I've been blogging about personal finance for seven years now (since 2012) and – easily – the questions I get most are “how do you make money blogging?” and “I'm thinking about starting a blog, any advice?” So for those of you who want to be masters of your own economy, here's a quick and dirty tutorial on how to start a successful blog.
You may be surprised about what you see on the list.
Step #1 – Find a Killer Blog Idea
We’ve all got interests: work, family, hobbies, current events, art, culture, sports. In fact, many of you are probably so well rounded that you can’t think of just one thing to create a blog about.
I find that to focus in on the one good idea, we first have to do a large “brain dump” of all the ideas we have floating around….get them all down on paper and evaluate them one by one.
- What are your hobbies?
- How do you spend your free time?
- What is the one topic you could go on about for hours if your friends or family let you?
- What types of classes did you enjoy in high school or college?
- What do you enjoy reading and learning about?
- If you could do one thing the rest of your life regardless of salary, what would you do?
Then after you have a list of intriguing ideas – add to the list your areas of expertise.
Expertise is simply something you’re better at doing than most people and your readers are going to show up to your future blog one day to read and learn from that expertise.
Maybe your expertise comes from things you do at your full-time job, maybe you excel at creating snacks for your kids in the car on long rides, perhaps you are always the one negotiating when friends and family are mad at one another.
Whatever it is, put it down on your list.
Ideally, your “big blog idea” should be something where your passions and expertise intersect.
But even if you don’t have expertise that’s okay. You can build it.
Step #2 – Buy the domain name + hosting
If the thought of all the technology involved in running a living, breathing website is what's kept you from starting up your own blog side hustle, let me show you how brainless it can be.
Seriously, don't get tempted into letting a consultant do it for you or paying hundreds of dollars for a designer and a slick site. There are tons of options out there for you, and none of what I'm about to show you is difficult.
What platform should I use to run the blog?
Let's just make this simple: You're going to install a WordPress website.
Me (and just about every other person on the planet) LOVES WordPress. It's so stinking simple to use and intuitive and it comes with great plugins so you can create a really powerful, interactive website.
Really, WordPress is the industry standard for bloggers. I've used other platforms to blog for my business clients and they're hard to manage, understand, and optimize for SEO.
Just trust me, you want WordPress.
Why do I need hosting?
Hosting is like the highway. A content management platform is the car that drives you along the highway, putting your information quickly and easily out into the world.
Hostgator is the hosting, WordPress is the content platform. They work together but they're not the same thing.
You can get a free blog platform (like the free version of WordPress or Tumblr) but you won’t “own” your car and you won’t be able to host your own ads. If you want to start blogging and earn money from it down the road (potentially), you’ll need to invest a bit into a hosting provider.
What is the best hosting for WordPress?
There are lots of different hosting options out there. Depending on how fast you want your site to function, you can invest a lot or a little bit of money.
I like to recommend Hostgator mostly because of the price point. It’s a minimal investment for beginners who want to “try out” blogging and then you can progress from there.
They’ve also got one of the easiest to use control panels and quick WordPress installer.
Is Hostgator good?
Hostgator has been around for the past 17 years. It provides a good value but has some limitations depending on what you’re trying to do with your website (which is why I recommend it to beginners or people who just want to give the blogging thing a try.) However, their customer service is great and easy to reach whenever you have any issues with your site.
Hostgator has optimized its services to prioritize high speeds.
Is Hostgator safe?
Hostgator comes with some security features you can add to your site to keep it safe. However, these features come with extra fees to implement. You can pay more for PCI compliance to keep it safe, but it doesn’t automatically come with.
However, larger businesses will have to go with some of their more expensive plans if they want to keep their site secure. Their basic plans do come with free SSL certificates that help safeguard any personal data you need to store.
Hostgator also protects from DDoS attacks and malware, giving you an extra level of security.
Which is better Hostgator or GoDaddy?
GoDaddy is a great option for people who’s only concern is cost. However, it’s much slower in load and response time. Both domain hosting platforms have good customer support available, so if you have any issues with your website, you’ll be able to get direction on how to fix it.
What is better Hostgator or Bluehost?
Hostgator is great for beginners and is a more affordable option. While Bluehost appears to offer more features (it comes with a free SSL certificate, and performs website backups for free) I used to use Bluehost and had the most terrible time with their customer service.
My site went down and they couldn't tell me when or how it would be back up. It took over 24 hours and the way they handled it really upset me, which is why I stopped recommending Bluehost (and using them) and switched to Hostgator.
Is Hostgator good for WordPress?
Hostgator is great for WordPress because they have optimized their cloud hosting to work well with WordPress sites and continuously improve website speed. WPBeginner touts them as their choice for website hosting in using WordPress (and so do I!)
Associated WordPress features include free WordPress migration, access to MOJO marketplace themes, auto-backup options, and free SSL certificates.
How much does Hostgator cost?*
Hostgator costs change depending on any deals or changes they may have at any time. However, at the time this blog post was published, Hostgator starts at $2.75 a month (especially if you use my special affiliate link here.)
Here’s a breakdown of the current plans they have availableL
- Website Builder – $3.84 a month. Designed for new businesses, this site offers a drag and drop builder built for ease of use.
- WordPress Hosting – $5.95 a month. Designed for increased site performance, this plan was designed to work in conjunction with WordPress Annual Plans.
- VPS Hosting – $29.95 a month. Created for companies who need a scalable hosting environment with complete control over customization.
- Dedicated Hosting – $119 a month. Hostgator’s the biggest plan. This plan has dedicated server hosting for maximum performance and comes with full system resources available to you at any time. (Beginners do not need this, but I wanted to list it here in case you were interested.)
Step #3 – Install WordPress to Your Site
Here's how to install WordPress with Hostgator – In 5 Steps
Once you’ve purchased your hosting and gotten your free domain name, you’ll need to install WordPress to your domain name in order to get started with your website.
- When you completed your purchase, you should have received an email from HostGator with your cPanel username and password.
- cPanel is the portal you’ll use to manage your web hosting.
- The cPanel link is unique to you, so be sure to bookmark it for future reference.
Step #1 – Log into cPanel
Step #2 – Click on the Quick Install icon. See it? Click on it.
Step #3 – Select the domain you'd like to install WordPress to
Step #4 – Fill Out the Form
- For Admin Email, enter an email address where you want the admin password emailed to. Make sure this is a working email address!
- For Blog Title, enter the name of the website. This is what will appear in the header as the name of your site. (Don't worry, if you still don't have a name you can do this later)
- For Admin Username, enter your preferred login.
- Enter your first name & last name.
Step #5 – Hit the “Install” WordPress Button
How long does it take for WordPress to install on HostGator?
A progress bar at the top of the page will let you know when installation is complete. Once complete, you will be able to start working on your WordPress site.
- Check your email for your WordPress username and password as well as a link to your WordPress dashboard.
- You do not need to log into Hostgator again since from now on you'll be blogging from your WordPress dashboard.
You log into WordPress when you want to manage the look and feel of the site and tinker with the content.
Step #4 – Install a Theme
You'll purchase a theme and they'll give you a zip file.
You can easily upload the zip file in the “Themes” tab of your WordPress dashboard.
Step #5 – Consistently Create Great Content
Without great content, you won't attract readers and without extraordinary content, they won't stay on your site or promote your blog to their friends.
So where can beginners start when it comes to creating content? Below is my five-step system.
First, Choose The Type of Content You'd Like to Create
The meat of the content should align with the theme of your blog and what you’re really passionate about. But there are three basic types of content:
- Educational Content – Where you teach the readers something or give them additional information.
- Opinion Content – Reviews of products or services or longer form think pieces.
- Experience-Driven Content – Many times people go onto the internet to search for things so they can feel better. They google a problem they're having, for example, “broke up with my boyfriend” so they can read other pieces from people who have been where they are.
For every post on your blog you can choose to only do one type of content within your given topic, or do a blend of all three!
Brainstorm Your Content
- Get a piece of paper, a pen, and a timer (I usually use the one on my smartphone!)
- Set a timer for 15 minutes.
- In that fifteen minutes try to fill the page with as many blog topic ideas as you can. When the 15 minutes is up you should have some really solid ideas about the kind of content you'd like to create!
Then, Organize Your Content
I tell my blog coaching clients all the time how important it is to get on a content calendar. It's basically what keeps your blog going month after month.
What is a content calendar?
It’s basically a schedule of what post you’re going to write and when you’re going to publish it, with notes about any additional resources you need (interviews with people, links you'd like to include or pins for Pinterest, for example).
At first, you may only be able to plan content for a week or two out, but as you become a savvier blogger, you may be able to create content weeks in advance, which is helpful when you want to focus on promoting your content and building social channels.
Next, Batch Create the Content
Once you have a plan for your content, it's time to create! This is often the most fun part of blogging, but it's also the most time-consuming. Some people are able to brainstorm and create content with ease…while others really struggle.
My best advice for creating content is to NOT do it all in one day. Spend whatever time you can writing, do whatever feels good. This may mean working on just one post, or it may be working on three.
Write one day. Edit the next.
Then the next day go back and edit and review, add links and pictures etc.
Step #6 – Be Consistent
Consistency is critical in blogging. If someone lands on your site and sees you haven't posted in a few months, they likely won't want to read what you have to say.
Brands won't want to work with someone who isn't actively blogging at least every two weeks (although I don't recommend going this long.)
Step #7 – Promote
My advice? Pick 2-3 social channels you already really love and use. Focus your attention on building those channels as an avenue to promote your blog.
Step #8 – Profit
You have to want to help, to share. To provide value in some way to those who frequent your site.
Blog about what you love first and the profit will follow.
How to Start a Successful Blog: Other FAQs
How do I start a blog and make money?
The fastest way to start earning money with a blog right away is to write content and then put affiliate links in it. You can do affiliate marketing with just 10 readers, although most of the big platforms recommend you have a certain number of following (usually 10k pageviews a month) before they allow you access to the network of advertisers.
Below are some resources for how to get started with affiliates.
- The 31 Best Affiliate Programs for Bloggers [ConvertKit]
- Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: How to Go from $0 to $1000 [SmartBlogger]
- Affiliate Marketing Made Simple: Step-by-Step [Neil Patel]
The second fastest way to start with Ads. You also need to have a certain following to gain access to ad networks (who host the ads for you on your behalf and negotiate with the advertisers).
Since two of the major ways to earn money with a blog require a small following, it’s best to focus on your content and building an authentic connection with readers first.
How much money can you make from a blog?
I’ve been blogging for seven years and only recently broke consistent 5 figures from my blog.
The good news is though that 47% of bloggers make over $100 each month from their website. Which means you earn your initial hosting investment back in one month, and blogging can be a fantastic way to earn extra side hustle cash.
How do you write a successful blog?
Writing (like everything else) takes practice. I was a terrrrrrible writer when I first started blogging. Not saying I’m perfect now, but I have made a full time living at it.
So if you’re nervous about your writing skills, just get out there and do it. Practice makes perfect.
How do I start a successful blog if I don’t have any time?
The difference between the dabblers and those who are actually able to build blogs, businesses, and income? I’ve spoken about tenacity before, but it also has to come from a deep-rooted passion. Even if you don’t have a topic you’re necessarily passionate about yet, you have to be passionate about something – sharing your story, building a business, quitting your job, spending more time with family.
In addition to reaffirming your passion, it’s helpful to do the following when you’re trying to find time to blog:
- Put it on your calendar – Just like you schedule the gym, date night, doctors appointments and all of the other things that absolutely must get done, when building a blogging business, you need to schedule time with yourself to work on your project.
- Stay consistent, even if it is small – Even if you absolutely can’t carve out the time for a four-hour blogging date with yourself each week, the trick is to figure out something you can commit to and commit to doing it consistently. Even if it’s just a half hour on Thursday morning.
- Prioritize three small things each day – If you only have a little bit of time, get very good at prioritizing. My favorite trick is to have beginner bloggers write down three things they did for their blog business each day.
If you looked at this article and thought, “Too long didn't read,” let me give you my top 3 tips.
1) Get your own website
2) Build a connection
3) Keep at it consistently
That's really all you need in order to start a successful blog.