Updated October 30, 2018
Are you wondering how to start a blog? Or maybe you have questions about it? I’m glad you’re here! In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to create your own blog, no technical experience required. (It’s easier and faster than you think.) Plus, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions along the way. This is the site I wish I had when I started blogging 14 years ago!
I created my first blog in 2004 with zero computer experience. It took me forever because I had to google my way through. This how-to guide contains what I’ve learned, and is for those who want step-by-step instructions in an easy and simple format.
The 6 steps to start a blog
- Decide what to blog about.
- Choose a blogging platform.
- Find a host.
- Pick a domain name.
- Get started with WordPress.
- Design & use your blog!
Don’t worry, I’ll walk you right through. Follow along and your new blog will be up and running in less than 30 minutes.
Want to skip the introduction? Click here to jump to Step 1.
Why start a blog?
There are many reasons to consider starting a blog. Here are a few popular ones:
- Make money while working from home. I make a full-time income blogging. Many others do the same. Making money as a blogger is hard work, but it’s low risk, low overhead and low barrier to entry.
- Become a published author. It’s no secret, these days publishers rarely work with authors who don’t 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 one of the easiest and most effective places to start.
- Get more exposure for your existing business or organization. A blog gives anyone, from individuals to large companies, the ability to reach a large number of people at very little cost.
- Just write. If you want to write, share your story, encourage others and build a community, a blog is a great place to do that.
Do you see yourself in any of those? Can you see how you would benefit from a blog? Keep reading!
How much does a blog cost?
If you use the method I outline below, it works out to $3 to $10 a month. I blogged for years on this budget. As my blog and income grew, I eventually started paying for more premium tools and services, but they are not required to start.
Can I start a blog for free?
After doing this a long time, here’s my advice: a free blog is fine if it’s a hobby, but if you want to make money from your blog I don’t recommend starting a free blog.
Why? A few reasons:
- Some free services limit monetization (i.e. making money) unless you “upgrade” to a higher level. You’ll have to pay for that upgrade of course, so it defeats the purpose of having a free blog in the first place.
- Companies don’t offer free blogs out of the goodness of their hearts. They still want to make money somehow. If you’re only using their free service, they’re not making money from you. Therefore, they don’t have a lot of incentive to keep you happy. Sometimes this means you’ll have little to no support. Other times it means you’ll be badgered with offers for their paid-for products.
- Most free services have only basic features. This might not be a problem at first, but as you grow, you will almost certainly feel the pinch. Expandability and flexibility are key, both of which are limited with free blogging services.
- If you ever want to switch to a better service (very common among 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 might not be able to do what your favorite bloggers are doing. This happens to new bloggers all the time. They start a blog for free. Soon they notice cool features on other blogs which they want too. The problem is, it’s not possible on their free service.
- Accountability. In general, we value things we pay for. Blogging is hard work. One way to keep yourself accountable is to pay just a little bit for it.
If those 6 common pitfalls don’t convince you, or a free blog is truly your only choice, I would go with Blogger.
Here 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. I talked about it here, but 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! A common beginner mistake is thinking you have to be sure of a topic to start. If you’re like most of us, you’ll either switch topics or settle into something as you go.
Step 2: Choose a blogging platform
If you want to blog, you need a blogging platform. A blogging platform gives you the necessary tools to get your words in front of your readers.
There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly are a few.
All have pros and cons, but WordPress is by far the most popular (source), and for good reason. It’s flexible, functional and has a large community of users who share tools and ideas.
I use and recommend WordPress (but not through WordPress.com). Confusing? Let me explain…
If you choose 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.
This guide will teach you how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog, the platform preferred by me, as well as beginner and veteran bloggers alike.
Note: Even though a self-hosted WordPress blog is sometimes referred to as a “WordPress.org” blog, you are not limited to a .org at the end of your name. You can still use .com, just like I do for AmyLynnAndrews.com.
Alright, let’s get set up!
Step 3: Find a host
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the merits of WordPress, but there’s one more thing to know. In order for your WordPress blog to be online, you need server space. You get server space from a hosting company or “host.”
What host should you use?
I recommend Bluehost, especially for beginners. I personally used Bluehost for many, many years before I outgrew it. (As a longtime paying customer, the links below are my referral links. This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you use them too.)
Click here to go to Bluehost and start your own blog. The link will open in a new window so you can reference these instructions as you work. Click the green “Get Started Now” button like so:
Don’t worry if the images you see here vary slightly from the ones you see on your screen. The process is the same. Bluehost is always tweaking and making site improvements. You might even catch them in a sale!
Select your plan
Choose the plan you’d like to start with by clicking one of the green “select” buttons. I typically go with Plus or Prime (a.k.a. Choice Plus) because they’ve got more unlimited features. Plus, domain privacy is included with the Prime plan. (If you choose the Plus plan, you’ll have the option to add it later in the process for about $1 a month. Recommended.)
Step 4: Pick a domain name
On the next screen, you’ll enter your desired domain. A domain is a web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain name.
Don’t have a domain yet or aren’t sure which one to choose? No worries! You can easily choose one later. Simply click the link at the bottom of the page that says, “Choose later!” (you might have to move your mouse around on the page a bit before that link appears). This will allow you to get familiar with WordPress while thinking of the perfect domain.
If you know what domain you want to use and haven’t registered it before, enter it on the left.
If you’ve already registered a domain and want to use it for this new site, enter it on the right. (Don’t worry, it won’t mess things up elsewhere to enter it here. It’s just a way Bluehost identifies your account.)
For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use a new domain. If you are using an existing domain, the process is nearly the same so you can still follow along easily.
What if the domain name I want isn’t available?
Don’t get stuck! Take advantage of Bluehost’s option to choose a different one later. Simply click the “Choose later!” link I described above, or click the “Choose Free Domain Later” button in the popup that appears like this (both do the same thing):
Enter your account info
On the next page, enter your Bluehost account info. Make sure you use a working email address because this is where your login information will be sent. (Save these emails!)
Select your package information
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 double or triple). As you can see, it works out to be a very reasonable monthly amount. Not bad for your own blog or website, right? It’s a great deal.
Protip: The low pricing they offer to new customers (you!) applies to the first payment only. In other words, if you choose the 12-month plan, your pricing will be good for only a year, but if you choose the 36-month plan, your pricing will be good for 3 years. So, I recommend choosing the longest plan your budget allows.
I skip the add-ons except Domain Privacy Protection. (The others can easily be added later if needed.) As I mentioned earlier, this keeps your personal information private. The only time I would skip domain privacy is if you are using a business address and don’t mind if it’s visible to anyone who looks up your domain.
Note: The Domain Privacy add-on is only available for new domains. If you selected the Prime package, it’s free!
The total is the amount you’ll pay today. You won’t have to pay again for 12, 24, 36 or 60 months, depending on the package you chose. Set it and forget it!
Enter your billing info
Next, fill in your billing information, confirm that you’ve read the fine print and then click Submit.
Skip the upgrades & special offers
Once you submit your billing info, you’ll be asked if you want to add any upgrades or special offers. I skip them by clicking the “no thanks” link.
Choose a password
After your purchase is complete, you’ll be asked to choose a password for your Bluehost account. Just click the “Create your password” button.
Note: This is the password to your Bluehost account, not your WordPress blog password. That’s coming in a minute!
Step 5: Get started with WordPress
Once your Bluehost account is all set up, it’s only a few more clicks before you can begin working on your new blog. Click the blue login button in the “Congratulations!” window to get started with WordPress.
Skip the free themes
Bluehost gives you the option to pick a free theme immediately. Unless you are familiar with one listed, I recommend you skip it by clicking “Skip this step” at the bottom of the screen.
Why? Because many free themes are not kept updated. Outdated themes leave holes in your site setup that hackers can exploit. They are not worth the risk. The theme that comes pre-installed will suffice for now. You can switch to a different theme once you’re set up and more familiar with WordPress.
Start building your site
Your site will be on a temporary domain at first. Don’t be alarmed!
For new domains entered in Step 4, this is because it takes 2-24 hours for your chosen domain to become fully registered. Go ahead and start working on your site. When the real domain is ready, Bluehost will switch it for you automatically!
If you used an existing domain in Step 4, you can contact Bluehost support (New Hosting Customers) or look in the help section when you are ready to connect your existing domain to this new site.
Make sense? Alright, let’s move on.
You have two options on this screen, the blue “Start Building” button and the link underneath to go to your Bluehost account:
It’s unlikely you’ll need to access your Bluehost account at this point so clicking the “Start Building” button will take you to your new WordPress site like so:
The black column on the left indicates you are in your WordPress Dashboard, a place with which you will become very familiar!
I recommend skipping the blue buttons in the middle of the screen (Business & Personal) and choosing “I don’t need help” instead. Why? I prefer to start with a clean slate. Read on!
What if I need 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 should be able to get you unstuck.
Step 6: Design & use your blog!
Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a self-hosted WordPress blog!
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably want to change your blog’s design by installing a different WordPress theme. This is an entire topic on its own. Here’s how to choose a WordPress theme (and what I use).
The design phase is another place a lot of beginners get stuck. They want the picture they have in their head to match what they see on the screen. I totally get this! My advice is to pick a theme that works well enough. It’s a lot easier to work on your design when you’ve got some posts and pages beefing it up. But first…
IMPORTANT! Before publishing your first post or page, I recommend making these tweaks to your WordPress settings:
- Change your permalinks. I explain why and how in this post here.
- Change your username from “Admin” to something more secure. Read about that and find instructions here.
- Activate your domain. If you chose a new domain in Step 4, find the appropriate welcome email and click the button inside to complete the activation process.
- Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS. The S indicates a secure site. This gives visitors peace of mind; it also keeps your site on Google’s good side. This option is only available once your domain registration is fully completed and you are no longer on your temporary domain (see Step 5 above). You’ll know this is the case when you type your chosen domain into any browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and your domain works without forwarding to a weird looking domain in the address bar. If your site is still using a temporary domain, put a reminder on your calendar to come back in 2-24 hours to finish this step. To complete this step, you’ll need to activate an SSL certificate. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy term. It’s easy. (If you have an existing domain registered elsewhere, check with that company about getting an SSL certificate.) Here’s how to do it in your Bluehost account. Give it a little bit of time to catch up then when you type your domain into a browser like Chrome, you’ll see a secure icon:An insecure site will have an “i” with a circle around it like this in Chrome:
With the above settings adjusted, you are ready to start writing!
There are many directions you can go at this point, but know this: 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! Most of us have been in that very spot too. If you want some encouragement, read my post 18 Tips for New Bloggers.
Where to go from here? Here’s a basic roadmap…
- Learn more about WordPress. Visit my Contents page for an organized list of tips, tools & tutorials. Check out the WordPress section in particular. If you work your way through this list of articles, you will have a good handle on the basics, from adjusting your settings to publishing your first post.
- Next, write your About page.
- After that, start building your content. Write high quality posts on a consistent basis. Remember, your goal is to become the go-to resources in your topic or niche.
- Once you have some excellent posts published, start dabbling in social media. This post will give you pointers for that.
- Rinse & repeat.
How do I log into WordPress once I log out?
You can always login to WordPress by going to yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Substitute “yourdomain” for your actual domain name of course.
If you don’t remember your login info, find the welcome emails sent to you after you set up your site initially. Look in your spam folder if you don’t see them immediately. Those emails have two sets of login information:
- WordPress, where you write your posts and manage your blog
- Bluehost, where you manage your hosting account and pay your hosting bill
How do I change my blog design?
As I mentioned before, read my post about choosing a WordPress theme and what I use.
You might also want to check out my post about blog design dos and don’ts. There are good tips in it, but it also mentions the free theme I recommend: GeneratePress. Read How to Install a WordPress Theme to set it up.
How can I make money blogging?
How do I get people to visit my blog?
I’ve written many suggestions to build your traffic in this post.
What if I want a regular website, not a blog?
No problem. See #5 in this post.
Do you want to keep up with the latest blogging news?
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