How to Start a Lifestyle Blog
Do you know that when I started my very first blog, we had dial-up internet connection? Ugh, I feel so old! The connection was so slow, I swear I sometimes sat in front of my huge computer screen, with a ruler in my hand, making sure that the “connecting” bar, was actually moving. I started writing my first blog when I was 14. Back then, blogs were online journals. Every day after school, I’d come home and blog about my day. Only a handful of people read my blog and it was my little secret. When I created TT, my plans for it were a little different. Or… a lot different.
As many of you know this blog originally started as a beauty blog. I never thought that after a couple of years of running TT, I’ll be sharing things like photography or blogging tips. Back in 2011 I knew nothing about photography, building a blog audience or creating content. As it turns out, both Photography and Blogging have become most popular categories on this blog and I get questions about blogging from you guys on regular basis. One of the most popular questions I get, is how to start a blog.
That is why I decided to write this post, which was HIGHLY requested. I’ll tell you how to start a lifestyle blog from scratch, register your own domain, set up hosting and install WordPress.
Before you start
It’s a good idea to know what you want to blog about. Just because you want to learn how to start a lifestyle blog though, doesn’t mean that you have to write about the same things other lifestyle bloggers write about. To start, you don’t have to have gorgeous photos, your Instagram feed doesn’t have to be “perfect” and you don’t need to share anything too personal about yourself, if you don’t want to. There are so many niches and topics you can choose, but the best advice I can give you, is to make sure that when you do start your blog, you write about and focus on topics you’re very passionate about. Otherwise, you will get bored very quickly. Focus on something you’re good at, something you’re really interested in, maybe something you want to learn more bout.
If you’re a bit nervous, don’t think that you have to know everything there is to know about blogging. One of the reasons why I love blogging so much, is that I get to learn new things pretty much on the daily basis.
There are a few blogging platforms, but I will focus on WordPress.org, since it’s the platform I use. This is a self-hosted WordPress platform, which means that you will have to own your domain and sign up for hosting (which I will explain in more detail). WordPress.org offers a lot of features and freedom with customizing your blog/website, whereas other platforms might have their limitations. If you’re thinking of really committing to having a blog, long-term, eventually starting a business, making an income or selling a product, maybe opening a blog shop, then I highly recommend you go with WordPress.org as it’s also very easy to set up. After four years of working on WordPress, I cannot imagine working on any different platform.
If you want to blog just for fun or for yourself or you don’t want to worry about setting up hosting and want to sign up for a free blog, you can go with platforms like Blogger or WordPress.com.
WordPress.org is actually a free service, but in order to use it you will need to own a domain and set up hosting for your blog.
Register Your Domain + Sign Up for Hosting
When I decided to start this blog, I was a bit intimidated as it was my first self-hosted blog (I worked on WordPress.com prior to launching Thirteen Thoughts). In reality though, setting up a self-hosted blog is easy. To start, visit HostGator (which is the web hosting service I’ve used for four years of blogging) and choose a plan. If you’re just starting out, you can host your blog for as little as $3.95 a month and I recommend you go either with the Hatchling or Baby plan.
After you chose your plan, you can either buy your domain, or use one you already own (if, for instance, you’re moving from Blogger). I definitely recommend you buy your domain from the same place you’re planning to host, as it makes things much easier down the road. I actually bought my domain from a service separate from my hosting, and when TT outgrew cheap hosting and I had to upgrade servers, it made the whole process a bit more complicated.
When choosing a domain name you obviously have to choose one that no one else is using, so you might have to get a little creative. If you are registering a new domain, you’ll first need to check if it’s available. Let’s say, for example, you want to start a beauty blog and your name is Annie. Let’s see if “anniebeauty.com” is available.
As you can see, this domain is not available. You can choose to with “anniebeauty.org” or “anniebeauty.co” if you’d like, but I recommend going with the “.com” extension as it’s universally used. Let’s try something different like “anniesbeauty.com“.
This one also isn’t available, let’s try another one, like “annieandbeauty.com“.
Success! This domain seems to be available and once you find yours, you can go ahead and select it. Then, you will need to select your package type- if you’re just starting out, you can go with “Hatchling”. Following, you pick your billing cycle, where there are a few options. Your price will differ depending on your billing cycle- usually you get a much better price when billed anually. You will then create a username and security pin for your account, enter your billing information and add any additional services you want to add and you’re ready to check out. Now all you have to do is wait until everything is set up.
Some people actually pay to have WordPress installed, but it’s ridiculously simple, and as long as you can read and know how to use a computer, you can do it yourself. After you register your domain and sign up for your hosting account with HostGator, you will receive a confirmation email that will contain some important information, including a link to your control panel, username and password. Once you open your control panel by clicking on the link in your “welcome” email, enter your username and password and log in. You can watch an orientation video that will pop up, if it’s your first time working with a self-hosted website.
Under the “Popular Links” section you should see WordPress Installer, that’s where you’ll click to install WordPress. Fill out the form with your information (select your domain, fill in your name, username, blog title, etc.) and click “Install WordPress“. It’s that simple, your blog is being set up!
Select “WordPress Installer”
Select your domain and click “Next”
After you enter all your information, click “Install now”
Sometimes, it can take a little while for everything to set up, so don’t worry if you try to go to your blog address and it’s not showing up right away.
After you’re done setting up your domain with HostGator and installing WordPress, it’s time to pick a theme. To access your blog, go to yourblogname.com/wp-admin (using the example above, we’d go to annieandbeauty.com/wp-admin) and you will be prompted to enter your login information. This is where you will log in to blog; write your posts, change your themes, upload your images, etc.
This is what your WordPress Dashboard will look like.
WordPress is pretty simple to navigate and you can easily change your theme by going under Appearance > Themes. There will be a few default themes that come pre-installed in WordPress, but you can search through many free themes or you can purchase pre-made themes from places like CreativeMarket or Etsy.
You can change/add a theme under Appearance – Themes
You can now go under Posts and delete the “Hello World” post that will appear on your blog.
Now, even though this post is titled “How to Start a Lifestyle Blog“, you can obviously set up a blog in any niche, by following these steps. After you publish a couple of posts, I highly recommend you start connecting with bloggers in your niche, right away. Visit other blogs, leave comments and don’t be afraid to spread the word about your blog, even if you’re just starting out. I get questions about growing and expanding blog audience pretty much every single day and I always say that connecting with other bloggers is a great place to start.
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Another tip is this: start a Pinterest account for your blog- sign up for a Business Account and set up rich pins for your blog. Once again, Pinterest is a great place to connect with others, but it can also be a great resource for information, or a place to promote your blog posts. If you want to grow your Pinterest account but don’t have time to pin on regular basis (which is what will help you grow your following fast) then I also recommend you schedule them using a tool like TailWind (I wrote about it here). You can also join a few group boards for bloggers- you can find boards to join on PinGroupie. I get thousands of referrals from Pinterest every day, so I highly recommend you check it out and get familiar with it.
My Blogging and Photography sections are full of blog tips you might find helpful when starting out. I also have a BLOG RESOURCE page where I linked exact equipment I use for blogging, plugins I recommend as well as some of my most-loved Blogging and Photography posts. If you can’t find an answer to your question, feel free to get in touch with me.
This post took me a while to create and was originally scheduled to go up a few weeks ago, but when it comes to blogging, I could go on and on and on. :) I’m also planning to do a follow-up post with some Q&A for new bloggers that I often get, so if you guys have any questions you want me to answer in that post, feel free to leave them down below or email them to me at paula[at]thirteenthoughts.com
If you need any help setting up your blog, you can also contact HostGator at (866) 964-2867 or via their live chat.
This post contains affiliate links.