How To Start Your Own Mental Health or Chronic Illness Blog
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health condition like anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or any other mental health condition, or any other chronic illness, blogging about your journey is a great way to educate the public about the details of this condition. The ignorance concerning mental health conditions, specifically when compared to physical health conditions, is appalling. As a person on your own unique mental wellness journey, I believe you have a wealth of knowledge in the form of your personal experience and that by starting a mental health blog, you can contribute to ending the stigma that so often surrounds psychiatric diagnoses. That being said, if you are interested in starting a blog, this page will show you how.
Blogging 101: Domain Name and Hosting
The first thing you need to do once you decide that you want to start blogging is to get a website. You don’t necessarily need to pay anyone to do this. My husband and I have made all of our websites on our own (including this one and our practice site) and we’ve only hired out for a few things (e.g. logos, etc.), in which case we use Fiverr. More on that later.
Free Blog Options
There are a lot of free options for websites such as Wix, Weebly, WordPress.com. As far as the free sites are concerned, I’m most familiar with Weebly and would recommend them most highly if you want to go that route. My only problem with the free sites is that they don’t (at least Weebly doesn’t) allow you to add a custom domain name without paying. In other words, if I had a free Weebly or WordPress.com website, my domain name would be www.mhaspot.weebly.com, which I really do not like. To each his/her own, though. It works. I had a free Weebly site for years and I really liked it because of the drag-and-drop editing (e.g. you don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding to make the site). In summary, if you want to go with a free site, at least in the beginning, I recommend Weebly.
Premium Blog Options
There are a few different options for creating a site that is paid, but I most highly recommend getting a self-hosted WordPress.org site (different from the free WordPress.com site I mentioned earlier). Here are my reasons for having a WordPress.org site:
Increased functionality. Increased functionality. Increased functionality!
- If you want to have courses hosted on your site, you can do that using what’s called plugins.
- If you want to allow people to schedule one-on-one appointments with you, you can do that using plugins.
- If you want to display a calendar, have a secret membership site, host a community forum, or do pretty much anything else you could ever imagine, you can do it using plugins and a WordPress.org site.
Now, regarding the WordPress.org site, the installation is actually free. What you will need to pay for is the hosting. Web hosting is the place where your site lives on the internet; with free sites like Weebly, your site is hosted at Weebly.com, which is why your domain name is www.YOURMENTALHEALTHBLOG.weebly.com. If you want to use your own unique domain name and have the increased functionality I just described, however, you’ll need to pay for hosting.
For web hosting, I most strongly recommend SiteGround. My husband and I host 4 sites with them and we’ve never had a negative experience (even in the beginning when we kept breaking our sites because we had absolutely no idea what we were doing). They’re extremely helpful and can get your site back up and functional in no time. I use their 24/7 instant chat feature ALL. THE. TIME. and their staff is always extremely helpful and responsive. In short, SiteGround is AMAZING.
A note about WordPress.org. WordPress.org sites do have a steep learning curve compared to the free sites, but if you have the time and intend to blog for a while, it is extremely worth it. If you want a drag-and-drop-type plugin to help you better design your site, I recommend Visual Composer. Read through this entire article first, though, because I’ll be telling you about a way to get Visual Composer without paying for the plugin.
A Note on Transitioning
Another option is to start off with a free Weebly site and then move your site to SiteGround for hosting when you are ready for the increased functionality. That’s what I did for one of my sites, but, to be honest, I ended up redoing the entire site and I lost all of the comments that I had on my posts; it was really just a mess, which is why I recommend really thinking about whether or not you are committed to blogging about your journey and, if you are, taking the leap and starting with a self-hosted WordPress site. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to assume you decided to go with a self-hosted WordPress site for the remainder of this post.
Blogging 101: Choosing a Domain Name
You’ll need a domain name for your self-hosted WordPress site. I’ve always used GoDaddy for my domain names and have never had any problems. They’re also pretty helpful if problems do arise and it’s reasonably easy to get ahold of them. You can pay for domain names on a yearly basis, but GoDaddy gives you a discount if you purchase your domain name for 2, 5, or 10 years. Choose the length of time that works for you and for your budget.
I recommend going with a short and memorable domain name. Try to avoid getting domain names with words that are frequently misspelled or with punctuation marks unless you are sure your audience will be able to remember your domain name and return to your site. You want to make it easy for people to find and read your content.
Blogging 101: Choosing a Theme
Once you install WordPress on your self-hosted site, you’ll need to select a theme. WordPress has lots of free themes available and I’ve used some super sleek free themes before. Keep in mind, though, that the majority of the free themes have a note in the footer that you can’t remove stating the theme name (e.g. Llorix One Lite powered by WordPress). If you don’t mind that, then go with a free theme.
If you don’t want that branding on your site, then I recommend checking out ThemeForest for premium themes. I absolutely LOVE ThemeForest (and the entire Envato suite in general!) and I purchase all of my themes from ThemeForest and almost all of my premium functionality plugins from Envato’s CodeCanyon.
Also, once you buy at least one thing from the Envato Market, you gain access to their monthly freebies, which I really enjoy. Each month, they upload about 5 complimentary themes, plugins, graphics, photos, etc. that you can log in and download. I’ve gotten some pretty great themes from their monthly freebies.
Blogging 101: Your Logo (Optional)
A logo for your blog is optional, of course, but I think it’s always nice. For a logo, you could make one yourself using Canva or, for a more professional look, you could use Photoshop (if you have the skill to do it yourself) or Fiverr (if you want to pay someone else to do it at a reasonably low cost). I say “for a more professional look” because Canva doesn’t allow you to make a logo with a transparent background on the free version (they do if you get their Canva for Work option), and I like to have my logo background transparent so that I can place it anywhere without having a solid-colored box behind it.
Blogging 101: Your Content and Graphics
The next step is to start producing your content. I recommend you download the free Grammarly app to help catch your grammatical errors while typing. It’s extremely helpful and will save you the embarrassment of finding a grammatical error after your blog post has had hundreds or thousands of views.
As you begin to produce and post content, be sure to break up the monotony with photos. For free, royalty-free stock photos, I recommend Pixabay and Pexels. If you want a wider selection of photos or can’t quite find what you’re looking for, I highly recommend Envato’s PhotoDune. I used to use Shutterstock but didn’t always need 5 photos, so I hated the fact that I could only but them in multiples of 5. I also like the variety of pricing that Envato offers.
You can also use something like Canva to create graphics that are suitable for pinning on Pinterest and include those in your blog posts. I strongly recommend that you do this. A high percentage of the traffic I get on my blog is from Pinterest, so I make it easy for people to pin graphics from my blog posts.
Creating graphics using Canva, Photoshop, or Pixlr (a free editor similar to Photoshop) is also pretty helpful because people are extremely likely to share posts with graphics. For templates that you can use to create graphics, I recommend Envato’s GraphicRiver.
Blogging 101: Sharing Your Content
After you’ve produced content, the next step is to share your content with others. To do this, I recommend using social media sites like Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (yes, this is an open invitation to connect with me on these channels). Here are some links to places where I share my posts:
Google Plus Communities
- Mental Health Bloggers
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Awareness
- Mental Health Advocacy Group
- Mental Health Sufferers Unite
- Promote Your Blog
- I’m A Blogger
- Promote Your Blog & Twitter
- Holistic Mental Wellness (brand new group by yours truly)
- Mental Health Awareness & Support
- Mental Health Bloggers
- Mental Health & Lifestyle Bloggers
- Christian Chronic Illness Bloggers
- Raising the Bar for Mental Illness
- Mental Health Bloggers & Enthusiasts
- Mental Health Minds
- Chronic Illness Blogger
Blogging 101: Staying Connected
Once you create your content and start sharing your posts to increase your engagement, I strongly suggest that you collect emails from your audience and begin sending out newsletters or updates to your email list. To do this, I recommend Mailchimp. They have a free plan that you can use for as long as you have 2000 or fewer subscribers. Beyond that, a subscription starts at $10/month, which I think is completely reasonable.
Blogging 101: Making it Legal
If you decide that you want to sell things, host ads using Google AdSense or something similar, engage in affiliate marketing, or otherwise make money from your blog, here’s what you need to know to keep it legal: you need to decide if you want to be a sole proprietor or if you want to form a limited liability company (LLC).
Forming an LLC helps to protect your assets and is highly recommended in the long run, but starting as a sole proprietor and then switching to an LLC when your blog actually starts producing money is a great option as well.
Blogging 101: Affiliate Programs
If you find yourself at a place where you are recommending some of your favorite brands or products that work well for you and you’d like to set up an affiliate relationship with those companies, I recommend looking into Share A Sale. Their affiliate program is far simpler than some of the others I’ve looked at.
I strongly recommend that you only promote brands and products that you actually have a relationship with, because promoting terrible or unethical brands just to make a sale leaves a bad taste in your audience’s mouth and dramatically decreases your credibility. You don’t want to destroy the relationship and rapport you’ve worked so hard to build with your audience.
Those are my tips. What am I missing? What have you found to be helpful? Leave a comment below and let me know!