Do you love to write and have some spare time? Then start a blog, or an online diary. They cost nothing, so you have nothing to lose.
Expats often write for one reason, and then their blogs take an unexpected turn. Some start one to update family back home on their overseas adventures, as blogging is a convenient way to reach many people at once. It also helps expats work through their emotions on living abroad. For some, it evolves into a platform to help readers interested in relocating to the UAE, for others, it becomes a business.
The latter was the case for Naomi Kelso, a former flight attendant from Australia who created www.desert-dweller.com. ‘I started Desert Dweller a year after having my first child, as I needed a creative outlet,’ she says. ‘I wrote about my feelings on life here, but then it really took off. I was getting thousands of hits a month and began receiving invites to business openings – some of which were paid. Now, other businesses pay to advertise on my blog.’
Naomi went from sharing personal anecdotes to product placement, which is when a trusted blogger mentions a product to lend it authenticity. She also began to review products, food and hotel stays, which she got for free. She now works with fashion brand Splash and Yas Waterworld.
Another blogger, Christine Hinz, a professional screenwriter from New York, started www.screamingabdhabs.blogspot.ae as a hobby. Her blog is named after the British term for severe anxiety; a phrase that aptly defined her feelings on relocating to Abu Dhabi early last year. Christine says, ‘When your life is going in a different direction to the one you planned, it creates anxiety. Blogging offered a platform to express my apprehension about moving and my homesickness.’
Christine discovered recruitment agencies were sharing her blog with prospective employees relocating to the city. ‘I was honest about the difficulties of my move, but now my readers see how wonderful my life is,’ she says. ‘Prospective employees read it and take comfort. I love it here, so I’m glad to help.’
So what advice do these bloggers have for fledgling writers? Naomi says, ‘Write for yourself. Your passion will shine and opportunities will come. Patience plays a big part in becoming a success.’ Christine adds, ‘Get organised. Spend an hour brainstorming topics that interest you to find your niche. Be professional and honest. No one likes to feel they are being sold something on a blog.’
Ready to take the plunge? Here’s some advice to get you started…
If you want to turn your blog into a business, use www.wordpress.com – the largest blog hosting service – as its customisation options help your blog appear professional.
Pros Wordpress is free. It’s easy to customise and it disseminates your site to a great number of readers via Wordpress Reader. You also own all content on your blog.
Cons The free .com version does not allow for advertising so, if you want to take your blog to the next level, you must upgrade to the pricier .org version. This can end up costing you more than Dhs300 a year if you choose advanced features such as better graphics.
Blogging as a hobby
If your blog is just for you and your friends, www.blogger.ae is for you. It is owned by Google so you have all the features you might expect such as high security and easy social sharing on Gmail, YouTube and Google+.
Pros Blogger is free, user-friendly and you can start blogging in minutes. Security breaches are less common on Blogger than on Wordpress.
Cons Google owns your content, so it can censor your posts or delete your blog at any time.
Creating a domain
First, choose a topic. Next, choose a platform such as Blogger or Wordpress to host your site. Think of a short and catchy name – nothing too wordy – and visit www.whois.net to check your domain name is available. If so, buy it on www.123-reg.co.uk for Dhs30. Set up a Gmail address and Facebook and Twitter accounts so readers can contact you. Google Analytics is free and easy to set up. This will help you to track your readership. Blogger and Wordpress can be customised – use each site’s free tools to design your blog. Finally, promote your blog through the powers of social media.
Avoid sharing anything too personal on your blog and only post what you don’t mind the world potentially reading or seeing.
To start your own blog visit www.wordpress.com or www.blogger.ae. To follow Naomi Kelso and Christine Hinz visit www.desert-dweller.com and www.screamingabdhabs.com