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They say we’ve all got a book in us. And while not all of us will write that whole book, the internet makes it exceedingly simple for anybody with something to say to self-publish. Start a blog and you can say as much or as little as you like, at whatever pace suits you.
Blogging obviously isn’t new, but it hasn’t gone away either. And the tools for creating your own platform of online expression have never been easier to get hold of and use.
Whether for business or simple self-expression, the only real impediment to getting a blog is finally deciding to do it. So here is a down-and-dirty primer for anybody who’s ready to launch a blog and wondering where to start. (For a full step-by-step guide, visit this great walkthrough by web developer Robert Mening.)
How to start a blog
Choose a blogging platform
First things first — you’re going to need to decide on a platform. WordPress is far and away the most widely used blogging platform, so we’ll use that as the example. There are many other platforms to choose, each offering varying benefits and drawbacks. WordPress offers a beginner-friendly interface with endless options for customization. Plus, there’s a lively WordPress support community that can help get you out of almost any bind.
One thing you should consider, though, is going with a self-hosted WordPress blog rather than using the free WordPress.com. Doing this will cost about $50 a year, but you’ll get a raft of benefits (like a proper domain name and full customization). Building a blog hosted by WordPress is a fine bare-bones starting point, but you’ll be limited if you want to expand.
Register a domain for your blog
Next, you’ll need a domain for your blog. Luckily, these are pretty cheap to register, averaging about $10 a year. Grabbing a domain means your blog will live at a nice, clean web address (think “www.nameofyoursite.com”) rather than an unsightly URL full of slashes and the name of whatever platform you’re running on (more on that in a moment).
It also allows for some perks like a domain email address. Bluehost is a great option for this step, because it includes a free domain name when you buy a new hosting account. Whichever domain host you go with, make sure they include a “one-click” WordPress installation — this will save you a lot of trouble as you get set up.
Set up your WordPress installation
Now it’s time to install WordPress. Again, we’re assuming WordPress and Bluehost, so here’s a handy instruction manual for getting set up. There’s not much more involved than the single click if you’ve taken our advice so far, but if you are a more experienced user you can also go through a manual installation process .
Alright, now you’ve got a blog! Make sure to write down the login credentials and password.
Type your new domain into your browser and see what it looks like (spoiler alert: it won’t be spectacular). Next, pay a visit to your WordPress dashboard (the address should look something like this: http://your_domain.com/wp-admin/ …)
Here you’ll find everything you need to operate your blog — posting and editing, customizing features and appearance, and so on. At the center of everything is the WordPress’ “New post” window, where you create your content using text and images.
It’s wise to try a test post to get a feel for how this works, but if you’ve used any basic text editor you’ll find this very familiar.
Now you’re free to shape your freshly minted blog as you see fit. WordPress offers a lot of ways to design a lovely looking, feature-rich site. You can choose from tons of WordPress themes, which are templates that will give your blog the look and feel you want. Some are free; others cost money.
Experiment with creating sections. You’ll probably want an “About me” page, topical sections, etc. And you can choose from a long list of WordPress plugins built by various developers (again, prices vary and many are free). Plugins can help you with things like adding contact forms and nailing search engine optimization .
Why wait? Start your blog today
Hopefully, at this point you’re feeling totally inspired to get your blog off the ground.
The tools are readily available, affordable and easy to use, so the sky’s really the limit with all this. Again, here’s the link to Robert Mening’s comprehensive walkthrough for launching a WordPress blog, dialing it in and making it monetizable (if that’s what you’re after).