Have you ever thought about starting a blog or creating a website? Blogs and websites are excellent communication tools for piano teachers and anyone who has some thing to teach or share with other people.
I don’t consider myself a blogging expert by any means, but I’ve learned quite a bit about blogging and creating websites over the years. Like most things in life, my blog has evolved quite a bit. I initially created it to communicate with my current piano students, then I started publishing information that would be helpful for prospective piano students as well. Somewhere in there, I discovered a wonderful world of piano teachers who blog and my content started shifting more towards teaching resources.
A great thing about blogging is that you can put as much or as little into as you want and you can choose any focus you want. I had a couple of years where I completely ignored my blog. When I returned to it, I had renewed energy to create a platform for all things learning piano – so that piano students and teacher alike would find it helpful.
If the technical side of blogging intimidates you, you can rest assured that if I can do it anyone can! I consider myself good at following directions and that’s pretty much the main skill you need to have in order to handle most technical issues that arise. I google every question that I have and I can nearly always find the answer to it pretty efficiently.
Just to be clear, setting up a blog or a website is pretty much the same process. With a website, you would assume that the information you publish is fairly static. You will publish it once and only update it from time to time. On the other hand, a blog is a platform to publish new content on a regular basis. If you have new updates or material that you plan on sharing regularly, you’ll set up a blog.
All of the information below can apply to either a blog or a website. If you’re going for a website, you’ll probably choose to have a static front page and you’ll probably delete the blog page (where frequent updates would occur).
So, if you’re ready to make the leap, keep reading to learn what you need to do to get started.
Decide On Your Content
Before you begin, you need to have a pretty solid plan for your blog. Do you want it to house information about your piano studio for potential students? Are you using it to communicate with your current students? Do you want to network and share ideas with other piano teachers? Have you created some great resources that you would like to sell or share with others? Would you like to earn money from your blog? (Did you know this is a thing – a lot of bloggers are earning income from their blog, either full time, or supplemental to other things they are doing.) Is it more of a hobby? Is it an extension of your piano studio?
Having a well-defined plan before you begin will set you up for success and ensure that you get set up in the best possible way.
Be sure to put a lot of thought into the name of your blog. Make it be something that is memorable and easy to spell. Keep it short and relevant.
Also, it helps to have a visual plan for what you want your online presence to look like. Do you already have a logo that you use to represent your business? If not, this would be a good time to create one or to hire someone to create one for you.
Getting Set Up
Getting set up is probably the least fun part of all of this, but once you’re set up, you can move on to the more exciting things like designing, creating content and networking.
There are a number of different platforms available for creating and designing a website. I have only ever used WordPress and I highly recommend it.
There are 2 routes that you can go to get started with WordPress:
- WordPress.com: this is completely free and pretty simple to set up. You would just need to follow a series of instructions to get up and running, then you’d start filling in all of your info and content. However, there are a lot of limitations with this approach, so you might quickly realize that you can’t achieve everything you had hoped to with this set up. Also, with this route, WordPress owns your blog, so there are some aspects of it that you may not be able to control (like certain parts of how it looks, ads that appear on it, etc.)
- WordPress.org requires a little bit of a financial investment, but the advantage is that you will own your website and have 100% control over it. The set up is a little more involved (but not unmanageable). You will have tools available to do almost anything you can imagine with your website.
If you want to go super simple with your blog, you might choose to start by creating a free blog with wordpress.com.
However, if you have any grand plans at all for your blog, you might start to feel limited really quickly using wordpress.com. A better alternative would be to set up your blog using wordpress.org.
Getting set up with wordpress.org has a few more step, but once again, if you can follow instructions, you can do it! Since you will own your website using wordpress.org, you will need to purchase a plan to host your website. This is where you will store all of the information on your website.
I host my websites on Hostgator. I’ve been really happy with the service and customer service I’ve received from them. They have great tutorials that will walk you through every step.
(Sidenote: I had a huge disaster when I started verypiano.com. I had spent months designing and creating content for this blog. Minutes before I was about the share the link with the world for the first time, I made a huge mistake and deleted everything! I panicked for a few minutes, but quickly got in touch with Hostgator’s customer service. They create regular backups of your blog, so they were able to restore my blog immediately and I only ended up losing 15 minutes worth of work that I had to re-do. Whew!)
To get started, you’d just need to create an account with Hostgator. When you first login you might be intimidated by the whole set up and all of the options, but the reality is that you don’t need to worry about most of it!
You really just need to do a few things to get your blog off the ground:
- Purchase a hosting plan. You’ll probably be fine starting with the smallest plan, and you can upgrade later if needed.
- Purchase a domain. You can do this through Hostgator. Your domain is the actual address to your blog, so in my case, verypiano.com and meganspianolessons.com are my 2 domains.
- Install WordPress.org at your domain. Hostgator will outline all of the steps you need to do to make this happen. (When I first started, I tried to go to wordpress.org to create an account. I kept getting stuck and once I discovered it was something that I needed to install from my hosting service, it was smooth sailing from there!)
Once you have wordpress.org installed, you’ll have access to the wordpress dashboard where you can edit and design your blog. You’ll want to chose a theme, which will determine the general look of your blog. There are a lot of ways to personalize your blog. Remember, if you get stuck on anything, just google!
If you have never created a website before, I wouldn’t tackle this project at a time when you might feel rushed. Either set aside a big window of time to work on it, or make it a longer term project that you will work on over time.
Once you have your blog or website all set up, you’ll need to start adding content. People reading your material will want to see your face, so be sure to include pictures of yourself. Nearly every blog and website has an “About” page where you can tell a bit about yourself and add some personality.
You’ll want to make sure that people can quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. Make tabs across the top of your blog that are easy to navigate and that include all of the major topics you would like people to know about.
A “Resources” page is another common feature on most blogs and the spot where you highlight all of your most used or recommended products or services, or where you would feature your own resources that are available to your readers such as printables or teaching aids.
Other things you’ll need
It’s a really good idea to use your website as a means of collecting email addresses. This means that you’ll have a direct line to your readers whenever you have really important information to share. There are a number of different services that you can use for people to subscribe to your email list. I’m currently using Mailerlite and really happy with it. They make it really easy to place forms on your website and to send emails to your followers.
Here’s an example of an email form. Go ahead and add your email address below if you’d like to hear from me from time to time.
Once you have an amazing website all set up, you want to make sure people are going to find it and read what you have to share. Social Media is a powerful way to spread the word. You might consider making a Facebook page to represent your blog or website, creating an instagram account to correspond with what you are publishing, pinning your content to pinterest and sharing videos on YouTube.
All of these are great avenues for sharing information. They all have their pros and cons and they all have a bit of a learning curve for making the most of them. I would choose one Social Media platform to start with and learn how to use it to your best advantage. Then, once you are comfortable with 1 approach, add another if you would like.
You can see below how I use each platform:
My Facebook page, Megan’s Piano Lessons & VeryPiano Blog is a hub for all things relating to my studio and blog. I post tons of pictures and videos there and interact with people there on a daily basis. I rarely post anything personal such as pictures of my family or things that I do outside of my professional piano life.
My Instagram account, @LettuceTurnipThatBeet, is public. I intentionally use it to share a mix of professional and personal content. I don’t post to it quite as regularly as I do on Facebook. The use of hashtags gives it it’s own unique advantage and attracts completely different people than those I encounter on Facebook. For this reason, it’s a really valuable tool to use online.
My Pinterest account is a place where I post every single blog post that I publish and then I also pin other relevant content that corresponds with topics presented on my blog. I’m honestly not super into Pinterest right now, so it doesn’t get a whole lot of my attention. But, I do know that it’s a very powerful way to share my content, so I try not to forget about it completely! I have a lot to learn about Pinterest, so it’s a work in progress for me.
I’m just recently starting to give my YouTube channel more attention. I think it’s a really important avenue for musicians since it is where people can actually hear what we are doing. I have plans to spruce up my YouTube account and to use it as a away to share and teach some of my favorite music.
The internet is full of blogging experts and there are quite a few excellent teachers out there who can teach you everything you need to get started and to maintain and grow your website.
Here are some people I’ve enjoyed learning from over the years.
Abby Lawson‘s e-book Building A Framework was the first book that I read about blogging. (I read the e-book a few years ago and it looks like now she has made it into a full course!) It is very thorough and answered all of my questions about everything that is involved about starting and maintaining a blog. Abby gives really clear instructions on how to set things up, gives really practical advice and strategies and writes with an easy to follow conversational tone. I highly recommend this book/course if you’re just getting started.
Crystal Paine from moneysavingmom.com offered an online blogging course about a year ago that I took. To be honest, not a lot of the information in the the course was new to me, but she presented it in such a clear and interesting way that I became invigorated in learning even more about blogging! Shortly after the course ended, she launched her 2nd blog, YourBloggingMentor.com. It’s a terrific resource for anyone blogging at any level. She also has 3 course available, and they’re perfect for getting started: Blog Start-Up 101, WordPress 101 and Branding Basics 101. She gives you information in bite-sized, manageable pieces so you won’t feel overwhelmed. And, her courses are priced at just $37 each, so not a huge investment.
Michelle Schroeder of makingsenseofcents.com has an excellent course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I completed her course last spring when I decided that I wanted to get serious about monetizing my blog. Before I took the course, I understood how to monetize a blog with affiliate marketing, but I didn’t have a precise strategy on what I needed to do.
Michelle’s course answered all of my questions, gave me some great goals to work towards and plugged me into a huge community of bloggers who I can learn from and ask questions to. It was well worth the $197.
I have found many, many answers to my googled questions on amylynnandrews.com. Her blog is super user friendly and she assumes that you’re starting from the ground up.
Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn is another really great hub for online resources. You’ll find a lot of tutorials there. However, my biggest takeaway from SPI is that it really opens your eyes to how big of an impact you an have online. To be honest, I don’t find most of Pat’s material relevant to me, but I keep him on my radar because he is apparently do something right, he’s a great teacher and he lays it all out there for you. Definitely worth checking out and finding what’s useful to you.
Selling resources online is a great opportunity for teachers. Since we are always creating, we all already have files of things that can easily be shared.
My online store is run by e-junkie. This service is really easy to use and provides you with a shopping cart and checkout feature. You store your digital files on e-junkie and they are automatically delivered when someone makes a purchase. It’s really simple and ideal for teachers with tons of resources stored up!
After I completed Crystal Paine’s online blogging course and Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, I discovered that do what I do every single day – teaching – is really simple and effective online. I made it my goal to learn as much as I could about expanding my reach with online teaching. After researching a number of different options, I determined that Teachable was the best way to teach online. I’ve created 3 online course using Teachable and have many more in the works. It’s an exciting and fulfilling dimension of my teaching and it complements my studio teaching perfectly.
One of the very best parts about creating and maintaining your online presence is that it’s a super easy way to get connected with people all over the world. I’ve gotten to know some amazing teachers, pianists and students online. Even though I have never met them in person, they fuel me with inspiration and make it fun to log in to Facebook and write on my blog. I’ve collaborated with many of these teachers on projects and they have opened many doors of new opportunities for me.
Wow, that’s a lot to share about blogging, but if you’ve made it this far, sounds like it might be a good fit for you! Be in touch – I’d love to hear about your blogging plans and to check your blog when it’s all ready to go!