Starting a blog was the best thing I ever did in my professional life.
It was also possibly the most frustrating and hardest thing I have ever done in the realm of my professional life (short of earning my doctorate degree which ended with 2 years of total misery while I completed my dissertation!)
I had no idea where this road would take me, but I did have high hopes and faith it would take me down a different career and financial path than I was currently on based on what I read had happened for others.
They made it sound so easy!
I quickly learned it was anything but easy! (Don’t give up on starting your own blog – keep reading for the second part of the story!)
I look at myself as a fairly technical savvy person and in fact, at one point I had even filled in to teach elementary and middle school technology for a couple of years. I had also started and successfully built several businesses from the ground up, so how could this be any different?
I looked at my blog like a business from the beginning, meaning it was not a hobby for me but I had the intention of creating income with it.
As a prior school counselor and with independent college consultants being a rapidly growing segment of entrepreneurship, it was the logical path to take. (source)
What held me up? How to actually start my blog.
Once I purchased the domain, I had to figure out what to do next and I was stopped dead in my tracks.
Not temporarily, but for months (and I am being totally serious here!) I read everything I could find (which was actually a HUGE mistake), I followed directions on blogs that promised I would have my site up in 20 minutes (beware – some of those are still out there!), and when I would hit a glitch they didn’t cover I had no idea how to continue.
Looking back, I don’t know why I made it so difficult. It was like my brain just went on freeze-mode and refused to relax!
This was in 2013 so there were not nearly as many resources available as there are now. However, when I read in my Facebook groups, and read my emails, there are still so many people that have no idea where to start!
I didn’t tell you this personal story to scare you or make you feel like you can’t do this. YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN!!
Looking back, I made it much harder than it is. I just felt like I was reading a foreign language and it wasn’t clicking in my mind. I also think I actually read too much.
[bctt tweet=”Are you making starting your blog too hard? This step-by-step detailed plan for beginners will simplify it for you! ” username=”drtawnaschmidt”]
Have you ever read so much new information instead of feeling like you learned something new that should prepare you for the next step, instead it created more overwhelm and frustration? I definitely made that mistake!
The biggest mistake in the middle of all that reading was wasting my time reading blogs that I should have known wouldn’t help me. Let me explain.
Have you ever read an article that gave you a list of actions that need to be done to complete a task (like starting a blog) yet there are no directions on how to complete the task?
When I started ‘it started with a blog’ my goal was (and continues to be) to provide detailed posts with actionable steps so you can successfully start your blog, grow your blog, and make money from your blog.
Anyone (yes, I said ANYONE) can start a blog! And anyone with a strong work ethic and discipline can start and grow a highly successful blog.
Can it be completed in 20 minutes?
Yes, in the literal sense, meaning you can have a website with your domain set up. Can you literally start a blog and have it up and going and start writing blog posts in 20 minutes and have it looking like a blog ready for visitors like we envision in our mind? The answer would be no.
This is the reason I put together this detailed step-by-step plan for you!
Keep reading for a quick overview of my 8-step plan to start a successful blog (you can click on each icon if you want to jump forward to that section and use the back arrow on your browser to return), then the top questions I get asked about starting a blog, and finally, the nitty gritty details of how to implement each of the 8 steps to start your own blog!
You will also find some special goodies along the way to creating your blog so be on the lookout!
And if you have any questions, always feel free to shoot me an email and I will help you any way I can!
You got this! 😉
8 Top Questions About Blogging
Before we jump into the nitty gritty, let’s cover some of the questions I get asked most about starting a blog!
1 | How do you actually start a blog? I have no idea how to code and I can’t afford to hire anyone.
Starting a blog can be done pretty quickly! However, it is the tasks of setting it up properly, creating content, and finding your audience that takes the most time.
While many people can set up a blog and have it making money in a month or a couple months, typically speaking those people have set up prior blogs and they are not just learning the information.
Being a blogger is not difficult! You do not have to know how to code and if you follow the steps I have laid out, you will be able to start your blogging journey with little to know tech knowledge at all!
2 | Why would people want to read about what I do or about my family life?
Many people do not think of the internet sites they visit as blogs. They also do not realize that almost every business has a blog even if they never visit it. I share numerous examples in my post on why you should start a blog to give you a visual of the endless opportunity!
If you are not interested in turning your blog into a business, then writing about your family life, adventures, etc., is the perfect choice and you will find people that relate to your story and that are willing to visit and read your blog.
However, if you are interested in turning your blog into a way to earn income, it is best to write about a topic that people are searching for an answer to when they are online. It is fine to incorporate your family life into your blog, you just wouldn’t be writing about it as your blog topic (called your blog niche.)
3 | How much does it cost to start a blog?
Starting a blog does not have to be expensive. In fact, it is likely the least expensive way to start a business and start earning income!
You don’t need anything fancy, there is no storefront rent to pay, no inventory to purchase, and no fancy tools that are needed. You don’t even have to go out and buy a new wardrobe that is suitable for working with the public (unless you want to) because you will be working from home!
There are a few essential tools you need to get your blog started, and then you can grow it from there, adding additional tools as you go. Of course, you will need a computer and an internet connection.
Outside of the obvious (the computer and internet), you will need to purchase a hosting company to host your website and your domain URL (your website address.) For the basic ‘get started’ plan, this will be around $5 – $10/month.
An optional expense but one I recommend is an email marketing plan, which can be free to $30/month for a super basic plan.
In my post Ultimate List Of Blogging Tools & Resources, I share my top recommendations so you can see some things you may want to add as your blog grows.
4 | What kind of equipment or software do I need to start a blog?
The equipment you need is a computer and the internet.
I love my laptop because it gives me the flexibility to work anywhere I want at home as well as if I want to go to my favorite coffee shop (one of the many benefits of being a blogger!)
The ‘software’ you need is free if you use WordPress.
Everything I talk about and teach is centered around building your blog with a WordPress site, although there are other alternatives. WordPress isn’t actually considered software, but rather a content management system (CMS.)
(Be sure to keep the Blogging Dictionary bookmarked as you go through the guide of starting your blog!)
5 | I keep reading about blogging platforms, themes, and hosting. Are they all the same thing?
It can get confusing when you decide you want to start a blog and all this new lingo keeps appearing! I understand, because I felt the same way!
Blogging Platform – The blogging platform I use, write about, and teach, is WordPress and specifically, WordPress.org (NOT WordPress.com). WordPress is used by 61.0% of all known content management systems, which is over 34% of all websites. (source)
Your blogging platform is the content management system that houses your blog.
Essentially, once you purchase your domain, in order to start your blog so people have a place to visit you online, you have to choose your blogging platform, which ultimately is your website.
Other blogging platforms outside of WordPress are Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly.
Theme – Your theme is the style of your blog.
Have you ever noticed all the differences in websites when you visit them? Some of that is because the owner or designer of the website personalized it, and some of it is because of the theme they are using.
I use the Impreza theme (by Upsolution and purchased on Theme Forrest), and I love it. I have used it on 4 different blogs, which says a lot because I have always gone back to it when starting a new blog.
I would get the itch to try something new, so I did three different times. Each time I went back to Impreza within the first week!
Hosting – Web hosting is the service that allows you to have a website or web page on the internet. Your website hosting company is a business in itself that provides the services you need so people can view your website.
6 | How long does it take to start a blog?
Starting your actual blog does not take that long! It can actually be done in 10 or 15 minutes if you have done it before and have your domain purchased and just need to install WordPress (which is technically all that needs to be done in order to start writing your first blog post and you use a free theme that comes with WordPress so it is already installed.)
However, getting your blog ready for visitors is much more involved than simply setting it up. It is not hard! It simply takes following the steps I lay out for you to get it ready for visitors!
7 | So bloggers make any money . . . I mean, really?
YES! Bloggers make money!
Do all bloggers make money? If they are willing to work consistently, learn and develop business strategies and systems, and they have chosen a blogging niche that answers a question people are searching for online, there is serious money to be made. Bloggers can earn from a couple hundred dollars a month to thousands, and upwards of in the hundred thousands per month.
8 | After I get my blog started, how many hours a week will I have to work to quit my job?
This is a common question because so many people are unhappy in their current jobs! They also want the flexiblity of creating their own work schedule and the opportunity to prioritize their family. Blogging has allowed me both of these things so I can enjoy every minute possible spending time with my grandson. I cannot imagine my life without this opportunity, which is why I created ‘it started with a blog’ so others can have the opportunity to spend each day creating their own schedule.
To answer this question, it all depends. How much income do you need to replace your current income? How quickly do you want to replace this income? Are you willing to work tirelessly to make it happen?
Your Step-by-Step Plan to Start a Blog
Choose your blog niche
Choosing what you are going to blog about is called your blog niche. This is your main topic and what you will be writing about.
The reason this is the first step in starting your blog is because many people choose their domain (website URL) based on their blog niche.
Most people choose a niche they are already familiar with because this is what is comfortable for them, and it also takes less time researching to provide valuable information to their audience.
With that in mind, you need to ask yourself, “Am I really passionate about this topic?”
When I started my first blog, it was natural for me to be drawn to the topic of college planning because that was what I did for years as a school counselor. I had years of guides, worksheets, forms, and more already done that I could easily revamp for my online business. It made perfect sense!
I set up the website and started working as a local consultant, which then grew to branch out and gaining clients nationwide, and things seemed great. Except for one thing.
I wasn’t passionate about the topic. I knew the topic like the back of my hand. But I had left the profession for a reason, and I needed change, which meant I needed to move away from it.
You may be thinking, “I have several interests, why can’t I just combine them all into one website so I don’t have to choose?”
When you narrow your topic, you find targeted readers that will grow with your blog.
Imagine you are having a difficult time getting your baby to sleep at night so you go searching for ideas online. You find a great parenting website about a mom that has had this same challenge and start reading how she overcame it.
As you jump to different articles on parenting that relate to being a new parent, you start finding articles on how to start a garden.
Meh …. a garden is interesting, but not exactly what you want to spend your time reading about today. You are wanting to get more sleep, not add something to your list to do!
Does gardening have to do with parenting? I say no.
Do a lot of parents have a garden? Possibly… but do you see how that is a different niche?
Once you have your blog topic solidified, you are ready to move to the next step, choosing your domain name.
Pick your domain name
Now let’s have some fun!
You’re going to pick your home address, the website name where everyone is going to be able to come and visit! People will do this by entering the URL into the address bar – http://yourblogname.com
Picking your domain name is one of the most important steps in starting your blog because it is how people will find you online.
While it is possible to change your blog name later, it’s a process that is better to avoid whenever possible. Getting it right the first time is the best way to not have to spend time on the task so you can spend your time creating valuable content for your audience, marketing your blog to bring new readers, etc.
If you can, try to keep your blog niche in the domain. You will learn later this will help with your organic traffic to your website. However, don’t get hung up on it.
Example – The website address for www.itstartedwithablog.com has the word ‘blog’ in it, which is the topic or niche of the website, starting a blog.
I have two posts that will help you choose your blog name if you need ideas!
Now you’re ready to choose your hosting company and build a blog! 😊
Choose your web hosting company
Your web host is responsible for making your blog visible to others on the internet.
Figuring out how to select a website hosting company can get super confusing if you are a new blogger. I want to keep things as simple as possible for you, so I am not going to dive deep into this topic…yet!
As your blog grows, you will likely change your hosting provider to keep up with the increasing traffic demands of your blog. If you keep the same provider, you will definitely be changing the plan you need to handle your growing website traffic.
Don’t stress about this part of starting your blog.
You can always change your WebHost provider if and when you want to do that, and it isn’t all that difficult. I recommend starting out with Bluehost. It is great for new bloggers and what I used to start my first three blogs.
Things I love about Bluehost:
- They register your blog name for you for FREE! You know it is secured and no one else will take it.
- You get a FREE SSL Certificate (other web host providers charge an annual fee for this. Read what an SSL Certificate is in the Blogging Dictionary.)
- They have free WordPress installation which is super simple to set up!
- The uptime of your website is an impressive 99.97%. This is the number of times visitors can see your website so it is a major factor in selecting your WebHost company.
- The support is unbeatable! They have live chat or phone assistance 24/7 and their representatives are knowledgeable and eager to help. I cannot count the number of times I used these features as a new blogger, with live chat being my preference!
- Their WordPress hosting is 100% compatible with all WordPress features and plugins. This means you can build and create your website however you want without any conflicts between your website and hosting company.
- They offer multiple pricing tiers so you have lots of options when you start your blog, depending on your blog goals. Their lowest price tier is extremely affordable for new bloggers, and you can always move up in your plan at any time!
- They have an excellent library of resources so if you run into a snag, the answer is super easy to find and you like a visual format!
- They have been in business almost 20 years, so they are an established brand name that is not going anywhere. You don’t have to worry that you will wake up one morning and your website is down because your hosting company went out of business. 😲 Peace of mind is huge when you grow your website into a business that financially supports you and your family!
- They host more than 2 million blogs and websites. Again, that is peace of mind your website is safe and secure!
- They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee!
As a new blogger just starting out, I recommend the basic plan.
You can get started here (it is my affiliate link with no extra charge to you – thank you!!)
Oohhh … this is so exciting building your blog!! Are you getting excited? You are well on your way!
Set up your domain name
Setting up your domain is essentially purchasing it and registering it with a Domain Name Server (DNS).
You don’t have to purchase your domain from the same company you choose as your hosting provider. However, as a new blogger I recommend you do purchase them together because it will keep the setup simple.
If you purchase them separately, there is an additional process of moving your domain from the company you purchased it from to your web hosting company.
You can hop over to the detailed how-to guide for Steps 3 and 4 (purchasing your hosting, setting up your blog domain, and installing WordPress) in the post How To Set Up WordPress & Your Blog Domain.
Installing WordPress is a super simple and fast process! You can actually complete this in about 15 minutes.
If you use Bluehost as your website hosting service, they have the WordPress database already set up for you so you don’t have to do a step by step install yourself. This is actually the case for most hosting providers.
I give you a detailed step-by-step guide for Steps 3 and 4 (purchasing your hosting, setting up your blog domain, and installing WordPress) in the post How To Set Up WordPress & Your Blog Domain.
There are basic structure settings every blog needs for it to run effectively and be set up for organic traffic.
Basic essential settings:
- Permalink Structure
- Make Sure Your Blog Can Be Seen On The Internet
- Configure The Basic Settings To Customize WordPress (site title and tagline, favicon, and theme-specific settings)
- Create A Navigation Menu (in your header)
- Set-Up Sidebar And Footer
- Create A Back-Up Schedule
- Add And Configure Must-Have Plugins
- Decide If You Want To Allow Comments (set-up or disable)
- Disable Pingbacks And Trackbacks
- Set Your Time Zone
In the next step you will be choosing and installing your theme! Get your fun and creative self ready!
It’s getting more fun by the step! You’re almost there! 🙌
Choose your WordPress theme
Your theme controls the visual appearance of your WordPress website.
With thousands of options available, choosing a great theme that fits your blog niche can be confusing even for experienced bloggers!
There are free themes and paid themes.
There will be several free themes that come with WordPress, or you can choose a different free theme, or a paid theme.
There is nothing wrong with using a free theme when you start out.
This gives you time to research the theme you will ultimately purchase and use long term to grow your blog. Many new bloggers are trying to start their blog with minimal expense so they don’t want to spend the additional money to purchase a theme.
With a paid theme there is the price at the time of purchase, and then typically an annual fee that includes all the theme updates as well as support if you have questions.
So you might be thinking, “When I can get a theme free why pay, right?” Keep reading …
There are some significant differences between free and paid themes.
While many of the differences are not noticeable when someone visits your blog, they are noticed on the backend by the user (which is you if you are building your own website.)
A couple of significant differences is a free theme has limited options for personalizing your website, and they do not have technical support available if you have questions or need help (this was a biggie for me!)
When you purchase a theme you can choose exactly how you want your website to look and personalize your theme around it.
In all honesty, the biggest reason I recommend a paid theme for new bloggers if it is financially possible is because of the technical support.
Even now, I use my Impreza theme technical support several times a month and it is priceless to me.
Install your WordPress theme
You’re rocking along! Before you know it, you’re going to be writing your first blog post! 🤗
Once your WordPress basic settings are complete, you are ready to install the theme you chose.
Install the essential WordPress plugins every blog needs
A plugin is a piece of software that is installed on your website by adding it to your theme. There are thousands of plugins available and they can be free or purchased. If you visit the WordPress.org plugin page you will find over 55,000 free plugins available and growing.
It can be overwhelming to the experienced blogger that knows what they are looking for, and to a new blogger, it can feel like a kiddo in a candy shop! My caution is not to get caught up in all the options you can add to your WordPress site!
Our main point of focus, especially at this point, is website functionality.
The purpose of adding a plugin to your website can be for two different reasons.
- Optional plugins offer a certain look or function to your website that is not built in to your theme.
- Necessary plugins that increase the security and functionality of your website.
Every blogger has their own list of essential plugins. These are my essentials and what I recommend to my clients:
- Yoast SEO
- Google Analytics for WordPress
- WP Super Cache
- Wordfence Security
Depending on the theme you choose, you may need a couple of additional plugins.
You may also need a plugin for a contact form and a social sharing option.
This is another thing I love about Impreza – it is so functional with built-in features I don’t have to add plug-ins for every little thing.
Write your first blog post
Writing your first blog post is super exciting!
After all, this is what you have been working toward since you first decided to start your own blog.
Many bloggers sit down to start writing. They open up the empty post on their computer screen, and then they freeze staring at the black cursor blinking at them.
I recommend to all the bloggers I have worked with over the years to never sit down to write a blog post without your arsenal of information.
Once you open up that post screen, be ready to start typing so you are not in this frustrating situation.
What is in your arsenal of information? You should have these things prepared and you are ready to start writing.
- The Post Topic (not the actual title)
- The Key Points Of The Post
- General Notes Of What Will Be Covered Under Each Key Point
Envision the term paper you wrote in a high school English class. I know … you hoped you would never have to do that again!
Each post should be pre-written with a similar format, using the traditional outline if that is what it takes for you to stay on-task and on-topic.
You should also be sure to choose a post topic that answers these questions:
- How does this relate to my niche reader?
- How is this post going to advance me toward my weekly or monthly goal?
- What information do I want my reader to walk away with after reading the post?
- What do I want my reader to do after they have read the post?
It is important to write blog posts that have a purpose, not just because we love the topic (unless you have a personal blog you are using more as a journal and have no intention of monetizing it.)
Essential pages every blog needs
Your WordPress blog is simply a whole bunch of pages and posts that provide valuable information about your niche to people visiting your website (aka blog.)
Pretty nifty, huh? I think it is super awesome!
Keeping this in mind, there are essential pages every blog should have to make it complete no matter what your niche.
These pages don’t have to be complete before you open your site for visitors; however, my recommendation is that they are complete first.
If you don’t complete them first, they need to be placed on your priority list to be added as soon as possible.
Here are the pages every blog needs. I have included mine in parenthesis so you can see an example:
- Start Here (Start Here)
- Contact (Contact)
- About (Meet Tawna)
- Archives (Everything)
- Tools & Resources (Ultimate List Of Tools & Resources)
- Affiliate Disclosure (Affiliate Disclaimer)
- Main ‘Call To Action’ (aka email subscriber form) (70 Day Social Media Blitz)
You did it! 😁
Now let’s go build a business!
Where are you at in the process of building a money-making blog?
As you start a blog or continue building a current blog, these tips and steps will guide you through the process so nothing important is forgotten! Bookmark this page and refer back to it often!