Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive compensation for any products bought through the links in this article. Affiliate marketing is one of the most common ways for bloggers to make money! For further details, please read my full disclosure statement. Thank you for supporting my dreams! And now for the reason you came here for: how to start a blog!
I am so incredibly excited to be sharing this information with you. I’ve been wanting to write this article for quite some time but didn’t really feel that I was qualified as a fairly new blogger myself to be telling people how to start a blog. I mean, I’m no expert by any means, right? That being said, I’ve come to realize that because my blog is still fairly new, I’m still quite fresh to the process of starting up a blog. Both the excitement and the confusion are fresh in my mind! Because of this, I want to share with you the core steps that I took when starting out my blog along with some tips I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully this will save you some of the confusion that most of us deal with in the beginning!
P.S. As I know that all of this information can get incredibly confusing, I’ve created a checklist for all of the things you need when starting a blog (plus a few extras that you might want to consider once you’ve been blogging for a bit!). You can get access to this checklist along with many other valuable resources here!
Choosing a Platform
I’m sure you’ve probably heard of WordPress if you’re someone who’s interested in starting a blog. But did you know that there are different types of WordPress websites? You actually have a few options when it comes to working on WordPress (which I highly recommend, by the way). Here’s a breakdown of your different options and their features.
Free WordPress.com Website
- Included with the plan are hosting, security, backups, as well as features that are popular such as comments or sharing.
- You can integrate your social networks into your blog using this plan.
- You can find support in the wordpress.com forums online.
- There are very limited customization options. You can choose from only certain themes and are unable to install plugins.
- Advertisements will be run on your website that you have no control over.
- You can’t easily monetize your website with a free wordpress.com plan.
- You must register for a wordpress.com account and abide by their terms and conditions.
Paid WordPress.com Website
- This is somewhat of an in between plan. Hosting, security and backups are still included but if you want a custom domain name you will need to pay for that.
- Ads are removed from your website when you pay for the upgrade.
- You can choose from the free wordpress.com themes or install custom themes. You also have the option to install some plugins, making this option more customizable than the free plan.
- Features such as commenting and sharing are still included.
- There is the option to seek support through live chat or email.
- You must register for a wordpress.com account and abide by their terms and conditions.
Self-Hosted WordPress.org Website (Recommended)
- This option has infinite customization opportunities. You install your own plugins and can choose from a huge variety of themes or install a custom one. You can also create your own theme if you have the coding skills to do so.
- There are support forums for wordpress.org. You can also seek assistance through your hosting website (which we’ll talk more about in a minute) or via email.
- You can easily monetize your self-hosted WordPress website through a number of methods (ex. displaying advertisements of your choosing, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, etc.).
- You’re responsible for the maintenance of your site (backups, security, etc.).
- You have complete freedom over your website. No registration with wordpress.com is required.
So that’s a roundup of the options for WordPress sites, but which one is right for you? While I’m not claiming to be some genius about your life, I can speak from my own experiences. A Daynna Life was originally started on a free WordPress.com site with a non-customized URL and the whole shebang. The thought of starting a blog was on my mind for a long time but I wasn’t ready to commit to paying for hosting. I was also just straight up afraid to self-host my blog in the beginning because I have NO IDEA about coding (we’ll talk more about that in a bit, but as it turns out you don’t actually need to know how to code to self-host your website).
I will say that I was glad to have had a couple of months experience blogging on the free WordPress.com website. It gave me the opportunity to see if blogging was a good fit for me and if it was something I wanted to take to the next level. It also helped me to find my voice without having too much at stake. I was able to find my bearings in the blogosphere at a comfortable pace before jumping into it full force, which was great at the time.
What I didn’t like about the free WordPress.com website was the huge lack of customization options. Now that I’ve been self-hosted for a few months, I can’t even imagine going back to the free plan. I also want to make some sort of income from my blog (hey, I might as well with the amount of time I spend on it! Making money from my passion sounds great to me!), which wasn’t possible when using the free WordPress.com platform. This is why in February 2017 I decided to take a leap of faith and switch A Daynna Life over to a self-hosted WordPress.org website.
I can tell you that this was the absolute best decision I could have made for my blogging journey. Since switching to self-hosted WordPress.org, I’ve been more involved in blogging than ever before! I have a website that I absolutely love with great support for the technical issues I don’t understand. I have the ability to make an income just by pursuing my passion. I’ve also learned so many applicable job and life skills just through practice. So many opportunities have already arisen for me in my blogging journey, and I attribute this success to the day I decided to switch to being self-hosted!
You may be wondering why I chose the self-hosted option over the paid WordPress.com option. For me, it was a matter of flexibility that guided my decision. Having a self-hosted WordPress.org site would allow me complete flexibility for every aspect of my website, which I absolutely love. I’m not saying that the paid WordPress.com option is a bad one, but it just wasn’t the right one for me to invest money into for what I was getting out of it. My only concern about going self-hosted was that it would have a lot of technical aspects to it, but that turned out to be a complete myth! I only ever use super simple code that’s easily accessible through a Google search. Everything is pretty much visually customizable, which makes things a lot easier! If you’re serious about blogging, I highly recommend from my own experience to go the self-hosted route.
Getting Web Hosting
For the sake of this article, pretty much everything else I refer to will be in reference to using a self-hosted WordPress.org website. One of the things about going self-hosted that confused me the most in the beginning was web hosting. I honestly just didn’t really understand what it was and why I needed it, so let me break that down for you.
A web host is essentially where your website lives. It’s the beautiful home of your beautiful child (your website… is that a weird reference? Probably). Your website’s host is where you will find all of the background files and information for your website (A.K.A. all of that pesky code that none of us want to deal with, lol). It’s home to all of those files and more, including your website’s email. Choosing a good web host is essential to the functionality of your website, as it’s basically the backbone that holds everything together.
As I’ve only been self-hosted for a few months, I only have experience with one web host, so it’s the only one I can speak about. That being said, I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with this host and wouldn’t recommend anything here on my blog that I don’t absolutely love and believe is a great product! For A Daynna Life, I use Bluehost to host my website. I based this decision on the great reviews I was reading about Bluehost and the amazingly low price. Bluehost offers hosting packages for as little as $3.95 per month, which is an incredible deal for all that’s included with it!
One thing I love about Bluehost is their 24 hour live chat support. Because I’m the least technologically gifted person on earth (apart from my dad, haha), I’ve used this feature countless times to get in contact with tech support. They are incredibly helpful and always do everything they can to help, no matter how big or small the problem. This feature is so convenient for those of us who have a full-time job and are blogging into the late hours of the night!
Another great thing about Bluehost is that they have a feature called one-click WordPress installation, which basically does all of the work for you when you’re first setting up your WordPress.org website. This is an excellent feature for beginners like myself at that time because it takes a huge amount of stress out of the process. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the less stress there is, the better!
As for the hosting services themselves, I’ve never had any problems with any of my files or my website crashing. I did have one instance where I restored a back up of my website and lost some of my old posts, but that was 100% my own fault for not backing up frequently enough (don’t make that mistake, by the way, it was a struggle).
Though there are tons of web hosting services out there, many of which I’m sure are great, I truly feel that Bluehost is an excellent choice for those just starting out with a self-hosted WordPress site. They have excellent plans, great customer service support, and they make setting up your website as easy as possible. You really can’t go wrong in that regard!
Choosing a Niche
I’m just going to be straight up with you. This will 100% be the hardest part about starting a blog, especially if you’re a perfectionist. I thought for years about what I would want to write a blog about before even starting one.
The key to picking the right niche is choosing something that you’ll enjoy writing about but will be beneficial to your readers. Think about who you want to read your blog – and I mean REALLY think about it. Go into detail about who your ideal reader is. How old are they? What do they need? What gender? Then, think about what information you can provide that will help this ideal reader. While it’s important to have an interest in what you’re writing about, blogging isn’t a selfish profession. What do all successful bloggers have in common? They provide information that is useful and beneficial to their readers.
I can’t tell you what to blog about. Only you can make that decision. I do recommend doing some research on niches that you’re interested in and seeing what the demand is for blogs in that niche. Is the niche oversaturated or unheard of? You want to find something somewhere in between those two extremes if you want your blog to be successful and profitable.
Developing Your Brand
Once you’ve chosen a niche and you have an idea of who your ideal reader is, developing your brand will be a lot easier. That being said, it’s by no means easy, and I’m still working to develop my brand (I may have just skimmed over this step in the beginning, which I don’t recommend). What do you want your blog to represent? Do you know what your blogging voice should be? What colours should you use to attract your ideal reader? These are all questions you should be asking when developing your brand.
If you have it in the budget, you may find it helpful to work with someone like a graphic designer to create a logo and colour scheme for your brand. While this is a great idea, the reality is that a lot of us don’t have the extra money to spend on such luxuries, especially in the beginning after just paying for hosting. The alternative to this is to create your own graphics and colour scheme. For this, I recommend using Canva. Its drag and drop feature is super easy to use and it makes it incredibly easy to create beautiful graphics with minimal effort.
For more information on branding your website, I really loved this article by Minimal Crafts, as she outlines the basic key aspects to creating a brand in a way that’s easy to understand.
Customizing Your Website
Alright, now for some fun! Believe it or not, WordPress actually makes it SUPER easy to create a gorgeous, professional website. You just need to get your creative juices flowing! When first creating your website, make sure you have the basics covered: an about page, somewhere for your blog posts to live, and a contact page. If you plan on collecting information from visitors or participating in any type of monetization of your blog, you should also have a legal disclaimer (check out this post by Jade and Oak for great tips on how to create an effective disclaimer page).
As for themes, you have a couple of options. WordPress has thousands of free themes to choose from within its platform, which is great for those just starting out. Most of them are mobile friendly and optimized, which will result in minimal issues. That being said, I eventually found the free WordPress themes to be somewhat limiting. Thankfully, there are TONS of premium theme options from a variety of different vendors. For instance, a lot of people really like the Genesis framework and it’s child themes (which I don’t know a lot about but it may be something worth looking into if you’re interested). When I decided to get a premium theme, I did a lot of searching but kept coming back to the one I’m using now – Isabelle by Bluchic. I love this theme because it’s optimized and mobile friendly, has great customization options, is feminine and on brand with what I wanted, and it’s easy to use and super cute!
When it comes to plugins, here is the starter pack that I would recommend:
- SEO by Yoast
- WooCommerce (if you’re planning to sell products on your website)
- Pinterest “Pin It” Button
Of course, you can absolutely add to that list! These are just a few suggestions for great plugins to get you started (and they’re all free).
Promoting Your Blog
We all want as many unique visitors to our website as possible, right? Well then, all I can say is PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE! Start telling people about your blog before it’s even launched. Get your friends and family excited about it. One thing I’ve read is that it’s a good idea to start building your email list before you’ve even launched your blog (something that I didn’t do and am now trying to catch up on). I think this is an excellent idea! One thing I’ve found is that people are more likely to act if you ask them personally. Send your friends a message on Facebook and invite them to an event for your launch date!
Keep in mind that you don’t want to seem spammy when promoting your blog. Think about what your blog can offer your potential readers and use that to call readers to action. By starting early, you’ll have gained some experience with social media marketing before you’ve even launched your blog. By the time you are ready to launch, you’ll be a pro!
Launching Your Website
Here’s my biggest advice to you. Launch your website when you’re ready. Not before, and not after. On one hand, you will want to have some content on your blog (think 3-5 posts) as well as have your pages set up in the way you want them when you launch. On the other hand, if you wait until everything is perfect you will be waiting forever. The best thing you can do for yourself is accept imperfection and grow from what you learn as you go along.
Thank you so much for reading this post! Seasoned bloggers, do you have any other advice for prospective new bloggers when they’re just starting out that I’ve missed? Prospective new bloggers, why are you interested in starting a blog, and what’s one thing that scares you about it? Let me know in the comments below and I will be sure to reply to each and every one of you! Also, be sure to check out my previous posts, Suicide Awareness and Prevention: The Positive and Negative Impacts of “13 Reasons Why” on Mental Health Advocacy and Budgeting 101: How This Millennial Saves Thousands of Dollars Per Year for further reading.
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