Some people think minimalism means doing without, but the truth is just the opposite. Minimalism is about living a life less full of stuff, and more full of meaning.
Here at No Sidebar, we write about eliminating the unnecessary from your work, your home, and your soul — because when you remove what you don’t need, you make room for new things to grow with intention.
Our goal is to encourage you to design a simple life, but not an empty life. We all want to free up time, space, energy, and resources to pursue what matters.
Years ago, I decided to stop watching television at night. Eliminating that one activity freed up pockets of time and gave me more room for creative imagination, too. What was I going to do with those sixty-minute chunks? I was going to write.
Choosing to use that time with intention has made it possible to connect with thousands of readers. Maybe you have a message to share, too. You just need tools and strategies to help you move forward with purpose.
The online world can seem so crowded, like a party where everyone’s already talking and no one’s listening. Maybe you feel like everything has already been said, and there’s no room for you. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There is always room for another voice. There’s always room for passion and purpose. Writing online is an opportunity to serve others, and there’s never too much service in the world.
We need your message — so here’s how to get started sharing it:
Planning Your Blog
1. Craft your message
Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing new to say, but really, there are always new ways to speak the truth. Your perspective will add to the conversation.
As you get started, ask yourself these three questions.
What’s your message? Define it as simply as possible, and you’ll be able to clearly communicate it to your readers.
Why does this message matter? Why do you want to share it with the world? Remembering this helps you stay motivated. Audiences are drawn to why we do things, more than to what we do. Your “why” is as important as the message itself.
How are you going to deliver your message differently? You don’t need to try to be better than the other voices out there. You can be different instead.
You have a different journey, a different personality, and a different combination of interests and skills than anyone else. You aren’t like every other voice out there, so let your difference set you apart.
2. Develop your authentic strategy
A blog needs a message and a strategy. “Strategy” doesn’t have to be creepy. It just means being clear on who you want to help, and how you’re going to help them.
Who exactly will be served by your message? When you know who you’re writing to, your posts will be more personal and direct.
How will you help that audience? Will you entertain, educate, or make connections for your readers?
Use your own strengths. If you’re full of ideas and information, start by writing educational posts. If you’re all about relationships and interaction, create places for discussion. If you read everything that’s written about your topic, consider sharing the best of those links in a weekly newsletter.
An authentic strategy is about finding ways to use your skills and your knowledge and your personality to serve your people.
3. Face your fears
Let’s be real. When you want to launch a new project, you’ll face resistance. What’s holding you back from starting right now?
Address those blocks if you can — and then get started anyway. Your message is too important to let mental clutter get in the way.
- If you find yourself thinking you’re not ready, remind yourself that you can learn more along the way.
- If you find yourself worrying what people will think, remind yourself this work is not about you, it’s about the message, and the message matters.
- If you find yourself fearing change, remind yourself change is a sign of growth and of life.
- If you find yourself thinking you’re not enough — not expert enough, not practiced enough, not polished enough — remind yourself you are the only one who can speak with your voice, your authority, and your experience.
- If you find yourself fearing failure, remind yourself all good work takes risks, and you’ll learn from what doesn’t work.
- If you’re stuck in learn-before-you-launch mode, remind yourself you can research forever, but the best way to learn what works for you is to get started. Just try.
- If you find yourself thinking you don’t have time or energy or resources, remind yourself you will make time for what matters.
Building Your Blog
4. Name your project
You’ll need to choose a title and tagline for your project. Your tagline can change over time, but your domain will probably stay the same, so give it some thought.
Great titles are clear and memorable, communicating both the main idea and the tone of the project. You might need to brainstorm several options before you find a domain that will work for you.
Your title doesn’t have to explain the whole project on its own. Use a tagline to clarify or elaborate. Our title here at No Sidebar is about eliminating the unnecessary, and our tagline reads: Design a Simple Life. In just a few words, you can get an idea of our purpose and direction.
5. Find your place
There are free blogging platforms available, but you’ll have more flexibility if you host your own site. You’ll need to register a domain name and get web hosting.
6. Design with purpose
Start simply, by choosing a design that reflects your purpose. Do you want a clean look to focus more attention on the message? Do you prefer an emphasis on images? Find a simple WordPress theme that fits your goals and get started. You can tweak things as you go.
7. Choose your tools
Images — Images can make your content more engaging and shareable. You can find royalty-free minimalist photos online or search photo-sharing sites for images that have been made available under a Creative Commons license. Or purchase ready-to-use photos from sources like Creative Market or Made by Sidecar.
Plugins — Plugins let your WordPress site to do all kinds of cool things. From your WordPress dashboard, find Plugins > Add New. Add only what you need, and uninstall any plugins you don’t use.
8. Write for your audience
Experiment to find the post format that works best for your readers. Some resonate most with short posts, while others do best with longer pieces. Some blogs publish a mix of different post types, while others stick to one format.
Find what works for you, then design your posts to keep the reader’s eye moving down the page.
Keep paragraphs short, with space in between each. Avoid long blocks of text.
Use headings to break your post into sections and to set off your main ideas.
Instead of paragraphs, use bullet points or numbered lists to help readers who skim.
Growing Your Blog
9. Build intentional community
Your writing has a purpose. For your message to make a difference in the world, you need to reach the right audience.
Tell people about what you’re building. Share your work with your friends and family, and ask them to pass your writing along to anyone they think might be helped by your message.
Respond to the readers you have, answering their questions and acknowledging their comments. Listen to what they need and want, and look for ways you can help.
10. Embrace flexibility
The tools we use, the ways we use them, the people we interact with: these things are forever evolving.
You have a plan, but stay open to change. You can change your direction, your strategies, and even your opinions over time. What makes most sense for you may change as you grow and as the landscape shifts. Keep moving toward your purpose, but don’t be afraid to change your methods along the way.
11. Pursue authentic goals
Remember what your own goals are.
Your goal for your writing might be to spread ideas, to hone your craft, to grow your business, or to meet interesting people.
Make plans that will move you toward your own goals, and let go of anything that moves you in the other direction.
Trying to follow another writer’s path may not be best for you—their circumstances may be different, for one thing, and their goals may not be the same as yours. Their goals may be leading them somewhere you don’t even want to go.
Do what’s best for you, with your personality and your skills and your gifts. Don’t worry if your goals are different than someone else’s. You’re not missing out, and you don’t have to compare. You just have to do what’s right for you.
Sharing Your Blog
12. Make real connections
Messages — and people — grow best in community.
To start growing your writing community, reach out to others whose writing you identify with. Leave them comments, respond to their tweets, share their posts and articles. Subscribe to their newsletters, and drop them a note to let them know you appreciate their work.
You’ll encourage them to keep making more of what you love, and your conversations can help spark ideas for new posts, new strategies, or new directions for both of you.
You may even be able to serve each others’ audiences and help each other grow.
13. Share generously
Social media platforms can be great places for your message to grow, but it’s no fun to follow someone who just shouts about their own work all the time.
So what should you share?
- Share links to other people’s posts you find inspiring, informative, or helpful.
- Share links to work that influences you.
- Share links you would want to bookmark, even if no one else clicked them.
- Connect your readers to other people who are doing good work.
- Tell the story behind your message. Share the backstory to your posts.
- Share more about your why: why do you care about this message? Why does it matter? Can you explain in just 140 characters?
14. Enable others to share your message
If your writing resonates with your readers, they’ll want to share your message with others. Give them ways to help.
- Make sharing easy with social share buttons.
- Ask readers to share posts they find helpful.
- Use auto-scheduling to share your own posts on the platforms you use, so that others will be more likely to see your links. Facebook has this feature built in now, or use a service like Buffer or HootSuite.
- Share your posts in different ways across the platforms you use.
On Twitter, share short, clear headlines along with the link and post photo.
Facebook gives you a little more room to express yourself. If you’re using the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, you can use that to tell Facebook what text and photo to include with your links.
After you write your blog post, scroll down to the WordPress SEO by Yoast box. Click on the “Social” tab. Upload a horizontal photo, and write a Facebook Description to appear under the photo.
When anyone shares your link, Facebook will pull up that photo and description.
When you share the link on your own page, Facebook will also leave you space to “say something about this link.” Instead of summarizing the post, try adding a statement that fans can agree with by hitting the “like” button.
On Pinterest, the image you share is what matters most. Vertical photos are re-pinned more often than horizontal ones. Simple, bright photos tend to be favored over cluttered ones.
When writing your post, you can use your photo’s ALT tag text as a Pin description.
Whether you add text directly onto your photos or only in the description, use your Pin text to tell readers two things: how your post will help them, and why they should read it now.
Monetizing Your Blog
15. Focus on building an audience first
Sharing a message online takes time, energy, and focus. If one of your goals is to be compensated for that work, how can you go about that in ways that are aligned with your purpose?
Start by giving: give your readers your writing, your ideas, or your research. Invite them in to your process. Share your inspirations.
Build your authority and earn your readers’ trust by consistently providing something valuable.
Set up an email list using a free tool like MailChimp, and ask readers to stay connected by joining your list. That way you can reach your audience whenever you have something to share.
16. Listen to your readers
Notice what kinds of comments readers leave. Pay attention to which kinds of posts they’re most likely to share. Listen to the questions your readers ask, or ask them questions of your own.
Listen for what your readers want or need, and think about how you can help. Can you serve your audience by making something, by providing something, or by teaching something?
Think about what methods match your message and your purpose
If you have expertise to share, you might write books for your readers, or offer them online classes.
If you have other awesome skills, you could create products for your audience. (Physical products or digital ones. Anything goes.)
If you’re an expert in your area, you might offer consulting or coaching services.
If your strength lies in community and connection, consider creating a membership site.
If your readers want to help your movement to grow, create products that let them share the message. If they are proud of being members of your community, find ways to help them express that identity.
If you want to connect your readers to other useful products, affiliate sales or sponsored posts might be helpful tools.
If there are other businesses whose mission would appeal to your audience, you might offer advertising space on your site.
Keep in mind what options make most sense for your audience, your skills, and your message, but also be willing to experiment. You can try different ideas until you find the mix that works best for you.
Not every message needs to generate income, and it’s okay if you don’t want that to be part of your site. But if you are providing your audience with service or value, if you are sharing your gifts and your expertise, or if you are leading and helping consistently, it’s perfectly reasonable to explore your options for compensating that work.
You may even find that your readers are happy to have ways to help support you.
17. Begin purposefully
You have a message to share, a movement to lead, or a purpose to live out. There is an audience that needs to hear what you have to say. You’re ready. It’s time.
Start writing, with purpose.