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Challenge Update #1: Setting Up My Blog

Last week I started a challenge to create a new blog from scratch and turn it into a blog which brings in clients that lead to 4-figures in freelance writing income in 3 – 6 months.

If you’re not yet aware, you can read the first post in which I explain what the challenge is all about here.

This is the first update since the challenge started and it explains how I went about setting up my blog.

Step 1. Registering a Domain Name

The first step in this challenge is to register a domain name.

This step is very important because not only is my domain name my brand, it can also have a significant impact on search engine traffic on the long run.

Just to prove this, my domain name now ranks #3 in Google for its exact match keyword in less than a week since starting it, without a single external link from any other source.

This considered, I wouldn’t have problems ranking well for relevant keywords once I start writing a lot of content. In other words, the domain name already says everything about my niche and what I’ll be talking about. I could have gone for another generic name of my liking or even my own name, but as someone who wants quick results, that won’t work exactly as I’m expecting.

Contrary to what most people believe, though, I didn’t put that much effort into choosing my domain name. I just decided that I wanted “guest blogging” in the domain name and any other title that would work. I decided to add “tactics” to guest blogging and that was all. I already have an account with Namecheap.com so I decided to register my domain name via Namecheap.

Cost: $10 a year

Time take: 20 minutes

Step 2. Choosing My Hosting

After registering my domain name, the next step is choosing the company that will host it.

Choosing the domain name is akin to securing it so that no one else can take it – but it won’t be accessible until it is hosted.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a web hosting company, but the most important factor is reliability. The subject of choosing a perfect web host can be complicated so I won’t go through it again here. Here a few resources online to help you with the process of choosing a web host, though:

While the above guides will be of great help if you don’t already have a web host, for me it’s already been decided. WritersinCharge is hosted on Hostgator and my experience with them has been superb, so I decided to host my new blog on my existing Hostgator server.

Cost: Free since I already have a domain name for this blog. I standard Hostgator hosting package costs around $9 a month, though.

Time taken: 10 minutes

PS. Most of the instructions on this page in regards to hosting will be tailored to Hostgator since it’s what I use. Feel free to substitute it for your host if you use another host.

Step 3. Setting Up Google Apps (Email)

After registering my domain name and adding it to my Hostgator account, the next step was to create a professional email for my blog.

I’m doing this first since I need an email to install WordPress on my blog. Instead of using an unprofessional email service like Gmail, why not be professional from the start!

While Hostgator already has its own email platform, I love (and I’m used to) the Gmail interface so I decided to create a similar experience for my blog. With Google Apps, I’m able to have the same Gmail look and feel while using Google servers to process my emails. Google Apps is mostly premium, but at the time of writing this article it has a basic and limited package that allows you to create up to 10 users per domain name registered.

This package is more than enough for me, especially considering the fact that email is the main feature I want.

Here’s how I go about setting up Google Apps to process my emails:

1. Visit the Google Apps pricing page. There’s the free option and premium options; I selected the free option.

2. The next page is asking for my domain name. I entered the domain name I registered earlier on and I clicked submit; note that is the domain name without the www.

3. Google Apps then revealed a section asking me for my name and other details. I filled everything on that page to my liking. The username will determine your email address so make sure you’re extra careful in this section.

4. It shows a new page that asks me whether I want to go “Express” or “Custom”. Express seems to be faster so I decided to go express.

5. After clicking ‘next’ several times, I’m asked to verify my domain name. I did this with the help of the Hostgator customer support. If you’re using Hostgator, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

If you don’t use Hostgator, you can contact your host to see if they can help you set up Google Apps on your account. In most cases, they’ll be happy to help.

Once you’ve had this set up, you now have what you need to create your WordPress blog. The next step explains how to go about this.

Cost: Free

Time taken: 30 minutes

Installing WordPress

Once I’ve had my Google Apps email set up, the next step was to install WordPress.

Here are the steps I took:

1. Log in to Cpanel with the details Hostgator provided; you can contact Hostgator support for more info on this.

2. Select QuickInstall from cPanel to install WordPress (screenshot below)

Hostgator WordPress install step 1

3. Select WordPress via QuickInstall, click continue and enter the required details. You’ll need to enter the Google Apps email you created earlier on, your blog’s name and your name (screenshot below)

4. Login details will be shown to you and sent to your email. The default username is ‘admin’. Create a new username and delete the admin username as it isn’t secure. You can contact Hostgator for help on this. With the above 4 steps, you now have your WordPress blog installed. If all the above seems confusing to you, you can contact Hostgator to help you install it!

Time taken: 10 minutes

Choosing and Installing a Professional WordPress Theme

With this site, being professional is critical.

This site you’re reading, WritersinCharge, is designed and customized by a designer for over $3,000 so far.  I know that’s way out of the budget of a beginner. I couldn’t afford that when I was starting out and I “can’t” afford that if I were to start from square one. As a result, I decided to look up quality, professional WordPress themes online for this project.

After doing some research, I decided that the best theme to go for was the Modernize theme from Theme Forest. I went with the Modernize theme because it seems to have everything I need.

Here’s why:

1. A slider above the fold on the homepage to highlight my most important posts. This is critical to make the blog look as professional as possible.

2. Options to highlight my services on the blog homepage. When people discover my site, they need to see that I offer services as a freelance writer. While it’s possible to achieve this via content marketing, why not make the best of my homepage if I can?

3. Ability to put a phone number in the header. As I don’t like disclosing my phone number online, this is pretty useless for me but I figure it will be very useful for a lot of people following this challenge.

4. A contact form below the theme.

In other words, everything needed to close a business deal is on the homepage! Even better, it’s just 50 bucks!

If you missed the link earlier, here’s a link to purchase the Modernize theme on Theme Forest!

It’s okay if you don’t want to use this theme or you already have a better theme. That shouldn’t prevent you from following the rest of the process in this challenge. I was able to install the theme via ftp in cPanel but this is easy for me because I’m more technology savvy. The guys at Hostgator can help you set up your theme if you want. Just contact support and they’ll take over things from there!

Cost: $50

Time taken: 40 minutes

Disclaimer: Some of the above links are affiliate links.

Installing WordPress Plugins

The number of WordPress plugins you use will be relative, but I think it’s okay to get started with a few. The fewer plugins you can use, the better. This is because fewer plugins will make your site load faster.

I decided to go with only 7 plugins for now and they are:

1. Google Analyticator: This is a stats plugin that makes it easy to track my blog via Google Analytics.

2. Clicky by Yoast: I’m addicted to stats and I think stats is important to the success of this challenge. This plugin also helps me know my blog’s statistics by allowing me to configure it with the Clicky stats service.

3. Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin: This plugin helps kick out spammers.

4. W3 Total Cache: This plugin speeds up my blog and reduces its chances of crashing in case there is high server load.

5. BackWPup: This plugin automatically backs up my blog based on my schedule.

6.  Gravity Forms: This is a flexible contact form plugin that makes it easy to get in touch with me. I also use this plugin on WritersinCharge.

7. Optin Skin: This serves both as a social sharing plugin and an email opt in form.

Except Gravity Forms and OptinSkin, none of these plugins were linked to. You can install them directly from your WordPress dashboard by searching for them in the plugins directory.

Cost: $80

Time taken: 20 minutes

Creating Essential Pages

The next step is creating pages that are essential to the success of the blog.

There are 3 main pages I consider very important and they are:

About page. This is an essential page as it lets readers and new visitors to your blog know who you are. The purpose should be to let them know how your blog can help in as few words as possible.

Contact page. While your main aim will be to get clients, you’ll also want to entertain occasional questions from readers. Sometimes, your answer to these questions might convince readers that they need to hire you.

Hire me page. This is the most important page. Not only is it very important, it also has to be well-crafted. It has to be crafted in a way that explains everything you can do – while attracting the right clients.

Determining which services you have to offer is very important. Each service you offer should supplement one another, not otherwise. You want readers to see you as an expert, not as a jack of all trades. In other words, you don’t want to offer your services as a designer and a programmer and a writer.

To see an example of what I deem a quality hire me page, you can take a look at the WritersinCharge hire me page.

If you take a look at WritersinCharge, you’ll notice that I have over 10 pages linked in the navigation bar. Most of those new pages were added gradually, as WritersinCharge grew and as its purpose was fulfilled.  This is obviously slightly different from the new blog. For the new blog, the purpose is different: to get clients. I think only the above 3 pages are necessary.

Time taken: 30 minutes

An Anatomy of the Perfect Hire Me Page

Here’s what I think a perfect hire me page is made up of:

1. A summary of your services; this should only be a few services depending on what you offer. If you can describe each service in less than 100 words – great! This description should give potential clients an idea of what they should expect from using your services.

2. A good contact form; this form should not only be attention-grabbing (to encourage people to fill it) but it should also only ask for necessary information. The more information you ask for, the less likely people are to fill in the form.

3. A budget; while you want to encourage many people to fill in your form, you don’t want everybody to fill it. This is why it’s important to ask for a client’s budget as a requirement for filling your form. Whenever you get an email from a potential client you already have an idea of what they’re willing to spend and will as a result determine how to respond to them.

4. A short warning; this could be in the form of a “PS” or subtly added to the messaging of your hire me page.

You want to make it clear that you’re not interested in working for everybody. You are only interested in working for serious people who are ready to pay what you’re worth.

I experimented with this on WritersinCharge and it has worked very well. Of course, fewer people will contact you, but your chances of working with them will be greater since they’re ready to use your services. The above 4 principles are what I followed to create a hire me page for the new blog; we’ll see how effective this is in future updates!

Testing Everything

Now that everything is in place, you want to test every element possible to ensure that everything is working perfectly.

The last thing you’ll want is to be marketing an hire me without a form. Here are a few steps to help you test your blog to see that it’s functional:

1. Open a new private window in your browser; if you’re using Chrome and Microsoft Windows, the shortcut is Ctr + Shift + N or Ctr + Shift + P for Mozilla Firefox.

2. Open your website in the new private window to confirm how it looks; does the homepage look as perfect as it should? Visit other pages to confirm they all look as they should, and fill out every form to confirm that messages are going through and that replies to messages are going through.

Following the above two steps should help you discover any errors with your blog.

Total Investment

In terms of time and money, the total investment for setting up the blog is:

Cost: $140 one time and $9 monthly for hosting

Time Taken: 200 minutes

How Are You Progressing?

If you’re following this challenge, how are you progressing? What do you think about the challenge so far?

The next update will be sharing my content and marketing strategy for the new blog. Stay tuned!

 

Category: challenge, classic post

38 Comments on "Challenge Update #1: Setting Up My Blog"

  1. Liz McGee says:

    Hi Bamidele,

    I’ve always used Fantastico in the past to install WordPress, didn’t really know about Quickinstall.

    Do you know what the differences are using these two tools? Just curious.

    Thanks,
    Liz

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Hi Liz,

      There isn’t much difference between Fantastico and QuickInstall. It depends on the preference of the web host in question. My previous host had Fantastico instead of QuickInstall and the process is pretty much the same.

      Best Regards,
      Bamidele

      • Reeja Mathews says:

        Well written post

        Nice challenge
        I have installed my new blog last week, Would like to start a challenge my self

        Good work Onibalusi

  2. Grace says:

    OMG Dele, this is so cool… it’s even the same as my temporary blog’s style haha. Will be applying it. Thanks so much mwahhh!

  3. dan says:

    Hey Bro,

    Detailed tip for newbie’s.

    I found some insightful tips here on this article.

    Thanks again

  4. I hope that your new blog will also get the same success like your this blog..I know that you will try your best to accomplish your goals as you work very hard and you really possess the brilliant writing skills..I wish to learn some new things regarding writing soon…I am just waiting for your email to know more about your goals and how you work hard to achieve them..

  5. Robert says:

    I knew this was going to be good.

  6. Hi Oni,

    I found this post really helpful as I am currently working for my new blog that helps and guide people to start an online business through niche websites.

    Thank you very much for sharing such great information. At last, I am back to the blogosphere again. But this time, I now own a company.

    Kudos!
    – Felix

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Anytime, Felix!

      Congrats on owning your own company. I’m very sure you’ll rock it with the company! 🙂

  7. So how much would you say you have already invested, moneywise, into this new blog?

    It would be interesting to hear how much a person should expect to spend before they can start earning.

    Thank you

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Victoria!

      I’ll be updating the article to reflect the costs immediately; I think that will be of great help to those who are following the challenge.

  8. Sam@Goa casinos says:

    This is the whole processor to handle your blog in starting and this is very important guideline which gives perfect direction to your blog setting in starting.

  9. Olawale Daniel says:

    Hey bro, I couldn’t wait to read more about your new blog project updates because it won’t only help, but it will go along way in helping me do something similar in coming months/years.

    You have done a great work. Keep on keeping on 🙂

  10. Ruan | FreelanceWritingTactics says:

    Interesting to see what plugins you are using, Bamidele.

    Personally I have not had any success with cache plugins and my sites have always seem to do just the contrary to what they are supposed to be doing after installing a cache plugin – crashed! 🙁

    Stats – ooohhh now we’re talking! Clicky – is that the same plugin one can use that shows you on which elements visitors click within your layout? Wish I could remember that one but I’m sure a quick Google search will reveal the bugger!

    BackWPup, think it has the option to sync to even a Dropbox folder if I’m not mistaken?

    Interesting update my friend!

    P.S. I am interested in what plugin you are using down below this box asking me if I want to receive new post via email, with the check box? I think you can even have it set to be ticked off by default, which if you’re already a subscriber can be annoying and you’re like me that forgets to un-check it but I’m sure quite effective when the reader is not subscribed yet.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Hi Ruan,

      I can feel you on your blog crashing when you install cache plugins; I think I experienced this once.

      Have you contacted your hosting about this? When I had the issue, it was my host that helped me with it. You might want to contact them to see if it works.

      Yes, I’m using BackWPup exactly because of the Dropbox folder. It’s an awesome plugin and it’s also available for free.

      The plugin that shows the check box seems to be Jetpack; I’m not sure, but I think it comes with the WordPress stats plugin.

      • Ruan | FreelanceWritingTactics says:

        I have actually not even even tried asking them about it as they usually tell me one thing:

        “Please remove all values in the active plugins section of the wp-options database table and re=activate all the plugins from scratch one by one”

        I’ve done that to endless frustration but I am at their mercy as it’s a shared hosting account still. I’ll be patient until I can move over to dedicated or VPS soon enough.

        I’ll definitely check out the Jetpacks and WP Stats plugin, Bamidele! Thanks for the tip as I need that check box my friend!

        I follow this particular blogger and she also has this on her site, and what I loved (hated only because I am already a subscriber to her list) is the fact that it’s checked by default, so if you don’t pay close attention to things you automatically receive the “confirm your subscription” email after submitting a comment! How clever is that!

  11. Deb Lamb says:

    I cant wait to read the next step. I’m following right along and making sure my site has all the cool plugins you’ve mentioned. Thanks for such a detailed and educational post!

    Deb 🙂
    Ghostwriter

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks, Deb!

      Those plugins can be very effective. I’m glad you’re following along on this journey. Thanks! 🙂

  12. Kanchan says:

    Detailed tips for newbies…, Thanx for this post Oni, You’re cool blogger!!!

  13. Olabode Osunsanya says:

    I just created a blog on blogger.com (google) but when you search for even the name on google or any of the contents, it can’t display anything from the blog on blogspot. Kindly help me out. Meanwhile, i have checked the radio boxes for listing and display on search engine.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      For this challenge, I’ll recommend using a self-hosted blog and the tips I give will only be tailored to that.

  14. Alex B. (@DreamJobGuy) says:

    GREAT content here! I’m looking forward to following along with you! I have some BIG projects coming up myself, so this is perfect timing!

    Thanks again!
    -Alex

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Awesome, Alex! It’s great to have you on board 🙂

  15. Nigel says:

    Oni, I think what you are doing here is a great challenge and I admire you for it.

    Just a little advice about your new site. I understand that you wanted to show your new site right from the start but this is a problem because of the Google Panda changes. Every 4 to 6 weeks Google Panda rates every website on the net. When they find sites with a combination of EDM (exact keyword domain match) and “thin content” they will demote your site to zero. If they trawl the web today and find your site, then tomorrow you put significant content onto your site it could be up to 6 weeks before Panda knows about it.

    This could have a serious effect on your progress during the first month or two. I suggest you either hide your site from the public and Google or update it with significant content without delay.

    Many things have changed since the advent of Google Panda. My own site got hit during the first 2 weeks of construction when there was only a small amount of content on the home-page. Now I have 5 pages with very significant content but nobody will be able to find it until Panda comes around again. 🙁

    http://www.whycantisleepatnight.com/

    I wish you fantastic success with this challenge Oni.

    Nigel.

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks for the advice, Nigel!

      I’m really sorry to hear that your site has been affected by Google Panda. I’ll definitely be putting up some content this week so my blog won’t be affected.

      Besides, I will be working on a way to get results without having to rely on Google. I think that will make the challenge much more worthwhile 🙂

  16. Hermine says:

    Hey Bamidele,

    Nice job on getting the basics down, I think this would be a super easy tutorial for any newbie to follow. Love the app suggestions too, I use a few of those, but you’ve mentioned Clicky a few times and I’ll have to check it out.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what the next step in your process is!

    Keep it up!

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Thanks, Hermine!

      Clicky definitely rocks; I’ve been using Google Analytics since starting my blog and it has my early data, otherwise I’d stop using it and go for Clicky alone.

  17. Peter says:

    Please Oni, just wanted to know what plug in you use for your “leave a reply” section.I will grateful if you post a reply to this message

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Actually, that’s custom coded into this theme by my designer; this challenge focuses on the new blog, not YoungPrePro.

  18. Saudia Lloyd says:

    Hi Bamidele,
    Thanks for this post; very comprehensive.
    I particularly like your points on installing and using WordPress. I too have used WordPress for my blog and found it quite user-friendly.
    For someone who is just starting out with very little money to buy a customized designed theme for their blog, WordPress offers some high quality, professional themes, and if you are not technical savvy, once you get over that initial trepidation, it’s fun exploring the different themes and seeing how they would look on your blog.
    Cheers
    Saudia

  19. Kelvon Yeezy says:

    Hello Onibalusi,

    I am following this challenge…

    Step #1 – Done using Justhost for the webhosting.

    Anxiously waiting for the next step.

    Keep it up!

  20. Yeremi Akpan says:

    Oni, Take my word for it: This is bound to be the most powerful resource on this site! My eyes are following you all the way…

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Aha, I’m really glad to hear that. Thanks bro!

  21. Hi mr Bamidele i love this post and i follow it through when optimizing my blog,but i feel your are missing something, that is on-page SEO i think you should give it a touch.Or what do you think?

  22. Eidie says:

    THis is really simple and your guidelines will conduct me to achieve the best and simple web designer soon. What can I do for you?

  23. John Obidi says:

    I’m following eagerly, Bamidele. Are you based in Nigeria?

    • Bamidele Onibalusi says:

      Yes.

  24. Destiny says:

    I love a comment you made above.

    “Besides, I will be working on a way to get results without having to rely on Google. I think that will make the challenge much more worthwhile”

    I am just starting my own blog as well and the more I learn about SEO and Google, the only conclusion I can come to,is to not rely on them. So many people think you have to have Google’s approval for your site to be successful, but that’s just what we’ve been taught. I believe there has to be a way to success (without paranoia about Google ratings) by just writing good, valuable content. So many people write just for the search engines,..we need more authentic, real writers.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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