Have you always wanted to start a blog?

If you’re a writer, it makes perfect sense: You can use a blog to serve as your author platform, market your work or find new freelance writing clients. Blogging is also a great way to experiment with your writing style.

This is the age of content — people are always looking for more to absorb, and your unique voice has a place on the vast, limitless interwebs, too. 

Our guide for how to start a blog

Starting a blog can feel overwhelming. But the truth is, it’s doable for anyone with the right guidance.

We’re here to help you navigate every step so you can start a blog stress-free — from choosing your domain name to publishing your first post.

This is a long post, so here’s a quick summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Pick a domain name (URL) and see if it’s available (to cut to the chase, check URL availability here)
  • Purchase a hosting package and install WordPress
  • Choose a theme and blog header
  • Write your blog pages
  • Install plugins and widgets
  • Promotion, including building an email list

Ready to dig in?

Here’s how to start a blog.

1. Pick a domain name (and get it for free)

First things first: choosing a domain name. Where are people going to find you online?

This can be one of the most enjoyable parts of getting started with a blog; it’s such a rush when the URL you want is available and you can buy it right away.

But if your first choice isn’t available, if someone else is already using that URL, it can be stressful to come up with another domain that feels right. After all, this is a permanent home on the Internet you’re creating!

The truth though, is that you can always change this down the line if you decide to go in a different direction with your URL. The most important part isn’t choosing the perfect domain, it’s choosing one and getting started.

One of the best places to start is using a variation of your name. Especially as a writer, because you are your brand. Your name will never go out of style no matter how your interests change over time.

To check availability, search this handy domain-name checker:

7. Write your blog pages

Though you’re starting a blog and not a static website, you’ll still want a few pages that don’t change. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” which are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog.)

Here are some pages you may want to create:

About

The about page is frequently touted as one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t overlook it. Include a professional headshot and brief bio, and explain why you’re blogging and why the reader should care. What makes you an expert? How can you help them?

Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through; blogging is a personal affair!

Contact

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you, right? Then you’ll need a contact page.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; just tell your readers how best to reach you. Avoid putting your full email address on here, as spambots could get ahold of it. To work around that, you can use a contact form plugin, which we’ll link to below, or simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”

Portfolio

It’s your blog, so flaunt what you’ve got! Show your prospective clients and readers that you deserve their time and attention with examples of your past and present work.

You can see examples of great

writer portfolios here; personally, I love Sara Frandina’s.

Resources

Do you have a list of favorite writing tools? Or maybe books that have inspired you? Readers love resources pages, and for bloggers, they can also be a clever way to earn income from affiliate sales.

Check out

The Write Life’s resources page for inspiration.

Start here

You probably won’t need this at first, but a “start here” page is smart once you have a decent amount of content. It’s a great opportunity to express your mission and highlight your best work, so your readers can see the value of your blog without wading through months or years worth of posts.

Joanna Penn does a good job with hers, encouraging readers to download her ebook and then choose a topic that interests them.

Work with me

If you’re using your new blog to sell your writing services, this page is essential. Be clear about how you can help people and how they can get in touch with you. You could even list packages of different services, like

Lisa Rowan does on her site.

Once you’ve set up all your pages, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. If they’re not showing up, you may have to

adjust your menus.

8. Install plugins

Plugins are great for everybody, especially those of us who are less comfortable with the technical side of things. Think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools you can install to do a variety of things.

Though having lots of plugins can undermine the functionality and security of your blog, there are several we recommend everyone look into:

Contact Form 7: If you want to avoid putting your email address on your contact page, use this plugin, which is frequently updated and receives good reviews.Hello Bar: Want to get readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or want to announce the release of your latest book? This plugin allows you to create a banner for the top of your blog.Mashshare: These share buttons are similar to  the ones you see here on The Write Life. Another minimalist  option is Simple Share Buttons Adder. It doesn’t matter which plugin you choose; it’s just important to  make social sharing easy for your readers.Google Analytics Dashboard: This plugin tracks the visitors to your site so you can see what people are interested in and how they’re finding you.Akismet: One of the headaches of blogging is the plethora of spam comments. This plugin will help you reduce the number of spammers that sneak through. WP Super Cache: Another plugin that’s not sexy, but is important. Caching allows your blog to load faster, pleasing both your readers and Google.Yoast SEO: This all-in-one SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts so you can get organic traffic from search engines.

9. Install widgets

If your blog has a sidebar, you might want to spruce it up with a few widgets, aka small boxes with different functions. That said, the minimalist look is in — so skip this step if you want to keep your sidebar simple.

Here are some ideas:

About box

You’ve probably seen this on a lot of blogs; it’s a box in the upper right hand corner welcoming you to the site. Check out The Write Life managing editor

Jessica Lawlor’s blog for a good example.

Social media icons

Make it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by including links to your profiles in the sidebar. Your theme will probably include this feature, but if not, here’s a

basic tutorial.

Popular posts

Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you might want to highlight your most popular posts in the sidebar, which you can do with a basic text widget. We do this here on The Write Life so you can find our most popular content quickly and easily.

10. Purchase backup software

Don’t overlook this important step just because you don’t have content yet! It’s better to install this software early than to start blogging and forget until it’s too late.

Free options exist, but I’ve never had good luck with them — and for something as important as my entire blog, I don’t mind paying a little extra. (It’s a business write-off, remember?!) Popular backup options include

VaultPress, BackupBuddy and blogVault.

11. Start your email list

I know, I know, you haven’t even started blogging and I already want you to build an email list. Trust me; you’ll be so glad you did.

Alexis Grant, founder of The Write Life, agrees with me. “If I could go back and do one thing differently for my business, it would be starting a newsletter earlier,” she writes. “My email list is THAT important for my business, bringing traffic to my website, buys of my products and opportunities I never could’ve expected.”

Even if you don’t have anything to send, just start collecting email addresses. The best way to entice people to sign up is by offering a free ebook or resource. For a great example, check out The Write Life’s

Freelance Writer Pitch Checklist.

My favorite email newsletter platform is

Mailchimp. It’s intuitive, fun and free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

A lot of creatives also use

ConvertKit. It also offers a free plan, and some people say it’s easier to use than MailChimp. If you want more options, browse our list of news of tools for building your email list.

Once you’ve created your list, encourage your readers to sign up by adding a subscription box to your sidebar, and maybe even install a plugin like

PopupAlly. Or, if you use ConvertKit, they have pop-up options built in.

12. Write!

If you really want to start a blog, you’re going to need to…start writing.

We recommend creating an editorial calendar, even if you are coordinating with no one other than yourself. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it can even be scribbled out in a notebook.

What’s important is that you plan your posts in advance, so you can keep track of your ideas and stick to a schedule. It’s also a chance to assess and tweak your content strategy. What do you want to write about? How will you draw readers in?

Don’t forget you’re writing for the web, so your style should be different than if you were writing for print. Keep your tone conversational, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader and break up text with bullet points and sub-headers.

Images are important for grabbing attention and breaking up the text, so find a feature photo on

Unsplash or Pexels to make each post shine.

13. Promote, promote, promote

You’re almost there! Now that you’ve started writing, it’s time to get readers. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for many writers, this is the most surprisingly time-consuming aspect of blogging. Though it’d be nice if we could just write (that’s what we love to do, right?), it’s nicer to have people actually read your work.

You can try guest posting on other blogs, reposting on sites like Medium and LinkedIn, or including links when writing responses in forums, Facebook groups, or on Quora. Just make sure you’re adding value — and not spamming people with your URL.

Social media is another great way to get more traffic and grow your author following. Instead of merely tooting your own horn, be sure to interact with editors, writers and bloggers, too.Share their content with your community, comment on their posts and support them when and where you can. Hopefully, they’ll return the favor!

In the end, creating a successful blog is about hard work and consistency. Keep posting helpful and engaging content,

optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and you’ll soon see your new blog start to blossom.

Congratulations, you’ve now officially started a blog as a writer. Time to get writing!

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life and we thank you for that!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

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Roland Millaner