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In June of 2014 I decided to start a blog. I had been living in New Orleans for a year and a half at the time, and had learned so much about food, cooking, and the combination of flavors from the Louisiana culture, and from being too broke to be able to afford to go out to eat (shout out to my post-grad friends who know what I mean). Due to my successes in the kitchen, I wanted to share what I had learned with the world. I also wanted a way to document my recipes so that I could remember them, since I was never one to write recipes down.
Fast forward to now, and I could have never imagined that I would be working from home blogging, making almost double what I made in the corporate world. Hello, freedom. And it all started by hitting “publish” on my first post and not looking back. I wrestled with the idea of starting it, since I didn’t think anyone would read it, but boy was I wrong. Each month I reach an audience of hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions, of people across social media through my posts. I’ve also made some of the best friends, who I’ve connected with on a level that you can’t explain unless you’re a blogger. There are so many selfless, creative, and incredible people in the blogging world, and I’m so happy to be apart of it.
Now, let me tell you, you don’t need to be an expert to start a blog. You don’t need to be a professional photographer or writer. You learn as you go. Those first few months I seriously winged it, but over time I’ve developed creatively, and I owe that all to my blog.
This post is a step-by-step guide to starting your blog. My first piece of advice is to start with a self-hosted wordpress.org site. I know of so many bloggers who started on blogspot, wordpress.com, or wix.com who have to go through the huge headache of transferring over all their content when they decide to become self-hosted (and let me tell you, everyone decides to become self-hosted). The benefits to having a self-hosted wordpress.org blog is gives you the most control over your own site–when it comes to layout, design, posting, style, everything. Although the other options may be free, the small cost of going self-hosted is totally worth it. I’ll tell you, I’ve been self-hosted from the start and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made pertaining to my business.
Alright, are you ready to dive right in? I’m so excited for you.
1. Domain name and hosting
Okay, you’re one of two people. You’ve either had a blog name/domain name in your head forever, even before you took the plunge, or you were like me who had absolutely no idea what to name their blog. Either way, have fun with this step! Think about what you want to convey to your audience and what you want to be represented as. I chose “The Rustic Willow” because I wanted the blog name to encompass a lifestyle brand instead of just a food blog, so my name isn’t solely based on food. Because as you can see, I also include my fair share of DIY projects on the blog, so I didn’t want to be limited. But if yours is a specific niche, I would recommend making it so that you can tell what you write about just by looking at your blog’s name. For example, when you look at “Pinch of Yum,” “Damn Delicious” or “Mel’s Kitchen,” you can tell those are all food blogs. Or when you look at “Funky Junk Interiors” or “Brepurposed” you can also get an inkling of what their content is about.
Now that you’ve chosen a name, make it into a domain name. Like, my domain name is www.therusticwillow.com. Now what you’ll do is head to Bluehost to see if that domain is available.
Once you get to Bluehost, click “Get Started Now” on the main page.
Then, you will pick which hosting package you want. Personally, I would recommend the Plus option, since the basic option is extremely basic, and you will probably run out of storage quickly. In case you don’t know, hosting is pretty much like renting space on the web. Plus, your host makes sure your site runs smoothly on the back end.
Once you pick your hosting package, it’ll bring you to the page where you check to see if your domain is available. Type your potential domain name into the “new domain” area and click “next.” If you already own a domain, you would type that domain into “I have a domain.”
On the next page you’ll enter all of your personal information, your billing information, and your package choice. For the package, I would recommend buying 36 months, since I know you’ll love blogging. Plus, price-per-month is cheaper the longer you purchase. I would also recommend purchasing the domain privacy protection. The other options are up to you.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to having a blog. Exciting! Now that you have your domain and hosting, you’ll need to install WordPress.
Login to Bluehost using your login and password information. Click the “website” tab on the top. On that page, you’ll see the “WordPress” section at the top. Click “install now.”
On the next screen, make sure to check the box “advanced options” and fill out the fields. The “admin” and “password” information will be used to login to your website, so make sure to make it something you remember! Then click “install now.”
In a few moments, you should receive an email from Mojo Marketplace. This email is super important since it contains your admin login URL, your website URL, and your WordPress login username.
Alright, you have all the logistics set up, now it’s time to make your site pretty! On the left side of your dashboard you can hover over “appearance” and click “themes.” You can browse the themes there, and pick the one you love. Keep in mind that different themes are designed for different reasons, so look for one that would be appropriate for whatever niche you’re choosing for your blog.
If you’re not familiar with HTML, I would recommend installing the Genesis Framework which basically lays the groundwork for you if you’ve never built a website before. It made the process of building my site so smooth. It basically lays a foundation for you, and includes search engine optimized functions, which will help you be found easier on search engines.
The theme that I use is Foodie Pro which I absolutely love. The layout is perfect for a food blog, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Take a peak around my website to see if this theme would work for you.
Any theme you choose will have instructions and support for setting it up. Since each theme is very different, I can’t give you a step-by-step tutorial, but in my experience I’ve always been able to figure out any problems by looking at the theme’s forum. That’s where people who have purchased the theme can go and ask questions, and either the support staff or other buyers answer their questions. It’s a great resource!
You did it. You started a blog! I’m so excited for you, and I can’t wait for you to experience this incredible journey that has changed my life. Once you get everything set up, send me an email to showoff your work, I’d love to see it and connect with you 🙂