How To Start A Blog

how to start a blog

Why Did I Want To Learn This Skill?

Before learning anything new, it’s important to ask yourself, “why do I want to do this?” With any skill that you learn – especially with starting a blog – it can get frustrating. Knowing your “why” and referring back to it constantly will motivate you to push past the hard times and keep moving forward.

Why did I want to start a blog? If you’re a long time reader of this blog you would have gathered that I love to learn new skills. It’s no accident that my tagline is “Lifelong Learner.” I realised in order for me to retain what I’ve learned, it was important to teach it as well, and so Galiway.blog was born.

This blog is intended to pass on everything I’ve learned, help you along the way, and inspire new lifelong learners.

Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you will have the knowledge to start a blog of your own!

How Much Time Did I Spend

Whenever I learn a new skill I make sure that I spend deliberate time studying and practising the skill. Deliberate practice means that I am not easily distracted and I’m focused on what I’m working on. It’s important to create an environment that nurtures a distraction-free zone, this will allow you to be productive with your time.

Recommended Reading: What Is Deep Practice?

With the use of Toggl (a time tracking software) I tracked every single minute when working on every skill. For this blog that you’re reading now, it took me a total of 27 hours, 4 minute and 18 seconds to create a blog that I was happy with. Of course, I didn’t do that in one sitting and it could have been a hell of a lot faster if I had a resource like this article to guide me step-by-step.

Below is a breakdown of my time spent working on building a blog from scratch:

DayTime Spent (HH:MM:SS)
10:15:16
22:58:24
32:52:24
43:17:20
51:06:38
65:09:10
72:30:00
80:50:00
92:30:00
101:40:00
112:18:40
121:36:26
Total27:04:18

My Background & Experience

Depending on your background your time will differ from mine. I’ve had experience building a blog in the past, but that was using Squarespace. This current blog that you’re reading is built using WordPress (I explain below which platform is better), this meant that I had to learn something totally new, but because I had experience with Squarespace beforehand, the learning curve wasn’t as steep.

I wouldn’t worry too much if you’re an absolute beginner. If you follow each step in this article you will be up-to-speed with starting a blog in half the amount of time.

Which Website Builder is Best?

Before starting your blog it’s best to understand which platform is best for your needs.

There are numerous website builders out there, here’s a list of just a few of them:

All of the builders mentioned above will be able to start you on the path to blogging. Each will have its own style and all of them will get the job done if you’re looking to create a simple blog. However, depending on what you want to do with your blog, it is important to select the right platform from the beginning. Certain website builders require you to pay a higher fee to unlock certain features, so pick wisely.

Don’t worry, I will recommend which platform to use.

Since I haven’t used all of them I can’t speak on each platform, but with the builders that I do have experience with, you can read my thoughts and recommendations below.

Squarespace

Squarespace was my first experience with blogging. Why did I choose it? To be honest with you I think their marketing really swayed me. I had kept on hearing about Squarespace, it’s simplicity and ease of use.

The adverts were right, it is simple and easy to use.

As my blog grew, my needs grew with it. I wanted to include new features on my website, but it wasn’t possible. The lack of plugins (software that adds new functions and features to your site) meant I couldn’t extend the website further. The more I wanted to grow the blog, the more frustrating Squarespace’s limitations became.

I knew there were cheaper options out there with the ability to do more, I just had to be prepared to learn a new platform.

WordPress.org

Before I outline WordPress.org, let me mention that there is a huge difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com and Squarespace are similar. If you want to unlock certain features you’re going to have to upgrade your plan.

With WordPress.org everything is free. All you need to pay for is your hosting company (I’ll explain this further on). With WordPress.org you have the freedom to do anything you want at a fraction of the price. This is what motivated me to make the switch.

However, the benefits to WordPress.com and Squarespace is that you hand over all the maintenance responsibilities to the company. You don’t need to worry about backing up your website, updating it, and figuring out where to host your site.

There is a greater learning curve when using WordPress.org, but as I mentioned before if you follow everything that I outline in this blog you’ll be fine.

Depending on what additional plugins you choose to install and the theme you go for, you could be paying the same price with what you pay for using Squarespace or WordPress.com. However, there are many free plugins and themes for you to take advantage of.

I’ve created my blog using only free apps, all I’m paying for is the hosting company.

Taking my blog off Squarespace and self-hosting has given me the freedom of growth. I don’t need to upgrade my plan in order to unlock certain features and I’m able to give my blog a customisable experience, all at the fraction of the price that I originally had spent using Squarespace.

How Much Did I Spend?

Squarespace

When I had my site on Squarespace I was paying a hefty fee for a simple blog.

Below is a breakdown of the packages that are available on their platform:

As I was a beginner, I didn’t need any of the additional features. $16 a month was more than enough for me, but even that price was still asking a little too much for a hobby blog that generated no money.

As time went on I had ideas with what I wanted to do with my blog and how to grow it. Unfortunately, I realised in order to do that I had to upgrade to an expensive package.

This was not an option.

To be honest with you, many of Squarespace advanced packages didn’t even include what I was looking for. It was the installation of plugins that I was after. Plugins gave me customisability and unlocked additional features to the site, I knew I couldn’t stay with Squarespace.

WordPress.org

The software (also known as WordPress) to build a site is free to download from WordPress.org

Although the software is free, I had to find a server to host my blog on. What I needed to spend money on was a hosting company.

After a little bit of research, I went with Bluehost. As you can see from the image below, the price to self-host your WordPress blog is cheaper than opting for one of Squarespace’s packages, plus it comes with the option of customisability.

Below is a breakdown of how much I spent building this blog using WordPress.org and the self-hosting option:

ItemDescriptionPrice
WordPress SoftwareThe software that’ll allow you to build your blog. Can be downloaded for free at WordPress.org£0.00
Hosting with Bluehost for 12 monthsA server to host my WordPress blog on.£94.12
Domain Name with Bluehost for 12 monthsURL address (promotional offer)£0.00
Total£94.12

That total price could have been a lot cheaper if I had committed to a 3-year plan, but because I was new to the world of self-hosting I thought it was better that I didn’t commit to it long term.

I now regret that decision.

Everything that you see on this site is using a free version of a plugin and theme. I could opt-in for the Pro versions, but right now I have no need for it, but knowing that I have that ability is comforting.

How To Start Your Own Blog

Now that I hopefully swayed you with hosting your own blog, let me breakdown each stage.

Pick A Niche

It’s a good idea to have a rough idea on what you want your blog to be about. Is it going to be about your life? Money? Coffee?

As you can see from my site I enjoy learning and I wanted my blog to reflect that.

A lot of people say that it’s important to know your niche, but to be honest with you that depends on what your goals are for your own blog. If you want to make some money from your blog, then yes, focusing on a niche and providing valuable content to your audience is a great way of making money on the side. However, if you’re starting a blog to journal and capture your thoughts, then don’t put pressure on finding the right niche.

If you don’t have a direction with your blog, it’s better to start generating content that you enjoy. Eventually, your blog will evolve and you’ll have a better idea with where you want to take it.

Pick A Hosting Provider

As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to have to pay for self-hosting your blog. If Bluehost doesn’t fulfill your needs, here’s a list of alternatives that you may prefer:

Since I haven’t used any of the above, I can’t speak on them. I’m really pleased with Bluehost and the service they provide. There have been numerous occasions where I needed technical help and their 24/7 web chat service has saved my blog.

Pick A Domain Name

A domain name is your URL, it’s the web address readers will type in to access your blog. Picking the right domain name will allow your readers to understand what your blog is about. Depending on what your goals are and what your niche is, this will help you pick a suitable domain name.

From past experience, picking a domain name isn’t the be it or end-all. Writing meaningful content and putting it on your blog is important. Readers never found me by typing in my domain name, they found my articles on Google. Having a suitable domain name does help, but only slightly.

If you’re selecting Bluehost as your web hosting company I recommend purchasing your domain name from them. If not, it can get a little technical redirecting and pointing your domain name to your hosting company.

GoDaddy is a popular alternative, however you will have to do a little tinkering in the back end. Fortunately, GoDaddy’s technical support team is great.

Install WordPress

After signing up to Bluehost, installing WordPress is automatic.

You won’t have to worry about any technical issues at this stage. Bluehost really makes the process of using WordPress simple to use!

Install A Theme

This is where things can get a little tricky. Not because it’s technical, but because the choice is endless.

I know when I first made the switch to WordPress I was like a kid in a candy store. There was an endless amount of themes that I could choose from, I was paralysed with the selection of choice.

Choice paralysis is when you’re overwhelmed with many options that you don’t know what to do and in the end, you do nothing. Or in my case, keep switching back and forth and wasting your time on figuring out what is the best theme.

I decided that I had to stick with one and be content with my decision. If I didn’t, I’d still be at this phase trying out a new theme every week.

After doing research and looking at what was a suitable theme for my needs, I came across the theme ‘Astra‘. The theme is free, but you can upgrade to the Pro version to unlock more features. I found the free version to be more than enough.

Whatever theme you decide to pick, it’s important that you stick with it rather than do what I did and jump back and forth. It’s tempting to test out the next shining theme, but if you put all your focus on the look of your blog, you’re never going to start.

Do as I did, select your theme and be content with your decision.

Install Plugins

This is where the fun begins.

It was one of the main reasons why I left Squarespace and moved into self-hosting my blog.

Remember, you’re able to access plugins on WordPress.com, but you’re going to have to commit to the ‘Business’ plan in order to grant you access. If you self-host using services like Bluehost, you’ll just have to pay for the hosting fee which is a fraction of the price.

A plugin allows you to install new features onto your site. If you’re trying to get your site to do something specific, it’s highly likely that there’s a plugin for that. All you have to do is search in the ‘Add New’ Plugin section, alternatively, you can check the featured, popular, or recommended list.

Similar to what I wrote earlier regarding themes, you can get a case of choice paralysis when selecting suitable plugins. There are thousands to choose from and each one adds a special feature on your site.

From membership pages to improving your SEO ranking, the list is endless. However, it’s important you do not get carried away installing many plugins as it can slow down your site.

Similar to installing the right theme, I recommend installing necessary plugins and focus on creating great content on your site instead.

To get you started, here’s my list of plugins that I currently use for my blog:

  • Broken Link Checker – Automatically check if there are any broken links on my site.
  • Envira Gallery Lite – A clean and simple gallery plugin.
  • Hummingbird – A plugin that optimises and speeds up your site.
  • Insert Post Ads – Allows you to automatically insert ads on your blogs.
  • myStickymenu – Keeps the top bar on your site stuck to the top of the window as you scroll down.
  • Smush – Compresses images and speeds up the site.
  • Stackable – Gutenberg Blocks – Adds additional blocks to your blog posts.
  • UpdraftPlus – Make backups and restore points of your blog.
  • WP Sticky Sidebar – Keeps the sidebar stuck as you scroll down the blog.
  • WPForms Lite – A clean and simple form plugin.
  • Yoast SEO – Improves SEO on your site.

I paid nothing for installing these plugins. There is an option to upgrade to the Pro versions to unlock certain features, but I realised the free version was enough for my needs.

Start Writing

Now that you’ve sorted out where to host your blog, you’ve selected the right theme and have installed suitable plugins, the most important step with starting a blog is generating content.

It’s time to start writing and depending on what your blog is about that is totally up to you. What I do recommend is that you try to make it a habit to write. With every skill that we learn, the way to get better is by being consistent with your practice.

Recommended Reading: How To Be Consistent

Allocate time to writing and set yourself deadlines. If not, you’ll think about it too much and never publish your work. The more you write, the better you’ll get. You may think your first post will suck (I felt the same way), but it’s important that you publish it anyway.

I always live by the saying, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Start writing, hit publish, and be consistent, eventually, you’ll get better and so will your blog.

Maintenance

If you’ve followed everything that I outlined in this article then you should have a blog or know how to start one. Since you’ll be self-hosting, it’s up to you to maintain your site and keep it up-to-date.

What I like to do is to log in once a week in the backend and check that my plugins and themes are up-to-date. I also create a weekly backup to make sure that I have a working version of my site that I can restore if anything goes wrong.

I have used it in the past and it’s been a lifesaver.

I know maintaining a site as well as creating content may sound a bit of a hassle, but the other option is to subscribe to Squarespace or WordPress.com and let them take care of all of that. If money isn’t an issue then by all means go for that option, but if you’re looking for lower fees and ultimate freedom, then go with self-hosting your blog.

TLDR; Takeaways

Want to save time and only read the main takeaways instead? Below is a summary:

  1. For better customisability and freedom go with WordPress (WordPress.org not WordPress.com) as your builder – If you want to spend more money and limit yourself, by all means go with the latter.
  2. Find a suitable hosting company – I use Bluehost and it hasn’t failed me yet.
  3. Don’t waste your time picking a domain name, theme and plugins – Choice paralysis is a real thing. Don’t be a victim of it and move onto the next step.
  4. Start generating valuable content- Be consistent and don’t be afraid to publish your posts.
  5. Make sure you maintain your site at least once a week – This is important, you’re self-hosting which means maintenance duties rely solely on you.

If you’re having any problems with what I mentioned in this article, feel free to reach out to me and I can see if I can help.

I wish you all the best with starting your blog and I hope it fulfills your needs just as it has fulfilled mine.