As most of you know by now, I quit my job to pursue blogging and freelance writing full-time. Now, I’m making more money than I ever could have at my old job. As someone who is not tech-savvy at all, I think this is absolutely nuts. 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 creating a website and don’t know how to get started, use this page as a step-by-step guide toward blogging awesomeness.
(FYI: This post contains multiple affiliate links. So, if you click on a link and make a purchase, we do receive a small commission. Thanks!)
Our Blogging Background
Deciding to start a blog was probably the best decision that we’ve ever made. It has allowed me to capitalize on opportunities that I never dreamed would exist. When we first started this blog as a hobby, I was working as an administrative assistant making a little over $30,000 a year. Now, just three years later, I have turned my blogging hobby into a career. In fact, my business has been so successful that both my husband and I now work on it full-time. Through a lot of hard work and determination, I’ve turned my blogging hobby into a revenue generating machine that makes well over 6-figures a year!
Of course, our success is not matched by most bloggers. There are a ton of different reasons that people aren’t able to reach our level of success (time restrictions, becoming discouraged, choosing the wrong niche, etc.). However, if you show up at the page consistently over an extended period of time, you are bound to find some success.
So, if you really want to start a blog, choose a topic that you think is interesting. Have fun with it! Make sure it is about something that you’ll want to stick with…and someday down the line, you are sure to see some results!
How to Start Your Blog in 6 Steps
Blogging is a fun and enjoyable hobby. However, starting your blog can seem somewhat overwhelming – especially if you’ve never done it before. There is a lot more to it than just jotting a few thoughts down for the whole world to see. Before you can even get started, there’s a lot of shiznit that needs to happen behind the scenes!
It is easy to get bogged down in all the technical details of starting a website. Try not to be too intimidated. We started this blog more than three years ago, without much technical skill at all. Honestly, if we can get a blog up and running, so can you.
Of course, we’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way. Hopefully, this guide will give you a leg up when you’re first staring out. Just follow the steps below and you’ll be able to avoid many of the snags that cause many to quit before they ever really get started. So, first things first – let’s choose a niche!
Before you Build, Choose a Niche
Before you decide to start your blog, you need to decide what you want to blog about. Zeroing in on a niche is one of the most important steps to creating a successful blog. It is also one of the most difficult. You don’t want to choose a niche that is too broad because you’ll confuse your future readers. Generally speaking, the more focused you can make your niche, the stronger connection you can make with your core audience. On the flip side, if you make your niche too focused, you may eliminate a whole group of people who may otherwise be interested in reading what you have to say…and that isn’t good either.
Truth be told, I know a lot of successful bloggers who didn’t start out with a clearly defined niche…including me! If this is your first blog, many times you may not even know what you want it to be about until you’ve written a substantial amount of content.
Bottom Line: Spend some time thinking about this, but don’t let it paralyze you. The most important thing is to take action and start building your blog today.
Step 1: Name Your Blog
From a purely technical standpoint, the first thing that you need to do is to choose a domain name for your site. There are many different theories to choosing website names. You can choose anything from your own name (ie: hollydjohnson.com) to search engine friendly terms (ie: makemoney.com).
When we were trying to figure out a name for our website, we really wanted to come up with our own brand. Although we came up with a bunch of crazy names, we eventually settled on the brand name of Club Thrifty. We think it was a pretty good choice, don’t you agree? 😉
Our brand name is flexible enough that we originally started the blog with the sole focus of frugality and frugal living. Later, we were able to 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, make sure that your new domain name is amazing.
Step 2: Register Your Domain
Once 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!
If you want to check on the availability of your favorite domain names, all you have to do is type your domain name into your browser and see what pops up. If your search brings you to a website or a page that says “Your Domain is Registered,” that domain name is probably off the market. If you are directed to a search engine page, chances are good that domain name is available.
Typically, domain name registrars sell domains for as little as $12 a year. 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. Honestly, you know how cheap we can be, and even we think you should bite the bullet and buy your own domain name – especially if you want to make some money so you can quit your day job.
Better yet, here’s a HOT DEAL for you:
- Simplify the whole process and choose to register your domain with your new hosting plan at Bluehost! If you do, they’ll give you a customized new domain name FREE for 12 months! BAM! Savings!!!
Seriously guys, even if you are blogging as a hobby, make sure to get a custom domain name. It makes you look more professional, you’ll fare better for search results, and you’ll have a much better chance at growing your blog. How much do you spend a month on your other hobbies? Less than $20 a month can get you by for blogging – especially if you choose Bluehost. The best part is that this hobby could actually make you money!
Here’s how to register your new domain name at Bluehost:
- Login to your Bluehost account Control Panel. (We’ll teach you how to create one in the next section.)
- Click the Addons tab.
- Choose Domain Registration.
- Enter your desired domain name.
- Choose your desired top level domain (ie: clubthrifty.com) from the drop down menu.
- Click the Check button.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Next.
- Review the Registration Settings and click Add to Cart.
Boom. Easy. As. Pie.
Step 3: Find a Host
So, 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, but one of our favorites is clearly Bluehost. Their customer service is stellar, and it is hard to beat their pricing. Furthermore, we love how Bluehost makes it so simple to integrate your website with WordPress, which we’ll talk about later.
Hosting plans at Bluehost start at just $3.95/month. For reals, guys…that is dirt cheap. Here’s a nifty little image that compares their plans:
Of course, these prices are subject to change, but they are all very affordable. As the name suggests, the “Starter” plan is probably enough to get you started. However, I’d opt for the “Plus” plan. You get a more speed, unlimited storage, and 4 times the amount of marketing offers for just three bucks more a month. The best part about these plans is that they all include a free domain name, so make sure you take advantage of that!
Opening a Bluehost Account
Now that we know where to go for your hosting, let’s talk about how to open an account at Bluehost:
1) Go to Bluehost.com and click on “Get Started Now”.
2) Select your hosting plan.
3) Enter your existing domain name or claim your FREE one.
4) Enter your contact and billing info.
5) Choose additional domain names or addons.
6) Voila! You’re done!
Editor’s Note: When it comes to any addons, typically we don’t pay for any of the extras. Generally, the only extras we consider are private domain registration and a dedicated IP address. As the name implies, the private registration is a nice privacy feature so people can’t just look up your address. Since this is a shared hosting account, the dedicated IP address helps keep your domain safe from any Google penalties that may be caused by some goonball sharing your hosting account.
Step 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. If you have chosen to simplify the process and use Bluehost for both your domain registration and hosting services, you’re good to go. You can skip to the next section. If you have decided to buy your domain name from a different registrar, you’ll need to read on.
To connect your registered domain name and your hosting account, we’ll have to use domain name servers, or DNS for short. I don’t want to bog you down with all of the technical names and details, but it is easier than it sounds. Let’s think of creating your website in terms of building a new house. The DNS is like a zip code and your domain name as an address. Essentially, you’ll need to change your DNS in your domain registrar account so that your address gets put in the right zip code.
Whenever you open a new hosting account, you should get a welcome email from your new host that provides you with your new DNS info. It will read something like this: “Nameserver1: ns1.bluehost.com, Nameserver2: ns2.bluehost.com. You will need to add these to your selected domain name registrar account. Since each registrar is different, you’ll need to look the specific directions for changing nameservers on each particular site.
Step 5: Build Your Site
Booyah! You’ve got 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. Bluehost makes creating a WordPress site super easy. Here’s how to do it:
How to Create a WordPress Website with Bluehost
1) Login to your Bluehost control panel and click on cPanel.
2) Click on the WordPress website builder.
3) Click “Start.”
4) Choose your domain name from the dropdown and install.
5) Choose your WordPress login and password.
6) You’re done!
Designing Your Website
When it comes to the design of your new website, 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. Many of them are offered for free through Wordpress itself. To browse free themes, simply click on “Appearance” and “Themes” in the sidebar of your WordPress dashboard.
However, if you really want to make your website look slick, you definitely want to buy a custom site template. Honestly, this is something we wish we would have done WAAAAAAY sooner. The look, feel, and speed of our site became much more professional when we made the switch to the Genesis framework from Studiopress. Genesis is not a template in and of itself. It is a framework upon which you can build something uber cool using a “Child Theme.” Think of WordPress as the lot, Genesis as the brick and mortar of the house, and your child 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. Still, it took several days worth of tweaking to get the site looking the way we wanted it. Had we started on the Genesis framework right away, it would have saved us oodles of hours. Instead, we had to build the site twice. Furthermore, the website was much nicer to look at and way easier to navigate – which translated into a lot more visitors coming and staying at the website. Since our first experience with Genesis, Greg has built several different websites…and he uses the Genesis framework on every single one of them.
Of course, getting your website to look just the way you want it isn’t an easy feat. It can take quite a long time. The first time Greg built our website using the WordPress themes, it took him about 8 hours to get right. It took him about another 8 hours the second time he designed the website using Genesis. So, be prepared for a pretty big time commitment if you are going to do it yourself.
Better yet, let us help you design your new website! As entrepreneurs, we’ve learned the value of outsourcing some of this stuff. That is why we’ve created a second company called Epic Reach Media! We can do the heavy lifting for you and design a basic Wordpress site for an extremely low price. Contact us to design your website today, and save your time and energy for what you should be doing best – creating great content. Speaking of which…
Step 6: Write Stuff
Complain about your neighbors. Post pictures of your pet gerbil. Start an online diary about your Star Wars figurine collection. Who cares? The blog is now yours to mold into whatever you want it to be.
If your stick with it and write engaging content, you will start to attract visitors. People will actually come to your website to read the words that you are writing! How cool is that? Keep plugging away, and you just may be able to make a little dough and quit your day job. We did. In fact, we’ve made blogging a full-time job, making over 6 figures a year! Pretty good for a couple of nerds who knew nothing about blogging when we started, right?
Wrapping it All Up
So, there it is – all you need to know about starting your own blog! Remember, we are here to help. If you’d like assistance designing your new website, don’t forget to contact us at greg (at) epic reach media (dot) com (no spaces) or fill in our contact form by following the link above! Good luck, and happy blogging!