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Every day I get questions from readers asking about starting a blog of their own. I write a lot about making extra money on the side and publish the occasional income report for WhatMommyDoes.com, so it makes sense I would get a lot of questions.
I LOVE getting questions and spend quite a bit of time each week going through and answering each question individually. I realized one day that I should probably start putting answers to some of the most common questions in a central place so I can just link to them in my responses. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner!
“I Want to Start a Blog”
One comment I get a lot is “I want to start a blog, but I don’t know if I should use Blogger or Weebly or what else is available?” I also get asked, “Do you have to pay for a blog?” and “How do you make money blogging?”
While these are not all questions you can answer in a single blog post, I am going to address the most basic ones first. The ones regarding how much it costs to start a blog and what platform you should use.
Should You Start a Blog for Free?
I will tell you that most people who contact me express a desire to make money from their blogs. So I’m going to assume that’s your goal as well and that will direct me in what I tell you to do.
You may have heard of Blogger and Weebly and possibly even WordPress.com before. If not, all you need to know is that those are great options for someone who wants to start a website FOR FUN. All three of those options will allow you get up and running very quickly, and they will be easy to use. It’s perfect for the recreational blogger, like someone who just wants to use their blog to keep family members up to date or have a place to document their travel adventures.
There are many reasons I wouldn’t want a money-making blog created on a free website platform, but the MAIN ONE that’s enough to make me pay for my blog is that on a free platform YOU DON’T TRULY OWN YOUR BLOG. When you publish a blog on Blogger, for instance, you are technically at the mercy of Blogger. They own the platform your blog runs on, so if they decided they wanted to shut you down, they could. When you start making $100s and $1,000s of dollars per week, that’s not an acceptable scenario, in my opinion!
What’s the Deal with Self-Hosted Blogs?
The way you can truly own your blog is if you create a SELF-HOSTED BLOG. What this means is you buy a domain name and hire a company to “host” your blog. In other words, you register your blog name and then look for a service to help you display your website on the internet.
Getting a self-hosted blog up and running doesn’t cost as much as you’d think.
I CAN NOW OFFER BLUEHOST PREFERRED PRICING!
If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog, this is a great time to snag this deal! I don’t know of any other legitimate business you can start for this amount. We’re truly living in an amazing era!
Bonus: If you sign up through me, you’ll also get a FREE DOMAIN NAME (a $15 value) with your hosting plan in addition to the rockin’ ebook below!
YOUR FREE STEP-BY-STEP EBOOK!
Now for something even more exciting – I have a super special bonus to tell you about!
My good blogging friend Suzi has put together an ahhhhh-mazing book that walks you through all of the major things you need to do to give your blog a jumpstart kick in the pants. I loved her book so much (it was seriously so good I wish I had written it myself), I approached her about the possibility of working together and she agreed to make a special edition of her book just for me TO GIVE TO YOU!!
The first 100 people who start a blog through Bluehost using my link (<<click here), will receive a FREE COPY of her book, Blog By Number (a $17.99 value!)
UPDATE: ONLY 43 COPIES STILL AVAILABLE as of 11/21/16!
I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. I WISH I had had a book as comprehensive as hers when I was first starting out. It’s literally a blueprint of what you should do in the early days of your blog to make sure you’re getting your posts seen in Pinterest and Facebook.
She covers the process of creating killer pinnable images for Pinterest, explains which Facebook groups you should join to network with other bloggers, and basically guides you through the creation of your first batch of blog posts with catchy titles, ensuring your hard work has a chance of being seen.
With this ebook, you also get access to her massive (detailed) blog planner that contains blog post checklists, an editorial calendar, a blog vision board and more as shown below!
To get this ebook from me for free, all you have to do is this:
- Start your blog using the Bluehost tutorial in this post or in the guide you can request via email below
- Install the theme of your choice using Bluehost’s one click install (I explains themes and install below as well)
- Email me at lena <at> whatmommydoes.com with your URL/blog name to let me know you’ve completed steps 1 and 2
- I will reply with your special code to redeem your free ebook! I’ll send you download details AND move you over to my exclusive Blog Growth Mailing list reserved only for people who start a blog using my tutorial. On that mailing list, you will receive weekly emails containing important information on building a killer blog in the early days. I don’t want you to have to do this all alone like I did! 😀
With this blog startup tutorial,Suzi’s ebook, and direct guidance from me, you will be totally set to hit the ground running with your first round of posts AND have a blueprint to follow to get your blog seen in the early days! All things I never had and wish I could go back and read.
I truly hope you decide to join me on my crazy blogging adventures. 🙂 Visit Bluehost here and read below for the setup details.
Your domain name registration is included with your Bluehost package. I recommend getting the domain name and registration done in one step like this. It’s what I’ve done with all my blogs to date and it makes things simple.
IMPORTANT: Please note that Bluehost bills upfront for annual hosting packages. There are two main advantages to them doing this. I want you to know about this now so you don’t go all the way through the setup process only to realize it when it comes to Step 4: Billing.
- By billing upfront you are able to avoid any billing issues that might effect your site being up. You don’t want to get a new debit/credit card a few months from now and risk your hard work by forgetting to link your new card information to Bluehost billing right away. I like having the peace of mind that my webhosting account is paid up for a year or more at all times.
- You are able to ensure that your domain name, and for all intents and purposes your brand, are paid for and cannot be purchased out from underneath you by someone else. If you are looking for the best bang for your buck, I recommend the 36-month hosting; if you are looking for the shortest term, the 12-month package is what you want. Honestly, at this point in my blogging career, I am looking at a way to secure my domain name for the next 25 years or more…this billing stuff gets confusing if renewals come too often and I can’t afford to lose my domain name or hosting due to a billing mistake. Anyway, just my two cents – I don’t want you to be caught unaware!
With all that said – if you want to have a MONEY MAKING BLOG, you absolutely need to pay for hosting. And if you are serious about earning income from it, you don’t want a month to month deal. TRUST ME.
Questions About Starting a Blog
You probably have a lot of questions right about now. I will try to address a few of them right now.
- What should I write about? – You can literally blog about anything you want and make money doing it if you spend enough time building up your blog over time. There are bloggers who specialize in every topic you can think of. I know bloggers who only write about flipping old pieces of furniture and others who specialize in gardnening. I know bloggers who write about specific illnesses, recipes they make for bake sales, being a mom in general, or planning trips to Disney World (seriously!). You can even specialize in coloring pages or beauty reviews. The choice is yours! Perhaps the toughest thing you need to do now is carefully consider your domain name, which leads me to the next question….
- What should I name my blog? – You can be very specific here. I mean, there are blogs that specialize in Gluten Free Recipes. But I am too scatterbrained for that. I named my blog WhatMommyDoes because I wanted to be able to write about ANYTHING I wanted to that related to my life as a mom. So this means I write about holidays, food, kids activities, making money from home, budgeting, printables, weight loss and more. My blog is heavy on financial advice, but I could have easily have gone in a holistic or parenting advice direction. If you have a variety of interests, I would suggest titling your blog something general so it can logically hold all things you’re interested in. My next blog will be even more generic than this one….I’ve already reserved the domain name through Bluehost…it’s called SweetGumRoad.com 🙂
- When can you start making money with a blog? – You can start making money from your blog the minute you start getting traffic to it. If you want to earn money it, you’ll need to keep in mind that you have to be “selling” in one way or another. You can start with banner & block ads then branch out into affiliate products (that’s where you recommend products in exchange for a commission) and sponsorships (like when companies pay you to write about their products). I would also focus on writing great content in the beginning and building up your blog traffic. The more traffic you have, the more you will make from a blog that has advertising on it. I have a couple of posts that might help you with that when you’re ready. First is my Recommended Blogging Resources page that walks you through some of my favorite ad/post networks and the second is for when you’re a bit more established and have at least 20 blog posts under your belt. That’s when you’ll want to grab my Blog Traffic Ebook. It’s full of advice on how I built my blog from 17,000 to 350,000+ monthly visitors in 2015. Feel free to buy it any time, but just know you won’t be able to apply these concepts until you have your blog set up and are comfortable with posting to it.
- How much money can you make blogging? – This will vary from person to person. While I cannot tell you exactly how much you will earn through your blog, I can tell you that my blog makes $5,000-$7,000 per month right now (and has been since late 2015). It took me 350 blog posts to get to this point, so I won’t lie – it was A LOT of hard work. But it’s totally worth it to me. I built this blog on late nights and stolen computer time while my babies were napping, and it has allowed me to be a stay-at-home-mom while contributing to our household finances. Now that my kids are in school (the youngest is almost in pre-K), I have even more time and have been able to accelerate my efforts in the past few months. I have started publishing income reports on the blog… you can get them here: WhatMommyDoes Income Reports
Did I miss anything? Let me know if you need to know anything else before taking the plunge and starting your blog.
How to Start a Self Hosted Blog on Bluehost
Now that we’ve gone through the reasons I would start a self-hosted blog and I’ve answered some common pressing questions, let’s dive into the startup tutorial. I even included some screenshots of the entire Bluehost blog start-up process, so I think it will be very clear to follow.
Right now I recommend doing one of two things:
- Opening a new tab in your browser, then toggling back and forth between this page and Bluehost as you do the setup.
- Or you could print this page out and use it as a checklist! In fact, I created a printable version of this tutorial so you can do just that. Click here to grab the PDF to print out >> How to Start a Blog Using Bluehost: New Blog Checklist
If you’re strapped for time? I’ll email my blog startup checklist to you!
If you would like to use this tutorial to start your blog but don’t have time right at the moment (or maybe you’re at work and can’t walk through this tutorial right now), you can get a free copy of this checklist emailed to you by signing up for my Start a Blog Newsletter. This is an especially good option if you’re viewing this page on mobile right now. Just click here to subscribe using your name & email address, and once you confirm the email newsletter subscription, you will automatically receive a download link for the PDF checklist via email.
If you’re ready to get started now, let’s do this! The instructions start below.
Blog Setup Overview
Before we jump into the step-by-step blog setup, I’m going to walk you through the 4 main steps you need to take to start a blog. Those are:
- Decide on a blog name – This is the first thing you should do because it is how you will be known online. Your blog name is the same thing as your domain name a.k.a your web address. You know, like www.YourBlogName.com. I recommend choosing a name that’s 1) easy to spell 2) means something to you and 3) all the major social media handles are available (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). You don’t want to get all excited about a blog URL and register it only to find out that you can’t have that Facebook name because it already exists! So make sure and do your homework before you decide on a website name. You’ll want to come up with a creative & cool blog name that tells the world what your blog is all about. If you think of a name and find out it’s not available, don’t worry. There are millions of different blog names to choose. The most important thing to remember is that you want to have a .com website address, not .net or .tv or anything like that. If your favorite blog name isn’t available, consider trying a variation on that name or going with something similar yet slightly different.
- Get a host (and register your blog name) – For a beginning blog, I recommend going with a trusted & affordable webhost. For this I recommend Bluehost. I know many big bloggers who started out on Bluehost & they offer just about the best deal you can get online. When your blog grows, you may have to move to a premium host that can help you manage all the traffic coming your way (my blog is run by Servously and I’m on a plan that can handle up to 2 million page view per month)…there’s no need for you to spend that much money right now, though! We’ll get you going the affordable way.
- Install WordPress with One Click – This is the program your blog is published with. WordPress is what will make creating your blog posts and customizing your website possible without knowing how to code. The same way you can change colors in a Word document without having to know the hex code for blue. It takes a lot of the technical stuff away and lets you do your thing! Bluehost has one-click install, which is exactly how it sounds. Literally within a few minutes your new website will be rocking WordPress, the best blogging platform available.
- Purchase & install a theme – This is the “skin” of your blog, the look & layout of your page. I’ll show you several different options. Think of your theme like the a pre-formatted Word document with pretty subheadings and fonts already in place. A good theme will allow you to get up and running with a good looking site right out of the box. After you get started, you will then take the base theme and customize it to your liking (moving features around, setting up categories for your post, etc).
Step by Step Bluehost Blog Setup Instructions
Now this might seem like a lengthy tutorial, but it really isn’t. This is about as hard as answering a handful of questions and then clicking a button the rest of the time. I tried to show you screenshots of every important step, so it should go pretty fast…let’s get started!
Head over to Bluehost’s home page and click on the big green “Get Started Now” button. Review the plan options (you’ll make a choice in Step 4…but you will want to choose the Basic Plan. You can always make a different selection later, but for a beginning blog, the Basic Plan is plenty good enough).
Next, you need to choose a domain name for your site. Hopefully you’ve given it some thought after reading the tips above. If not, now is the time to make your choice. Your domain name comes free with your Bluehost hosting package. Enter your domain name under the “new domain” box and click “next.”
Fill out your account information.
Continue below to choose which hosting package you want. Normal, shared hosting is priced at 12, 24 and 36-month terms. To help save you money, the longer term you purchase, the lower the monthly rate will be. For example, by choosing a 36-month hosting term, you can get their best introductory rate. Which option you choose is a personal preference. I personally went with the 12 month package my first time because I was hesitant to commit to more than that (even though they have a money-back guarantee LOL).
There are other add-ons to choose from here. I don’t think any of them are truly necessarily except for the Domain Whois Privacy. This basically means that instead of your personal information being listed in an online directory, Bluehost will be listed publicly as your site owner. Of course, you will still be the owner of the domain name, but your contact details will not be publicly accessible.
As far as backing up your blog, that is actually important, too; however, there are free plugins you can install later to help with this.
Enter your billing information, confirm you have read the Terms of Service, and click “next.”
Awesome!!! Give yourself a pat on the back. You just took the first steps to starting your own self hosted blog and now you need to choose a password. Make sure it’s secure so hackers can’t get access to your site. (I don’t have screenshots for this part because you know the scoop on setting up passwords…pretty self-explanatory).
Note: If you are offered additional add-on services at this point, I would say no to them. You can always change your mind later.
Now that you are all signed up and are able to log into your account, you can get started installing WordPress! Bluehost lets you install WordPress with a 1-click install. It’s just about my favorite thing ever.
Navigate to your Account Dashboard and look for the “Install WordPress” button shown below.
On the WordPress installation screen, click “Start” to begin installation. (This is the one click install I mentioned above…seriously so easy!)
Select your domain so Bluehost knows where to install WordPress. You may get a warning that you are overwriting files, but as long as you don’t have another website built yet, you can check the box and continue.
Click on “Show Advanced Options.” This section allows you to set up your own username and password for your WordPress install. It is recommended to use a different username than “admin” and a very strong password. Important: Write down this password somewhere you won’t forget. In the next step, you will receive a confirmation email containing all of your login information EXCEPT your password.
Make sure that the “Automatically create a new database for this installation” box is checked, unless you have a database already set up that you want to use. After you’ve read the terms and conditions, check the box indicating that you’ve done so, then click “Install Now.”
Now you’ll see the progress page, which will show you how far along the installation is. You may also see a green bar along the top of the page that will indicate when your installation is complete.
Once WordPress is fully installed, it will provide you with your site URL, the admin login URL, your username, and password. You will get a copy of this information, except your password, in a confirmation email as well. Make sure to keep it in a safe place!
Click on the Admin URL in the confirmation email from the previous step. The URL will look something like this: http://www.yourblogname/wp-admin
Enter your username and password to access your WordPress dashboard. From here, you can control everything to do with your WordPress site, such as writing posts and changing the appearance. (If you forgot your password, you have 12 hours to retrieve it from your Bluehost Notification Center).
Remember, if you sign up through this tutorial, you’ll receive a special offer of shared hosting at $3.49/month for 36 months, as well as a free domain name for a year!
Congratulations!!!! You now have your very own WordPress blog and are ready to embark on a fantastic blogging adventure! Your next step is to find a blog template (also know as your theme).
Installing Your Theme
Free vs. Premium vs. Custom Designed Theme Templates
Now that you have WordPress and hosting for your blog, you’ll want to choose a functional and nice looking blog template, or theme. Let’s run through the three options available – free, premium, and custom theme templates.
- Free Blog Templates – If you are starting your blog on a tight shoestring budget, then you can by all means start with one of the free themes that comes with WordPress and change to a paid theme later on with the click of a button. Keep in mind that the better your blog looks, the faster you will be able to make money with it. So if making money is one of your goals, see option #2.
- Premium Blog Themes – However, if you want to have a nice looking blog that makes you money, I highly recommend you go with a premium theme created on the Genesis framework (see below for more details). A premium theme will come with a lot of features and pre-formatted sections so you don’t have to spend a ton of time working on the layout, background, colors, and fonts to make your blog look nice. You can get started with this option for $79 – $149 depending on the theme you choose.
- Custom Designed WordPress Theme – The version of my blog you’re looking at is actually a custom design done by Laura at PixelMeDesigns. This design cost over $600, but by no means should you pay for a custom design when you’re just starting out! First of all, I’m a big believer in a blog paying for itself (call me frugal) and second of all, when you’re first starting out you don’t really know what you will ultimately want in a blog template, so if you were to get a custom design now, I’d bet good money you’ll have to get another one at some point when you realize all the things you didn’t ask for originally.
My Theme Recommendation If You Want to Make Money from Your Blog
If I was to start all over again as a beginning blogger, I wish someone would have told me to go straight to a premium theme. They’re nice enough to look professional, but not so expensive that you can’t justify the expense before making any money. I wasted a lot of time searching for a free theme that didn’t look basic, and I ended up going with a premium theme anyway. So that’s what I recommend to everyone who’s serious about making an income generating blog.
When you really get into blogging, you’ll be spending a lot of time writing, learning about social media, etc and you will wish you weren’t also worrying about how to move the email subscription box around or how to change your blog’s background color scheme. A premium template has all of that set up for you in a neat little package.
Bottom line is – I would save your money for a custom theme for when you’re really ready for it and can justify the expense, and just go with a nice looking premium theme that’s better looking than the free ones but more affordable than custom. For this I recommend themes designed on the Genesis framework (this is what my custom theme is based on and what I recommend for anyone who wants to start a money-making blog).
What is the Genesis Framework?
This one takes a little explaining, as it can be confusing. In order to create the best blog you can (in my opinion), you will want to create it on the Genesis framework. Genesis is sort of the platform, or base, for many different types of blog templates. Once you have the Genesis framework, you must then get a CHILD THEME to use with it. I think it’s easier if you think of the Genesis framework as Microsoft Excel and the child theme is a ready-made Excel document with pre-formatted colorful cells and formulas already in place. The child theme designer has already done the hard work for you. All you have to do is upload the template and start tweaking it to your taste (changing colors, placement of headers, etc).
A company called StudioPress makes the Genesis framework. StudioPress also makes its own child themes, but you can also get child themes from other designers.
TIP: If you decide to get a StudioPress child theme to operate on the Genesis framework, I recommend purchasing them as a single package on the StudioPress website. You will receive a discount by doing it this way. For instance, if you were to purchase the Jessica theme and Genesis framework in one transaction, you would get both for $129.95. Not a bad deal for your very own standalone professional-looking website, if you ask me!
My very 1st blog was created using the Lifestyle Theme from StudioPress (which requires the Genesis framework), and it was by far the easiest to create even though I knew the least about making a website back then! I regret ever going with another theme provider, and all of my future blogs will be built on Genesis. So that’s why I only recommend Genesis to new bloggers. It gives you so many bells and whistles for a great price and the support forums and tutorials are second to none. You will be able to customize your site in practically any way you choose. There are tons of cute templates to choose from. But even better than that, keep in mind as your site grows and you can afford a custom blog redesign, your designer will be able to build something phenomenal on the Genesis platform. All my favorite bloggers use it!
StudioPress offers so many awesome blog template options for different types of blogs. I know many many bloggers who use Foodie Pro, which is a lovely clean template great for showcasing pictures. I am also partial to the girly and fun Pretty Chic theme.
For further details and a better understanding of the whole Genesis framework/child theme thing, I recommend reading the Genesis for Absolute Beginners document (free!) from StudioPress.
If you look through the StudioPress templates and don’t find one that strikes you as perfect for your blog, I do have a few other recommendations from trusted designers. These designers also use the Genesis framework to design their themes. I am in love with some of the newer girly looking themes available, so these might be what you’re looking for if you want a more feminine look to your blog.
Just remember that you will need to separately purchase the Genesis framework in order to use these blog templates. It’s not a complicated process; it just adds an extra step.
Pretty Darn Cute Designs
This designer has some beautiful blog templates designed on the Genesis framework. Here’s a link to the selection of Pretty Darn Cute blog template options. I’ve been a long time fan of Modern Blogger Pro and I think the Fun Theme could be great if you think you might want an ecommerce store of some kind attached to your blog.
Lovely Blog Templates from Restored 316
Restored 316 specializes in creating chic, trendy, and feminine WordPress themes using the Genesis Framework for women-owned blogs. Their themes are gorgeous. They range from simple & chic to colorful & trendy and run about $50 each (before you purchase the Genesis framework which is $59.95). You can browse the entire Restored 316 blog template collection here. I’ve shown a couple of my favorites below:
Some of the Restored 216 themes are ultra feminine and minimalistic. This is a preview of the Tasteful theme and how it looks on various screen sizes.
My Favorite Themes
Upon popular request, I’ve written a separate post that goes over 15 of my favorite themes from StudioPress and Restored 316. I know it’s so difficult to narrow down a good theme when you’re just starting out, so I reviewed ALL of the themes available from both providers and listed the ones I think would be perfect for any new blog (with the exception of photography blogs – I didn’t review those because most of my readers are interested in blogging about photography).
I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the themes I mention in this post: Recommended Blog Themes (install one after you download WordPress)
Starting Your Very Own Blog the RIGHT Way: Recap & Next Steps
Whether you go with StudioPress, Pretty Darn Cute Designs, or Restored 316 for your WordPress theme, you will receive excellent customer service and access to forums to get help with any technical questions you may have. If you decide to go with another Genesis framework designer, just make sure you have access to a support line or forum; it will come in handy once you get started tweaking your design to suit your style.
Now that you know how to start a blog the right way, you can get to the important part – creating lots of awesome content! A good base of content is what you need to make an impact with your blog – earning extra money is the tip of the iceberg. You can not only make money from your blog, you can use it as a platform to start a consulting business or even inspire people to fulfill their dreams. The direction you take with your new blog is really up to you, and I can’t wait to see what you decide!
Once you have a good 25-50 posts under your belt, I encourage you to check out my ebook meant for intermediate to advanced bloggers called How I Grew My Blog from 17K to 350K+ Page Views in 9 Months. It’s a recounting of the learning process I went through to grow my blog to what it is today. But it’s definitely not for beginners so, just make sure to bookmark my ebook (I recommend pinning the image) and come back for it when you’re ready!
Have Questions About Starting a Blog?
So there you have it. My straightforward tutorial guide to creating your own self-hosted WordPress blog using Bluehost. Once you’ve completed the steps above, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to answer any other questions you have along the way as you make your blog your own.
Now go out there and rock the blogging world!!