Yes, there’s the obvious opportunity to make money — which I’m sure I’ll get organized enough to do any day now — but it’s about so much more than that.
Throughout the years, I’ve built up an audience (that’s you!) that’s made up of people I consider my confidantes, support system and, well, friends. You’ve been there through the good and the bad: when we hit milestones like getting our house and fully funding the teeth account, but also for the bad depression spells and multiple miscarriages.
My life is better because I have you guys in it. I know I have a place to vent, to ponder, to encourage and to seek encouragement. I honestly can’t imagine life without this site. Most of the bloggers I know feel the same way. So I cannot stress to you how much I recommend you start your own blog if you haven’t already.
Here’s how to do it: Get a domain, get a hosting company, start writing.
Okay, okay, it’s a little more involved than all that. But those are the basics, and this post is designed to hold your hand through the nitty gritty.
Why you should buy at all
Yes, you can absolutely start a blog for free with sites like blogspot. I started that way. And I regretted it about a year later when I decided to get serious and get a self-hosted site.
Transferring everything over was a huge pain, and a bunch of my posts’ formatting went wonky. It also cost around $200. All in all, it’s easier to start with a self-hosted site — especially at less than $50 a year.
A year, a domain and a guarantee
You can buy a domain separately, but Bluehost — which has the cheapest hosting rates I’ve seen — will give you one for free if you sign up for a year of hosting. That saves you around $15 a year, so I recommend getting both your domain and your hosting there. (I’ll provide some non-Bluehost options at the bottom of this post.)
And yes, a year sounds like a long time. But you can cancel at any point and get your money back: a full refund within 30 days and a prorated one thereafter.
In other words, there’s no risk. Meanwhile, signing up for a year will give you a sense of commitment.
Convinced? Of course you are! So let’s walk through the process.
Step by step
First, go to the Bluehost website. The homepage will look like this:
When you click the “Get Started Now” button, you’ll be taken to a page showing the various hosting plans:
The basic plan should suit your needs for now. Once everyone realizes how fabulous you are and flocks to your site… then you can upgrade.
For now, just click on the basic plan. You’ll be taken to a page to help with your domain:
If you’re registering a new domain, you just need to enter it into the field under “New Domain.” The system will let you know if it’s already taken.
If you already own a domain, just enter it in the “Transfer Domain” field.
Click “next” and you’ll be prompted to fill in your account information. Companies are kind of picky about knowing who you are and how to get in touch with you. (So needy!)
The next section on the same page: choosing a package.
First of all, notice that the $3.95 deal is listed as 36 months. You’ll only get that price if you pay for three years upfront.
Of course, you can always pay now to lock in that rate, then cancel and get a refund if you don’t last the full three years. But it’s only $1 more a month to choose the one-year option. It’s a much smaller initial investment (always nice), and $4.95 a month is still a screamin’ deal.
Once you settle on the length of your plan, you’ll still need to review the various available add-ons. While only you can say whether they’re worth it, here are my thoughts:
- SiteLock: I’ve never gotten grief for not having it on my site. I’ve never noticed whether it’s on anyone else’s. I wouldn’t pay for it.
- Backup: There are plenty of free plugins that will help you back up your data for free. Don’t pay for this.
- Search Engine Jumpstart: It’s a vague term. I’m not honestly sure what it entails, but I’m guessing SEO-type stuff. I wouldn’t recommend shelling out money for this. As you write, your stuff will get into search engines on its own.
- BUT… Domain Whois Privacy may actually be worth it. This helps keep your contact information, well, private. Why is this important? I registered a new domain about 10 days ago. I got around 15 emails in the first three days trying to get me to buy a logo and other services. I’m going to look into it next time around.
Once you’ve chosen the options, go further down the page to enter your billing information.
Click that you understand everything and click “next.” This will take you to your cPanel. Which is when things start to look really confusing!
I know this may seem daunting. It looks scary to me, even. But the icons are simple and clear, and I’m still here to hold your hands through a few more steps. So read through the end of this post. If you still don’t feel up to trying it yourself, I’ll have a couple of options for technical help.
In the meantime, look at the cPanel icons. You need to start by installing WordPress. You do this by clicking, you guessed it, the “Install WordPress” icon. You’ll then be taken to this page:
Click the green “Install” button. Then choose the domain you entered at the start of this process.
Now it’s time to create your WordPress login and create a password.
Click that you’ve read the Terms and Conditions, then click “Install Now.” Then you’ll see:
Ta-da! WordPress is installed! Now go back to your cPanel, and choose the “Themes and Templates” icon.
You can get outside themes, but that’s for later. Right now, just choose an option in the Themes & Templates. It’s free, it doesn’t need to be imported and it’s just easier overall.
Eventually, you can get a fancier theme — free or otherwise. Later, you can look into logos and graphics. And eventually, you’ll want to get some plugins like Askimet/Wordfence (for spam) and a good SEO plugin (to get you in those search engine results).
But all that is for later. For now, just pick a theme and start writing.
First of all, there are some people who don’t like Bluehost. I know plenty of bloggers who use it happily and without issue. But if you’re concerned, then I would recommend Big Scoots, which is another hosting site. It’s reputable, and the setup is very similar to Bluehost’s.
If this still feels too scary/overwhelming, then you can always pay for help. BlueHost has some good prices to get you set up, or you can have iMark Interactive do it for you. I personally recommend iMark, which handles my tech support and blog alterations. The prices are very reasonable.
Of course, if you do hire some help, it means you’ll be able to get things set up exactly how you want them from the get-go. But I advocate trying it at least once yourself. If you have problems, then call in the professionals. It’s like me and plumbing!
It’s easy to get lost in the “Should I/shouldn’t I?” situation. Don’t let yourself get sucked into a long debate over the pros and cons. Make like Nike and just do it.
Write about personal finance, PTA meetings, graphic novels, action figures, movie memorabilia, recipes, pens or just thoughts you had in the car. Keep at it, even just once a week, and we’ll find you. (It helps if you put your URL in when you leave a comment. That’s how I’ll find you.)
I know I already said it, but darn it I’m saying it again: Blogging changed my life. Not the hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars way that like Michelle at Making Sense of Cents. But it changed my life nonetheless.
So I hope that you guys take the plunge — and that you find an audience that’s as awesome as mine is. (Want more flattery? Go read my Thank You post.)
To non-bloggers: Have you thought about starting your own site? To current bloggers: What made you decide to take the plunge?
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