Blog post

How to Start a Profitable Blog From Scratch

May 16, 2018

I’ve had a few people ask me how I started my blog and if I could share some tips for getting started. So I figured I’d take that one step further. I put a poll up on Instagram asking if you all would like to see a post about how to start a blog and it was a 100% yes! SO here we are!

There are a lot of things that go into blogging, and I’ll do my best to touch on all of them. I did a small bit of research before starting my blog, but I kind of just jumped in with both feet after wanting to do it for so long. It would have helped a lot had I read a How To post before hand!

Originally, I started this blog on Blogger. I saw that was what two of my favorite bloggers used (Southern Curls & Pearls and Pinteresting Plans), and I thought “Well if they use it, I will, too!”. It was super easy to set up and only cost me $12 for to own my own domain name. I recently switched that blog over to WordPress.org and and am now building another one on Blogger because it’s much cheaper to start out and I love the new theme options I’ve found! Which brings me to my first two points: 1) Picking your Site Platform  and 2) Self-Hosting.

 

STEP 1: PICKING YOUR PLATFORM

There are multiple different sites you can go with to have your blog on. The most common are WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace and Wix. Tumblr is an option as well, although I don’t hear about that one as often. I personally have only had experience with Blogger and WordPress, so I’ll discuss them both.

WORDPRESS

There is a difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. WordPress.com is the free version that can be limiting with what you can post. You don’t own your site, so your site name will be something like “yoursite.wordpress.com”. They do allow you to upgrade your account to add features, but there is no where near the same freedom as WordPress.org where you have unlimited theme options you can purchase and upload as well as plug ins to give your site extra features.

WordPress.org allows you to host your site through a 3rd party and purchase your own domain name (the name of your website, ex: www.yourwebsite.com). You can choose from a variety of options, and as long as the name is available, it’s yours. This tends to be the hardest part for most people! I changed my blog’s name about 3 months after starting it so I get it. Side note: if you do decide to re-brand after starting, definitely try to do it early! My only drawback to WordPress is it can be a bit overwhelming for a brand new blogger. Thankfully there are a LOT of tutorials out there, but it isn’t something that came naturally to me so I had to spend a lot of time learning. Especially after being used to Blogger’s simplicity. I’ve gotten more used to it, but am taking my second blog back to blogger a I’ve learned a few new tricks since I switched!

BLOGGER

Blogger has a special place in my heart because it was my first platform. I found it so easy to use, which as a newbie was wonderfully reassuring. There was less code to deal with, and it was pretty straight forward. I did google a lot of CSS code to add in to give me special features (such as always making sure my images were the same size or adding a link to my Blog’s Facebook), but those were easy additions as well. There will be a lot of trial and error when you first start out, so be prepared for it! I will show you a snippet later of how much my blog has changed since I started in November 2017!

In terms of use, blogger doesn’t really have a customer service team to help, so that is a drawback. But Google was my best friend and I never really needed anything that it couldn’t answer for me. And this was definitely the cheaper way to go. Blogger works with Google Domains, and it’s very easy to set up your domain name on their site. Or you can utilize the free version, but like WordPress.com, your website will be “yoursite.blogspot.com”. If you don’t mind that, then you’re golden!

And that brings me to my next point:

 

STEP 2: SELF-HOSTING

If you want to have a professional blog, I definitely recommend the splurge of purchasing your domain name and self-hosting. It just looks better and shows you care about your site. Think of it this way: we are constantly spending money on our hobbies and things we love. This is no different! This is a creative outlet for you, and could turn into a business. So invest in yourself and your passion. It pays for itself in no time!

BLOGGER:

With Blogger, it’s pretty simple when it comes to self-hosting because there is a place to link your google domain. It costs $12 for a typical .com domain, and that’s good for 1 year from the date of purchase. You can set it to auto-renew, too, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Once you sign up with Blogger, go to domains.google.com to set up your domain name. You’ll be able to type in some domains to see if they’re available. Once you find the one you want, go back to your Blogger main screen, under settings and select the “Setup a Google Domains URL for your blog” and your address should pop up automatically. You just want to type “www” before it, click Save and that’s it!

Step 1: visit domains.google.com to set up your domain name.

Step 2: Go back to Blogger, click Settings, and Setup Google Domains URL

STEP 3: (once you have purchased your domain name) Type in “www” or whatever you want to come before your domain.

Step 4: Click save and your site is up with your new domain!

 

WORDPRESS:

With WordPress, it’s a bit different because you have multiple options. The best option I found was Siteground, and I seriously can’t recommend them enough. It was a big struggle for me to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress as I didn’t plan it very well and was just too excited wanting to get it done. I literally got to know some of their support team on a first-name basis as they helped me with ALL of my problems. And, possibly the best part, they got back to me within 5 hours max even on the weekends. They also have a live chat version where they can help you, too, which I definitely utilized. They have a step-by-step process for getting you set up on WordPress and I was so thankful for their help and expertise.

Their plans start at $3.95/mo, BUT they do ask you to pay that all at once. When I was reading about getting started, I assumed I’d be able to pay monthly. In order to get the discount, you have to pay for the full year. You also have to pay $15.95 for your domain name. So the total start up for this option is $63.35 without the bells and whistles (extra services they offer at checkout).

I say this not as a deterrent, but to be clear what to expect as I never see all of that laid out anywhere. When I switched to WordPress, it was because I had actually made money from my blog and wanted to re-invest it in what I thought was a more professional option. I did the next step up from the Basic plan and it was $71.40 without a domain (as I already had one to transfer). So just expect to be in that range should you decide to go with WordPress. I’ve included the pricing below so you can see:

FOR THE $5.95/MONTH GROW BIG PLAN THAT I USE::

 

FOR THE BASIC $3.95/MONTH PLAN::

 

Even though it is more pricey to start off, it does give you a LOT more options to choose from, and I seriously can’t say enough about Siteground’s support team. If you are currently on a different platform, they will transfer your whole site over FOR FREE. You will have to pay a domain transfer fee of $15.95 if you want to keep your domain name but that is SO worth it because they move all of your posts over for you and that is a life saver in my book. Siteground gives you faster speed when your page is loading, which is huge as well when trying to grow your audience.

Once you purchase your plan, Siteground will help you get started with setting up your site. They have a specific button for setting up a WordPress blog. They have even helped me with WordPress issues even though they are Siteground support. They’re so helpful to newbies. You have the option of submitting a ticket (response time for me was less than an hour) or doing a 24/7 live chat. I LOVE live chat options. Both options are available under the Support tab.

STEP 3: NAMING YOUR BLOG

I’m not sure if I’ve put the chicken before the egg here, but somewhere along the line, you’ll have to give your blog a name. When you’re picking, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Less is more. Keep your name simple and short if possible. It should be easy to remember so you don’t have to worry about people typing it in incorrectly.
  2. Stick to your theme. I changed my name to Pearls & Prada to let people know my blog was associated with fashion. Many people use their names for Lifestyle blogs, or if they’re food bloggers they have something about that in their name. You get the idea.
  3. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It might take a few times of brainstorming to come up with something you love, and then a few days later you might hate it. Embrace the creative process.
  4. Avoid dashes, numbers, and easily misspelled words. Having the word “too” in your name can be confusing. People could type in to, two, or 2 going off hearing the name. This is just more simple.

 

STEP 4: ORGANIZE YOUR BLOG AND PICK A THEME

This is both the most fun and the most confusing part I think. You can look at other blogs and get a general idea of what you want your layout to look like. Do you want the sidebar on the left or right or one on both sides? Do you want a Pin It button on all of your pictures? (tip: YES, you do!). What colors do you want to use? What about the fonts for your posts and title? There are probably millions of ways to customize your blog.

I think my most exciting part is the theme! I found some great themes that are completely affordable on etsy.com (because they literally have everything). It’s an instant download when you get it and it will give you step by step instructions for how to upload it on either WordPress or Blogger. Make sure before you purchase a blog template that it is for the proper platform (aka if you go with WordPress, make sure it is a WordPress theme) as you can not return them once you buy them!! Search for “blogger themes” or “WordPress themes” and read through the description to make sure. Most of them also offer a live demo site to try out the theme which I definitely recommend checking out to see if it really flows how you want it to.

You can also use a pre-made theme from either Blogger or WordPress to start off since they’re free and always add a custom one later. Google was my best friend when it came to adjusting my blog and adding different features. Just search for what you want and there is guaranteed to be a tutorial for it. Or feel free to ask me if there is someone on my page you like that you want to incorporate! I’d be happy to help.

 

STEP 5: DECIDE WHAT TO BLOG ABOUT

A lot of people think you should pick your niche early on, meaning what you want your blog to be about. I consider this blog to be fashion and lifestyle, as I like to talk about a variety of things. My new blog I’m creating right now will be labeled as lifestyle, but will focus a lot on blogging itself. I’ve become so passionate about it that I want to dedicate a second blog to helping others figure out how to do this.

Because there are so many things you can write about, it can be a bit intimidating. I think finding your niche comes with time as you get in the swing of things and really discover what you enjoy writing about and what your audience enjoys reading. If you want to blog about fashion, what about it would you like? Affordable, high-end, thrifting, somewhere in the middle? If you want to blog about food, do you want to specific on vegetarian recipes, cooking on a budget, keto, paleo? There are SO many different things to blog about, and you’ll find your specific voice they longer you’re into it. You also don’t have to pigeon whole yourself. You can write about a variety of things and give a bunch of perspectives. People love variety. Going too far one way can hurt instead of help you, but you also don’t want to be too all over the place either. You just have to work to find your happy-medium.

 

STEP 6: HAVE SOME CONTENT PREPARED

This one might be up for debate, but I think it’s best to have a few things written by the time you set your blog up. Then, once you get all the technical things worked out, you don’t have to stress about creating content for your great new blog because you already have some ready!

Before I started mine, I read that it was good to have 5-10 posts ready to go. It really put me at ease to have things already written because when you’re getting set up, it’s super exciting and hard not to want to just post everything at once! Once you start promoting your page, you’ll want to have a few things for people to read once they get on your page.

 

STEP 7: MONETIZE YOUR BLOG

There are quite a few ways to monetize your blog, and you can go about it in multiple ways. As a fashion blogger, I use ShopStyle and ShareASale as the main ways to monetize my blog. I’m also an affiliate with Amazon, eBay and use Google AdSense but they aren’t my big money makers.

ShopStyle is an affiliate network that pays per click, meaning you get paid every time someone clicks on your link. You can link fashion, beauty or home items with their site, and they also work out many outside companies like Ulta, Target, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Express, and many more. If you can’t find the product on their site, they have a place to paste the URL of the exact item and create a link through them. They do have to work with the site for that, but it’s very helpful when putting in site links. Many fashion bloggers also use rewardStyle and Liketoknow.it to link their products, but this is a very selective program and can take a few tries to be accepted. ShopStyle just started offering a “CPA” program that is similar to rewardStyle as it pays a commission for products instead of a pay-per-click. However, once you go to the CPA style, you can’t switch back. So keep that in mind!

ShareASale is an affiliate network that once you sign up, you apply to and are approved to work with various stores. You can search through their network and find merchants that you want to work with. I work with Lulu’s, Tailwind, Minted through them and did have Shein but decided to end that one due to some quality issues. Once you see a company you like, you just apply through the site and give them an idea of why you want to represent their brand. They typically get back to you in about 48 hours with a response. This is where I make the vast majority of my money.

There is also the option to reach out to a company you like to see if they offer an affiliate program. Go to their website and all the way at the bottom their home page where they have their address and customer service information and see if they have an “Affiliates” area listed where you can apply. Let them know that you love their products and you’d be surprised at their willingness to work with you! Don’t be afraid to try and put yourself out there.

——

I know the idea of starting a blog can be pretty overwhelming at first, but it’s really so great once you get it all set up. Coming in having no knowledge about it whatsoever and now feeling like I do have an idea of how to figure things out is really nice. And to see what I’ve made is even better! I’m constantly trying to improve my blog any way I can, so I will try to include some follow up posts if you guys need anything in specific answered.

PLEASE feel free to reach out if you need help or if you’re confused about anything! If I don’t know the answer immediately, I’ll gladly help you find it! Feel free to reach out on social media or email me.

I hope you have a wonderful and productive Wednesday!

XO,

Dani

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