How to Start a Blog: A Simple, Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

How to Start a Blog: A Simple, Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

So you’re wondering, how do you start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your book or find new freelance writing clients. Blog writing is also a great way to experiment with your writing style.

But where do you begin? Though you’ve got the writing part down, the rest of the process can be overwhelming. Hosting, themes and all that other techy stuff can stand in your way for years.

Well, today is the day that ends. We’re here to help you navigate every step so you can start a blog without stress — from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

Here’s how to start a blog:

1. Pick a domain name (and get that domain name for free)

First things first: setting up a blog. Where are people going to find you online? As a writer, you are your brand, so we recommend using some variation of your name.

To check availability, simply visit Bluehost and click on “new domain.” Or, search this handy domain-name checker!

Even if yourname.com isn’t available, you might find it with a different ending, such as yourname.co or yourname.io. If you’re super committed to this whole writing thing, you can also  try tacking a “writer” onto the end of your name, as in susanshainwriter.com.

Alternatively, you could opt for a creative blog name — but remember your interests and target audience may change as the years go by. When I started blogging in 2012, I focused solely on adventure travel and named my blog Travel Junkette. After expanding  my niche and services, I switched to susanshain.com because my name won’t change, no matter what I’m blogging about.

Although it wasn’t a huge deal, I wish I’d started out using my name as the domain, and would advise you not to make the same mistake I did.

Once you’ve settled on your domain (or domains, if you’re like many of us writerpreneurs!), don’t wait to buy it. Even if you’re not ready to start a blog right now, domains are cheap — and you don’t want to risk losing the one you want.

If you’re really having a hard time picking a URL, review our more detailed post on how to choose a domain name.

Before you actually click “purchase,” though, you might want to read the next step; we’re going to tell you how to get a domain name for free.

2. Purchase a hosting package

Now it’s time to choose a web host.

What’s a web host? Well, your hosting company does all the technical magic to make sure your site actually appears when people type your domain name into their browser. In other words, it’s pretty important.

While we use MediaTemple to host The Write Life, it’s typically better for blogs with lots of traffic, so you probably don’t need that if you’re just starting out.

For a new blog, try Bluehost. It’s used by top bloggers around the world and is known for its customer service and reliability.

The Write Life has a partnership with Bluehost whereby they allow our readers to purchase hosting for $2.95/month. The cool part is that INCLUDES your domain.

Oh, and pro freelancer tip: Put your purchase (and all the purchases listed in this post) on a business credit card and keep the receipts; as investments in your business, they’re tax deductible.

3. Install WordPress

We’re almost through with the techy stuff, we promise!

You have several different choices for blogging platforms, but we like WordPress best. Not only is it totally free, but it’s easy to learn, offers a wide variety of themes, and has an online community and abundance of plugins that make blogging accessible to everybody.

You can read comprehensive instructions for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve completed that, you can officially log into your blog and start making it look pretty.

4. Put your site in “maintenance mode”

While working on your blog’s appearance, you might want to put up an “under construction” sign to greet visitors.

You don’t want any potential clients or readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (You may think you’re going to finish setting up your blog tomorrow, but we all know how writers procrastinate when there are no looming deadlines!)

To set up maintenance mode, just download this plugin. On your maintenance page, you could even include a link to your email newsletter or social media profiles so visitors have an alternate way of getting in touch with you. When you’re ready to share your blog with the world, simply deactivate and delete the plugin.

5. Choose a blog theme

Now we’re getting to the fun stuff! Your theme determines what your blog looks like, and you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Yes, there’s a wide range of free themes, but if you’re serious about blogging, the customization and support offered by paid themes can’t be beat.

Here at The Write Life, we use Genesis, which is one of the most popular premium themes available. Another popular and flexible theme is Thesis. On my first blog, I used Elegant Themes, which has a wide selection of beautiful themes at a reasonable price. All of these themes come with unlimited support — essential when you’re starting a blog.

If you want your blog to be a marketing tool for your writing services, you might look for a theme with a static home page (like mine). That way, your site will look professional and appealing to everyone — whether they’re there to read your latest post or hire you for a project.

Whatever you do, make sure your theme is “responsive,” which means it automatically adjusts to look good on any device. Since more than half of website visits are made on mobile phones, this is crucial for your blog’s aesthetic.

6. Create a blog header

I think it’s always worth getting a custom header for a new blog.

You can ask your favorite graphic designer, create one with Canva or order one on Fiverr. I’ve had great luck getting headers and other graphics designed in this online marketplace, where thousands of people offer their services for $5 per gig.

Starting a blog can seem like a lot of work -- but we’ve made it easy with this step-by-step guide just for writers. Here’s how to start a blog from scratch.

7. Write your blog pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:

About

The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a professional headshot and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — blogging is a personal affair!

Contact

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a form plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”

Portfolio

It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work.

You can see examples of great writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.

Resources

Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a clever way to earn income from affiliate sales. Check out The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is essential. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like Lisa Rowan does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, especially those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Better Click-to-Tweet: Encourage readers to share your content by including a click-to-tweet box within your posts. This plugin makes it easy.

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your page, use this plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.

Hello Bar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.

Mashshare: These share buttons are similar to  the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another minimalist  option is Simple Share Buttons Adder. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just important to  make social sharing easy for your readers.

Google Analytics Dashboard: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.

Akismet: One of the headaches of blogging is the plethora of spam comments. This plugin will help you reduce the number of spammers that sneak through.

WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster — pleasing both your readers and Google.

Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, aka small boxes with different functions. That said, the minimalist look is in — so skip this step if you want to keep your sidebar simple.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out The Write Life editor Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a good example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Your theme will probably include this feature, but if not, here’s a basic tutorial.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and forget until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include VaultPress, BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know — you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletter earlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For a great example, check out The Write Life’s Freelance Writer Pitch Checklist.

My favorite email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are many  tools to choose from, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, encourage your readers to sign up  by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even installing a plugin like PopupAlly.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to…start blogging.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar — even if it’s just you blogging. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers. Lastly, keep SEO in mind, and grab a feature photo from sites like Unsplash and Pexels to make each post shine.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is the most surprisingly time-consuming aspect of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually read your work.

You can try guest posting on other blogs, reposting on sites like Medium and LinkedIn, or including links when writing responses in forums, Facebook groups, or on Quora. Just make sure you’re adding value — and not spamming people with your URL.

Social media is another great way to get more traffic and grow your author following. Instead of merely tooting your own horn, be sure to interact with editors, writers and bloggers, too.Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

In the end, creating a successful blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content, optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Guess it’s time to get writing!

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life and we thank you for that!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Solis Images / Shutterstock 

Filed Under: Blogging
Free Newsletter

Enjoyed that post? Subscribe for more:

119 comments

  • Trish O'Connor says:

    Great practical suggestions!

    I would add one more step: Get a fresh pair of eyes to look at every single post before it goes live. Build that stage into your blogging schedule, so it doesn’t put you behind your self-imposed deadlines.

    Remember, your blog is a collection of online writing samples that may get you work, or keep you from getting work. A simple typo on the worldwide web can make you seem unskilled and unprofessional. It may not seem fair, but in a competitive market, it’s just how it is.

    As a professional editor, I would love to say that you always need to hire an editor to check every post (frankly, I would love to say that you always need to hire ME), but I must admit that’s not necessarily the case. You may, for example, be able to arrange a barter with a fellow-blogger to email your posts to one another before rolling them out for your respective audiences. However, keep in mind that not every writer has an eye for detail in another’s work. A professional editor is worth at least considering.

    Though I can only really speak for myself, I believe most editors would be open to negotiating an affordable arrangement in return for predictable work. (Like writers, we tend to face a feast-to-famine schedule.) If the first editor you is not interested, you can always try another.

    I wish you all success with your blogs!

    Trish O’Connor, MDiv
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Susan Shain says:

      Thanks for your input, Trish! I’ve never thought about getting my personal blog posts professionally edited, but you’re right: your blog is essentially an online portfolio. I like the idea of partnering with another writer to review each other’s posts!

      • Trish O'Connor says:

        You’re welcome, Susan! If the right people pair up, it would be a great way to interact with a fellow-writer and help each other make those online portfolios the best they can be.

        Of course, do keep in mind that writing and editing are different gifts, and not everyone has both. A writer who isn’t a natural editor may need to be resigned to paying several dollars per post, rather than bartering.

        For people in that situation, I am considering offering “blog post critiques” in my Etsy shop, but I would also be happy to negotiate terms directly through my own website. Again, I can’t speak to what other editors might be open to doing, but I think if there’s an editor you think you might like, it’s worth ing them to see if they would be open to working on very short but regularly scheduled pieces.

        Best of luck on all your blogs!

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        epiclesisconsulting.com

        • Trish O'Connor says:

          The more I thought about this post, the more strongly I felt that bloggers should have an easy option for getting the “fresh eyes” I was talking about, even if they don’t happen to have a ready connection with a fellow-blogger or a professional editor. I decided that the idea of putting something on my Etsy shop would give people a simple way to do it. I hope no one minds my posting it here. By all means, if you can barter with someone to swap posts, that’s a great way to go!

          https://www.etsy.com/shop/EpiclesisConsulting

        • L.Y.G.E.R. says:

          Susan is cute enough, I’m sure she’ll have no problem finding another writer to trade with her. Her writing can’t be that bad. 😉

    • Jenni C says:

      I would second this opinion. I went on to a publisher’s website and was embarrassed for them by the blog posts. I would never attempt to send them anything

    • Authorkingwilliam says:

      Trish o conner I need your editing services…
      [email protected]

      Please

  • Sara Frandina says:

    Fantastic post, Susan — and super valuable. I’ll be sharing this far + wide, but in the meantime, wanted to say thanks so much for including my portfolio as an example! Much appreciated 🙂

    Cheers!

  • Dena Bray says:

    Great post with great practical suggestions. Well done. The only things I would add is to encourage people starting out to try free versions of more than one host to get a sense of how each works and which interface they feel most comfortable with. While WordPress.org is infinitely customizable and offers lots of options via plugins, it can be overwhelming to folks not accustomed to site design. Squarespace.com and Wix.com are great alternatives. ….Happy blogging. D

    • Susan Shain says:

      Great points, Dena! I haven’t tried Wix or Squarespace but have heard good things — especially about the latter.

      • L.Y.G.E.R. says:

        Wix is a lot easier to use than WordPress, in my opinion. Especially for the less web-tech folks out there. Less hosting options though, as WordPress can be migrated or hosted elsewhere, and Wix discourages that quite severely, but as long as you don’t mind them hosting, it’s the easiest platform I’ve seen to use and customize. My current site was done thru Wix.

  • Krithika Rangarajan says:

    Fabulous post – I am loving all the examples . Nothing helps me better than SEEING successful blogs.

    Thank youuu – this is getting bookmarked ASAP! 😀

    LOVE
    Kit

  • Therese says:

    Thanks for the helpful article and great links.

    I’m just starting out and am having technical problems sending out my blog, as well as issues with content. I sometimes wonder if need to begin with a specialized niche and go out from there. Is it better to do this or just go with whatever post comes that week. Thanks for any help. – Therese

  • Carla McKinney says:

    Susan,
    Great work! This is a fabulous article for anyone wanting to start a blog. The advice holds true for any niche – not just writer blogs.

    I’m a freelance writer who started a pet guide blog a few months ago. I didn’t expect to be bombarded with traffic right away, but I also didn’t realize the amount of time it takes to market a new blog and gain a reader following. I’m struggling to get my content seen but hanging in there!

    Carla McKinney
    http://www.DogTalkPetGuide.com
    http://www.CarlaMcKinney.com

  • Nosee Rosee says:

    Very helpful!! I will be bookmarking and sharing this info!

  • RotouelShanique says:

    I loved this article!I just started my blog in June 2015. I’ve been getting good traffic.I’ts basically a blog full of writing. Straight and to the point! I don’t want my reader’s to get bored. I’m thinking about adding pictures of myself?Or pictures of reader’s from different parts of the world. I think this would be a way to show the different nationalities reading my blog and help with the excitement.Check out my blog!

  • Sherrie says:

    I have to take issue with the use of WordPress. I code my own website, but I can’t figure out WordPress to save my life! it’s way too cumbersome and not intuitive at all. I recommend Blogger all the way. Or, if you want a more functional website, try Wix.com, which has its own blog app. Wix.com has to be the easest way to create a website/blog out there! If I hadn’t spent hours upon hours coding my own website, I’d be using Wix.

    Good luck!

    • Doreen Myers says:

      Thanks for the tip. I’ve just started using Wix and like it, too, but after reading about WordPress, I thought I’d made a poor choice. Glad to know I didn’t!

      • Sanket sawant says:

        Nice post,

        This is my first visit on your blog and found this article pretty helpful. I started my blog career with blogger platform but immediately shifted to WordPress .I am pretty happy now on this platform and the points you have discussed on ho to start a blog is pretty helpful for newbies for sure.

    • Vann Baker says:

      Hi Sherri, I taught myself HTML back in the mid 1990s and started working with content management systems in the early 2000s and I’ve worked with Drupal, Joomla! Interspire Website Publisher, Bigcommerce, and other platforms. They all have their pros and cons. Some are geared towards developers and others towards non technical users.

      I have developed about 15 websites now with WordPress and it’s a very good platform especially for adding features inside of WordPress. I do miss going right into a template file and tinkering with the code, but these days it’s more important that my websites be responsive first and foremost, so I’ve had to give up some control. I rely more now on the support of the theme or plugin provider to help with code tweaks, so I have to be more careful about what plugins I use.

      Is WordPress the best platform? It depends on the user. I like there being thousands of plugins, even if half of them are not supported regularly–it sure beats the old days iframing in scripts that look nothing like the website.

  • Ahamdi Okpara says:

    Very helpful and inspiring! Thank you.

  • Kerry Mc Donald says:

    Hi Susan,

    Great article! I’ll be bookmarking for future reference.

  • Lata Sunil says:

    This is excellent help. Thank you Susan.

  • Dianne says:

    Hi Susan,

    Okay. Your post has officially inspired me to – finally – end my procrastination and begin my baby-steps into the vast (and slightly scary) world of blogging. Thanks for taking the time to provide the thorough and necessary pieces of the process which, for extreme newbies like me, is priceless, time-saving and definitely helpful in keeping me focused on building toward my ultimate goal of becoming a (hopefully) successful writer. Thankfully, I am familiar with most-things-techie so am not intimidated in the least by the technical process and have been reading several other blog posts regarding best design/domain/hosting sites (my personal favorite is WordPress for the design piece and BlueHost seems perfect for my hosting needs at this time).

    My 30+ years as a professional secretary includes wearing many (and I mean MANY!) different hats (some fit way better than others…). I especially enjoy editing/formatting/proofreading. I agree with Trish that even the slightest typo (spelling/grammatical) lends an air of one who hurried through their thoughts too quickly to either be unaware or (yikes…even worse) not care to take the time to have another set of eyes read their post(s) before publishing. Our perception is our reality and, sadly, I have read many bloggers’ posts that this seems to be the case. [Hmmm…I just realized I may be able to offer free (?) editing/proofreading services to other bloggers as a means of promoting my blog….definitely a thought I’ll certainly consider.]

    Your advice on creating an editorial calendar is brilliant (at least for the procrastinator in me), along with best practices for promoting my blog — especially suggesting stepping into others’ successful blogs and becoming a host blogger.

    Goodness! There seems so much to think about doesn’t there? I’d certainly be curious to know how you finally took the plunge to begin your blog and, as you so aptly asked of us readers, “What stood in your way until now?”.

    Thanks so much again for inspiring me — I’ve already saved this page in my Bookmarks as a favorite go-to reference to keep me focused and empowered with the knowledge that, with the right tools, time and determination, I can (and will!) be a successful blogger.

    Best regards,

    Dianne

  • Tal says:

    So i need to open a blog site to create article or i can writ one and publish it in different blog ?
    i don’t get it ?

    • Trish O'Connor says:

      Tal,

      Although it is possible to write an occasional guest post on someone else’s blog, this article is about starting a blog of your own.

      Keep in mind that as a guest blogger, you must write on the topic the owner of that blog has decided to publish at that time, and must be the one writer chosen to do so. If you write your own blog, you set the subject matter, length, and schedule. Best of all, every single one of your posts is guaranteed publication, if you decide it meets your own standards. (This can be a two-edged sword; if you choose to put substandard articles on your blog, whether written by you or by a guest blogger, it ultimately reflects negatively on your judgment as an author.)

      Hope that helps!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      epiclesisconsulting.com

  • Heather Ellis says:

    Wonderful advice. Thank you.

    I’ve just started my blog ‘The Two-Wheeled Writer’ at http://www.heather-ellis.com. In these early days, it details my journey to published author. My travel memoir, Ubuntu: A Search By Motorcycle Through Africa, will be published by Black Inc. Books in April 2016.

    I just need to tackle the very daunting ‘tech heavy’ task of promoting my blog. I will be returning to your post often. Thank you again

  • Mark says:

    Bluehost offers bas support and the worst services. Check user reviews before you recommend anything…

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      Mark,
      I’m sorry you had a bad experience. Please trust that the products we recommend are those that we use ourselves or have reviewed thoroughly!
      Thanks for reading,
      Lisa
      TWL Editor

  • Sheila Zimmerman says:

    Thank you Susan,

    I can see the clearing, especially now that I’ve stepped into to the present with my new Mac vs. my ’04 desktop using Windows XP. Like Dianne, I have 30+ years of wearing so MANY hats (data entry, admin. asst., accounting asst., etc.) while supplementing real estate. I’ve been writing poetry since the early 90’s along with entries here and there to my upcoming book. It’s all been sitting in the archives while I’ve been caught up in life struggles and “paper mills” trying to fit in as a subcontractor. I’ve written SEO articles and papers for students since ’08. I knew of WordPress but am more interested in setting up my own website with the intent to offer Ayurvedic and natural products along with holistic and other information via articles and links.

    I initiated a trial through Squarespace after researching some of the best DIY website options. As several have mentioned I’ve bookmarked this article, for my confidence leaped into second gear after reading it. Even the comments were full of fantastic advice and feedback! It’s been a few months waiting to afford my Mac since initiating my trial on Squarespace, but isn’t there a blogging option offered through Squarespace that I can link or include on my website?

    Again, I am very grateful for this article and those who added a chock full of additional info.

  • Dr. Mamta says:

    Very Inspiring information to start blogging. Thanks

  • WENITE says:

    Thanks for your step by step guide into blogging. How can you make money by this blogging?

  • Sally Anne Gist says:

    This is so helpful! I didn’t even know what questions to ask, and you’ve posed/answered the questions for me. Outstanding guidance and resources! Thank you!

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

у нас

www.ry-diplomer.com/university

casino-online-ua.info/pravila-igr/igrovye-avtomaty/