Complete Beginner’s Guide: How to Start and Make Money with a Blog (updated in 2019)
Looking to start a blog, but don’t know where to begin?
Or do you have a blog and you’re looking to make money from it?
In October 2018, I had NO IDEA how to start a blog.
I’m not tech saavy. I’m the person who is always calling tech support.
I didn’t know the first thing about putting a blog together.
I was on maternity leave looking to pick up a hobby that I could sink myself into. Grow from. I liked how with blogging, you could have a little piece of the Internet that’s your own.
I had read about how blogging could bring in $1000’s per month. In the highest income report, I read how a blogger was making $100,000/month!
But I didn’t actually think it was possible to make money from a blog. Until I got my first affiliate sale in my 3rd month blogging.
Coming from someone with ZERO EXPERIENCE. Someone who had no friends or family members that blogged. Someone who just read about blogging online.
I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s easier than you think to start a blog. And make money from it.
You don’t have to know about coding to make your blog look the way you want it to look.
Knowing about coding certainly helps, but it’s not necessary. There are services like Elegant Themes to get the help you need! More on that below.
You don’t have to be the best writer.
You do have to be willing to learn. Be patient and persistent. Blogging takes time!
There’s a lot involved with blogging. For example, writing, creating images, implementing social media and SEO etc. There are a bunch of new platforms to learn.
Heard of the book Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday? You’ve got to have that philosophy of seeing obstacles as opportunities when you start blogging. There’s a huge learning curve!
Just remember that every problem has a solution. Give yourself time. You’ll get there. It’ll be rewarding when you do so.
Related Blogging Tips’ Articles:
- Affiliate Programs I got approved for and rejected from as a New Blogger
- How to make your first affiliate sale from a stranger
- Ultimate Blog Post Checklist (+ FREE printable): 11 steps you need to know
Here’s a step by step tutorial on how to start and make money with a blog.
Having started my blog in October 2018 and having updated this article in 2019, this is a relevant guide for people looking to start a money-making blog in 2019.
In 12 steps, I’ll go through how to start a blog and how to monetize it. What I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made.
I’ve tried to make this a broad and deep overview so that you can have the big picture, but also dive into the topics you’re more interested in.
It goes beyond selecting the host provider and into the different aspects of what makes a blog a blog including installing a theme and plugins!
This might not make sense now, but it will below. First things first…
1. Pick the primary topic of your blog.
You could pick 1 big topic like parenthood, money, food, fashion. You could pick a few topics. You could niche down.
I’ve read differing opinions for and against all of the above.
At the end of the day, you should write what you’re passionate about.
What you could write for hours about.
You can always add on or focus in on topics as you grow your blog.
I picked one primary topic – money.
My subtopics are earning and saving money, money mindset, early retirement success stories and parenting money tips.
2. Select a domain name.
Take your time with this step. It’s not easy to change a doman name. Make sure it’s one you love!
Here are the steps and guidelines I used to select a doman name:
1) The first thing I did was go through key words and phrases linked to the topic. I wrote everything down. No judgment at this stage.
2) Then I cut out everything that was long (over 4 words), difficult to type out or spell. I cut out anything that wasn’t simple, memorable or clever.
3) Amongst the remaining few, I checked which ones were available. You could see this at Siteground.com.
4) Click “Get Plan” on any of the 3 options. I chose the “StartUp” plan, but I will be switching to the “GrowBig” plan as my site grows. Then insert the domain name to see which ones are available. It’s best to pick one that ends in “.com” because it’s the most recognizable.
5) Then select the domain name!
If nothing sticks, you can always use your own name (www.yourname.com). It doesn’t pigeonhole you to a topic. It’s a great way to showcase your resume or portfolio.
3. Select hosting.
There are many free platforms that provide free hosting like Blogger.
But if you want to make money from your blog, don’t go with the free hosting! You have to be self-hosted.
Why should you be self-hosted?
- If you’re self-hosted, you own your domain and its content. When you’re free hosted, your domain can be deleted! All of your hard work creating and building the blog could be gone and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Many advertising and affiliate programs will not approve you as a partner. (Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest ways to monetize your blog.)
- If there are ever issues with the way the blog is running, you will have little tech assistance!
My blog is self-hosted with Siteground.
When I was looking for web hosting companies, I first came across Bluehost. It seemed that everyone was recommending them.
Then I came across articles of bloggers who had difficulties with Bluehost from speed load time to customer service. For some of the bloggers I follow who recommend Bluehost, I noticed that occasionally I couldn’t access their site!
That’s when I started noticing Siteground coming highly recommended. You can get Siteground hosting for as low as $3.95/month.
Since I’ve been with Siteground, I’ve contacted them a few times. Their customer service is EXCELLENT! They’re fast to address questions and rectify issues. I love how I can phone them 24/7 and talk to real people.
Here’s how to sign up with Siteground:
1) Go back to where you selected your domain name. Go to Siteground.com. Click “Get Plan” on any of the plans. You can start with “StartUp” plan and change it to “GrowBig” as your site grows. Then insert the domain name you’ve chosen and click “Proceed”.
2) Now enter your “Account Information”, “Client Information” and “Payment Information”.
3) Scroll down and fill out the “Purchase Information”. I chose to purchase the “Domain Privacy” and “SG Site Scanner” add-ons because I value my privacy and wanted to be alerted immediately if my site was ever hacked.
Now you own your domain name! Congratulations!!!
Now that you’re signed up with Siteground, the first thing you should do is contact Siteground and ask for your site to be switched from HTTP to HTTPS – a secure version of HTTP.
It’s FREE with the package. It offers this extra layer of security and is an SEO ranking factor. Definitely do this!
This is something I didn’t do right away that I regret! If you do it after you start working on your site, you might have issues with urls redirecting improperly.
4. Install WordPress and login.
You can contact Siteground to go through how to do this with you.
To confirm it’s installed properly, login at www.yourdomainname.com/admin.
Before you learn the ins and outs of WordPress, here are a few housekeeping things…
5. Create an email and set up your social media accounts.
This step is important. You want to choose the names for your email and social media accounts that are exactly or close to your domain name.
Claiming these now ensures others can’t claim them later.
You can create an email with gmail e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can create one through Siteground e.g. email@example.com.
There are a few things to consider like email storage space and the professional look of the email address.
I just went with gmail because I could work with other Google applications. If this website grows, I will switch to a domain email and auto-forward the gmail email.
Once you’ve created an email, create digital files for receipts, Siteground etc. to maintain organization.
Set up social media accounts for all of the social media sites, even if you’re not planning on using them right away. At the very least, set up accounts for Pinterest and Facebook.
6. Install a theme.
The theme is the way your blog looks from colors to layout to functionality.
There are many free themes you could select through WordPress. Their customization options are limited. You will not receive technical assistance.
There are also paid themes. I selected Elegant Themes’ Divi because it’s a drag and drop builder so you don’t need to know how to code. You have access to 80+ themes or you can create your own site which is what I did.
I just paid for their “Yearly Access” which is $89, but I’m planning on upgrading to their “Lifetime Access” soon because I’ve had a great experience thus far.
There’s a lot to learn with building a website. Divi has lots of training videos that will walk you through many options.
More importantly, they have a responsive customer service team! I’ve contacted them MANY TIMES. They’ve been great with walking a newbie like me through what’s available and how I can execute things on my site.
7. Learn about blogging.
Between your theme configuration, plugins and WordPress, there’s a lot to learn.
I mention learning about blogging at this step because if you’re like me, you’ll want to learn something and action it right away. Otherwise, you might forget.
At this stage, I started googling everything. How to set up WordPress. How to set up Divi. I went through a massive number of free videos and articles online. While you’re learning how to set up your site, you can start creating your pages…
8. Create your pages.
Now that you know more about WordPress and your theme… Take a big piece of paper and
- Write down your primary topic.
- From your primary topic, draw out vertical lines and then write out your subtopics.
- If you want to branch out even further, draw out vertical lines from your subtopics and write out your mini topics.
Subtopics = Pages
Each of your subtopics (and mini topics if applicable) will be a page on your blog. Pages are different from posts in that there’s usually no date for when it was created and no social sharing buttons.
Then create your pages. Check out the websites of major brands or bloggers you admire for inspiration. Get comfortable and start building your site.
This is both the fun and frustrating part. Try not to be deterred or overwhelmed when you encounter an issue. Almost everything can be answered with a google search.
If you have Elegant Themes’ Divi, contact their customer service department. I must have emailed them 50 times since I started the blog.
Each time they provided me with a link to an existing tutorial to solve the problem or gave me the CSS code I could input. They told me exactly where to input this code with images and directional symbols!
9. Create your posts.
It’s finally time to create your posts!
A few things to keep in mind when you’re writing:
- Always write with your reader in mind and what will benefit him/her
- Keep paragraphs 1-3 sentences long for mobile optimization
- Write simply. (This is something I struggle with. I’m often adding redundant and unnecessary words.)
- Edit, edit and edit!
If you’re using Elegant Themes’ Divi, do not build your posts with the Divi Builder. This way you can change themes more easily in the future.
10. Create images for your posts.
I love it! It makes it so easy and fast to create images for your website. There are over 2 mil royalty-free photos, 680 templates, 1 mil icons, tonnes of preloaded sizes or easily create your own.
It’s all in one place. You save so much time. If you’re resizing images for multiple social media accounts, this is especially easy to do this within Stencil as they have the preloaded sizes.
There’s so much involved with setting up and learning about blogging. It’s great having the image component simple to manage.
Stencil has 3 tiers of pricing. They have a FREE package where you can create and save 10 images per month, but you have access to limited photos and icons
I’m on their unlimited package for $12/month, which includes unlimited images – created and saved. You get access to their entire collection of photos etc.
You also get 100 Instagram SMS per month. I haven’t used this feature yet as I’m still setting up my Instagram account. I imagine this will come in handy!
11. Install plugins.
As you’re setting up your website, you’ll want to consider installing plugins.
A plugin is similar to an app on your phone. It gives your website additional functionality.
Too many plugins can slow down your site.
Here are the plugins I use.
- Yoast (SEO) – free version
- Akismet (spam blocker) – free version
- SG Optimizer (performance optimization) – included with Siteground.com
- Social Pug (social sharing and follow) – upgraded to the pro version for $29/year
- Bloom (email opt-in) – included in Elegant Themes’ Divi
I initially tried Monarch as my social sharing plugin. It had great reviews and already came with Divi.
When you click on the social sharing icons on a post, a window pops up displaying small, landscape size versions of the images on the site. You can’t see the whole image so you wouldn’t know which image is optimized for which platform.
On this window, you can also share all of the images on this post from product links to your sidebar picture. You can’t direct the user to one, ideal image.
You could fiddle with the css coding to hide images, but this would be a manual, time consuming process that you would have to do for every image. Not a good long-term strategy!
I researched a tonne of social media plugins. I narrowed it down to 2 options: Social Pug and Social Warfare. Social Warfare is a popular social media plugin used by many bloggers. Then I read about how the plugin suddenly started malfunctioning for many bloggers. That gave me a scare!
I ultimately decided on Social Pug. I started with the free version. Then I realized it had a mobile sticky option optimized for the mobile reading experience.
It doesn’t interfere with reading on a mobile like how the floating sidebar often does. I had to get it! It also has a social follow widget for your sidebar.
What I also love about Social Pug is that it gives you the option of customizing the share options. When a user clicks on a social share icon, you can have the user share just your preferred image with your customized title and description.
If you’ve recently made the switch from HTTP to HTTPS and lost all your social shares, their pro version has a share counts recovery system to cover you!
However, MailChimp’s terms and conditions prohibits affiliate marketing. For this reason, I plan to eventually switch to ConvertKit as you can apply affiliate links with your emails with them. They also have a 1 month FREE trial available.
As the blog expenses are starting to pile up, I might do this switch in 2019.
12. Learn MORE about blogging. (This is where you learn how to make money from a blog!)
At this stage, your blog is looking more like a blog!!!
You’re now at the point where you can start thinking about how to monetize the blog.
Monetizing might not be your primary goal. It’s something you might want to explore to at least recoup your initial costs.
There are many different ways you can monetize your blog. Affiliate marketing. Advertising. Sponsored posts. Selling your own products (e.g. e-books, courses) and services (e.g. coaching).
The easiest way to start monetizing your blog is through affiliate marketing. Here are the affiliate marketing programs I got approved for as a new blogger.
When I first started looking into the blog’s monetization potential, I came across many free articles and email opt ins.
I got to the point where I felt the free stuff wasn’t cutting it. Something was missing.
I was fortunate because the Genius Bloggers’ Toolkit (which has dozens of resources) came out.
It’s only available for less than 1 week per year. It’s approximately $100. You can get on the wait list for the next one or if there’s a flash sale.
This was significantly cheaper than the $50-300 individual blogging courses I had come across. I couldn’t stomach spending so much on a hobby I wasn’t sure about.
I just went through the toolkit.
Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers: Everything You’re Missing by Carly Campbell. I love this course! She uses her previous articles as case studies. It includes videos so you can see exactly how she’s applied her affiliate marketing strategy. Her writing style is fun! It’s easy to follow along.
I loved it so much, I ENDED UP PURCHASING her other course Pinteresting Strategies, which is beloved by many reputable bloggers! It did not disappoint. It has an extensive overview of Pinterest – all the strategies you need to optimize your Pinterest account and boost your traffic. This course is actually how I got my first affiliate sale.
I must have gone through 10+ resources and courses in 3 days. Taking notes upon notes.
It was worth it.
The last thing I wanted to do was spend precious time trying things out. I wanted to implement the best practices.
I highly recommend investing in blogging education. Learn from the experts. Don’t make their mistakes.
Here’s a quick overview of the 12 steps to start and make money from a blog:
- Pick the primary topic of your blog.
- Select a domain name.
- Select hosting: Siteground.com
- Install WordPress and login.
- Create an email and set up your social media accounts.
- Install a theme: Elegant Themes’ Divi
- Learn about blogging.
- Create your pages.
- Create your posts.
- Create images for your posts. Stencil
- Install plugins: Yoast (SEO) – free version, Akismet (spam blocker) – free version, SG Optimizer – included with Siteground.com, Social Pug (social sharing and follow) – upgraded to the pro version for $29/year, Bloom (email opt-in) – included in Elegant Themes’ Divi
- Learn MORE about blogging. (This is where you learn how to make money from a blog!): Genius Bloggers’ Toolkit, Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers: Everything You’re Missing, Pinteresting Strategies
There you have it! All 12 steps.
Good luck on your blogging journey. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.
Related Blogging Articles:
- Affiliate marketing programs for new bloggers
- How I made my first affiliate sale from a stranger
- Ultimate Blog Post Checklist (+ FREE printable): 11 steps to create the PERFECT money-making post
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