Dreary morning commutes, endless gazing into the computer and living for the weekends.
Sounds like your life?
Well, you are not alone.
Corporate careers are great. Except for the 2-week vacations, tight deadlines, lousy pay and slow career growth.
If you want to escape the daily 9-5 grind, STARTING YOUR OWN BLOG is one way to do it.
By starting your own blog, you can decide if you want to work 3 hours or 5. You can decide if you want to take time off and relax with your family.
You can choose to surf all day and work in the evenings. Or, you can choose to work from the comfort of a hammock, while vacationing in the Caribbean islands.
Not all jobs offer the pay and lifestyle that blogging does.
If you want to live your dream life, blogging is one way to achieve it.
But, starting a new venture like blogging can be intimidating at first.
You’ll have questions, like what to blog, how you can earn a living, how long will it take before you start to earn and such.
You’ll most likely have a ton of self-doubts and question every decision you take.
But, with a good bit of planning and effort you’ll be on your way to making money even before you know it.
Is Starting a Blog Easy?
For the most part, it is!
You don’t need to know coding or have any technical expertise. You only need to know how to work a computer. Then, it is only a matter of following these steps.
Step 1: Identify What You Want to Blog About
Step 2: Decide on a Blog Name
Step 3: Register with a Web Host
Step 4: Install WordPress
Step 5: Customize Your Blog
Step 6: Set Up Your Social Accounts
Step 7: Sign Up to an Email Marketing Service
Step 8: Start Blogging
In this post, I’m going to walk you through each of these steps, so you can set up your new blog in no time at all.
If you have any questions, head over to the contact page and drop me a note. I usually respond to my readers within 24-48 hours.
Step 1: Identify What You Want to Blog About
When it comes to starting a blog, most experts on the web will tell you to buy a bunch of blogging gear. But that’s the least important criteria for starting a blog. If you don’t know or can’t figure out what you want to blog about and you don’t know its profitability index, you are at a loss. Don’t worry. Follow these 5 simple steps and you’ll know exactly what you want to blog about.
- Define Your Goal
- Find a Topic
- Identify Your Audience
- Examine Profitability
- Finalize the Blog Topic
Define Your Goal
The first step in setting up a blog is to define your blog goal. A goal is what you hope to achieve by running the blog.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you want to share your expertise on a subject with the world?
- Do you plan to sell a product?
- Do you want to get gigs or speaking engagements?
- Do you want to connect with other people?
- Define your goal right away
Also, think of where you would like to be 2 years and 5 years from now. List them down.
Your short term and long-term goals will be your guide as you start to blog. They will give you a firm sense of direction as you move forward.
Find a Topic
Finding a topic to blog about is easy until you sit down and think about it. Chances are, you don’t know where to start. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
Find a trending topic and write great content around it. I have seen many new blogs make tons of money in a matter of months by following this strategy. One place where you can find popular topics is Pinterest. I often look for popular topics on a category and search keywords related to my interests. You can also use Google Trends and a basic Google Search to find popular topics.
If you have a passion for something, that’s a great place to start. Identify your strengths and see how you can build a blog around it. Let’s say you are passionate about designing or decorating homes. You can identify topics that will enable you to help people looking to remodel their homes.
If you are a foodie, you can come up with ways to make quick, delicious recipes for the busy parent. Or you could share yummy recipes for people who are health conscious.
Ask yourself these questions.
- What am I passionate about?
- In 12 months’, time, will I still be keen on writing about this topic?
If you are terrific at doing something, exploit those skills. You may be good at motivating people. Then, consider running a personality development blog.
You may have a skill for teaching. Create courses around it and impart your knowledge.
You may know how to sew, craft items, do woodworking, or take fantastic photographs. Use your skills to build a blog around it.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I have a flair for?
- In how many ways can I showcase my skills to people?
Deliver News and Information
News is one of the biggest commodities on the Internet. If you can’t get enough of the latest happenings in any industry, you could start a blog along those lines too!
You can do movie and TV show reviews, discuss politics, or talk about the hottest gadgets launches.
Do this activity.
- Identify a few industries you spend a lot of time reading about on the Internet.
- Think about ways in which you can source information from these industries for your own blog.
Solve a Problem
Here’s another way to come up with a blog topic. Think of a way you can help someone live a fuller better life. There are so many troubling issues in the world today. There are people over 50 who want to live a healthier lifestyle. There are young mothers struggling to deal with postpartum depression. There are thousands of students struggling to pay off their debts.
You could come up with ways to help people solve a specific problem.
Do this activity.
- List out some of the problems in your community.
- Write down ways in which you can solve those problems through your blog.
If you are not confident about your skills or don’t have a grand passion, you could still create curation blogs.
Blogs like buzzfeed.com search the Internet for fun stuff and put them together as list posts. Such topics usually have instant viral appeal.
Finally, it is worth noting that there are plenty of people like you, who want to escape the 9-5 grind. You could run a lifestyle blog to help others live their dream life too!
Identify Your Audience
Once you identify your topic, it is time to identify your target audience. Your audience should be readers who will help achieve the goal you identified.
Knowing who your audience is will help you come up with blog topics you can write about. After all, these are the people who will buy from you. Get to know the age group they belong to, demography, gender and educational level. You can get these details from Google Analytics (which we will help you set up later in this article).
This will help you deliver quality content that adds value. Your content will give them a sense of familiarity with your blog and they’ll keep them coming back for more.
Tips for Finding Your Target Audience
Here are a few tips to help you define your target audience.
Build Customer Persona:
Visualize how your audience will consume and action the information. Are they teenagers, middle aged men, first time parents. Try to figure out their personality – whether they are introverts, extroverts, conservative. Understand their motivations, fears, social standing. Find out their pain points, job situation, location.
Identify Problems Your Topic Solves
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Identify the problems they face and how your business can offer a solution to them.
Track Your Competition
Track your competitor’s online presence. Their blogs, social media feeds, podcasts, and anything else they have going. Identify their best-selling products or services. Get a feel for who they are targeting and check if that demographic fits your business.
You’ve figured out your blog topic and identified your target audience. The next step is to ensure that your blog topic is a profitable venture. There’s no point in putting your heart and soul into your blog only to get little or nothing out of it. Every blog has an earnings potential. If you are solving a problem for your audience they want solved, they may be willing to pay you for it. But if you are looking at sharing celebrity gossip, it may be difficult to make money off it.
Examine if your blog topic can recommend products so you can earn an affiliate income. You can check out sites like Shareasale, CJ Affiliate, and One Network Direct to discover products related to your niche you can promote.
Check to see if you can create products on your own to help customers or solve their problems. List any services you can offer to your audience related to your blog topic. List down companies you can reach out to and ask for sponsorship.
Now you should have a list of ideas you want to blog about, a clearly defined audience and profitability of your topic. Finally, it is time to make the final topic selection.
Finalize the Blog Topic
1: Take a piece of paper or open a document or spreadsheet on your computer.
2: List the topics you brainstormed based on its popularity, your passion, skills, hobbies or interests.
3: Give each topic a rating based on your experience and its profitability. Give a 5-star rating for a topic you have a lot of experience in. Give a 5-star rating if you have identified 5 or more monetization methods.
4: Determine the total rating of each topic. For example, if your passion is sewing and have identified plenty of ways to monetize it, it will have a rating of 5+5=10.
5: Select a topic from the top 3 ideas on your list.
Step 2: Decide on a Blog Name
Now that you have a clear vision of what you are going to blog about, it is time to pick a name for your blog. The blog name is usually referred to as a domain name.
Take a pen and paper and come up with a few names. With many businesses already registered, availability of your name could be a problem.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you pick out a blog name.
- Pick a .com extension. .COMS are well-established, credible and easy to remember.
- Use your blog topic in the name together with a creative descriptor.
- Keep the name short.
- Let the name be easy to pronounce and spell.
- Avoid using hyphens and double letters as it can result in typos.
You can check availability of the name in one of the many domain registrars on the Internet. I prefer to register my domains at GoDaddy so that even if I change my host, I don’t have to move my domain elsewhere.
Head over to godaddy.com and enter the name of the domain you want to buy. If it is available, you will see a green tick mark indicating the availability along with the price. Domains usually start off at around $10 and can go up depending on the popularity of the keyword. Go ahead and register an account with the registrar (GoDaddy) and complete the purchase.
Step 3: Register with a Web Host
A web host is a company that hosts your website. This is place where your blog’s contents – its files, images and content live. Selecting a web host is crucial. There are plenty of web hosts in the market offering cheap shared hosting. They often tend to overload their servers, resulting in a poor site performance. There are also hosting providers who offer terrible support. This means if you end up with some sort of problem, you are most likely on your own.
Tips to Find a Good Host
- Pick shared hosting if you are starting small and are on a tight budget.
- Consider a host with great uptimes. You cannot afford to have your site go down because of web host maintenance.
- Consider a host with top notch support.
- Avoid cheap, free hosting.
- Do not select a month-on month plan. I recommend a 2-year plan, as it is cost-effective.
To make your search for a web host easy, I’ll recommend two of the best hosts in the business.
If you are on a tight budget, I recommend you go for Bluehost. That’s where I started my first blog. The problem with Bluehost is their support system, which has terrible waiting times. When your blog is down you’re losing money every minute. It will hurt to have to wait for 10-20 minutes to have your case heard. That apart, Bluehost has great uptimes and is easy to get started with.
I currently run my websites on SiteGround (including this one). They are a bit pricier, but the service and support is impeccable. Newbies will find the very friendly support team a solid help. Setting up your blog on SiteGround is super easy. In fact, the company will do the setup for you for free! You never have to refer to how to guides or worry about whether you set up everything correctly.
Step 4: Install WordPress
WordPress is the best platform to start your blog. It is free and takes very little time to set up. You can install WordPress yourself. Just head over to the CPanel of your hosting account and click the WordPress Installer. Fill in the required information and you’re all done. With a SiteGround hosting account, the support team will do all that for you. They even offer Free hosting migration for bloggers. If you need any help setting up WordPress, you can also connect with me and I can help you out, free of charge.
Step 5: Customize Your Blog
You bought your domain name, signed up to a web host and installed WordPress. Now it’s time to customize your new blog to your liking. The first thing we are going to do is find and install a theme that you like.
Install a Theme
A theme is the layout where you can display your blog content. There are plenty of good themes available online, some super expensive, some free. If you are serious about building a profitable blog, buy a premium theme from a reputed developer. Brian Gardner from StudioPress built mine.
I use the Genesis framework from StudioPress and own plenty of their child themes. My sister Adeline has a portfolio of blogs that run on StudioPress as well. TheAppTimes.com, Maqmodo.com run on DailyDish Pro. And her new project WrappedInGreen is on the top-selling Mai Lifestyle Theme.
The advantage with StudioPress is that they have a huge collection of themes that can suit any type of blog and you don’t have to pay a yearly extension cost. Take a quick peek at some of the themes in their gallery. You’ll most likely find something that suits your blog niche.
Another reason why I recommend StudioPress is that they are out-of-the-box solutions. You can use the themes as-is without any extra tools. But if you want to do some customization yourself, a Google search will provide you with tons of tutorials for guidance and support. If you are not technical, you can hire developers to do the customizations. Upwork.com and Fiverr.com are two sites that help you with this.
Tips to choose a good theme:
- Look for a theme with a clean, clutter-free design.
- Ensure your theme has a mobile responsive design.
- Get a theme that is performance ready.
- Pick an SEO friendly theme. It will take you a long way in driving traffic as well.
- Make sure the theme is easy to customize, such as changing the layout and color.
Add a Logo
Now that you’ve installed a theme, you can upload your business logo to the blog. A logo helps your website visitors remember the name of the company and creates a visual symbol that represents your business. You can create the logo yourself using the popular tool Canva. Or, you can hire someone over at Fiverr to do it for you.
Plugins are add-ons that let you add more functionality to your site. To start off, here are some useful plugins you can install and set up right away.
- Social Warfare- This plugin makes it easy for your readers to share content on social media. (Note: This is a premium plugin, but you can use the free version for starters.)
- Yoast SEO – This plugin will help you optimize your content for search engines.
- WP Smush – This plugin compresses images so they load faster.
- Contact Form 7 – A plugin that lets you create tons of customizable contact forms.
I also recommend that you set up a Cloudflare for your blog now. Cloudflare has powerful Content Delivery Network (CDN). It helps with quick content delivery across the globe. It also provides protection from DDoS attacks and other online threats. You can create a free account on Cloudflare. The setup is simple and straightforward, so don’t worry.
Next, sign up for a free Google Analytics account. You will get a tracking code that you need to add to your theme. If you are using a StudioPress theme, you can add it to the Header Script section in the Genesis Settings page. Or you can install a free GA plugin like this one to add the tracking code to your blog. Once you start publishing your content, you will be able to track every single visitor on your blog in real time.
Set Up the Sidebar
Lastly, as part of customizing your theme, you may want to consider using sidebars. If you read blogs, you will find some with No Sidebar and some displaying a right sidebar. On your WordPress dashboard, go to the Widgets page to set up the sidebar. In this section, you can add your bio, newsletter subscription box, and advertisements.
Cost of Setting Up a Blog?
So how much initial investment you need to set up a blog?
It depends on how much money you want to invest. If you only buy hosting and use a free domain and theme it can be next to nothing. But, if you want to invest in a few premium options, it could cost a bit more.
In all, I’d say you need around $100 to $400 to set up your blog.
If this is your first blog, I recommend you have a budget of at least $200. This is enough to get you a good hosting plan, a good email marketing platform, a top-notch premium theme and a logo. Most of the expenses here are either a one-time fee or a yearly subscription. So, your recurring expenses over the years will be much less.
Step 6: Set Up Your Social Accounts
You’ve purchased your blog domain and set up your theme. Now its time to create your social accounts. Create an account on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You’ll need to add a professional banner image, logo and website details in each of these accounts. You can also start following people to build up your following. This will increase your blog exposure and drive targeted traffic more easily.
Step 7 : Sign Up to an Email Marketing Service
The money is in the list is a term that often comes up in blogging. To make money, you need to build a relationship with people who visit your blog and are interested in what you have to offer. Email marketing is the bridge that makes this possible.
It offers a way to promote your products and services to a group your website visitors who are interested in your brand. It is also a cost-effective method to get new prospects, build brand awareness, and foster loyalty among the existing customer base. Mailchimp is a popular email marketing service that lets you create and set up list building campaigns. Unlike other services, you can set up a free Mailchimp account for up to 2000 email addresses. However, the trade-off is that you have to deal with a slightly complex setup.
Another alternative that I recommend is ConvertKit. (Review). It is one of the most blogger friendly email marketing services with an affordable pricing structure. Sign up for an email marketing service of your choice right now so you can start collecting your leads right from the word go.
Step 8: Start Blogging
That’s it! You have taken your first big step to becoming a professional blogger. You now have all that is necessary to start building your online empire.
About Page: This is the place where you tell your website visitors about yourself and what you do on your blog. You can add your photo here or photos of the editorial team if you have any. You can also narrate a short story about what inspired you to set up the blog. Finish the page with links to your social profiles so people can follow you.
Contact Page: Include a contact form and a few reasons for people to contact you. You can use a plugin like Contact Form 7 or Ninja Forms to set up this page.
Disclaimer: A disclaimer is a statement that specifies the scope of rights and obligations of parties in a legally-recognized relationship. Typically, a disclaimer will include details such as the website name, owner of the website, the liability accepted/not accepted by the owner, and the website owner’s policy towards third party links from their website.
By posting your disclaimer prominently on your website, you protect yourself from any action taken by third parties. When a person visits your website, he/she agrees to the terms of the disclaimer and assumes all risks associated with viewing and/or using the information contained on the website.
Now its time to start creating your content. You must be pretty stoked by now and cannot wait to get started. That’s awesome! But before you start writing your first post, establish a dependable content plan. Think of it as an editorial calendar where you can mark your publishing schedule for a few weeks in advance. You should also have a list of topics you’re going to write about over the next one month in hand. With this plan in hand, you can maintain the consistency and quality of your work.
Steps to Create a Content Plan
- Determine how often you want to publish a blog post
- List down the articles you plan to write for the week/month, depending on your schedule.
- Create a list of posts that will serve as your cornerstone content. Cornerstone articles are the articles that you want to rank on search engines.
- Create your editorial calendar for your content publishing schedule.
- Start creating your content.
- Publish as per schedule.
- Repeat steps 1-6 on a weekly/monthly basis.
If you have trouble organizing your work schedule and need a tool to help you consider signing up for an account with CoSchedule. This tool lets you organize all your blog, social promotion, and email campaigns in ONE place. It also offers templatize your workflows with task checklists, social templates, etc. It is a great tool that will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Blog Post Ideas
If you’re looking for some inspiration with your blog posts, here are some ideas that can help you get started.
- Write how-to guides. Eg. How to make a fall wreath
- Write products lists. Eg. A list of your favorite organizing tools
- Answer questions about something. Eg. How to use your product in various ways to get results.
- Give advice. Eg. How to pay off your student loans in one year.
- Eg. A roundup of great books in your niche you benefitted from.
- Eg. Explain a complex process in a fun engaging way through an infographic.
- Write on a controversial topic. Eg. Truth vs Hype on a much-debated topic in your niche.
- Eg. A checklist on “fly fishing”.
- Promote a PDF, printable or other freebee.
- Eg. Show readers how to create a fidget spinner.
- Eg. Create an interactive session to help newbie bloggers can get their first 100 subscribers.
After putting together a list of posts, you should brainstorm a few lead magnet ideas. Lead magnet is packaged content you can give away to your readers for free in exchange for their email address or social shares. Anything from a blog calendar template, a list of blog post ideas, to a blog structure blueprint or Pinterest planner would do the trick. Keep it specific to your niche.
With the lead magnet ready, you can use Mailchimp or ConvertKit to start generating leads.
Writing Your First Post
When you sit down to start creating content, you may feel a little intimidated. You may be worried that you’re not a good enough writer. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a prolific writer to be a good blogger. With a little of your personality in your content and your creative side, you’ll definitely be a winner.
What matters is how you can communicate your message to your audience. That can happen through visual content, videos and other interactives as well. As far as writing goes, make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect. There are plenty of great apps in the marketplace that help you with grammar and spellings. If you have room in your budget for proof-reading, then give the app “Grammarly” a try. It identifies grammatical errors, improves your choice of words with suggestions and detects plagiarism.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can make use of Microsoft Word to check your content. It is not as good as Grammarly, but at least your content will be error-free.
Tips to Writing Blog Posts
- Write compelling, catchy titles for your post
- Write short sentences
- Keep your paragraphs limited to 3 sentences or less.
Share Share Share
Once you start publishing your posts, make sure to share it on your social networks. Social Warfare (Review) is an excellent plugin that makes it easy as pie to share your posts right from your website. You can also use tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, Dlvrit and Tailwind (Review) to promote your content. The more people you engage with on your social networks, the more exposure your content receives. Just remember to be consistent in your posting and engagement.
Making Money From Your Blog
With all the heavy lifting of setting up a blog complete, its time to make money with your blog.
There are plenty of different ways to monetize your blog. Know that despite what other bloggers say, you are not going to be making thousands of dollars from Day 1. This is not a get rich quick scheme.
Here are some proven ways to monetize your website.
Google Adsense – Adsense is one of the largest advertising platform for bloggers.
Set Up Your Own Store – Use the WooCommerce plugin to sell products you make directly from the blog. It can be physical products or digital products such as eBooks.
Offer Services – Offer your skills as a freelancer to your website visitors. You can offer coaching lessons, freelancer services, design and sell graphics and more. PayPal is the perfect tool for invoicing and billing your customers.
Sell Sponsored Posts – Prepare a media kit for your blog showing details of your traffic stats, social signals, and subscribers. You can then invite sponsorships from companies related to your niche. Display all the cool stuff that will attract clients or customers.
Here is a sample template kit you can use. All you must do is load it on to sites like Canva and put your logo in the placeholder provided.
How Much Money Can You Make Blogging
Th question you are probably thinking now is how much money you can make on your blog. It all depends on how hard you are willing to work and what monetization plans you have in mind. If you are selling your own product or service, you can earn more. If you are reliant on advertisement income, it depends on the traffic your blog generates. Most blogs can earn anywhere between $1,000 to $4,000 per month after their first year of blogging.
Earning money through blogging is a sure thing. It doesn’t come easy though. You need to have a good plan of action before you start your blogging journey. I hope this post has all the inputs you need to start a blog and build your business. If you ever need any help or advice, feel free to reach out to me through our contact form.