harder if you are using a free account), start writing for SEO from the beginning. SEO is how your blog will be found by the search engines and, in turn, found by the people. I was 45 posts in before I learned about SEO and I had to go back and re-write all of those posts. It was not fun.
- Stick with long-form content. Your posts should be 1200+ words long. Remember, as far as the search engines are concerned…the longer, the better.
- Make sure you use internal and external links in every post, at least one of each.
- Make sure you use quality media within your posts. Pictures, videos, even GIFs.
Now, write 10-15 posts.
No, seriously. Now that you’ve set up your blog and you have the basics of writing a quality blog post, I want you to write between 10-15 blogs posts before you ever launch your blog. This gives you more options when it comes time for your launch. You can post all 10-15 right at launch to make sure your new readers have plenty of content to consume on impact. You can save them and make sure that you always have a stockpile in case of emergencies. You can schedule them out, one at time and keep writing in the meantime so that you never feel rushed.
Decide on a posting schedule.
Don’t be too rigid with yourself. Stick to a “soft” schedule. Deciding to post once a week without naming a specific day is fine, as long as you stick to your one day a week. This will make it easier to plan your week and your writing time. It will also build trust with your readers. They’ll know what to expect from you each week.
The Winter Of My Discontent shoots for a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday posting schedule but, sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. As long as I get my 3 posts a week out, I feel good knowing that my audience will be ready for whatever I have to serve them.
Launch your blog!!!
You’re finally ready to launch your mental health blog. Make sure you have an introduction post as your first post, explaining who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re trying to accomplish with your blog. Give your readers a reason to want to come back and find out what you’re doing!
Tips and Advice
Finally, I give you a few of the tips and pieces of advice that I have received or learned along the way.
- Be consistent-ish. Pick a number of times a week (or a month) to post and stick with it. You don’t have to post at the exact same time and day every time, just make sure that your audience knows they can rely on you for information “x” number of times a month.
- Use social media to your advantage. It can be an excellent took in finding and keeping readers.
- only start with 1-2 platforms and focus on only those until you have perfected them
- don’t just drop your link and run – interact with people and make friends
- Be yourself
- have a strategy
- schedule posts, etc.
- find community
- FB has some amazing groups for topics like mental health, writing, and blogging
- Have fun! Mental health blogging should be an outlet, not a stressor. It is a lot of hard work, but it should always feel worth it.
- Don’t stretch yourself too thin. If you can only write one post a week, your readers will still be there for you. Only do what you can.
- Use a blog planner and a content calendar to help you organize thoughts, ideas, and information about your blog and blog topics. I use the Mossery Twinbook.
- READ OTHER BLOGS!! I cannot stress this enough. Even outside of your niche, reading other blogs will only serve to make you a better blogger. There are some wonderful bloggers out there and you can learn a mint from them.
- Experiment! Play with your ideas. Try everything. Throw out what doesn’t work and keep what does!
- Ignore the numbers. They will make you feel downtrodden and discouraged. Starting out, it often feels like you’re writing into a void. These are the times when you’ll need to remember your why. Fight through the urge to give up too early and ignore the freaking numbers.
- There are no real rules. Not really. Don’t stifle yourself by trying to fit into a box that Google told you that you should be in. This is your mental health blog. Write it how you want. Tell the story the way that you feel comfortable telling it. I just thank you for being here, fighting the good fight.
I leave you with this: your voice is important and we’re glad to have you here in the community. We are many and we are powerful. Mental health blogging is just one of the many ways that we can fight the good fight and I’m so happy that you’ve decided to grace us with your talent and your experience. Good luck on your journey.
Love and light! Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜
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