Having a blog can set you apart as a writer.
Do you know that, on average, the hourly rate of freelance writers on freelance bidding sites like oDesk, Elance and Freelancer.com is $10 – $15? In fact, most writers only make $2 – $4 per hour on these sites – and they often struggle to get gigs – just because they don’t have a platform.
Having a blog can change this, however.
As a writer, having a blog can effectively position you to:
- Command better rates; getting paid $50 – $200 per article won’t be difficult, which is often 10 – 20 times what the average writer on freelance bidding sites are making.
- Get published; if you dream to get published, having a blog will make it very easy to do this – even without having to actively seek publishers. Writers in Charge contributor Karol Krol recently wrote a series of posts that showed how he landed a book deal thanks to his blog. Freelance writing maven Carol Tice, who writes the popular MakeaLivingWriting.com blog, has also scored several book deals from her blog.
- Create more income streams; both active and passive. There are several ways to make money writing and it doesn’t always have to be by selling your time for money; you can launch a product and make money off your blog.
- Have a voice; your blog can serve as a platform for voicing your opinions about important subjects that concern you and people you care about without censorship. As long as it’s not illegal, you can write about anything.
- Build relationships; you can build relationships without a blog but a blog will make it much easier to build better relationships with people. Your blog is your own space online, your signature, and as a result it makes it much easier to connect with other people in your field; whether they’re experts or those who share your cause in the form of readers or peers, having a blog makes it much easier to connect with them.
The importance of having a blog as a writer is becoming clearer by the day and we could dedicate whole posts to it.
However, what is hindering most writers from starting a blog is because they think it is difficult and too technical; most writers think this is something only the technology savvy can do. It isn’t!
If you’re not sure how to start a blog, this tutorial explains how to do it.
Hosted vs Self-Hosted Blog
I won’t get too technical, so don’t be confused.
Hosted blog: A hosted blog is a blog hosted on the servers of a free blog service, with the domain name of a free blog provider as its extension; most hosted blogs end up with your name.blogspot.com or yourname.wordpress.com or yourname DOT the domain name of your host.
Technically, an hosted blog is the property of the site through which you create the blog; yes, it’s your blog and you’re writing the content but the terms of service of pretty much every free blog host allows them to take down your blog or do anything to your content whenever and however they want.
Self-hosted blog: A self-hosted blog is a blog you host on your own, through the help of an hosting provider; with a self-hosted blog, you own your domain name which can be anythingyouwant.com (.net/.org/.info or any valid extension you want) and you’re paying for the server your blog is hosted on.
You’ll pay to register your domain name and you will also pay a monthly/annual fee for hosting, so your blog is YOUR OWN property that you can control however you want.
Why I Recommend Having a Self-Hosted Blog
As a writer, if you’re really serious about your craft then you should have a self-hosted blog. However, if you’re trying to learn the ropes or blog as a hobby then it’s safe to use a hosted blog solution.
Here are a few reasons why I recommend having a self-hosted blog:
- You own it; everything else doesn’t matter if you don’t own your blog and your content. You don’t own a free blog and there’s no way around it but a self-hosted blog is your property.
- You can make money from it; most free blogs like WordPress.com will not allow you to make money from your blog. It’s against their terms of service and your blog can be terminated if you’re caught making money from it.
- It’s a better experience for your users; most free blog platforms reserve the right to serve advertising to your readers, including WordPress.com – they have to make money to enable you host your blog for free – and you often have no control over what advertising is displayed. If you really care about your readers’ trust, then this is something important to consider.
- Since you’re paying for a self-hosted blog, you’re responsible for it; as a result, you can take your blog more seriously.
There are obviously more benefits to self-hosting your blog but the purpose of this article isn’t to convince you on that but to help you setup your own blog.
7 Steps to Launch Your Blog
Assuming you are a beginner – you don’t have a domain name or a web host – here are 7 steps to help you launch your blog:
1. Register Your Domain Name
The first step is to register your domain name; your domain name is your own version of a “land” online while your blog is the “house.” You need a land to build a house and you can’t build a house on nothing.
So the first thing you have to do before your blog can be active is to register your own domain name; your domain name can be anything .com/.net/.info/.org as long as it is available and most domain name providers will allow you to check the availability of your domain name before you register.
I use and recommend Namecheap.com for registering your domain names. You can register a domain name on Namecheap by typing the name of your domain name in the box provided on the homepage and selecting an extension. The default extension is the .com extension and it’s also what I recommend.
By default, you’ll see a search box similar to the one pictured below on the Namecheap homepage:
You just have to enter the name you want your domain name to be into the box, without the “www” or without the “.com”. In my case, since I want to register www.onibalusi.com I will only include “onibalusi” into the box in the above screenshot.
If you try to register your domain name on the Namecheap website, it’ll come up with something similar to what is pictured below:
In my own case, it says the domain name is not available and has been taken since I had registered the domain name before writing this guide; however, it’ll show “available” for a domain name that has not yet been taken. You can then select the domain name of your choice and go ahead to register it.
Once you’ve registered your domain name, the next step is to register an hosting account.
2. Register an Hosting Account
Your domain name won’t be accessible until you “host” it; a web host helps you host your domain name so that it is available and accessible to everybody.
Without a web host no one will be able to access your domain name; also no one will be able to register it since you’ve already taken it. However, adding it to a web host will make it accessible and live for everybody; like this blog you’re reading this post on.
Choosing a web host for your blog will probably be the most important decision you can make for your blog; since your web host will determine when your blog will be up or down, it’s important to make the right choice.
Personally, I’ve used a number of hosts in the past few years since I’ve been online but I’ll only recommend two of them.
The two web hosts I’ll recommend are:
Bluehost: Bluehost is inexpensive, reliable and easy to use. What I love most about it is that it is beginner friendly and you can rely on their support to help you solve issues you have one. I’m a Bluehost user and it’s my top recommendation at the time of writing this guide.
Hostgator: Hostgator is another reliable web host I will recommend; while Hostgator is not as easy to use as Bluehost, they are also a reliable host and they have great plans.
3. Link Your Domain Name to Your Host
Since you created your domain name separately on Namecheap, you’ll have to link it to Bluehost or Hostgator before you can do anything else.
This step is quite simple. Here’s what you have to do:
Step 1: Ask Bluehost or Hostgator for your name servers that you can add to your host; they’ll usually give you two name servers that looks something like ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com; it won’t necessarily be these, but it’ll be similar.
Step 2: Log in to your Namecheap account.
Step 3: Once logged in, look for the section pictured below that allows you to modify your domain name. Enter your domain name and click “Modify”
Step 4: Select “Domain Name Server Setup” and you’ll be taken to a page that looks like the one below:
Step 5: Enter the name servers your host gave you; the name servers in the above picture are mine. Yours will be different and your host will provide you with this.
Step 6: Save changes and you’re good to go.
4. Install WordPress on Your Domain Name
Once you’ve configured your domain name with the name servers your web host provided you, the next step is to install WordPress.
The setup for this will be different depending on the host you use but I’ll be explaining the process for both Bluehost and Hostgator below.
How to Install WordPress on Bluehost
The following steps are for installing WordPress on your domain name if you use Bluehost
Step 1: After creating your Bluehost account, you’ll be shown a success page that looks like the one below that asks you to create a password.
Select “Create your password” and use the password generator to generate a strong password; if you use your own passwords that are not secure, they’ll not be accepted. This is a measure taken by Bluehost to make your blog secure.
Note the password you just generated and save it in a secure place; you’ll need it if you want to login to your Bluehost cPanel.
If you’ve already created your password and plan to install your blog at a later time, you can easily do this by selecting the cPanel login option on the Bluehost homepage.
Step 2: Once in the Bluehost cPanel, you’ll see the section that says “Website Builders” (see below image) – select WordPress.
Step 3: You’ll be redirected to MOJO Marketplace, Bluehost’s default installation service, where you’ll be shown a popup that allows you to install WordPress on your blog.
Select your domain name and follow the instructions provided to install WordPress.
How to Install WordPress on Hostgator
Here are the steps for installing WordPress on your domain name if you use Hostgator
Step 1: Login to your cPanel account by visiting www.yourdomainname.com/cpanel
Step 2: Scroll down to the “Software/Services” section – as shown below – and select “QuickInstall”
Step 3: Once QuickInstall has loaded, look for the section in the sidebar that says “Blog Software” and select “WordPress” from the list.
Step 4: Click continue and follow the instructions provided to install your blog. Once you’ve followed the instruction, you’ll be provided with login details for your WordPress blog.
Making Sure Your Blog is Active
After installing your blog following the steps above, either with Bluehost or Hostgator, you can access your blog by visiting www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin
Once you’re on that page, you’ll see a page similar to the one in the following screenshot:
Enter your username and password and you’ll be taken to the WordPress dashboard.
Once you’re logged in to your WordPress blog, make sure you look for the following sidebar menu:
Users >> Your Profile
You’ll be able to complete your details and change your password once you’re on your profile page.
When your profile has been completed, you can start writing using the default WordPress settings or you can take a few more steps outlined in this article.
5. Installing a Blog Theme
By default, WordPress comes with its own WordPress theme that looks basic and cool. You can start publishing content on your blog using the default theme.
If you want more customization, however, you can decide to go with a premium WordPress theme.
There are several WordPress theme providers and some of the top providers I recommend are:
Theme Forest: There are thousands of themes from individual developers that you can use on this site. Find the theme of your choice using the search box or category option.
Genesis: Genesis is a popular WordPress theme framework; Genesis has a lot of beautiful and friendly child themes that you can install after you’ve installed its framework on your blog.
Elegant Themes: Elegant Themes features several beautiful and customizable themes at an affordable rate.
The above 3 options are my top recommendations; once you install a theme from one of the above 3 sites, your blog will have a whole new look and will look more professional.
Depending on what you want, you might also want to hire an expert to help you customize your blog theme; you will often find developers on the above theme sites that offer this as a service.
6. Installing Plugins
Plugins make WordPress work well; your blog will look great and function effectively with the right plugins.
You can install any plugin from your blog dashboard by going to:
Your WordPress Dashboard >> Plugins >> Add New
Here are some of the plugins that are necessary for your blog to function well. Depending on what you need, you might need other plugins but you’ll know more about this over time:
- Akismet – to protect your blog from spam
- WP Super Cache – to help make your site faster and protect your website from crashing in case of traffic spikes
- WP Smush.it – to help automatically reduce the sizes of your images
- WordPress SEO – to help with your blog SEO
7. Writing Posts and Pages
Once you’ve installed a theme and the necessary plugins, you can start writing your blog posts by clicking on one of the links provided in your WordPress dashboard. You can also do the same for pages.
Here are pages I recommend you should create:
- An “About Me” page that tells your readers about you
- A “Contact” page that lets readers and potential clients contact you
- A “Hire Me” page that features your services as well as a way to hire you
- A “Resources” page that shares major resources you use
Once these pages are created, your blog is properly set up and good to go.
8. Start Blogging
Following the previous 7 steps above, you already have a solid blog. You only need to start writing and publishing posts on a consistent basis and you’re a blogger!
Feel free to ask below if you have any questions. Also, share this post with anybody you know that is interested in creating a blog and wants step-by-step instruction on how to create one.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I make a commission when you buy through them. However, I only recommend products I use and genuinely trust. Affiliate income made through this blog is used to support this blog and create a better user experience for you. Thanks!