Learn How to Start Your Own Blog

start your blog

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Considering starting a blog?

In the back of my mind, I had been thinking about starting a blog for a few years.

Several bloggers had been influential in my life and the way that I thought about work, wealth, and time management. I wanted to join the conversation and share insights from my own experiences with the blogging community! But I was intimidated by what I perceived to be high costs and a high level of difficulty to start a blog.

Does that sound like your state of mind, too?

You don’t need a full-on business plan in place to start blogging. In fact, I’ve found that researching and creating posts here at Semi-Retire Plan has actually sharpened my writing skills and my knowledge base over time.

And blogging doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’m a believer that a passion plus one big idea is all you really need before you get started blogging.

Once you start, the details will follow as you learn and grow along the way. You don’t have to launch a “finished product” on day one.

Starting a blog doesn’t require:

  • A huge amount of time each week
  • HTML or other coding experience
  • A detailed plan
  • Stress or perfection
  • A large monthly budget

What services will you need?

Basically, to start a blog you need (1) a domain name and (2) hosting.

Domain name

Your domain name is the web address of your blog. This site’s domain is savoteur.com.

Technically, you don’t even have to pay for your domain name. Services like WordPress and Blogger have free options available, but you’ll have severely limited functionality and and control over your site.

Plus, on the free plans, those services will modify your URL — so it will appear as “yourdomain.wordpress.com” or “yourdomain.blogspot.com”. These modified, free URLs signal immediately to your readers that you are a novice.

Free plans are fine if you’re starting a blog for personal use only.

But, if this blog will function as a portfolio or a professional site that you may want to monetize in the future, you’ll want to avoid these free plans. That means you’ll have to pay for your domain name, but it doesn’t need to be expensive (as we’ll see below).

Hosting

Your blog’s hosting provider is the company that owns the physical server where your blog’s files live.

There are different types of hosting plans. If you’re just getting started, “shared” hosting should meet all of your needs and be the least expensive.

Typically, your hosting company will also provide access to services like a content management system (CMS). You can use a popular, user-friendly CMS like WordPress, even if you’re not getting hosting services from WordPress.org.

16 WordPress Tools
Here’s how the administrator side of WordPress looks! It’s easy to navigate and very user-friendly.

Where should you get your domain name and hosting from?

I used Bluehost to set up this site, and I’m still using them for my hosting now today.

There are other companies that provide these services too, and I encourage you to shop around and check them out. That’s what I did when I was getting started! Read the reviews.

When I was getting started, I was looking for an inexpensive way to purchase my domain name and use WordPress as my CMS. Bluehost makes it easy to add on other features that you might need, like Domain Privacy + Protection (I’ll talk about this more below).

I really liked that Bluehost provides a free, professional domain name when you use their starter shared hosting service.

At the end of the day, Bluehost seemed like the best value to me, and I’ve been happy with my decision. The SR Wife is also a writer, and we recently re-launched her portfolio using their service, too.

While I’ve been working with Bluehost, I’ve found their customer service chat feature to be super helpful. I also like that it’s easy to upgrade your hosting when your traffic grows.

Bluehost

Ready to get started? Follow these simple steps.

First, you’ll need to choose a domain name. You might want the name to be personal, related to the niche topic you’re going to write about, and/or something fun.

You can check to see if your domain name idea is available, right here!

After you find a name that’s available, you can choose “next” to check out, but it will automatically put you on the least expensive (shared) hosting plan.

If you’d like to choose a different hosting plan or chat with a customer service rep, access Bluehost here instead of using the domain name widget above.

Hosting plan

Next, you’ll choose your hosting plan and and domain name if you didn’t already do so using the widget above.

Select Plan

The “Basic” shared hosting level should be totally sufficient if you’re just getting started. Once your blog starts to take off, you can upgrade later if you need to!

Then, you’ll choose your domain name.

Set up domain

Extras and Domain Privacy

You’ll be asked if you want to sign up for any package extras.

I like the Domain Privacy + Protection option — that will allow your real name and personal contact information to not be shown publicly as the owner of the website. If you don’t choose this option, people can look up that information on sites like whois.net.

Here’s how the savoteur.com listing appears if someone looks up who owns it, since I use the Domain Privacy + Protection option. My personal information isn’t shown publicly — it shows Bluehost’s information instead.

Privacy

I don’t use any of the other Package Extras options, personally. You can skip them for now and add them later if you decide you want them.

Package extras

Complete your registration

To finish signing up, input your account and payment information.

Account Info

Payment Info

Congratulations, you’re officially a blogger and a webmaster!

Set up your site using the WordPress CMS

Log in to your Bluehost account.

9 Use new password

Input some starter details for your site.

You can easily change this information later, if you want to.

10 Name your website

11 Website type

Next, you’ll choose a theme for your site.

You change this later too, so I recommend just quickly choosing a free one.

12 Pick a theme

Now you’re ready to work on your site using the WordPress CMS!

16 WordPress Tools

Temporary URL

For the first day or so, you may notice that your WordPress portal URL and your live site URL don’t match the domain name that you signed up for. This is only temporary. Your full domain name will be live and public within about 48 hours.

How to log in to WordPress later

If you want to log in to the admin/WordPress side of your site later, the default URL to do so will be yourdomainname.com/wp-admin/.

From there, you should be able to log in.

You can change your login URL using plugins (see below) later, if you’d like to. This can help with site security.

Wordpress login

Admin profile

Your site will come with an “admin” user profile. Hackers or bad actors know that this is the default username for WordPress sites. For security purposes, I recommend creating a new user account using one of your personal email addresses.

You can do this in WordPress by clicking the “Users” item on the left navigation menu. Then, mark this new user as a Administrator.

users

Log out, then log in with your new Administrator email address. If that works correctly, go ahead and delete the “admin” default user. This way, no one will know what your admin username is since you have removed the default option.

Plugins

Plugins are third party site supplements that can add functionality to your site theme.

Navigate to the Plugins menu item in your left navigation bar in WordPress. You may have a few installed by default.

plugins

Plugins cause your page load time to be slightly longer. So, plugins aren’t something to be concerned about, but you do want to only use them when necessary. So, I recommend deactivating all of them until you get your site set up (see below).

Once you have a few basic pages set up and a theme chosen, some common types of plugins you may want to use are a contact form plugin, the Classic Editor plugin (changes your WordPress page editing default interface), or social media plugins. Plus, there are seemingly endless other plugins you can add to your site using the plugin menu.

Personally, I use the Classic Editor plugin, Contact Form 7, Easy Social Icons, and Social Pug. They all have free versions that work well.

Plugins are made from various third-party developers, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll work as expected or that they’ll be secure. So I do recommend looking at ratings and reading reviews before installing any new ones.

Plugins can become time consuming to research and set up, especially right when you’re getting started. I would skip these and come back to them once you have content and a theme chosen.

Add some basic content and choose a theme

WordPress is set up with two page categories — Pages and Posts. Pages operate as standalone, independent parts of your site. Posts function more like a series of blog posts.

Most WordPress themes and plugins treat Pages and Posts differently. You should use Pages for one-off navigational items, like an About page, Contact page, Disclaimers and Disclosures, etc. You should use posts for your actual content that people will browse.

Create one or two test versions of Pages and Posts so you can see how they’ll show up in your theme.

Next, go to Appearance then to Customize to set up the appearance of your site and theme.

Customize

I recommend choosing some colors, a tag line, and a logo — even if they’re just placeholders. That way, you can see how your theme treats each element.

Adjust some other settings if you’d like, too.

Themes

This is the best time to start comparing and testing out a few site themes. I recommend doing so before going down the rabbit hole of plugins. Depending on which theme you choose, you may not end up needing to make many modifications.

You can search for and install new themes in the Appearance menu item, under Themes.

Appearance

Paid vs free

Some people swear by paid themes and paid plugins. They can be great, but there are good free options too. I used free themes and plugins only for several months, and they worked great.

I recently upgraded to a paid version of my theme, because I wanted to customize it more. I still use mostly free plugins.

Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, I’d recommend sticking with free options for now. You can always pay to upgrade later. There are tons of free themes and plugins available to start with.

You’re all set!

Now you’re ready to take the blogging world by storm. I think you’ll find that the blogging community is a fun and supportive one. Many bloggers are happy to connect and work together, in my experience.

If you have other questions about plugins or themes, feel free to contact me — I’d be glad to chat. Happy blogging!

Click here to start your own blog with Bluehost!

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