Quit Your Day Job: How to Start a Blog

Quit Your Day Job: How to Start a BlogAs most of you know by now, I quit my job earlier this year to pursue blogging and freelance writing full-time.  As someone who is not tech-savvy at all, I think this is absolutely crazy.  I probably hate technology and computers more than most people on Earth.  I’ve also been known to go bat shit crazy when my computer is running slow or my website is acting funny.  But still, I make it work.  How?  Because starting and running a blog is easy.

People email me all the time asking how they should get started.  And to be honest, it’s hard to explain all of the detailed steps in an email.  So, instead of creating a generic email response, I decided to write this post.  If you’re thinking of starting a blog and don’t know how to get started, use this page as a step-by-step guide toward blogging awesomeness.

1) Name Your Blog

So, the first thing that you need to do is to choose a domain name for your site. There are as many different theories to choosing website names. You can choose anything from your own name to search engine friendly terms. We decided to create our own brand, Club Thrifty. Our brand name is flexible enough that we were able to start the blog as a frugality blog and later branch out into other areas of personal finance like travel and lifestyle.  Whatever you do, choose something you like.  Whether it’s eccentricporksword.com or twilightfansunite.com, or whatever, make sure that your new domain name is amazing.

2) Register Your Domain

GoDaddyOnce you have batted around some ideas about names, you need to make sure that the domain names you selected are available. Better yet, check on those names WHILE you are batting them around. Nothing sucks worse than spending 4 days coming up with the perfect domain name only to realize that it has already been purchased by someone else! All you have to do is head over to GoDaddy, type in your potential domain name, and hit search. It will show you whether or not your domain is available, and you can purchase it from them immediately. We like to use GoDaddy to buy our domain names because they are cheap. Typically, domain names are sold for as little as $12 a year there. Better yet, new customers can get their own GoDaddy domain for as little as $5.99.

Editor’s Note: I also like to buy domain names as an investment.  Does anyone else do that?

You can also find places that will give you a domain name for free.  However, it may be something like clubthrifty.wordpress.com or ilovecookies.wordpress.com.  There is nothing wrong with getting a free domain as long as you don’t mind being stuck with it for a while.  You can always change your domain later and transfer your site.  However, it can be a huge pain in the ass.

3) Find a Host

HostGatorSo, now that you have the world’s greatest domain name, you need to find a host for your blog. There are several different companies that provide hosting services. Two of the most popular hosting companies are HostGator and Bluehost. In the past, we have always used HostGator to host our blogs. We were fairly pleased with HostGator’s customer service for a long time, and it is hard to beat their pricing. Furthermore, we love that HostGator makes it so simple to integrate your website with WordPress, which we’ll talk about later. Their hosting plans start at $3.96/month. We use their middle of the road package which costs us $9.95/month. We also wanted our website to have its own unique IP address, so we pay an additional $2/month for that.

However, as our blog has grown, we’ve found that we need some different things out of our hosting company, including faster speed. We recently changed hosting companies, and now all of our websites are with Big Scoots. (We’ve got a review coming soon!!!) So far, we have found them to have extremely low downtime, increased website speed, and their customer service is top notch.

So, including our domain registration and hosting, we pay approximately $13/month to run our website. And, if decide to sign up for HostGator using the coupon code “clubthrifty” you’ll get an additional 25% off of your purchase.

4) Connect Your Domain and Host

Now that you have a domain name and a host, we need to get them talking to each other. This is done through the use of domain name servers or DNS. I don’t want to bog you down with all of the technical names and details, but it is easier than it sounds. Think of DNS as a zip code and your domain name as an address. Essentially, you’ll need to change your DNS at GoDaddy so that the address gets put in the right zip code (at HostGator or Bluehost). You should get a welcome email from your new host that gives you the new DNS that you will need to add to your domain address. To change your DNS with a GoDaddy domain name:

  1. Log in to your Account Manager.
  2. Next to Domains, click Launch.
  3. Select the domain name(s) you want to modify.
  4. From the Nameservers menu, select Manage.
  5. Under Setup type, select Standard.
  6. Click Save.

5) Build Your Site

ProseBooyah! You’ve got an both an address and a zip code that are communicating. Now all you need is a lot to build upon. For this, I suggest that you use WordPress. Hostgator makes creating a WordPress site super easy. Just go to your CPanel page, scroll to the “Software/Services” section, and click on QuickInstall. From there, click on the WordPress link in the “Blog Software” section and hit continue. Simply fill in the fields and shazam! You’ve installed WordPress! WordPress provides a ton of options for customizing the look and feel of your site. There are hundreds of templates that allow you to create the site that you want.

However, once you have WordPress installed, you may wish to buy a custom site template. Honestly, this is something we wish we would have done WAAAAAAY sooner. The look, feel, and speed of the site became much more professional when we actually made the switch to the Genesis framework from Studiopress by Copyblogger. Think of WordPress as the lot, Genesis as the brick and mortar of the house, and your theme as the paint and decoration of your site. For a one time fee of about $85 we were able to get a professional framework and custom theme…and it was WELL worth it. (Currently we are using the Prose theme.) It took days to get the site looking the way we wanted it after we made the switch. Had we started with this right away, it would have saved us hours upon hours because we wouldn’t have had “create” the site twice. Plus, we started to get more visitors after the switch because the page was easier nicer to look at and easier to navigate. Furthermore, once you buy the framework and theme you can use it on multiple sites! Not bad, huh?

6) Write stuff.

Complain about your neighbors.  Post pictures of your pet gerbil.  Start an online diary about our Star Wars figurine collection.  Who cares?  The blog is now yours to mold into whatever you want it to be.

So, there it is.  What do you think?  Have you ever wanted to start a blog?  If you already have a blog, what tips have I missed?

If you’re bored, head on over to Frugal Travel Guy to check out my latest guest post.  Extra bonus points if you leave a comment!!!!!

 
About Holly

Holly Johnson is a wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She is the co-founder of Club Thrifty and a staff writer at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, and U.S. News and World Report's "My Money Blog." Holly has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Fox Business, and Daily Finance.

Comments

  1. Hi Holly,

    Good step-by-step guide.

    I would love to see a part II which outlines how you have grown your blog.
    moneystepper.com recently posted..The price to slice – should we pay supermarkets to slice our produce?My Profile

  2. I go back and forth on whether I would recommend that people start immediately with a self-hosted setup or just get started with blogger or wordpress. It depends what your initial goals are, but if you’re simply interested in blogging and don’t really have plans for making money yet I actually think I lean towards the latter, with the condition that you decide relatively quickly whether blogging is something you’ll actually keep up and if so, make the switch within a couple of months. I know that when I started blogging I just wanted to write. Dealing with the setup required with a self-hosted site would have frustrated the shit out of me. After a few months I knew that I wanted to stick with it so figuring out the technical side of self-hosted was worth it to me. I could see the arguments from the other side too though.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Is the Mortgage Interest Deduction For Real?My Profile

    • Yeah, me too. It’s up to the person, I suppose!

    • I’m with Matt! Even though after I made the switch I thought, “What the heck took me so long to do this?” I don’t know if I ever would have started if I was staring down self-hosted. It would have been too daunting for me as a newb. That being said, you covered everything really well for those ready to jump in!!!
      femmefrugality recently posted..Disney Travel Q&AMy Profile

    • I agree, I don’t think I ever would’ve started blogging if I had to figure out all of this self-hosted stuff. On the flip side, now that I have started blogging, I’m much more interested in trying to make sense of it… although the whole self-hosting side of things is still pretty daunting. I can’t figure out if it’s more daunting than the prospect of trying to switch over my whole site at some point to somewhere else though.
      Mel @ brokeGIRLrich recently posted..Budget 101: 9 Sources to Learn More About BudgetingMy Profile

      • Yea as you have aluded to, the thing with that is, if you start on blogger or wordpress, it is then harder to move everything over at a later date.

        I would recommend to just bite the bullet and go self hosted from the offset, it really is no more difficult than the guide Holly has written above, and is pretty cheap. I think with a small financial investment you are also more likely to keep it up.
        theFIREstarter recently posted..A Conscious ConscienceMy Profile

  3. Hey Holly,
    This is a good post who wants to start a blog. It is a very detailed guide for newbies. I have been slowly learning the technical part of setting up a blog and maintaining it. It is fun when you start involving in it

  4. I am addicted to thinking up domain names but the only ones I’ve purchased have been for legit sites (some that never made it out of the idea phase) and then for my kid’s names. Someone let taynia.com expire a couple weeks ago, so I scooped it up. Made my day.
    Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo recently posted..Chiconomics 201: How To Be A Budgetnista When You’re Income Changes Every Month (Or How To Budget On A Variable Income)My Profile

  5. Love the straightforward tips. Honestly I knew I loved blogging before I even started Young Adult Money but now I’m completely hooked. Especially once you are able to monetize and start to see money come in, there’s no going back!
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..The Weekly Quick Hits RoundupMy Profile

  6. Great post mate. I’ve just sent it off to a mate of mine who wants to start blogging and is not too sure where to begin. I think you make some excellent points in this post and I’m sure it will motivate him to take the next step, setting everything up.
    Canadianbudgetbinder recently posted..Bust our budget August 2013: Save or splurge?My Profile

  7. Awesome post! :) I wish I would have known to start off with a self hosted site. I started a new blog after about 2 years of blogging and it’s hard to build back up again, but I’m getting there! (Hopefully ;) )
    Christine recently posted..Blogtember: Be Afraid, Be Very AfriadMy Profile

  8. I’d add try googling proposed names (and misspellings of them). If you want to write about dolls but end up mixed in with pornographic search results that’s probably not your best bet. =)
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..Data Driven Marketing – Cool & Convenient or Creepy?My Profile

  9. Solid tips Holly! I am pretty tech ignorant myself, so if I can do it then anyone can. I think you hit all the major points and I say once you decide on your name just get started.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Frugal Friday: How Much of Your Time Does The Man Get?My Profile

  10. I managed all of those steps with a lot of errors and missteps and I am posting 3 times per week and my Alexa ranking is now under 110,000.

    I am hopeful there is a part two to this post entitled How To Monetize Your Blog When Google’s AdSense Just Doesn’t Want You.
    Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle recently posted..A Financial Non-update for September 2013My Profile

  11. Nice outline to starting a blog. I would argue that you need the writing skills more than the technical skills. You also have to have some passion and the ability to stick with it when you have no visitors or income until you are able to grow.
    Free Money Minute recently posted..You Will Fall for AnythingMy Profile

  12. Good start Holly. I created a guide on my site as well. Stay tuned next week on Modest Money for my wordpress security guest post. I will show you how to lock down you blog to make sure it is not hacked.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..Sub-Prime Borrower Mortgage OptionsMy Profile

  13. Great tips Holly, I’m currently a Hostgator user but I’ve often thought about switching to Bluehost because I’ve heard from a lot of people that the customer services is better.
    Chris @ Stumble Forward recently posted..Stock Investing For Beginners: 5 Must Know TacticsMy Profile

  14. This is a great guide. I’m so happy that I started my blog!
    Michelle recently posted..What’s Stopping You From Living Your Dream?My Profile

  15. I am probably the least technical person on the planet, but I would still say go with self hosted from the beginning. There are literally tons of YouTube videos that can show you the most simple things and when you make some contacts, people are usually nice enough to help you out. I still don’t know lots of stuff, but that’s not a good reason not to get started.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Even Granny Has a Credit CardMy Profile

  16. Great tips Holly! I switched to self hosting a couple months ago and it’s one of the best things I did for my blog!
    Connie @ Savvy With Saving recently posted..Our Vacation to Montreal (Highlights & Spending)My Profile

  17. I hope you write more about your blogging journey…I still few like I’m clueless as to what I’m doing. Also…how do you invest in domain names? Do you buy up domain names you think will be popular?
    Andrew@LivingRichCheaply recently posted..Should We Buy a Co-op?My Profile

  18. I think this is great info I can pass on to friends who may want to start their own blog. I think in a addition to this one, there needs to be a follow up post on how to have a “successful” blog. That’s a multi step process for sure! :)
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..What’s Your Definition of Rich?My Profile

  19. Have you made any money from collecting domain names? I’d be curious to know how that’s going.
    AverageJoe recently posted..My Wife Is Pregnant — Is It The Right Time To Purchase Life Insurance?My Profile

    • I haven’t sold any yet. I just buy domains that I think I might want in the future or I think I could resell at a later date. I have some pretty good ones!

  20. I can’t believe you took the plunge, Holly! Congrats to you. As a blogger who does it as a hobby, that is a huge step to take. Very cool!
    Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce recently posted..Downsizing Within Your HomeMy Profile

  21. Great tips, Holly. I echo the others on wanting a followup on how to build it into a successful blog. Anyone can create a blog but far fewer can create and sustain a successful blog. You and Greg have certainly do that and I’d love to hear you thoughts on how and why you think it worked so well. Have a great weekend!
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..Blog Round-Up: Week of September 2, 2013My Profile

  22. I just helped a friend start a blog and for $99 with WordPress you can get a domain, hosting, and all the perks for 1-yr. It was amazingly easy as they do all the work – you can literally have your blog up and running within 15 minutes with your own domain. Pretty cool for those that are completely computer illiterate.

    Also, I love buying and reselling domains! I recently sold CouponFinders.com for a pretty penny to a UK company.
    Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted..Negotiating a Better Price on Underwear at Walmart, Cheap or Smart?My Profile

  23. Sometimes it’s scary to think about how easy it is to become a “publisher” of content on the web.

    And IT NEVER GOES AWAY!
    No Waste recently posted..Net WorThursday – August 2013My Profile

  24. Great write-up Holly! Step one of the process is really critical. People need to spend a great deal of time coming up with the name for the blog as it really defines what you are about and will help attract readers. Sometimes I think I goofed in naming my blog something nondescript. In the long run I think it will take more work to build a brand with it and attract readers.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..My Fantasy Football Obsession: Finding Life BalanceMy Profile

  25. I constantly check domain names. If I think I have a good, unique idea I check it but it’s usually already used up. I am wanting to start a new non pf blog but all of my great ideas have been taken. I want to take my time. There’s nothing worse than putting in a bunch of time to create a blog with a bad domain name. I’ve been there before!
    Alexa recently posted..Budget Cutters: Saving EVEN MORE on FoodMy Profile

  26. But I like my day job :(

    Otherwise, thanks! Would have been amazing to find this as I was starting out, but there’s still a ton I can use. Will also pass along this link when new folks ask
    Debt Blag recently posted..The once-in-an-almost-forever confluence of factors that could make you spend more these holidays, also Friday link loveMy Profile

  27. Simple enough, however a great deal of thought goes into every step. For example, I decided to have someone program my site. For a few hundred dollars I have exactly what I wanted.
    krantcents recently posted..4 Ways to Get Past the Resume GatekeepersMy Profile

  28. Holly, we hired someone to do all of this and just walk us through it, but what a helpful resource. It’s promising to hear that you’re not tech-savvy because neither am I, but I love writing and blogging!

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  30. Nice thorough post, Holly. You’ve covered all of the basics. I think too it’s important to consider the purpose of your blog too, from the beginning. If you’re just looking to write, you don’t have to know too much, but for those starting a blog for the purpose of monetizing, there’s lots to know in order to increase page rank quickly, etc.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..How to Make Rabbits Stop Eating Your GardenMy Profile

  31. I don’t know that I’d call starting a blog easy by my standards of blog creation, but I guess starting my blog back when I didn’t know anything about it was pretty easy. Building the site is the hardest part of building the blog.
    Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter recently posted..Getting People to Help CompostMy Profile

  32. We’ve been at the blog thing for about a month, and I have to say it is far more work than I anticipated. I’m someone with a lot of good ideas and decent writing skills, but the technical parts annoy me. A few people have mentioned that all the answers can be found on youtube, which is true. You still need the time to go through it, and sift through all the stuff that doesn’t exactly answer your question.

    However, now that I’ve done it once, I feel like I could create 4 more blogs in about :30 minutes. If only I had the time to write them all…
    Rory recently posted..Roth IRAs are Stupid for Your Family – Here’s WhyMy Profile

  33. Great post. I see a lot of abandoned blogs out there, so maybe with good instructions (and the part 2 mentioned above about growing your blog) more people will stick to it!
    Betsy / CollegeMom recently posted..Frugal Gardening Tips: How to keep deer and rabbits out of the gardenMy Profile

  34. This is a great guide to starting a blog. I have been wanting to write a similar guide on my site because I know there are a lot of people out there that wish they could quit their job to blog about something they love.
    Deacon @ Well Kept Wallet recently posted..WKW 20: Jeff Rose went from being a Solider to becoming a Certified Financial PlannerMy Profile

  35. The one caveat I would add is that switching domain names is a HUGE pain. Not just coming up with the new name and setting things up a second time around, but having to put in place all the redirects so you don’t lose all the traffic you have already, or get penalized by Google for duplicate content. Avoid it if at all possible!
    Jack recently posted..The Minimalist Guide to Cashback Rebates (or Coupons Are For Suckers)My Profile

  36. Great outline Holly! I’d love to give up my day job (not that I hate it or anything) to focus more on blogging and writing. Like Moneystepper, I’d love to see how you’ve grown your blog too!
    debtfreeoneday recently posted..How to survive buying gifts for others when paying back debt!My Profile

  37. Starting a blog is most definitely a great way to make money. It does take a bit to start making anything really, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. It’s rewarding, too. You seem to be doing a really good job with it!
    Tushar @ Everything Finance recently posted..4 Financial Steps to Take as You Prepare for a BabyMy Profile

  38. I am happy for you that you made it through blogging. Your experience and journey of quitting your jobs is every part time bloggers dream.
    My Wealth Desire recently posted..BLOG | My Wealth DesireMy Profile

  39. I am happy for you that you made it through blogging. Your experience and journey of quitting your jobs is every part time bloggers dream.
    Great outline Holly! I’d love to give up my day job (not that I hate it or anything) to focus more on blogging and writing. Like Moneystepper, I’d love to see how you’ve grown your blog too!
    Jon Pathan recently posted..Rajasthan Govt Jobs 2013 – Jr Clerk, Publication & Programme Officer PostsMy Profile

  40. Thank you for telling me the full process of writing a blog.But not everyone fits the full-time job of writing the blog.
    Emmanuel recently posted..LANYARD has metal clip and Lanyard Mobile Phone special designMy Profile

  41. Thank you for telling me all of these
    Emmanuel recently posted..LANYARD has metal clip and Lanyard Mobile Phone special designMy Profile

  42. Elizabeth S. says:

    I recently listened to a podcast with Gary Vaynerchuk and he thought having your name was the best url. Do you have any suggestions for what to do if your name is already taken? I even looked at my maiden name :/ Maybe my husband and I just need to change our names?? haha

    • I’ve heard people say that before too.

      Hmmm….I don’t know. My name is Holly Johnson and that site belongs to some light rock singer in the UK, so that idea was out for me too =)

      I would just pick something catchy that is easy for people to remember! And, if you see a domain you like is available, buy it. If you wait too long, it will be gone!

  43. Awesome guide on how to start a blog! For some of us it’s just simple and easy but for someone who has never done it before it can be rather tricky. I mean, when I first tried changing the DNS so my site would work, I was there for hours…

    Sending this post to some friends who might be interested!

  44. I love it how all PF bloggers have such a “create your own site” post full with affiliate links as a way to make money.. hahha

  45. That’s great idea. It’s a full step by step guide to lunch a blog.

  46. Hi Holly,
    A while ago, you posted about how to become a freelance writer as sort of an offshoot from blogging.
    have a degree in English and writing is one of my talents. I am looking to start a blog to hopefully branch out into more writing jobs.
    Right now I’m deciding what I want the blog to be able. Saving money is one thing that I am very passionate about, also raising my kids, and photography. Maybe I will combing them all into one.
    Can you direct me to some sites to get started?
    Can you also direct me to this blog post?
    Thanks!
    Lisa

  47. Love the post, I have my own blog and couldn’t have laid our a tutorial better. My blog now is sports/man related, but I am also thinking about starting a finance blog. Do you think this market is to overcrowded or should I move into this direction? It would just be based on my personal financial endeavors and not real elaborate.

  48. To start Blog you must be sure to have the correct niche and keywords build into your text of the Blog.

  49. Blogging is fun and it gives a satisfaction to your life. I had many blog failures before I found a niche and the right hosting. WordPress is a lifesaver when it comes to blogging and I love its simplicity. Nowadays blogging has become harder as there are so many people competing against you. I would like to add one suggestion that picking exact search engine friendly domains can be a bad idea as Google frown upon EMD’s.
    The Nair Couple recently posted..Best Home Theater PC BuildMy Profile

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