Starting a successful blog on purpose is a simple task in theory; however, simple does not mean easy. Whether this is your first attempt or fiftieth, creating a blog by yourself without a plan is a recipe for disaster.
Setting out to do something without having a definition of what it looks like to do ‘successfully’ can never end well because you won’t know when you’ve hit a goal you never took the time to set.
We have good news because you are not the first person who tried to start a blog! (Shocker, we know!) In fact, we’ve gone through this process a few times ourselves, with a wide variety of failures and successes. That’s why we’re here to give you a roadmap detailing all the things you’ll need to know in order to start a blog with all the right ingredients to be successful. This is everything we wish we knew back when we first got started.
So, what do you need to start a blog?
In this guide, you’ll get all the important stuff people often skip over before and end up regretting later.
This includes what blogging actually is (and isn’t), understanding what successful blogging entails, examples of successful bloggers, and what you’ll need to have ready before even thinking about setting everything up. Then, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for technically setting up your blog so you can start publishing content. Finally, we’ll offer you our hard-earned knowledge and strategies on how to get subscribers for your blog and even start making some money out of it.
How to get the most from this guide:
First, set aside 45 minutes right now to read through this entire guide, start to finish. This will give you the big picture before you lift a finger to start a blog. We recommend grabbing a hot cup of coffee or tea before starting.
Second, don’t let this process overwhelm you! When you follow our step-by-step instructions, you’ll have your blog up and running in no time. Trust the steps.
Finally, by learning everything we offer in this post, you are already ahead of the game. Most people rush in without a clue. Armed with this knowledge, you’re more likely to launch a successful, profitable blog. Learn as much as you can, don’t get hung up on the details, and launch.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get cracking and jump right into your journey to starting a blog.
What’s In This Start a Blog Guide
The literal act of starting a blog can take less than 20 minutes.
It’s learning how to run and manage it after the fact that takes a lot of investment – time, energy, and money (though it doesn’t have to be much). We wrote this guide, not just to show you how to literally create a blog, but to fully educate you on getting started, and then give you a roadmap for what comes next.
This guide is something you’ll want to revisit over and over again, to shine the light on the process. It’s easy to get distracted or confused about what to do when you’re in the thick of it! You should bookmark this guide right now so you can come back to get a reminder of what to do. We keep it updated to reflect any changes in the blogosphere.
To help you find exactly what you need, when you need it, here are the titles of each section. Simply click to jump to the right place!
- Why THIS Guide? Because We Really Know How to Start a Blog
- Blogging is About Building Your Legacy
- Successful Blogging is Better With Systems
- Blogging Means Not Procrastinating on Life
- What You Should Know Before Starting a Blog
- Blogging is a Viable Career and Business
- What It Looks Like to Be a Successful Blogger
- Realistic Expectations for Starting a Blog
- Focus On Strategy and Subscribers
- How to Start a Blog in 9 Steps (Technical Guide)
- Step 1: Choose the Right Topic to Blog About
- Step 2: Select the Right Platform for Your New Blog
- Step 3: Find a Hosting Company
- Step 4: Pick a Domain Name
- Step 5: Install and Configure WordPress
- Step 6: Secure Your Site With HTTPS
- Step 8: Write Your First Post
- Step 9: Start Publishing Content!
- Managing, Promoting, and Monetizing Your Blog
- Manage Your Content Strategy With an Editorial Calendar
- Promote Your Blog With Email Subscriptions
- Earn Money By Selling Through Your Blog
Are you excited to get started? We certainly are! Without any more ado, we present the Leaving Work Behind’s comprehensives guide to starting a blog.
Leaving Work Behind is a relatively small blog started by Tom Ewer as a personal project in 2011. Now, it is a thriving business with a team of editors, writers, and resources to help freelancers further their careers through the power of blogging. In other words, we’ve seen the whole process transform from a single person into a platform that supports a team of passionate visionaries.
Each of our team members has their own blogging stories. We’ve created numerous affiliate blogs, started blogging-based businesses, and know what it takes to create the right kind of content. In fact, not only do we have our own stories, but we’ve mentored and shared quite a few others on the blog as well! Here are a few highlights of those whose stories we’ve shared.
Blogging is About Building Your Legacy
Henry Croft launched GymTalk in March 2014. He turned his blog into a full-time job within one year. It earned 420,996 page views, received two fitness blogging awards, and earned $15,000 during that time. He started while still working a regular day job. Most of his effort went into developing a unique brand personality, following a strict content strategy, and even hiring writers to help him product top notch information.
Working on your own terms, having the freedom to travel when you want, doing what you love and building your own legacy is what it’s all about.
– Henry Croft
Successful Blogging is Better With Systems
Bon Crowder runs the Math Four website. She finds the blogging aspect relatively easy and spends most of her energy on creating autoresponders. In fact, that’s where she spends quite a lot of her time! Setting up a system of autoresponders can take your blog a long way towards success. This is one example of spending your time on business strategy (i.e. engaging and growing your audience!) and how it can net positive results.
Getting into the groove of writing content for your blog is fairly easy. Once you’re there, you’re there. But writing for your email list is a big challenge. Some women go on scrapbooking weekends. Some men go off to hunt. When it’s my weekend to take off by myself, I pack up my computer and a few bottles of wine and head to my sister’s house to write auto responder emails.
And like any good habit, I’ve created a system.
– Bon Crowder
Blogging Means Not Procrastinating on Life
Susan Shain is the founder of Travel Junkette and runs her blog-based business while traveling the world. She started out like any other college student, struggling with so-called regular job interviews. Then she found seasonal work, which led to more travel. That’s when she knew she had to build a more regular and reliable income through blogging so she could keep on going as long as she wanted.
We live in an amazing world – one where you can create a career that relies only on a computer and an internet connection. With the help of this blog, you can create that career, then fulfill your travel dreams. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
It’s time to banish your excuses. It’s time to leave work behind. It’s time to travel the world.
– Susan Shain
These are just a handful of folks we’ve had the pleasure of featuring to help our readers learn how to be a successful blogger. We hope it inspires you to think about what your blogging story may one day be!
Knowledge is power. Whenever you get into a new craft, it’s a good idea to understand its history, purpose, and modern usage.
With that in mind, we’d like to explain a little about what blogging is at its core. For example, is an online newspaper actually just a blog? The lines between everyday blogs and established publications posting online seem to be more blurred every day!
The dictionary definition for a blog is:
a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.
According to this definition, many news and big time entertainment magazines are all blogs now. At least, their online versions are! It may sound silly, but the takeaway here is that the word ‘blog’ doesn’t intrinsically mean something is reliable or not – it simply refers to a perfectly legitimate style of publication. Like anything, common sense is key. It is always a good idea to research the creator of the blog to check whether they have a good reputation for publishing solid information.
Blogging is a Viable Career and Business
To give you an idea of how popular blogging is, we went to see how many blog posts are written every day. At the time of writing this guide, more than 3,860,000 blog posts had already been published, and still counting.
Today, blogging is no longer only a hobby confined to a college dorm room. It can be used to publish all manner of content, from personal journals to corporate business magazines. This boom of online content creation has created new business models and job opportunities. Existing businesses use blogging to drive content marketing campaigns, while others use create business models with blogs at the center.
At this point, you may be wondering, is blogging a viable job or career path?
According to the State of the Blogging Industry 2017, professional bloggers average $138,046 in annual profit. That’s certainly a respectable salary if you ask us. In other words, we dare say that professional blogging is a viable career choice, though it is notable that the path there will be long and rough because it is largely a do-it-yourself industry.
What It Looks Like to Be a Successful Blogger
What it means to be successful depends on your definition of success. In this context, we define successful bloggers as someone who earns a full-time living (or a majority thereof) from writing, whether for their own or others’ blogs. Let’s have a look at a few examples of how others have found their success.
i)Michelle Schroeder is the author of Making Sense of Cents. She writes about personal finance, travel, lifestyle, RV-ing and small business. It took her two years to turn her blog into a full-time job. Her business model largely relies on affiliate sales, and supplements with freelance writing, ads, brand partnerships, and blog coaching.
One thing she wished she had known when getting started was not to use a free service. People didn’t take her work seriously until she started self-hosting with WordPress.
Her success comes from the fact she turned a traditionally dry topic into a relatable, conversational style blog. This made difficult topics easy to understand and keeps readers loyal to the blog.
ii)Jeremy Schoemaker started out with $50,000 of credit card debt while being on unemployment. He started learning about e-commerce and started created an income online through affiliate ads. Then he started blogging about his experiences on Shoemoney.
His successes started out with his AdSense experiments, but he quickly became a prolific blogger once he started telling others how he did it. It brings to mind the quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
It is notable that Jeremy took the business-minded route with his blogging and online marketing efforts. He recently sold his latest company for $12 million – none of which would have been possible if it weren’t for his learning how to earn money using blogs and authority niche websites.
iii)Chrissa Benson runs the Physical Kitchness as a full time job, which was launched in 2015. It began as a way to document her hobby – cooking.
Her claim to success is treating her blog as a business from day one. This meant posting three times per week, and working on it in all of the time she could spare. However, it wasn’t until one year of effort later, when she joined a mastermind group, that it started earning income.
Chrissa’s advice to new bloggers is to pick a definitive niche you’re passionate about. Then, post quality content often. Finally, invest in yourself. That means spending money upfront on the right equipment and training. Her recommendations include a good camera, the right software, and personal development courses.
Realistic Expectations for Starting a Blog
Before you run out to quit your job right now, take a moment to consider the realities of blogging for money. Earning a livable income is not typical for anyone who casually sets up a blog for fun. It takes careful positioning, business planning, and consistent effort over time to be successful.
That being said, while you shouldn’t expect to go full-time right away, blogging has in fact led to multi-million dollar companies. There is no guarantee in blogging, just like any other business endeavor. We share these stories with you so you can see what is possible. While you may never make millions, with the right research, time, effort, and timing, you can certainly earn a good income from blogging. To play it safe, we recommend blogging as a side business until you start seeing those returns.
We’ve already laid some of the groundwork for what to expect when starting a blog. However, we find it of utmost importance for you to have the right mindset going in so we will summarize and reiterate it here.
To review, here is what a blog actually is:
A blog is any website (or subsection of a website) with frequently published content. It provides the opportunity to build a platform, generate revenue, and is highly accessible for people at all levels.
Here are a few things that a blog isn’t:
- A get-rich-quick scheme
- An easy way to reach professional status
- A surefire way to success
Of course, if you’re launching a blog for personal reasons and have no goals beyond the satisfaction of writing, these don’t impact you. However, if you’re trying to make money from blogging, it is very important to set realistic expectations of the work involved. Blogging for money is a form of business, which involves a few costs. Thankfully, blogging is relatively cheap compared to most other startups.
Consider these basic expenses for a professional quality blog:
- Hosting, starting around $5 to $20 per month
- Domain, typically $12 per year
- Time, calculated at your hourly rate
These are the skeletal basics, meaning you can operate a professional blog setup for as little as $72 per year (plus your time). Of course, there are additional expenses you may run into. It all depends on how seriously you take your endeavor and how comfortable you are handling all the technical details yourself:
- Taking writing, marketing, and SEO courses
- Hiring developers and designers
- Buying custom themes or plugins to enhance your site
- Advanced software to manage your campaigns
- Email services to collect and message your subscribers
- Other advertising or marketing expenses
The costs for each of these can vary wildly, and add up! Unless you have a money tree in your backyard, it’s important to budget carefully. Which you need and when you need them will entirely depend on your situation. The question is, what are your potential earnings as a serious blogger?
As we mentioned before, professional bloggers average about $138,046 in annual profit. On the other side of that, we have serious bloggers who aren’t yet professionals earning an average of $9,497. That’s nothing to scoff at either, but it’s worth noting you probably shouldn’t start out by quitting your job. These are bloggers who are serious enough to earn cash but haven’t broken through to make a full-time career of blogging. You can learn more about the blogging industry by reading the complete State of the Blogging Industry 2017.
Finally, do consider how much time you’ll need to invest on a regular basis to keep your blog going. It takes a fairly experienced blogger at least an hour to write 1,000 words. That doesn’t include the time generating your post ideas, planning them into a schedule, creating the outline, and then actually formatting it for publishing afterwards.
Focus On Strategy and Subscribers
The secret to any success is to have a winning strategy. Blogging as a business is ultimately about subscribers. Your goal should be to build an email list of fanatic readers who are all about who you are and what you write about.
That means the winning strategy is to focus on earning subscribers. Traffic may come and go, but if you can get them on your email list you can always reach out to them to show them new blog posts, products, or services you’re working on. One of the first things you’ll need to do after creating your blog is setting up your subscriber list.
Your content strategy should be two-pronged:
- Writing blog posts compelling new readers to subscribe.
- Producing content that keeps existing readers satisfied.
Now that you have a good sense of what blogging is and what the realistic possibilities are, it’s time for you to actually start your blog. This means setting up the blog itself so you can start publishing content to the world.
Before we get into the next section, keep in mind that you don’t need to know how to code to make a blog. More and more these days, starting a blog is more about the strategy and planning than anything else. The technical details along the way are mostly automated or is available in a user-friendly interface.
Alright, alright. You’re ready to start a blog, we get it! This is the section you’ve been waiting for. In the following nine steps, we will show you exactly what you need to do in order to set your blog up and get going.
For this part of the program, you’ll need at least a half hour to work your way through the steps. Get a refill of that coffee or tea and get comfortable. We recommend you read it through fully once before taking any action, and then going back to the beginning to execute each step one at a time.
By the end of this section, you will have started your very own blog. Let’s get started!
Step 1: Choose the Right Topic to Blog About
Blogging is all about publishing content. That is, content you’ll be responsible for creating as the blogger. It’s a good idea to pick your blog’s topic (a.k.a. theme or niche) before jumping in head first.
When first getting started, it’s okay if you’re not 100% set on what exactly you’ll talk about on the blog. Just starting at all is going to be a huge learning experience for you and help you on the next project. And who knows, you might get lucky and strike it big on your first try!
That being said, there are two simple steps to choosing a general blog topic so that you don’t end up spending weeks deciding.
- Find a topic you’re interested in writing about.
- Explore potential monetization options.
Once you really get into blogging as a business, it becomes much more complex than this. However, for beginners, it is more important to start actually blogging than do a ton of research up front.
For the first step, you need to think of a few niches your blog can focus on. If you’re struggling to come up with a blog topic, try to:
- Find inspiration in your hobbies
- Seek out fields that aren’t already super popular
- Make sure you won’t run out of blog post ideas right away
Secondly, after you’ve found some topic ideas, you can evaluate them by brainstorming ways you can earn money with them. Finding a good overlap of personal interest and potential money opportunities creates a good balance. Here are a few of the primary ways you can monetize a blog:
- Selling your own product.
- Selling others’ products (affiliate marketing).
- Offer consulting or coaching.
- Do freelance writing in the niche.
- Sell advertising space.
Any blog can be used to advertise something, so theoretically, any blog can be monetized. That being said, it’s a good idea to choose a topic where there are high profit margins.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t have a completely clear plan for how you’ll make everything come together, that’s okay! What’s important is that you’re going in with the idea you’ll keep an eye out for these opportunities. A little bit of research ahead of time will help, but it’s not necessary to have everything planned out to the smallest detail right now.
Step 2: Select the Right Platform for Your New Blog
Back when blogging was first getting big, you had to hand write each and every blog post yourself, including the HTML and styling. Nowadays, you have your choice of Content Management Systems (CMS) to publish from a professional, clean interface without needing to know a lick of code.
While you can find seemingly endless platforms with which to run your blog, self-hosted WordPress is our hands down recommendation.
To be sure, there are quite a few popular options! You have likely heard of Joomla and Drupal, both similar self-hosted platforms. Meanwhile Medium, Blogger, and Ghost are a few hosted options. Others have tried Tumblr, Squarespace, Wix, and even Weebly.
Phew! That’s already nine different options. We could bore you with a breakdown of all the differences, but we’ll save you a lot of time by focusing on our professional recommendation, WordPress. None of the rest compare when it comes to community and support, alongside the full ownership of your content and code.
You should host your blog using a self-hosted installation of WordPress.
Note, don’t go trying to register a WordPress website on WordPress.com! You want to use a self-hosted installation from WordPress.org, which means you own and control your own website.
Obviously, the choice is yours to make, which is why we’ve bothered to list out all the top industry selections. However, WordPress is far and above the right answer for most bloggers in most situations – if you want to be taken seriously and have the opportunity to optimize your site for higher amounts of traffic.
Step 3: Find a Hosting Company
Since you’ll be self-hosting WordPress as your platform, that means you need to pick out a hosting company. When you get hosting, you’re renting out space on a dedicated server where your website will live. This is where your WordPress files will be so anyone can access them at any time, from anywhere in the world.
Leaving Work Behind is proudly affiliated with Bluehost. Naturally, we recommend Bluehost over other options because we’ve had good experience with it. We should divulge we also get a few dollars every time anybody signs up for their service through our links. Not only that , Bluehost comes highly recommended by the team over at wordpress.org, the blogging platform you will be using.
That being said, you have a plethora of hosting options out there. When selecting your hosting company, be sure to look for:
- Domain included. Don’t worry about additional domain fees when it is included in your hosting plan.
- Overall uptime. This is how much of the time servers are actually running so that your website is always available.
- Great customer service. Read reviews to get a good idea of how the support staff treat their customers.
- Pricing. Too cheap may be a sign that your site is being crammed in with too many others. This leads to poor performance.
- Free SSL certificates. Secure websites are becoming standard, and if your hosting service doesn’t offer free SSL certificates it can become very expensive to implement.
If you’re not satisfied with our encouragement to use Bluehost, please do your due diligence on each of the above points to ensure you choose the right one for your blog. Other options include Siteground, Inmotion Hosting, and MediaTemple.
To register with Bluehost, click here to access our exclusive offer for our readers. (opens in a new window).
When you reach their homepage, click on the ‘Get Started Now‘ button.
For a small starter blog, you should start with the smallest plan available – Basic – to get up and running. However, if you’re coming in with an existing audience from elsewhere (such as a physical community) you may want to choose the prime plan. We are going to choose the Basic plan for this guide.
And then, you’ll be presented with the option to choose a domain name. Before putting in anything random, go ahead and read the next section first.
Step 4: Pick a Domain Name
You also get a free domain name when you go through our exclusive offer with Bluehost. When you go to sign up, they’ll ask what domain you’d like to register. While a good domain alone won’t magically ensure your blog is popular, it can certainly help by being memorable and intuitive.
Choosing a domain name can take forever if you let yourself get stuck in the process. It’s a good idea to spend some time evaluating domain ideas, but don’t let it be the reason you never move forward with your blog.
There’s also a simple solution if you’re struggling to think of a domain name: use your full name (or a variation of it). This gives you free reign to blog what you like about if you’re not yet sure what you want to focus on in the long term.
Please note that your chosen domain name may be taken; you may need to try a few different names before you find one that hasn’t already been registered. If you find this process a little frustrating, remember this: your domain name doesn’t have to be permanent. If you’re not 100% happy with your domain name, you can always change it in the future (you can grab a new domain for as little as $11.99).
Here are a few basic guidelines for choosing a domain:
- It should be “brandable”, so it sounds like a real brand when someone reads it.
- Additionally, the brand name you choose should be easily pronounceable.
- In the same vein, it should be easy to spell.
- The shorter, the better.
- If you can, get the .com – people still tend to trust these over others. The next best options are .co and .net, or regionally appropriate TLDs.
- Check that your name doesn’t infringe on copyrights or trademarks.
- While you’re at it, be sure it doesn’t sound too much like another brand in general to avoid confusion.
- Avoid numbers and hyphens, as they complicate things when trying to remember the domain.
Once you’ve found an available name you love, register it quickly. Domains sell fast, and you’re trying to launch a blog with a name you’re proud of.
There are a ton of tools out there for coming up with interesting business name ideas, which you can use to generate ideas for your blog name! Here are some of our favorites:
- Shopify’s Business Name Generator
- WordLab’s Business Name Generator
- Net Substance
It is unlikely you’ll find a direct winner at any of these sites, but they’ll help you brainstorm if you’re really stuck. Each operates in a slightly different way, so feel free to play around and make sure to jot down your favorites.
Once you’ve found a few you like, you can check out whether they’re registered for the .com and popular social media sites by using sites like NameCheckr or NameChk. These will help you do a quick check that nobody else is really using the name you’ve chosen across the web.
The process of choosing the perfect domain name can be a little frustrating, so have a little patience. Once you’ve selected your name, you can go back to the Bluehost signup process and enter your new domain into the New Domain box:
You’ll be asked to choose your account options before you can move on to complete your registration. Here are our recommended settings:
- Search Engine Jumpstart: You probably won’t need this right away, so feel free to skip this.
- Site Backup Pro: While not absolutely required, it is always best to run regular backups to your site and this is an affordable way to do so.
- SiteLock Domain Security: Not necessary, but feel free to investigate this option and select it if you feel strongly about it.
- Domain Privacy Protection: We can’t put it better than Bluehost does: “The whois information for any domain name is available to anyone on the internet. Your whois information can be harvested by marketing companies, which will give you unwanted solicitations. When you add Bluehost Domain Privacy to your registration, the only information listed in the whois will be Bluehost.” Basically, it’s an issue of privacy. Decide whether you want it accordingly!
You have the option to pay even less per month by paying for years in advance. The cheapest deal is 36 months, with 24 months coming in as a close second. If you can afford it, we highly recommend choosing one of these deals.
Next, you’ll be able to enter your payment information. You’ll be charged for one year in advance with these settings, and Bluehost also offers a 30 day money back guarantee if things aren’t working out for you.
Once you’re ready, click the big green submit button at the bottom of the page.
Click on the ‘Create your password‘ button to set up password for your Bluehost hosting account.
You’ll be asked to set a password. Choose a secure one and be sure you’ve saved it somewhere safe!
After finishing saving your password, you’ll be asked to log in. Continue by clicking on the ‘Login‘ button.
Step 5: Install and Configure WordPress
Once your hosting account is set up, it’s time to actually get WordPress up and running. Bluehost makes it really easy by installing WordPress in the background. You will be asked to choose a theme. A theme is like a skin for your blog. You can change your theme at any time. Scroll down and choose ‘Skip This Step‘. On the next screen, click on ‘Start Building‘ button to configure your blog.
Next, you will see the WordPress dashboard. For now, choose ‘I don’t need help‘. We’ll show you exactly what to do to install WordPress in the next section.
Now that WordPress is installed, it’s time to make sure it is secure for you and all of your users. This is accomplished with an SSL certificate, which should be offered for free by the hosting provider you chose.
Step 6: Secure Your Site With HTTPS
More and more, secure websites are becoming a requirement rather than an option. Even if you are not collecting any information on your website, it is still better to add security to your website with a SSL certificate. These encrypt the connection between your blog’s visitors and your website, reducing the chance something will go wrong when viewing the site.
If you don’t have Bluehost, be sure to talk to your hosting provider about how to install a SSL certificate on your new website. For Bluehost users, you can follow these instructions:
- In your Bluehost panel, click on WordPress Tools at the top of the page.
- On the left hand side, click Security.
- Find your website in the dropdown list available on this page.
- Under the Free SSL Certificate option, switch the toggle to On.
If you are able to type in your website with the https:// rather than http:// without the browser giving you errors, it’s time to update your WordPress settings to use the SSL certificate. You can double check your SSL certificate is working by using this tool. It can take a few hours before everything kicks in, so be patient!
Once your site’s SSL certificate is working, it’s time to update your WordPress settings to match. In your WordPress dashboard, visit Settings > General.
Here, you’ll find your domain in two locations. Both should have the regular http:// in front of the domain name.
All you need to do now is replace the http:// with https:// in both locations.
Now, WordPress is configured to run over a secure connection. This reduces the chance of someone having their internet connection high-jacked and being shown illegitimate content from your website.
Step 7: Set Up With a Responsive Design
Right now, your design is secondary to the importance of consistently producing great content and promoting your blog. Eventually, the design will become more important to help you stand out from the crowd, but when you’re first starting out it isn’t so big of a deal.
Of course, it’s okay to spend some time playing with your blog design! Just don’t go overboard trying to perfect a design hardly anyone is going to see at first. The design you choose now is a stepping stone between now and your end goals. It’s okay to pick a solid, affordable choice and worry about the details later.
When you’re working with a small or non-existent budget, there is no shame in starting with a free theme. There are plenty of amazing options out there to get you started. WordPress comes packed with some great looking default themes, but here are a few other options we like:
- Any theme by Anders Noren! Our favorite might just be Lovecraft.
- Goedemorgen, a solid theme for niche authority projects. You can see one of our team member’s sites in action.
- Briar, a beautifully minimal theme with a focus on content.
On the other hand, there are a number of amazing premium themes available to you out there. Here are a few frameworks you can check out to get started with a professional level theme.
These can each be customized to become incredibly unique websites. However, remember not to get sucked into design right now! Whenever choosing a theme, or customizing one for yourself, focus on creating a clean and uncluttered design. If you’re not satisfied with our suggestions, feel free to browse the WordPress.org theme directory for free alternatives.
Additionally, refrain from overly complicated or flashy. This often distracts the reader and can lead to poor engagement. When in doubt, err on the side of minimal and be sure your final site is easy on the eyes.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to choose a responsive design. The term responsive design simply means a design that works on all devices – desktop, tablets, and mobile. It is called this because the design is responsive and adapts its appearance based on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. This creates a pleasant, cohesive user experience for everyone. This is vital because since 2016, more people use the internet from their phones than from a computer desk!
You can install themes in WordPress under Appearance > Themes > Add New in your WordPress dashboard. Any theme available in the WordPress.org Themes Directory can be installed directly, otherwise upload any purchased theme .zip files using the Upload Theme option.
Step 8: Write Your First Post
Guess what! Your blog is now live on the internet. You can send people to visit it right now at the domain you registered. Of course… you shouldn’t do that quite yet, because you haven’t published any content just yet.
Right now, any content you publish isn’t going to be perfect. That’s okay! As we mentioned before, blogging is easy to get started with but ridiculously difficult to master. The only way to do improve is to start writing. Let the words of creative producer Ira Glass inspire you:
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close the gap (between your taste and skill level), and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
Other than pushing through and just creating content (and lots of it!) right away is to be yourself. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Use your personal experiences. Tell your stories to bring posts to life. Write epic stuff.
You can also strategically rely on traditional post formats to help you along the way. At the end of the day, as long as your information is interesting, relevant, and sourced reliably, you’re on the right track. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but keep in mind it’s smarter to break the rules on purpose than by mistake. Read and learn from popular blogs in your niche and try out what works best for them.
Are you a little worried about being about to push out enough high quality content fast enough to build an audience? Fear not, we’ve got you covered. Here are our nine steps to producing great content as quickly as possible:
- Have a topic ready. You can do this by performing keyword research about the topic of your blog, if you’re having a hard time.
- Write an outline first. Do all your research up front, detail what your points will be, and write headings for each section.
- Come up with the headline last. Unless you’re a whiz at writing headlines, you may have an easier time summarizing your post after the fact.
- Type fast. Now is the perfect time to learn how to level up your typing skills.
- Write the rough draft in one go. Don’t add media, do research, or plan as you write.
- Don’t interrupt your flow. That means no fact-checking or double-guessing yourself while pumping out that article.
- Let your first draft suck. Seriously! Don’t edit while you write. Save that for later.
- Format at the end. Don’t worry about formatting your post until it’s practically ready to publish.
- Time yourself. The only way to know if you’re getting faster at writing posts is by timing yourself.
There are a million minute details when it comes to publishing a blog post optimized to its finest form. Don’t let these drag you down when you’re first getting started. They’re good to start learning and be aware of, but it is far more important to produce and publish great content.
Step 9: Start Publishing Content!
Now that your post is written, it’s time to go ahead and publish it in WordPress. Go back to your WordPress dashboard and find Posts > Add New.
This will take you to the new post interface. It should look something like this.
As a serious blogger, you’re going to be spending a lot of time using this interface. This is what it looks like to write a blog post in WordPress! Every post will need you to do these three things:
- Enter a blog post title.
- Write the blog post content.
- Hit the Publish button.
Once the post is published, you’ll see the page refresh, with a small notification at the top:
Now it’s time to go and View post. Depending on what theme you chose, the design may be different, but you’ll see something like this:
This is your new blog post, public and ready for the world! It’s amazing that such a simple thing can have such a huge impact.
This is it! You just made a blog all by yourself. In fact, we dare say if you thoroughly read this entire guide you now know more than the average person does about starting a blog. But remember, starting a blog is easy – it only takes about thirty minutes of guided steps. It’s what comes next that will determine how successful you are when all is said and done.
To create a successful blog, you need to know what success looks like for you. Whether you’re trying to start a blog habit, build an audience, or start earning a living from blogging, take some time to define what your real blogging goals are.
Then, you can use these techniques to ensure you hit those goals. Have a look at these two vital next steps you should take. What are you waiting for? Let’s dive in.
Manage Your Content Strategy With an Editorial Calendar
Blogs thrive on regularly posted content. This means you really need to have a content strategy in place – what will you post? When will you post it? Who is supposed to read it? What will they get out of it?
An editorial calendar is what professional publications use to plan out their upcoming content. There are a few stages you can map out on this calendar, depending on how thorough you will be in your publication process:
- Idea generation
- Outline creation
- Article drafts
- Article edits
- Live publishing
Whether you plan them intentionally or not, these are the five stages every article goes through. If you’re serious about building a successful blog, it’s important to treat each stage with the respect it deserves.
Idea generation comes largely from knowing your target audience. You’ll identify their pain points and how your blog hopes to solve them. Then, figure out which words they might search in Google when they are experiencing those issues. You can use these phrases to come up with ideas for articles on your blog.
Once you’ve established your ideas, you can schedule them into your calendar for the rest of the process. The minimum publishing schedule should be once per month, but once or twice per week is fairly normal.
Schedule in time for an outline, the first draft, and then time to make final edits.
Then, you can use WordPress’ schedule capability to schedule it in advance. If you play your cards right, you can always have several posts ahead of you ready to go. This means you can take a week or two off without worrying about your blog going dead.
Here are a few useful tools you can use to organize your calendar, depending on how you like to work best:
- Google Sheets: Use an existing spreadsheet template and start managing content ideas in the cloud with Google Sheets.
- Trello: A great free tool for managing anything in lists, including an editorial calendar.
- Editorial Calendar Plugin: Work directly in WordPress to plan and schedule out content ideas.
Whatever you do, choose something and set up a calendar. Be sure to follow it strictly or else you may fall behind and get overwhelmed at the idea of catching up.
Promote Your Blog With Email Subscriptions
Email subscriptions is one of your most important priorities as a blogger, if not the most important. Highly engaged email lists are at the core of every successful blog. Unfortunately, managing and sending emails on a list involves a lot of spam regulatory laws, which means you’ll need a reputable email marketing service. There are quite a few great services which can handle your email broadcasts, autoresponders, and more.
Here at Leaving Work Behind, we use Aweber. This has been a favorite among bloggers, though as email marketing has continued to grow as an industry, so have the options for running these campaigns.
Here are some of the top email marketing services available today:
The idea of email marketing may seem overwhelming or intimidating to at first. You are not alone – many of us felt this way when we first got started.
There are many ways to keep an email list engaged. Which will work best for you and your readers will depend on your style of communication and their content preferences. We recommend to write your emails in a similar tone as you write your blog posts. Here are a few types of emails you can send on a regular basis to keep your list paying attention:
- Updates when you post a new blog
- Rant about what’s on your mind
- Newsletters summing up related events of the week
- Special offers for subscribers only
Whatever you decide to publish, recommend incorporating it into your regular editorial calendar. This way you are staying in frequent touch with your email list so they don’t forget who you are! Be sure to send high quality, relevant content that helps them achieve their goals, and you should be golden.
Earn Money By Selling Through Your Blog
Now that your blog is set up and ready to go, you can consider all your options for monetization seriously. Here are five major ways you can set your blog up to earn money:
- Selling your own product.
- Selling others’ products (affiliate marketing).
- Offer consulting or coaching.
- Do freelance writing in the niche.
- Sell advertising space:
Here at Leaving Work Behind we are big believers in affiliate marketing and creating your own digital products. They are relatively easy to implement and, as such, enable you to start offering something to sell right away. Additionally, the cost of upkeep is quite low.
Once you’ve chosen one of these avenues, you’ll want to add Call to Actions (CTAs) in the appropriate spots on your blog. CTAs ask the reader to do something, like buy a product or click on a link. You’ll need to ask them to buy whatever it is you’ve decided to sell. Here are some effective places to add these CTAs:
- Header banner
- Sidebar widget
- Before or after blog content
- Within blog content
- Footer widget
You can pick and choose where you are comfortable with advertising. It’s also a good idea to have at least one dedicated sales page explaining to the reader why they should be interested in paying for what you have to sell.
As you continue populating your blog with content, you can find new ideas for products (whether affiliate or your own) to offer to your readers. If you can grow a large and engaged audience, they’ll likely even ask you for specific products they’d like to see! Of course, it takes time and dedication to reach that point.
That’s it! You just completed the Leaving Work Behind’s comprehensive guide to starting your very own blog. By now, you know more about blogs than the average bear, and should have a much clearer vision on what you might want to do with yours.
If you found this guide useful, we ask that you share it with a friend who is interested in beginning their own blogging journey. Of course, if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Let us know if we missed anything.