Blogging

How to Start a Profitable Blog – A Complete Step by Step Guide

This post may contain affiliate links. That means we may make a small commission on items purchased through links in this post at no extra cost to you!

This post contains affiliate links. Which means I may earn a small commission on things you purchase through those links at no extra cost to you.

Have you ever wanted to start a blog but have no idea how or where to start? Well, I was in your exact same spot not too long ago! I had always been interested in blogging for a living, but it wasn’t until I stumbled on this post from the Busy Budgeter titled “How I Made $12,484.68 in One Month as a Stay at Home Mom” that I decided to take the plunge.

While reading her post I had two “ah-ha” moments realizing, 1. there is big money in blogging, and 2. I, and you can do it too!

I had always kind of thought you had to be rich, traveling 24/7, and living downtown New York to make it in the blogging world, but I learned that just wasn’t the case! There are tons of bloggers who are people just like you and me making big money and a big difference in people’s lives through blogging!

So if you love to write, love to help people, are passionate about something (anything!), and are willing to work, then blogging is for you!

After taking the plunge and deciding to start a blog I had no idea how or where to start. I searched endless tutorials, lists, and videos trying to find out step by step how to start a blog. Finally, through some trial and error, I had a profitable blog!

To save you the long search for the ins and outs of starting a profitable blog, I’ve made a complete step by step guide for you! You’re welcome. 😉

Fair warning, this post is long! This guide will take you step by step on how to create a profitable blog when you have no idea how or where to start. If you are looking for a brief list to starting a blog, this probably isn’t the guide for you.

Before You Start

Decide why you want to blog. If you are just looking to start a blog for leisure/pleasure purposes such as family stories and pictures,  Blogger or any other free blogging site will work great.

However to start a blog to make money, even if it is for leisure, then you need to be self-hosted. Self-hosted means you own your site. You’re not a .blogspot or .blogger, those free blogging sites set all the rules and make customization, and the ability to make money limited.

To be self-hosted you need to own your domain name and hosting. I go through Bluehost, but before you get your domain name and hosting we need to go through a few other steps first! Let’s get started!

Decide Your Niche

First, you need to decide you Niche, what do you want to write about? When deciding your niche, think about what you can’t stop talking about! What do your girlfriends all come to you for advice for?

Food, DIY, beauty, parenting, money saving, anything you could talk your friend’s ear off about! Maybe something you are really good at, like organization or doing makeup! Your blog doesn’t have to be on one of the niches listed above. You can make a blog on whatever you want!

Remember you don’t want to start a blog about something you couldn’t write about for YEARS! This is essential for success!

When deciding my niche, I had to take a look at myself. I had been a cheerleading coach for just over 3 years and loved it, I thought maybe I could blog about cheer! Well, I quickly shot that Idea down when realizing, as much as I loved the sport, I would get so sick of writing about it and would soon run out of new ideas. That is when I thought of DIY. I was always really crafty growing up, and am always working on a project! DIY is something I am passionate about and I knew I would never get tired of writing about it and could relate it to all kinds of different ideas!

Really take the time to think about your niche. It will help you to brand yourself and come up with a good name.

Choose a Name

Next, you need to choose a name. When choosing a name for your blog, think about words that describe what you want to write about. Write them ALL down.

You want to choose a unique name that you’ll love years down the road. Read my post on Creating a killer blog name and download my free worksheet to get those creative wheels turning! 

A really awesome tool when deciding your name is Bust A Name. At Bust A Name you can type in words that describe your blog or and it will assemble them into different available combinations. This is a great place to get some inspiration! It is a good idea to have the topic you blog about in your title. Like ‘Studio DIY’, right from the name, you can guess this blog is about at home projects you can do yourself!

When you have a few names picked out, check to see if they’re available here. You want the domain to cost something small like $2.99. If it says some crazy number then someone has already purchased that domain and is sitting on it to make a profit. You don’t want that, or sometimes it will tell you a .net or .org is available with the same name, but you don’t want that either. Keep searching for a .com name in the $2.99 range.

A domain name is your site URL, mine is www.lifeonwaller.com. You want your domain name to be the same as the name you picked for your blog. If your blog name and domain name are different, it may be hard for readers to find your blog and can cause confusion.

For example, if you decide to name your blog Trips with Tricia, a traveling blog, then you want your domain name to be www.tripswithtricia.com, not www.iliketotravel.com.

Someone is sitting on this domain for profit. Skip this name and search for another.

 

This name is the kind of availability/price you are looking for.

 

Before purchasing your domain name, run it by your friends and family. Ask them their opinion, sometimes they see things you don’t. My favorite example is Kim from Thrifty Little Mom originally wanted to call her blog ‘Little Mommy Secrets’ until she later decided it sounded like an adult website!

This naming process may take you a while, and you’ll probably end up pulling out your hair once or twice, but once you’ve decided on a name and it’s available, it’s time to buy!

Buy Domain Name & Hosting

Once you finally have your name and it’s available at a .com, you need to get hosting. Hosting is the network/company that gives your blog a space in the world. Like a hairstylist who rents a booth at a salon. She is self-employed, but the salon gives her the spot to do her work.

There are a few different options, but there are only two I want to talk about: Bluehost & Go Daddy.

Bluehost:

Bluehost is the hosting I recommend! They make things super easy to set up and are always there to walk you through something if you need help! Their service is $3.95/month and that includes free domain name, free site builders, 1-step install for WordPress, and 24/7 support.

Bluehost is literally the best and easiest web hosting you can get, which is why so many successful bloggers recommend it! You do have to pay for the year upfront, but I felt it was easier for me to just pay for the whole year and forget about it.

Go Daddy:

While you hear many bloggers rave about Bluehost, I have never heard anything but bad things about Go Daddy. I use them to find my domain name availability, but that is where I ended with them. I haven’t personally used their hosting but I haven’t ever heard anything good about them. Their plans start at $6.99/month and do have a month to month payment plan, so you wouldn’t have to pay for the full year upfront. They are better than nothing but I would recommend using Bluehost if you can.

When buying through Bluehost they will first ask you what plan you want. The basic package is all you need, then type in your desired domain name, and it will take you to a form to fill out your information.

*Helpful tip! If a pop-up extra savings window comes up during your Bluehost application, click the extra savings! I was able to get 1/2 off my hosting (I only paid for 1 year) and ended up only paying about $60 total, and have already made that money back from the blog!

Install WordPress

Once you have your hosting and domain, you’ll need to install WordPress.

If you have hosting through Bluehost, they have a super simple 1-step install for WordPress. Literally, all you have to do is click it and done!

Or if you don’t have Bluehost, you can get WordPress Here.

Once you have WordPress you can access your dashboard (the backend of your blog). This is where you will do everything for your blog. You can get to your dashboard by typing your URL /admin for example if your domain was www.budgethungrymomma.com then use www.budgethungrymomma.com/admin.

Now you have a blog but it’s just a blank screen, let’s fix that.

Create a Logo

Once you have your hosting, domain, and WordPress installed it’s time to create a logo for your site. Sticking to just words will be easier than designing a whole graphic but if you already have a vision in your head, go get it!

Look around at some of your favorite blogs, and blogs you love the design of. This is a great place to get some inspiration for your own logo! What do you like about them, the colors, font, graphic?

Use that inspiration to create your own unique logo. When designing my logo, I searched out free fonts online, downloaded a few and even bought a package of beautiful fonts and created my own using only Keynote (PowerPoint) and uploaded it that way. Yeah, I’m a little behind the times.

However, there is a much easier way to create your own logo, at Canva.com for free! This program is great especially if you don’t have Photoshop or Illustrator on your computer, like myself. It has a bunch of awesome templates and fonts so you can create something amazing!

Another option is Fiverr.com, for $5 they will create a logo for you. Be careful though, it’s kind of a shot in the dark, you may receive an amazing logo or something a 2-year-old drew.

My suggestion would be to create your own and just stick to words in a nice font and color that you can live with. You can always redo it later, just try not to change it a million times.

Design a Theme

Now it’s time to pick a theme. Your theme is the basic layout and style of your blog, you will be able to edit fonts, colors, and other things but a theme just gives you a basic skeleton. WordPress will try to sell you themes for about $50 with some more expensive than that, but you do have a few very basic free options that come with your WordPress install.

If you have some extra money you can purchase a theme you like the look and feel of, but I would suggest going the free route until you have earned enough money to pay for a professional redesign.

I personally wouldn’t suggest using one of the free themes provided, they are just way too basic and gives a cheap look. However, I do suggest these free themes Simple and Ultra by Themify. These themes have the most customizability of the free themes I’ve seen.  The Ultra theme is actually a paid theme but you can get it free through this link!

The Ultra theme is the #1 theme I suggest because it’s free, super customizable, and has a complete step by step tutorial that you follow along that shows you how to use the theme and set it up. This is what I used to get familiar with WordPress and learned how to customize my theme. It is a fairly long tutorial but so worth it.

This tutorial was so helpful, it was pretty much my saving grace in learning my way around my blog!

Build Necessary Site Pages

After your theme is set up, There are a few essential pages you are going to need for your site. About page, contact page, disclaimer, terms of service, and privacy policy.

These pages are very important when creating a  blog! In your about page include a bit about you, why you started your blog, and the purpose of your blog. The tutorial mentioned above will take you through the basics of an about and contact page. Yes, that tutorial is awesome!

For your legal pages, you can add a disclaimer, privacy policy page, and terms of service page. I would definitely recommend all of these, they are just good to have legally, better safe than sorry right?

Disclaimer: 

A disclaimer policy protects you, your rights, free speech, your content, and everything else. I felt that having a disclaimer was especially important for my blog because I am a DIY blogger. My disclaimer basically says that I am 100% honest with all of my posts but you can’t sue me if one of my projects doesn’t work for you, we’ve all seen those DIY fails. It seems kind of silly but keeps everything on the up and up legally.

Privacy Policy:

If you collect any information from your readers, email, name, etc, you need a privacy policy.  I collect names and emails for my email newsletter and while commenting on my posts.  A privacy policy basically states what you are doing with that information. i. e. not selling it or giving it out.

Terms of Service:

Lastly, a terms of service page is also a good page to have on your blog. This is pretty much some heavy legal language that says you’re are not responsible for how people use the posts and information on your site.

While you are fully capable of writing your own about and contact page, I wouldn’t attempt creating these legal pages yourself unless you have the appropriate legal knowledge. Luckily for us who don’t, there are generators! At these sites, you type in some info and they will generate the form that you can copy and paste to your site and bam your butt is covered! Go here to generate your forms: DisclaimerPrivacy PolicyTerms of Service.

I decided to keep my about and contact page in my main menu at the top of the page, and left the legal stuff in my footer. You can check them out at the bottom of your screen. That way I have my legal pages but they don’t distract from the rest of my blog.

 Set up Email Subscription Service

Why should you collect emails? Two words: Traffic and Marketing. The readers that will sign up for your email list will be your most loyal readers. The ones who trust you and are eager to hear what you have to say. Which means you are driving more people back to your site (which = $) and are able to market yourself to them. You may not be selling anything to them right now, but in the future, these are the people most likely to invest in you! Traffic equals money and there is no better way to get people to your site then telling them directly through their emails to go. This is why you need to be collecting emails from day 1!

You may not be selling anything to them right now, but in the future, these are the people most likely to invest in you! Traffic equals money and there is no better way to get people to your site then telling them directly through their emails to go. This is why you need to be collecting emails from day 1!

Through the amazing tutorial above, Hogan teaches you how to set up with MailChimp which is what I use and is free up to 2,000 subscribers. After that, you can sign up for a monthly plan. I would use Mailchimp until you reach the threshold or until you need to up your email game.

When you’re making some money or you have the expendable income there’s Convertkit. I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about Convertkit and many are moving from MailChimp to Convertkit, because of special features but it starts at $29/month up to 1,000 subscribers. It may be worth it in the future but I would stay with free services for now.

The point is to make enough money from your blog to pay for these things later. You don’t want to have to pay out of pocket to keep your blog running. After paying for hosting, the goal is to do everything else free until the blog pays for itself.

Once you’ve set up your account, set up sign up forms around the blog, in the sidebar, as a pop-up, in posts, or at the top of the screen and you’ll be ready to start collecting emails!

Create Social Media Accounts

Social media will be your #1 driver of traffic, so it is important to have accounts specifically for your blog. The main ones I suggest are a Pinterest account and a Facebook page. These are my main traffic sources but Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube contribute as well.

Pinterest is my #1 source of traffic to my blog, where I get tens of thousands of readers every month. When you’re ready to use Pinterest to drive traffic to your site, check out the 16 steps I used to completely optimize Pinterest for my blog. 

It can be incredibly time-consuming to try to build up your social media presence on all platforms so I would stick to building one at a time. With that said, I would, however, secure your username on all platforms you plan on using. It is best to use the same username for all platforms, mine is lifeonwaller for all of my social media accounts. So to find me it would be so easy as to type in www.” social media site”.com/lifeonwaller for all my social sites!

Check the availability of usernames here! It will tell you what is in use and what isn’t on a bunch of different sites. If you can, stick to using they name of your blog. It will help your readers and potential followers find you easier while minimizing confusion.

When you’ve set up your social media accounts, add follow me stickers to your site and about pages!

Set up Google Analytics

We’re almost ready to launch but we need to set up Google Analytics. This will keep track of our stats and traffic. Google analytics keeps track of things like pageviews, users, busiest times of day, how your readers are using your site, how they got there and more. This information gives you priceless insight into how your information is being found, processed and how you can make things better.

Many brands and ad companies will ask you about your pageviews and users, so it is important to set up Google Analytics so you can keep track of these things.

Set up your account here then all you have to do it paste the HTML in your site and you’re golden! Now you can also download the Google Analytics plugin for your site. That way you don’t have to leave your blog to check your stats.

Write Content + Plan a Schedule

The only thing left to do on your blog is write! Yes, this is the good part! Before you launch your blog you need to have some content there for people to find! 

Brainstorm ideas and create great posts! Before launching your blog you want there to be enough content on there for people to look at. Don’t just launch your blog after your first post. I would suggest writing about 7-10 posts before launching.

Grace and Silas from Chasing Foxes wrote 40 blog posts before they even launched their blog! Yes, 40! The more the merrier but I would say a good 7-10 posts would keep your readers interested until your next post comes out. Think of this as starting on the right foot. You want your reader’s first impression of your site to be professional!

When your blog goes live you want to establish a regular posting schedule. It keeps your readers interested and keeps you on track. Decide what works for you and stick to it! Once a week, twice, or even three times a week, when I first started Life on Waller I was posting three times a week to build up my site’s content. Remember do what is best for you and your blog.

It’s is better to put out amazing content once a month than fluff content thrown together every day.

Use Great Photos

We live in such a visual world nowadays so always use at least one photo for each of your posts. They are great for driving traffic and catching your reader’s attention.

For some blog niches such as DIY and food blogs, you’ll need to take your own photos. Which means we need to up that photography game! Take photography classes and study tips online. You don’t necessarily need a professional camera, (I still use my iPhone for all my photos!) just use what you have until you can afford something better.

When editing my photos I use a combo of 6 different free editing apps/programs. I have one on my computer called Fotor, and the rest are apps on my phone. Fotor is a free editing program that you can download right onto your computer. I mostly use it for cropping photos and adding text. I made the first picture in this post and the picture below using Fotor!


Another option is stock photography; if you don’t have to take your photos, don’t! Stock photos can cost a pretty penny, but luckily there are a lot of free stock photography options! Some of my favorites are PexelsUnsplash, and Pixabay.

Some good paid stock photography options are Adobe Stock and iStock photo. I would suggest these after you are making good money from your blog and you are in a niche that doesn’t require you to take your own photos such as budget and money saving blogs.

Launch Your Blog!

Your blog is now complete and fully equipt to start making money so it’s time to launch! Yay! Insert happy dance here! 😛

But what now?

Build that traffic! To make money you need readers! I have 8, tried and true, surefire ways to drive traffic to your brand new blog, but I had to split that into a different post to spare you the length of this one! So head here to continue to phase 2 of your profitable blogging journey!  

Making Money From Your Blog

After your blog is live it’s time to focus on creating great content and building traffic!  That should be your main focus right now. You need readers on your blog if you want to make money, but you need great content to get readers!

Grab a copy of Ruth Soukup’s “How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul“. This book will be your best friend. Read it, take notes, and implement what you learn! You can read it for free on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. Get a free 30-day trial here Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial.

Ruth’s book will take you through the basics of everything you need to run a profitable blog. So read it and keep working on that content!

Keep an eye out for my next blogging post that will take you through tips on ways to monetize your blog with ads, affiliates, sponsored posts, and digital products!

 

What did you think of this post? What did you like, what are you still confused about? Let me know along with any questions you might have! Happy blogging!

Join Our Weekly Newsletter!

Signup now and receive an email every time we publish new content!

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

previous post
next post

You Might Also Like

  • jai
    March 14, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Thank you for this very interesting post. I’ll keep your advices in mind for my brand-new blog