It was only when I found myself in the midst of crippling anxiety and depression, I realised just how difficult it was to tap into any kind of therapy. So, I started the MM blog.
I was absolutely devastated that my rock bottom was not rock bottom enough to be seen, and cared for by the mental health care teams in my area. Actively suicidal, I sat facing a psychiatrist who said to me, “Are you likely to hurt yourself right this moment”? My response, of course, merely based on the lack of resources at my disposal in his office was, “Well, no. Not RIGHT now”. I was quickly issued with 200mg’s of Sertraline and told, “I’m afraid in that case, we can’t help you”.
Subsequently, I ended up in his office three more times before being transferred around the houses once again like a lost amazon parcel awaiting re-delivery for a final destination that apparently didn’t even exist.
The system makes no sense. But that’s another blog post.
During this time, I did not and could not leave my house. I was unable to get to my Doctor who would have to ring and check in on me weekly (phone calls, of course, I’d not be able to receive due to my crippling anxiety) and felt completely isolated, stuck and alone.
Like many in my situation, the internet became my mecca. Fighting the urge to open 20 tabs to fuel my own health anxiety, I started to think about ways to keep busy, focused and positive.
With a passion for writing, community and finding sanity again – Mental Movement Magazine was born. And it, and everyone involved saved my life.
It still remains to be the one single thing that continually pushes me forward and keeps me feeling responsible enough to stick around. There are times I cannot write or find the energy to create content myself, but that’s fine because this isn’t just a platform for myself. It’s for everyone and anyone who wants to speak openly about their experiences, boost their own blogs and find a community that can genuinely care and relate in some way.
Starting your own blog is one of the most therapeutic things you can do for yourself. Writing down your experiences and challenging yourself to find new ways of improving your life, for the good of your own wellbeing, is exceptionally rewarding, confidence boosting and cathartic.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a list that will hopefully get you on the right track and I’ll continue to share my tips and tricks to branding yourself as a blogger and getting your content seen by half the world!
Finding Your Blog/Brand Name
It’s probably a good idea to grab an A4 pad specifically for jotting down all your blog related ideas. Brainstorming/mind mapping will be the very thing that gets your juices flowing. I use this technique for everything. It’s a great way to unjumble the millions of ideas you may have and highlight what stands out.
Your brand name is super important. It will carry you, your blog and brand into the future, so you really need to get it right. Think about what your blog name evokes when you say it, type it in different fonts and see it in a sentence. What does the name suggest? Is it “AnxiousMum”? Something like this might reduce your audience slightly as most will assume all of your content is geared towards a mum’s life with anxiety. Is that the intention? Who is your target audience? Who do you want to speak to and engage with?
In the beginning, we had lots of people saying to us “that’s quite brave to use the word mental” – our intention wasn’t to use the word mental in the stigmatised sense. The name came from always saying, “Anything I am able to achieve, no matter how big or small, was literally a mental movement – I had to mentally challenge myself to move forward like I would physically, and so, Mental Movement was born”. It also helped that our vision was for it to become a positive movement challenging the culture of low expectation surrounding mental ill health. So it made perfect sense to us.
However, I advise creating a name that makes sense to you but more importantly, to your ideal audience. Get second/third and fourth opinions and go with what feels right to you.
Getting Your Blog Set Up
First and foremost, you need to find a host. Your host will act as the connector between your blog and keeping it online. We use, Webs LTD, but there are loads of different hosts out there to suit your individual needs.
Once you have a host, you will need a site. I 10000% recommend using WordPress. Now, there are two different versions of WordPress. WordPress.com and WordPress.org – they are two very different platforms. Here you will find a good breakdown of the Pros and Con’s for each. It is a bit of a mind boggle, our host provides the full WordPress.com version with our hosting package which makes things SO much simpler in terms of setting up and getting going.
Once you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to get your theme set-up. WordPress does provide a few good free themes but I highly recommend you invest in a good-looking, responsive theme. You can pick up some pretty decent themes for around £30.
Get yourself a strong looking logo. If you are an experienced designer yourself, perfect. If not, there are lots of places, including Creative Market, where you will be able to purchase logos at low cost. As a designer myself, I run my own Brand and Design Consultancy for Branding and Logo Design, I have designed/created pretty much everything related to Mental Movement Magazine from web to graphics both online and in print – so, if you’ve moved on from the generic logo creation and know exactly what you want, I have extensive knowledge and design expertise specific to the Mental Health & Wellbeing sector, just get in touch.
Getting Your Blog Out There
The most important part of this is content. Great content is key. Consistency in good content is a close second. You need to give your audience things they want and need. It’s great to talk about yourself and your experiences, but, as much as people love to read blogs focused on recovery, the reality is – they need more. In terms of blogging for mental health-related issues, problem-solving, advice, pieces that inspire and help people evolve are a good way to go. You need to write content that is going to help your readers with a problem or teach them how to do something.
We enjoy a mix of things here and believe very much in variety and choice. From personal stories to How To pieces, Interviews and Q&A’s also make for great content and really help to introduce your audience to people relevant to the field you are blogging about.
Before you launch your blog, try and compile at least 3 weeks worth of content. That way, when your first blog post goes live – you are ready and fuelled for your next piece which you can spend a few days highlighting across your socials etc.
Plan Your Content in Advance
Grab yourself a planner. Something you can run to when you have an idea for a new piece, a new section on your blog or a new campaign. Always. Make. Notes. Keep an eye on the trends and make a list of all the wellbeing and mental health related events and talks approaching. Plan to visit them and obtain a blogger/press pass by emailing the event company behind it. Review the show, vlog and blog about it. All of this will require a bit of planning.
You’ll want to create content ahead of the date you wish to publish it. It’s good to have a backlog of a months worth of work and auto-schedule it in each month. Working a month in advance is a great way to work, but it can get a bit overwhelming. Plan a day and time of the week to publish your content and stick to it each week. If you notice that posting at 5am means you see hardly any traffic, using Google Analytics will help you understand the traffic flow of your site. Here, you’ll discover optimum times to post.
If you are really into scheduling, Hootsuite is a great account to have if you want to forward plan scheduled tweeting/instagram and facebook posts to promote your piece. Publish to Schedule is a great WordPress Plugin as is Editorial Calendar. Use Bitly to shorten your blog URL’s and track the performance of them, take notes and amend based on your findings.
A great blog needs great images. If you can get into the habit of creating your own visual content, great. There are plenty of apps and ways to enhance your photos and your phone can be good enough if you are just getting started. It’s also handy to know that 70% of people on the internet now interact most with Video content so it may be worth featuring a few vlogs that link back to your blog and vice versa – that way, they feed into one another perfectly. You can also embed these videos into your posts, so long as they are your own and don’t infringe any copyright.
Tip: Make sure you upload your images to a compressor to ensure they don’t overload your site due to the size. You can compress images for your site and still maintain the quality. I recommend using TinyPNG.
Here are a list of copyright/creative commons/public domain image sites:
The best thing about blogging is you can do it from almost anywhere. One thing most likely to impact your blogging style is the environment you place yourself in. It’s also the most overlooked. Set aside at least one day in the week where you get up early and get out of your house. Not only is this beneficial for your own wellbeing, new environments inspire new ideas. If you have a friend who also blogs, meet up with them for a coffee and spend some time working on your blogs together. Change the location up every now and again and treat it like your main job. No time for slacking. Limit your coffee intake as caffeine notoriously triggers anxiety and perhaps opt for a green tea instead. Drink plenty of water and take regular breaks. Your posture is also really important. Don’t slouch. Stop it. Stop it right now. We are quickly developing what I like to call the ‘social media neck’ – lord knows how hunched we will all be in our 90’s but prevention is possible. Ensure your home working environment has plenty of natural light and let in some fresh air now and again. Lots of plants make me feel good, oh, and my cats!
Email Sign Ups / Subscription Lists
Your email list will eventually hold a lot of value. So make sure its a top priority ready for when you launch your blog. We use MailChimp but always struggle with suitable plugins to make it easy for people to sign up. I still don’t think we’ve mastered the optimum way to get people to sign up but we have a pretty huge mailing list considering how little effort we put into grabbing emails.
Aside from the value, it’s really important to keep your readers in the loop. The new double-opt in law is something worth googling. This means it is now going to be a little harder for us bloggers to gain subscribers as you essentially you have to doubly ensure your reader has, with intention, signed up to your mailing list. They will subscribe and then recieve an email asking them to confirm this is what they want. Sigh. Of course, yes, things are getting tougher out here and you will need to re-engage with your already established email list to ensure everyone wants to be there now. Fun times. MailerLite is an alternative option to mailer chimp.
Getting Traffic to Your Site
Social Media: Instagram and Facebook are our biggest referrers. Create engaging content via you Instagram that is real. You cannot fake it to make it in the world of mental health. It’s all about being as authentic as possible and this is really important. Be inspiring, uplifting, a voice of hope. Be the person you wish you had as a best friend. Create your online community and engage with them. Make sure you take time out to speak with those who inbox you, have conversations and genuinely talk to people who show interest in your work and comment back when you can. These things do require effort, but, why wouldn’t you engage? There is a huge, loving, inspiring community of incredible people out there, some of whom you will end up becoming friends with. In all the darkness of social media, community is at the heart of what is light about it.
Facebook Marketing: personally, we are dubious about paying for this type of thing firstly because, we can think of better ways to spend any money we may have and secondly, you would need a lot of money to bypass the algorithms, clickbots and fake interaction FaceBook produces.
SEO: If you want your blog to show up more in Google, you need to have some basic knowledge of SEO which stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. We use the plugin Yoast which is really helpful for helping you assess and optimise your blog pieces as you go.
Guest Posting: This is not only a great way to increase the visibility of your blog across new audiences but it also helps you increase your search engine ranking. The bigger the person you are guest posting for, the better. Huffington Post, The Mighty, Metro, VICE and Nylon would be among the top dogs, but this doesn’t mean you should snub the little folk – blogs and online magazines can grow very quickly so get in there from the start!
Featuring Established Companies: If you write a piece specific to a certain topic, its always good to link to external professional bodies that may be able to provide further reading, help and support. It’s a good idea to drop the press or media team a link to your new post saying that you mentioned them in your piece. Reach out and encourage them to RT and get to know their Digital teams to make the whole process easier. Make sure you RT the content they produce too. This stuff does not go unnoticed. The more you pop up on the radar, the more your blog/brand is likely to get noticed and more importantly, remembered.
The most important thing I could ever share with anyone wanting to blog is, if you are starting a blog for the money, don’t. What you have to offer should come from a place of truth. Your heart and soul kinda needs to be on the line a bit and it helps to be as transparent and authentic as possible. When you work from your truth, nothing can stop you and the money will come later – when the universe knows you are serious enough about it. Indulge yourself in inspirational books and stay motivated. Consistency and persistence is absolutely key to the success of your blog. If you don’t really know what you are doing or where you are heading, it does not matter – so long as it feels right to you – follow your nose and you shall find your path!
Happy blogging! Feel free to share your comments, tips and discussions in the comments section below!