Guide to Starting a Profitable Blog
So you’ve been to several blogs and maybe thought to yourself “I want to do that.” With some very basic know-how and a little time and effort you can!
I started my DIY blog in July 2012 when I first started designing patterns for crochet magazines. I just wanted a place where I could showcase my work and talk to other people who loved crochet. I imagined that eventually it could be a place for people who not only wanted to crochet, but also wanted to design their own crochet items. I never dreamed it would blossom into what it has become! Thousands of people visit my site every month looking for free patterns and crochet advice. I love working on my blog and hope you enjoy reading it.
We started this blog to help people get out of debt the same way we have – you can read more of our journey here.
First Step: Choose a Blogging Platform
When I started out I had no idea how to create a blog. Sure, I had read blogs and enjoyed them, but I knew nothing about how they were run. I decided to go with blogger.com because it was easy, free, and super beginner-friendly. I was with blogger up until 2016 when I decided to get serious about my blog and switched to a self-hosted WordPress site. There are a few options when deciding where to host your blog, so let’s look at each one in detail.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t actually own your blog on the free platforms Blogger or WordPress.com. I know of a couple of people who had their blogs deleted for no reason! This can’t happen with a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. While this can happen, it is unlikely and I had a Blogger blog for about 3 1/2 years with no problems. I chose to move my blog because I really wanted to do more with it than Blogger would allow.
Like I mentioned, I started out with a Blogger blog and so did a lot of my blogger friends. In fact, some of them are still with Blogger and happy! There is no reason to shell out a bunch of money when you are starting a blog. You can do Blogger completely free, the biggest drawback to that is the .blogspot.com at the end if you don’t buy a domain name. (For example, mine would have been simplestepstodebtfreeliving.blogspot.com if I wouldn’t have purchased simplestepstodebtfreeliving.com).
Starting a blog on Blogger is easy:
Step One: Log into or create a google account.
Step Two: Go to Blogger.com and confirm your profile.
Step Three: At the top left, click “New Blog”.
Step Four: In the dialog box that appears, enter what you want your blog’s URL to be. (Like mine is designingcrochet.com)
Step Five: Choose a template and create blog.
If you would like more detailed information about setting up a blogger blog, check out the Blogger Getting Started Guide. It’s really easy to use Blogger. When you want to create a post there is a clearly labeled “New Post” button and the menu on the dashboard is easy to figure out, too. It clearly labels how to create pages, check your site stats (such as how many visitors you are receiving, where your traffic is coming from, etc). I would definitely recommend paying the $12-15 a year to own your own domain and skip the .blogspot.com at the end of your blog. It’s a small investment that makes your site look more professional, but it is definitely not a requirement! If you want to buy your domain through Google there is an option for that when you are setting up your blogger blog.
This is one that I don’t know much about but I have visited several .wordpress.com blogs and generally like the way they look better than Blogger blogs. This also seems super easy to set up and is free. It has the same drawbacks as blogger, though, but it looks like a really great free platform. If you like the looks of wordpress blogs but aren’t ready to spend money on a site, I would probably go with this option. That way later on if you decide to switch to a self-hosted blog (more on that in a minute) it will be easier. Moving my Blogger blog wasn’t terribly hard, but it still took quite a while to learn what was going on and once I totally messed it up and had to start all over!
Here are some resources to set up a WordPress.com blog:
The main site has a link to “Get Started” and is easy to walk through.
WordPress.com also has a great resource to Set Up Your Blog in Five Steps.
A lot of blogging sites recommend jumping right in to a self-hosted wordpress.org site and you certainly can if you are serious about starting a blog and want to make money with it more easily. You are certainly limited on Blogger and WordPress.com when it comes to making money with your blog. I have been really glad that I made the switch to a self-hosted blog but I am really not sure if I would have wanted to invest when I was first starting out.
The reason this is called self-hosted is that you choose where you want to host your blog. I personally use Siteground and love it. Their customer service is excellent and there really isn’t any down time where your blog is offline. Other bloggers I know love and use Bluehost, which is also an excellent option. The two hosting companies are similar in price and options and both offer a FREE URL, which you would have to pay $12-15 a year for if you decide to do the free platform and add on a custom URL to avoid the .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com.
Either of these is a great option and you can see from the banners above that the price is really reasonable. I don’t have personal experience with Bluehost, but since so many other bloggers I know love and use them I thought it was only fair to mention them as an option for hosting.
Once you have set up hosting, you will be able to access the Control Panel (cPanel) and can download WordPress from there, choose a theme for your blog, and get going! It was a little bit of a learning curve for me, but there were great tutorials that helped me along the way. It was even easy to transfer my Blogger blog and not lose any content, so don’t feel like you can’t start out with the free version and transfer later – it’s really not that hard! If you click one of the banners above it will take your to their site where it is easy to get started and check out the information before you commit. I researched a LOT before I made my decision, and I expect you will, too!
Advice for Choosing a Domain Name
Think about what you would like to call your blog, then see if that domain is available. I just kind of thought up the name “Simple Steps to Debt-Free Living” and was surprised to see it available – I thought for sure someone else would have already taken the name but they didn’t!
Keep the domain name simple, don’t use any special characters (-!@), and if possible make it something easy to remember. Sometimes people choose to use their own name, which works, too. There are pros and cons to using your own name, but I’ve seen very popular blogs with the blogger’s name so don’t feel like you can’t use it if you want. Just keep playing around with it when you are deciding, and don’t worry – the hosting service will tell you if it is not available.
Wow, I know that is a lot of information to take in. Take some time to do research, check out other blogs and see which look you prefer, and just generally take the time to think about what you want to accomplish. Blogger and WordPress.com are great if you are going to do a hobby blog or are not willing to spend money until you see visitors to your site. When you get serious about blogging, most experts recommend going with the self-hosted blog, and I completely agree.