If you’re considering starting a blog but don’t know how, this guide is for you. Whether you’re looking to start a business or just make some money on the side, here is the step-by-step guide you’ve been waiting for. This page is jam-packed with great stuff, so I don’t want to waste your time on a long intro. Let’s just dive in.
Why Start a Blog?
Personally, I think starting a blog is an excellent undertaking that more people should consider. But if you’re on the fence, let me tell you my reasons:
- Entrepreneurship is the path to financial independence
Did you know the average millionaire has a minimum of seven different income sources?
Even people living comfortably in middle- or upper-middle class lifestyles often have more than just job income. Most of the people I know that are above “just comfortable” have side hustles, own businesses, or have rental properties.
With certain exceptions, employers aren’t going to pay their employees any more than they have to. If you want more out of life, you’ve got to put more in. While it IS possible to hustle and grind in order to achieve financial freedom (no longer being tied down by your bills, being able to do what you want when you want to) through a day job, in most cases, people who achieve a financially independent lifestyle have done so through entrepreneurship.
- Blogging is an ideal business to start in your spare time
In comparison to traditional entrepreneurship, blogging is like a dream come true – you have a very low comparative startup cost (no business loans or finding investors necessary!) and it’s extremely scaleable.
If you’re looking to make an extra $200 to $2,000 a month, you can do that blogging. If you’re willing to put a lot of work into growing your blog, well… there’s bloggers who have $20,000 months. There are bloggers have $200,000 months. You can say they got lucky, or call it a fluke, but the glorious thing about blogging is – many bloggers who have hit high income levels blogging are more than happy to share exactly how they did it.
There is a wealth of instruction, even for free, available for anyone looking to make money blogging. You’d be hard-pressed to find another entrepreneurial community where people are so willing to share their strategies and help you get to their level.
If you’re still not sure whether or not starting a blog is the path for you, I have a handy guide here on how to tell: Should you start a blog? How to tell if it’s right for you – and if it’s NOT.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you buy from my link I might make a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay. See the full affiliate disclosure here
Before You Start
Before you start your blog, though, there are a few things you should consider. Luckily, you don’t need to have your five-year business plan drawn up before you can start your blog, but you should have a vague idea of what you want to write about (your niche) and what you’d like your domain to be (your URL).
Four questions to help you find your perfect niche
Niching down or niching up
Don’t get too hung up on these things: a LOT of bloggers change direction after they started, once they figured things out a little bit more. Some people know right up front exactly what they want to do, and some take a little while to find their footing. Either way is okay, honestly.
As for a name, well… changing your blog name and URL can be a little bit more complicated than switching your niche, but that doesn’t mean it’s a decision you have to really agonize over. Choose something that a) you like, and b) is legible to read in a URL format. Even better if it describes your niche, but these days most people are going to find your blog through search engines, Pinterest, or social media. Your URL used to be super important in the old days of blogging, because regular readers would have to remember it and type it in their address bar to come find your new content, but that’s quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Do I need to have a post bank?
There’s conflicting advice in the blogosphere on whether or not you should have your content pre-written so you can launch your blog with lots of posts already up. Some people say it’s a must for a good launch (lol – more on that in a second), and some people say you’re just wasting time writing for a site that doesn’t exist yet when you could get the site up and then post your content.
My take on it?
It doesn’t matter in the long run. Well, sort of.
If you want to be able to start making money from day 1, then yes, having 20 or so posts ready to go AT launch is a good way to get your feet off the ground faster.
This idea of a big blog launch – it’s romantic, but it’s not serving you.
It’s going to take time to get traffic. You can have a professional custom theme, 50 posts ready to go, your social media accounts primed for takeoff – and you’re still only going to get one or two clicks a day in those first couple weeks. Even Pinterest, blogger traffic powerhouse that it is, takes a little time to figure out who you are and what you’re offering.
Additionally – say you started today. Does it matter if you spend a month writing posts and THEN start a blog, or start a blog then spend a month writing new posts? Of course it doesn’t. You don’t write any faster just because it isn’t paid for yet! Starting with one post means that while you write the second post, you already have one out there in the great vast world.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Hosting Your Blog With Siteground
Why pay for hosting?
First of all, I’m going to throw this at you really quick just in case you don’t understand the difference between a free blog and a self-hosted blog.
You can technically start a blog for free on a lot of different platforms. WordPress.com, Blogger.com, Tumblr, heck even LiveJournal is still around and kicking, believe it or not.
If you’re just looking for a place to keep fun thoughts and baby animal pictures, this is really all you need. But if you want to make money off of your blog… you need to be self-hosted.
That means that you need to OWN your website and all of its content, and when you go through a free service, you don’t.
If you don’t own your website, you’re going to have a really hard time convincing advertisers, brands, even affiliate networks to take you seriously. You’re going to have a hard time convincing readers to take you seriously. Before you can convince someone else to, you have to take yourself seriously. Enough to start off on the right foot. You can’t start a business off by giving away control of your site to a third-party company who isn’t even going to pay you for it… and when you use free platforms, that’s what you’re doing.
Why Choose Siteground?
Siteground is the #1 host I recommend. They’re affordably priced for beginners, have generous hosting plans, and offer the ability to upgrade as your hosting needs grow. Their customer service is excellent – I have personally used their live chat multiple times when I got myself in a jam. And they boast a fantastic uptime rate, automatic WordPress updaters, and a super easy WordPress installation.
Notice how I didn’t say they were the cheapest, because they’re not. There are other hosts that are cheaper, and you’ll find those recommended everywhere you look. The thing is, when I was getting ready to start my blog, I had some extra time on my hands because I was determined to buy hosting without paying for it out of pocket (you can read how I accomplished that here.) So I did a lot of research into what host was the best for me to start out with. Time and time again, I found a lot of negative reviews of those cheap hosts. Stories about entire websites crashing, constant downtime, and in one case a scary security threat.
Now, I can be cheap, but I’m not a fool. Sometimes the cheapest option really isn’t your best bet. Siteground is still among the most affordable options. Plus – the included reliability and peace of mind is super worth it to me to pay an extra dollar per month for (really – that’s the price difference. A buck!).
Got all that? Let’s sign you up
Step 1: Choose Your Plan
Siteground has three tiers of hosting plans depending on what services you want out of your hosting plan. The smallest includes pretty much everything you’ll need in your first year as a blogger, but I personally chose the Grow Big plan because I was toying with the idea of running more than one blog at first (in retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t do that).
Don’t stress too much about which plan to choose – if you need to upgrade later, it’s quick and easy to do so.
Click here to choose your hosting plan! (Link will open in a new window so you can keep this tutorial open!)
Step 2: Choose Your Domain
Your domain is the URL, the web address of your site. If you’ve already purchased this elsewhere, Siteground gives you the option to claim it here.
You can’t change this later without buying a new one, so make sure it’s one you like before you purchase. But don’t agonize too much about this decision. You CAN migrate your site to a different domain later if you decide to rebrand.
Step 3: Account and Payment Information
This is where you select your email address and password you’ll use to log in to Siteground. (Your email address will be used to login).
I STRONGLY suggest using a unique password (not one you use for anything else) and write it down so you can find it later if you need to. You won’t be logging into your host every day, so it could easily be forgotten, but when you need it – you’ll need it!
You’ll also have the option to pay for extra services, like domain privacy – which keeps your personal information hidden. If you opt not to buy this, anyone can use a whois lookup on your website and find out who you are. I bought it because I prefer my privacy, but it really isn’t 100% necessary just starting out. If you’re trying to start up on a tight budget, you can always go back later and purchase these options.
Once you hit the Save button, you’re in! Congratulations!
Step 4: Set up WordPress!
This is where the fun stuff starts. No more credit card information, I promise.
Log into Siteground with the username and password you just created, and click on the “My Account” tab.
Inside you’ll see a red button marked “cPanel”. cPanel is where all the good stuff is, so click on that.
Inside cPanel you have a ton of boxes that categorize the million things you can do. You can collapse or expand these as you need them. In my screenshot, I’ve collapsed them all except for Autoinstallers and Mail, because those are the only places we need right now.
If you want to go ahead and set up your email right now, you can do that. If you’d rather install WordPress first so you can get to your new website that’s cool too, but I do recommend coming back at some point and setting up an email.
Siteground starts you off with one, but… well, for Ponytails & Productivity my default email was ponytai3 @ ponytailsandproductivity.com. Not very professional, so I created [email protected] ponytailsandproductivity instead.
If you want to set up your new professional email now, just click on the “Email Accounts” button (it’s the first one), and set one up under the name you want. When you’re done, you can just hit the red “Back to cPanel” button to get back to the last screen.
Luckily, Siteground has a WordPress autoinstaller. Under to Autoinstallers category, hit WordPress and then the blue Install button to start that process. You’ll be taken to a screen where you’ll be asked about your site’s information and create your WordPress login information.
For your protocol, it’s likely http:// unless you already have a security certificate. For your domain, type in the address you just registered with your hosting. You don’t need to put anything at all in the “In Directory” field.
Your site name and description is up to you. If you’ve just registered fluffypuppies-dot-com, your name is likely “Fluffy Puppies”.
The username and password fields here are pre-filled for you, but there’s no harm in replacing these with ones you’ll actually remember. (Still, you should write them down). Logging into WordPress is how you’ll post and make changes to your site, so you’ll be using this often. Pick something you can stand to type in all the time.
When you’re all done here, just click Install, and let Siteground do the rest for you!
Step 4: Log in to your new WordPress blog
Oooooh boy. Are you pumped yet?! Because this is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
You’ll be accessing the backend of your website by going to http:// yourdomain.com/wp-admin and entering the WordPress username and password you created. This is where you’re going to be spending most of your time as a blogger, so bookmark that page now with a shortcut you can just type in the address bar easily!
The WordPress Dashboard is a wonderful place, and I promise it’s not as complicated as it seems at first. Honestly! Take a minute to poke around. You can browse free themes under the Appearance option to set something up right away if you want! Or, go to Plugins if there’s a plug in you know you want to install.
But since we’re in the setting-things-up stage, there’s a couple things I want to recommend to you.
Bonus: They’re free.
Set up your mailing list
One thing you’ll hear over and over again from established bloggers is that your mailing list is invaluable. Your early subscribers, especially, have the potential to be your most loyal fans. These are the readers that will follow your content as you scale and grow.
I’ve seen more than a couple bloggers express regret that they hadn’t started capturing emails from their audience much sooner.
There are a lot of list providers out there, but when you’re first starting up, you don’t want to have to pay a lot of money (especially before you even have subscribers) and you DON’T want another confusing interface to figure out.
I recommend Mailerlite because it’s free for your first 1,000 subscribers and then scales you into VERY affordable plans. You don’t need to do a lot to set it up. In fact, they have their own WordPress plugin you can use to integrate seamlessly with your blog and start collecting emails from Day 1.
Click here to get started with your free Mailerlite account!
Try out Tailwind
Another free trial that I like to recommend is Tailwind. Tailwind is a Pinterest scheduler that lets you load up a bunch of pins at once and schedule when you’d like them to go live.
When you’re first starting as a beginner blogger, Pinterest can be invaluable for getting early traffic to your site. The more you use it – at least at first – the more visibility you’ll get.
Tailwind’s free trial offers 30 free pins before you upgrade to a paid plan. Don’t use them up all at once! It’s better if you get a feel for how Pinterest works before you try to automate it anyway. But if there’s a day coming up where you know you won’t be able to pin at all, that Tailwind trial can really come in handy to help you not lose consistency in your pinning.
Click here to start your free Tailwind trial!
Sign Up With an Affiliate Network
Affiliate networks are my favorite thing for new bloggers, because you can start monetizing your content from day 1, even when your traffic is in the double digits.
Some affiliate networks don’t accept brand-new bloggers, but my two favorites do – ShareASale and FlexOffers.
Even if you don’t have products to promote yet (very likely), you can start browsing through the different affiliate programs offered through the networks and get a feel for the types of things you’d like to promote in the future. Both networks offer a TON of merchants and businesses, there’s truly something for every niche.
They’re both free to join, too, and unlike Amazon associates, there’s no rush to make your first sales right away, so you can take your time.
Click here to open your ShareASale account, and here to sign up with FlexOffers!
That’s all for now! I hope this post was helpful for you. Congratulations on starting your new blog!