Starting a blog can be a fun way to share your story and experiences with others. But getting started with that blog can be a bit confusing. There’s free vs. self-hosted. Finding a host and choosing a domain name. It can all feel overwhelming making it so you don’t know which route to go!
I’m often asked how to start a blog and so I’m here to share what I’ve learned to help alleviate that stress that comes from getting started so you can get to what matters, writing!
Free vs. Hosted
The first thing you want to decide is if you want to do a free blog such as on Blogger or WordPress.com or self-host using software from a site like WordPress.org.
So what’s the difference?
With free blogs, you’ll typically have .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com at the end of the URL. There’s not as much customization as a self-hosted blog nor can you add ads from other ad networks like you can on a self-hosted blog.
But they’re free! So if all you’re wanting to do is write and not worry about earning any extra money from blogging, then I suggest going with a free blog from Blogger or WordPress.com.
A self-hosted blog is a site where you use your own, paid for domain name and host the site on a paid for server. There are many different options for hosting options, which I’ll get to that next. You’ll need to use a software to build your site on, but most of those are free like the software from WordPress.org.
I highly recommend WordPress.org, which is what I use, as there’s a lot of customization options and it’s easy to use.
Finding a host
Now that you’ve decided to self-host your blog, you’ll need to find a company to host it for you.
I know it’s a little confusing saying that you’re “self” hosting your blog when in reality another company is hosting it for you. The reason it’s called self-hosting is because you are paying for it to be hosted on their servers, but the blog is still yours.
There are many different self-hosting companies out there and different people like different companies. I’ve used two different companies for hosting. Bluehost and SiteGround. I’m currently with SiteGround, but I think either of them is good for getting started. I’ve found they have great prices for getting started and their support has always been superb!
If you haven’t already, you’ll want to choose a domain name. This is the name that your site will be associated with as it’ll take people to your blog.
You’ll want to make sure that the domain name you want is available. I recommend coming up with a few ideas in case the name you want isn’t available.
Another thing you want to do is remember to keep your domain name simple and easy to remember. Having a long domain name or one that is hard to remember or spell will make it harder when people are wanting to visit your site.
Once you’ve settled on a domain name that’s available, you’ll need to purchase it. There’s a number of different places that you can buy them but to make it easier you can actually buy it on the same site that you bought your hosting, like Bluehost or SiteGround. The great thing is, once you’ve bought your domain name, it’s yours until you renew it.
Setting up your blog
Okay, so now you’ve got your domain name and your hosting site purchased. What’s next?
I’m not going to get too much into the details of downloading WordPress.org’s system and adding your domain name to it, as the instructions depend on which hosting site you decided to go with. Your hosting site will typically have instructions in their help center you can follow or you can even pay a little extra for them to get it set up for you!
But the important thing to know is that you’ll need to download the WordPress.org software.
Now that you’ve gotten set up through your host you can log into your blog’s dashboard and administration features. This is where you can customize your blog by adding plugins, editing the appearance with different themes, and write!
I recommend focusing on what you want your site to look like first (but don’t worry if you decide you want to change it up later on, you’re never stuck on one specific theme and look!)
There are a lot of great FREE options for themes that you can choose from. You can find them by going to Appearance on the side of your dashboard and choosing “themes” then “add new theme.”
But where I like to get my themes is from Hello You Designs, which is where my current theme is from (I’m using Hello Sweets). It runs on the Genesis Framework by StudioPress so you have to make sure you pay for and upload that first before adding any child themes (like the ones from Hello You Designs).
This option isn’t as budget-friendly as a free option, your site will stand out.
To upload the themes, you’ll go to “appearance” then “upload”. Next, you’ll click “upload theme” which allows you to choose the file that you want to upload. You’ll choose the .zip file that contains the theme so you can upload it all at once and get installed correctly.
If you chose to go with Genesis Framework and a child theme, you’ll need to do this process twice.
Once it’s all uploaded and installed, you get to do the fun part (at least I think it’s fun) of customizing the appearance with colors, fonts, and adding your logo. To do this, choose “appearance” then “customize”.
After you get your blog looking the way you want it to, don’t forget to add your “About”, “Contact”, and “Privacy and Disclosures” pages. You want people to be able to quickly find out about who you are and what your blog is about as well as contact you easily. The “Privacy and Disclosures” page is important especially for if you want to add affiliate links to earn money from and making sure you follow the FTC guidelines.
For my “Privacy and Disclosures” page, I used disclosurepolicy.org to help generate mine, then I went through and added any additional information to make sure I was compliant with the affiliate programs I’m a part of.
How to make money?
Of course, the question that you’ve had at the back of your mind and really wanted to know the answer to. How to make money blogging.
Well, first, I want to tell you it’s not easy making money blogging. Blogging is really a labor of love and hard work. But it can be very rewarding! Especially as it’s something that you’ve created and built up yourself.
Besides hard work, there are ways to help you make money through your blog.
The first of which is ad networks.
Ad networks help to generate ads that you see on different websites. These ads help the site owner make money by people viewing the ads and also by clicking on the ad to the advertised product.
Most people start out on Google Adsense as there’s no minimum threshold of page views that you need per month. You do need to have content on your page that Google feels adds value so I recommend having at least 3 posts written and published before applying for Google Adsense.
Some other ad networks out there are Mediavine and AdThrive. These ad networks have a higher payout than Google Adsense, but they have minimum page views per month (or a rolling 30 day period) that have to be met before you can apply for their network.
Another option for making money is joining different affiliate programs. With affiliate programs, you share a unique link to a product that you recommend and you earn a little bit of a commission if someone clicks on your link and purchases it.
But in order to use this unique link to earn the commission, you’ll need to be a part of the affiliate program for the site selling the product you want to recommend. Some popular affiliate program sites are ShareASale and CJ Affiliate. Once on those sites, you’ll need to find the merchant you want to be a part of and apply to their specific program. Some sites, like Amazon, have their own program.
Whenever you use an affiliate link, you want to make sure you follow the FTC guidelines as mentioned above. The guidelines are so people understand you’ll make a little bit of money from their purchases.
Starting a blog really isn’t as scary or hard as it seems. These steps are here to guide you through your journey so you can get writing and share with others what you have to say.
Did you start a blog using my tips above? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to check your blog out!
Amanda Dastrup Wilkinson says
This post is so helpful! Thank you!
Thank you for your kind words! I thought about what I wanted to know when I got started.