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 contact 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 contact 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 contact 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

  • Musau Matheka says:

    One of the best DIY articles that I have read in years. Thanks.

  • Maek Bolton says:

    Great advice. Thank you!

  • This is useful article for those who wants to work on new Blog. After this post surely, I will start work on niche blogs and try to earn few bugs from it.

  • WILLIAMSJI says:

    This is a very informative article, thanks for sharing, my applause,
    Regards

  • Tally says:

    Hi

    Wonderful Step by step guide post. I’ll share it with my friends.

    Btw: Nice writing style ?

    Thank you!

    • Kayla says:

      I do agree with you tally it is very good advice and it is also is good to share with your friends because it is helping them to learn about a blog too very nice I really do love it

  • zoraib says:

    This is very informative and very helpful for new writers.

  • Killerbiz says:

    HIII,
    You’ve really well written a complete guide for a newbie to learn how to start blog !
    +1

  • harshad says:

    Thanks for this great post. I have just finished setting up my blog last week and have also gone live. Your step-by-step guide has been very helpful in setting up the blog. Now the next step is to promote the blog. Any suggestions here. I know there are many things I will need to do to effectively promote my blog, but if I have to take two immediate actions in this direction, what would they be. Thanks again for this great post.

  • Sam says:

    How to get web traffic to a blog?

  • Poonam Singh says:

    Thank you, Susan, It’s really a great post that consisting all about starting a new blog. I was searching an article from few days and today when I found your post I really felt happy and found it worthy just because I have started a subdomain blog with WordPress but now I will make it live with a purchased domain, hosting, plugins etc. what you have rendered in your articles. thank you once again for such a great article.

  • Thanks for sharing so much very useful information. This guide is the go to place for blogging, especially the plug ins. Heather Ellis, author of Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa

  • amir says:

    This is a very informative article, thanks.

  • Rita says:

    HIII,
    You’ve really well written a complete guide for a newbie to learn how to start blog !
    +1

  • Kayla dale says:

    Sorry Susan I did not want to start of doing this blog but now I think I will join. Thank you so much that was really good advice for me to start a blog and I am eight years old I go to Kingswood primary school and we started these groups where we all choose one classroom to go to and I chose Blogging master class and I did not know how to start a blog and I went home onto the Laptop and then I saw this website and I really loved this Article because I was making up a blog about mine craft on the computer and my friends I and my teacher also a lot more people so Thank you so much the Article was super helpful for my blog and that is why everybody loves it because of you it really did help me a lot. After that I had finished my blog and it was amazing thanks to you!

  • Sharon says:

    Great post thank you Susan!

  • Lancelot Tsikira says:

    Waal so educative indeed. Learned a lot. Best regards.

  • PJ says:

    This may have already been mentioned (I did not read all of the posts), but before you set up a website for your writing, you should have at least a month’s worth of blogs already written. That way you can post something new often enough to keep people coming back. If something happens and you cannot write for a few days, you could lose your readers.

  • Mzet da Poet says:

    Mzet da Poet is my name. I’ve been doing poetry for eight years. I’ve performed in many various events and places, including parties, weddings and in lodges. I’d love to work with you.

  • Creating a blog is very simple, but not for newbies. Because when I had planned to create a blog, I was really searching for a guide. 🙂 Hope it would be helpful for novice.

  • Andressa Andrade says:

    Hello! What an amazing post! It was exactly what I needed to read. I have been thinking about starting a new blog for a while now. I have tried it before, but ages ago, when I was just a pre-teen with writing dreams. Now I am 21 and I take my writing career way more seriously. I think starting a blog while I am working on my first novel would be a good idea, but I was not sure how to start. Now I know. Thank you very much!

  • Jan says:

    Great tips for marketing a blog, and building traffic. I firmly believe the smartest thing I ever did when I started blogging was to sign up with aweber.com and start building a list. Return traffic is AMAZING.

  • Ariel says:

    Thanks for such a great post that is so thorough. I am wondering does it wreck your chance with an editor when I send them a pitch, they ask for samples, and I tell them I have none? Do I just pitch again when I do have some, or do they actually remember and prefer you don’t bother pitching to them again?

    I’m still in the beginning stages and have great ideas but a little hesitant to pitch without any samples.
    Thanks for your help.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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