I’ve debated for months whether I should start writing posts about blogging. I mean, it seems like just yesterday I knew nothing about blogging myself. But since I end up with blogging questions in my inbox every so often, maybe I know more about this madness than I give myself credit for.
Let me tell you from the get-go: Blogging has been the most rewarding, uplifting, inspiring, frustrating, terrifying, thrilling, all around emotional roller coaster that I absolutely would not trade for anything else to spend my time on. Aside from my daughter and my doggie-who-thinks-she’s-human, this blog is my baby.
If you’ve ever wanted a creative outlet, a place to spill your thoughts, or a way to connect with others who have your same interests, blogging is certainly the place to do it all. Whatever interests you, blog about it!
Cooking, faith, movies, literature, fitness, home decor, gardening, parenting, technology, the possibilities are limitless. Whatever phase of life you’re in, blogging is a great way to document it. I started this blog as a way to document our family’s first house, and before I knew it, complete strangers were reading it. Someone besides my mom was actually following our house progress! It still boggles my mind.
If you are passionate enough to put forth the time and effort, your hard work will pay you back. (The best part is if you are writing about your passion, it doesn’t really feel like work at all.)
You can make money blogging about what you love, though that shouldn’t be your reason for starting one. And even though it’s a subject I don’t typically talk about around here, yes, I get a little financial cushion from this blog. That cushion is about the size of one of those razor thin naptime mats we all struggled to sleep on in kindergarten, but still, it’s nice to have. And my income slowly grows the longer I stick with it.
I could probably write an entire book to share all of the blogging information I’ve learned in the past year and a half (and there’s certainly lots more for me to learn), but for now, I’m starting you off with the basics before diving into the heavy-duty stuff down the road.
In the hopes of giving you some guidance to start your journey, here is the ultimate beginner’s guide to start a blog in 5 steps.
(Affiliate links are included below, noted by asterisks. For more information, see my disclosure policy here.)
I kick myself for not thinking about this step in the beginning. I started out with my blog on Blogger.com with a Google hosted domain name (www.blesserhouse.blogspot.com) and really didn’t know that it mattered. That “blogspot” in there means the website is free, not self-hosted. I dove into blogging without any research.
Google technically owned all of my content, and at any point, if they chose, Google could shut down my entire site. Thankfully, that never happened, but it’s scary to think about. And it has happened to other bloggers.
With free hosting, you’re not as marketable, and companies tend to gravitate toward working with the more professional self-hosted blogs.
After a year on Blogger, I discovered it probably wasn’t the best choice, and it took a lot of time and money to make the switch to this new site of mine. There are plenty of professional bloggers who do very well on Blogger, but the majority recommend a self-hosted WordPress blog, myself included. Wordpress has many more options and versatility that I didn’t get on my old blog’s platform.
If you’re wanting to go the self-hosted route, be sure you choose WordPress.org. The free option WordPress.com does not allow monetization using advertising, Etsy shop marketing, or sponsorship of any kind.
There are other blogging platforms out there, but WordPress.org is what I’m most familiar with and I’m definitely happy. You doing okay so far? It’s just decision-making here in the beginning.
I really recommend buying your domain name if you’re choosing the self-hosted route.
I bought my current domain name (Blesserhouse.com) for my WordPress.org site during my switch over and redesign 3 months ago. I’m sure if I’d bought my domain name right from Day 1 when I started blogging at the end of 2013 that I would have had a hard time justifying buying a service platform and hosting. But everything would have been much easier in the long run if I had.
Thankfully, I stuck with the name Bless’er House after the switch from Blogger so my branding mostly stayed intact.
Tip: Choose a name that has personality, hints at what your blog is about, isn’t too long, and isn’t trademarked or used by any other brands.
Mine was supposed to be a little nod at the Southern phrase “Bless her heart” (hence the heart in my logo), incorporated “house” to emphasize my focus on DIY/home decor, and had a nice ring to it in my mind. I sometimes wonder if the “‘er “part was a mistake, but that’s part of the dialect around here, so I just went with it. I searched my tentative blog name all over Google and social media, and lucky for me, nothing popped up. It was all mine! You can double check it on Bust A Name too.
So first, register that fancy new blog name of yours. Bluehost* is excellent for new bloggers. Their customer service has been excellent for me and their hosting service has been very user-friendly. Their monthly servicing fee is priced very reasonably too and, for me, worth every penny. There are plenty of other hosting sites out there, but Bluehost is what I prefer.
Bluehost allows you to register one domain name for free with hosting, so that was already a nice little money-saver for me.
Here’s how to set up your Bluehost account:
- On the Bluehost site* click the green “Get Started Now” button.
- Since you’re starting out with your new domain name, enter the blog name you decided on in the “new domain” box and click “next”.
- Enter all of your account information.
- Then select your “account information” and choose any additional services you might want. I, personally, did not utilize those “extras” because I chose to backup my site using a WordPress plugin later on, but you can always go back and add any additional services in your Bluehost account later if you want. The 36 month is the cheapest rate, and you should be aware that Bluehost will charge you for its entirety upfront. But at any point, if you decide to leave Bluehost, they have a money-back guarantee. There are pre-pay plans available in 12 month increments too if 36 months is too much to handle in one lump sum.
- Type in your “billing information”, agree to the terms and conditions, and click “next”.
- Ta da! You officially have a blog domain and hosting service! Just create your password and you’re all set. Use capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters to make it difficult for hackers.
- You should now see your Bluehost dashboard. At this point, I bookmarked this page in my browser because I access this page frequently. (Make sure the “hosting login” and not the “webmail login” is in blue.)
- One of the greatest things about Bluehost is you can set up your email to match your domain. Since I’d already been blogging for a year before making the switch to Bluehost, I kept mine through gmail, but I think it looks very professional to have firstname.lastname@example.org for example. When you see this screen (below), you can just click the box that says “Close this welcome message and don’t show it again”.
We haven’t gone anywhere. You’re still on the Bluehost dashboard for this step so hang with me.
Now that you have your domain and hosting, you need to install WordPress to get started on the fun part! Blogging! You’ll need to set up a new WordPress.org blog, so in order to do that, scroll down to find the blue icon on your dashboard that says “Install WordPress”. (Easy enough, right?)
If you already have a blog on another platform like Blogger or WordPress.com (the free one), you can transport your own data, if you’re technologically savvy, to your new Wordpress.org site. I personally chose to hire someone to take care of that for me because I was terrified I would lose everything I’d written on Blogger.
- After clicking the “Install WordPress” icon, click on the green “install” button.
- When everything has downloaded, enter your domain name.
- Choose a login username and password as well as your current e-mail address. It doesn’t have to be the domain e-mail address you created earlier if you’d rather have one you’re more likely to check frequently.
- Then your blog is install-ready! Check your email after everything is set up for a message from Mojo Marketplace and be sure to save it since it has all of your site’s important login information.
This is the most fun part of course! Your blog design will be playing a major part in your site’s branding and identity, so make sure you really like it. Make it an expression of your own personal style, implement your favorite colors, give it a persona that communicates to your audience what you’re all about.
In the beginning, on Blogger, I started from scratch, and I lost count of how many hours I spent on Google and YouTube to teach myself coding tricks through lots of trial and error. I was never 100% happy with it, and it’s no wonder. I knew nothing about web design! I had no clue how many great themes and templates existed for a reasonable price that would have saved me so many wasted hours and headaches.
When I made the switch to WordPress, I hired a pro, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made for my blog. Since I’d been in this blogging rodeo for over a year at that point, it was worth the investment to have a custom design made, but if you’re starting out, there are plenty of beautiful designs on Etsy for $50 or less.
These are some of my favorite shops for pretty blog designs:
There are plenty of others out there as well.
I would definitely choose a pre-made theme that is built on the Genesis Framework because it can grow with you and is always updated. Take plenty of time to browse around until you find a design that says, “This is so me!” When you find the one that speaks to you, make it happen! Many designers provide step-by-step instructions and personal guidance for how to install their themes. Just fill in your blog’s information and you’re in business.
Yep, this really is a step. And, honestly, a really important one. Start blogging because you are truly passionate about whatever it is you’ve chosen your niche to be. When I go to bed every night, I have DIY project ideas swirling through my head. When I wake up every morning, I’m eager to make something. Find your drive.
I blogged for months before I ever felt like I had an audience, and I’m sure you’ll feel like no one out there is listening at first. Don’t get discouraged! And really, it’s in the beginning when you have an almost non-existent audience that you can try out lots of things to discover yourself. Content is everything in blogging to captivate readers. If you love what you do, make it shine through.
Find your voice in your writing. Throw in humor, be humble, make mistakes, and just write like you’re having a conversation with a friend over coffee.
Constantly practice your photography. I can tell you that once I started making big strides in my photography, my blog grew by leaps and bounds. You can see my post about How to Revolutionize Your DIY Blog’s Photography here that I wrote recently.
I HIGHLY suggest reading Abby Lawson’s ebook Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook*. It is jam packed with so much information that I wish I’d known when I started blogging for strategies to build a following, work with brands, and pull an income in one year. I still learned a lot from reading it even a year after my blog was already established.
Learn from plenty of experienced bloggers and be open to suggestions and change. Ask around for advice! I always love helping other bloggers and making new friends. (Shoot me an e-mail, seriously!)
There are so many incredible people I’ve “met” in this crazy fast-paced blogging community, and this journey is so much more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.
You have a beautiful story to tell. It’s up to you to share it.