The benefits I’ve gotten from blogging have been amazing! I’ve rediscovered my love of writing, learned how to do a lot of technical things, and feel like I’ve become part of a great group of new online friends. If that sounds like your kind of thing, keep reading to find out how to start a blog and change your life today!
*note: This post was written in 2016 and may contain outdated technical information and recommendations.
Something magical happens when you become a blogger. You start to feel like, “Yes! I recognize & can connect with my people!” Even though blogging itself is not a group activity, you end up forming connections and friendships that you could never expect.
Plus, putting your words out there for the world to read is pretty awesome!
And, if your ultimate goal is to create an income, that’s totally possible! But you actually have to start the blog to make the income happen.
Starting a blog is super-easy (yes, even for non-techies), but there are a few things to consider first. Let’s get those out of the way.
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Who Should Blog?
Anyone! (Okay, well… mostly.)
Artists – showcase art & maybe do tutorials.
Writers – showcase words, articles, books, instruction & inspiration.
Designers – perfect for creating tutorials (can include links to YouTube & FB Live) and promoting sales.
Foodies – whether it’s cooking tutorials or just writing about food – the visual setup of a blog is perfect.
Moms – other mothers need encouragement & wisdom (plus it helps you feel like more than “just” a mom).
People who love trying new things.
People who want to impart their experience in a specific subject.
Entrepreneurs – If you have your own business of ANY type, adding a blog is a smart business move.
Or maybe you just want to write about your life. These are still popular, and I have to say that I LOVE reading this type of blog when the workday is done and it’s time to relax.
Who SHOULDN’T Blog?
If you HATE writing — although I personally believe it’s completely possible to have a visually-oriented blog.
If you don’t have ANY time to spend blogging — but this can come down to passion and motivation.
People who want to make a quick income — despite what you may read about people making thousands of dollars within a couple of months, it almost never works that way.
Before you go all in on blogging, there are a few decisions you need to make. Taking the time to do this now will save you many hours and much frustration later.
Decide On A Blog Topic
Okay, so you really think blogging is the perfect next step for you. What now? Determine what you will blog about. The current advice is to nail down an extremely specific niche.
Personal experience TIP: Do this. I know, it’s hard to think about limiting yourself. When I began FTJ, I refused to think that limiting my topics was a good thing. But… it actually is. Even now that I’ve eliminated some of the things I used to blog about, I’m still narrowing my focus.
Nobody can force you to choose a narrow niche, but it really does make life easier. If it’s something you’re passionate about, you will find plenty of ways to share on your blog.
Whenever I hear people talking about an interest, I ALWAYS think, “You should blog about that!” Don’t be afraid that the topic you want to blog about has already been done. Remember that YOU are unique and will bring your own perspective to the topic.
Free vs. Paid Hosting?
There are several blogging options available. While you CAN make free work for a while, it’s really best to go for paid hosting right away.
The most common options:
WordPress.com – free. However, you are limited in appearance, promotional opportunities, and you will always have “wordpress.com” in your blog name. It makes life more difficult when people want to find you online. There are upgrades and options available, but at an additional cost, which defeats the purpose of “free.” (Read more here: Self Hosted WordPress.org vs. Free WordPress.com)
Blogger.com – free. I don’t have experience with this platform, but I’ve read that design options are limited and Google can shut you down at any time.
WordPress.org – paid. This is what I use and recommend. You can customize almost everything with different themes and plugins. The versatility is amazing. Plus you have your own domain name and are free to put up advertising, etc.
Note: I purchase my domain name and hosting for WordPress through Bluehost, which is where my screenshots and recommendations are sourced for this post.
Now it’s time to start your blog!
Step 1: Choose a Blog Name
Have you thought of an amazing blog name that is absolutely PERFECT? Check here to see if it’s available:
If the super-awesome name you had your heart set on is not available, you can try alternate endings like .net, .org, .co, etc. BUT I recommend that you brainstorm a name with a .com ending. It’s what almost everyone types into a search bar when looking for a website. You want people to come directly to YOUR site.
TIP: More and more people are transitioning from a cute blog name to using their own name for their blog. If you can’t think of a unique blog name, try using your own first and last names.
BONUS TIP: Check social media to see if your blog name is available for creating user accounts. Check Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. For example, I am “fillingthejars” almost everywhere, which is great for name recognition and making contacts. People get to “know” you after a while when they see you all over the internet with the same name and photo, so having a social media username that is the same as your blog name is a real bonus.
Step 2: Sign Up For Your Hosting Account & Choose Your Options
There are several hosting companies available. I’ve been with Bluehost since December 2015 and definitely recommend them to new bloggers.
[*2020 note: Bluehost worked fine for me as a ‘starter’ host, although I did eventually need to move on once my traffic reached a higher level. I am currently with BigScoots.]
Bluehost has 12-, 24-, and 36-month packages available. Plus, when you sign up, you get your domain name free for the first year. The Basic Plan is just fine for most new bloggers, and you can always upgrade later if you need additional options. The screenshots below give you an idea of the screens you will see as you are signing up.
Step 3: Download WordPress.org
After you get signed up, have paid and chosen a username & password, login to your Bluehost account at my.bluehost.com — here is where you will download WordPress.
Click “One-Click Install” (shown in the screenshot above) and then the WordPress icon (shown in the screenshot below). You will need to choose a username (NOT “Admin” or your blog name — make it unique) and password. THIS is the actual program that runs your blog.
Now open a new browser window and type in your website URL, but add /wp-admin/ after the URL. Login with your WordPress.org username and password and you will be on your very own blog! Save this page as a favorite in your browser — it’s the page you will start from every time you work on your blog.
Step 4: Choose a Theme
There are thousands of themes available for WordPress. Some are free and some are Premium (paid). Generally, the Premium themes allow for more customization. But if you want to try out a free theme, you can start searching for one by clicking Appearance > Themes on the left side of your WordPress screen. From there, start looking for themes you like.
Try out a few different themes. They are all different as far as how they display posts, whether or not they allow a static front page, have a sidebar, etc. Every year WordPress creates a general theme which is named simply as the year (i.e., Twenty Sixteen). That’s usually a good place to start for a decent basic theme.
TIP: WordPress will probably have a generic “Hello world!” post that shows up when you install your theme. Use this to see how things like text and photos will look. You can edit the post or delete it when you write your first “real” post. Just DON’T hit “publish” on this post before changing it! That would be a total rookie move. 😉
Step 5: Start Blogging!
Since this is a basic beginner guide, I’m going to end the instruction portion here with a few encouraging words.
I believe you are absolutely capable of blogging! It’s only as technical as you allow it to be. Keep things simple at first, and don’t get mired in the noise of all the available blogging advice.
If you know you want to start a blog, but you’re not a techie and even this starter guide overwhelms you, hire someone to set things up for you. Seriously, there’s no shame in it.
Alternatively, learning how to do the tech stuff on your own can be empowering. Just don’t allow learning to delay you from actually starting!
Remember, blogging is supposed to be fun! If you are thinking about monetizing your blog, you won’t be successful for long if you don’t enjoy it. You don’t want to end up frustrated and feeling like you’re just working another job.
Relax, write your heart out, and hit Publish!
Once you get into blogging, I know you will have the desire to grow your blog. For some people that means pageviews and knowing that people are reading their words. For others it’s money, and still others mainly desire an engaged audience and getting to know new people.
The time will come when you will search for ways to make your desired reality happen. While there is an abundance of information available all over the internet, the course I currently (as of 2022) recommend is Suzi Whitford’s Blog By Number course.
Still not sure blogging is for you? I’ll admit, I wasn’t either! It took me a while to finally decide to take the plunge. My heart was pounding out of my chest when I hit the button to publish my first post, but I have NOT regretted it! I don’t think you will either!
Shoot me an email – [email protected] – if you want to chat more about blogging or have any questions. I’m always happy to help!