I’ve shared here about how to start a blog before, but I know you have questions about what to do right after you start your blog!
If you’re like me, you don’t just want to start a blog, you want to start a profitable blog that makes money! I share some specifics about how I make money with this blog in my income reports, but I’ve had more and more people asking about the in-between, so today I want to talk about one of the most important early steps you can take to get your blog ready to earn money.
Once you start a self-hosted WordPress blog, what comes next? How do you go from the standard WordPress blog to the gorgeous professional looking blogs that you see all of your favorite bloggers have?
First Things First
If you’re reading this post and have not started a blog yet, make sure you sign up for my Start a Blog Newsletter where I will email you my Blog Startup Guide and tips for getting your blog off the ground. You may also want to read these posts:
- How to Know if You’ll Be a Good Blogger
- How to Choose a Blog Name You Won’t Regret
- What to Do if the Blog Name You Want is Taken
- Blog Startup Guide (web-based version)
What Do I Do After I Install WordPress?
The first thing you should do after you install WordPress on Bluehost is install a professional looking theme.
I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!
Assuming you want to make money with your blog (and I believe that’s what you want to do if you’re reading my tutorials), you must have a professional looking web presence.
I know that most bloggers try to go the free route. Even I tried that myself in the beginning! But it won’t get you very far, and it will cause a lot of heartache. Your blog won’t become a true business until you invest in a professional blog theme. If you’re really serious about making a go of blogging, then you will need a nice looking blog theme.
You can read about a few of my favorite themes at the bottom of the Blog Startup Guide, and I’ll include a few in the bottom of this post as well.
Your Professional Blog Theme is Like a Magazine Cover
You might be able to read a magazine that was formatting like a black and white book report, but would you be excited about it? Or would you be more likely to pick up the beautiful magazine on the rack that has lovely photos and catchy titles?
Content aside, you would ALWAYS choose the beautiful layout! We’re a visual society, and we process information much better when it’s beautiful!
The same thing goes for blogs – not only are you trying to impress your readers with the look and style of your blog, but your design is super important for personal branding and catching big clients like companies who want to pay you to review their products. The better your site looks, the better chances you have of being a successful blogger with multiple income stream options. It’s sad to say, but it’s the truth.
Your job right now is to pick a nice looking blog template and then customize it to suit your style, your blog, and your audience.
A Note on Perfectionism
Once you choose a blog template, you will want to set it up to look nice like the demo (using help you find in the support forums or support Facebook group of the theme provider you choose). But don’t get caught up in every little minute detail.
A professional blog theme will set the framework for your blog, but from there you will work on your writing, social media accounts, and monetization. I always say it’s best to just choose a blog template you think looks nice and has good functionality and then work on getting the bare minimum tweaks done to it to make it presentable (add a logo, upload a profile picture, set up the homepage layout, etc).
Basically, make it look as close to the demo theme as you can get it and call it a day. Your blog will begin to look rounded out once you get your first 10-20 blog posts published complete with images. Until you have images to display, your blog won’t be much to look at. Just keep this in mind so you don’t get discouraged before that point.
You might not know this, but my homepage is actually incomplete! It doesn’t look anything like I actually want it to look! But does anyone really notice? I don’t think so. It looks GOOD ENOUGH. So I’m leaving it alone for now. The best part about a professional theme is that it comes with professional support so you won’t be left in the dark when it comes time to customize your theme.
Designers like Restored 316 offer a private Facebook group where you can ask over 1000 owners of their themes (and the theme creators) for help and access their tutorials. StudioPress, my favorite theme provider, has robust support forums where you can ask questions and access ALL prior help requests. I honestly never had to ask a question there – all I did was search for my question in existing forum posts and they always had the answer right there for me.
Here are My Favorite Themes
All of these themes are created on the Genesis framework, the only framework I recommend for a blog ready to make money due to their design standards and built in search engine optimization features. You can’t go wrong with a Genesis based theme. I explained the interplay between Genesis and themes in the Blog Startup Guide.
Some of these are from StudioPress and some are from Restored 316. I’ve viewed the demo of each theme, and feel like these are excellent choices for almost any blog. You could adapt them for a parenting blog, food blog, travel blog, personal finance blog, kids activities blog, or any lifestyle blog, really. As long as your focus is written content, I think these themes are perfect.
- Brunch Pro
- Divine Theme
- Foodie Pro
- Modern Studio Pro
- Pretty Chic
- Pretty Creative
- Daily Dish Pro
- Metro Theme
- Wellness Pro Theme
- Tickled Pink Theme
- Glam Pro Theme
- Sprinkle Theme
- Simple Charming Theme
- Delightful Pro Theme
- Market Theme
- Faithful Theme
- Savory Theme
If you do not use a one of the themes above from StudioPress or Restored 316, a good rule of thumb is to look for themes created on the Genesis platform. If a theme is designed on the Genesis platform, a designer will note that on the sales page because it’s a huge selling point for all the reasons I mentioned in the Blog Startup Guide.
Remember That Web Hosting IS NOT Technical Theme Support
Most important of all – keep in mind that Bluehost is just a website where you will HOST your blog. It basically provides the computer server where your website is run off of. They won’t actually help you design your blog or create content. The design help comes from your theme provider, and when in doubt, just look for some videos on YouTube! I know many blogs that were built up that way.
Asking Bluehost for help with your theme issues is kind of like asking the power company why your television isn’t working. They supply power to your house, but they don’t know what kind of tv you plugged in or offer service if it breaks. Just like Bluehost displays your blog on the internet, but they don’t have anything to do with what you display on it.
I know it’s a confusing distinction at first, so I hope this analogy helps!
And a Final Note, Will It Ever Get Easier?
The answer to this – a resounding YES! Blogging has one of the hugest learning curves of anything I’ve ever seen. I think this is because so few people know what they’re doing. And out of those people, so few are willing to share their knowledge. That’s just the way it is.
I like to advise new bloggers to take it slow and set a small goal of doing ONE THING per day to move your blog forward. Whether that’s figuring out how to create a logo or how to place your bio on the homepage sidebar.
One day, you will look back the hundreds of ONE SMALL THINGS you did and be amazed at what you’ve created. Just use the forums and support threads available to you from your blog theme provider (my recommendations again are StudioPress or Restored316).
Over time, make sure to join a handful of blogging support groups on Facebook where you can ask other bloggers for advice and sit in on their conversations to absorb their knowledge. That is exactly how I learned so much about blogging!
Keep reading to find out how you can get guidance from me in the early days of your blogging career.
A Recap: What to Do After You Start Your Blog
As I mentioned in the Blog Startup Guide, once you start a blog and install the professional theme of your choice, I will send you a complimentary copy of Blog by Numbers, a comprehensive ebook with worksheets for the early days of your blogging journey.
Follow these steps:
- Sign up for my mailing list here
- Start your blog on Bluehost using this link or the ones in my Blog Startup Guide
- Install a blog theme (a.k.a “template”) of your choice (see my recommendations above)
- Email me back with your blog URL + the name of the theme you chose (just reply to one of the emails I send you after you sign up for my mailing list in step 1)
I will then move you over to my Blog Growth Mailing List so I can send you advice tailored to your level in the blogging world.
The only way anyone can get on my Blog Growth Mailing List is by starting a blog through me! I get asked to coach other bloggers all the time, but currently do not do so because I like to reserve all my coaching time for responding to emails from new bloggers!
On the Blog Growth Mailing List, we’ll cover things like creating an About page, how and where to place widgets (the things over on the side of every blog), and much much more! My goal is to help you jump over the blogging learning curve and accomplish great things much faster than I was able to working on this all alone.