This is gonna sound really obnoxious, but I spend a lot of time googling myself.
I guess being your own brand requires a higher than average level of narcissism.
This practice of frequent self-internet monitoring let’s me know which of my recent interviews and media contributions have gone live so I can share them across my platforms and leverage each small win to continue growing my brand.
While scrolling through the latest search results, I stumbled upon this not so sexy throwback…
My blog… circa 2013.
I had been musing about money on a free blogspot page for months when I decided to get serious about blogging and commit to building my own platform.
Having witnessed how powerful a medium blogging could be while following the journeys of more established bloggers, I was sold on the what of it all – but I struggled with the how.
- How do you start a blog?
- How do you build your own website?
- How do you find an audience?
- How do you grow a blog into a business?
Three years later, I’m admittedly still refining my process, but I’m grateful to be out the other end with a successful blog that has evolved into a full blown business, enabling me to triple my income in 2015 alone.
My blog was the vehicle that empowered me to ditch the “broke millennial” paradigm and redefine myself as Stefanie O’Connell, millennial entrepreneur and money pro.
In short – my blog changed my life.
But again, that’s the what – and the what is easy to buy into.
There’s no what though without proper execution of the how. And for the purposes of enabling more “what”s, for those interested in a similarly life changing trajectory, here’s my breakdown of the how. Starting from the beginning –
How to Start a Blog – The Technical Stuff
Okay, so this is the not so sexy part of starting a blog – the technical stuff. Thankfully, new technologies have seriously simplified the set up process.
There are many hosting companies and blogging platforms to get you started. I’m going to walk you through the blog set up I personally used, which is self-hosted WordPress.
Don’t worry if that sounds like a bunch of confusing jargon, I’ve got your full step-by-step breakdown here…
Sign Up For Web Hosting
If you’re anything like me when I started blogging, you have no idea what web hosting is.
Think of it as the rent you pay for the “space” in which you house your blog. Except, instead of paying $1,000/month for a storefront, you’re on the Internet where the space is a lot cheaper. You can get a web-hosting plan for as cheap as $3.95 per month at Bluehost.
That’s what I did. And full disclosure, I totally get a bonus for referring you if you do wind up sign up through my link.
Just click the image below to get your set up started, then click the “get started now” button.
Bluehost offers basic, plus and pro hosting plans, you’ll be good to go with the basic, but if you change your mind later, you can always upgrade and pay the difference.
Choose (or Add) a Domain Name
Your domain name is your website address – the thing people will type in after the www. and before the .com to get to your blog.
If you’ve already registered a domain name elsewhere, you can just type in your existing domain in the box on the right hand side to get it connected to your new hosting plan, but if you’re starting your blog from square one, this is when you’ll choose your web address.
Ideally, you’re going to want a name that reflects (or is) the title or message of your blog. (Hint: Read through the end of this post for more important tips and considerations before settling on name).
When you’re all set to go, you can finish your Bluehost sign up.
As you wrap up your checkout process, you’ll see many optional add ons. I would recommend the Domain Privacy Protection for $0.99 per month to protect your contact info, but you can skip the rest. Again, you can always add on later.
Once you’ve completed your purchase, check your email for your confirmation and welcome from Bluehost. This will include your login info to file away for reference.
With your hosting good to go, it’s time for step 3….
WordPress is a blogging platform – the place where you write your posts, manage your design, monitor your comments and manage all things blogging.
Bluehost makes downloading WordPress, or connecting a WordPress site to your hosting account super simple.
On your Bluehost control panel (Hosting > cPanel) scroll down to Mojo Marketplace and select one-click installs.
Then, under blog and website builders, select WordPress.
Select your domain in the drop down menu and you are good to go.
With the technical stuff taken care of, you’ve got your basic blogging framework in place and can turn your focus to what really makes a game changing blog – the content…
How to Start a Blog … That Will Change Your Life
This may sound like a tall order, but don’t let it intimidate you.
Starbucks changed my life by giving me a reliable place to grab free Wi-Fi, set up meetings with friends, and of course, order coffee.
If your idea of blogging is rambling about the day to day happenings of your life without any clear objective, maybe your blog is better reserved for another purpose – a fun hobby maybe rather than a vehicle to change your life.
If, however, you want stick to the task at hand, follow these steps….
Identify Your Mission
What is the problem you are solving or value you are adding by starting your blog?
Again, this doesn’t have to be groundbreaking stuff. Writing restaurant reviews for example isn’t going to change the world, but it can certainly add value to people looking for a good place to eat.
So, what’s your mission in starting your blog?
Mine was to educate and empower people through personal finance – still is.
Identify Your Audience
Our tendency when trying to build a platform, audience or customer base is to try to appeal to as many people as possible. Unfortunately, this kind of general approach dilutes our ability to communicate effectively with our audience.
If you want your blog to become the place to go, you need to know what specific problem you’re solving for what specific kind of client or consumer.
For example, if I’m a vegetarian looking for good restaurants in Austin, I’m probably going to read the reviews on a vegetarian-focused blog so I don’t wind up with a list of BBQ joints.
Instead of trying to reach more people, niche down your idea to reach the right people. When you do that, you set your blog up to be a go to resource your niche.
With that in mind, combine your mission with your audience.
In my case, it’s to educate and empower millennials through personal finance.
Pick Your Title and Tagline
With your mission defined and refined, you’re ready to start brainstorming potential blog titles and taglines.
Hint: Be as direct as possible. When someone lands on your blog, they don’t want to spend time having to figure out what it’s all about and whether or not the content applies to them. Your title and tagline can take care of all of that with one targeted, powerful message that aligns with your mission and the needs of your audience.
In my case… Master your money – on your terms.
Translation: This is a blog that will help you improve your financial life in a way that aligns with your dreams and goals.
So, what does your blog stand for?
Brainstorm at least ten potential title and ten taglines. Even if you think you’ve settled on “the one” before hitting ten, do the work to uncover more of what you’d like to achieve by blogging.
Once you’ve settled on title and tagline, go ahead and register your domain on Bluehost.
Unfortunately, there can only be one of each domain name on the web, so you may have to get creative with your web address. You can also opt for a .org or .me or some other .com iteration if yours isn’t available.
Once you’ve registered, be sure to claim your name (or the closest you can get to it) on each of the major social media platforms too.
Brainstorm Your Blog Structure
This is one of the things I didn’t do when I started blogging that I really wish I had.
Without brainstorming your blog structure, it’s easy to get caught up in what other people are doing rather than staying true to the mission you’ve set out to achieve.
I remember at one point, early on, posting a few recipes on my blog because I saw other successful bloggers doing it. Unfortunately, that content wasn’t really in service of my mission, it was just a short-term play to build momentum that ultimately distracted from my true blogging purpose.
Remember, your blog is a cohesive entity with a clearly defined mission. Consider every piece of content you publish within the scope of that broader context and in service of the mission.
To do this effectively, identify four or five pillars of content that you’ll write about – each of in support of your mission. Mine are money 101, money mindset, building wealth and life, on your terms.
Then, identify potential sub-categories. In building wealth for example, I cover earning more, entrepreneurship and investing. This post falls into the entrepreneurship subcategory of the wealth building vertical that feeds into my mission of mastering your money – on your terms.
Similarly, every piece of content you publish should support the framework you’ve created to serve your blogging mission.
Note: You don’t have to have this all figured out perfectly before you start blogging. In fact, my framework is still evolving. But it’s good to at least brainstorm your blog structure before you dive in so you don’t wind up with aimless content and aimless results.
Create Killer Content
I could write about blogging for days. I’m already over 1500 words into this post and I’ve only scratched the surface of what I’ve learned, but let me assure you, there is absolutely nothing more critical in creating a life changing blog than killer content.
These last four steps have all been a set up to help you create that killer content more effectively.
Ultimately, it all comes back to your mission and your audience. If you keep those two things in mind at all times while using your unique point of view, personal experience and voice to deliver on the promise you’ve made your readers, you’ll start out with some pretty killer content.
By pairing your killer content with your new platform, you’ve got yourself positioned for some pretty life-changing blogging.
So… to recap –
- Identify your mission and your audience
- Pick your title and tagline
- Sign up for web hosting and register your domain name on Bluehost
- Download WordPress
- Brainstorm your blog structure
- Create killer content
… and let the life changing begin!