Do you want to know how to start a blog? I am going to show you how you can get your blog up and running, completely from scratch, today. In this Five Step Tutorial, you will learn how to:
- Start a professional-looking blog in the right way, avoiding the mistakes I first made when starting out as a blogger
- Have a blog which is ready to be set up to earn you money
- Be completely self-hosted and run a WordPress blog for less than £3 per month
- Get a FREE blog email address that includes your blog’s domain name
- Set your blog up with the basic FREE starter tools for a faster, safer and customised blog
Are you worried about the financial or technical aspects of starting a blog? I want to reassure you that:
- It is easy to start a professional-looking blog
- You don’t need technical expertise and you don’t need to know HTML or how to code
- You need a lot less money to start and run a blog than you might think
I started my first blog Melissa Jane Lee in January 2015 with no prior knowledge about how to start a blog. I now own several blogs spanning different niches. I taught myself how to do it using online tutorials. All my blogs are now self-hosted and I use WordPress for each one (I’ll explain what that means and why it is important shortly). Along the way I made a few mistakes, spent too much money, and wasted time with things I didn’t need. Fortunately, I also learnt so much along the way, and can now share my knowledge and tips with you so you don’t make the same mistakes.
This tutorial combines the tips that helped me the most, and simplifies the jargon and the process so you can start your own self-hosted WordPress blog completely from scratch.
Why You Should Start A Blog
Starting a blog is one of the best things I’ve ever done, without a shadow of a doubt. I highly recommend that everyone start blogging:
- Blogging has opened up a world of opportunities to me that I wouldn’t have had otherwise – including travel opportunities, event invitations, and brand collaborations
- I have been able to earn money via my blogs, even when only blogging part-time (read these 8 Ways To Make Money Blogging)
- My blogs have been a creative outlet for me and a chance to share my thoughts
- I have met likeminded people and formed new friendships in the blogging community
Many bloggers out there have quit their jobs to blog full-time. Here are eight ways that blogging can change your life.
My advice to anyone contemplating starting a blog is not to put it off any longer. My only regret is that I didn’t start blogging sooner!
Let’s Get Started
This step-by-step tutorial will guide you through:
- Deciding what to blog about
- Which blogging platform to choose
- Picking your domain name and hosting provider
- Installing WordPress
- Designing and setting up your blog
By the end of it, you will have a live blog that you will be able to start writing and publishing your blog posts on.
Picking your blogging niche is the first step. This is the general topic around which you will base your blog posts. Some popular blogging niches are:
- Diet, health and fitness
- Cooking or baking
- Interiors and home renovations
- Lifestyle (a combination of any of the above topics)
You could also blog about something which is more personal to you, such as a specific illness or job. But your topic could be anything, really.
Before you fully commit to a niche, contemplate the following:
Does your blog answer a question for someone?
Most people browse the internet and read blogs because they are looking for something which resonates with them. The most successful blogs attract visitors who are looking for the answer to something, and the blogger provides them with the answer. You will need to answer questions. You are writing for yourself, but you are also writing for others. Think about google searches that you yourself have carried out. For example, you could have asked ‘how to travel on a budget’, or ‘how to earn money from home’. Anything you are interested in providing the answer to could be your niche.
Do you have enough passion for your topic?
Bloggers who love to write about their topic will not only have an easier time convincing readers of their authority in that area, but will also find it easier to come up with new blog post ideas. It’s also unlikely you will become bored of your topic if you really love talking about it.
Is your topic too narrow?
You’ll need to be able to write a lot about it, so there needs to be plenty of scope for you to brainstorm new blog post ideas.
Don’t fall into the trap of feeling you have nothing to contribute to an already-popular blogging niche. Every single person has their own personal angle to share, and the blogging world is not over-saturated. Anyone can start a blog on any topic, and there is room for everyone on the internet.
A blogging platform is the software, or content management system, within which you will write your blog and publish it on the internet.
There are lots of blogging platform options out there. The most common are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr
There are two types of WordPress; WordPress.com which is free, and WordPress.org which you pay for. Blogger and Tumblr are free to use.
Don’t automatically opt for any of the free versions. There are so many reasons why you should pay to use WordPress.
With any of the free blogging platforms, your blog is hosted by them. This means that they are in control of your blog, and as a result:
- You have much less control over how your blog looks
- You will generally need to have the platform’s name in your url, which is your address on the web (so, if I used Blogger my url would be www.athomeandonline.blogspot.com) unless you pay not to have it there. The extra-long url containing the platform’s name can be viewed negatively by both brands and readers. It can be off-putting as it doesn’t look as professional as your own url does.
- If you want to make any money from your blog, do not choose a free platform. You’ll be unable to monetise your blog properly with affiliate links, adverts and e-commerce. This is due to the limitations imposed by the platforms themselves about bloggers earning money from their free service.
- As you would not own your blog fully, it can be deleted at any time by the platform itself if they don’t like what you’re doing. This can and does happen.
I started my first blog using Blogger, but after several months I moved the whole thing to WordPress.org. Save yourself time and effort, and start off with a WordPress.org blog from the very start.
When you start your blog using WordPress.org, you will be self-hosted. Self-hosting means that you pay a hosting provider to run your own blog on one of their servers. The hosting provider will enable your blog to appear on the web as a result.
Why You Should Start A Self-Hosted WordPress Blog
- WordPress is by far the best choice for a self-hosted blog. It is the most used platform in the world, both by bloggers and companies. With such a large user base, WordPress tools, support and advice are all very easy to find online.
- The possibilities for customisation are infinite with a WordPress blog. There are thousands and thousands of templates (called themes) to choose from, many of them free. Extra customisations in the form of plugins are extensive. In short, you can create the exact look and functionality that you want for your blog with WordPress.
- Very little technical knowledge is needed. WordPress is very user-friendly and you can use plugins to change the look and functionality without any knowledge of HTML. If you do know how to code, you can do it, but you don’t need to.
- You get your own domain name and url, which looks instantly more professional to your blog’s visitors.
- You can make money. With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can monetise it however you like. You can sell your own products and e-courses, run adverts, and use affiliate links without restriction.
- The WordPress platform itself is completely free to install.
- Hosting can be very inexpensive as I will show below.
WordPress really is the best choice if you want to start your blog off on the right foot. Going self-hosted with WordPress means you will own your blog. It can look any way you want it to, and you can take it anywhere you want without restrictions.
I only started to get contact from PR companies and brands, and earn an income from my blog, after I switched to WordPress.
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To start a self-hosted WordPress blog, you will need a domain name and a hosting provider.
Your domain name is your website’s address; e.g. athomeandonline.com.
Here are some tips for picking the perfect domain name for your blog:
- Branding is important with blogs. You are going to be creating your own brand through your blog, and your domain name should be representative of this. Does your domain name convey the message of your brand to who you are writing for?
- Will you be happy with it in 6 months, or two years? Pick something that will still be relevant to you several months and years down the line.
- Is it easy to say and spell? You will have to say it and spell it many times in the future, and the easier it is the better!
- You don’t need a .com at the end but this is what most blogs have, and this is what most people will type in at the end if they’re searching for your blog.
Brainstorm potential domain names and then check availability for your chosen domain.
Don’t forget social media
You should make sure the same name, or very similar, is available too as a social media handle (also known as username). I recommend checking Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and a Facebook page for availability. You can then create accounts with these platforms so that your blog’s social media handles are already reserved for you when you want to start promoting your blog.
When you’ve decided which domain you want to use for your blog, you will need to purchase it and pick a hosting provider (a company that will host your blog for you on their server, so that it appears online).
I’ve used more than one hosting provider in the past. By far the best I have ever used, and the least expensive, is Bluehost. Prior to switching to Bluehost I was using GoDaddy and had numerous problems with my blogs going down when their servers went down. I also had very slow loading speeds. This all changed when I switched to Bluehost:
Why I Recommend Using Bluehost
- You get a FREE domain name when you open a hosting package with them. You won’t need to pay anything for it for 12 months (and, after that, costs are minimal).
- They are extremely inexpensive. Hosting plans start at only $3.95 per month (that converts to only £3 a month) at the time of posting this – you might even find there’s a sale on top of that when you visit their website.
- You can install WordPress (for free) on your site with one click
- You get a FREE email address to go with your domain and blog. For example, mine is email@example.com. I was previously paying almost £5 per month for this one email address with GoDaddy.
- You get 24/7 support included in your package. I have been blown away by the technical support and customer service. Bluehost are not pushy and don’t try to sell you something else every time you contact them, unlike other providers I’ve used. They also explain everything in layman’s terms.
- WordPress actually recommend them!
- There is a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can get a full refund if you change your mind.
- You will be self-hosted and will instantly be able to customise and monetise your blog, as well as appear more professional.
- Getting your blog up and running is very simple with Bluehost as I will show below.
For price, speed and reliability, I honestly believe Bluehost cannot be beaten. Before I decided to host my blogs with them, I chatted with them on the Live Chat about the best package for me. I received brilliant advice about which package to choose to suit me, both in terms of price and overall benefits. As a result, after switching to Bluehost, my blogs load faster than ever and have not once gone down. They also migrated all my blogs for me from GoDaddy perfectly, meaning I didn’t have to get involved in anything too technical.
Ready To Start Your Own Blog?
(You may see a slightly different image on the home page as and when Bluehost change their graphics).
You’ll now see a comparison of the different plans that Bluehost offers. Don’t be put off by the currency being in dollars if you’re in the UK or elsewhere outside the US. Bluehost’s support and hosting works perfectly well for its customers all over the world. I run all my blogs in the UK. You can check the equivalent amounts in GBP or other currencies here.
If you are just getting started with blogging, and only want to have one blog at this stage, there’s no need to go for anything other than the Basic plan. (You can always upgrade at a later date if you want, and just pay the difference).
Select the plan that you want, and be directed to a page where you can register your domain.
To get your new (and free) domain that you’ve just chosen, just type it in to the ‘new domain’ box and click ‘next’.
If you already have a domain name that you purchased elsewhere, you can use that too. Inserting it here will not switch over any existing blog you have to Bluehost immediately. Instead it is just recorded here for identification purposes.
This is where you will create your Bluehost account:
You will then need to confirm the hosting package you want.
The cheapest option is to buy hosting for 36 months. You can also purchase hosting for 12 or 24 months instead and pay less upfront.
I don’t purchase any of the extra additions, apart from Domain Privacy Protection. If you have a personal blog, this is recommended to keep the contact details associated with your new domain private. If you’re starting a blog for your business, you will likely want your details to be accessible, however. You don’t need to buy this, or any of the other extras. You can always add these things to your package at a later date if you decide to.
You then enter your payment details at the bottom, and agree to the T&Cs. Click ‘Submit’.
You will be asked to set your password to log in to your Bluehost account. You’ll also get an email from Bluehost confirming your purchase and the details of your package.
Once your password is created, you can log in to Bluehost, install WordPress and get your blog online.
You now have a hosting provider.
Remember Bluehost has a money back guarantee, so you are at no risk of losing out if you change your mind.
If at any time you’re not sure which package you should purchase, or you have any questions at all, you can live chat with Bluehost on their website (look for the little Chat icon on their site). I’m also here to answer any questions you might have so feel free to contact me directly and ask away.
Now that you have a hosting account with Bluehost, you can install WordPress to your site very easily.
Again, this is completely free to do.
Log in to your Bluehost account using the password you just created. Remember to select ‘hosting login’ at the top, and not webmail.
You’ll see a page like this. Navigate to your cPanel (this is your Control Panel) in the menu at the top, and then click ‘Install WordPress’.
Select your domain from the dropdown list. The domain you just got for free with your hosting package will be there.
You will be asked to set up your credentials before the install starts. These will be your login details for your WordPress account. You will need an email address, username and password. These will need to be set up as they are not the same as your Bluehost login details. It means you will have both a Bluehost hosting account, and a WordPress account.
The installation will then start and a message will appear at the top of the page when it has completed.
Click the link at the top of the page to go back to the Control Panel, as you can now log in to WordPress and set up your blog!
You now have everything ready to allow you to fully customise your blog and start publishing content to the world wide web. Welcome to the blogging world!
How to upload a FREE theme
A theme is the layout for your blog. You can change the theme of your blog within WordPress.
There are a couple of ways you can access your WordPress account.
The quickest way to log into WordPress and access your blog is to go directly to the dashboard of your new blog. The dashboard is effectively the back office of your blog, where all changes are made. Within the dashboard you write your blog posts, customise the look of your blog, and much more.
Visit www.yourblogaddress.com/wp-admin (change ‘yourblogaddress’ to the domain of your own blog e.g. mine would be www.athomeandonline.com/wp-admin).
You will then be asked for your WordPress account’s login details, and will be taken to the dashboard of your blog.
You can also access your blog’s dashboard via your Bluehost account.
Log Into WordPress
Bluehost have a streamlined and easy way to set your blog up from scratch within WordPress. When you log in to WordPress for the first time, you will be asked if you want to set up a personal or business site. As a blogger, you will most likely want to select ‘personal’ here.
On the next page, add your blog’s name as the Site Title. You can also add a Site Description, which is the tagline for your blog and which tells others what your blog is about. My tagline, for example, is ‘How To Make Money From The Comfort Of Your Own Home’. You can always change this at a later date so don’t worry if you’re undecided on what the exact description will be.
Click ‘Next’ and then say ‘Yes’ to the next question.
You can then follow the prompts to set up the basics of your blog, such as a contact page. You can always skip these steps if you wish, as they are all very easy to sort out later.
When you reach the end of the steps, go to ‘Customise Your Site’. You will be taken to the site customiser, which is where you can (as you can probably tell from the name) customise your site and set it up to look the way you want.
WordPress has already started your blog off with a default theme. Here you can see that the theme Twenty Seventeen is currently active. Activating a theme you want is the first step towards customising your blog. Click on the cross in the corner to go back to your dashboard.
You are now back in the dashboard.
How to find and activate a new theme.
On the left hand side, go to ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Themes’.
You can see here your currently active theme, and a couple of other default themes which WordPress has automatically uploaded. Click ‘Add New Theme’.
You now have access to the hundreds of free themes already available within WordPress. The menu along the top allows you to view Featured, Popular and the Latest themes, among others.
When you hover your mouse over any theme, you get the option to preview it to see how it would look if it were live on your blog. Have a look at a few themes and see which ones you like. Remember that, without any posts published and other customisations your blog looks completely different now than it will in the end. When you pick a theme and decide to activate it, you can change it at any point so don’t be afraid to experiment with them and find out what works for you.
You can also search for themes using keywords.
You can find all sorts of designs by using keywords. If you have a travel blog, for example, try typing in ‘travel’ to bring up themes which would be a good match for a travel blog. You might also search by style, so could type in ‘minimal’ to see the minimalist style themes.
The options are endless, particularly when you can also upload your own themes that you have purchased elsewhere. To do this you just click ‘Upload Theme’ and follow the steps to activate it (any new theme you buy usually comes with its own installation and customisation instructions).
Now you know how to change the theme of your new blog, you are almost ready to start publishing content.
Some Recommended Basic Changes To Make Before You Publish Posts
When you start blogging, you may decide to write one post and publish it immediately. You can also write several drafts of posts (say twenty or so), and publish them all at once when you’re ready to go live so that your blog has more content on it. Whichever way you decide to start, here are some basic I things recommend you do before you launch your blog:
Plugins are extensions to WordPress which enhance your blog’s functionality. There are thousands of free and paid plugins out there which do different things. To get started, I recommend that you install the following free plugins:
- Yoast: this makes the process of search engine optimisation (SEO) much easier. Search engines such as Google can find your posts easier when they are optimised.
- Akismet: this is a great anti-spam plugin that will protect your site from unwanted spam comments.
- Simple Social Icons: you can add your social media handles to this plugin and display icons on your blog that allow people to go directly to your social media accounts.
- Jetpack: this plugin has many uses, which you can read about here. I like it because it helps speed up a blog’s page loading time, and it makes sharing your content easier.
- Contact Form 7: this will enable you to set up a contact form so that people can send a message directly to your email inbox, via your blog.
To add a plugin to your WordPress installation, go to ‘Plugins’ and then ‘Add New’.
When you have been blogging for a little while you may also like to add these plugins:
- ConvertKit: this for me is the ultimate email subscription service, and it makes creating an email subscriber list so much easier.
- Google Analytics: this will become essential to you if you are serious about growing your blog as it helps you understand who is reading your blog and where they are visiting from. Brands and PR companies also like to know details about your blog’s pageviews and readers, which Analytics can provide.
Your Blog’s Email Address
As I mentioned above, one of the things I love about Bluehost is the chance to get an email address associated with your blog for FREE. To set this up, go to the Bluehost dashboard within your WordPress account, scroll to the bottom and click on ‘Manage” in the Email box.
This will take you into your Bluehost hosting account, and you can follow the instructions from there to set up your new email account, including setting up the password.
You can access your new email inbox from within your Bluehost account. Log in via the Bluehost website, making sure to select ‘webmail login’ instead of ‘hosting login’ this time.
Within webmail you can find instructions on how to configure your new email account on an email client. For example, I have configured mine so that I receive my emails via Outlook. It means I don’t have to log in to webmail to check my emails. I also have the Outlook app on my phone and receive my emails there too.
Menu & Categories
Most blogs have a menu at the top of the page. This is like a map that your readers can use to find things on your blog. Menus house categories, which you assign to each of your blog posts. You can create new categories for your blog posts by visiting ‘Posts’ and then ‘Categories’ in the sidebar within WordPress. You can then organise these in a menu by visiting ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Menus’.
Remember, anything you do here can always be changed at any time. Don’t be worried about making any mistakes!
Now you have your very own self-hosted WordPress blog!
To see your blog, type your new blog’s domain into the address bar on your browser. It may not look how you want it to right now, but a bit of tweaking using my tips above and it soon will.
You can start writing and publishing your blog posts within WordPress by going to ‘Posts’ and then ‘Add New’.
I truly believe that everyone should write a blog. It’s a fantastic way to interact with likeminded people, share your thoughts, feelings and experiences, and learn some new skills along the way. It is also an amazing way to earn an extra income. Here are 8 Ways To Make Money Blogging.
As you can see, you don’t need to have advanced technical skills, know anything about coding, or spend a lot of money to start a blog.
I really hope this tutorial has helped you if you were wondering how to start a blog. Good luck in your blogging career!
Please do send me any questions you might have about this tutorial as I would love to help you with your new blog.
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