By: Jess Larson
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I’ve been blogging for about four years. Not a long period of time, but long enough in internet standards. When I first started blogging, I just wanted a space to put my thoughts. A sort of online journal that reflected my honest feelings, hopes, and fears about the future. I also desired a dedicated space for writing letters to some significant people in my life including my mom, my birth mother and my future baby. So, my first blog was born. Since then, I’ve started two other blogs, shared stories, recipes, and perspectives as a woman of color, adoptee, mother, foodie, musician, creative, Midwesterner, and had countless conversations and connections with people across the world I never dreamed I’d meet. It’s been pretty amazing.
So, you want to start a blog?? Yes, yes, yes! Do it. You should.
It’s awesomely therapeutic and the world needs your voice.
Recently, I’ve had many people approach me to help them set up a blog. Some folks are blogging their traveling journeys, some are blogging their incredible, life-changing work as a nonprofit, others are sharing insider tips and information as business owners. It’s all been really awesome to be a part of!
As a strong believer in the power of storytelling, I have become PASSIONATE about sharing stories and helping others to share theirs as well. When we bring people along with us, when we invite them in, when we share our hearts and our minds and our experiences, we also connect with others. We lessen divides. We become more human and less “other.”
But, how do you get started?
1. Hosting and Domain
Life on Larson is a self hosted WordPress site that is hosted by Bluehost. What does that mean? Well that means, that we use the magic of WordPress to manage our site, make it pretty, write blog posts, monetize our blog, and interact with followers. But, in order for our site to take up space on the internet, we have to rent that space from a host and we use Bluehost. I’ve been using Bluehost for various websites for years and love them for many reasons. First and foremost is affordability. The second reason is customer service. They are extremely responsive and helpful to work with, quickly responding to simple questions and troubleshooting issues. To be fair, there are other players in the hosting game that can offer hosting for an even cheaper price, but I’ve found that when you combine price with quality of service, there isn’t a comparison with what Bluehost has to offer.
Another note about self hosting. I could, for example, start a blog that is completely managed and hosted by WordPress. However, I choose to self host our site (site management and hosting is separate) for a number of reasons. I love that we have a lot more control over the look, feel and usability of our site if we are self hosted. Many of the templates available to self hosted sites offer more flexibility than sites that are not self hosted. I’m able to add plugins to help manage communication, calendars, images, email, video, you name it. I would be unable to add plugins and some of the customization on a hosted site. There is a learning curve involved in self hosted sites, but in my experience, once you learn the language, the flexibility and options outweigh the initial time investment of learning the navigation.
So, your first step in starting a blog is to signup with a hosting platform like Bluehost and choose a domain name. The domain name is one of the fun parts. What will you call your site? It that domain available? The brainstorming and creative parts of setting up a website are what makes this process exciting, so have fun with it! When you signup with Bluehost, you’ll get your domain name for free as well as domain registration. There are also optional add ons to help with site security, site back up, and initial search engine optimization (SEO) boosts. It’s pretty slick.
2. Installing WordPress
The next step in starting your blog is installing WordPress. WordPress is a blog management platform and what we use for Life on Larson as well as some of my other sites. Once you are set up with Bluehost, this is what you’ll want to do:
- Login to your Bluehost dashboard.
- Scroll down until you see the blue heading “Website.”
- Click on “Install WordPress.”
- Walk through the prompts to install the WordPress software to your Bluehost account.
- After Wordpress finishes installing, you will have access to your site credentials – write them down somewhere safe.
- Login to WordPress using your site credentials provided by Bluehost.
- Congratulations! You have a blog!
At this point now, your blog probably looks a little plain and has been created with a default theme. Don’t worry! The next step will walk you through how to make that blog look really beautiful! This is the fun part. Are you ready?
3. Choosing a Theme
The final thing to do to set up your blog is to choose a theme. The theme is basically the overall look of your blog. WordPress.org actually offers a boatload of free themes to choose from. If you are just getting started, it’s simple to select a theme that already has everything laid out. Then all you have to do is go in and change titles, photos, and headings and off you go!
However, if you are looking for a premium theme that has a few more features and customization options there are lots of great choices. Most premium themes on self hosted sites are pretty customizable, so you can change colors, fonts, graphics, and manipulate some layout as well. You can find blog themes in a lot of places online. Here are a couple of our favorite shops to get you started on your theme search for a premium theme:
Mojo Marketplace is a one stop shop for tons of beautiful themes and plugins that will help make your site amazing and so simple to use. They even have folks on hand who will install everything for you if monkeying with setup isn’t your cup of tea. Life on Larson uses the Frejya Theme. I’ve also used and loved the Wunderful Theme, Daisy Theme, and Blogera Theme.
My Theme Shop
Another fantastic resource for beautiful WordPress themes is Elegant Themes. We especially love the Lucid theme as well as the Divi theme which includes a free drag and drop editor, making creating a blog as easy as possible!
Once you download your theme files you’ll need to open your Appearance tab in your WordPress dashboard and install your new theme. After that, you are ready to go!! Congratulations, you are now a blogger!
And of course, if you have any questions or need any help with any of the steps laid out here, feel free to shoot us a message and we can help walk you through getting things set up. Cheers!