I’m not exaggerating when I say that learning how to start a blog has completely changed my life.
Here’s the short version of my story…
I was working as a high school band director and started working on this site in the evenings and weekends. Then, after six months of blogging, I quit my steady day job to blog full-time. Three months later, I was outperforming my teaching income from the skills I picked up working online. And just four years after that, my business is regularly bringing in around $75,000/month, and my best month so far was over $155,000!
Now I'm not saying that every person who starts a blog will earn the type of income that I do. But if you're willing to put the work in, the earning potential is pretty incredible. Some blogs earn upwards of $1 million per month or more!
Every blogger I know has a slightly different story and timeline, and there are lots of opportunities online and money to earn when you learn how to start a blog.
But outside of the money, I think the biggest benefit to blogging is that you can create the lifestyle you want. I used to slog through work every day at my teaching job, and I wasn't happy. Starting and growing my blog allowed me to eventually quit my job and spend time doing what I want to do every day.
I truly wake up every day and have my dream life. It's amazing.
Blogging can = freedom.
It’s also allowed my wife to retire. We built a beautiful house. I have multiple businesses. I’ve traveled more in the past couple of years than I have in my entire life. And we do it all while being consumer-debt free.
And on top of that, I've been featured on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Reuters, Business Insider, and plenty of other news media outlets. I'm also a Forbes contributor, and I specialize in helping people earn more money. I never would have thought that blogging would allow me to build the kind of career I have now. It's amazing.
So since you’re here and interested in learning how to start a blog, I’m going to take you through 8 simple steps that will teach you how to start a WordPress blog hosted on Bluehost (the website hosting company I recommend that you start with). We are going to start from the very beginning of picking a topic and work our way to the most effective way to drive traffic to your blog.
I’m also going to tell you about five blogging mistakes that I made… they were bad.
How to start a blog in 2020 in 8 easy-to-follow steps
Step 1: Find your blogging voice and message
This step is all about knowing what you’re going to blog about. And if you think you already know, please stick around and read through this step because picking a topic is more nuanced than you might expect.
Here’s what I mean… finding your voice is all about defining your audience from the start of your blog.
This is so freaking important because blogging isn’t about reaching as many people as possible. It’s about reaching the right people.
Reaching the right people starts with a clearly defined focus. Then you can expand your message, not the other way around.
Let’s take two brand new baby personal finance bloggers:
- Blogger A starts writing about all things money-related — budgeting apps, investing, side hustles, credit scores, etc.
- Blogger B starts a blog that tells people how they paid off their $25,000 credit card debt in 7 months.
Blogger B is going to find an audience for their site much faster than Blogger A because they’ve narrowed down the focus of a much larger topic. And when bloggers start with a niche topic, they become an expert on that specific area. People will want to come to you for support, advice, guidance, commiseration, etc.
But Bobby, how do I pick that niche topic?
Ha, I figured you’d ask that! Here are some ways to form your blog’s message:
- Pick a topic that you really enjoy talking about. If you’re excited about something, that’s going to show up in your writing. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to write extensively on a topic when you enjoy it.
- Pick a topic that you know a lot about. Sharing your wealth of knowledge with others is an awesome thing, and you’re establishing yourself as an expert that your readers can trust.
- Blog about a skill or topic you’re learning about. On the flip side, you don’t have to be an expert in your topic. People love connecting through learning experiences.
Once you have a foundation for your blog’s topic, you can niche down by defining your audience.
Think about what kind of readers you want to share your blog with? What specific things are you going to help them with?
If you take this site as an example, I started with the topic of personal finance because I genuinely enjoy learning about it, but I niched down to personal finance advice for millennials because I saw so many of my peers struggling with their student loan debt, saving, etc.
The oldest posts on this site are a lot different from the new ones, and because as M$M has grown, I’ve expanded the scope of my blog.
Step 2: How to start a blog in 3 steps
While this entire article is about learning how to start a blog, Step #2 is specifically about the technical side of starting a blog — selecting hosting services so you can get your blog online.
If this already sounds complicated, it isn’t. You don’t need to be a computer wizard if you want to learn how to start a blog, and it’s also not going to cost you a ton of money to start your site.
Actually, starting a blog is one of the most affordable business models because you can start a successful blog for under $3/month, and you can have total control over your content.
Paying for hosting services with Bluehost is my favorite option for new bloggers because it’s designed specifically for bloggers who are just starting out but still want to take their blogs seriously and make money.
- Bluehost has a ton of themes to choose from that will make your blog look professional without paying for web design services.
- You’re going to get stellar customer service.
- You get a free domain name for the first year.
- WordPress is included with Bluehost (more on why this is so valuable in just a minute).
But, the most important reason to pay for hosting services is because you will own the content you put on your site.
Free hosting services can own your content and control how you monetize your site. Nope, no thanks. If you're putting this much into learning how to start a blog, it should be your rules, your content, period.
Now that you know why we’re going with Bluehost, back to learning how to start a blog…1. Follow this link to start a Bluehost blog
You'll hit a page that looks like this (with a picture of yours truly):
You'll notice that you get an exclusive lower monthly price when you use my site to start your blog. That's because I have been working with Bluehost for years and have negotiated a special price for my readers! You'll also get a free domain, free site builder, 24/7 support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Go ahead and click the "Get Started Now" button, and you'll move on to the next page.
Bluehost has three different pricing plans, and I recommend the Basic plan for new bloggers. It’s only $2.95/month when you sign up through my exclusive M$M link.
But why do I have to pay upfront for blog hosting?
There’s a decent chance that you wanted to take advantage of the exclusive pricing deal from Bluehost, but you got to the checkout and noticed that you have to pay upfront to get the best monthly hosting prices.
You might be the kind of person to think, "I’m in this for the long-haul anyway. I know I want to stick to this over time and really make it work, so I don’t mind paying up front to get the cheapest price.”
That's how my brain works. I see it as buying in bulk and saving money, which as a personal finance blogger I always recommend.
But maybe you’re wired a little differently, and the upfront price feels off-putting to you. I get it.
Here’s the reality though: you aren’t going to be able to find a good blog hosting service like Bluehost for less than $10/month on a month-to-month plan.
It’s just not out there. You aren’t going to get the free domain, you aren’t going to get the 24/7 customer service, and you aren’t going to get the ridiculously easy 1-click blog setup that Bluehost offers.
And you also aren’t going to get all of the free training material that I throw your way for starting a blog through my exclusive Bluehost deal.
I charge thousands of dollars for private blog coaching, and I rarely take on clients these days because I don’t have much time. But I have distilled a lot of that information into training material that you’re going to get for free if you sign up through my Bluehost deal.
It’s easily worth 10x what you’ll pay for in hosting costs, and that’s on the light side. It's your choice, but there's no good reason not to take the route that will save you the most money long-term, give you the most benefit, and also get you a lot of training material from a 7-figure blog owner at no additional cost.
2. Register your domain name
After you’ve selected Basic, you’re going to see this screen pop up:
Your domain name is your site’s web address, so it’s how people will find you. I see a lot of new bloggers get hung up here. I’m going to give you some tips on picking a domain name, but If it’s preventing you from starting a blog, skip this step and come back later.
How to pick a domain name
My biggest piece of advice for picking a domain name is to keep it simple, and here are four tips for an awesome domain name:
- Easy to remember
- Easy to spell
- Gives people an idea of what your blog is about
- Stick with a .com domain name, not a .net or .whatever stuff
When you enter your awesome new blog name in Bluehost, you’ll see if that domain name is available or not. If not, don’t panic. It took me a few tries to land on millennialmoneyman.com. But I think it’s worked out pretty well 🙂
If you still don't know what you want to name your blog, you're not alone. Figuring out what to call your blog is the #1 roadblock that keeps people from actually starting their site.
But here's another Bluehost perk: Bluehost will still allow you to get a free domain name, the $2.95/month exclusive hosting price, and you’ll get all of the freebie bonus trainings from me (that you won’t get anywhere else - I guarantee it)...all without a blog name.
That’s right. When you hit this section of the signup process with Bluehost, you can actually skip the name and come back to it. And if you're still hung up on picking the perfect blog name, I think you should go ahead and click that button.
Here’s the deal - you know that our brains are wired to keep us safe. They’re built to keep us from doing things that are too scary. It’s what I like to call our “animal brain” kicking in.
Not having the name figured out yet is the perfect excuse that the animal parts of our brain can get hung up on to procrastinate the process of actually starting a blog.
So my advice right now is for you to rip the bandaid off, jump in with Bluehost, start your blog, get all of your freebies, and tell your animal brain to take a backseat while you figure the name out.
3. Create an account
You’ll use your account to log in and out of Bluehost, but for the purpose of this step, it’s also how you pay for hosting services.
You do have to pay for your blog hosting package upfront to get the special pricing. Basic is $60/year if you go with 12 months, but you get a much better value at $2.95/month if you choose the 36-month option.
Bluehost is going to ask you if you want any extras, but remember that one of my biggest tips, when you’re learning how to start a blog, is to keep things simple. You don’t need all of those extras right now, but I do recommend adding on the Domain Privacy Protection, which keeps all of your contact information hidden. Well worth the $12/year IMO.
The final part is entering your payment information, and bam — you’ve just started your very own blog!
Step 3: Install WordPress and make your blog look awesome
If you’re interested in skipping this step and have someone set your blog up for you (for free), click here to jump down to “Want help setting up your blog?”
First, let’s talk a little bit about WordPress…
There are two different kinds of WordPress — WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is what you want, and it’s what comes free with Bluehost. It offers more robust tools for bloggers to customize their sites, which is why I’ve continued using it for this site.
When you start a blog on WordPress.org, you are in complete control of your content. That’s not the case with WordPress.com.
But the biggest reason that WordPress.com is so popular is because the WordPress platform allows you to make money. It has a lot of features that aren’t available on other platforms, especially the free ones, and all of these features are fully integrated with Bluehost.
Bottom line: wordpress.org > wordpress.com
Now, here’s how to install WordPress on your Bluehost hosted blog:
- Log back into Bluehost.
- Name your site if you haven’t done it yet.
- Tell Bluehost a little about your site so they can recommend the right plug-ins for your goals.
- Bluehost will ask you to pick a theme for your site. Don’t spend too much time here, just pick the one you like the most. You can always change your theme down the line.
- Click the “Start Building” button on the message that pops up.
- You’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard where you’ll choose a business or personal site. Choose which applies to you or “I don’t need help.”
- Your blog will remain offline until you click the “Launch” button on your WordPress dashboard.
A few notes on picking a theme…
Remember, don’t get hung up on picking a theme. I’ve changed the look of my site a few times since starting, and you’ll eventually land on something that you really love. Drag and drop themes do make it easier to customize your site, but keep it simple!
When you’re learning how to start a blog, the design is way less important than the content your creating.
Should you use a free theme or pay for one?
When you’re just starting out, I don’t think you need to pay for a theme. You can get a lot of stuff up on your site, get comfortable with writing regular blog posts, etc., and then upgrade to a paid theme.
If you want to learn how to start a blog and make money, you’ll eventually want to pay for a theme. But you can work on growing your page views before you drop much more cash on your site.
Want help setting up your blog?
If this whole setting up your blog process seems like a lot, I’ve got you fam…
Launch That Blog is a free service I created in partnership with Bluehost after having so many people ask me questions about how to start a blog.
Starting a blog can be pretty intimidating… I know I felt this way at first… especially on the technical side. I put off starting my site for a few months because I was so intimidated by it, and this was after watching hours of YouTube tutorials and reading other blogs that explained how to start a site.
Knowing how awesome blogging is as a hobby, a side hustle, or business, I wanted to help future bloggers out. This is where my free service Launch That Blog comes in.
- My team will handle the entire installation process of your self-hosted WordPress blog and deliver it to you within two business days.
- We install our favorite customizable website theme so that your blog looks professional from Day 1.
- Launch That Blog installs the 10 essential plugins that every professional blog needs to have.
- You’ll receive four training resources, both video and PDF guides, where I show you exactly how to get a strong start and make money from your blog.
Launch That Blog also comes with this exclusive content:
- Creating Blog Posts in WordPress: A Step-By-Step Walkthrough
- The Key Ingredients to the Perfect Post (Step-By-Step Video Guide)
- The Professional Blogger’s Toolkit
- The Blueprint to Building a Profitable Blog
- Facebook Ads 101 Training For Bloggers
- BONUS: How to Customize Your Blog — My web developer for Millennial Money Man has put together a special bonus training showing you exactly how to customize your theme to make your blog look great in minutes!
Learn more about Launch That Blog at How to Start a Blog With Launch That Blog.
The final word on how to start a blog
I want to end where I started… learning how to start a blog changed my life.
It’s been a hard road at times, especially in the beginning, but I would do it over and over again. Okay, I would avoid those mistakes I just told you about.
I spent a lot of rough nights sitting at my in-laws' kitchen table when I started this site, but I knew that I wanted more than my current job was offering. That was my why, and it’s kept me going this entire time.
Starting a blog is like any other hard thing. You have to keep your eyes on your long-term goals when you’re feeling the struggle. Remember why you started your blog. Maybe it was to earn extra money, quit your day job, retire early, whatever!
As long as you’re willing to put in the work and not quit too soon, there’s room for your here online.