You’ve made the exciting decision to start a blog in 2018. Go you!
You’ve landed in exactly the right place because today’s post is about how to start a blog in 6 simple steps. Because amidst the excitement and butterflies, I’m guessing the tech side of starting your blog maaaaybe has you a bit hung up. Am I close?
There are probably a zillion questions rattlin’ around in your pretty little head right now. Things like…
+ What exactly should I write about on my blog? (and will anyone actually read it?)
+ What should I name my blog?
+ Which blogging platform should I choose? WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace… And why are there so many freakin’ choices?!
No worries, babe — I’m here to answer all of these questions and more. I’ve put together an in-depth, step-by-step guide walking you through how to start a blog in 2018.
I’ve broken the process down into 6 steps and done my very best to make this as easy and painless as possible for you. Before we jump in, grab your notebook and pen — ‘cuz I have a feeling you’ll be jotting down some notes as we go.
Okay, you ready?
How to Start a Blog in 6 Steps
We’re gonna start off with the basics, so if you’re a bit ahead of the game feel free to skip down to some of the more advanced steps later in the post.
Step 1. Choose your niche and target audience.
A good blog is written with a clear audience in mind. Before deciding on the name, colors, and fonts for your blog, spend some time getting clear on what you’re going to write about (we call this your blog’s “niche”) and who you’ll be writing for (your “target audience” or “ideal reader”).
The answers to these questions might come to you immediately, but it’s okay if they don’t. If you’re struggling to decide on a target audience for your blog, think back to the person YOU were 5-10 years ago. What kind of advice would you give your former self? Could younger-you serve as an avatar for your “ideal reader”?
When it comes to your niche, here are my 4 criteria for the perfect, profitable niche:
1. It’s specific.
2. It’s something you’re passionate about.
3. It’s something you have expertise in or experience with.
4. It solves a problem for your readers.
(Pssst. You can learn more about these 4 criteria in this post).
If your niche ticks all 4 of these boxes, you’re off to the races!
Step 2. Decide on a brand name and domain name.
Your blog’s name is critical because it needs to…
#1. Tell new readers what your blog is all about.
#2. Be memorable and easy for people to spell so they can find their way back to you and your site.
Your blog’s name (sometimes also called your “brand name”) should communicate the niche of your blog and/or your target audience. You should avoid using words that are commonly misspelled and words that are spelled differently in different countries.
For example, here are some great brand names that clearly indicate their niches and/or audiences:
Cursor & Ink — Communications and writing
Your Content Empire — Content strategy
Ladies Make Money — A lady’s guide to making money online
If all else fails, you can always use your first and last name as your brand name. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
In a perfect world, you also want the name of your blog to be your social media username. The shorter the better, as most social media platforms will only allow you to have 15-16 characters in your username.
Lastly, your domain name (what people type into their URL bar to visit your website) should end in .com. This is the most popular suffix for domain names, and it’s the default people will search for when trying to find your website.
Phwewf — this sounds like a lot, right? Don’t worry, because there’s a FREE tool you can use to see if your desired blog name is available as a .com domain name AND as a username on all the different social media platforms. It’s called namechk.com, and here’s how it works:
1. Click here to head to namechk.com
2. In the top bar, enter your desired brand name (without .com at the end)
3. Scroll down to see which domain names and social media usernames are available. If the box changes from bright green to dark blue, the name is NOT available for that particular social media platform. If it remains green, the name is available. If it turns yellow, that means your name is too long for that particular platform.
Step 3. Choose your fonts and colors and create a style guide.
Branding isn’t my specialty, but I do believe it’s important to choose a set of fonts and colors that you’ll stick with on your blog, social media, and images. Consistency is key here.
To find custom fonts (ones that aren’t already stored on your computer), check out the following resources:
+ Font Squirrel
+ Google Fonts
+ Creative Market (my fave!)
To choose your brand colors, you can play around with tools like coolors.co. If you need more inspiration or want to find a plug-n’-play color palette, check out Design Seeds or search “color palettes” on Pinterest.
Try not to stress *too* much on this step. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not life-or-death. The colors and fonts you choose today might not be the ones you end up using on your blog a year from now. Your brand will evolve and likely go through several different variations over the years, so don’t get hung up here. Find fonts and colors you like and run with them!
When you’ve chosen your brand fonts and colors, you can compile them together into a plain white doc and create what’s called a “Style Guide”. Here’s an example of a style guide:
4. Purchase your domain name and set up your website.
You’re doing great! We’ve got all of the “pre-work” out of the way. Now comes the fun part: Actually setting up your website.
There are a lot of blogging platforms you can choose from (Blogger, Squarespace, and Wix are pretty popular choices) but my favorite will always be WordPress. Specifically, self-hosted WordPress. If you’re not sure what self-hosted WordPress is or why your website needs to be self-hosted if you want to make money, click here for the full scoop.
To make this super easy, I’m going to walk you through how to set up your self-hosted WordPress website with Bluehost. Bluehost is an affordable and highly reputable web hosting company. Their hosting plans even come with a free domain name, which is super helpful because I know when you’re just starting out, every dollar counts!
Another great thing about Bluehost is that they’ve recently set up an automatic WordPress install on all new hosting accounts. So you don’t have to do anything to get the WordPress platform up and running on your new website – it’s all done for you when you sign up with Bluehost!
As an extra special bonus, I’ve collaborated with Bluehost to create a super-discounted rate just for my readers! You can set up your blog with Bluehost for as little as $2.95/month when you go directly through this link or one of the others in this post. Wahoo!
Ready to get your blog set up? The process with Bluehost is super simple, and you’ll basically just follow the prompts they give you as you move through each step. Here’s a quick rundown of what that looks like:
Step 1. Click here to visit Bluehost’s website.
Step 2. Click on the big green “Get Started Now” button.
Step 3. Select your hosting plan. If you only want to have one website in the near future, you’ll be fine with the Basic plan (which is the most affordable option).
Step 4. Enter your desired domain name in the box on the left. (Note: If you’ve already purchased your domain name elsewhere, pop it into the box on the right and follow the prompts).
Step 5. Choose your package info. This is where you can adjust how many years you want to sign up for. You can cancel at anytime and receive a prorated refund, and Bluehost also has a 30-day money-back guarantee. When you’re happy with your package terms and info, enter your contact info and payment details to purchase the package.
Step 6. Follow the prompts to choose your WordPress password and agree to the Terms & Conditions.
Step 7. Next you’ll be taken to the “Congrats!” screen, and you can click the blue button to log in to your new website with the password you just set up.
Step 8. Once you login you’ll be able to choose a starter theme from the options Bluehost presents you with (which we can always swap out later for a custom theme!)
Step 9. You’ll be prompted to give your website a name and description (think of the description as a tagline for your blog – something that succinctly sums up your brand and message). Don’t worry too much about this step, because you can always change these things later.
Step 10. Next you’ll arrive at your WordPress dashboard. You’ll see a button to “launch” your website, but don’t click that button until you’re ready for your website to be live! There are a few more things we want to do first.
From now on, whenever you want to log in to the backend of your website (your “WordPress dashboard”), simply type the following into your URL bar: www.YOURDOMAINNAME.com/wp-admin (obviously, entering your own domain name where it says YOURDOMAINNAME). You’ll be taken to a login page where you’ll enter your username and password to log in. Easy peasy!
5. Choose and install your chosen WordPress theme.
By now you might be wondering: What exactly is a “theme”? In simple terms, your theme is the template you’ll use to design your website with. A good theme that suits your style and layout needs will make the design process a million times easier. However, there are literally thousands of themes to choose from, so the process can be a little bit tricky.
You can, of course, stick with the first theme you chose when setting up your website with Bluehost, but I have a feeling you’ll want to browse around and find one that suits your needs perfectly.
Here are some things to consider when choosing your theme:
+ Do I want a sidebar on my blog? If so, do I want it on the left or the right side?
+ How many navigation menus do I want, and where do I want them to be located? (Above my header image, below my header image, etc.)
+ Do I want to edit and design the footer section? (Most likely, yes!)
+ Can I find a theme that makes it super easy to swap out colors and fonts? (The easier, the better!)
Like I said before, I’m all about making this as simple as possible for you. For that reason – and because I don’t want you heading down a rabbit hole here – I’m only going to recommend one specific theme for you.
It’s called Tweak Me V2, and it’s served me incredibly well since launching my blog at the beginning of 2016. I’ve re-designed my website several times over the past few years, and every time I unveiled a new look, the Tweak Me theme was behind it. If that’s not saying something for the versatility of this theme, I don’t know what will!
Other perks of the Tweak Me V2 theme include…
+ 6 pre-set designs you can use, and literally have your blog fully designed with a few clicks of a button
+ 6 different options for sidebar placement (including no sidebar if you don’t want one)
+ 3 different menu locations (at the top of your website, underneath your header image, and in the footer section)
+ You can easily change the fonts and colors of just about everything with the click of a button
Do I have you convinced yet? Seriously, it’s amazing! I recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for an easy-to-use, incredibly customizable WordPress theme.
You can purchase the Tweak Me V2 theme here!
Once you’ve downloaded Tweak Me V2, here’s how to install it on your website:
Step 1. From your WordPress dashboard, click “Appearance” in the left-hand menu.
Step 2. Under Appearance, click “Themes”.
Step 3. Press the “Add New Theme” button.
Step 4. Select the file for your theme. When you purchased the theme, it will be delivered to you as a ZIP file. Make sure to not unzip it. We need to upload the file as a ZIP file.
Step 5. Once your theme’s file has uploaded, hover over it and press “Activate”. This will deactivate the theme you selected earlier, and make Tweak Me V2 your new active theme.
And that’s it! Your theme is installed and you’re ready to start customizing your website.
6. Design your beautiful new blog.
To design your website, you’ll use the settings in two different screens on your WordPress dashboard:
1. “Theme Options” or “Theme Settings” (the name varies depending on your theme).
You can access Theme Options by clicking “Appearance” in your left-hand menu. This is the *backend* way to edit your site – in other words, you won’t see how the changes you make actually look on your website unless you preview your site or visit the frontend.
2. The “Customize” screen, which you’ll also find under “Appearance”. This is the *frontend* way to design and customize your website.
Note that not all of your theme’s design options will be accessible in BOTH of these screens. In my experience, you can do more in the Theme Options/Theme Settings screen, so make sure you look into both.
In terms of design tips, make sure to incorporate the brand fonts and colors you chose in Step 3 all over your website. You can use free programs like Canva or PicMonkey to create branded social media icons and a logo or header image you’ll add at the top of your website.
Keep things simple at this stage. You can always improve your design (or even hire a professional designer!) later once your blog is making money. The key here is to get your blog up and running and good enough. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Once you’ve designed your blog, it’s time to launch it into the world! My motto when it comes to launching is, “Go big or go home”. Don’t be afraid to shout about your blog from the rooftops, share it on social media, and tell all your friends and family about it.
Once your blog is live and launched, I suggest focusing on writing tons of epic content, growing your Pinterest account and using it to drive traffic, and building an email list. If you do that, you’ll be on your way to earning a full-time income from your blog in no time.
Your turn! If you haven’t already, follow along with the steps in this tutorial to get your new blog up and running and ready to kick butt in 2018. Have questions? Post ‘em for me below so I can help you out!