Recently, freelance writing has taken the world by storm with everyone wanting a piece of the pie this lucrative industry has to offer. Many seem to have the notion that freelance writing is a means to easy money – more like a get rich quick scheme. Well, sorry to burst your bubble but this is far from the truth.
If you are yet to dip your foot in the cold freelance writing waters, I recommend you prepare for some hard work, just like you would when venturing into any new business in any other industry. But enough about general freelance writing – I promised myself I wouldn’t get carried away.
So you finally have gathered enough courage to start a blog? Good for you.
Blogging is not only a great pass time and an emotional outlet for some (the list of individuals who use blogging to vent is endless), it is also a unique way to brand yourself as an expert in your field and make some insane money.
If you are new to blogging, it will do you good to have someone to hold your hand and help you sieve through the seemingly useful but confusing information on the internet. Someone to light-up your path from start to the finish while pointing out some pitfalls to avoid along the way.
For this reason, I have put together this fast guide to take you through a simplified process of setting up your blog without having to suffer through boring tutorials or having to learn confusing HTML tags.
Here is what I will be covering in this post:
- Choosing your niche
- Deciding on a domain name
- Blog hosting: Free or Self-hosted?
- Designing – Choosing your WordPress Theme
At this point, I should probably point out that to create a professional blog that will at some point allow you the convenience of quitting your 8-5 job, you will need more than just 20 minutes. Building a money making blog is systematic and takes a lot more than 20 minutes to build. So please do not be reeled in by the click bait marketing stunts most bloggers pull.
Choosing a Niche
Blogging isn’t as difficult as most people make it out to be. It can, however, turn into a nightmare when you choose the wrong niche.
Many of the most profitable blogs on the internet are based on passion. That said, it is imperative that you choose a niche you are genuinely interested in. Sure you can choose a topic just because it seems to have a greater audience and big bucks but two months into it, will you still have the drive to keep the blog going? Will you last long enough to hold your first paycheck? Choosing a niche solely based on the money will have you quitting at the first sign of hardship on your blogging journey.
To choose the best niche for your blog, try answering these questions:
- What am I most knowledgeable about?
- What topics do I love talking about?
- What am I interested in learning?
- What challenges have you faced in life that you can help others solve?
- Can I create intriguing and enough content to keep the blog running?
Once you have determined your niche, it is your job to stick to it. If you decide to go into lifestyle and fashion, you cannot offer your readers cooking or tech advice unrelated to your niche. Be consistent in the content you provide if you want your readers to stick around for long.
Deciding on a Domain
A domain name is basically the name of your blog. This is what internet users will type into their address bars to visit your site.
When choosing a domain name, know this:
- You cannot change it whenever you feel like it
- The name should be memorable and relevant to your niche
- It should be sweet and short – not a mouthful that your audience will have a hard time pronouncing or even remembering
- Don’t use weird spellings or trademark names
- Have lots of fun
But let’s be real. Choosing a domain name is not a rosy process and starting a blog does not mean you are a creative, brand-naming genius – at least I know I am not, which is evident from my domain name (I decided to use my name). For individuals like you and I, sites like LeanDomainSearch come in quite handy. Put in a keyword in your niche and it will generate hundreds of names to get you thinking. Remember to write down any idea that pops up so that you don’t forget.
Before you settle on any domain name, you will need to ensure that it is available for use. The process here is more like what you go through when setting up an email address. Gmail, Yahoo, and other email service providers do not allow sharing of email addresses and as such they perform local searches of the email address you enter before they allocate it to you during the sign-up process.
For domain names, ICANN WHOIS is used to confirm the availability or ownership of a domain name. The platform provides you with the details of the owner of the domain name if it is already taken.
Before you even start stressing over how your blog will look like, you need to get a blogging platform.
Here there are a lot of options to choose from – the likes of WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr. Of the three, WordPress is a favorite to many with more than 72 million active users. I built this blog on WordPress. Here are some reasons I settled on WordPress and why you should too.
- It is a free blogging platform featuring numerous free themes, add-ons, and layouts that other blogging platforms do not provide.
- It is easy to customize and does not necessarily require HTML knowledge to hack
- Courtesy of its updates WordPress has remained secure and protected from hacking attacks
- It is easy to set up
- You could try other blogging platforms but you will find WordPress to be the best of them all, especially if you are just starting out.
Now let’s take a short pause and go over something important real quick – why you should not settle for a free blogging platform.
The beauty of WordPress is that it provides you with an opportunity to express yourself without having to incur hosting costs. This works best for individuals who are blogging as a hobby and pass time. You have seen many of these sites with the .wordpress.com, .blogger.com or .tumblr.com domain extensions all over the internet.
Quick question; of all such websites, how many were of famous and successful bloggers? Simple math – NONE.
And unfortunately, that’s not the only problem with free hosted blogging platforms. With free hosted blogging platforms:
- You don’t have control over your content and the blogging platform could shut you down anytime they please
- The blog’s domain name becomes long and hard to remember instead of being catchy and brand worthy
- You cannot advertise on the free platforms which will make it almost to monetize your blog
So rather than go through all this pain and agony, get your WordPress blog on a self-host. Generally, the software is the same but without limitations.
To gain credibility from the word go, start your own self-hosted blog. You might think it will cost you a fortune but it is rather affordable.
To self-host your blog, you can consider sites like Siteground, Hostgator, GoDaddy and the like. These provide cheap hosting services from $3 a month.
If you are in Kenya, you could land a hosting service for as low as Ksh. 2,100 a year. How affordable is that!
Design – Choosing Your Theme
Assuming you have settled on WordPress.com as your blogging platform, you now need to get a theme for your blog. A Theme is simply a website template that you will use to style your blog to fit your style and niche.
I cannot stress enough the importance of great web design and branding. Your audience, followers and potential clients will judge you based on your blog’s design and branding. Most writers and bloggers argue that their audience and clients visit their site for the services they have to offer and not the look of their site. If you share in this line of thought, sorry to burst your bubble but your so called clients and audience though fully aware of what they need you for (not web-design), they still expect you to present yourself professionally and in a way that wins their trust.
Poor web design will have you looking like an amateur, will damage your credibility and scare off prospective clients. This is the harsh reality of things.
WordPress has a host of free and premium themes to choose from. Whether you choose a free or a premium theme that is entirely up to you. You should know that premium (paid for) themes are not necessarily better than free WordPress themes.
Personally, the WordPress theme I chose was free and it got me the effect I was looking for. If you ask me, I got the best theme there is. Free themes come with their fair share of problems though as we shall soon see.
To choose a theme, there is a simple check list you should go through.
Is the theme responsive? A responsive theme means that it will auto adjust to the size of the screen the user uses to view your blog thus providing them with the best experience. Luckily, many of the themes available today are responsive. This is therefore not something you will have to worry about.
Does the theme come with technical support? Now, this a factor that has many preferring to work with premium themes as opposed to free themes. When setting up your theme, you may run into some technical issues. With a free theme, you will be on your own trying to find a way around the problem. Premium themes like those on ThemeForest, Studio Press and Thrive Themes grant you access to support when you encounter technical issues.
Does the theme allow for feature modifications? We have already established the importance of branding. As such, you will want to change up the theme to what suits your niche with regards to the layout and colors.
Is the theme compatible with essential WordPress Plugins? WordPress themes heavily rely on plugins. Plugins are bits of software designed to extend and add to already existing WordPress functionalities. These are what will enable you to get a cool blog up and running without having to learn coding syntaxes.
Once you have your theme, customize it to your liking adding pages, menus, widgets, plugins, and color that suit your brand and blogging niche. Take your time. Take it from me, this process will be easier when you already have a clear purpose for your blog so strive to determine your niche first.
If the thought of setting up your blog has you stuck on your tracks unable to make any progress, you are not alone and it is arguably the one thing that stops many from venturing into blogging. Luckily for you, you do not have to do it all on your own. Get in Touch with me or leave a comment below.
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Cheers, happy blogging.