How to Start a Blog (to Make Money or Otherwise) in 2020

Updated February 22, 2020

Wondering how to start a blog? I’ve been blogging for 16 years and I specialize in simple. In this beginner’s guide, I’ll show you how to start a blog simply and on a budget. No technical experience required. It’s easier and faster than you think!

How to start a blog to make money or otherwise

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

The 7 steps to start a blog. Time needed: 5-10 minutes.

  1. Decide what to blog about
  2. Choose a blogging platform
  3. Choose a host
  4. Choose a plan
  5. Choose a domain name
  6. Set up your account
  7. Pick a theme

Let’s dive into each one…

1. Decide what to blog about

Choose a topic (a.k.a. niche) you enjoy. Otherwise it will be drudgery and who wants that? Also, make sure you have a lot to say. A blog requires a lot of content to get going and remain interesting.

What if I can’t decide on a blog topic?

Start anyway! If you’re like most of us, you’ll either switch topics or settle into something as you go.

What if others already blog about my topic?

No worries. Just make your blog better or different than others talking about the same thing. Become the go-to resource for your topic or niche.

What if I want a website instead of a blog? Do I need both?

No. These steps will get you a website with a blog, but you don’t have to use the blog part.

2. Choose a blogging platform

A blogging platform (a.k.a. content management system or CMS) puts your words into blog form. There are many to choose from but WordPress is by far the most popular and widely recognized as the best. WordPress is free. Get it in Step 3.

3. Choose a host

A host puts your blog on the internet. The hosting company I’ve personally used, paid for, and recommend to beginners is Bluehost. Their setup is fast and includes WordPress installation (Step 2). Plus, they have a money-back guarantee. Sign up here.

Bluehost homepage
How much does a blog cost?

If you follow these steps, it works out to $5 to $10 a month when paid annually.

Can I start a blog for free?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Because free services limit your money-making capability, lack support, offer only basic features and can be costly to switch from.

4. Choose a plan

Hit the Get Started button then select a plan. I prefer the Choice Plus plan because it has more unlimited features and includes domain privacy. Domain privacy keeps your contact information hidden from the public.

Bluehost plan selection page highlighting Choice Plus

5. Choose a domain name

Your domain name is your web address (e.g. AmyLynnAndrews.com). If you know what domain name you want to use, enter it. If you’re not sure, or the one you want isn’t available, click the link at the bottom to choose one later.

Get a domain name or choose one later
What if the domain name I want is taken?

This is very common. Just choose one later. It’s not a bad idea to wait anyway. It’s amazing how much clarity comes from starting.

If I use an existing domain, will it mess up my other site?

No. Entering it here is only used to identify your Bluehost account for now.

6. Set up your account

Enter all the normal account setup things: contact info, package info, package extras (I uncheck them all), payment and password. You’ll be asked a few questions about your blog (all are changeable or skippable). Finally, pick a theme, so follow me to Step 7…

Bluehost account setup and options
Can I pay Bluehost monthly instead of annually?

No, they do not offer a monthly payment plan (hosts that do charge much more). Remember, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee.

7. Pick a theme

I recommend only two: Astra or GeneratePress. Don’t worry, they are both highly customizable so they don’t have to look like they do here.

Pick a free WordPress theme, either Astra or GeneratePress
Why don’t you recommend any of the other themes?

Many free themes are sloppily built or not kept updated leaving holes in your site’s security. I’m familiar with Astra and GeneratePress and trust them.

Next steps

Congratulations, you have a self-hosted WordPress blog! What’s next?

Log into WordPress

Click the WordPress button from the last step above. (Don’t see it? Click Account Login in your Bluehost confirmation email.)

Bluehost Dashboard home with WordPress button

You’ll be taken to your WordPress Dashboard:

WordPress Dashboard coming soon active

The WordPress Dashboard is the nerve center of your site. It’s where you’ll publish your posts, customize your design and manage all aspects of your blog.

The black column on the left is a good indicator you are in the WordPress Dashboard. (The rest of the screen might look different. Not to worry.)

How do I log into WordPress in the future?

Type yourdomain.com/wp-login.php into your browser address bar. For example:

Or, log into your Bluehost account. From the My Sites tab in the left column, hover over your site and click Log into WordPress.

Bluehost Dashboard My Sites tab
What does “Coming Soon Active” mean?

Bluehost automatically starts your blog with a Coming Soon page. Anyone who tries to access your site before it’s launched will see a coming soon page while you get things set up. When you’re ready, launch your site to make it go live.

View your site

To see what your site looks like, type your domain into your browser’s address bar, or, from your WordPress Dashboard, hover over the house icon in the top left corner and click Visit Site.

How to visit your site from the WordPress Dashboard
Why does my site look so bad?

Because we haven’t customized it or added content yet. Don’t worry, we’ll get there!

Why doesn’t my site show up when I type my domain into my browser?

If your site is not launched yet, you must be logged in. Otherwise, you’ll see the Coming Soon page.

Is your site still on its temporary domain? If so, your chosen domain won’t work yet.

Remove your temporary domain

Your site was set up on a temporary domain. This is standard. Obviously you’ll want to switch to your permanent domain. How you do that depends on what you chose in Step 5 above.

  • Did you create a new domain? Activate it. Check your email inbox to find the domain activation email. Click the button inside to complete the activation process. Simple. Bluehost will automatically switch it for you.
  • Did you opt to choose a domain later? Register & assign it. In your Bluehost account, click Domains > Register in the left column. Enter the domain you want, add it to your cart and complete your purchase. (If you chose the Choice Plus plan, there should be a credit in your cart to make it free.) Now go to Domains > Assign and choose your new domain from the dropdown menu.
  • Did you use an existing domain? Point it. Edit the name servers where your domain is registered. Here are instructions by registrar. If you get stuck, call Bluehost and they’ll walk you through.

Wait 2-24 hours for the changes to take effect. To test it, type your permanent domain into your browser’s address bar. If your permanent domain sticks without forwarding to your temporary domain, you’re set!

How do I choose a domain?

I’ve got a bunch of tips in How to Choose a Domain Name.

What if I get stuck replacing my temporary domain?

Call Bluehost and have them walk you through. If you’re calling from the United States, the number is 1 (888) 401-4678.

Secure your site with SSL

Once your permanent domain is working, secure it. A secure site gives visitors peace of mind. It also keeps your site on Google’s good side.

You can tell if a site is secure or not by the way it looks in the address bar. An unsecure site begins with http:// but a secure site begins with https:// like so:

Secure site with https and lock

If you entered a new domain or opted to choose one later in Step 5, log into your Bluehost account > My Sites. Locate the site you wish to activate the free SSL for. Click Manage. Open the Security tab. Under Security Certificate toggle the Free SSL ON.

Bluehost SSL certificate on

Wait a few hours for the changes to take effect. 

If you’re using an existing domain, contact the company where your domain is registered. Tell them you want to secure your site with an SSL certificate.

Get started with WordPress

This is a good time to publish some basic pages. Doing so will bulk things up so design customizations are easier to make. It’s sort of like how it’s easier to see the print on a balloon when it’s inflated.

Here are some posts you might find helpful:

Customize your blog design

If you chose Astra or GeneratePress in Step 7 above, you have a lot of customization options. This video will show you how to make some basic customizations in GeneratePress but applies to Astra as well.

Launch your site (& remove the Coming Soon page)

Once you’re ready for your site to go live, deactivate the Coming Soon page. Click the button at the top of your Dashboard and follow the prompts:

Launch WordPress site and deactivate Coming Soon
I see my site but my friends can’t. Why?

You probably forgot to launch it. It’s easy to forget because as long as you are logged into WordPress, you will not see the Coming Soon page. Click the yellow Coming Soon Active button in your WordPress Dashboard to make it visible to all.

Create content

From here, focus on consistently publishing new posts. One post a week is a good starting point, but quality is more important so adjust accordingly. Read What is Content Marketing?

Long-term goals

You will feel overwhelmed, especially at the beginning. This is normal. When it comes to starting a blog, there is a steep learning curve, but don’t give up. Push through! If you want some encouragement, read 18 Tips for New Bloggers.

The following list of posts explain things you’ll want to tackle eventually. I list them here for reference, but understand everything hinges on excellent content, so that should be your first priority.

faq
What exactly is a blog?

A blog is a type of website with posts (articles). The newest posts are usually displayed first.

Why start a blog?

Make money from home, build an author platform to get your book(s) published, get exposure for existing businesses or organizations or share your story and connect with other like-minded people.

Do I still need a blog if I’m on social media?

If you’re serious about breaking into the online space, yes. You don’t have full control over your content on social media; the social media platforms do. Should you use social media? Yes! But don’t put your livelihood, brand or reputation in the hands of others. Having your own online space is crucial.

How long does it take to make money blogging?

It varies of course, but if you treat your blog like a part-time job you should start making coffee money ($50 or less) around 6 months and a solid part-time income ($500-$1000) around 12 months. To make a consistent, full-time income ($3500+), allow 24 months.

What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?

It’s confusing, I know. WordPress.com is a host, like Bluehost. WordPress.org refers to the blogging platform. (Remember how I said you need both a host and blogging platform?) I don’t recommend using WordPress.com because they severely limit control of your blog unless you pay premium fees. A WordPress.org site is often called a self-hosted WordPress site because you pick your own host. If you’re still unclear, here’s a video.

If I choose a WordPress.org blog, does my domain name have to end in .org?

No. It can end in .com or anything of the other TLDs (top-level domains) like .net, org, .me, etc.

Will I still get domain privacy if I choose my domain later?

Yes.

Will I still get domain privacy if I use an existing domain?

Domain privacy is handled by the company where you registered your domain initially (GoDaddy, Namecheap, etc.), so contact them.

Where can I get help?

If you encountered something unexpected during setup, contact Bluehost technical support. Calling is better than live chatting. If you’re in the US, call 844-213-7846. They have access to your account (something I don’t have) and can get you unstuck.

If you need help with WordPress, start with my WordPress Tips for Beginners.

How do I stop all the Bluehost emails?

Login to your Bluehost account. Click the person icon in the top corner and choose Profile. Uncheck the boxes under Email Preferences and Ad Preferences.

13 thoughts on “How to Start a Blog (to Make Money or Otherwise) in 2020”

  1. Hello Amy – Thanks a lot! I have tried to create a blog for a while now to no avail. Your article is really help full and easy to understand.

    I own a blog now, thanks once again.

  2. I used bluehost before but had issues and switched to siteground. I think it was the speed but can’t remember for sure. Maybe my theme had something to do with it. I just purchased EBA after stalking it for 3 years. I closed my blog down last year so I’m excited about getting back into the groove but I want to do things right this time!

    Guess I’llgive bluehost Another chance.

    1. Hi Shauna,

      You bring up a great point: no host is perfect. All have issues, downtime, hiccups and glitches. (In fact, I just read a post this morning by someone using SiteGround who’s been frustrated lately.) It’s just the nature of hosting.

      Congrats on getting into the blogging groove once again! I hope it’s a great experience this time around!

      Amy

  3. Your writing is good: it’s clean, it’s clear, and it’s well-organized, and that’s saying a LOT for the topic of blogging! I’m sure I’ll be referring to your blog a lot when I do the first steps, and again when tweaking. Thank you for excellent information.

  4. My blog is using free themes and plugins but I’m planning to get premium themes asap.

    Thanks for sharing the link re free theme, hope to try it first before getting a premium theme.

    Nhick

  5. This was a phenomenal read! Incredibly useful. I’ve been doing a lot of research as I am in the very beginning stages of starting a blog and this so far has been the most informative post. It goes more into detail than just “buy a domain, buy a hosting site, install word press and VOILA you’re ready”.
    I will be book marking this page for sure.

    Thanks again 🙂

    1. I agree ! This is such a helpful post, and I am in the same boat with starting a blog as you are. I will definitely be referring back to this post!

  6. Hi Amy,

    It’s a wonderful post – Full of useful information, everything has been explained in detail, and the sentences are very simple to understand. From the beginning to the end, I enjoyed reading the whole post.

    I started my blog last year. After publishing 250+ posts, today, my Technology News Blog is growing very fast.

    I completely agree with your opinion about using a Premium Theme. Paid themes and plugins are very helpful.

    Thank you

  7. Hi Amy, I have subscribed to your Userletter since January 2018. Your guidance is wonderful. I plan to take the leap in 2019 to start my blog. Before I start, I have one question for you – are all the services you recommend accessible through an iPhone? I plan to manage my blog only through my iPhone Xs Max. Let me know what you think. Thanks.

  8. Hello Amy – Wow ! This is a great deal of information. I have been “exercising” my brain over the past 5 weeks as I change from dinosaur to an online maven.

    Recently retired at 66 and eager to learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing.

    It seems I have found a new mentor, thank you. Mike

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