Living Creatively: How to create a website to start blogging

Living Creatively: How to create a website to start blogging

Well, hello there and welcome back to the Living Creatively series. I’m your host, Dronile, and this is part numero dos of how to start a blog as a freelancer, social entrepreneur or socially responsible organization. If you’re brand spanking new to blogging (or this site) then I encourage you to rewind and start with part one here 👉🏽 Living Creatively: How to Start Blogging and Do What You Love👈🏽. It’ll help you nail down the very first step to starting a blog. Cool? Cool.

Alright loves, so when we last met we spoke about our why. The reason behind your blog. This will be the guiding light for your content topics, your kick a** marketing strategy (We’ll get to that – pinky promise! 😉) and who your blog will be great for.

Even if you’re a creative sharing your personal brand or an entrepreneur launching an enterprise, it’s important to get clear on your blog and where it fits into your online presence. For instance, are you an aspiring designer giving others a looksie into the face behind the WordPress themes? Or an eco-fashion brand detailing your sustainable fabrics, and community of diverse artisans? Whichever you decide on, knowing from day one will ensure your content aligns with your reader.

In this second part we’re going to focus on how to:

  • Commit to your blog (it’s not as scary as it sounds. pinky promise #2!)
  • Decide between self-hosted or hosted sites
  • Get your snazzy new URL
  • Set up your website
  • Dress your blog
  • And share your site with le world (or you know, mom + dad)

Weeee! Sounds like fun right? (The nerd in me says yes. Humor me for a second will ya?) If you’re scared of getting techie, don’t worry. I’ve provided fun (and pretty?) pictures for you to follow along. Plus, if I can do it you can definitely do it. Let’s get started:

*Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Say whaaaat? That means if you click on a link and make a purchase I get a small commission. There’s no extra charge for you. Rest assured, I only share what I know + love to help you make your dreams come true.*

The C Word: Making a commitment to your blog

So… anyone else get the heebee jeebees when the word “commitment” gets thrown around? I know I certainly do. But it’s actually – in my opinion – one of the BIGGEST things you can do for blogging success. Up there with all those other heebee jeebees words like “consistency” and “discipline.” Eeep.

Before you even think about getting technical we’re going to pull out our handy-dandy planners and pencil ourselves in. Starting a successful blog will take, yes, work. Depending on what your week already looks like it might feel like this is just one more thing to add into an already busy schedule. Rather than seeing the challenges this presents, we’re going to see the opportunities available to us. Such as working on a really fun project during lunchtime. Or switching out episodes of Stranger Things to connect with your newfound community. Basically, where can you make time to commit to your dreams? Scheduling that time in will make your dreams and goals even more real.

One thing that tripped me up a lot was not knowing what to do during this block of time. If you’re anything like me, everything needs to get done – right now and to perfection (ah, there’s that Achille’s heel!). Before I would write a blog post, then immediately try to edit, find photos, create a newsletter, write the social posts… I’d feel as if I was on a hamster wheel! Scrambling to get it all done.

Then I stumbled across this great post from Dana Nicole on why batching needs to be part of your blogging strategy. It’s changed my life. With batching, you can use a project management tool like Trello, Asana, or Airtable and tackle a specific aspect of your blogging on a certain day. For instance, I like writing at the very beginning of the week or the end of the week because it gives my mind time to refresh. In between, I work on other tasks like brainstorming, researching and reading my favorite blogs, designing PDF resources for you, posting to social media. Batching is great if you need a bit more structure to your blogging. Plug in specific tasks instead of leaving that block of time open-ended.

Q: Self-hosted or hosted?

For the most part, I like figuring out how to do things myself (there’s that Achille’s heel again). If I’ve spent hours researching and still can’t find a way to do it, then yes the white flag goes up in surrender. But my inquisitive nature wants to know how to do it. Starting a website is one of those things I wanted to know more about. And you know what? It’s surprisingly easy to start. You’ve got two potential routes here: a self-hosted site or hosted site.

Self-hosting means you pay an outside company (like GoDaddy, BlueHost, SiteGround, etc.) to keep all of your files and data – think graphics, writing, documents – on a personal server. That allows your blog to stay up and running and not crash due to massive web traffic. Websites and blogs often have a lot of data especially if you like uploading and sharing pictures (which, who doesn’t right?) Now, there are also hosted blogs that allow you to create a blog for free or an affordable price. These include sites like WordPress.com, Blogger, and Tumblr. How do you know which one is for you? Well, consider…

Pros of self-hosted vs. hosted

  • Professional web address: Would you like your web address to be www.yourblog.com or www.yourblog.blogger.com? If the goal is to build a career off your blog, it will look more professional and legit with self-hosting.
  • Freedom: Self-hosted blogs give you more creative reign over the look of your site and access to additional plugins and tools you can use to modify your blog.
  • More opportunities to monetize: Some hosted platforms automatically advertise on your blog and even limit which outside advertising/affiliate partners you can use.
  • Own your content: On a hosted platform you’re ultimately at the mercy of the company’s rules and policies.
  • Branded email: Gone are the days of Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! 😉 Again, professional. Legit.
  • SEO: Here’s something I didn’t know – a self-hosted blog allows you to optimize your website, and ultimately get more eyes on your content. Because hosted blogs are a subset of the main website, getting credit for your posts on search engines will require a bit more in-depth planning. Bummer.

Cons of self-hosted vs. hosted

  • Budget: Your investment will be higher with most self-hosted blogs. You’ll pay for your domain name, a hosting plan and if you don’t know design then you’ll also be paying for a web designer or a custom made theme. With a hosted site you can start for free.
  • Self-maintenance: If you don’t like the idea of having to update plug-ins and occasionally self-troubleshoot then self-hosted is not the most ideal option. This’ll be an added cost otherwise.
  • Slower Community Growth: Some bloggers have taken to spaces like Medium to share their content, where there is already an established community. With a self-hosted blog your community will grow much slower and will be a much more intentional process.
  • Longer set up: On a hosted platform there’s the added plus of signing up and getting right to work! Self-hosted platforms have a longer set up – you sign up, then you connect your domain name with your host, then you have to install your blog platform onto the host. It can get a bit technical and scare off newbie bloggers.
  • Fun-ability: If blogging is a fun way for you to share your passions + your work then a hosted site will fit the bill.

Ultimately, I chose to self-host. The first blog I created in 2014 was a health & fitness blog that I ran on WordPress.com. I wanted more freedom in themes, layouts and design. So when I re-branded I was stuck between WordPress.org and Squarespace. Squarespace has incredibly beautiful layouts and makes it super easy to design a site, and I recommend it for anyone who wants a visually appealing website with little setup and low maintenance. If you’re more hands-on or open to collaborating with a web pro, go for WordPress.org. If you’re stuck between the two, like I was, here are some things to think about:

Pros of WordPress.org

  • Customization to the MAX: If you’re a developer or really good at code, you can create something really unique.
  • Content management: On WordPress.org you can adjust the HTML of your post and have a media library (with stored graphics + docs) available to you.
  • WordPress Plugins: From email marketing to social media share buttons, you can find just about anything on the platform to boost your website and blog.

Pros of Squarespace

  • Fully hosted: So you get design, maintenance, and a nice content management system (CMS) all in one place.
  • Visually stunning design: Squarespace websites are absolutely *beautiful.* 😍
  • Affordability: With hosting, paid plugins and an e-commerce integration Squarespace’s pricing is a more affordable option.

Getting your snazzy new URL

{Insert web link here}

Now, once you’ve decided on a platform the next thing you’ll want to do is purchase your domain name. Thankfully, we already covered in part one how to come up with a business name. If you haven’t already now would be a good time to make sure your domain name is available both on the web and on social media. You wouldn’t want to get all excited about the perfect name and come to find out it’s already been snagged. (Been there many a times!) WordPress.com and Squarespace let you purchase your domain name straight from them when creating your blog.

If you decide to self-host, you’ll have to purchase your own. I purchased mine using Namecheap (they have domain names for as cheap as $1 per year. Steal.) Before you buy your domain name, give some thought to the extension (.com, .net, .org, .store) you’d like to use. With niche domains, there are a number of options now available for folks creating their own website.

Namecheap - domain name

Namecheap

Hosting Services

Okay, now you’ll want to brown paper bag your domain name and carry it on over to your hosting site. A few years back when I started my first blog, I chose a hosting company that had really great servers but wasn’t what I’d hoped for in terms of customer service. This time around I chose SiteGround. From my research, it seemed to be the one that provided me with what I was most concerned about: easy to use, great customer service, and free WordPress assistance. Because it’s what I know and recommend I’m going to show you how to set up a website using SiteGround. If you’re interested in setting up your own self-hosted site with them, grab my code to get 60% off.

Though there are other options too. Bluehost, GoDaddy and HostGator are equally as popular and great for website hosting. You can host your blog for as little as $2.99 a month. So like cheaper than those Pumpkin Spice Latte as Starbucks – anyone else obsessed with all things pumpkin? *insert heart for eyes here*

A friend of mine had a great question about what to do if you want to start a blog but your computer’s not in service. Well, you have a number of options: sign up from a smartphone, sign up from a tablet, ask a family member or friend to use their computer. Most of all, I definitely wouldn’t suggest signing up at a library – safety first.

Creating your website’s home

Ooooookay! Now, we’re making moves. First, to set up your website, you’re going to choose a plan. SiteGround provides three options: StartUp, GrowBig or GoGeek. For most freelancers and entrepreneurs just starting out, the StartUp option will work perfectly. Organizations will want to look more in-depth at the GrowBig or GoGeek options.

SiteGround Hosting Plans

Next, register or add in your domain name. If you’ve already purchased your domain, click the second option “I already have a domain” and proceed to create your account. Once you’ve created your account and username click pay now and get excited to show your blog off to the world!

After registering and creating your account, log-in to SiteGround. Go to your cPanel under the “my accounts tab” and find the Autoinstaller for your platform. SiteGround lets you autoinstall platforms like WordPress and Joomla straight from your cPanel. You can also contact a customer service rep for assistance. Installation will usually take just a few minutes. You can then go back onto your blog platform and log in with your account details. For WordPress.org this would be yourwebsiteurl/wp-admin/. This is going to be where most of your blogging and customization will come in.

Making your blog pretty

I love this part. Picking a theme, choosing fonts, and designing the website look is my fave piece of the puzzle. You can either choose to use a free theme or purchase a customizable theme for your website and blog. If you don’t consider yourself design savvy then I’d suggest making Creative Market your new BDF – blog design friend:

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Powered by Creative Market

They offer everything from graphics that can be used to customize your social media icons (for example) to fonts and website templates. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all of your design needs.

Go to your admin panel to customize your theme. For WordPress, this’ll be on your left-hand panel under “appearance.” Here’s a great tutorial on how to install a Joomla template, too, if that’s your jam. From the drop-down panel, you can choose “themes” to choose a WordPress theme and then hit “customize” to adjust any colors, add in a logo, and make sure your page is to your liking.

WordPress.org Admin Panel

Choose Your Home Style

The last step in setting up your website is adding and editing your pages. Most blogs and websites have at the very least an About and Contact page. You can choose whether your posts will double as your Home page or if you’d like a static Home page instead. For example, Fashionista Jean Wang at Extra Petite allows her blog posts to take center stage on the first page while Online Marketer + Biz Blogger, Kimberly Ann Jimenez uses a static Home page to share more about how she helps entrepreneurs and online business owners.

The nice thing about a website is that you can start with one and see which one works best for you in the future. So don’t feel like you have to absolutely get your blog design perfect right now. Do make sure to hit “Pages” on that left-hand sidebar and add in a page where folks can learn more about why they’ll be interested in your blog and how they can get in contact with you.

The About Page of Your Blog

The About page tends to be misleading, because while it usually says “About Me” or “About [Insert Your Name Here]” it’s actually about the reader. Wait whaaaaat? *Head nod* Your reader wants to know what inspired you to start blogging and why it’d be of interest to them.

Think of your About page like… that interview question we all know and love “so tell me a little bit about yourself?” 😰 The interviewer doesn’t want a whole novella on your love of puppies and dinosaurs (but they’re so cute! 🦕). What they want is an overview of your background and what inspired you to apply. Same gist, different application here. Melyssa Griffin has a great guide on how to write a killer about me page for your blog.

The Contact Page of Your Blog

Thankfully, the Contact page is pretty straightforward. Most will want to know how to reach you. A simple way to do so it add in a contact box, or provide direct info like a phone number or email. For organizations, this is a great spot to add in when you’re open.  If you offer products or services through your website then throw up a “Work With Me,” “Services,” “Hire Me,” or “Store” page.

Finally, if you’ve created your social media handles (which I suggest you do now) make sure to share those as well. Add these “above the fold” which means at the very top of your website or on the sidebar in a place where people can see it before they scroll. Add them again to the very bottom of your page as well to encourage social engagement.

Now, share your new blog with the world!

Alright Rockstar! You are on fire. *Cue Alicia Keys* The last piece of this puzzle is to let friends, family, and the world know you created a thing. Before then though you may way to skip on over to part 3 and create content.

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