So, you finally want to learn how to start your own blog huh? Great idea!

You’ve heard successful freelancers say it over and over and over again: to succeed as a freelancer you need a website.

For those who’ve asked me to help them get started as a Kenyan freelancer, you’ll bear me witness that I always insist that you have a blog.

One of the things I regret is not understanding the value of having my own blog when I started out. I’d be making lots of cash right now! All in all, it’s never too late to start.

I’ve seen an incredible increase in the number of clients since I got my blog going, especially direct clients. It has also become easier to land freelance writing jobs whenever I use my blog as my writing sample.

I cannot emphasise enough why having a blog as a newbie is important.   

But…how the heck do you get started? There’s so much info out there on the internet on how to set up a blog, and everyone’s telling you to do different things. Now you’re completely lost. Where’s the starting point?

Damnit, maybe you should just keep procrastinating—it’s too confusing!

Hold up! Kick that thought in the butt.

I know that setting up a blog can seem overwhelming and intimidating. I made lots of mistakes when I was learning how to build this blog but I’m gonna save you from that agony.

This free quick and easy guide is all about blogging for beginners and will teach you how to start a blog with just the most basic computer skills.

Now you can benefit from my experience so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes when you set up your own blog.

See more: How to Become a Freelancer: 6 Top Tips on How I Got Started as a Freelancer

Wanna get started immediately? Click here to go straight to Step 1.

Should you start a blog?

If you’re at that point where you’re wondering if it’s really worth it to invest time in setting up and running a blog I’ll put your mind to rest, YES it is.

You may be chickening out because you’ve never written anything before—save for the compositions you did in school.

You may be thinking that you need to be a great writer to be successful. Nothing could be further from the truth. The beauty of blogs is that they offer personal perspectives on things, so most bloggers write in a very informal and conversational style. You need no degree to do this.

Granted you may need to take up a few freelance writing courses to learn how to work your grammar but that’s nothing to stop you from getting started.

What is important is that you’re able to share your knowledge and passion with the world.

If you’re a freelance writer working with clients in various niches don’t think that you have to blog about those niches. No, a blog is personal. It’s about you, not your client. So feel free to pick any topic under the sun. Whatever tickles your fancy, go for it.

Wanna talk about your hair, go for it. Want to talk about your life growing up in the village, heck do so! The more passionate you are about something, the better you will be at writing about it.

Don’t worry about what to blog about, we’ll get to that in-depth shortly.

Whether you’re trying to build a freelance business, earn extra income from blogging, or are just passionate and want to write, then take up the challenge to start a blog today.

Don’t let the technicalities of starting a blog slow you down, follow this guide step-by-step. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know when it comes to starting a blog and actually profit from it.

Ready to take a leap and learn how to create a blog? Let’s jump right into this 7 steps tutorial!

I promise it’ll be simple, relatively easy, and definitely easy to understand. Sound good?

Awesome, let’s start your blog!

*This post may contain affiliate links to products. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links.

How to Start Your Own Blog in 7 Easy Steps

Learn how to create a blog in about 20 minutes following these steps. Feel free to jump straight to any of the steps in case you’ve already gone through some of them. 

Step 1. Pick a niche & blog name

When I decided to learn how to create a blog I think I spent over a month trying to figure out what my blog name should be. Admittedly, I was just feeling shy to share my work with the world and looking for every excuse to postpone starting my own blog. This was a damn good excuse.

However, settling on a blog name can be indeed a daunting task. The first step to finding a good blog name is choosing your topic or what you’ve probably heard people call a niche.

What is a niche? And why do you need one?

A niche is what you settle to write about and a particular audience that you want to write for. In short, you write about one thing. Say for instance food, parenting, travel, fashion, knitting, etc.

A niche is important because it gives you a focus. It guides you on the direction to take instead of going round and round trying to talk about everything that comes to your mind.

If you’re planning to make money blogging, then I’ll have you know that it doesn’t pay to be a jack of all trades.

With a clear niche you’ll be able to plan your content calendar, decide on your blog design, and know where (and how) to market your blog.

Can’t think of a niche? Don’t worry let me help you come up with one.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What interest or dream from your childhood still excites you?
  • Do you have any hobbies or hobbies that you want to learn?
  • What is the one value that you hold close to you?
  • What’s the one achievement you’re incredibly proud of?

Something is starting to come to mind, right?

Let’s dig even deeper.

Now take a piece of paper and list down 5 things you find easy to do.

What are some of the things you’re naturally good at? These are the things you’ll be able to write about from a place of authority and confidence. Don’t overthink it, just write what comes to mind.

Try and be as specific as possible. Instead of saying “food” say “cooking, especially baking pastries”.

Next, write down the top 5 things you spend your free time doing.

Now, look at what you’ve written down and pick out the patterns and common things that stand out.

If you wrote down “cooking, especially baking pastries” as one of the things you’re naturally good at, I’m guessing baking pastries will be on your list of things you spend your free time on.

See where I’m going with this?

Rank the things that stood out in order of importance on a scale of 1–10.

Boom! You just found your niche.

Now you’re ready to pick a blog name.

Guided by your niche, come up with a blog name. Go for something descriptive that will instantly tell people what your blog is about just from the name.

If you want to create a personal blog to promote yourself as a brand, I recommend using your name, or some variation of it.

Step 2: Get your blog online

Next, decide whether you want to pay for your blog or grab a free one.

Free blogging platforms include WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Blogger.

You’re probably thinking why pay for something that I can get for free, right?

While at this point it may seem obvious to go for the free option, free platforms have a couple of downsides and having used both I’d advise you to go for the paid ones.

Remember I mentioned I made a few mistakes when starting out? Going for a free platform was one of them.  

One of the disadvantages of a free blogging platform is that you won’t be able to get your OWN domain name.

Your URL will look something like this: yourblog.wordpress.com. So for instance, if my blog was running on the free WordPress platform my URL would be www.theafricanomad.wordpress.com instead of www.theafricanomad.com.

Another disadvantage is that you will always be limited in what you can do with your blog. You will not be able to monetize your blog when using a free platform.

To make money from your blog you need lots of traffic and to get this traffic you need to tweak your blog enough to attract your target audience.

You’ll need to use plugins, themes, custom templates, videos and images. Free blogs will limit how much of such stuff you can use. It’s really pointless to learn how to start your own blog with the intention to make money from it and be limited to do it.

Your blog will also never really be yours. Yes, that’s true. A blog running on a free platform does not belong to you but to the owner of the platform. And you know what this means? They can delete it if and when they want.

Imagine the horror of putting in years creating content only to wake up one morning and puff your blog is gone 😱

On the other hand, with a self-hosted blog on your own domain name – you are the REAL owner of your blog. You’ll be able to name your blog whatever you want, and add unlimited bandwidth for videos, images, and content. You also get to use any themes, templates and plugins you want.

Hosting your blog

So how much is hosting and a domain name? It is not as much as you imagine and you don’t need to do anything once you set it up.

It usually comes to about $5 (Sh. 500) to $10 (Sh 1,000) per month, depending on your hosting provider. Sacrifice two Java coffees every month 😉

Setting up your domain and hosting may sound technical, but you’ll be surprised just how simple it is. Just follow these few steps:

The hosting company I recommend, and the one I show you how to use in this guide, is BlueHost. I used BlueHost when starting my blog and found it extremely easy to use and affordable as well.

And the good news is that if you use any BlueHost link on this site you’ll get the special discount price of $2.75 (Sh. 275) per month instead of $5 (Sh 500). Now you’ll just have to sacrifice one cup of coffee every month!

1. Click here for the special $2.75 per month rate on BlueHost and hit the green “Get Started Now” button.

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

2. Select your plan. As a new blogger, I recommend that you get the basic plan and upgrade to other plans when renewing your account. Click “Select” to choose your plan.

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

3. Type in your domain name (the one we came up with in step one) in the left box and then click “next” to start the registration process.

    • If you already own a domain name and want to use it for your blog, type your existing domain in the right box and then click “next”. Only use the right box if you have already paid to register that domain!

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

4. Fill out your billing details on the registration page.

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

5. Next, choose your hosting package and options.

    • All packages have everything you need to get your blog up and running, including a free domain name, easy WordPress blog installation, web hosting, and branded email accounts (e.g. info@theafricanomad.com).
    • The 36-month package gets you the lowest monthly rate, while the 12-month package has a lower up-front cost. I suggest you go for the 12-month package if you’re low on funds right now. Don’t make this an excuse not to continue. Remember, you can cancel anytime.
    • I uncheck the boxes next to the other products when I sign-up. You can always get these products later if you decide you need them.

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

6. Continue to payment and pick the payment method you prefer. I can guarantee you that all payment options are safe. I used my Equity Bank card in 2016 and I’ve not had any issue to date.

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi

7. Lastly, create a password for your account. Once you do that you can choose a basic WordPress design template for your blog which you can easily change this in Step 3.

The African Nomad | Stella Mwangi

8. Once the installation is complete click “Start Building” to be logged in to your blog.

The African Nomad | Stella Mwangi

Step 3 – Designing your WordPress blog

Now, the fun bit.

Next, we’re going to make your blog look exactly how you want it to so that it can reflect your chosen niche.

Login to your blog by typing http://www.yourblog.com/wp-admin on your browser to bring up the login screen (replace “yourblog.com” with your domain name). You should have your login name and password in the email that was sent to you from BlueHost.

The African Nomad | Stella Mwangi

When setting up a blog you don’t need to hire a web designer to design it for you. These templates make it so easy to have a blog in just a matter of minutes without having to use any code.

Once you install a theme all you need to do is add your content and your blog will be up and running.

To choose a new theme, go to Appearance > Themes and install a free WordPress theme from the options available.

I usually choose something that looks professional and pretty easy to customize. I’m currently using Divi by Elegant Themes that’s why you can see the first two themes in the screenshot below.

The African Nomad | Stella Mwangi

Divi is not a free theme and you certainly don’t have to pay for a theme immediately but I love how easy it is to personalize it. You can easily choose the colours you want, add your logo, change the way you want your pages to appear, pick your own fonts and so much more. I highly recommend getting Divi by Elegant Themes if you want to fully customize your blog.

When choosing your theme go for a design that will reflect both your personality and what the blog is about. Having a travel-oriented theme if your blog is about dogs will work against you. Your blog visitors will always feel like they landed on the wrong website.

What to look for in a theme

Here are a few suggestions of what to look for when choosing a theme for your blog:

  • It’s simple: Your goal is to share content that your readers can easily consume. Having a simple theme will let you do exactly that. A complicated theme will only make it hard for people to consume your content. Don’t compromise legibility and usability. If a theme looks good but confuses your readers, it’s not a good theme.
  • It’s responsive: Responsiveness means that your blog looks good no matter what device someone is viewing it from. Be it a laptop, desktop, mobile phone, tablet etc. You especially have to make sure that the theme is mobile friendly because the majority of traffic comes from mobile devices. In 2018, 58% of site visits were from mobile devices. Google also favours mobile-friendly websites and ranks them first on the search result pages. To test if a theme is responsive, copy and paste the URL of the theme’s demo page into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page. If the text is too small or content is wider than screen then forget about that theme.
  • SEO friendly: Search engine optimization (SEO), refers to how well your content ranks on Google and other search engines. The higher your content ranks (appears on page one on Google) the more people will find your content when people search for it. The only way to know if the theme is SEO friendly is to check if the developer has said it is optimized for SEO.
  • It works in different browsers: There are many browsers available so you need to make sure your theme renders well on all the popular browsers. Try testing on a couple of different browsers such as Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
  • Supports plugins: The real power of your WordPress blog is in the plugins. Plugins are add-ons that give your blog more functionality. Let’s say you want people to subscribe to your blog, you need a subscription form where people can subscribe from. The subscription form comes as an extra add-on—plugin. Make sure the theme you choose supports all popular plugins. Take a look below at some of the most essential plugins you will need for your blog.  
  • Offers support: As a newbie, you may face a few issues when trying to optimise your blog. For instance, you may want to change your blog colours but can’t figure out how to do it. You should be able to ask the theme developer for help. However, please note that many free theme developers won’t offer support for their products.
  • Has high ratings and reviews: There are so many good looking themes and you may get confused on which one to settle on. One way to make a quick decision is to look at reviews. A theme with high ratings and reviews will be a good option.

9 MUST Have WordPress blog plugins

Like I mentioned, the real power of your WordPress blog is in your plugins. As you will see, there are thousands of plugins. You don’t need all of those.

Plugins allow you to do more with your blog than just adding content. You can capture emails, get site analytics to see how your blog posts are performing, increase your site speed, optimise your images, add SEO to your content, secure your website and so much more.

Now, you don’t want to add plugins just for the sake of it because too many plugins will slow down your website.

To help you swim through the ocean of plugins, here are the 9 must-have plugins that you should install right now as we continue with the process of setting up a blog.

1. BackupBuddy

Thank god for this nifty plugin! My hosting expired and I was too busy to keep up with my blog so I didn’t even notice that my hosting had expired. When I committed to reviving my blog I had to restore my earlier content and all I needed to do was hit the restore button on my BackupBuddy plugin. Besides that, sometimes things go wrong and you lose your content. A bug perhaps or even a hack. It’s always smart to have a backup of all your hard work.

2. W3 Total Cache

Faster websites rank better in Google. Your visitors will enjoy using your site more and are more likely to come back if your website loads quickly. W3 Total Cache reduces your file sizes so that your blog loads faster.

3. Yoast SEO

You want people to find your blog when they search about your niche. This only happens if your content is SEO ready. Yoast SEO plugin helps you to optimize your blog post titles, meta descriptions, content length and other elements on your entire blog making your blog easier to find.

See also: SEO: What NOT to Do If You Want to Get it Right

4. OptinMonster

If you want to make money blogging you need to have a huge email list that you can market to. OptinMonster helps you convert your readers into email subscribers through action-oriented popups that entice web visitors with a custom offer.

5. WPForms

Engaging your readers increases their trust in you and your brand. The more they trust you the more they will keep coming back to your blog and buy anything you might be selling. WPForms allows you to create easy to use contact forms that visitors can use to contact you or leave comments on your posts.

6. Social Warfare

Social shares are the new word-of-mouth in this digital era. A retweet, like or share is an endorsement. The more social shares your blog has the more traffic you’ll get. Make it easy for people to share your content by installing Social Warfare. The plugin allows you to automatically or manually add social media sharing buttons into your content.

7. MonsterInsights

You want to know how your blog is performing, right? Are people even reading your content? Which content do they love most? Who are your readers? Connect MonsterInsights to your Google Analytics account (you can sign up for a free Google Analytics account right here) and you’ll find answers to all these questions and more in your site’s analytics.

8. Akismet

You certainly don’t want spammy comments showing up on your blog’s comment section.  Akismet will filter out the spammy comments from all your blog posts. This plugin actually comes, by default, with every new WordPress installation. So you don’t have to pay for it, simply install it while setting up your WordPress blog.

9. Jetpack

Jetpack has a load of benefits including site security, improved website performance, more traffic, image optimisation, custom website appearance and so much more.

Step 4: Create your main pages (About, Contact, Hire)

This how to start your own blog guide would be incomplete if I were to skip this step. Having a blog page doesn’t complete your freelance website. If you’re planning to use your blog to showcase your freelance skills and to attract clients then these 3 pages are an absolute must. 

These pages are all pretty standard, but they’re also a great way to give your readers some basic, foundational information such as who you are, why people should listen to you and how they can get in touch with you should they have any questions or feedback.

  • About page: Use this page to introduce yourself and sell yourself to potential clients looking to hire you.
  • Contact page: This can simply be your email, phone number, Skype ID and social media accounts listed on a page. If you’d rather keep your email, phone number and Skype ID private, you can simply use your WPForms plugin to include a contact form.
  • Hire Me page: Use this page to tell clients exactly what you do, who you’re interested in working with and provide a way for potential clients to get in touch with you. You can also use this page to show off some of your recent achievements.

Step 5: Write a blog post & publish it

Can I now confidently say I’ve finally answered your “How do I start a blog?” question? I hope so!

One more thing…

Let’s do some actual blogging!

To post your first blog, on your WordPress dashboard, go to the left menu and click on “Posts”.

Click the “Add New” link and you’ll be redirected to the post editor screen.

Here you can begin working on your blog post. Enter the title of your post in the top box and the rest of your post in the lower box.

On this editor screen, you can add images, videos, memes or GIFs by clicking on the “Add Media” button then “Select Files” to upload your media from your computer. Then click “Insert into post” to add your media.

Once you have finished writing your post scroll down to the bottom page where you’ll see the Yoast SEO elements. Fill in the elements to optimise your blog post.

The African Nomad | Stella Mwangi

 

Once you’re done and your post looks good click the “Publish” button on the right side of the screen to publish it.

Congratulations! You now know how to start your own blog and publish content!

If until now you’ve ACTUALLY been implementing the above-mentioned steps of setting up a blog, you not only now know how to create a blog, you’re actually a published writer. How sweet!

Step 6: Promote your blog

The first 5 steps of this how to start your own blog guide are just the beginning. The real work lies ahead of you. To be able to get your blog in front of your target audience, you have to promote it, especially now that it’s new and unheard of.

One of the easiest and best ways to get people to read your blog is to post links on your social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.

Your family and friends will see your link, read your blog and share it with their friends and family automatically multiplying your readers. Remember we talked about social shares being today’s form of word-of-mouth? So get people talking about your blog! Social media marketing also increases your Google rankings.

Once you have some good traffic, you want these people to keep coming back for more. Email marketing is a good way to do this. Collect the email addresses of your visitors through your opt-in form and notify them when you post new content on your blog. Over time, you’ll be able to build a closer relationship with your readers.

Step 7: Make money blogging

The beauty of starting your own blog is that your efforts will pay off in the form of money if you put in the work.

There are several ways you can make money blogging:

Freelance Writing – There’s nothing that shows your ability to write like your own blog. If you’re a newbie, give yourself time to perfect the art and then start making money off your blog by selling freelance writing services. Pitch to clients in your niche and increase your chances of getting high paying clients.

Google Adsense – This is by far the easiest way to make money from your blog and you can get started in just a few weeks after completing this how to create a blog process. Adsense is an advertising platform owned by Google. Sign up on the platform and Google will place ads on your blog. You get paid when someone clicks on your ad or by the number of views the ad receives on your site.

Affiliate marketing – You’ve probably heard about this one. You add affiliate links for products that you like or recommend within your blog pots. You get paid a commission when someone clicks on that link and buys a product.

Ebooks/Digital products – Write an e-book or a downloadable PDF with info on a particular topic, preferably within your niche, and sell it on your blog.

Courses – Once you’ve gained good authority in your chosen niche, create a course teaching your audience how to do or learn something. The beauty of courses is that you only need to build it once and generate income for years.

Membership sites – Get people to subscribe to a restricted/membership area on your blog for a small fee so that they can access premium content, courses, videos, or a forum.

It’s Your Turn Now…

So there you have it guys, 7 simple steps on how to start your own blog. If you haven’t already started building your blog head over to BlueHost and make your first commitment to make this happen.

I hope you are now confident enough to get down to business and set up your own blog because as you can see, you need no tech skills to do it. So go on Just. Do. It.

Once you’re done head over to the comments section below and let me know how your journey learning how to start a blog is coming along. Should you have any difficulties or questions, don’t hesitate to share them too!

how to create a blog | Stella Mwangi