The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Successful Blog


How to Start a Mental Health Blog

Are you interested in starting a successful blog? Or wondering what exactly is a blog? In its simplest terms, a blog is a website with posts that appear in reverse chronological order. Most often, a blog is written in a casual voice by a single person about a topic that interests them.

More and more, blogs are becoming businesses, and people are earning anywhere from part-time income to millions of dollars a year for their efforts. Do beginner bloggers make money? They can, I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. But, it took me a long while because I didn’t have someone like me guiding me for the first few years.

If you have any connection to mental health issues, be it through personal experience, living with a loved one struggling with mental health, or from working in the mental health field, creating a blog can be an opportunity to share your experiences, build a community with others going through the same things, as well as to potentially build a side income.

In this blog post, I’d like to help you figure out whether starting a blog might be right for you and some basic steps to make it a reality.

Find Your Reason Why

The first thing I suggest you do is to identify the reason why you are thinking of starting a successful blog. Some good reasons might include

  • having an outlet to express yourself
  • being able to connect with like-minded people
  • challenging yourself to learn something new
  • potentially earning a side income that is passive

A terrible reason would be that you want to get rich quick.

Blogging is a long-term strategy that probably won’t pay off for at least a few months. If money is an immediate issue, you are better off finding a job or way to earn money while you blog on the side.

Choose Your Topic

Next, you need to choose your topic, also known as your niche. It’s important to write about something that is familiar to you, and that interests you and you are passionate about.

Remember, you are likely going to need to work on this for a year or more before you really start to see progress. It’s your passion for your blog topic that will keep you going when you aren’t seeing fast progress.

Once you’ve chosen a niche, you’ll need to choose a domain name for your blog.

I went with simple: aboutsocialanxiety.com. I wanted people to instantly know what my site was about. Maybe it’s boring, but at least when people see the name they know what to expect.

Identify Your Reader

Along with choosing your topic when starting your successful blog, you will need to identify your reader. We call this an “avatar,” or the person for whom you are creating your content. You want to be creating value for this person, so you need to be aware of who this person is.

In the case of my blog, this is actually multiple people! I’m still sorting out who the “ideal” reader is. But – it would likely be

  • students with social anxiety struggling with making friends or doing class presentations
  • their parents and friends who are trying to help them
  • adults with social anxiety struggling with work and social demands
  • professionals struggling with performance aspects of their work
  • therapists looking for resources to use with clients

Which one are you? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to know which category you fit in, or if you are from a completely different camp.

Set Up the Technical Stuff

I’m not going to go into details on setting up the technical aspects of setting up a blog. There are tons of resources on this if you Google. Amy Lynn Andrews has an excellent post. Just remember: the technical stuff can slow you down if you don’t take the time to learn it.

In a nutshell, to start a blog, you need a domain, a hosting provider, a blogging platform, and theme.

While you can get by with a free blog if you just want to write for a hobby, if you have any interest in turning your blog into a side income, I recommend you spend money on two things at the very least: domain and hosting.

Keep it very simple: Sign up at Bluehost for your hosting, buy a domain through them at the same time, and use WordPress.org as your content management system (CMS). I started with Bluehost and was pleased with their service and price point as a beginner. I later switched to Siteground and did notice that my site loaded faster. So, when you can afford to switch away from Bluehost, or when your traffic increases, I recommend doing this. I do still have my domain through Bluehost though, a full 6 years later!

I think my first year I paid around $85 for all of this combined for the year. The cost will go up when you renew, so if you can, I recommend paying upfront for as many years as you can afford.

Consider it an investment and that you are putting a bit of “skin in the game” so to speak. If you’ve paid for your blog, you might be more willing to put in the effort.

The other thing you will need is a theme. While you can purchase a premium theme (such as those that run on the Genesis Framework), I don’t recommend buying a theme until you feel you can afford it.

Just make sure the theme you choose is simple, clear, easy to read, mobile friendly, and SEO friendly. I started out with a free theme (Crimson Rose), and eventually purchased the Anchored theme from Restored 316. For the site you are reading right now, I am using the Acabado theme that comes with my membership at Project 24/Income School. This is a program that I joined later in my blogging journey.

Finally, you will need to set up some plugins to get things configured before you start writing.

  • I recommend Yoast SEO to help make sure your posts are optimized for search engines.
  • A social share plugin is also important. I am currently using Grow Social by Mediavine.
  • Finally, a backup program is necessary to protect your content. I have a subscription service through iMark Interactive and pay a monthly fee for them to take of this for me as well as any technical problems.

Create Some Content

Okay, now we’re at the point that you are ready to create some content!

You probably want to have at least five posts on your site before you send it live. This gives people some things to read when they first land on your blog.

At a minimum, you also should have an About page, a contact page, and a privacy and disclosures page.

As far as creating posts, brainstorm ideas but then also check them out in a keyword research tool such as KWfinder.com. You want to create content that people are looking for, but also that you can rank for in Google.

I pay a low monthly fee (it’s around $12) to have unlimited searches through Keysearch and I literally use this tool every day, so it is completely worth it. You can also get 20% off when you use this link and the discount code KSDISC.

Why is this so important? I think it’s particularly important for mental health niche sites because these types of articles are less likely to be shared on social media. It will be easier for me to reach people with social anxiety if they can type in a search request and find me on Google. If you can rank high in Google, you will be more easily found by the people who are looking for you and need you.

As far as the actual posts, try to write with the reader in mind. Give them the best bang for their “reading” buck. How do you feel when you land on an article that does not satisfy the need you had when you started reading? Your posts should be at least 700 words, but ideally longer when you have more to say.

Make your content easier to read by using lots of white space, images, subheads, bold/italics, etc.

Make sure you are cross-linking your posts as you write them. Go back to old posts and link to new ones.

Oh, and be yourself. What makes you unique is what will keep people coming back to read more. Be interesting or weird. It’s ok, it will make you memorable.

(Need more inspiration? Check out the video below)

Network and Promote

How do you start a blog and get noticed? It’s not enough just to write posts, you also need to get the word out. I’m fortunate to have several thousand followers on social media because of the 10+ years I’ve been writing about social anxiety.

If you write a blog about mental health that relates to social anxiety, share it in the comments below! I’ll do my best to share your blog on my Facebook page to give it some exposure.

I suggest setting up an account on Facebook, Twitter (X), Pinterest, Instagram, and even Tik Tok. This is important so that you grab the same account name/handle while it’s available, even if you aren’t very active at posting. Then slowly, pick a platform you like the most and start a regular posting schedule.

Pinterest is really good for driving blog traffic, it is how I first got enough pageviews to be accepted to Mediavine, a premium ad network. If you are brand new to Pinterest (which I was – I had never even used it!)

I learned Pinterest strategies from an ebook called the Pinterset Launch Playbook by Jennifer Maker which I don’t think is available anymore. I then went on to take a workshop called the Pinterest Workshop by Alison Reeves which I don’t think is available anymore either! Perhaps at some point I’ll put together a little ebook on what I think are the best Pinterest strategies.

The other platform I’ve had luck with so far is Tik Tok. I have a pretty good strategy going there, which I be happy to write a little ebook about sometime if anyone is interested. Just drop me a comment.

Another way to gain traction is to submit posts to other platforms. For example, I had a post accepted to The Mighty, which will expose my site to their readership.

Try submitting one of your posts to Medium or offer to do a guest post on another blog. If you have something to say relevant to social anxiety, I’d love to hear from you!

Finally, you could interview people in your niche, write up a post with the interview answers, and then mention them in your social media post for the blog! The people you interviewed will likely share your post which will get new eyes on your content.

As long as you keep trying to help people, you will be networking. Share other bloggers’ content, comment on their posts, follow them on social media, and send other people to their articles. Join groups, join forums, and take online courses. Keep showing up and people will take notice.

Keep Showing Up

On the topic of continuing to show up, be sure to set a publishing schedule and stick to it. For example, I started off posting every Tuesday and Friday; that was my bare minimum. I organized my schedule roughly according to the 10-hour time block strategy of Rosemarie Groner, which I still find helpful.

Now, I write new posts twice a month, by the 15th and end of month. That’s because I have 160+ posts on my social anxiety website and I’m focusing on other things now. I have much more time to devote as well with my kids in school and having the blog be my current full-time job.

Build an Email List

Another thing you need to be doing when starting a successful blog is to build an email list. The reason for doing this is to take control.

If Facebook shut my page down tomorrow, those 4000+ followers on my page would *poof* disappear for me. Meanwhile, the people on my email list would remain.

I can still reach out to you if you are on my email list regardless of what social media platforms decide to do. That’s critical.

How do you get people to your email list? The best way is to offer something to people for free in exchange for their email address. In the case of my site, I offer a resource library for social anxiety as well as specific guides throughout my site.

The great thing about these freebies is that they are tightly aligned to the goal of my site. People who want these freebies likely want to know more about social anxiety.

It’s a win-win.

Identify some freebies that people might want who are coming to your site. I personally use Convertkit for all of the signup forms you see on my site and when I send out my newsletter. It costs $29 a month up to the first 1000 subscribers. You can also use less expensive options like Mailerlite, MailChimp, or Flodesk. I started with Mailerlite and it worked perfectly fine.

The only reason that I switched is that Convertkit is better later on when you want to do complex sequences, and I didn’t like the idea of having to re-learn a new program.

For example, when I run my sales promotions, I like to include an “opt-out” for my readers if they’d rather not hear about a particular sale. This is easy to do in Convertkit and I was able to Google and find instructions fairly quickly. The majority of big bloggers use Convertkit, and they are the ones writing tutorials. For this reason alone, I call it the hassle factor, I prefer Convertkit.

Make it a Business

If you really want to get serious about starting a successful blog, it’s time to make it a business.

  • Include beautiful or informative pictures in your posts.
  • Purchase a premium theme so people see that you care about the design of your site.
  • Sell your freelancing services as a first step to earning money from your blog.
  • Sell online courses. I use Teachable to host my courses and workbooks and I recommend you do as well. There are of course other options such as Podia, Kajabi, Shopify, Woo Commerce, etc. I just like Teachable and I’ve used it from the start. You can get a $25 credit if you sign up using my referral link. I started with the free plan which doesn’t exist anymore, so I suggest you start with the basic plan. I switched from free to basic and now to professional so that I can have affiliates and more than 5 courses.
  • Sign up for an ad network. I started with Monumetric (you need I think 10,000 monthly pageviews) but quickly switched to Mediavine once I was eligible. Ezoic is another option.
  • Sign up for affiliate programs. What I have found is working for me is to find higher paying affiliates that are very niche for my audience. Amazon also provides me with pretty consistent income at this point, though it’s usually not much more than $100/month.

I’ll be honest, it’s a slow and painful business unless you have something take off for you. I’m six years into it now and only just now starting to see full-time income. However, if you think about the long-term value and can find a way to pay the bills in the meantime, it’s totally worth it. You just need to have patience.

A Word on Graphic Design

If you are struggling with graphic design, know that you are not alone. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer, and I struggled at the start trying to make pins for Pinterest, a logo, etc. A kind fellow blogger pointed me toward Kara at Simplifying DIY Design. I purchased her Template Toolkit, which you’ll see in action all around my blog.

If you’re seriously struggling with the graphic design element of your blog, I suggest considering making the investment in her templates. They will save you so much time, make your work look much more professional, and grab the attention of your readers. There’s no downside.

Why We Need More Mental Health Blogs

This might be a bit selfish on my part. But I want more blogs about mental health because I want us to start breaking down the walls and the social stigma.

I want it to be as commonplace to say you are going to therapy as it is to say you are going to see a personal trainer at the gym.

I want people to get help for social anxiety in their teens and not in their 40’s when they feel like most of their life has already passed them by.

If YOU are a person living with a mental health issue, and you feel like you’ve been held back in some way, what’s stopping you from starting a blog?

If you’re struggling to earn a living, struggling to find a relationship, struggling to make friends, these are all stories that other people like you, out there, want to hear.

And you might even end up making a full-time income doing it. If you’re looking for inspiration or someone to tell you that you can do it, let me be that person. I think you can.

If you end up starting a successful blog based on this post, please share it in the comments! I’d love to check out what you’ve written.

If you’re just getting started, I recommend taking a beginner course on blogging. I started out taking a course called Building a Framework by Abby Lawson which unfortunately isn’t available anymore. I then signed up for Elite Blog Academy by Ruth Soukup which has changed a lot and I don’t think is affordable for beginning bloggers.

Then…. I signed up for Project 24/Income School which I am still a member at. I’m also a member of the Becoming Boss Mastermind, which is run by Faith Mariah who used to earn full-time income from a mental health blog. I recommend either of these, although they are pricey for a beginning blogger. If you really need to just get started, read the articles Abby has on her blog about how to get started, and watch the Project 24 Youtube channel.

Who knows, maybe I’ll make a beginner blogger course at some point.

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