There are countless “how to start a blog” posts on the internet that are written by people who started blogging last month. And, let’s be honest, when you’re starting out, it looks impressive when someone tells you they built their traffic up to almost 10,000 pageviews a month.
I started blogging in 2010 as a diversion as I healed from a brain tumour. Brain damage meant that thinking and learning was now difficult and working was impossible. Since I had always loved to write, online writing seemed like a great option.
And it was.
Blogging has, quite literally, changed my life, and definitely for the better.
Today I earn a large part of our household income through book sales and advertising revenue. I can work at my desk in the dining room while also overseeing my children’s homeschooling, and I’m in complete control of my time and schedule. Blogging is a business that can be done anywhere as long as you have a reliable internet connection and a computer – which makes it perfect for homesteaders.
I’ve lost count of how many of my readers have asked me to tell them how to start a blog – especially one that earns them a living.
After all, many of you want a business that is flexible, sustainable, and self-reliant! And THAT is exactly what blogging provides.
Now, let’s give some definitions.
When I say “start a blog”, I don’t mean an online journal where you talk about how your day went. No one really makes money with that. Advertisers don’t want to show ads on a site like that, and you’ll have difficulty finding a large enough audience.
The definition of blog that we are using is this – a blog is a form of content marketing in which you write and publish interesting articles and build up a readership.
And you make money.
There are two questions that I get all the time. The first is “So what do you do?” And the second, after I answer that, is always “And you actually make money with that?”
No, not EVERYONE makes money. Statistics show that 81% of bloggers never make any money. (Upwards of 95% of small businesses close their doors within a year, so 81% is actually pretty good!)
It’s like any business – work it right and it will pay off, but there’s never a guarantee.
But we can get you off to the best start!
Choose a Platform
Your “platform” is the base on which your blog stands.
The most popular platform is WordPress, which is used by over 50% of blogs. It’s easy, reliable, extremely versatile, and all the really hard work is done by a host of developers and web designers. If money is tight, Blogger is a good way to start, but it does have some limitations. Other people set up with Wix or Squarespace.
I’m familiar with Blogger and WordPress, and the platform I use is WordPress, so I can’t speak about (or help you with) the others.
For the first six years of my blog, I used Blogger. I started realizing, though, that I was paying so much for third-party applications to make up for its limitations that I was better off with WordPress.
Choose a Domain Name
What will your site be called?
Do you already have a business that you’re taking online, or are you starting new – that makes a difference.
If you don’t already have a business, what is your focus? We call that focus your “niche”. That’s a French word that’s pronounced “neesh” and it basically refers to the group of people to whom you want to write.
I write for people who want to build a self-reliant life that is also sustainable in the long-term.
You might want to write for curly-haired gingers who need great hair styles and products.
Or perhaps you’re writing for moms of autistic kids who want a simpler life.
Some people write just for chicken lovers (and it’s a really profitable niche!).
You’ll want your domain name to be unique and memorable. Write down all of your ideas and play around with them a while to see which feels best. Keep it as short as possible and something that is easy to associate with you and the business you want to build.
One idea to consider is using your own name if it is easy to remember. The best thing about using a variety of your own name is that it’s easier to change direction. I’ve seen too many people who brand themselves as something like “toddlermommy” and then wonder what to do when the babies grow up.
Once you have an idea of what you want as a domain name, go HERE and check to see if it’s available.
If you live in the United States, you are best off sticking with a dot com. If you’re in a country with your own domain country code, you might want to use that. As a Canadian, using dot ca gives me numerous protections (like automatic WHOIS privacy) that I wouldn’t have with a dot com.
Have at least 20 posts written and ready before you even think about setting up your blog.
I know – that’s the exact opposite advice you’ll get from almost anyone else.
First, you’re going to want to know that you CAN write lots of high-quality posts on the subjects you’ve chosen. Second, having 20 posts already on your site when you go ‘live’ means that new readers will take you more seriously. When I find a new blog and it has three posts published, I wonder just how long it’s actually going to last.
When you write, keep one thing in mind. Your reader is always thinking (even if they don’t realize it) “What’s in it for me?”
So solve a problem and keep your reader’s needs in mind.
Think about your niche, the group of people to whom you’re writing. Try to come up with four or five main categories into which your posts will fit. Within each of these categories, you can have several subcategories.
Find a Web Hosting Service
You can’t have a blog without a host.
You can pay a LOT of money for web hosting. Trust me, I’ve done just that in the past.
Or you can pay a wee bit of money, feel like you’ve got a great deal … and then find out that your host can’t handle your site. That’s what happened when I hosted with Godaddy. For a while, I was recommending them until I realized what they were doing to my site.
And no matter what, especially if you’re new at all this, you might get taken advantage of by these common (and despicable) hosting practices.
The host that I recommend above all others is Lyrical Host. The best description I can give of them is that you get WP Engine hosting and service with Godaddy pricing.
If you’re really new to this – WP Engine’s plans start at $35 and go up to $290 or more, but are top notch, while you can get on Godaddy for less than $5/month but it’s a case of getting what you pay for.
Lyrical Host is that happy medium, incredible hosting created for bloggers and offered at a price that we can afford.
And one of the things I LOVE about Lyrical is that you get free domain email included in your plan. You’ll need that!
Set Up a Mailing List
It doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, until you get started, you should keep it as simple as possible.
I’ve tried MadMimi, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, and several of the other email providers available.
Select a Theme
You can lose your mind – and a lot of money – on this. There are free themes, most of which you should run away from.
There are paid themes that lock you into a very specific look, which are great until you want to make some changes.
There are very expensive site builders that charge you a monthly or annual fee and then slog down your site with bloated code.
There’s so much to talk about on this one, and I’ll cover these in more detail later, but the first steps will be:
a) create a business/fan page on Facebook for your blog,
b) switch your Pinterest account to Business,
c) set up a business Twitter account
d) set up a business Instagram
Of course you might have different social media platforms that you use. Stick to the ones that you currently use regularly. You can’t be everywhere at once.
Keep the name consistent on these. You can look for ‘just plain marie’ on the big social media platforms and you’ll always find me. You’ll also immediately know that it’s me because it’s always the same picture!
The best (and free) tool to use for making social media images is Canva.
What About …?
I know, I know. You’ve heard so much about all the other stuff you need. Well, Lyrical Host will take care of your security and a lot of other things that you shouldn’t have to worry about.
There ARE tools, some free and some paid, that you should get once you have your domain, hosting, theme, and a good selection of posts written.
But isn’t this enough to get you started?0