There Is an Easy Answer, and a Longer Answer
In the past few weeks I’ve received several LinkedIn messages from connections asking for help in starting a blog. Unfortunately, asking “How do I start a blog?” is like asking “How do I travel around the world?”
Most people are looking for a short, simple answer to a complex question. Also, there are lots of questions to ask yourself, and the answers to those questions determine the best way to start blogging.
Why Do You Want to Blog?
There are no wrong answers to this question. There are many reasons to blog, including:
- I just want to write and have people read what I write.
- I want to write to build my professional reputation.
- I just want to share what I find on the internet with my friends.
- I want to market my skills to potential employers.
- I’m a freelancer and want to use a blog to market my services.
- I want an online store.
- I want to make my podcasts or videos available on my own website.
A personalized answer to “How do I start a blog?” depends on what your interests and goals are. To learn more, see my article Thinking About Blogging? We Have Questions for You. (I should warn you that this article introduces a whole series on different blogging platforms.)
No Questions, Please. Really, What’s the Quick and Easy Answer?
OK. OK. Here’s the quick answer (from a WordPress user.)
If you want to start a blog without doing a lot of research into the choices, most people should choose between the two flavors of WordPress.
The first flavor is WordPress.com. This site is set up by the creators of WordPress, a group called Automattic (yes, that’s with 3 t’s). WordPress.com hosts lots of blogs and websites. We’re talkin’ millions of ’em. The fun part for a beginner is that you can do it for free. Yes, you might want to buy your own domain name, that’ll cost a few bucks. WordPress.com also has premium services which they charge for, so you could spend a lot of money on the site. But most bloggers could go a lifetime without paying for most of these services.
The tradeoff is that WordPress.com limits your choice on themes and plugins and other add-ons. That makes the site simpler and safer. Fewer options means that there are fewer ways hackers can break into your site. So once you start using WordPress.com, you can concentrate on learning how to use the editor and on how to write for the web. See WordPress.com’s site for more info.
I should mention another option similar to WordPress.com, Google’s Blogger platform (also known as Blogspot.com.) The advantages of Blogger are simplicity and automatically being connected to all things Google, including Google Analytics and being found by Google’s search engine.
By the way, bloggers will argue for hours about which is better, WordPress.com or Blogger. Just sayin’.
The Other WordPress Flavor
If you want more control over your website, want to install specific plugins (including ones for web commerce), create mailing lists of your visitors, and generally manage your site all by yourself, you should look at WordPress.org. (This is NOT WordPress.com, which confuses some people.)
WordPress.org is the source of the free, open source software that powers both WordPress.com and millions of other, independent sites around the web. This software needs to be installed on a server that has access to the internet. For 99.9% of bloggers, that means you want to sign on with a web hosting company. (Mine is Bluehost, but there are many others.) You will have to pay for this hosting. Intro offers can be as low as $3-5 per month; you pay for one or more years in advance to lock in that rate.
These hosting sites usually offer one-click installation of WordPress, so you don’t need to download the software from WordPress.org. You buy a domain name, create a secret user ID and a password, and click Install WordPress. It’s that easy.
The advantages to setting up your independent WordPress site are choice and control. You can choose from any of thousands of free and paid themes. You can also choose from thousands of plug-ins that extend what you can do with WordPress. These plug-ins can range from protecting your site from hackers (very important!) or just adding a nice font to your blog, all the way to creating an entire commercial store on your website. For beginning bloggers, the good news is that a simple blog can use mostly free plugins and themes, at least to start.
Which WordPress Should I Choose?
For the novice, WordPress.com is very attractive (as is Blogger). You can learn beginning blogging is an hour or two and start writing. Many commercial users and large corporations also use WordPress.com. If you like simplicity, choose this.
If, however, you like to tinker and learn new things, or you want to set up a little piece of digital real estate on the web that’s all yours, an independent WordPress site will set you up nicely.
In either case, it will take about ten minutes to set up your website and blog. It’s easy. From that moment, though, just know that you will be learning more about blogging and websites for the rest of your life (or until you stop blogging). Blogs and websites are constantly changing (usually for the better) and the choices are always increasing.
You may eventually decide to learn about HTML (hypertext markup language – the language of websites) and CSS (cascading style sheets – the design language for the web), and even programming, but you don’t have to.
Or Don’t Go with WordPress
You wanted the simple answer to “How to Start a Blog,” remember? You want more choices? Then you have to go with the long answer.
See the list of helpful blogging articles on Frugal Guidance 2, below.
Can I Make Money Blogging?
This is one of the most popular questions for beginning (and advanced) bloggers. The answer is “Yes. But….”
There are a range of ways to make money on the web, from advertising, affiliate marketing, or sponsors. To make more than a couple of dollars a month, though, you need to attract lots of readers to your site. Lots. Beaucoup readers.
The BEST way to make money by blogging, in my opinion, is to use your blog to develop your own business, whether it is marketing, public speaking, tutoring, coaching, consulting, webinars, building websites for other people, or writing books. Learn how to build a mailing list from the start! (Something I’ve been very bad about doing, I confess.) Once you have a mailing list, you can send out announcements for blog posts and start self-marketing for your money-making component.
To Learn More
Here’s the long answer to the question about starting a blog, with lots more options for blogging platforms and choices on different types of blogs. It took me taken several years to do all this, but it’s all still pretty current. And, it’s all on my Frugal Guidance 2 blog.
Easy Blogging Tools for Minimalist Bloggers – Part 1 with info about simple blogging tools: Svbtle, Medium, Postach.io, and Sett.
Easy Blogging Tools for Minimalist Bloggers – Part 2 for info about more simple blogging sites: Posthaven, Postagon, Silvrback, and Ghost.
Bigger, Badder & Better Blogging Tools for more about WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Typepad, Blogger and Hubpages. (Here’s where I expound on the differences between WordPress and Blogger.)
4 Website Services for eCommerce. Thinking of selling on the web? Here are four more choices: Weebly, Squarespace, Webs, and Wix.
The FG2 2014 Monster List of Blogging Tools. Yes, I wrote this series of posts in 2014, but it’s still remarkably current. Be sure to check the links to other blog posts at the end of the article.
Want to learn Markdown? Start with Markdown for Bloggers (part one).
The Monster List of Markdown Tools on Frugal Guidance 2. Probably the most complete list of Markdown tools and types on the web.
The title image of books, notebook and pen is by Mikhail Pavstyuk, used courtesy of Unsplash.com.
The Royal Typewriter image is by the author, Andrew Brandt, Copyright ©2017. Processed with Photoshop and antiqued using Topaz Labs Texture Effects.
The pen and penmanship image is by Aaron Burden, courtesy of Unsplash.com.