The following is the ULTIMATE step-by-step tutorial on how to start a blog from scratch.
If you’re looking to begin blogging the right way for making money and having fun, you’re in the best place possible to do so!
Let me show you why by introducing your awesomesauce teachers for today (albeit self-proclaimed)…
Hey there! I’m Lauren and this is Alex — we’re two professional bloggers who went from broke and frustrated to making $103,457.98 our first year blogging!
Now, we make over $100,000 per month blogging and help thousands of people each month answer the question of how do I start a blog? 🙂
We’re fired-up to help you build your blog today because it feels like just yesterday when we sat exactly where many of you are now…
- No blog
- Frustrated with our full-time jobs
- Wondering how in the world to create an online blogging business that we both enjoyed AND potentially made us money
We’ve now helped thousands of students go from no blog with no idea what they were doing to building beautiful, fun blogs that they enjoy that also earn them a full-time income!
We wrote this free guide to help you learn how to create a blog without any website coding skills or having to pay an expensive web developer to do it for you (because who has an extra $2,000 laying around?).
UPDATE: Bluehost has given us a special discount for our readers! You can now set up your blog for as low as $2.75/month, and it also comes with a FREE domain name!
Okay, so this post is going to EPIC. It will walk you through how to do EVERYTHING. Make sure to save/pin/bookmark this page, and come back to it for later if you can’t finish everything today.
Alternatively, you can also sign up for our FREE 7 Day Blogging Course. Our most success-driven students sign up for the course and go ahead and use the guide below. Please take advantage of these FREE recourses.
The following will be a step-by-step guide to creating the blog of your dreams and actually make money from it! And trust us when we say this: If we can do it, ANYONE can!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Step 1. Understanding Your Why for Starting a Blog
The first step in the process of how to start a blog and make money is to decide WHY you are doing this.
It might not seem like it now, but this step is actually really important. The reason for that is because you WILL encounter struggles and roadblocks along your journey to building a successful blog.
It's your why and the reasons for starting that will carry you through the dark times and keep pushing you forward no matter what.
Just 3 short years ago, Alex and I were just a couple of frustrated young professionals looking to make money online and escape the 9-5.
We were tired of chasing fleeting weekends and vacations that never lasted long enough and we were frustrated with the illusions of the American dream.
Because the realities we were living included…
- Invisible corporate ladders
- Two-weeks of vacation per year
- Living in a stuffy office
- Just not having enough time to do the things that really made us happy
Then, just like you today, we made the life-changing decision to learn how to start a successful blog.
At the time there was not any great information on how to become a blogger or at least we struggled to find it!
Despite our initial woes, in less than a year we started our first blog. Avocadu.com, completely from scratch and turned it into a money-making machine.
We share more specific details about our blogging income in our blog income reports, but we average around $20,000/month with our little health and wellness blog. But it’s not just about the money.
It’s what this blog has done for our LIVES that is the most important.
We can wake up every morning, have our coffee, and completely design our days. We have been able to visit family more often and travel to countries like Nicaragua and Bali and still work while having fun!
We share our story with you because your “why” is so important when you start your own blog.
The potential that you have with your new blogging business is ENDLESS, and with it, you can:
- Make more money than a regular salaried job. (If making money is what you want.)
- Have more fun exploring your passions and interests. Blogging will take your passions so much further because it’s a process of learning, sharing, and connecting with others.
- Work from home or while you travel. You can work from wherever you want, whether that is at home with the kids from your comfy couch with a blanket or on a white sandy beach somewhere!
- Become an author (even a NY Times Best Seller). Many famous authors started blogging to build an audience and then released their books to the world. Examples include Jenny Lawson, Mark Manson, and dozens of others.
- Become a little internet famous. Many bloggers have leveraged an audience into a little (or a LOT) of internet fame. And what’s wrong with wanting to be a little better known?
- Just enjoy the mental relief that comes from writing. No need to have a grand plan to become famous. Just writing for your blog for therapeutic relief is not uncommon.
- Finally get FREEDOM. Whether it’s time freedom to spend more time with your kids or to travel more or financial freedom from a salaried 9-5 with bosses. This is why we started. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to be free from all that.
There is a lot more than this, but establishing a why is a crucial step to creating a successful blog. This is because having a blog that makes money does require work.
We know, we know. It’s not very sexy to say but it’s the truth. If you want great things in life, you will have to work for them! Big shocker 😉
Understanding and identifying your why will help you overcome the basic struggles you will have in the beginning as a blogger.
That being said, blogging is BY FAR the most fun “job” we’ve ever had. I mean, who doesn’t want to work from home, design your days, connect with others over your passions, be in control of your income, and run your own business???
Okay, now that you’ve identified your why for starting, let’s move on to step #2 and find your perfect blogging niche.
Step 2. Choose the Perfect Blog Topic and Niche
When it comes to selecting a good blog topic and niche, know that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel!
Your blog doesn't have to be about some crazy, new, trendy topic to be popular! If you find yourself in the camp of “I don’t know but I just want to start,” you’ll want to consider a couple of different options.
It’s time to figure out the subject for your blog. If you’re a classic over-thinker like me, don’t fret.
The beauty of starting a blog isssss….
Blogs are flexible. Malleable. Fluid. You get the idea.
Blogging is not something where your original idea has to be set in stone from the jump. The opposite, actually, is closer to the truth. Blogging for money is a process of creating, listening, and adapting.
Consider a self-branded blog.
If you feel you have a few different passions or interests that want to share with the world or help others with, a self-branded blog is a great place to start.
Because the commonality of the blog isn’t a particular subject yet, the commonality is YOU.
There are thousands of popular blogs in which the domain name is the blogger’s name:
- Mark Manson (Author of The Subtle Art of Giving a F*uck)
- Amy Lynn Andrews (Blogger)
- Melyssa Griffin (Blogger and Entrepreneur)
It doesn’t have to be your full name either, could be something like:
- Alex’s Blog
- That Blogger Alex
- That Weird Blogger Bro Alex
- Alex Blogs
A self-branded blog is one that uses some part of the author’s name and is very common when the blog is owned by one person.
Start General and Narrow Down
This is the route we went with our health and wellness blog, Avocadu.
When we first started this blog, we wrote about the following topics:
- General Health
- Weight Loss
- General Fitness
- Dieting and Recipes
Over time, we narrowed our focus to two main categories: Weight Loss and Yoga
We still write other content occasionally, but most of our content relates to these two topics because those are the topics we created products around.
Consider selecting 1-2 topics you like THE MOST, especially if they are money-focused or have a higher chance of profitability.
Picking the Topic
One of the best ways to figure out what topic to blog about is to stick to an area that you have experience in.
We started in health and wellness because Alex had been a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist for over 5 years. I was a former vegan for two years and also was super passionate about all things related to health and wellness.
I was also a Certified Public Accountant and in the accounting field for several years in my previous life, so I could have easily started a blog about tax or auditing.
Now, you don’t have to be certified or be some kind of “expert” in the topic that you’re blogging about, but you DO need to have experience and knowledge in it.
Your readers will see right through you if you choose to write about a topic that you have very little knowledge or experience in.
It will show in your content and you won’t get very far. The point is to create highly engaging content that keeps your readers coming back for more.
If you don’t feel like you have enough experience in a particular area or you don’t want to blog about what you have experience in, no worries…
Perhaps the easiest way to figure out what blog topic matters most to you is to think about the one thing that you can’t seem to shut up about.
It’s that topic that your friends or family casually bring up and you word vomit all over them about it with facts, data, research, whatever.
Or that topic that your friends come to you for advice for.
Parenting. Religion. Politics. Money. Health. Etc.
It can be anything that you get fired up about in discussion.
This is because blogging is just a long conversation with your readers. The more genuine passion and interest you start with, the better off you will be.
But What About Making Money?
Don’t some blog topics make more money than others?
But starting with money first is a BIG MISTAKE for two reasons:
- You will build yourself a miserable job. If you don’t like writing the content, you’re still going to end up in a job that you hate. Nothing is more painful than writing about some inane topic you don’t give a crap about.
- People on the internet are smarter now and they will read right through your BS. Let me elaborate.
Please, please, please don’t be that phony teaching people how to make money online when you haven’t ever made real money online.
We’ve seen this time and time again. People know that money bloggers make a lot of money because they post income reports, so they jump right into what they believe will be the most profitable niche.
When you don’t have experience in a topic, you end up teaching theory rather than hard-earned lessons from personal experience.
People want to hear about your story and your experiences and your failures and your wins. That’s why they are going to follow you and read your content.
On that note, you can blog about your journey and be honest about your experience trying to make an income online. This is okay if this is a subject you really love researching and talking about already.
That’s just genuinely exploring a passion.
Another example of how it can be done:
It was only after we had over a year of blogging experience and had earned over $20,000/month with our health and wellness blog that we started Create and Go (this blog).
Below is a graph of our first year of revenues from our health and wellness blog:
In addition to that, we both had business degrees. We had been studying business and marketing in college for years, and Alex actually sold his first eBook while he was in college.
And it also became the topic that neither one of us could ever shut up about — even more so than our original passion: health and fitness.
Examples of Blog Variances
Here are three different examples of different types of blogs that are very popular and some ideas for what you can do with them just to give you some ideas!
Here are some common types of food blogs:
- Recipe blogs
- Diet-specific blogs
You can mix and match these as well.
For example, you can have a blog on veganism that is about the diet and maybe even sell your own diet program, but it doesn't have to include recipes. On the other hand, you can have a recipe blog without having any type of cookbook or diet program.
Here are some common types of fashion blogs:
- Product reviews
- Lifestyle blogs
Many fashion blogs also double as lifestyle blogs and cover other topics like makeup, food, business, travel, etc. just depending on what YOU like.
These bloggers often also become influencers and post product reviews on social media outlets like YouTube and Instagram.
Here are some common types of travel blogs:
- Budget traveling
- Digital Nomads
- Remote Work
- Luxury Travel
This really just depends on what type of traveling YOU do the most.
It's a good idea to not just talk about where you're going but also what makes you different (what job you have, how you travel, etc.)
Please keep in mind that the above types of blogs should ALL be started the same way — using the technical walkthrough outlined in the next couple steps, so keep reading!
Can Any Blog Make Money?
Yep! Here are some more weird examples of popular blogs to show the creative and ingenious ways people are monetizing random topics:
- Doug the Pug (just a famous pug)
- Survival Life (survival in the wilderness)
- Learning Herbs (guy sells board games about plants — for real)
Making money is WAY more about your creativity and community than it is about your subject.
- Blogging is a fluid thing.
- Consider using a personal brand name if your passions and interests are varied.
- Start general and narrow down.
- Don’t try to start in a topic that you have no clue about or experience in just because you’re money-hungry.
Still beating yourself up about finding your perfect blog topic? I hope not. But if so, we have a couple of additional resources for you on blog topics:
- 101 Fun and Popular Blog Topics That Actually Make Money – This article is great to help spark random ideas into your noggin about the ideas and potential for certain topics.
- Blog Niche Ideas – 3 Steps to Find a Fun and Profitable Niche – This article is perfect for the over-thinker who still feels lost and overwhelmed by this process. It’s written very well because I am an over-thinker who wrote it. #notsohumblebrag
Step 3. Best Blogging Platforms 101 - Where You Should Start
How do you start a blog the right way?
You start by building the correct foundation baby!
A blogging platform is the platform that you will use to build your website. It's literally the foundation of your blog, so you need to make sure you choose right one.
Without the right fundamentals in place, you will end up spending a lot more time and money and your new blog may never get off the ground.
Back in the ancient times of the internet (the dark ages), if you wanted to start a website, you’d have to learn how to code.
Line by line, you would have to hard-code your content like this: <html> This sucks.<html>, and it would suck and you’d probably throw your computer off the highest surface you could find.
Thankfully, people recognized the need for a solution that allowed regular folks like us to create websites. And thus, blogging platforms were born!
They help the less tech-savvy navigate the building of a website.
The blogging platform you choose will determine a lot of things, including…
- Speed of your website
- Customizations you can make
- Access to plugins and other software
- And more.
There are many different platforms you can use to build a website, but we’re going to discuss platforms specifically geared toward blogs.
For instance, Shopify is a GREAT platform for eCommerce businesses but it’s an absolute DISASTER for a professional blogger.
The only platforms that should even be considered for those interested in how to start a blog AND make money blogging are:
We can go ahead and hack off a couple websites like Medium, Tumblr, and Blogger because there is no real way to monetize these platforms seriously except for a few outlying exceptions.
And out of the bunch that are suited for making money with a blog, WordPress stands MILES ahead of the rest.
There are a few important reasons for this. I’m not saying you couldn’t start a blog on Squarespace, because you certainly can. I’m just saying it would be a pain.
Most bloggers eventually regret starting on these other platforms once they get deeper into driving traffic and monetizing their blogs.
Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly are amazing for personal static websites (think dentist offices and hair salons), but not for blogs.
This has a lot to do with the end goal we have in blogging.
We want to MAKE MONEY and in order to make money efficiently, you need to have CONTROL over every aspect of your website.
You need to be able to edit it exactly how you want not just to make it look pretty but also for monetization purposes.
You need access to software and plugins, and other blogging platforms are severely lacking in this department compared to WordPress.
We will cover these topics in another section later on in this guide!
Here are some facts about WordPress that will ease your concerns about this being the “right” choice
WordPress for Bloggers
WordPress is the best platform for bloggers because…
- It powers 30% of the entire internet. Yep! 30% of all websites you have ever visited were built using WordPress.
- It was founded May 27, 2003. With age comes wisdom. Just like your Grandpappy, WordPress has been there and done that. It often understands what you need better than you understand what you need!
- Because it’s so widely used, the support and customizability are AMAZING. Tens of thousands of different themes, plugins, and options are available. Wix and Squarespace have very little options for themes, plugins, and other customizations because they cater more to websites – not blogs specifically.
- It allows you to scale. If your blog became widely popular one day and you were on a platform like Wix or Squarespace, God help your soul. They are not made for that level of traffic and it would be a nightmare to deal with. Begin with the end in mind!
- It’s perfect for beginners. WordPress is super easy to use and comes with a one-click install with Bluehost!
It’s for these reasons and more that WordPress is the best blogging platform out there right now.
Now, with a great blogging platform, you will also need a great host. In terms of the Internet, the blogging platform, WordPress, is what you use to build your house while the host is the land you place your house on.
You want your platform and your host to pair together like peanut butter and jelly… And if WordPress is the peanut butter, then the perfect homemade jelly is Bluehost.
Why Host With Bluehost?
First off, they are incredibly inexpensive! You can start a blog with Bluehost for just $2.75/month when you sign up (that low price is through our link only!).
It also comes with a FREE domain name! This is so important at the beginning before you are making enough money to cover your expenses.
Bluehost is also incredibly easy to use for beginners. The process to start a blog can get a little confusing when you start talking about domain names, hosting packages, etc. Our step-by-step tutorial below has images, and we even set up a new domain just to show you how it works.
Lastly, Bluehost also offers a complete guarantee on their hosting packages. If you sign up for 12 months or more and decide that it’s not right for you, you can ask for a full refund within 30 days of purchase!
There really is no risk.
How Do I Start a Blog for Free?
First of all, you do NOT want to do that. Here’s why.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you could start a blog for free and make a bunch of money with it, everyone that owns a computer would be a blogger.
Let’s talk briefly about free vs. self-hosted. There is free blog hosting and free plans (think blogger.com), but there is also a reason why 99.9% of profitable blogs don’t run on them and why you should not use them…
- It looks incredibly sloppy.
- The customizations are limited.
- You are limited in how you can monetize your blog (no ads, folks!).
- The websites are slow (there’s nothing more frustrating than a slow website).
- I personally know of ZERO successful entrepreneurs who use them.
If you’d like to know a little more about the differences and why free blogs are a mistake if you want to take your blog biz seriously, see our article on WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org (free vs. self-hosted blogs).
Because of these glaring flaws, we are going to focus on self-hosting (think Bluehost) in this article, because starting a blog with wordpress is the RIGHT WAY to start a successful blog (compared to a hobby blog).
The difference truly is only $2.75/month, so you can’t afford NOT to go with self-hosting!
Step 4. Sign Up for Blog Hosting and Install WordPress
Okay, it's time to get to the good stuff!
We're going to show you step-by-step how to get your domain name and sign up for a blog hosting plan for your new blog!
Thus begins the exact step-by-step process for how to set up a blog:
Okay, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty, baby! TODAY IS THE DAY. LET’S GET YOU A BEAUTIFUL BLOG.
How to Make a Blog (The Technical Walkthrough):
If you have not already, click here to go to Bluehost and then use the tutorial below for easy, step-by-step directions.
This tutorial is going to start with a webpage showing our bright, shining faces.
Here we are going to walk you through every step we took to register the domain name: mynewtravelblog.com
We also have the steps below outlined in a video version for some of you that learn better visually. The video can be found on our Youtube Channel, below.
First, go to Bluehost.com, if you haven’t already. Make sure you have the page pulled up in a separate window before beginning the tutorial.
After you click the button to get started on the homepage, you will then see a list of pricing options.
Next, choose which pricing plan is best for you. No worries – you don’t need anything more than the BASIC plan.
Note that the lowest price of $2.75 per month is if you sign up for the longer contract term of 36 months (paid up front). We recommend that you go ahead and take advantage of this low pricing plan, and here’s why:
- You can cancel risk-free for 30 days. Bluehost offers a guarantee, and you can cancel your plan at any time during the first 30 days and get a full refund.
- Signing on for a longer plan represents a commitment you are making to your blog and yourself. Commit to making this a long-term deal that will reap you TONS of rewards over the next few years!
- It also ensures that they won’t raise the price of your hosting during that time.
After selecting your plan, you will want to enter your new domain, as seen below:
If you’re having trouble coming up with a blog name, just remember not to overcomplicate it. It’s the content, not the name that truly matters.
For example, our other blog is called Avocadu. With 4 syllables, it’s hard to pronounce and doesn’t quite roll off the tongue easily.
It makes us $20,000 per month and it’s not even a word! 🙂
You can also try out a few using Bluehost’s domain name checker below:
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR SELECTING A DOMAIN NAME
It may take you a couple of tries to get a name you like. Here are some suggestions to make the process a bit easier:
- You can use your name: alexnerney.com or nataliebacon.com (great for a lifestyle blog)
- You can use your name + your blog topic: alexlovespaleo.com or alextravels.com
- You can just make up a word related to your topic: paleoliscious.com or travelover.com
- You can also use a .co instead of a .com: twitter.co and createandgo.co
If you're still struggling, you can check out our post on How to Get a Great Blog Name.
Enter your domain under “new domain” (you can see where we inserted mynewtravelblog.com), and hit next. Now it’s time to fill in your contact information.
Then scroll down to the section with the package information.
FIRST — Select your account plan. This is where you select the LENGTH of your plan. As we said above, we recommend the 36-month plan, because it provides the best value for your money.
After selecting your package information, scroll down to the section on package extras.
Some of the boxes on this page may already be checked, but the only option that we recommend is Domain Privacy Protection.
When you purchase a domain name (from any hosting company) your name, address, and phone number become public record for anyone that wants to look up who owns the domain name. This can cause unwelcome solicitors calling your phone to try to sell you stuff for your new business.
Selecting domain privacy protection hides your personal details so that your information remains confidential.
Also, remember to uncheck all other boxes because these features aren’t necessary.
Your screen should look like this:
Congratulations! You now own your very own website!!!!!
Not too painful, right???
After completing the registration, you will be asked if you want to check out some special offers by Bluehost. You can go ahead and click “No Thanks” here.
The next few steps will direct you to create your password before beginning with anything else. Make sure to create a secure password!
After selecting your password, click the “Login” button. This will direct you to select a theme for your WordPress blog.
Getting Started with WordPress
The themes on this page are all free. You can select any one of these free themes to get started.
Don’t worry – you can change this at any time, and we’ll discuss it in more detail in a few moments.
After selecting your theme, it will take a few minutes to set up your WordPress dashboard. Once it’s finished, click “Start Building” to go to your WordPress dashboard.
From here, click on the “Business” button, as shown below. If you miss this step and accidentally click Personal, don’t worry. It doesn’t really matter.
Next, you’ll be asked to set up a Site Title and Site Description. This should be simple and descriptive of what your blog is about but if you aren’t sure what you want to say just yet, just click to skip this step and you can set it up later.
You can see an example of a Site Title and Description below:
After this step, it will ask you if you will be updating your blog with new content. Heck yeah, you will be! Select Yes.
From here, you will be prompted to select whether you’d like to set your homepage up to display recent posts or to have a static homepage.
You can select either, but most people end up using a static homepage, so we’ve selected that option in this tutorial. You can also change this at any point in time in the future if you change your mind!
After selecting your homepage design, Bluehost will ask you if you want to set up a Contact page. We’re going to select No this time because you can set that up later. It shouldn’t be a top priority right now.
From here, click on the Connect to WordPress.com button. Next, you will be prompted to create an account for JetPack.
JetPack is a software that connects to your WordPress blog to provide you with information on the visitors to your website as well as additional plugins that allow you to make customizations on your site.
You can create a new account by entering in your information or you can scroll down to sign up with your Google account:
In the next step, you will be directed back to WordPress and asked to fill in your address information. You can just click “Skip this step” for now.
Before moving on to the next steps, make sure to visit the email account that you used to sign up so that you can verify your address with Bluehost. You have 14 days to do this after signing up, but you should verify it as soon as possible so that you can access your Bluehost dashboard.
Just click the button in your email to verify:
Now, before we start designing and customizing, we want to show you how to access your Bluehost account and WordPress dashboard in the future in case you need to stop and start at any time.
How to Access Bluehost and WordPress
There are two different way to get back into your WordPress dashboard and access your blog.
The first way is to go to Bluehost.com and log in using the email and password that you created in the setup above.
From here, you can click on the Log in to WordPress button.
The other way to access your blog is a little more direct but it requires you to set up a new admin account within WordPress first. You can do that through these steps.
- Follow the step above to access your WordPress dashboard through your Bluehost.com account.
- On the menu on the left, go to Users → Add New.
- Create a new user account with a username. This will be the account that you will use to login with in the future.
- Next, go back to All Users and delete the old admin user.
Once you set up this new user, all you need to do to log in to your site is to type in yourdomainnamehere.com/wp-admin/ into your browser and you will be directed to log in to your WordPress account.
For example, my domain name is mynewtravelblog.com for the purposes of this tutorial. I would type in mynewtravelblog.com/wp-admin/ to access my blog.
Log in using the username and password you just set up in the steps above and you can access your WordPress dashboard!
Step 5. Envision Your Blog Design
This section is just a quick read to give you examples of some common blog designs so you can get ideas of how you might want yours to look before you start designing your blog!
Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog has a different setup because you can see that her face is not the first thing you see when you get to her blog.
Items to note about this blog design:
- The main feature on the page is her content. She has three different blog categories of content to choose from based on what readers are most interested in.
- She also has a sign-up form for her email list right on her homepage.
This is a great blog design for a beginner because many new bloggers aren’t ready to put their faces front and center or hire a photographer to take a professional photo.
This is a little closer to the original design of our first blog in the first few months, but it can work for anyone because Abby has been blogging for several years now!
Items to note about this blog design:
- The main feature on the page is, of course, Pat Flynn himself. He is an established authority figure in his niche, and he includes a big headline next to his photo so that his readers know exactly what his website is about when they visit his homepage.
- He also has two menus up at the top with various links to pages on his blog.
- Lastly, he has a “Learn More” button that takes you to another page to learn more about what he offers on his website.
This blog design is best-suited for someone who has established themselves in their blog niche community or who has the resources to hire a photographer to take professional photos.
It’s also best-suited for anyone that KNOWS they want to be a big name in their community and they want to start off with a bang. When you are the central focus, it can help to establish you as an authority figure in your niche.
Elsie and Emma of A Beautiful Mess have a great mix of the above two styles.
Items to note about this blog design:
- The focus of their homepage is split between their recent blog posts and a section about them.
- There is also a separate menu just for their blog categories.
This type of blog design is also great for beginners because you will be posting a lot of content in the beginning and the addition of the section about you helps to build trust with your new readers.
It’s also a great design for anyone with a lifestyle blog that plans to blog on several different topics.
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR DECIDING ON BLOG DESIGN
Step 6. Select a great WordPress Blog Theme
A blog theme is additional software and coding that allows you to design and customize your blog.
Please pay very close attention to this section because this is the place where most new bloggers waste the majority of their time in the first month of blogging.
Some of our blogging students have actually earned money in their first couple of months blogging and there is a reason that they are different than most other bloggers.
They heed the advice in this section!
It’s design time!
We need to start this off with a bit of a warning. When learning any new software or platform, the beginning can be daunting and confusing. It’s going to take a few weeks working in WordPress and playing around with it for things to start becoming familiar.
This is the stage where a lot of people get frustrated and a lot of self-doubts come up. This is normal and something every blogger before you has gone through.
I was a CPA and Alex was a personal trainer with NO coding experience or anything close to an “understanding” of how the system worked.
Trust that you are going to stick with it and learn the system.
WordPress is the most POWERFUL blogging resource on the web today and gives people who have no experience in coding the ability to create beautiful websites.
Commit to learning the ins and outs of WordPress, and it will serve you very well in the future.
And if every day you focus on creating awesomeness, in 2 month’s time, you’ll be shocked at how proficient you will be!
Option 1: Use a Free WordPress Theme
Free themes are a great place to start if you’re a beginner blogger, but they will lack some of the tools a paid theme gives you. If you have the extra $50 – $100 to invest, then go for a paid theme. If you feel stretched at this point, we get it. Rock a free theme for a month or so and get used to the platform.
You can use one of the free themes WordPress has pre-installed under the “appearances” and “themes” tabs. Just click customize to switch themes.
There are also a ton of free themes. Here is a great list of them that you can try.
If there are free themes, why would I ever want a paid theme?
Paid themes are generally much more powerful and customizable than free themes.
This is because they will have an entire support staff dedicated to helping you and making sure you succeed. They are also used by 95% of people running profitable blogs.
That being said, starting by playing around with some free themes is perfectly fine. It will get your feet wet and help you start better understanding WordPress.
Warning: There are lots of bloggers that recommend starting your blog with the Genesis Framework (the most powerful and fastest WordPress theme). These people are looking to get PAID, and anyone who remotely suggests that it is a good basic theme for beginners is outside their damn mind.
Don’t use that theme to start with unless you are tech savvy and ready to battle through quite a few headaches. It will leave you frustrated at the beginning and out around $250 for the entire package.
Option 2: Save Time and Get a Better Design with a Paid Theme
We have a couple of recommendations here:
Divi Theme is incredibly customizable and very user-friendly. It’s our #1 recommendation and what most of our new bloggers in our Launch Your Blog Course are using. You can easily customize the design of your homepage and other pages on your website and they have great customer service.
They also have a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee, so there is absolutely no risk to try it!
When you purchase Divi, you also get access to the entire Elegant Themes market, which includes over 70 other themes to choose from if you don’t end up loving Divi. This theme is quickly becoming the #1 new theme on the market for newbie bloggers!
Avada Theme is what we personally used for the first couple of months on our blog. At the time that we used it, it had fewer customizations than it did today, and that was why we ultimately made the switch to another theme. BUT it has since been updated and now comes with a LOT more customizations and less of a learning curve.
Get to work on selecting the right theme for you, but don’t over analyze it! If you have spent more than 2-3 hours selecting a theme, just pick one and rock it for a while.
The steps below will show you how to upload and change your theme in WordPress.
How to Change Your Theme in WordPress
Next, head over to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance –> Themes.
Click on the button to add a new theme:
At the very top of the next screen, click the button to upload your theme:
Next, choose the zipped theme file that you previously downloaded to your computer in the first step.
Once it’s uploaded, click the buttons to Install and Activate and you’re finished!
Additional Theme Resources:
Here are some additional resources and tutorials to help you start exploring your new theme!
If you’re still undecided on a blog theme, you can also check out our article on best WordPress themes for some other recommendations.
Step 7. Install Essential Plugins for Your Blog
A plugin is software that integrates with your WordPress blog to allow you to make customizations and improvements to your blog.
Here are a few examples of what plugins can do for your website:
- Collect email subscribers
- Compress images to speed up your website
- Display your traffic statistics
- Other traffic and monetization tasks (ads, SEO, etc.)
In this section, we’re going to show you a couple of basic (and free!) plugins that every new blogger needs in the beginning. First, we’ll show you what these plugins are and then we’ll show you how to install them on your blog.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and that basically means that you are optimizing content to be found in a search engine (like Google).
Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps you optimize your content by using a traffic light system. It will give you tasks to complete to make sure your articles are optimized for Google search and give you a green light when you have everything set up properly.
This is GREAT for beginners who don’t really know how SEO works or what to do. It’s a great starting point!
Resize Image After Upload
Resize Image After Upload is a great plugin for website speed! Adding images to your blog posts can, unfortunately, be a big drag on your website speed. If they aren’t properly sized and compressed before you upload them to WordPress, they will take up more space than necessary.
This plugin automatically resizes images for maximum width and height, which minimizes the file size on your website and keeps loading time down.
It’s absolutely essential to have in your arsenal of blogging tools!
How to Install Plugins on WordPress
There are two different ways to install a plugin:
- Search Feature
- Direct Upload
You can use either method, but some plugins are not available through the search method and must be directly uploaded.
To upload a plugin via search, navigate to Plugins on your left-hand menu in the WordPress dashboard and click the blue Add New button at the top of the page.
From here, just search for the plugin you are looking for (i.e. Yoast SEO):
Click the Install button (ours is showing as “Active” in the screenshot above because we already have it downloaded) and then click the Activate button.
Before uploading a plugin, you will need to download the zip file directly from the website (i.e. visit Yoast’s plugin page to download the free version of the plugin).
To upload a plugin, follow the same steps as above to the blue Add New button at the top of the plugins page.
From here, click the Upload Plugin button up at the top left corner of the screen and choose your zip file that you downloaded.
Then click Install and Activate!
You can also check out this article for some additional plugins to download for social media, site speed, design, and more!
STEP 8. Write Your First Blog Post!
Welcome to how to blog 101 -> Let's start by writing your first blog post!
What should my first blog post be about?
Your first post can be about whatever you want, but we recommend keeping it simple and introducing yourself to your audience. Tell them a little bit about yourself and why you started your blog.
Let’s get started writing your first blog post in WordPress!
First, navigate to Posts –> Add New from your left-hand WordPress dashboard menu.
Let’s start with the title of your first blog post. You can name it whatever you want but here are some suggestions:
- Welcome to My New Blog!
- Why I Finally Started My Blog
- What This Blog is About
- Hello Party people, I’m [Name], and Welcome to My Blog!!
- Welcome to My Blog About [Blog Topic]
You can also change your blog post title at any time, so don’t worry too much about getting the headline 100% right.
After you’ve written your title, click on the block underneath the title to start writing your content.
I started off with a simple welcome message and introduced myself. Next, let’s add an image. You don’t have to do this, but it’s a great way to build that first personal connection with your reader.
This is the first step to building trust with your reader. If they are able to put a face to the words they are reading, they are more likely to feel connected to you.
To insert an image, you can click the plus button or the image icon. Then click “Upload Media.”
Now you can select a photo from your computer and upload it straight to WordPress. Once it’s uploaded to your WordPress media library, you can easily select it for any other posts in the future.
Once you’ve uploaded a photo, you can continue writing the rest of your content by adding a new text/media block underneath your photo:
The rest of your content on this first blog post should be about you and why you started your blog.
Here are some helpful questions that you can answer in this first post:
- What got you interested in your blog topic and what made you finally start your blog about it?
- What do you want to help others with?
- Do you have a mission statement or a core belief about your blog topic that you can share with your audience?
Feel free to include any other photos or ideas that you think might be helpful or relevant here.
You can also include a few links to websites that you felt motivated and inspired by on your journey to starting a blog.
To add a hyperlink, type out the text that you want to link, click on the hyperlink icon, and then paste a link to the website in the field that pops up:
Include 3-4 websites that you have found inspirational so far.
Lastly, you can conclude your post by saying THANK YOU to your reader for being here and ask them to please leave a comment below the article if they enjoyed the post or have any questions for you.
This is a great way to start getting some initial feedback on your blog and start building those relationships with your readers.
Publish Your WordPress Post
Your blog post remains in “draft mode” while you are writing it. This means that a draft copy is saved in WordPress and no one can view it until you decide to publish the content.
Once you’ve finished writing your blog post, you can publish it so that other people can see it.
To publish a blog post, just click the Publish button at the top right corner of the page:
Once it’s published, there will be a link at the top of the screen to view your post.
After you’ve published your blog post, you can share a link on your Facebook account or send the link to family members or friends if you’d like to share it with anyone!
STEP 9. Learn How to Get Traffic to Your Blog
How do you get readers to your new blog?
There are many different ways to drive traffic to a blog, but the quality and the quantity of that traffic varies from platform to platform.
Most new bloggers jump on Facebook and Instagram first because they are the most widely used platform, but they are also the most competitive and not necessarily ideal for driving traffic to blogs.
In order to get REAL traffic to your blog through Facebook, you’ll need to pay for ads.
The platform is simply too competitive these days and algorithm changes over the last couple of years have caused a serious decline in organic traffic for blogs.
If you want organic traffic from Facebook, you’ll need to get creative with engaging and live content (think live videos).
If videos are your thing, that’s great! You should also consider using YouTube as a source of traffic.
Our YouTube channel has been a great way for us to generate traffic, get subscribers, and build relationships with our readers.
But if videos aren’t your thing, we totally get it. It took us a while to get there and we do have one piece of advice before you start the process of setting up social media accounts and looking into ways to drive traffic.
If you try to start driving traffic through 3-4 different platforms at once, you won’t end up getting really good at any of them.
Start with one traffic source and really focus in on it. Learn everything there is to know about it. Master it.
Don’t shift your focus away from it until you are generating steady and consistent traffic to your blog.
Where Should I Start with Traffic?
You can use whatever social media platform you like or feel comfortable with, but make sure you think about the following when deciding which platform(s) to use:
- Where your target audience hangs out (go where your peeps are!)
- How easy it is to get them off the platform (some are much harder than others to actually get people off of the platform and onto your blog)
- How much you actually like the platform (you’ll be spending some time on it, so don’t pick a platform you don’t like).
Our favorite traffic platform for new bloggers is Pinterest.
You heard that right. If you thought it was just this weird platform where people save photos of wedding dresses and dream homes, you were wrong.
It’s so much more that.
Pinterest is incredible for bloggers for a few reasons.
Traffic that comes from search engines (Google, YouTube, Pinterest) is generally of a higher quality because people are SEARCHING for your information.
You don’t have to create content from guesswork or assumptions because you can look up exactly what people are searching for and create content around those topics.
That’s why our favorite tool is just to use Pinterest search.
If you go to Pinterest and type in keywords, the platform will give you similar topics and suggestions based on what people are searching for on the platform.
For example, if you type “Yoga Poses” into the Pinterest search bar, the first suggested keywords that come up are “For Beginners” and “For Flexibility.”
This tells us that Yoga Poses for Beginners and Yoga Poses for Flexibility are some of the most commonly searched terms related to yoga poses.
This simple search method is how we came up with most of the keywords on our health and wellness blog.
Search traffic also means that unlike Facebook, your content will continue to be found in search for months or years to come. When you post on Facebook, you’ll get traffic for a day or two but you would have to pay to promote your content to get it seen beyond that.
You’re playing more of a long-term game on Pinterest because the longer you are on the platform, the more search traffic you should see from your efforts.
Pinterest is one of the least-competitive platforms out there because most marketers and business owners don’t know about it and those that do generally don’t understand it.
Again, most new bloggers flood to the popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram when they start driving traffic to their blog.
Most people just don’t get how Pinterest works and immediately dismiss it as a viable source of traffic, so they don’t bother with it.
This means that you’re competing with less content — both organic and paid. Lower competition means a lot cheaper ads.
You’re competing with everyone else who already has much more established blogs.
This makes it a great platform for new bloggers because it can be hard to “break out into the scene” with a new blog. No one knows you yet and you have to prove that your content is worth something.
How Do I Get Started with Pinterest Traffic?
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- How to Drive 300k+ Views to Your Blog with Pinterest
- Pinterest for Business: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
You can also check out some additional tips on how to get more traffic to your blog here.
STEP 10. How to Make Your First Bit of Money Blogging
Give yourself a nice and good pat on the back if you've made it this far! That shows how dedicated you are to getting your new blog started and off the ground as soon as possible!
After you've begun working on getting traffic to your blog, it's time to turn your sights to monetizing your new blog.
This is the REAL reason you’re here, right?
You’re excited about your new blog but what you really want is to learn how to make some actual money with it!
There are a variety of ways you can monetize a blog and in general, the more work you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of some of the different ways to make money with a blog and then we’ll tell you where to get started.
How Do Bloggers Make Money?
Ads are a great place to get started because you set them up, you really don’t have to do anything else but sit back and collect some passive income.
But because this income is so easy to set up and so simple, it’s also going to generate you the least amount of income.
The reality of ads is that for the tradeoff of making your blog look a little less professional, you generally won’t make more than a few cents per day.
When we first set up ads on our blog, we made $2.93 in the first week.
That was pretty disappointing…
We quickly realized that ads alone weren’t going to get us very far.
It’s okay to monetize with ads, but make sure you have the right expectations when it comes to how much money you can earn from them.
You can sign up for Google AdSense right away when you start a blog, but it’s often better to wait until you have enough traffic to partner with a premium ad network that will pay you more for the ads on your blog.
We personally use AdThrive on our health and wellness blog and earn $3,000 – $4,000 each month with ads.
Now, that may sound like a lot, but it’s only a VERY small percentage of our overall income and we generate a LOT of traffic on that blog.
And the more traffic you have, the more money you can make with other methods of monetization.
Another way that many new bloggers supplement their income is through sponsored posts, which is when you get paid to write and publish an article for someone (featuring their company in the article) on your blog.
Sponsored posts are often about product reviews, recommendations, or other product information and usually in a similar niche as your blog so that the content aligns with what your readers are interested in.
It can be quite a process to hunt down good sponsored post opportunities, and it’s not technically passive income because you are still getting paid for your time writing.
That being said, it can be a great way to supplement your income while you are growing your blog.
We personally did not use sponsored ads as part of our blog monetization strategy, but we know of bloggers making over $10,000/month through sponsored posts.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents is one such blogger and has an entire course on how to make money with sponsored posts from her personal experience.
Okay, now we’re getting into the good stuff!
Affiliate marketing is the #1 best way to start monetizing a new blog.
Affiliate marketing is when you sell other people’s products on your website and earn a percentage of the purchase price as a commission.
We earned our very first bit of income from our first blog through affiliate marketing and more specifically, through the Amazon Associates program.
Our first month of earnings was $172.82, and we were PUMPED. It was proof that we could actually make money with our blog.
Now, we earn anywhere from $400-$1,000/month through recommending Amazon products in our articles.
This can be really big for a new blogger because it can cover some of your initial expenses like blog hosting, email marketing, blog themes, etc.
Or even just help with the groceries!
They key to success with affiliate marketing is to try to find high-priced products to recommend. They’re harder to sell but you can earn much higher commissions.
We generally earn around $40,000/month through affiliate marketing.
In addition to Amazon Associates, you can also find great affiliate products to recommend to your audience through affiliate networks
Affiliate Marketing Programs and Networks:
Most major companies have some kind of affiliate program, so you can also try searching for a company or product + “affiliate program” to see if any of your favorite companies or products have an affiliate program.
Perhaps the best part about affiliate marketing is that it will teach you how to sell.
This will prepare you for the final step to becoming a six-figure blogger, which is to create your own products and/or services.
Creating Your Own Digital Products
We’re talking about eBooks and online courses here. eCommerce is a whole separate ball game and while some bloggers have eCommerce stores attached to their blogs, it’s generally a different type of business entirely.
This is the final frontier and how most six-figure bloggers earn their income, but it’s also not the best route for most new bloggers to start with. Here’s why.
New bloggers don’t generally start out knowing…
- Exactly who their target audience is,
- What products that audience is interested in,
- What type of content to create to sell those products,
- Or how to market their products.
And you need all of those in place to successfully sell a product on your blog.
In addition, you need consistent and significant traffic and usually an email list full of engaged subscribers.
Creating a product before you have these things established is a lot riskier. We know from experience.
Alex and I created a product right away on our first blog when we had very little traffic, not much of an email list, and very little experience blogging in general.
Long story short, we only had one person buy it.
It was a devastating blow after the many long nights and weekends we spent to create it.
We had to scrap the product and start over.
The next time around, we started with affiliate marketing and learned who our audience was, what they were interested in, and how to successfully sell a product to them before we created our own.
We launched our Yoga Fat Loss Bible on our health and wellness blog and it was a success from day 1!
Now, we make the majority of our income through our eBooks and online courses that we sell on both of our blogs.
We use a combination of ads, affiliate marketing, and selling our own products to earn over $100,000/month with these two blogs.
STEP 11. Get Involved in the Blogging Community
You don't have to do this alone, and you shouldn't!
It can be a dark and lonely road full of self-doubt and fear. We've felt all of those emotions along the way and it's hard not to when you wonder if you'll ever make it.
It's important to remember that you're not alone and you can always get encouragement and learn from others.
A mistake most new bloggers make when starting out is not reaching out for help and connecting with other blogging communities.
Here are the final 3 steps for really getting involved. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.
Join our Facebook Group for New Bloggers!
Our Create and Go Blogging Community has grown to over 7,000 members, and they’re a rockstar bunch of people!
Our community members are a mix of brand new bloggers plus those that have been blogging for years.
Every day, we have people asking questions, sharing experiences, and learning from one another.
Here is an example of the kind of questions people ask and the feedback that they receive:
This kind of resources is invaluable for new bloggers and is something that we wish we had used when we first started.
Get Active in the Group
Introduce yourself and what your new blog is about!
You might be able to find some bloggers that are in your niche that can provide some helpful information.
We’d love to hear how you’re doing and answer any questions you may have!
Finally, leave a comment below about how this tutorial helped you!
This is a little self-serving for us but it really matters. If this tutorial helped you AT ALL, please leave a comment and let us know.
Some final words from us…
We know it can be overwhelming and confusing when starting out. Not too long ago, we were right there looking at our computers sitting in the same seat you are right now.
That’s why we made this little video to get you motivated for what being a full-time blogger can be like…
For more free blogging tips and tricks from the experts, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
To read more about creating content, driving traffic, and monetizing your new blog, make sure to read our post on How to Make Money Blogging: The Definitive Guide for 2019.
We hope you enjoyed this post on how to start a blog, and we’d be happy to answer any of your questions in the comment section below!
Alex and Lauren
Co-Founders, Create and Go