Blogging is a wonderful thing. It is something I’ve spent time on for the past 10 years, and there are little signs of me stopping. Whether you want to blog about personal finance, or any other topic you find of interest – this guide on how to blog will help you get started. I will allude to different blogging platforms in this article, but will use WordPress as my main example as it is the one I use personally and have the most experience with.
Benefits of blogging
There are many reasons why I like to blog. Some of these are niche specific (i.e. they relate to personal finance), but others are general benefits to blogging which apply to everyone. If you are unsure as to whether you want to run a blog these benefits should help you decide.
- Online influence – Blogging can help you get recognized online. This can lead to opportunities in the form of jobs, self-employment, holidays, free review copies of items and more. Getting your name out and having a project you can call your own are great skills to have and make you more employable.
- Improves your writing – Encouraging yourself to write an article or two every week will help improve your writing skills. Being able to convey your message clearly and in an informative or entertaining light is a useful asset to hold.
- Creativity – Having to come up with article ideas can help you with creativity. You have to think of articles people will be interested in reading, how you will discuss that topic and come up with a snappy title. You will find this creativity will show in other aspects of your life too.
- Track your progress – Especially with the personal finance niche, but it could apply to others too. Being able to look back on articles you’ve written (in my case, about poor spending habits, etc.) and seeing how much I have improved is a great benefit of having a blog. It puts into perspective my progress and improvements in my life in general.
- Learn more about a topic – In the personal finance niche, many people start a blog to share problems (debt, bad planning, etc.) and learn as they go. Blogging and researching topics for the blog helps them learn about the topic they are posting about. This is beneficial as it can improve your life in general.
- Join a community – Bloggers are a passionate bunch, and often very friendly. Blogging creates a community within the topic you are posting about. You can meet new people who can become close friends.
- Motivation – For me personally, I’ve found blogging quite motivating in both the actual blog side of things as well as in other parts of my life in general.
- Income – Should you work hard, you may become lucky enough to earn money through blogging. This can come in many forms such as advertising revenue and selling your own product such as a book to the audience you have built. Some people have earned enough from running a blog to do it full-time.
The two main options
When it comes to choosing where to blog, you have two main options. The first is the self hosted approach. You must purchase some form of server space in which you can upload a blog platform and then start blogging that way. The second approach is using a hosted option. This involves using a website already created to produce your blog. There are positives and negatives to each but I can summarize as follows:
Hosted blogs are better for beginners, as they require less technical skill. Whereas self hosted blogs are better for those who are more serious about the blog and have some experience running a blog.
Blogging platforms, reviewed
WordPress offers a self hosted version and a hosted version. Both are completely free (although the hosted version offers payment plans for improved features). In my opinion, WordPress is the best for many reasons:
- Its free – unless you want to pay to get better plans on the hosted version
- WordPress is relatively easy for beginners to pick up
- Its popular. Most other bloggers use this platform and therefore using it too will make your blog fit in more
- There are many plugins and styles which allows you to customize the blog to work for you
Using Blogger is also completely free. However, it is relatively basic in terms of options. There aren’t many styles to choose and it doesn’t really receive many updates nowadays. If you want something really casual, this is a decent option – but not something I would use myself. It could be a good idea to create an account there and play around with the tools, see if you like it personally and make a decision then.
There are other players in the blogging scene. I will outline them below so you can research what you think would be best.
- Tumblr – A social network type of blogging platform. There isn’t much chance to turn this into a business/professional blog and therefore you are probably better off avoiding it unless you are just sharing something based on a hobby.
- Ghost – I don’t have much experience with this one. But to be hosted it requires a cost (no free option here), its not as popular so there is less themes to customize your site and can be somewhat over-simplistic at times.
- Medium – You cannot run ads, it lacks the ability to customize many things. But it is a relatively clean and nice platform to use. Again, its probably best for a hobby blog.
This pretty much sums up the main players. Others exist so feel free to look around and find something that works for you.
Getting a domain
To create a blog, you will likely need a top-level domain (such as a domain which ends in .com) to get everything set up. Some hosts offer free domains (such as YourSite.wordpress.com) but they often lead to a lack of brand image which can harm your chances to generate an audience and eventually an income. A top-level domain costs less than $10 a year for a .com
I personally use Namecheap which I have found to be the best. There are many options around though, just Google search ‘domain registrar’ and find something which suits you. You will want to choose a domain which is easy to remember. It should match your blog name and end in a domain extension many people know (i.e. .com)
There will be guides on the web on how to make this domain point to your blog, just give it a search depending on what route you take.
This is the better approach for those who want to earn an income from the blog. There is a lot of ability to customize to your tastes. Such as installing plugins and styles to match your needs. It requires more technical skill though and therefore I wouldn’t recommend this to someone new, unless you are prepared to do much more reading in terms of fixing errors and getting everything running. To do the self hosted option you will need a web host. I personally use Namecheap again for this. Shared hosting will be fine for a blog just starting out and you can upgrade from the most basic plans when needed. The good thing about Namecheap is that they have a WordPress specific hosting plan which will be easier for you to set up.
Google shared hosting to find other options, pick something right for you, read reviews and ask for help. Most web hosts will advertise a one-click installer which should allow you to set up WordPress, or other blogging options (where possible) with relative ease. See the information on the specific web host for details on this. These plans will cost a certain amount of money per month or year. So pick something within your budget.
The better option for beginners, and those who want to do something for free. There are many platforms for the hosted option which are outlined above. With the WordPress hosted option, you can get used to the platform then export your data to a self hosted version when you want to take your blog to the next level. When ready you can find details on how to do this on the web. You have less control over things here, but its easy to get used to if you are starting out. You cannot install plugins to customize the blog to your needs, but there are a lot of styles you can choose between.
I should have covered all the basics you need to start blogging in this article. If you need any advice, or maybe want to share some – please leave a comment below. Also be sure to check out the blogging category on DiscussPF for even more tips on running a successful blog. I will be sure to cover much more in the category as time passes. Right now, I have covered everything you need to get up and running. In the future we will look at improving your blog.