My decision 7 years ago to put fingers to keys and start my first personal finance blog was one of the best decisions I have made for my career, and I truly want all of you to experience how powerful growing an audience around a topic you're interested can be. I've already showed you exactly how to choose a topic to blog about… And, never one to leave you hanging, today I'm going to show you how to start a blog in just 6 simple steps.
How to Start a Blog in 6 Simple Steps
Learning how to start and grow blog is like learning how to make bread. Stay with me here.Have you ever had the perfect loaf of bread? Crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside? If you've ever been anywhere near Europe or just have a thing for refined carbohydrates like I do, I know you know what I'm talking about. Unless you're slow carbing like I am (maybe especially if you are), I know your mouth is watering. Yet have you ever made your own bread? Probably not. Or, if you did, you probably don't make a habit of it. It looks hard and time-consuming Surprisingly, though, it isn’t. With the right equipment and the Google, you can make bread in a few minutes. Just like with that sinfully delicious loaf of nutritionally deficient decadence, you've probably been enjoying blogs for years… without ever starting one of your own. That might be because your instincts tell you that something you enjoy so much must be difficult.
Good news though. It's not hard to start a blog. You only have to set up your blog once. Then you're done with the hard part and get to start writing and growing it. Blogging isn’t rocket science. Sure, some parts might be detail-oriented. But the core concepts of blogging are easy to follow and understand. To blog successfully, you must:
- Write shit your target audience likes
- Get said shit in front of said people
- Get said people onto your email list
- Wash, rinse and repeat
You don't even have to know how to snap your fingers. Trust me. If you did I'd be in trouble. So let's get you set up (if you're not already). Put your party pants on because we've got six steps before you're home free:
Step #1: Choose a Badass Domain Name
Just like naming a kid (not that I would know), naming your blog is a pretty big deal. Your blog is sort of like a virtual baby – you'll raise it, be there for all of the pivotal moments in its life (1000 subscribers! *tear*), and watch it develop into something you can be proud of. Keep your blog's name simple, memorable and intuitive. Avoid dashes and numbers – they can look spammy after all – and make sure it's easy to remember. And for the love of all things holy, do not try to be too clever. Read more on how to pick a great domain name in my detailed guide: How to Choose a Killer Domain Name in 5 Simple Steps
Step 2: Choose a Web Host
You wouldn't build your house on rented land, so you should host your blog on rented land either. You want your visitors to feel like their visiting an awesome, welcoming home, not a second-rate hostel, so you need a self-hosted website. Yes, that means it's going to cost a bit of money, but it really isn’t a huge expense – you can get hosting for less than $100 a year. I recommend BlueHost because it's simple to use and has good customer support (small disclaimer – if you use that link right there – or this one here – this is an affiliate link, meaning at no extra cost to your bad self, I get a small commission which simply gives me more money to spend on gelato).BONUS
: When you use my referral link by clicking here to get your free domain with BlueHost and email me your receipt (to sarah @ unsettle.org) I will send you a free 52-page training tutorial to help you turbo-charge your website (even if you’re not a techie). If you already have a web host or simply don't want to use BlueHost for any reason, all good. You can move onto the next step.
Step 3: Install WordPress
I could pull teeth and tell you that you could choose SquareSpace or some other blogging platform, but I'm going to save you time and just say … Go with WordPress. Almost all websites are on WordPress and learning WordPress is a crucial skill in 2017 and beyond. Here's a handy little tutorial to show you how to set up a WordPress website. WordPress is your “content management system”, or what makes your website run smoothly. I started my first blog on Blogger (Google's blogging platform) which was a huge mistake. This meant that every time I had a technical issue (which was constantly at first), I had to figure it out on my own — often after hours of banging my head against the keyboard, because the rest of the (serious) blogging world was on WordPress. Same goes with Wix or any other free platform. Go with WordPress.org or go home.
Step 4: Find a Theme (Or “Design” Your Site)
To get your blog ready for pressing that shiny “publish” button, you need a WordPress theme for your blog. A theme is essentially just a canned design that makes your website look like it does. I'm not going to suggest you go out and spend thousands of dollars on a web designer or even $100 on a theme. You can get pretty good themes that have most of the functionality you need for free. There are dozens of free themes that will do the trick in WordPress under Appearance > Themes, but you can also find some good ones every Monday at Creative Market. If you want to take your blog seriously right out of the gate, I'd recommend a StudioPress Theme. These themes have all the elements of professional web design (including mobile-friendly interfaces which is crucial) for affordable prices.
Step 5: Set Your Blog Up to Grow an Audience
One of the biggest mistakes that newbie bloggers make is not starting with email list building from the get go. At ground zero you need to have everything in place to start capturing emails and building your list. That means having a good email service provider. Aweber is good, and as I use ConvertKit more I am starting to like it a lot too. These are services that hold the data that makes up your email list. To actually start building your blog, you need tools on your blog’s website which grab your visitors emails at various places. Obviously (and with a disclaimer that I work with Sumo) I recommend starting with Sumo’s Welcome Mat and other email tools (it's free, so no disclaimer here). Welcome Mat is my personal favourite… but then Click Triggers were released on List Builder which is a game changer:
Step 6: Publish Something
This might shock and amaze you… But you don't really have a blog if you don't blog on your blog. Yup, you actually have to write an article and publish it. You can worry about the rest of the details later (which plugins to install, how to write your About page, and all the other nonsense that may be running through your mind) but at the very least, spend an hour and write your introductory post. Need some inspiration? Here's my introductory post on Unsettle. Gosh I'm charming. But seriously though, write something up and press that “publish” button. And then…
You're the Proud Owner of a Brand New Blog
See? Nothing hard, scary about it, and you don’t need to do it all in one day. I mean… you could. But you don't need to. One step at a time, start your blog. You won't regret it – especially if you're consistent and set a posting schedule. Writing a blog can absolutely change your life. It changed mine (in a mind-blowingly good way) and I know it can have the same power for you. So get to it!