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.
Time taken: 30 minutes
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)
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!