Today I’m veering off the regular path for just a bit.
This post is for any of you who maybe have thought about starting a blog or website of your own, but are a little hesitant to take that step.
I was scared for YEARS.
The internet terrified me a little, and I am not technically savvy, so the idea of putting myself out there gave me the shivers.
After finally taking the plunge in 2013, I discovered something: it’s not that hard after all. I’ve learned plenty along the way, and there’s always more to discover, but getting started is super simple.
So today I’m going to show you how I did it.
Disclosure: some of the links included here are affiliate links, meaning I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. There is never any additional cost to you, and I only recommend products I personally use and am satisfied with!
The Non-Techie’s Guide to Starting a Blog
1. Decide on a platform.
The most popular platforms for blogging are WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Typepad, and Blogger.
I highly recommend using WordPress.org, because you are sole owner of your website and all your content (this is what self-hosted means). Although Blogger is widely used, it limits what you are able to do with your website and (in my personal experience) is glitchy and trickier to use.
The following steps will get you started with a WordPress.org self-hosted site.
2. Find a host.
This is like renting a virtual space for your blog to live. I always thought the internet existed in the nether realm by some crazy voodoo magic, but apparently I was wrong. All that data has to live somewhere, so you have to rent it some storage space.
3. Select a hosting plan
This is like deciding which (if any) upgrades you might want in a new car. If you are just starting one website, the “Basic” plan will be all you need. Notice that although the pricing is represented as a monthly cost, you will be paying for one year all at once.
4. Choose a domain
A domain is a web address. It’s where people go to find your blog. For example, sheridacon.com is my domain.
Once you’ve chosen a hosting plan, you’ll be directed to a screen that looks like this. You’ll enter in the domain name you’ve chosen on the left.
Advice on choosing a name: keep it simple and easy to spell. I recommend using your own name, if the domain is available. This way, you can title the blog or website whatever you want, but you will always have the freedom to change up your blog without changing your domain name.
5. Enter your account information.
6. Select your hosting package
Notice there are extra add-ons you can choose here. I skip everything except for the domain privacy (the one that’s highly recommended).
7. Enter your billing information
Once you’ve entered your info, check the little box that says you have read the terms of service, then click “next.”
You’ll probably get asked if you want to add upgrades. Just pass on those.
Once you’re done, you’ll see a welcome screen and will be asked to check your inbox for a confirmation email.
Click on the “Create Your Password” button and enter a password in the space provided. You’ll need to make it a strong one that you can remember.
9. Login to Bluehost
From the Bluehost homepage, just click on the login button at the far right.
Enter your login info. Make sure you select the “hosting” tab.
10. Install WordPress
This page is called your c-panel. I have no idea why. Under the “website” tab, you’ll see a button that says “Install WordPress.” Click it.
You’ll come to a page that looks something like this. Click install.
Choose your domain from the dropdown menu. It may already be selected for you. Just leave the directory field (the box to the right) blank. Click the “Check Domain” button.
11. Enter WordPress user info
Make sure the box next to “Show advanced options” is checked. Enter your blog’s name or title (e.g. Sheri’s Blog, Dacon Daily News, etc.) This can be anything you want it to be. It’s great if if matches your domain name, but it doesn’t have to.
Next you’ll need to choose an Admin Username. This could be your email address, or a custom username like you might use on social media. Then choose a password. Don’t get confused. This is a different password than you used on Bluehost. You’ll be using this one much more often.
Enter your email address. Read and agree to terms and conditions by clicking the box. Then click the “Install Now” button.
12. Check your email for confirmation
Once WordPress is successfully installed, you’ll get an email telling you how to access your new WordPress site. Make sure you save this email, as it will contain your website info and your WordPress login info.
13. Login to WordPress
From the email you just received, click the Admin URL. It will take you to a screen that looks like this:
Enter your username and password from the email above, then click “Log In.”
14. Start using WordPress
Once you log in, you’ll get to see your WordPress dashboard for the first time. Go ahead and bookmark this page on your computer, so you can get to it quickly every time you want to log in.
There’s a bit of a learning curve here, but play around with it to see what all is there. And remember, Google is your friend. There’s a ton of useful info out there to get you started learning WordPress. I highly recommend Amy Lynn Andrews’ site for exhaustive, easy-to-understand information for beginners.
15. Choose a theme for your blog.
A theme is what makes your blog look pretty. You can check out themes right from your WordPress dashboard. Simply click the “Appearance” tab on your menu bar to the left. The “Themes” tab will be the first in the dropdown menu. Click on it and explore some of the free themes WordPress has to offer.
You can choose themes and then look at a preview to see what it will look like on your site. Starting with a free theme is easy and there are some nice ones to choose from.
Once you choose to activate a particular theme, your site will look like the screen in the preview.
16. Consider a premium theme
At some point, you’ll want to expand your horizons and start to think about branding your blog. This means choosing colors, fonts, and graphics for your blog to make it all your own.
This is when you’ll need to decide if a premium theme is right for you. Premium themes will cost you upfront, but they are much more customizable.
I personally use the Genesis Framework by Studiopress, which is one of the most well-known and reputable WordPress themes you can buy.
The Genesis Framework is like the bare bones of a house. It’s your foundation and your framing and your walls and roof. And it’s top-notch.
Genesis is highly recognized and you always have the support of the Studiopress company to help you with any problems or questions that may arise.
17. Customize your blog
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations!
Here’s where things start to get a little more advanced.
The Genesis Framework, if you choose to use it, is what is known as a “parent” theme. You can use it alone, but it’s boring and bland.
Again, to use the house analogy, the Genesis Framework is like a house that has nothing in it. It’s built and you could live in it, but it has no furniture or pretty paint colors or curtains to make it a home.
That’s where a “child” theme comes in.
A child theme works with the Genesis Framework to make your blog as beautiful as you want it to be.
I know it seems counterintuitive to have this two-part system, but it’s actually incredibly smart.
Imagine if you wanted to change up the decor in your house, but every time you did it, you had to tear the whole house down and rebuild it from scratch. This is what you would need to do if you didn’t have a two-part framework for your blog.
However, with a “child” theme, you can easily change the “decor” of your blog, or make tweaks along the way, without tearing down the walls. The more you invest in your blog, the more important this will be!
There are many “child” themes you can purchase directly from Studiopress, but you can also buy these from third-party vendors.
All their themes are built on the Genesis Framework. They are beautiful, reasonably priced, and the company offers incredible support. When I redesigned my blog by myself last summer, they helped me a ton!
When you purchase a child theme from Restored 316 Designs, they give you step-by-step instructions on how to install and start using your new theme.
Aaaaaaand, now that I’ve explained it in the simplest layman’s terms, you have no more excuses! It’s time to get started telling your story. Because the world needs to hear it!
Do you have any questions or helpful hints to add? I’d love to hear ’em in the comments section below. And when you start your blog, make sure and send me a link so I can follow you!