Do you want to start a blog, but are feeling insanely overwhelmed with how to get started?
When I first started up this mama blog in March 2017, I felt exactly the same way. And a bit skeptical, to be honest.
In a world full of “get rich quick working from home” companies, the idea that you could make money writing online seemed far-fetched. But after making $1000s blogging part time in my first year, I can tell you that this is very much the real deal for me. And it can be for you, too.
But do I really have what it takes to be a professional blogger?
I asked myself this question a lot before I took the plunge.
You Can (and Should!) Be a Blogger If…
- You enjoy writing (Not to be confused with being a “great writer”, which isn’t a requirement.)
- You love helping others (Professional, money-making blogging is more about your readers than it is about you.)
- You have access to an internet connection and an internet ready device like a computer, tablet, or smart phone (It doesn’t have to be fancy. I started this blog on an iPhone while breastfeeding my daughter. Whatever device you’re using to read this post should work perfectly to get you started.)
If that sounds like you—great! You have all the basics you need to get started with your own blog.
And the great news? It’s surprisingly easy to start your own blog from scratch, even if you’re not a tech person (I’m not), and even if you know absolutely nothing about blogging (I didn’t).
And I’m here to help you do just that. Walk you through setting up your own blog step-by-step.
Ready? Let’s do this!
How to Start a Blog
A Step-by-Step Guide for Complete Beginners
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1. Determine Your Blogging Goal
There’s one important question all bloggers need to ask themselves at the beginning of their blogging journey: Do you want to make money from blogging?
No, I don’t want to make money from blogging.
This will be easy peasy for you. Head on over to Blogger or WordPress.com, set up a free account, and start blogging your heart out. That’s literally all you need to do. Both of those platforms are perfect if you’re interested in starting a journal-style blog that documents your day-to-day activities, and is primarily shared with only friends and family members.
Why can’t you make money with WordPress.com or Blogger accounts? They have really strict and incredibly limited guidelines about how you can and cannot monetize your blog (you can read WordPress.com’s policy here and Blogger’s policy here).
Yes, I would like to make money from blogging.
If you are interested in making money from your blog—then you’ll want to look into setting up a self-hosted blog with a WordPress.org account.
A self-hosted site is one that you own and operate. Because you own and operate it, you can monetize it however you’d like.
(Quick side note: WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two different things. This confused me a lot in the beginning. If you ever find yourself confused, just use this breakdown that I’ve put together that outlines the differences between the two.)
Wait, but how exactly do I make money blogging?
Most bloggers make money in four different ways:
Some just monetize in one of these ways, and some with a combination of more than one.
You can do all of these things on a self-hosted blog. Which is why, if your goal is to make money…self-hosted is your route.
My number one piece of advice to you as a brand new blogger is this: if there’s even the slightest chance that you may want to make money from your blog, go with a self-hosted WordPress.org account from the start. It’s a bit of a pain to switch over down the road.
2. Determine Your Niche
A blogging niche is essentially what you blog about. You’ll want to make sure that you pick a niche that you’re passionate about, and one that has a good shot at being profitable.
If you need help locking down a niche, you can follow my how-to guide here.
3. Name Your Blog
Once you’ve locked down your niche, it’s time to name that blog! Picking a blog name can be one of the most stressful parts of starting a blog, but it doesn’t have to be. You can follow my 3-step guide to picking the perfect blog name here.
If you already have a name in mind, you can check on availability using the little widget below. Just make sure that you only register for a domain name that ends in .com. More credible.
And if you’re taken to a site and asked to pay more money for the domain, it means that someone has already purchased it and is trying to make you buy it for a higher price point. Don’t do this. Just go back and search for another name. If you feel stuck, follow these instructions.
4. Get Web Hosting
Once you make the decision to go with a self-hosted blog, the first thing you’ll need to do is find a web host (aka, the folks who “put your blog on the internet”).
There are only two hosting companies that I’ve used, and they are the only two that I recommend: Bluehost and Siteground. I used Bluehost for my entire first year of blogging, then switched over to Siteground when my traffic increased because their load time is lightning fast.
Both are affordable.
Both have wonderful 24/7 customer support (something you’ll DEFINITELY use when you’re starting out).
Both have a 30-day money back guarantee in case you realize that blogging really isn’t for you.
You really can’t go wrong with either one. However, for brand new bloggers, I would recommend going with Bluehost in the beginning because it will be a little bit cheaper for you.
One big difference between the two is that Bluehost includes a free domain name with their plans. With Siteground, you’ll have to purchase it separately at a place like Namecheap. Which definitely isn’t the end of the world! But if you’re being super scrappy about starting a blog (which I highly recommend doing), Bluehost will save you a bit of cash.
5. Connect Your Web Hosting With WordPress.org
Re-read that header again, real quick. Notice that it says WordPress.org. Not WordPress.com. As confusing as it may be, WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two completely different things, for different types of blogging.
I made the mistake of connecting a WordPress.com account to Bluehost and blogged for over a month before I realized what I had done. I then had to go through the ordeal of migrating everything from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
Thankfully, both WordPress and Bluehost have wonderful customer support and they were able to walk me through everything…but do yourself a favor and set up your blog correctly from the start.
6. Build Your Blog!
Whoo hoo! You are now the proud owner of your very own self-hosted blog! Not so terrible, right?
Now that you’re all set up, you get to start on the fun part: customizing your blog so that it looks and functions just the way you like it.
There are tons and tons of things that you can do to make your blog your own, but start with the basics:
1. Pick a Theme
One awesome thing about having a self-hosted WordPress.org site is that you have access to a ton of really great blog themes to choose from. This isn’t WordPress.com where you can pick from a small handful of themes; WordPress.org lets you choose from thousands.
When picking a theme you’ll want to:
- Go with something that looks clean, not cluttered
- Pick a theme with a white background (unless you’re a designer and can make a colored background really work)
- Don’t feel obligated to purchase a theme when you’re starting off
That last point is super important to note. While you absolutely can purchase a theme right from the start if you’re made of money and you want to, I’d recommend holding off.
There are plenty of simple, beautiful, and free themes for you to use that will work perfectly as you start your blogging journey (Kale, Anissa, and Juliet are all great options).
You could also go with the mother of all WordPress themes—the Divi Theme from Elegant Themes. Currently the most popular premium WordPress theme in the world, Divi has an amazing drag-and-drop option that makes customizing your blog an absolute breeze. It’s pricy, so I wouldn’t recommend starting off with Divi (unless you’re rolling in all of the cash), but definitely worth keeping in mind for down the road.
2. Set Up The Essential Pages
There are two pages that you’ll want to set up on your blog as soon as possible: Contact and About.
Contact is super important for a pretty obvious reason: you want people to be able to reach out to you!
About is also important because it will help readers see you as the real human being blogger that you are, instead of just a faceless internet site that they happen to come across.
3. Grab the Right Tools
Once you’ve got everything set up, you’ll want to grab the right tools. Head on over to my Ultimate Bloggers Resource Guide for recommendations on free stock photography, free graphic design tools, the best plug ins to use, how to get started with social media, how to start your email list, and more!
6. Write, Write, Write!
Once you have your blog set up, it’s time to get to work creating some original content!
When you’re starting off, try really hard to not overthink it and just write.
The more you write, the more you’ll figure out what you really love blogging about and what you don’t.
All bloggers have mediocre (or just downright awful) posts from time to time, especially in the beginning. I certainly have. I recently read over some of my early blog posts and cringe over some them.
But you know what? It’s all good. It’s a process. I learned a lot from writing those posts, and the lessons I learned have fueled me forward.
So write, write, write, love! You can do this! You’re a blogger now! 🙂