Updated March 31, 2020
Wondering how to start a blog? Hi, I’m Amy. I’ve been blogging for 16 years and I like simple. In this beginner’s guide, I’ll show you how to start a blog simply (and on a budget). It’s easier and faster than you think! Plus, no technical experience required.
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.
Short on time?
This post is thorough but you can easily jump ahead without a problem:
Shortcut #1: Not interested in the reasons why a WordPress site is best? Click here to jump to Step 3 and set up your blog in minutes. You won’t miss anything crucial—it’s introduction and background. Besides, you can always come back later and catch up if you want.
Shortcut #2: Already know what a blog is but want to learn about choosing a topic and hosting? Skip the introduction and go to Step 1.
I created my first blog in 2004 with zero computer experience. It took me forever because I had to Google my way through, but you don’t have to! This how-to guide has easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.
7 steps to start a blog
- Decide what to blog about
- Choose a blogging platform
- Choose a host
- Choose a plan
- Choose a domain name
- Set up your account
- Pick a theme
Don’t worry, I’ll walk you right through. It’ll take 10-15 minutes.
What is a blog?
A blog is a type of website with posts (articles). The newest ones are usually displayed first.
Why start a blog?
Here are a few popular reasons:
- Make money working from home. I make a full-time income blogging. Many bloggers do the same. Blogging takes work, but it’s a great opportunity due to low risk and low overhead.
- Become an author. Book publishers want authors to have an online presence. The reason is simple: it’s a lot easier to sell books to people who already know you. A blog is a perfect way to become known.
- Help your business or organization. A blog helps businesses and organizations reach a lot of people at little cost.
- Just write. If you want to write, share your story or encourage others, a blog is a great place to do that.
A blog is an online home you own and control. If you’re serious about breaking into the online space, don’t put your livelihood, brand or reputation in the hands of others (like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other social media). Start a blog instead.
What if I want a website, not a blog?
Keep reading! The steps below will get you a website with the option of a blog. You don’t have to use the blog part. Turn it on later if you want.
How much does a blog cost?
If you follow the steps below, it works out to $5 to $10 a month when paid annually. (Not bad for your own website, right?) I blogged for years on this budget. As my blog and income grew, I started paying for more premium tools and services, but they are not required to start.
Can I start a blog for free?
Yes, but I don’t recommend it if you want to make money. Why? Five reasons:
- Limited money-making capability. Some free services limit the money you can make unless you “upgrade” to a higher level. You’ll have to pay for that upgrade of course, which defeats the purpose of having a free blog in the first place.
- Lack of support. Companies don’t offer free blogs out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to make money. If you’re not making them money, they won’t go out of their way to keep you happy. Sometimes this means you’ll have little to no support. Other times you’ll be badgered with offers for their paid-for products.
- Only basic features. Basic features might not be a problem at first, but as you grow, you’ll feel the pinch. Expandability and flexibility are key. Both are limited with free blogging services.
- Switching isn’t easy. If you want to switch to a better service later (common for those who start a free blog), it’s a hassle and can be costly. Doing it yourself takes a lot of time and know-how. Hiring someone to do it correctly costs hundreds of dollars.
- You can’t use others for inspiration. This happens to new bloggers all the time. They start a blog for free. Soon they notice cool features on other blogs that they want too. The problem is, those features aren’t options on their free service.
If those common problems don’t convince you, or a free blog is truly your only choice, I would start with Medium or Blogger.
These are my easy-to-follow steps to start a self-hosted WordPress blog, no technical experience required.
Step 1: Decide what to blog about
If you’re part of a business, company or organization, your blog should be related to the product(s) or service(s) you provide, or the cause you promote.
If you’re an individual, you have more flexibility when choosing a topic. The main things to remember are:
- Blog about something you enjoy. If you aren’t excited about your topic, writing about it will be drudgery. (And who wants that?) Also, readers won’t be enthusiastic if you aren’t.
- Blog about something with plenty of room for discussion. A blog requires a lot of content to get going and remain interesting. You’ll be at this a long time so make sure you have plenty to talk about.
- Choose a niche in which you can establish yourself as an authority. You probably won’t be the first person to blog about the topic you choose. Don’t fret about this, just come up with a unique angle. Do you have a reasonable chance of making your blog better than others talking about the same thing?
The goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource in its topic or niche.
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. Don’t make the classic beginner mistake of thinking you have be sure of your topic before you begin.
What if others already blog about my topic?
Don’t worry! Take it as an indication people are interested in your topic. Just make your blog better or different than others talking about the same thing. Again, become the go-to resource for your topic or niche.
Step 2: Choose a blogging platform
If you want to cook, you need a kitchen. If you want to blog, you need a blogging platform. A blogging platform (a.k.a. content management system or CMS) puts your words into blog form.
There are many blogging platforms to choose from—like Blogger, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly—but WordPress is by far the most popular and widely recognized as the best. For good reason. It’s flexible, functional and has a large community of users who share tools and ideas.
WordPress is free. I’ll show you how to get it in Step 3.
Can’t I just go to WordPress.com?
I don’t recommend it. Why not? With WordPress, you have two options: hosted or self-hosted.
- Hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.com blogs, are free but limit your income potential.
- Self-hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.org blogs, cost a little money but give you much more control, and do not limit your income potential. (P.S. You can still have a .com web address.)
Self-hosted WordPress blogs are preferred by beginner and veteran bloggers alike. Move on to Step 3 and I’ll show you how to set up your own.
Step 3: Choose a host
A host puts your blog on the internet and makes it accessible to readers.
The hosting company I’ve personally used, paid for, and recommend to beginners is Bluehost. The setup is fast and they install WordPress for you automatically (Step 2). Plus, they have a money-back guarantee.
Ready? Click here to go to Bluehost. Hit the green Get Started button. (You’ll get a discount!)
Step 4: Choose a plan
Click a green Select button to choose a plan. I prefer the Choice Plus plan because it includes domain privacy. Domain privacy keeps your contact information hidden from the public.
Step 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, click the link at the bottom to choose one later. I’m so glad they added the choose later option. Very handy.
What if the domain name I want is taken?
This is very common. Just choose one later by clicking the link. It’s not a bad idea to wait anyway. It’s amazing how much clarity comes after 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.
Step 6: Set up your account
First you’ll enter your contact info and choose an account plan based on how far in advance you want to pay.
Bluehost bills 1, 2, 3 or 5 years upfront. They do not offer a monthly payment option (hosts that do often charge more). As you can see, it works out to be a very reasonable monthly amount. And remember, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee.
Next you’ll choose package extras. I skip all of them except domain privacy.
Here, domain privacy is free because I chose the Choice Plus plan in Step 4 above. You won’t see Domain Privacy listed here if you opted to choose your domain later (you’ll get it when you choose), or used an existing domain (contact your domain registrar for the option) in Step 5.
After you complete your Bluehost purchase, you’ll enter what I call The Maze of Many Screens. Don’t worry, it’s quick. You’ll choose a password and answer some questions about your blog (all are changeable or skippable). Finally you’ll be asked to pick a theme, so follow me to Step 7…
Step 7: Pick a theme
You’re almost done! I recommend two themes: Astra or GeneratePress. Don’t worry, they are both highly customizable so they don’t have to look like they do here.
Why don’t I recommend any of the other themes?
Many themes (especially free ones) are sloppily built or not kept updated, leaving holes in your site’s security. I’m personally familiar with Astra and GeneratePress and trust both.
Congratulations, you have a self-hosted WordPress blog!
This section is for tying up a few loose ends. Be sure to complete all of these next steps to get off on the right foot. Here’s a summary list. See below for the details.
- Log into WordPress
- Remove your temporary domain
- Secure your site with SSL
- Publish your first pages in WordPress
- Customize your blog design
- Launch your site (& remove the Coming Soon page)
Log into WordPress
Click the WordPress button from the last step above. (Don’t see it? Click Account Login in your Bluehost confirmation email.)
You’ll be taken to your WordPress Dashboard:
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.
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. To do so, clik the yellow Coming Soon Active button and follow the prompts.
How can I see what my site looks like?
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.
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?
Is your site still on its temporary domain? If so, your chosen domain won’t work yet.
And remember, if your site is not launched yet, you must be logged in. Otherwise, you’ll see the Coming Soon page.
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:
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.
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.
Publish your first pages in WordPress
This is a good time to publish some basic pages like your About page and Contact page. 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:
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.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You are all set up and ready to start blogging. Excellent content is the key to everything else, so start there. After that, tackle the things that most suit you. There’s no right or wrong way!
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?
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.
- Email Marketing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Building an Email List
- How to Determine the Best Social Media Sites for You (Plus More Tips)
- How to Make Money Blogging
- How to Get More Website Traffic
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.
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.