Hey, boss babe! Wondering how to start a blog? My heart jumps for joy that you are here, ready to carve a slice of personal success.
Starting a blog is super easy and fun and you can do it without any previous experience. This step-by-step guide will help you set up your very first self-hosted WordPress blog in no time.
When I started blogging 10+ years ago, I could barely find any information about how to start a blog. So I had to Google my way through and made all the mistakes in the book. I stumbled and fell and built a better blog next time.
This easy to follow guide contains what I learned. In plain English. So you can start a blog TODAY. With confidence!
BONUS: Get a FREE blog planner when you start a blog TODAY
As a bonus when you start a blog via any of the Bluehost links in this post, I’ll send you my 20-page printable blog planner. This is the same planner I use to stay on top of things and I promise it will help you too.
Once you’ve purchased your Bluehost hosting, scroll down to the end of this tutorial and claim your FREE blog planner.
How to start a WordPress blog in 5 easy steps:
1. Define your blog’s purpose
2. Find a reliable web host
3. Choose a domain name
4. Start building your awesome WordPress blog
5. Set up an email address to match your domain
How much does it cost to start a blog?
Web hosting is the only investment you have to make when you are just starting out. As your blog grows, you might want to upgrade to premium tools and services, but that’s not required in the beginning.
My first income and expense report details the services I used at the time.
I use Bluehost for all my blogs and because I hold all my readers dear, I negotiated a discounted pricing with them so you can start your blog for as little as $2.95/month (valid for the 36-month & 60-month plan). That’s a 63% discount on the monthly hosting price + you get a free domain name for the first year (a $15.99 value).
Your initial investment can range from $59.40 to $177. The longer your hosting plan, the cheaper the monthly rate gets. The last two plans offer the best value. We’ll talk more about this in step 3.
- $59.40 for the 12-month plan
- $94.80 for the 24-month plan
- $106.20 for the 36-month plan
- $177 for the 60-month plan
Can I start a blog for free?
You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to be a hobby blogger forever and have no plans to monetize your blog.
Basically, there are two types of blogging platforms out there:
- FREE (e.g. Blogger, WordPress.com, Wix, Tumblr, Weebly, etc). They don’t charge you for server space but they limit you in terms of monetization, functionality, and design. Blogs are hosted on the blogging platform’s own servers and are called hosted blogs.
- PAID (e.g. WordPress.org which is the blogging platform I use and recommend and the most popular blogging platform by far). While WordPress.org in itself is a free tool that makes your blog easy to manage, you need to purchase hosting from a company like Bluehost in order to have a functional blog. Once you have your web hosting sorted out, the sky is the limit. Blogs hosted this way are called self-hosted blogs and that’s what I’ll teach you how to start below.
In my experience, free always comes with a price. But if you want to read more about it, I have an article where I explain why you should purchase hosting for your blog. You wouldn’t build your house on rented land, would you? So why should you host your blog on a free platform where you don’t own your content?
Going with a paid web hosting service is really inexpensive (and it’s good for accountability too). So it’s a no-brainer, in my opinion.
Step 1. Define your blog’s purpose
This very moment, right here and now, is the cornerstone of your blogging story. And I genuinely want your blogging story to be a long and successful one.
I know you are eager for me to cut to the chase and show you how to start a blog, but before you roll up your sleeves, I want to make sure you will blog with intention and for the right reasons.
So I’m gonna ask you two questions – why do you want to start a blog and what do you want to blog about?
Why do you want to start a blog?
There are many reasons why you can start a blog. You want to:
- Start a side hustle
- Boost sales for an existing business
- Build your freelancing career
- Publish a book
- Have a creative outlet
There’s no right or wrong answer. But I want you to look beyond these immediate benefits.
Let me put it this way. You don’t want to make money for the sake of adding more zeros to your bank account. What you want is financial freedom and a certain lifestyle.
So let’s unearth the real reason you want to launch a blog and for this I want you to do a little exercise.
Ask yourself, why do I want to start a blog? What do I hope to accomplish by starting blogging? Whatever your answer is, ask yourself why again. Repeat the question 3-4 times, until you have a clear picture and figure out the real reason you want to start a blog.
Now you are up to something. Once you can envision the lifestyle you aim for and establish a measurable goal, you’ll feel inspired and motivated from the inside.
What do you want to blog about?
The what is important because it will lead you to your why.
A surefire way to choose what to blog about is to ask yourself:
- What am I interested in right now?
- What topic do I know more about than most people? (Hint: you only have to be one step ahead of your audience)
- Are there enough people interested in this topic?
Your niche is the point where your interests and your expertise meet with what other people want. Notice I didn’t say need because people don’t usually make decisions based on what they need but rather on what they want.
It doesn’t have to be the most nichy niche. Simply choose an angle that sounds good to your in the here and now. I didn’t teach people how to start awesome blogs when I started blogging a decade ago, and chances are you won’t be blogging about the same thing for the rest of your life either. Niches are discovered and refined over time.
Step 2. Find a reliable web host
Just like people live in houses, blogs live on servers. Web hosting provides server space for your blog and is like the land you build your house on. The domain name is the home address. The blogging platform is the tool you need to build the house (different tools produce different end results). And the theme is the furniture.
I use Bluehost for all my hosting needs and recommend them because they have been an amazing host for my blogs. If you want to read more about Bluehost and their features, head over to this post that highlights 11 reasons you should host your blog on Bluehost.
Apart from that, setting up a blog with Bluehost is super easy and extremely affordable (only $2.95/month), which are two of the things beginner bloggers want.
To get started, CLICK HERE to go to Bluehost (the Bluehost website will open in a new tab in your browser so you can reference these instructions as you work).
Select your plan
Bluehost offers 4 hosting plans (basic, plus, prime, and pro). Choose the one that’s right for you.
However, if you are just starting, the basic plan is probably all you need for now. You can upgrade anytime.
All plans come with a FREE domain name for the first year.
Step 3. Choose a domain name
Your domain name is the address people will type in the browser to access your blog. For example, bylauraiancu.com is my domain.
Tips for choosing a great domain name
- Make it easy to spell, pronounce, and remember
- Avoid using numbers and special characters
- Keep it short (under 15 characters)
- If .com is not available, explore other extensions, like .net, .org, .me, .photography, .travel, etc.
- Make it brandable
Option 1: If you don’t have a domain name, get a free one by typing it in the box on the left. Choose .com or a different extension from the drop-down menu. Click next.
Option 2: If you’ve already registered a domain name with another domain registrar, type it to the right. Don’t worry, this will only identify your account for now. Click next.
Option 3: In case you don’t have a domain name and you can’t make up your mind just yet, there’s a third option. Simply move your mouse cursor around the screen and a popup window will show giving you the option to choose free domain later. Click the green button and move to the next step. You will be allocated a temporary domain name and prompted to grab your free domain name after your sign up is complete.
Create your account
It’s time to fill in your details, choose the length of your hosting plan and introduce your payment info.
The account details are pretty straightforward – simply type in your name, address, and email. These details will show on your invoice, so double-check them (although you can make changes later and your invoice will be updated in real time). The email is the most important part here. Make sure you have access to this email because this is where your log in details will be sent.
Now scroll down to the package information. Choose the length of your plan – the longer, the cheaper the monthly rate gets.
I highly recommend the 36-month plan (only $106.20 for the first 3 years) or even the 60-month plan (only $177 for the first 5 years) because you end up saving tons of money. Alternatively, you can opt for the 12-month plan for $59.40 or the 24-month plan for $94.80, but subsequent years will renew at $95.88/year.
Uncheck everything else except domain privacy.
I recommend you pay for the domain privacy because this way the personal details you typed above (name & address) won’t show publicly in the WHOIS database. However, if you registered as a company and you’ll display your address on your website anyway, paying for domain privacy doesn’t make much sense.
Next, introduce your payment details (I guess no explanation is necessary here). Check the terms of service box and click the green submit button.
Create a password
The new screen will welcome you to Bluehost and ask you to choose a password for your account. Click the create your password button.
Choose a complex password following Bluehost’s instructions (8-30 characters, at least 1 lower and 1 uppercase letter, a number, a special character). Write password down, tick the terms of service box and click next.
You’ve successfully created a new password screen will appear. Click on the blue log in button.
Step 4. Start building your awesome WordPress blog
In September 2017, Bluehost has made some major improvements. What does this mean for you? It means that WordPress.org comes automatically installed on your Bluehost account and you can start building your awesome blog right away.
Should you pick a theme now?
Once you’ve created your password in the previous step and clicked on the blue log in button, Bluehost will tempt you with some free themes.
Don’t overthink this. They offer these themes to everyone, so many people have them installed and you want your blog to look unique, right?
Just pick the one that catches your eye first. You’ll probably end up changing it later on anyways.
Start building your blog
Whether you clicked the skip this step button or installed a theme, the next screen will look like this.
Click on the blue start building button. This will take you to your brand new WordPress dashboard.
On the left-hand side, you will see a dark grey column. This is your WordPress menu. It might look intimidating right now, but you will actually become very familiar with it. Believe me, it’s not as complicated as it looks.
On the right-hand side, you’ll be asked if you want to set up a business or personal site. I recommend you skip this and click on the I don’t need help link. The alternative is a series of questions you might not have the answers to right now.
For the time being, your blog will display a welcome page courtesy of Bluehost. As soon as you are ready to launch your blog, you can make it public from your WordPress dashboard.
Get familiar with your WordPress dashboard
Posts >> this is where you will find all your blog posts. Start writing your first post by going to Posts >> Add new.
Media >> this is where all your photos, video, and PDFs will be located. If you are just starting out this will be empty.
Pages >> this is where you will find all your pages. Unlike blog posts, pages have a static nature, are not included in the RSS feed, are not listed by date, you can’t add a category or tag, but they can be nested under other pages to create a hierarchy. Examples include the About Me page and a static homepage. Create your first page by going to Pages >> Add new.
Comments >> here you will find all the comments people left on your blog posts. Since you are just starting out, you won’t see any comments for now.
Appearance >> this is where you will find your blog themes, widgets, menus and anything related to the looks of your blog. WordPress has thousands of free themes to choose from. You can change your theme as often as you want. To add a theme go to Appearance >> Themes >> Add new. Choose a theme you like, install and activate it. Alternatively, you can go for a premium theme like Divi, the most intuitive and widely used WordPress theme out there or get an elegant theme designed with a girl boss in mind by Lindsey from Pretty Darn Cute Design or the Bluchic team.
Plugins >> plugins are an easy way to expand the functionality of your blog. To add a plugin go to Plugins >> Add new. Only install the ones that you need and delete the ones you don’t use anymore.
Users >> this is where you can add new blog authors and set permissions.
Tools >> unless you want to import an existing blog from a different platform, you don’t need to use this option for now.
Settings >> you’ll find several options here. This is where you can set the date format (under General), your URL structure (under Permalinks), choose your comments settings (under Discussion), set a static homepage (under Reading), etc.
How do I log into WordPress once I log out?
If you registered a new domain name in step 3, your WordPress dashboard login URL will look like this yournewblog.com/wp-admin (you’ll find the link in the welcome email Bluehost sent you).
If you used an existing domain in step 3, you’ll have to change the nameservers to point to your new blog. For this, you have to log into your domain registrar and change the DNS nameservers with the Bluehost ones as you received them in your welcome email (they usually are ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com). If you can’t figure out where to enter your new nameservers, I suggest you call your domain registrar and ask for their help.
Step 5. Set up an email address to match your domain
I love Gmail, I really do. But having a personalized email address ending in your own domain name will make the communication with readers and clients so much more professional.
Back in your Bluehost account, go to email and click the create an email account button.
In the first field, enter the first part of your email address, like hello or yourownname. I recommend you stay away from info or contact because they sound too impersonal. Right next to it, you should see the awesome domain name you chose in step 3.
In the fields below, enter your password and then retype it. Remember to write it down next to the previously created ones.
Choose any of the default webmail clients and click create.
Setup Gmail to send and receive emails using your custom email address
If you’ve opted for the basic plan, Bluehost limits you to 100MB of storage per email account (all the other plans come with unlimited email storage space). Sooner or later your inbox will get full and you might lose important emails. But if you keep deleting emails, you’ll won’t be able to reference old conversations in the future.
The workaround is to use a free Gmail account with 15GB of storage to send and receive emails from your personalized email address.
Go to your Gmail account and click on the gear icon. Choose Settings >> Accounts and import >> Check mail from other accounts.
Step 1: Type the recently created email address ending in your own domain name and click Next.
Check Import emails from my other account (POP3) and click Next again.
Retype your custom email address in the username field and the password for the same. The POP server will be mail.yourdomain.com (replace yourdomain.com with your own domain).
If you have the Bluehost basic plan, you’ll want to keep the Leave a copy of retrieved message on the server unchecked so your 100MB inbox will never get full.
If you select Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail (recommended) also change the port to 995 and the POP server to the Incoming Mail Server you’ll find in your Bluehost account under Email >> Email configuration >> Private (with SSL).
Click Add account.
Step 2: Gmail will ask you if you would also like to be able to send mail as your custom email address. Select Yes and click Next.
Enter your name as you want it to appear in the sender field. Leave the Treat as an alias checked and go to the next step.
Now you’ll configure your email to be sent through Bluehost’s servers.
The SMTP server is mail.yourdomain.com (change yourdomain.com for your own custom domain). The username is your custom email. Type in your password, tick Secured connection using SSL and change the port to 465. Click Add account.
You will be sent an email with a verification code and a link to your Gmail account. Use either one to verify your account.
Step 3: Choose the default address your emails should be sent from by going back to Settings >> Accounts and import >> Send mail as.
You have the option to make your custom email address the default by clicking Make default next to it.
Underneath, choose between Reply from the same address the message was sent to and Always reply from default address.
Now you are all set.
Congrats! You are the proud owner of a new blog!
Look professional out of the box
In my FREE email course, From Fog To Blog, I walk you through all the steps you need to take you from zero to launching a successful blog. I also wrote a post about the 10 things you need to do before the big date.
Start growing your email list
MailerLite is the easiest platform to start growing your email list on. I’ve been using them for months and wholeheartedly recommend them. If you need help, I wrote a detailed guide to getting started with MailerLite. Oh, and did I mention they are FREE up to 1,000 subscribers?
Make money blogging
My guess is that you’ve embarked on this blogging journey because you want to supplement your income or make a living online, among other things. My post on how to start with affiliate marketing will help you take the first steps towards your income goals.
Did you start a blog via one of the Bluehost links in this post? Don’t forget to claim your FREE copy of my printable blog planner (a $20 value!). Simply enter your domain name and email below and I’ll send it to you.