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If you are reading this blog, chances are that you are pretty interested in blogging in general (either that, or you are my mother and are reading this to support me, in which case, hi Ma!) And you are probably thinking, “wow, that Bites ‘N Pieces chick is so cool! She started her own blog! I wish I could do that and be just like her!” (Admit it, you were thinking that, weren’t you?)
So, to answer all your prayers, I decided to write a series of blog posts on how to start a blog and become a blogger. Blogging about blogging, if you will. How awesome is that? You’ll get all the info you need to know to be a blogger just like me, and years from now, when reporters are interviewing you and asking you for the source of your success, you’ll say, “well, it all started when I was reading this blog called Bites ‘N Pieces…”
Ahem. Anyway. Back to blogging about blogging.
How to start a blog FAQ
Does it cost money to start a blog?
Technically, you can start a blog for free. You can go to WordPress.com and sign up for a site that will be called “MyNewBlog.wordpress.com.” You can then get started writing and uploading posts, and trying to get readers, and all that jazz.
So if I can start a blog for free, why should I pay anything?
Sure, you can start MyNewBlog.wordpress.com for free, and if you are only blogging as a hobby, then that’s fine. But having a wordpress.com blog has some serious limitations.
First, your blog url will be long and ugly, because you have the .wordpress.com after it
Second, since you are hosted by WordPress, they own all your content, not you. And if they decide they don’t like you, they can just boot you off and delete your content. (Not that that’s likely, but it’s still a concern.)
Third, WordPress on its own is great for starting a website, but also limited. The real power and functionality of WordPress comes with plugins that you can add on to your site for all sorts of things. See those social media icons at the side/bottom of your screen? That’s from a plugin. The signup form in the sidebar? Another plugin. And the list goes on. Cool, right? The problem is, many plugins can’t be used with wordpress.com sites, and only work with self-hosted, paid-for sites.
But the final, and main, reason not to start a free blog, is that you are much more limited in ways you can monetize your blog (i.e., make money from it.)
Hold on, backup a sec. I can make money from a blog?
Yup, you can! Blogging can be extremely lucrative, actually. Here are some of the main ways people monetize their blogs:
Google AdSense is the first ad network most bloggers use, since they don’t have a requirement for amount of page views necessary. They don’t pay that well, though, so when they get enough page views, most bloggers migrate to other ad networks. But the thing is: you cannot run AdSense, or other ads, on a free WordPress blog. The only option you have for ads on a free blog is WordAds, which you can only enable once you have a high number of page views (or if you upgrade to a WordPress business plan. But if you are paying for your blog anyway, you might as well just go the self-hosted route.)
The next way to monetize a blog is through affiliate links. This means that you mention a product in a blog post, link to the product using your affiliate code, and if anyone clicks your link and buys the product, you get a commission. You can use affiliate links on a free wordpress.com blog, but there are some limitations:
First, affiliate networks have funny rules sometimes, and may not be as willing to accept you if you have a wordpress.com blog.
Sometimes, bloggers get paid by a company to write a post promoting a certain product. I honestly don’t know if having a wordpress.com blog will affect the likelihood of your getting sponsorships.
Selling your own products
The last, and potentially most lucrative, way of monetizing a blog is creating and selling a product (this can be anything from a physical product to an ebook to a graphics template to I don’t even know what). There are plugins to help sell your products, and as mentioned above, lots of plugins are only available on a self-hosted blog.
Ok, ok, you convinced me. I need to pay for a self-hosted blog. But what exactly is a self-hosted blog? Where do I start?
Where do you start? You start with Bluehost!
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- They are extremely affordable, with plans starting as low as $3.95 a month. (One thing I have to point out, though, that I didn’t realize when I first wanted to sign up – the $3.95/month price is only available if you pay for three years up front. Which sounds like a lot, because you’re suddenly paying a hundred bucks at once, but it’s a one time charge and then you have your web hosting for the next three years.)
- You get a free domain name included in your hosting package
- They have a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you decide after two weeks that you aren’t cut out for the whole blogging thing, you can quit and get your money back
- They include a free SSL security certificate. This means your site will start with https and not http, and your site visitors won’t get a scary warning from Google that your site is not secure and they should proceed at their own risk
- One-click WordPress installation, for the non-tech-savvy among us (me included), which makes it really simple to get your site up and running in no time
- You get a free email address linked to your domain name – e.g., I chose the email address “[email protected]” (which I am now regretting, if we are being perfectly honest. I should’ve used my name or “contact” or “info” instead of “admin.” Oh well, too late now.)
- They have 24/7 support, so if your website is ever giving you issues, you have someone to ask and aren’t left floundering in the dark
Got it, Bluehost it is. So what do I do now?
Bluehost has a handy-dandy domain name checker, so you can check to see if the website name you want is actually available. (Note: The domain name checker widget will only show up if you disable your ad blocker. So go ahead and disable it, will you?)
Chances are, it’s not available, and you’ll have to get a little creative. You can try one of the other endings (like I have a .co instead of .com), or add words or dashes, or use synonyms. Play around with it and see what you come up with, but don’t sweat it too much! Your domain name isn’t the biggest deal. What’s more important is actually having a good website and good content. So don’t spend too long on choosing the perfect domain; you’ll just end up driving yourself crazy.
If the domain you choose is available, Bluehost will take you to a page where you can actually purchase your hosting and secure your domain name. Besides for hosting, they will offer you lots of add-ons to purchase, as well. I don’t even remember what they all are, but the only one that I think is worth it and that I actually purchased is the domain privacy one, where they list themselves and their address as the domain owner instead of your name and your address. It’s only a few dollars extra, and I thought it was worth it to protect my private information.
Once you purchase your hosting, you’ll be taken to your Bluehost dashboard, where you can install WordPress and get to actually setting up and customizing your blog. You’ll have to choose a theme, which determines your blog’s basic layout. WordPress gives you the option of live previewing a theme, so you can play around with them a bit and see if you like the looks of things. Take your time, move things around, set things up, and see what feels right to you. You can always download other themes, or even (gasp) pay for what’s called a “premium” theme. In my opinion, that’s not so necessary, but many, many bloggers do buy their themes.
After choosing a theme and setting everything up, you might check out your site on a different device just to make sure that everything looks right, or you’ll log out of your WordPress admin panel, and all you’ll see is a “Website coming soon!” page. What happened to all your hard work? First, take a deep breath, calm down, and don’t freak out like I did. Then go back to your WordPress Dashboard, and go to Settings – general. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see an option for “Bluehost coming soon page.” Switch that to off and save your settings. Now your actual site will show up. Phew!
One important note about the theme you choose:
Some themes have different components that will significantly slow down your site’s speed. You want your site to load as quickly as possible, so try a few different themes, and check your site’s speed with each to see which is best. I’ve been obsessively checking my site speed with https://testmysite.withgoogle.com . At one point, my blog was loading really slowly, and when I changed themes, it loaded 5 seconds faster. 5 seconds is basically an eternity in internet-land.
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So we’ve covered all the “why start a blog” and “why pay for blog hosting” questions. Now we’re going to discuss something I bet you weren’t expecting:
Why not start a blog
That’s right; after all my hard work convincing you of how amazingly wonderful blogging is and why you should definitely start your own blog right now, I’m going to give you a few reasons why not to blog. I’m doing this because so many bloggers make it seem like a rosy dream: “just start a blog and watch the cash roll in!” Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s not exactly the case. Yes, as mentioned above, there are many ways to make money with a blog, but it’s not all fun and games and ice cream and unicorns.
Why not start a blog reason 1
It can be very boring. You need to realize that one of the main aspects of blogging is, well, blogging. That means you need to write. A lot. And some people find that pretty boring. I personally always enjoyed writing, so this isn’t a problem for me, but I know people who tried the whole blogging thing and then quit pretty quickly, specifically for this reason.
Why not start a blog reason 2
It’s a lot of work. Not just the writing part, which I mentioned above, but all of the technical stuff gets pretty complicated. It’s a lot of research, and figuring out what to do, and how to do it, and why isn’t my site loading properly, and which plugin should I really use, and which affiliate networks should I apply to, and what am I doing here, and help what is going on, and I can’t do this anymore, and what is going on here, and… So be prepared.
Why not start a blog reason 3
You won’t see positive results so quickly. With all of the effort you put in (see reasons 1 and 2), you would expect to at least be making money pretty quickly, but for most bloggers, that just does not happen. Yes, there are those lucky few with the posts like “I made a thousand dollars my first month blogging!!” But they really are the lucky few. Most of us see nowhere near those returns for the first few months, or even years. I’m part of some blogging Facebook groups, and someone recently posted, “I just made eight dollars and I’m so excited!” and all of the comments were along the lines of, “how did you do that?” or, “I made twenty cents with AdSense yesterday!”
Why not start a blog reason 4
It can be very lonely. Any work-at-home job can be, really. I’m one of the biggest introverts around, and I still miss going into the office and chatting with my coworkers (I currently have an at-home accounting job, besides for this crazy successful blog over here.)
If I haven’t convinced you out of it yet, then what are you waiting for? Sign up with BlueHost for your own blog today!
Check out part 2 of the “how to blog” series: So you started a blog. Now what? for everything you need to know about email marketing.
Don’t forget to follow Bites ‘N Pieces on twitter @bitesnpiecesco, facebook facebook.com/bitesnpiecesco and Pinterest pinterest.com/bitesnpiecesdotco
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