When I first started this blog, I knew absolutely nothing about blogging, building websites, coding, or otherwise.
I was an avid reader of other people's blogs, and wanted to engage the blogging community more professionally, so after spending a whole year thinking about it, I finally decided to jump in feet first.
If you already have blogging experience, or have built websites before, some of the steps detailed below may be second nature to you, but you never know, maybe you'll find a nugget of knowledge buried somewhere. On the other hand, if you're thinking of starting your own blog, and you're a beginner like I was, then I hope this guide will be useful to you.
I'm taking a slightly different approach than most blog guides. I'm going to start my steps at the very beginning, before we even talk about the digital building of a blog. You're welcome to skip steps if you'd like, but I've laid them out in chronological order, so you can go through each at your own pace, and come back anytime for further instructions. In fact these were the very steps I took to build this blog from start to finish.
Finally, this page may contain links to some of the products or services I used to start this blog. You can read more about affiliate links on my disclaimer page.
Let's get started!
STEP 1 - Hobby vs. Profession
This is an important decision to make before you get started.
A blog that is intended as a hobby is built and managed differently than one intended to be run as a profession. Here are a few distinctions to help you determine which approach is best for you:
Blog as a Hobby if:
- You want to keep things simple
- You're not looking to make any money from it
- You just want to share your passion and connect with others
- You don't want to spend a lot of money starting one, or even no money
- You don't want to dedicate a lot of time to writing, or want to write at your leisure
If the above describes you, I would recommend you use one of the great blogging platforms mentioned below to get set-up and just go for it!
Blogger - A less intensive way to start a blog, you'll be up and running in minutes
Tumblr - A very simple way to start a blog, and very easy to use
In fact, there is little reason to continue reading this guide, since the above platforms should satisfy your needs well. However, if the reasons below sound compelling, then this guide is meant for you.
Blog as a Profession if:
- You want to project a more professional look and feel
- You want more control and full ownership of your blog
- You're looking to generate some income
- You're running an actual business beyond just blogging
- You're committed to the time and effort it will take to build an online brand
If you've decided to pursue blogging in a more professional manner, then I recommend you move on the next step...
STEP 2 - Get Organized
If you've decided to start your blog as a profession, one of the best tips I can give you is to start a Blog Operating Manual right away. You can use your favorite word processing tool, such as Microsoft word. The key is to create one early and keep it handy throughout your journey.
Here are a few reasons why this is important:
- You'll need to document all the details associated with kicking off your blog
- You'll want someplace to keep track of all the accounts you'll need to open
- It's a good place to document your goals and objectives
- It's a good place to keep notes and ideas, and to park action items for later
- It will turn into a terrific resource for you throughout your blogging journey
- It will save you a tremendous amount of time
- It will become very useful should you eventually decide to sell your blog or move on
I started my own Blog Operating Manual from day one, and it comes in handy all the time. Make sure to set your own up right now before you move on to the next step...
STEP 3 - Pick a Name
This is the step most people obsess over. Probably for good reason since it will effectively be your brand going forward. Be sure to read my post on why picking a blog name is hard. Save yourself some time by checking if your perfect blog name idea is even available.
I must have used this blog name search tool over 100 times, mainly to eliminate all the name ideas I had which were not available.
Once you have your domain name in mind, and you have verified its availability, you can move on to the next step...
STEP 4 - Set-up Your Mail
Now is a good time to open an e-mail account with your blog name. You will of course have an e-mail account with your domain hosting company, but I use a separate e-mail account which I opened up first for administrative needs. This comes in handy when you open up all the various accounts needed to run a blog, and is a good way to start making a separation between your personal e-mail accounts and your new online business.
I also recommend getting a P.O. Box or a Private Mail Box at your local postal office. This is critical if you are trying to keep a certain level of privacy while running your blog. It will be needed to set-up various accounts in later steps, and will be especially handy if you will be using any type of e-mail marketing campaigns which require a physical address on file that often becomes public.
STEP 5 - Start the Blog as an LLC (Optional)
This is an Optional Step, however I highly recommend it. I made the decision to start a Limited Liability Company (LLC) to run my blog.
This is something you should also consider for the following reasons:
- If you're serious about building a professional blog, why not present yourself as such
- It establishes a separation between your personal assets and your blog business
- It provides an extra layer of privacy by allowing you to operate under your business name
- It has positive tax implications, once you have the income to leverage
Ideally your blog name and LLC name can be the same which would make things simpler, however there's no reason why they need to be as long as you file a DBA (Doing Business As) to link the two. Check your local business laws to determine what works best.
I used LegalZoom to start my LLC, which saved me the time of having to do it myself, and provided added benefits for the marginal cost. Benefits such as free Tax advice and Legal advice during the 30-Day free trail period which I took advantage of.
I decided to purchase the Express Gold package, since I was also looking for the Federal Tax ID (EIN) and wanted to get started quickly. You can pick any package that fits your budget, however if you go this route like I did, I would recommend you wait until you receive all your information before proceeding to the next step...
STEP 6 - Banking Account (Optional)
This is another Optional Step, however I also highly recommend it. Opening a formal business banking account associated with your newly formed LLC is yet another step that builds the credibility of your online business.
The advantages of having a business banking account include:
- A clean separation between personal funds and business funds from the beginning
- A more professional interaction with vendors and customers
- It provides yet another layer of privacy since the account will be under your business name
- It is useful to have if you decide to utilize affiliate marketing as part of your marketing strategy
You may need to fund your account with a minimum amount to avoid any monthly fees. This can be your seed money for your new online business, and will be used to purchase the products and services required in the next steps...
STEP 7 - Take a Deep Breath
You'll notice that up to this point, you still don't have a blog to speak of. You can think of all the prior steps as pre-work for starting a blog professionally. It's true that you can skip a number of these steps and go straight to the next few sections, however in the long run, you'll be glad you spent a bit more effort up front.
If you've followed all these Steps up to this point, you can take a deep breath and give yourself a huge pat on the back!
Now the blog building fun can really begin...
STEP 8 - Choose a Blogging Platform
If you're at this step, it likely means you've chosen to go down the professional blog route. Congratulations! You've made a wise decision. One of the best ranked platforms for hosting your own website, and having full control of your blog is Bluehost.
Not only do you pay a relatively low monthly subscription to host your website, but Bluehost also makes it easy to register your new website domain name, as well as integrate WordPress into your site. If you're not familiar with WordPress, it's the number one publishing platform used for blogs, and it can be installed painlessly through Bluehost's control panel.
Hosting your site with Bluehost means you have full control and ownership of your domain name, unlike the free blog hosting solutions mentioned in Step 1. You're also free to monetize your site as you please with no restrictions.
Bluehost is having a great sale for the new year on hosting prices, which includes domain name registration and WordPress. You can save >40% compared to when I first signed up, just click the link below to learn more.
Once you've secured your domain name with Bluehost and registered with them to host your site, you're ready to move on to designing you website and blog...
STEP 9 - Design your Blog
Once you have WordPress installed on your site using Bluehost's 1-click installation, you're ready to design your blog as you see fit. There are countless free WordPress themes out there to satisfy all tastes.
I personally chose to purchase one of the premium themes for this site, because I liked the look and feel more than the free themes available. In my opinion, StudioPress has some of the most attractive and professional looking premium themes on the market. You can click the link below to see all their available options.
I also learned that having a theme is not enough for maximum flexibility and design control for the blog. I also purchased a plug-in upgrade for WordPress named Genesis. It has helped me lay-out the site without needing to understand any type of coding.
It cost me <$100 to purchase these two products, and I've had no regrets looking back, although I'll admit there still was a considerable learning curve. Which for me was part of the fun of starting a blog to begin with!
At this point you have all the basic tools necessary to set-up a great blog, the last step involves some fine tuning...
STEP 10 - Additional Tips
This last section is reserved for any additional tips I've learned over the course of building this blog. I'll be keeping it updated over time, so check back often.
Some of my favorite and most useful WordPress plugins so far:
Google Analytics Plugin: Great for tracking site statistics
Yoast SEO Plugin: Great for optimizing search engine responsiveness
SiteOrigin Widget: Great for setting up custom pages
Simple Edits Add-on: Genesis add-on for quick fixes like footers
Any feedback on this page is greatly appreciated, thanks for reading!