Writing a blog on a subject you are passionate about is an exciting way to express your creativity and share with the world your expertise and experiences. From cooking, DIY, health and fitness — to technical subjects of every kind — anyone with a wifi connection or a smartphone has perused any variety of topics in the pursuit of bettering themselves, entertainment, or knowledge. The more work you put into it, the more popular your writing can become — and at a certain point you can even make some money for your efforts!
But its not my job to coach you through this process. There are loads of other bloggers who have laid that groundwork for you. Just google “So you want to start a blog?” and soon you’ll be on the right track.
What I am here for is to demystify the technical process of getting up and running with your very own website. Because by any other name, that’s what we’ll be doing: inventing and maintaining your own little corner of the world wide web.
Here’s how to start:
- Choose a blogging platform
- Register a domain name and hosting
- Install WordPress
- Design your blog
- Get busy writing!
I’m going to walk you through the entire process of setting up your self-hosted blog, so you get it right the first time without any of the frustrations or headaches that can often come with embarking on any technical challenge.
1. Choose your platform
There are many ways to skin this blogging cat, and I am staunchly going to recommend you go with WordPress.org. It is used by over xxx websites of every size and stripe, and is exceptionally flexible. Self-hosted platforms like Squarespace, Wix and others do give you a simple way to get up and running, but are very limited in functionality and not as professional. Which would you rather have, an online presence at www.yoursite.squarespace.com, or www.yoursite.com?
Other serious benefits are:
- It’s FREE for everyone to use (including themes, layouts, and add-ons that many other blogging platforms don’t provide).
- It’s super easy for you to set up on your own (and I’ll show you exactly how)
- It’s safe and secure; WordPress is always updating their software and keeping everything sound and secure, so there’s rarely a worry of having your blog come under hacking attacks. No wonder NASA, Time Magazine, and even top university sites are using WordPress.
- It’s HIGHLY customizable. There are hundreds of free themes and plugins that add more functionality to your blog, from contact and subscribe boxes to plugins that improve performance and more.
While the other blogging platforms are generally all pretty okay; nothing, in my opinion, has ever come close to matching the freedom and customization options that WordPress offers. So without a doubt, go with WordPress. Especially when you are just starting out.
Other drawbacks to these blog platforms are:
- You don’t control your content – the blogging platform does. They could shut you down anytime, and for any reason
- The web address of your blog will be long and hard to remember (like www.yourfreeblog.blogspot.com) instead of your personalized url
- You’re not allowed to advertise on most free blogging platforms, making it much harder to ever make money from blogging
All of these limitations apply to the WordPress.COM blogs. What you really want is to self-host a WordPress.ORG blog — it’s the same software without all the limitations! The name of the game is scalability. From your first post you’ll know that your carefully crafted sentiments will safely accrue on a flexible, custom platform that you built yourself!
2. Finding a Domain Name and Web Hosting Provider
To set up a self-hosted blog on your own domain name, you’ll need two things:
Domain Name: This will be your personal site address where people find your awesome articles over and over again. For example, Google’s domain is www.Google.com. There are many companies where you can buy these from. Some also offer hosting, but they are not always the best place to purchase your website’s home. Registrars are companies like namecheap.com, godaddy.com or porkbun.com.
The cost of a domain name can vary, depending on the extension (.com, .net, etc.) and the perceived value of the url you want. If I wanted to change my url, for example, to plushdesign.com, the current price for that is $3,546.00!
To see if your dream address is available, try entering it below:
Once you find a url you like (or several variations), nail them down! Those things can get snapped up before you know it.
Web Hosting: This will be the home of your site and all it contains. Without web hosting, you’ll be unable to use your domain. Think of it as a computer hard drive that stores all your content on your blog (images, blog posts and so on).
The cost of good web hosting is usually somewhere between $10-15 per month. My site is hosted at Siteground.com, and I really recommend them. Their customer service is excellent! You may find a bargain host (like Hostgator, GoDaddy or xxx), but they may not be optimized for WordPress and you will be sharing a space (like a folder or directory on a hard drive) with many other sites, which can potentially expose you to hacker hanky-panky.
I personally recommend two hosts for exemplar WordPress hosting. For personal use, nothing beats Siteground.
For growth and all-around best Wordppress compatibiilty and security, try WP-Engine.
Finally, connect your domain name and web host by asking your web host for the nameservers, or DNS, for your site. Plug this DNS info name into your domain name registrat account. It usually takes under 24 hours for this to take effect, though you may be told it could be up to 72 hours. To see if it’s working, check back on your new url and look for a placeholder page from your host. Or, if you’ve installed WordPress already, you will get a post that probably says, “Hello world!”
3. Install WordPress
This is pretty easy. Most hosting companies have an automated system of doing this, accessed through your account page or control panel. You will need your site url, a user name and password. DO NOT USE admin for a user name, whatever you do! And make the password hard to guess.
4. Design your blog
This is the fun part! I’m sure you’ve already been pinning all the sites you love like crazy, and giving serious thought to how you want to represent yourself to the world. If you haven’t, start by googling “blog [your topic]” and look for sites that you like the look of. Is your aesthetic clean and fun, or busy and messy? Believe it or not, both can look stunning.
There are thousands of WordPress themes out there that you can use straight out of the box, or pay to have someone design your site from scratch. But to be honest, I have rarely had someone take the ‘straight out of the box’ approach — even after playing with the logo, header, images, colors, fonts etc. (the minimum customizations you would expect).
My recommendation is to go to WordPress.org and sift through their free themes. Due to their being free, however, they may not give you the flexibility you are looking for, or scalability for down the road when your readership expands and you need to take the design up a notch. Themeforest.net has a huge selection of themes, grouped by industry/functionality, to get you a little more bang for your buck. I use several of these themes as a starting point for building custom designs, such as Jupiter, Divi, Avada and Assemble.
If you don’t know where to start with the look and feel, don’t worry. You can always use the built in 2019 theme that comes with your WordPress install,
5. Get busy writing!
For some people, this will be easy. For others, expect a learning curve. How you come up with your words and images is not the topic of this post, but using WordPress is another thing I can help you with.
The structure of a blog made from WordPress is made up of static Pages (with content that doesn’t change much, like your About page), ongoing Posts (your blog pieces), an Archive page (where a summary list of your blog posts display in any number of graphical ways), which for some people is the Home page as well. Setting up your brand new WordPress blog can be overwhelming — where do I start? Click here for an overview of the WordPress backend.