Blogging changed my life. I’ve been blogging since elementary school (yikes), but since taking it seriously 4 years ago, it’s opened so many doors. From press events in New York City to career opportunities to a source of full-time income, I have so much to thank blogging for. That’s why I’m sharing how to start a self-hosted blog in 5 steps so you can discover all of these amazing opportunities yourself.
Blogging has become a cultural phenomenon since it started about 25 years ago. Only 25 years and it’s already become a giant wave of change, transforming so many lives and affecting the way we interact with digital media forever.
What’s the best part about blogging? It’s really accessible. In fact, it’s so accessible, you can start your own self-hosted blog in legit 5 steps. That’s just a few clicks and you’re live. Suddenly, you’ll have your own platform for posting ideas, reaching new people, and even earning some money.
Without further ado, let’s get started. Here’s exactly how to start a self-hosted blog in just 5 steps, as well as everything else you need to know to get off on the right foot with your blogging journey. Woohoo!
Do I need a self-hosted blog?
First, let’s talk about the difference between self-hosted and third-party-hosted. A self-hosted blog is one you own yourself. It’s not owned by a third-party platform like WordPress.com, Wix, or any of those other page-builders.
What’s wrong with page-builders? Absolutely nothing. In fact, I’m going to show you how to get started with WordPress, one of the easiest and most widely used FREE content management systems (CMS) on the internet.
The issue with free page-builders is that you don’t own your content. That means it can be taken away at any moment, your website will be full of ads you can’t control, and you’re really limited when it comes to monetizing your blog.
There are a lot of myths about self hosting blog:
- It’s expensive
- It’s too complicated
- I need to know how to code
None of the above are true. It’s so simple to set up a self-hosted blog, and you can get started for as little as a few dollars a month! There’s honestly no reason not to start your own self-hosted blog, even if you’re just using it as a portfolio website or college resume.
Basically, you need a self-hosted website because it looks super legit, it’s inexpensive, and it’s easy.
Step 1: Planning Your Blog
Your first step is to plan a few things. You need two main things to get started: an idea and a name. They go hand-in-hand.
The first thing to think about is what you want to blog about. This is your idea. In marketing-speak, we call this your “niche.” The days of ultra-broad blogs are in the past. Today, you need to “niche down” or choose a specific topic or audience to talk to.
When I first started blogging on Samanthability, I blogged all about college life. This was broad in the sense that I talked about everything that fell under the college umbrella, but I still had a specific audience in mind.
Like most things in life, do what you know. If you love fashion, blog about fashion! If you love technology, blog about technology.
From there, it’s time to choose your name. Ideally, this will have something to do with your niche we just mentioned. For instance, if you’re blogging about fashion, it’s a good idea to include something fashion-related in your name. This helps your audience know what to expect from your blog.
Here are some things to think about when choosing a name:
- Is it easy to remember/spell?
- Does it tie into your niche or audience?
- Is this name available on social media (Namechk is a great resource for checking multiple social networks at once)
- Does a similar website with this name already exist?
Once you’ve got that figured out, it’s time to get started setting up your self-hosted website! Hint: the hardest part is over!
Step 2: Sign Up at Hostgator
This is the most “technical” part of the tutorial, but it’s super easy, don’t worry. You don’t need any tech or coding skills to handle the set-up process and beyond, trust me.
When it comes to website hosting, I couldn’t recommend Hostgator more. I’ve been using Hostgator for almost 5 years now, and they’ve always been great. Their prices are super affordable, they have amazing uptime, and they’re always available 24/7 to answer any support questions.
The few times I’ve run into issues with my websites, they’ve helped me solve them super fast without any stress. It’s such a relief knowing they’ve got my back. In addition, all of their website packages come with a free SSL certificate, and that’s a huge security boost without the hassle. Score! (Also, I’m hooking you up with the best discount code so there’s really no reason not to choose HostGator!)
Here, you’re presented with 3 different plan options. The business plan really only is necessary if you’re planning to host a lot of websites on one server or if you need a lot of extra features. If you’re just getting started and you only plan to have one domain, just go with the Hatchling Plan.
I am a HostGator affiliate. That means if you make a purchase through my link or with my discount code, I might receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the brands I love!
Step 3: Register Your Domain and Choose Your Plan
Next, you’ve got to register your domain. There are two things you’ve got to purchase: your domain name (aka your www.yourname.com address) and your hosting plan. They’ll be bundled through HostGator.
When you pay for your domain name, you pay a cheap flat-rate for a year of owning the name. You’ll need to re-purchase your domain every year or set automatic renewal.
As for your hosting plan, you have the option to pay each month or for a year plan. We’ll talk more on that later.
Start by entering your new domain name under “Register a New Domain.” I recommend you choose .com instead of another extension, but that’s up to you. If the domain name is available, it will pop up below with the yearly price.
Under this, you’ll notice “Add Domain Privacy to” is already checked. Domain privacy means that your personal information attached to the domain will be kept private.
If you don’t check this, you’ll probably receive a few solicitations from web-design companies, marketers, etc trying to get your business. It’s up to you whether this matters to you or not. I’ve skipped domain privacy protection in the past, but now I always leave it on.
Then, it’s time to choose your hosting plan. We chose the Hatchling plan before, so now you can choose how you’d like to be building. The more you’re able to pay in advance, the better deal you’ll get. I highly recommend paying for at least a year in advance if you can. You’ll get a huge discount, and you won’t have to worry about paying every month.
Enter your billing and contact info to complete your setup. At the very end of the checkout page, you’ll see some add-ons. It’s up to you whether you want to add these. Personally, I don’t use any of their add-ons since I’d rather handle these services on my own, but again, it’s up to you and your budget.
Last but not least, enter your coupon code. I’ve got some SWEET discounts for you to make this even more affordable. Enter code SAMANTHABILITY to get the following discount:
- 1 month: 30%
3 months: 30%
6 months: 35%
1 year: 45%
2 years: 55%
3 years: 60.5%
Pretty simple, right? Who doesn’t love a discount??
Protip: Use code SAMANTHABUNDLE to get a domain name, web hosting, Domain Theft Protection, auto-renew, and soooo much more in a single affordable bundle.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Once you’ve signed up, HostGator will send you a confirmation to your email, and you’ll be able to login to your account. Now it’s time to install WordPress, and HostGator has one-click install.
If the one-click install doesn’t pop up as soon as your website is confirmed, login to your HostGator customer portal. You’ll be taken to the welcome page where you’ll see two sections under your hosting package: “Manage” and “Control Panel.” Under “Control Panel” click “Install WordPress.”
Now you’ll be in the one-click marketplace. Click “WordPress” at the top, then click “Install WordPress.
Fill out the form that pops up. Start by selecting your domain name from the drop-down list, and leave the “install/path” blank.
Next, fill out the information with your email address, blog title, username, etc. You can change your blog title later if you need to! Finally, click “Install WordPress.”
Once you’ve clicked “Install WordPress,” your website will begin propagating. Your WordPress password and login information will be sent to your email address. If you’ve just purchased your domain, it might take some time for it to finish processing. It can take up to 48 hours to finish propagating, so if you can’t find it right away, don’t stress!
Step 5: Install a Theme
When your website finished propagating, it’s time to install a theme. This is how you make your website look pretty. There are a number of free WordPress themes that are great for blogs, but I’d recommend buying one if you have a little room in your budget.
There are a lot of inexpensive blog themes on Etsy and Creative Market. You can find one for under $10 even, and they’re all customizable.
Once you find a theme you like, whether it’s free or paid, it’s time to install. Login to your WordPress account (usually at www.yourwebsite.com/wp-admin).
On the left menu, click “Appearance,” “Themes,” “Add New.”
Your theme should be in a .zip file. Don’t unzip the file. Instead, click “Upload Theme” and upload the zipped file. Once it’s uploaded, click “Activate” to make the theme live.
Once your time is live, it’s time to edit everything to your liking. Go to “Appearance,” “Customize,” and add your own blog information. Depending on your theme, you might be able to change the colors, text, etc. This is the fun part!
When Should You Launch Your New Blog?
When are you ready to launch your new blog? I highly recommend checking out my new blog checklist for a more comprehensive list, but here’s a good cheat sheet.
- Have 3-5 blog posts published
- Create an about page
- Have a contact page
- Create social media accounts for your blog
Once you’ve done these things, there’s nothing getting in your way. Launching your blog is so exciting! It’s time to get your words out there in the world! Start promoting your posts on your social media accounts and beyond! Tell your friend, tell your mom, tell the lady at the supermarket. The world is your oyster!
Starting a Blog is Simple
Now that you know how to start a self-hosted blog in 5 steps, there’s no reason not to get started. If you’ve been waiting for a sign to start a blog, this is it. As you can see, it’s super simple to get your blog live in just a few clicks. Better yet, it’s cheap as heck.
Like any business, there’s some cost and time associated with getting started. Yes, you’ll need to pay a bit of cash, but the pay-off is well worth it to start making money with your blog.
Are you planning to start a blog? If you need any help or ideas, just let me know. I love connecting with other bloggers! The internet is a huge place. There’s always room for more voices.