By Aly Teich, Founder and CEO of The Sweat Life | sponsored by Squarespace
When I first came up with the idea to start The Sweat Life, a brand centered around approaching health in a whole new way, it was just that: an idea. (We later grew into a website, a video series, and a social media platform, but that all comes later!)
From the start, I was certain that keeping active and eating healthy directly led to feeling happy and strong in the long term, and that one was the reason for the other — and yet, the more I thought about all of today’s “health” magazines, every cover story screamed about working out only for the sake of slimming down or losing weight. It was all about how you looked (or could look), and less about how you could feel. At best, this type of thinking would result in only short-term bursts of interest in our health, and nothing out there even addressed the role of the long haul in our health and happiness! I knew the conversation about health in media needed to change, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The question was, “How?” I also knew The Sweat Life was a message that truly needed to get out into the world.
In the age of the internet, of course, “getting out into the world” meant creating a website where The Sweat Life could live and grow. But what would it look like, and what content would live there? Who would read it? My team and I thought about all of this and more, leading up to the launch of The Sweat Life and in the years following — and today we’re quite proud of our not-so-little-anymore corner of the internet, as we like to say, powered by love and sweat. (And Squarespace!)
Thinking about starting your own blog? Here are my 6 tips after starting The Sweat Life.
1. Know your voice
Before you start a blog, knowing your voice is the absolute most important part of the equation. Also see: knowing your core values. The idea for The Sweat Life first came to me when I was watching my mother go through a 5-year battle with ovarian cancer, which she eventually lost. Sitting in treatment room after treatment room at cancer hospitals, with my mother and other women getting chemotherapy, I was finding myself completely turned off by the covers of the so-called “health” magazines I was reading at the time, while witnessing the real-life embodiment of fighting for health, right in front of my eyes. I can tell you it had nothing to do with dress size or those last six pounds. The message around health and fitness needed to change.
At the start of The Sweat Life, we created an actual set of rules that would guide everything we wrote or shared on the site: no talking about calorie burning, fat burning, or weight loss, and nothing about dropping clothes sizes; it had to be health for health’s sake and happiness’ sake. It is so important to make sure you know your brand, your voice, and your core values from the start — know exactly what your voice is and what it isn’t and never compromise that.
2. Build a home
After we found our voice, we needed a place for it to live. At this point, we had already started our video series on YouTube, but were ready to launch our magazine and the hub for everything Sweat Life going forward. We found that Squarespace offered everything we needed: a website structure so we didn’t have to build something completely from scratch, but also plenty of templates and fonts our graphic designer could tinker with to create a look that was only our own. Squarespace also offered options for different types of posts with varied layouts, and multiple verticals and pages (fitness, food, health, mindfulness, etc) with sub-verticals. Really anything we could dream up. I remember on that first night, our whole team sat around a table, downing pizza (yes, we eat junk food too!), and weighing in on different layouts and visuals. It is one of my fondest, start-of-The-Sweat-Life memories, tinkering with Squarespace with a team of people who shared my vision for the future.
3. Build your community
While we needed a space for The Sweat Life to live and grow, we also wanted a place where our community could interact and get to know us, as well. One of our main goals in starting The Sweat Life was to give people an inside view and a closer relationship with health and fitness and the people behind it. Our website let us create this space that everyone could be part of, interact with, share, comment on, and contribute to.
Our model for the Sweat Life community was to cut out the journalist as a middleman in telling our stories. We wanted to hear straight from the source, right from someone’s own mouth. We wanted to know why a trainer chose to make fitness her life’s work, how someone found the courage to improve their life or to make a change, how a yoga teacher found his calling — first-person, honest stories of how health changes lives. And in this way readers and contributors were able to interact directly and became the foundation of our Sweat Life community.
4. Work with brands that reflect your values
As you grow and stretch your voice, and your website community grows around you, the logical next step is that brands want to get involved in your message, assuming they like what they see. It makes sense: they like your content and your community, so they want to be part of it and align their product as such. I mentioned our strict Sweat Life rules earlier in this post, created for our voice and content — and as we entered brand territory and sponsored content, we came up with another set of rules around this step of the blog process as well.
Working with brands is so important in the early growth of a website, but we made a choice that we would not advertise anything that we wouldn’t use ourselves or that we felt wouldn’t truly benefit our readers. I was very selective with who we would work with. If it aligned with our vision, great. If not, we had to say some tough no’s. Sure, that may mean our growth was slow but steady at the start – but it always felt honest.
5. Get creative
As The Sweat Life and our website continued to evolve, we found ways to be more creative with our content, and use Squarespace and our site in new ways. We incorporated slideshows in our content, like this post: “The 3 Habits Successful People Do Every Day.” We rolled out new, special-edition home pages based around Sweat Life original campaigns like “Empowered by ______” and “Guns Against Gun Violence” (get it? guns… biceps…) — and a Valentine’s Day special “Love Letters to Ourselves.” We also used our site as an avenue to take The Sweat Life off the page, bringing our charitable Sweat It Forward campaign for cancer research into the community, and promoting it through our site.
6. BE AUTHENTIC
At the end of the day, I truly believe that The Sweat Life has been successful because we have always stayed completely authentic to who we are. This is the most important message I can share with anyone looking to start a blog or a website. Find your voice, and be AUTHENTIC to who you are and what you are trying to share with the world. Find strength in your message, and use your blog as an avenue for that message. This is how you truly break through the noise and be unique — not by implementing the best “strategy,” but by truly being YOU — because there is no other you! Are we the coolest or sexiest brand in health and wellness?! NO! But guess what, that’s just not who we are, and we aren’t going to pretend to be anything or anyone else for the sake of clicks.
I am humbled by the community of people that we have been able to bring together through The Sweat Life, all of whom are interested in health for longevity, happiness, and strength. Throw a little humor in there, and you can’t go wrong.
Squarespace makes it easy for anyone to create a beautiful home online. Ready to start your blog? Try Squarespace free for 14 days! When you’re ready to subscribe be sure to use code SWEATLIFE for 10% off your first website or domain purchase.