So it’s exactly 1 year since I started my blog and it has definitely been one of the most difficult things I have ever done! I am in no way an expert but it has been a ridiculously steep learning curve. I believed all the blog posts and research I did that told me I could have my blog up and running in 30 minutes…and I’m pretty sure they were not true! I suppose if you are a whizz at coding and a genius at web design then 30 minutes is probably about right but otherwise I feel it is completely unrealistic and certainly made me want to give up on numerous occasions! For this reason I thought I would write an honest and up front guide to starting a blog which will hopefully be useful to anyone thinking of doing the same, whether it be for personal use or to make your fortune!
1. Where to start
Firstly, when I started down this road I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted all this to take me but I did know I wanted this to be my career eventually and that does make a difference when it comes to knowing where to start with your blog. There are platforms such as Blogspot and Blogger that you can use free of charge to write your blog. They give a fair amount of scope for design and making it your own, but there are restrictions especially when it comes to monetising. These sites are a much easier place to start, possibly could be done in 30 minutes and are a great platform but they are not the place to be if you wish to write sponsored posts and do affiliate marketing.
The best way to start a blog if you’re planning to do it as a money making venture is to self host using a platform such as WordPress.org and a hosting site. This way you will be able to choose your own domain name and have a website that is completely your own. I was totally naive and thought I could just write some content and send it somewhere and…hey presto! My blog would be born!
There are so many posts out there on how best to do this and I know I spent hours researching before I actually jumped in and made a start. So here’s the honest bit…it is going to cost you some money! It is not a fortune but setting up a blog that is going to be a business is not free. My first job was coming up with a domain name and buying it. There are many sites where you can do this and most offer hosting services as well. I purchased my domain name from GoDaddy and it only cost around $7 for a 3 year licence so didn’t break the bank! The next job was to find a hosting site. I use Bluehost – I could have stuck with GoDaddy but I went on the recommendation of another blogger which I felt was the best thing to do. I am so glad I chose Bluehost and I feel after 12 months they are now my very best friend. Their support service is second to none. I have spent hours on their live chat service with them helping me through glitches and problems on my site and if they hadn’t been there to fix things there is no way my site would be running today. When you sign up with Bluehost you get a free WordPress.org download. This bit is pretty easy and you just have to follow the instructions that tell you exactly what to do. Unlimited web hosting with Bluehost is $5.95 a month and is totally worth it. Wordpress.org shouldn’t be confused with wordpress.com. The latter is similar but you will not be self hosted – it is a free platform like Blogspot and you will not have complete control over your site. WordPress.org however is the platform you need.
2. Getting started
Once you’re set up with your domain name, host site and wordpress.org then you are pretty much ready to start. This is where the hard work begins. I don’t want to put you off but this blog is about honesty and wordpress is not easy to work with at first. It can be confusing and scary and often doesn’t do what you expect, however, when you get to that point where your site is looking fab and you are ready to publish your first blog you will feel mightily proud of what you have achieved! There are a number of WordPress tutorials on youtube and they will help with getting started. Never be afraid to ask for help, there are numerous blogging communities on social media that are full of people that can give great advice.
3. Choosing a theme
When you start designing your site you will need to choose a theme, this is the basic design of your site. There are a number of free themes that WordPress provide and there are multiple sites with literally thousands of different themes to choose from! In my first year I have gone through two themes as my first one just didn’t suit my blog as it developed. I would recommend perhaps starting with a free option if you’re not too sure what direction your blog is going in and then upgrading to a paid theme once you are more at home with your site. My first blog theme was purchase from Themeforest and then when I changed to my current theme I purchased it from Creative Market. Both sites have huge amounts of choice so beware you could be overwhelmed! When you are choosing your theme think about how you want your site to look and feel and also whether the theme fits with your niche and the things you will be writing about.
4. Designing your site
The design of your site is the point at which you will begin to know WordPress inside out. Have a look at other blog sites and see how they are set out and pick the things that you like. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with the basics and build up from there. The most important pages to start with are an ‘About me’ page, a ‘Contact me’ page and a page for your posts. If you have social media pages linked to your blog then it will be good to have links to these on your site too so people can share your posts. Some themes have these sharing options built in otherwise you will need to download a plugin (I’ll talk more about plugins in future posts!).
5. Write some content
My biggest mistake when starting my blog is that I only had one post ready to go. I wrote it, posted it and then it was another month or so before I wrote anything else! My best advice would be to stock pile some content while you are busy setting up and beautifying your site. You can always update things when you actually put them onto your page but the more you have pre-written the more time you can spend promoting and increasing traffic to your blog. I would definitely do this if I had my time again, and my plan for 2017 is to write 2 or 3 posts at a time so I always have something in the pipeline.
If you have got this far and are still feeling motivated to continue then please join me in my next post in this series ‘Blogging Tips – A guide for the slightly terrified’
Thanks for reading!