Back in December 2014, I published my first blog post on Notes from Joana. I wanted it to be a safe space to share both my passions and struggles and connect with like-minded people. More than three years later, I am incredibly grateful and proud to say that my wish has become a reality. I’ve learned a ton since that day and realized that blogging takes a lot more work than it seems. However, it has had such a positive and rewarding impact on my life that I don’t really mind doing the work. It’s actually kind of my happy place!
As I’ve been getting a few questions about this topic, I decided to write a simple, step-by-step guide on how to start a lifestyle blog. If starting a blog is something that has been on your mind for a while, you should definitely give it a try. Here’s why!
How To Start A Lifestyle Blog
Before we start, I want you to know that making money shouldn’t be your main reason to start a blog. If you’re expecting that blogging will make you tons of money in your first month, you’ll be disappointed. While some amazing bloggers are making a full-time income from their blogs – and I believe you can do it, too! -, it took them a lot of time, hard-work, and dedication to get to where they are now. So, if you’re not passionate about blogging, it will be extra challenging to keep putting in the work when you’re starting out and not many people are reading your blog yet. Just something to keep in mind.
Also, in this blog post, I’m sharing how to start a self-hosted blog on WordPress – more on that later, but it basically means that you are ready to take your blog to the next level and invest in it. If you simply want to start a free blog and don’t have any plans of taking it seriously in the near future – which is completely fine and what I did for about a year! -, this blog post might not be for you.
Anyway, here is a step-by-step guide on how to start a blog as well as my favorite platforms that I’ve been using for the last couple of years!
What will you need?
- a unique URL
- a hosting plan
- a blogging platform
- a pretty theme
What is a self-hosted blog?
Take a look at the URL bar. As you can see, you are on www.notesfromjoana.com – there is no .wordpress or .blogspot in the URL. If you’re wondering why, it’s because my blog is self-hosted. When I decided to start a blog, I went for the free option that Blogger offered. As a college student just looking for a place to rant about her passions and struggles, it was perfectly fine. Especially as a beginner. But then I started learning more and more about blogging. I wanted to make my blog prettier. I wanted to have more control over it. And I wanted to start taking it seriously.
After a lot of research, I decided to invest in my little blog. So I bought a domain name and hosting and those were definitely two of my best decisions because they allowed me to take my blog to the next level.
Here are a few reasons why you should consider it:
- When you host your blog on a free platform such as Blogger or WordPress.com, they have full rights to your content.
- Having a self-hosted blog gives you more creative control over it, so you can make it look stunning!
- If you want to be taken seriously – and make money from your blog – it’s better to have a self-hosted blog as it will give you more credibility.
Why a WordPress blog?
That being said, I decided to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress. But there’s one thing to keep in mind. WordPress has two options: a free (WordPress.com) and a paid (WordPress.org) version. In order to have a self-hosted blog, you need to go for WordPress.org. While there are tons of others choices, this seems to be the most popular choice and I’m very happy with it so far. Why?
- It’s easy to set up and use. Plus, there are tons of tutorials to help you in case you run into some issues along the way.
- There are also tons of pretty templates to customize your blog, as well as free plugins to optimize it.
Let’s do this!
Step One: Choose A Domain & Hosting.
Setup your hosting
If you don’t know what a host is, it stores all of your blog’s files. There are plenty to choose from, but I recommend Bluehost as it’s the hosting service I’ve been using from the very beginning and so far so good! Bluehost offers a free domain with the hosting plan which makes it super easy. Also, you won’t have to pay for WordPress.org. When I said WordPress.org is the paid version, what that really means is that it needs a domain + hosting to work.
Visit bluehost.com and get started now.
Now it’s time to select your plan, which starts at just $3.95 per month – that is the plan I use.
Pick a domain name
Choosing your blog’s name is one the most important things – and probably one of the hardest, as well. I ended up with Notes from Joana because my name is Joana and, as I said, I wanted my blog to be my creative outlet to share my passions and struggles – my notes. That said, you can either use your own name or come up with a creative one.
Once you’ve figured out the name, now it’s the time to buy a domain and hosting. If you’re still not sure of what a domain name is, instead of having yourblogsnamehere.wordpress.com, you have a short URL – yourblogsnamehere.com.
Now it’s time to fill in your details to complete registration. Bluehost gives a few extra options but I believe I just picked the domain privacy one which keeps your personal details private.
Step Two: Install WordPress.
Now that you have your domain and hosting, it’s time to install WordPress. Thankfully, Bluehost makes it easy and quick.
- Login to Bluehost.
- Select the Hosting tab.
- Select cpanel.
- Click on Instal WordPress.
- Select your domain and click next (you can leave the “directory” thing blank).
- Click advanced options to edit your blog title and choose your WordPress login and password.
- Check the boxes and then select the Install Now button.
Wait for the install to finish. When it’s ready, a View Credentials box will pop up – save those as you’ll need them to log in to your site. You did it – WordPress is now installed, congrats!
Step Three: Find A Theme.
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to make it look pretty!
I completely understand if you’re not ready for another investment. So feel free to type free WordPress template on Pinterest and you’ll find lots of good ones!
However, I recommend investing in a paid one if you really want to take it seriously. Trust me, the look of your blog makes a huge difference when it comes to grabbing people’s attention and make them want to stay for a while! But don’t worry, you can now find pretty templates starting at $30, you just have to do some research to find the right one for you.
My favorite place to get pretty WordPress themes is Creative Market. Just type WordPress themes and you’ll find loads to choose from. Personally, my current theme is from Her Park and the previous one from Station Seven. I also know quite a few bloggers who use themes from PigDig so it might be worth looking into. And in case you’re wondering how to install it, most themes always come with an installation guide to help you.
Step Four: Publish Your First Blog Post.
Now that you have a blog, it’s time to publish your first blog post. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just write about something you enjoy. I promise it will get easier with time. Also, there’s a lot of advice about finding a niche but I believe it’s too soon for you to start thinking about it. Even now, three years after starting my own blog, I still don’t like to put myself into a box – that’s why I call myself a lifestyle blogger. So give yourself time and simply write about topics you enjoy reading about. Eventually, you’ll figure out what’s best for you.
My Favorite Blogging Tools
If you’re just starting a blog, don’t worry about these tools just yet and focus on writing great content instead. However, you might want to consider them in the near future as they helped me grow my blog over the last three years.
MailChimp: I use MailChimp to send weekly notes to my email subscribers. Besides being the only platform that you have control over (you can’t really control social media’s algorithms, can you? Plus, it can get deleted at any moment!), having an email list allows you to create a stronger relationship with your readers and it’s the key to start monetizing your blog/business. Also, MailChimp is free up to 2000 subscribers so you can give it a go without spending a dollar.
Tailwind: I use Tailwind to schedule my pins and it’s my absolute favorite thing at the moment! Most of my traffic comes from Pinterest but I don’t really feel like spending an hour every day pinning when I have other things to do. Tailwind makes it easier for me by allowing me to schedule my pins to multiple boards. And it really works – my blog traffic tripled since I started using it a few months ago! Plans start at $9.99.
Boardbooster: Before I started using Tailwind, I was using Boardbooster. It’s very similar but what stands out to me is its “looping” feature. When you pick one of your boards to “loop”, it will start repinning its images, which means that it is consistently posting on Pinterest. Plans start at $5 but you can try it out for free for a month if you use my referral link.
Pinfinite Growth: Created by Melyssa Griffin, this is an amazing online course focused on increasing your blog’s traffic through Pinterest. I did it about a year ago and it helped me make Pinterest my biggest source of traffic.
Buffer: I use Buffer to schedule tweets, otherwise I would forget to post on Twitter. Every time there’s a new blog post up – or even old blog posts that I’m proud of – I schedule a tweet on Buffer so that people know about it and go have a read. Btw, I use the free version so I can only schedule up to 10 tweets which is fine for me at the moment.
Planoly: I use Planoly to schedule pictures on Instagram. As a big perfectionist, I like to plan how my feed is going to look and Planoly allows me to do just that, as well as creating descriptions in advance and scheduling. Then, it sends me a notification and all I have to do is post it on Instagram. I also use the free version.
Grammarly: Grammarly is a free grammar checker that corrects typos and other mistakes. It’s really helpful whether you run your own blog or do any writing for school or work, trust me!
Note: If you sign up for some of the services I recommended in this blog post, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. But please trust that I wouldn’t recommend any of these if I didn’t truly love & use them. Pinky promise!