As a veteran sustainability blogger, I am often approached by newbie eco fashion and green lifestyle bloggers seeking my advice on how to start a blog.
They want to know what tools I use and how I have been able to attract so many visitors to the site. They want to know how I've been able to build such a loyal following and how I've been able to retain my readers.
So today I will share my blogging tips so that I can help my fellow green bloggers out. It is my aim that we who have the comms skills and the will to communicate the sustainability message do so.
If we want to educate the masses about the benefits of reducing negative environmental impact and conscious consumerism, the eco-conscious blogging community must unite - it's the only way to ensure that our sustainability message reaches all corners of the world wide web!
So ready to get into the nitty-gritty? Let's get right into it...
Before I get started, here's a little background on me, particularly if you're new to this sustainability blog and wondering why you should even listen to me LOL!
I started Eco Warrior Princess in 2010 as a WordPress blog originally titled Ramblings of an Eco Warrior Princess. To put it another way:
I started the Eco Warrior Princess blog before 'sustainability' became a buzz word. So people often see me as a pioneer within the eco fashion and green lifestyle blogging community.
Anyway, after a year or so I decided to host the blog on its own domain so that I could have full control over the look and feel of it.
I left WordPress.com for good and moved to ecowarriorprincess.net. When I made the move, I shortened its name to Eco Warrior Princess to make it easier for people to remember.
My passion for writing, publishing regular blog posts and ability to communicate to an online audience led me to begin working with a mid-sized digital marketing firm. My role was copywriter and client project manager. I was then promoted to team leader. I have an innate ability to lead, it's a common occurrence through my corporate career.
However several years ago when we purchased a 120-acre farm, I decided to leave my wonderful job and the cosmopolitan city I loved (and still do).
I went freelance and subsequently started my own content marketing business called The Social Copywriter. I consult and coach socially responsible businesses on how to reach more people using the digital medium as well as manage the online marketing strategy for my fiance's digital businesses.
You can learn more about my story here.
Ok so now you know a little about me, let's move on to discussing the website itself.
Eco Warrior Princess is hosted on the open source platform called WordPress. I use WordPress because it is user-friendly, highly customisable and doesn't require advanced coding skills to maintain or use.
If you are considering using free blogging platforms and publishing tools such as Blogger.com, Blogspot.com or WordPress.com by all means do so if you are only looking to blog as a hobby or aren't looking to use it commercially.
However, if you intend to 'monetise' (make money) from your blog right away or would prefer to self-host it outside of these blogging platforms, I encourage you to reconsider and move directly to securing your own domain and building your own website.
Knowing what I know now, if I had my time over, I would 100% choose a self-hosted blog right from day dot.
Choosing a hosting service provider.
I use an Australian hosting provider called Crazy Domains as I care about supporting Australian businesses. However I would not recommend them.
I have been a customer of theirs since 2011 and there have just been too many server issues and downtime problems for my liking. Inefficiency and service disruptions is something no website owner wants to have to deal with.
I am considering moving to another provider called Green Geeks as the servers are run on renewable energy. I'm not sure what the service is like yet but it's a green business which is why they're in the running for my custom.
The other hosting provider that I've been recommended is Dream Host because they've been a reliable host provider for other bloggers I follow (apparently they've supported over a million sites since they started out in the 90s). I might consider Dream Host if Green Geeks don't work out.
Building your WordPress website.
I have used many website platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento, Shopify and Wix as a content writer and editor, but my preference is still WordPress for all the reasons I've outlined above and because WordPress is easy to optimise for search engines. As this is a guide for amateur eco bloggers, I won't go into search engine optimisation in any real detail. If you want to learn more, check out this post.
1. Free WordPress templates
Now there are many free blog templates for WordPress so if you're strapped for cash this is an ideal option. Check out this post if you have zero budget and are looking to start with a basic blog only.
2. Hire a web developer
If you have some cash to spare, you can also hire a developer to build your website. Starting costs really depend on complexity of the website and the numbers of hours required to complete your website build. Typical starting costs for a developer to build your blog can be anywhere from $1,500 - $6,000+ depending on how experienced and qualified your developer is and what kind of design and programming work you want done.
3. Purchase a WordPress blog template
This is the option I chose and the site you now see was developed on a WordPress template I purchased off of ThemeForest. ThemeForest is an e-commerce site where web developers around the world create WordPress themes that they sell.
You can find modern WordPress themes for as little as $2. I paid around $60 for my theme a couple of years ago. I tend to revamp the blog every couple of years to keep up with the latest designs. My last two WordPress themes have come from ThemeForest. I return to this site because it's organised very well, you can see ratings from members, support discussions for each theme, demos and much more.
Interested in this option? Check out the WordPress themes on ThemeForest here.
Sourcing free images.
I don't often have the luxury to take original images for blog posts. As this is the case, I rely on websites such as Pexels and Pixabay to source free images that require no attribution whatsoever. This means that I don't have to worry at all about copyright infringements.
Good quality images go a long way so make sure to spend the time to find the right image(s) for each blog post. Unfortunately people do judge a book by its cover so make sure the cover you choose is the most attractive one you can source!
It's common knowledge in the sustainable blogging circles that I never started this blog to make money off of it. I am a writer and activist first and foremost and making money was never the purpose. Unlike bloggers today who focus on 'monetisation' from day one, I wasn't focussed on building my email subscriber list or trying to build a database.
Eco Warrior Princess was the online medium I used to pursue political activism and explore topics such as social justice, sustainability in fashion, environmentalism, consumerism and business ethics. The only way for readers to keep up to date with latest posts was to subscribe to the RSS feed.
However several years ago my RSS feed was corrupted and I lost all my RSS subscribers. I was devastated! So in true ENTJ fashion I went straight into solutions-mode and finally opened an account with MailChimp, a reputable email software provider.
MailChimp is easy-to-use and allows me to build my list of subscribers without any fuss. It has advanced reporting, list segmentation and A/B testing capabilities, provides customisable newsletter templates and so much more
If you're starting out, you can take advantage of MailChimp's free plan. You can store up to 2000 email addresses and send up to 12,000 emails and it won't cost you a cent.
As Eco Warrior Princess is an established blog we have an email subscriber list of 3,000+ and I send out more than 12,000 emails in a month so the cost of our plan is US $50 per month.
Email is my preferred way of keeping connected with my audience. I send an email newsletter out every week and I make my newsletters personal because to me, my readers are like my friends and confidantes. Some people create newsletters that are much more formal, but I like to personalise mine. I just put myself in their shoes: What kind of email would I like to read today? Something generic and overtly sales-y or something that's been thoughtfully written sent by someone obviously human?
If you'd like to open up a free MailChimp account to start with, make sure to sign up here.
If you're interested to see how I set out my email newsletter, make sure to subscribe to the blog here (and if you do, you'll get my FREE 12-page Sustainable Lifestyle Guide too!).
Social media scheduling.
Social media is vital to a blog because each post we publish MUST be promoted using this form of communication. In digital marketing circles, we often say that 20% should be spent creating content and 80% of the effort should be on promoting the content. Or in short 80/20.
By promoting your posts across your social media platforms you stand a greater chance of your posts being seen by a larger audience. And don't just stop at sharing the blog post once. Share the same post at least once a week for the first month and then periodically schedule the post for the year. Unless of course the post is time-sensitive and only relevant for a period of time. For example, a post created for London Fashion Week 2017 is only relevant for the season. Promoting it in the latter part of 2017 or even in 2018 is a waste - fashion trends that were 'in' in 2017 are guaranteed to be 'out' once the season is over. Yes, even in sustainable fashion this still occurs.
Now if you're like me and are practicing digital minimalism and refuse to spend more than a half hour on social media on any given day - either posting images or replying to comments - you might want to consider using social media scheduling platforms that allow you to plan, schedule and publish posts on social media more efficiently and effectively.
What social media scheduling platforms should you use?
The Eco Warrior Princess blog could not exist without the hard work and efforts of a paid team of people. Heading into our seventh year of blogging, part of our mission now is to become a sustainable business.
For many years I refused advertising dollars and affiliate marketing partnerships. I did not want to be seen as a 'sell out'.
However, I had to change tact when I suffered an emotional breakdown (if you're interested, you can read the story here).
I had a choice to make: either I charge readers to access our content or I would have to start accepting advertising money and join affiliate programs to be able to cover the rising costs of running this blog. So that's what I did.
Now a wonderful reader (Nicole Robertson, bless her!) suggested that I should start a Patreon account. She referred me to Amanda Palmer's Ted Talk 'The Art of Asking' as basis for her idea. What did I have to lose? I was already losing my mind from being over-worked and this sounded like a great idea.
Since starting the Patreon account last year, I have been overwhelmed with the support from our readers. To be completely honest, I didn't really expect people to donate. But they proved me wrong.
So far we've received financial support from 23 patrons pledging anywhere from $1 through to $60 per month. I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think about how much support we get. To know people value the work we do brings me comfort. It's why we do what we do!
Anyway, here's what my Patreon page looks like if you're curious:
Now I wish I could say that all my financial woes came to an end once reader donations started pouring in but unfortunately the money received through Patreon isn't enough to even pay a month's salary for one of our interns! So alas, I can't rely on Patreon pledges alone to sustain our blogging efforts.
Nevertheless, I am relieved to have another source of blog income and am eternally grateful to our lovely reader Nicole for this suggestion.
If you're keen to create your own Patreon account, make sure to click here. And remember, asking for donations is difficult but if you are honest, spend the time explaining exactly why you are seeking assistance and what you'll use the funds for, you'll get a better response.
I have made peace with affiliate marketing now that I have come to terms with the fact that accepting advertising dollars and making money from my blog posts doesn't necessarily mean I've sold my soul to the devil himself.
I've maintained blogging integrity by applying strict ethical standards with whom I chose to affiliate with. This way I would have no ethical dilemmas about recommending products and making a commission.
So here are the affiliate marketing programs we've joined:
From these platforms, we've been able to partner with ethical brands such as Matt & Nat, People Tree, Warby Parker and Everlane. I adore these brands and I don't feel guilt for making any commission off of a sale.
I've only joined many of these platforms in the last week, but I can say that in just one week I've earned about $29.00. It's not lucrative, but at least it's something, better than $0 in the bank! Keep in mind too that I've only joined these programs, so it's a pretty good result considering.
Now if you're an eco blogger looking to monetise your blog and work with sustainable businesses, one of the things you'll need to create is a media kit.
A well-prepared media kit shows brands that you are serious about what you're doing as a blogger. It shows you are professional about the business of blogging.
Brands expect to see your social media stats and website data. After all, they need to make certain they'll get a return on their advertising investment!
So what goes into a media kit? All the information that a brand would expect when making a decision about whether to work with you. Details such as:
- your bio and a brief summary of what your blog is about
- who your blog caters to and what they care about (reader demographics)
- services you provide such as writing sponsored posts, social media campaigns, email marketing campaigns, Instagram posts, banner advertising etc
- costs of each service
- social media metrics such as the number of followers you have on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc
- Google Analytics data such as monthly unique visitors, bounce rate, time on site etc
- total number of email subscribers
- contact details
Overwhelmed? Don't worry, I understand. I've been where you've been. It might take a bit of time to create your media kit to begin with but it's well worth the effort if you're serious about making money off of your blog.
So what did I use to create my media kit? I used Canva. I'm not a graphic designer but I think it turned out ok.
If you're keen to see my full media kit, click here to access it.
I hope this gives you some idea of what it took to create this beast of a sustainability blog.
I also hope the information contained within this post helps you in your blogging journey and allows you to connect with as many people as possible so you too can spread your own unique flavour of eco-consciousness!
And if you really enjoyed this post might I suggest donating to our Patreon account to help us continue the important work we're doing? That would be very much appreciated.
Or if you're short on funds but still want to show your gratitude, I'd love if you could share this post with your blogger friends and social networks. Happy for you to repay me with this kind gesture 🙂
If you've learned something from this piece or it has inspired you to start your own ethical fashion or eco lifestyle blog, I want to know! So make sure to leave a comment, and if you're game, a link back to your site so I can check it out! Anyway, happy blogging guys xx
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links which means if you click on a link we may earn a small commission. Monies earned from each sale helps us to cover operational costs, pay fair team wages and basically allows us to keep doing good and spread the sustainability message! Visit this page to learn more.