Wanna learn how to start a WordPress blog? My heart jumps for joy that you are here, ready to carve out a slice of personal success. In this post, I’ll show you how to set up your own self-hosted WordPress blog (by far the most popular kind and the only kind I recommend) and answer some frequently asked questions along the way.
Starting a blog is super easy and fun and you can do it without any previous experience or technical knowledge. This step-by-step guide will help you set up your very first self-hosted WordPress blog with Bluehost. You can complete steps 1 and 2 in less than 15 minutes. Then you can finish step 3 to 5 at your own leisure.
UPDATE: Bluehost, my web hosting provider, has given me a special discount for my readers! Now you can get hosted with Bluehost for as little as $2.95/month (including a FREE domain name for the first year!)
How to start a WordPress blog on Bluehost
When I started blogging years ago, I could barely find any information on how to create a WordPress 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!
How to start a WordPress blog on Bluehost in 15 minutes or less:
- Sign up for a Bluehost hosting account for your blog
- Get a free domain name from Bluehost
- Start building your blog with WordPress
- Activate your free SSL certificate
- Set up a custom email address for your blog
But first, I’ll answer some common questions. Wanna skip them? Click here to jump to step 1.
What is a blog?
A blog is a website that is regularly updated with articles (aka blog posts) about a specific topic. Some blogs cover various topics written from a unique angle or perspective that ties them all together. Blog posts are then displayed in reverse chronological order, with the latest posts appearing first.
Why start a WordPress blog?
Blogging opens the doors of opportunity. In these uncertain times and as the reach of social media is diminishing, taking your livelihood or brand in your own hands by creating a blog can be a great investment into your future. Here are a few reasons why:
- A self-hosted WordPress blog can be a way to make money from the comfort of your home while being your own boss and doing something you love.
- If you already own a business, a blog can help you reach a lot of people at very little cost.
- If you dream of becoming an author, a strong online presence will come in handy whether you want to land a book deal with a traditional publisher or self-publish your book.
- You’ll learn lots of new things. A blogger is a jack of all trades and you’ll inevitably improve your writing and develop your marketing and tech skills, starting with WordPress.
- A blog is a great way to share your message with the world.
- Last but not least, a blog is an asset that you can sell for a profit.
How much does it cost to start a WordPress blog?
Starting a WordPress blog is incredibly budget-friendly. It can cost as little as $2.95 a month. That’s because when you are just starting out, the only investment you really need to make is in good web hosting.
When I started this blog, web hosting was my only expense. So if you are on a tight budget, know that it is possible to start a WordPress blog for very little. In time, as your blog grows, you might want to upgrade to premium tools and services, but that’s not required in the beginning.
Can I start a blog for free?
You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Here’s why:
- Making money with a free blog is very difficult and in many cases, it never happens. Not only do these free services limit the money you can make but most brands and advertisers tend to run away from them as well.
- Limited customization. Free blogging services offer limited customization and functionality. Making your blog look similar to your favorite blogs is either not an option or you’ll be asked to upgrade, which means your blog isn’t free anymore.
- Support is usually lacking entirely. Since you’re not making these free blogging platforms any money, they don’t have the budget and manpower to help you when you need it.
- Switching to a paid service isn’t easy. Moving from a free blogging platform to a paid one can be a hassle, takes time, and hiring someone to help you with the transition is often costly.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are based on the popular site-building and content management system — WordPress. But there’s a huge difference between the two and it has a lot to do with the level of control you have over your blog.
With WordPress.com you can set up a blog for free. They will host your blog for you and assign it a subdomain that looks like this blogname.wordpress.com. Given that they don’t charge you a penny, they greatly limit what you can do with your blog. For example, you can’t install plugins and they will place their own ads on your blog.
With WordPress.org you host your own blog by purchasing a web hosting plan from a company like Bluehost. This means you have full control over your blog. You’ll also have a custom domain, like yourdomain.com. Your domain can end in .com, .net, .info, .blog, .biz, .store, .us and so on.
Here I’ll show you how to start a self-hosted blog on WordPress.org. Self-hosted comes from the fact that you pay for your own hosting.
Starting a self-hosted blog is really inexpensive (and it’s good for accountability too!).
Why choose Bluehost for your WordPress blog
Bluehost is one of the best web hosting companies in 2020. It’s perfect for beginners because it’s super easy to use and their basic plan is extremely affordable — you can start your own WordPress blog with Bluehost for as low as $2.95/month.
If you want to make money with your blog, then paying for hosting, such as through Bluehost, is a MUST.
Here are a few other reasons why you may want to create a WordPress blog on Bluehost:
- Bluehost is so easy to start with and use that ANYONE can set up a WordPress blog by simply following my tutorial below. You don’t need any tech skills to create a WordPress blog on Bluehost.
- Bluehost hosting is cheaper than coffee so you can truly keep expenses low when starting your blog. Hosting is the only non-negotiable expense when starting a blog and Bluehost makes it super affordable.
- You get a FREE domain name for the first year.
- You get a free SSL certificate, so your blog is marked as safe and your readers can visit it with confidence (more on this in step 4).
- Bluehost lets you create several free email accounts ending in your own domain name.
- WordPress comes pre-installed, so you need not worry about it.
- Bluehost is a reliable web hosting provided and comes highly recommended by WordPress.
- Bluehost is widely trusted due to their nearly perfect uptime scores and super-fast servers.
- When your blog is self-hosted on Bluehost you have the freedom to monetize it any way you want.
- You’ll end up with a professional-looking blog that you can grow into a business. Brands and advertising networks are picky when it comes to choosing who they partner with, but having a self-hosted WordPress blog on Bluehost can get you at the top of their list.
Let’s take it one step at a time and set up a WordPress blog on Bluehost.
1. Sign up for a Bluehost hosting account for your blog
Just like people live in houses, blogs live on servers.
Web hosting companies provide server space for blogs. So getting hosted is like buying a plot of land to build your house on.
I use and recommend Bluehost because they have been an amazing host for my blogs. If you want to know more about Bluehost and why I think they are a great web hosting company, read by full Bluehost review.
Setting up a blog with Bluehost is super easy and extremely affordable (only $2.95/month), which makes them ideal for starting your first blog.
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).
Once the page opens, click the green Get Started button. Images may vary and look slightly different if you are on mobile, but the process of starting a blog is the same.
Select a hosting plan
Bluehost offers 4 hosting plans (basic, plus, choice plus, 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.
Depending on whether you want to pay 1, 2, or 3 years upfront, starting a blog on the basic plan can cost you between $59.40 and $106.20.
- $59.40 for the 12-month plan
- $94.80 for the 24-month plan
- $106.20 for the 36-month plan
The longer the hosting plan you choose, the cheaper the monthly rate gets. The 36-month plan comes with a 63% discount on the monthly hosting price + you get a free domain name for the first year (an $11.99 value). This means you can start your blog for as little as $2.95/month.
Bluehost doesn’t offer monthly payments (hosts that do charge a lot more!). They do however have a 30-day money back guarantee for peace of mind.
Remember that all plans come with a FREE domain name for the first year + a free SSL certificate (which I’ll show you how to activate in step 4 of this tutorial).
Click the green Select button under your plan of choice to go to the next step.
2. Get a free domain name from Bluehost
Your domain name is the address people will type in the browser to access your blog. For example, my domain is bylauraiancu.com.
Tips for choosing a great domain name
- Make it easy to spell, pronounce, and remember. It can be your own name or something else entirely.
- Avoid using numbers and special characters
- Keep it short (under 15 characters)
- If .com is not available, explore other extensions, like .net, .co, .blog, .info, etc.
Set up your domain
→ 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.
→ If you already have a domain registered with another domain registrar, type it to the right. Don’t worry, this will only identify your account for now. Click Next.
→ In case you don’t have a domain name and can’t come up with one right now, click on the I’ll create my domain later link at the bottom of the page. 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 add 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 login 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) 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 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 the 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.
Congratulations! You’ve just created a WordPress blog with Bluehost!
3. Start building your blog with WordPress
WordPress.org comes automatically installed on your Bluehost account and you can start building your awesome blog right away.
Pick a free theme
Once you’ve created your password in the previous step and clicked on the Log in button, Bluehost will tempt you with some free themes.
Don’t overthink this. Just pick the first one that grabs your attention. You’ll most likely end up changing it later on anyway.
When you’re ready to upgrade to a design that supports your message, head on over to my post on how to choose a WordPress theme that you love.
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.
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.
Remove the temporary domain
It’s possible that your blog was set up on a weird looking domain like aaa.bbb.mybluehost.me. This is called a temporary domain.
→ If you’ve created a new domain in step 2, check your inbox for the domain activation email. Click the button inside. Bluehost will take care of the rest for you.
→ If you used an existing domain in step 2, you need to log into your domain registrar’s account and change the nameservers to point to Bluehost. Check your inbox for the welcome email. There you’ll find the Bluehost nameservers you need to use (usually ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com). You could also move your domain to Bluehost to have everything under the same account. Here I walk you through the steps of transferring your domain from GoDaddy to Bluehost. The steps are similar for other registrars.
→ If you opted to create a domain later, log in to your Bluehost account and go to Domains >> Register. Enter the domain you’ve settled on, add it to your cart, and complete the purchase (you don’t be charged extra). Then go to Domains >> Assign and choose your new domain from the drop-down list.
It can take up to 24 hours for the changes to take effect. You’ll know you’re all set when you enter your domain name into the browser and aren’t forwarded to the temporary domain anymore.
Get familiar with the WordPress dashboard
Posts >> this is where you’ll find all your blog posts. Start writing your first post by going to Posts >> Add new.
Media >> you can upload and manage your photos, videos, and PDFs here. When you’re just starting out, this is empty.
Pages >> unlike posts, pages have a static nature. They can’t be included in the RSS feed, organized by date, or have categories or tag. But they can be nested under each other to create a hierarchy. Examples include the About page and Contact page. Create your first page by going to Pages >> Add new.
Comments >> here you’ll find all the comments people leave on your posts.
Appearance >> where your themes, widgets, and menus live. You can change your theme as often as you want. To add a free theme go to Appearance >> Themes >> Add new. Choose the one you like, install, and activate it. For a more personalized look, see the best WordPress themes by niche.
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 you need and delete the ones you don’t use.
Users >> where you can add new blog authors and set permissions.
Tools >> only use this in case you want to move an existing blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (can also be used to import a blog from other platforms).
Settings >> this is where you can set your site title and date format (under General); URL structure (under Permalinks); choose your comments settings (under Discussion).
Setup WordPress to create a static homepage and separate blog page
By default, WordPress displays your latest blog posts on the homepage. I feel this is a bit retro. Most bloggers these days prefer to have a static homepage and create a separate page for their blog. Here’s how you can do this:
- In your WordPress dashboard, go to Pages >> Add New and create two pages. Title one ‘Home’ and the other one ‘Blog’ (or something else that makes sense to you). You don’t need to add any content for now.
- Next, go to Settings >> Reading. Under Your homepage displays section, choose A static page.
- From the drop-down menu, select the ‘Home’ and ‘Blog’ pages you created earlier. Scroll down and click the Save Changes button.
Remove the Coming Soon page
As soon as you’ve created it, your blog will display a Coming Soon page. This is a welcome message courtesy of Bluehost. I recommend you leave it on until you’re ready to make your blog public.
You won’t see the Coming Soon page when you’re logged into WordPress. This is so you can actually preview the changes you’re making while adding content and making your blog look the way you want. However, everybody else will see a Comming Soon message like this:
When you are ready to make your blog public, deactivate the Coming Soon page by clicking on the orange Coming Soon Active button in the top bar and following the steps. You must be logged into your WordPress dashboard to see it.
How to log into WordPress once you log out
Type yourdomain.com/wp-login into your browser. You can also find this link in the welcome email Bluehost sent you.
Or you can log in from your Bluehost account, by going to Home >> WordPress. However, this is less convenient than the first option.
4. Activate your free SSL certificate
This step is really simple. But first, let’s see what on earth is an SSL certificate.
Despite the fancy term, an SSL certificate is a way to make sure all the sensitive data your readers introduce on your blog (like email addresses and payment info) is secure from prying eyes.
The difference is a simple letter in your readers’ browser, so your blog will be accessed via HTTPS instead of HTTP. Notice the lock icon and the S?
Without the S, Google will display the letter i inside a circle in the search bar next to your domain name, which is the symbol for not secure. If you click on it, Google will give you more information — Your connection to this site is not secure. You should not enter any sensitive information on this site.
Google has been pushing for a safer web and if your blog is not secure they might show it further down in the search results.
Secure your blog with SSL
Only do this once your domain registration is fully complete and you can type your domain name in any browser without it being redirected to the temporary domain.
- Log in to your Bluehost account >> My Sites
- Click Manage next to your blog and open the Security tab.
- Toggle ON the free SSL certificate.
That’s it. Give it a few hours to catch up. You’ll soon see a beautiful lock icon next to your domain name.
5. Set up a custom email address for your blog
I love Gmail, I really do. But having a personalized email address ending in your own domain name will make the communication with readers, brands, and clients so much more professional. Not to mention most email marketing services will only send your newsletter from a custom email address.
To create a custom email address, follow these steps:
- Log into 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 yourname. 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 2.
- Choose a password. Retype it. Remember to write it down next to the previously created ones.
- Choose any of the default webmail clients and click Create.
Set up Gmail to check and send emails as 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). So sooner or later your inbox will get full and you might lose important emails. On the other hand, if you keep deleting emails, you 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.
Step 1. Configure Gmail to import emails from your custom email address
- In your Gmail account, click on the gear icon.
- Choose Settings >> Accounts and import >> Check mail from other accounts. Click the Add a mail account link. A yellow popup window will open.
- 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.
- In the username field, retype your custom email address and in the password field, your custom email address’s password.
- In the POP server field type box869.bluehost.com or your domain name (without the www) and change the port to 995 (you can also find this info in your Bluehost account under Configure email client, in case your settings are different).
- 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.
- Select Always use a secure connection (SSL) when retrieving mail.
- Click Add account.
Step 2. Send mail as your custom email address using Gmail
Gmail will ask you if you would also like to send emails as your custom email address. Here’s how to do this:
- When asked, 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 where you’ll configure your email to be sent through Bluehost’s servers.
- The SMTP server is yourdomain.com (change this to your custom domain). Again, this info can be found in your Bluehost account under Configure email client, in case your settings are different.
- 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. Set a default email address for your Gmail account
To choose the default address your emails should be sent from, follow these steps:
- In your Gmail account, go to Settings >> Accounts and import >> Send mail as.
- Click Make default next to your custom email address (or your Gmail address if you’d rather send emails from your Gmail address).
- Choose between Reply from the same address the message was sent to and Always reply from default address.
You are all set now and you can start building your email list.
Reminder: Bloggers (even beginner bloggers!) can make money
If you are like most people who want to learn how to start a blog these days, you probably want to make money with it one way or another. Your blog could be a side hustle or replace your day job income entirely.
The common advice for beginners is to start a blog, chose a niche, establish themselves as an authority in their field, grow an audience, survey that audience to figure out what they need and are willing to pay for, and only then create a product or service tailored to their readers.
I’m not a fan of this approach.
Instead, my advice is for you to figure out what exactly you want to sell (aka what’s gonna make you money) right from the get-go. This doesn’t have to be your own products. It’s perfectly cool to sell other people’s stuff in exchange for a commission (this is called affiliate marketing). Selling ads is another option. See other ways bloggers make money.
Basically, I’m telling you to start a blogging business, rather than a blog that you might start monetizing someday.
In the first case, you’re putting on your entrepreneurial hat. While the second is a passion project that you might start taking seriously in the future. There’s a huge difference between the two.
I hope this helps you start off on the right foot.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’re all set up and ready to publish your first blog post. Before you make your blog public, go through this blog launch checklist to make sure you haven’t missed anything important. And remember that your success as a blogger depends a great deal on consistency.
THINGS TO READ NEXT
- Blog Launch Checklist: 12 Things To Do Before You Make Your Blog Public
- 10 Rookie Blogging Mistakes and How to Fix Them
- How to Look Like a Professional Blogger When You’re Just Starting Out
- How to Choose the Perfect WordPress Theme for Your Blog or Business
- 5 Blog Design Hacks To Grow Your Personal Brand like WHOA!
Hey there dream chaser! I’m a writer, designer and the creator of The Smart Blog Planner. I’m on a mission to inspire and empower you to create a highly profitable minimalist online business and show up for your dreams in a sustainable way.