Ever wondered how to start a blog and make enough money to quit your job?
You can do it. Tons of people already have.
Making $300,000 per month is REALLY hard. Making $3000 per month is a lot easier.
And for most folks, an extra $3000 per month would change their life.
So, yes. Blocks of text and a handful of images can generate life-changing amounts of money.
Want to know something else?
I started from the same place you’re at right now. The only difference between you and me is that I’ve already been doing this for a decade.
Look, I stumbled a LOT along the way. Fell flat on my face. Had tons of terrible ideas.
This guide shows you how to avoid the same mistakes I did. Not only will your path be easier, you’ll get there a lot quicker.
Let’s dive in.
Your 2-minute quickstart cheat sheet
Looking for a barebones, quickstart guide to get started as fast as possible? In this section, we won’t cover everything, only the essential steps.
First, you need an idea and a name for your blog.
From there, head to Bluehost and sign up for the Basic Plan. It’s $2.95 per month if you sign up for three years in advance—I highly recommend it to get the best deal.
Next, follow the instructions to set up your account. Skip all the package extras except for domain privacy + protection. The extra privacy is worth the investment.
Finish setting up your account, and now you officially have your own little piece of the internet. Congrats!
But, don’t celebrate too hard just yet—we’re not quite finished. From there, you need to:
- Install WordPress (your blogging platform)
- Choose and install a cheap/affordable theme
- Customize your new theme
- Write and publish your first blog post
- Stick to a regular publishing schedule
After you have your first few posts under your belt and traffic starts to flow in, you can start thinking about how you want to make your first $1.
From selling ad space to digital/physical product offerings and affiliate marketing, there are dozens of monetization methods you can explore.
Now let’s go through the whole process in detail.
Step 1. Unleash ideas within you
If you want to create a blog, you don’t need a revolutionary idea. But, your blog should be focused on something specific.
Remember that no idea, no matter how good, is truly unique.
But, you have unique experiences. You have a distinct voice. And, you probably have a vibrant personality that will attract others, like your family and friends.
When it comes to choosing your blog’s niche, there are two key questions to ask yourself.
1. Do I Enjoy Learning About This Topic?
If you don’t love the topic, it’ll show in your writing. You shouldn’t even start a blog if you don’t love what you’re blogging about.
Whatever topic you pick, you need to love it, and naturally curious about it. If not, you’ll run out of ideas quickly. Most importantly, you won’t be able to consistently create content that will build your audience.
If you are still lost, think about what your family and friends come to you for when seeking advice? It might be fitness, recipes, or relationship advice. You know best.
2. Are There Others Interested in The Same Things?
You might feel like the only 23-year-old who’s obsessed with knitting. But, there are others out there.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find 539,000 results aimed at people just like you.
You might be wondering if your idea is too quirky. Or, maybe it’s too broad?
If you want to start a travel blog, stay away from generic words like “travel.” Choose a more specific topic, like “backpacking.”
Step 2. Choose a name for your new blog
Now for the fun part: naming your blog.
This is your brand. It’s how people will remember you.
But don’t overthink it. The magic of a brand gets built over time. Even if you feel stuck, keep moving forward.
The best way to land on the perfect name is to start with brainstorming. In the last step, we talked about unleashing all of your ideas and nailing down your niche. Now, it’s time to take those ideas and turn them into a name.
So, open up a new spreadsheet or grab a pen and paper. Then spend about ten minutes writing down every word that comes to mind.
From there, start combining words and phrases until something stands out to you. Aim for 5 – 10 potential names and write them down.
Now, it’s time to see if those names are available as domains. A domain is where your blog lives on the internet.
As an example, neilpatel.com is my domain.
Neil Patel is who I am, but it’s also my brand and what you type into the address bar to find me. But that also means you can’t use the domain because I already own it.
You could do what I did and use your personal name as your domain.
But in most cases, I recommend choosing a different name for your blog. That’ll make it a lot easier to sell the site if you ever want to.
How do we see if domains are available?
I prefer to use Bluehost’s domain name checker. Type each potential name in one at a time to see what’s available.
After you click the search button, you’ll see whether or not the name you chose is in use.
When you find a name that’s available, you’ll get results like this:
Keep trying your potential names until an option you like is available. If none of your potential names are available as a .com, head back to the beginning and keep brainstorming.
It might take some effort to find the perfect name and domain name for your blog, but it’s worth it.
Here are some extra tips for choosing an excellent domain name:
- Always choose a .com when possible
- Avoid using numbers, hyphens, and homophones (words that sounds the same but are spelled differently)
- Keep it as short and concise as possible
- Should be easy to say and understand
- Avoid complicated and commonly misspelled words
When you land on an available name, Bluehost automatically adds it to your cart.
Don’t buy it yet. I’ll show you how to get your domain for free in the next step.
Step 3. Get Web Hosting with Your Best Service Provider To Knowledge.
Step 4. Install WordPress – Your Blogging Software
You can’t start a blog without blogging software. I run all of my blogs on WordPress because it’s user-friendly, free, and powerful.
If you decide to make a blog that’s not on WordPress you’ll find that it is much more costly as WordPress offers thousands of free plugins that allow you to modify your blog in any way, shape, or form.
Even without a technical bone in your body, you can install WordPress in exactly five clicks.
After you get your free domain and hosting account, you can log in and use your first click on the “Install WordPress” icon.
Choose the “do it yourself” version and click the “Install” button.
Use your third click on the “Check Domain” button.
Your last two clicks will be for acknowledging their terms of service and finalizing your install.
Within a minute, you’ll have a fully functional WordPress blog up and running.
Step 5. Design Your Blog With a WordPress Theme
In the blogging world, WordPress designs are called themes.
Out of the box, your blog will look something like this:
It isn’t the fanciest design out there, but it’s workable.
There are thousands of themes to choose from. But, it can be easy to get trapped in “Shiny Object Syndrome” and not walk away with anything.
You can swap out your theme any time, so don’t get too caught up with the bells and whistles.
First, you need to log into your WordPress admin. You can access this by going to yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
Here, you’ll need to enter your user credentials to log in.
If you’re new to WordPress, the dashboard might look a little daunting at first, but you’ll be an expert with a little practice.
To install a new theme, hover over the “Appearance” menu in the sidebar and click “Themes.”
WordPress comes with a few themes – their “Twenty-[Year]” themes.
Instead, we’ll search for flashier themes that will instantly make your eyes twinkle. Click the “Add New” button at the top to get access to thousands of WordPress themes.
Your taste and mine might be different. Fortunately, WordPress has a “Feature Filter” that lets you search for something that will fit your style.
The three categories are “layout,” “features” and “subject.” Here’s what your filter requests might look like.
After applying the filters, you’ll see amazing themes that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars in design fees.
If you click on the theme’s thumbnail, you can get an instant preview of what your blog will look like. Evaluate if it fits both your personal style and the topic that you’ll be covering.
Once you’re satisfied with the sneak peek, click the “Install” button.
Once the installation is complete, click the “Activate” button and you’re all set.
If you can’t find a theme that you like, there are premium themes that you can purchase from sites like:
- Elegant Themes
- Thrive Themes
By now, your theme should be activated and ready to go. Let’s move on to customizing your theme.
Step 6. Customize and Optimize Your WordPress Blog
There are endless customizations that you can make on a WordPress blog. We’ll stick with the essentials.
Themes are the foundation of your design and include the core functionalities. WordPress also has plugins that can add to or extend the functionality of your blog.
For example, you can use plugins to add forums, contact forms, or sliders. While they might seem like basic features, they aren’t always available by default.
The first step is to click the “Customize” button on your active theme.
Menu options in the sidebar will vary, depending on the theme you choose. The main category to edit is “Site Identity.”
Here, you can add the name of your blog and a tagline if you wish. When you’re done, click the “Save and Publish” button.
Optimize for Search Engine Traffic
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a multi-billion dollar industry.
SEO is the process of optimizing your website to be found in search engines for particular keywords and phrases.
I attribute a good portion of my success to being easily discoverable for relevant search terms, which has helped me build my networks and net worth.
If you’re new to SEO, then this may seem daunting.
But, WordPress makes it insanely simple to optimize the technical aspects of your blog.
The majority of your SEO efforts will be to create engaging content for real people. Whether that’s through text, videos, or images, your job as a blogger is to spark a relationship with your readers.
And, what better way is there than through relatable and informative conversation?
You can get started by downloading a plugin called Yoast SEO.
Hover over the plugins menu on the side and click “Add New.”
Search for “Yoast SEO” in the search bar and it will be the first result that comes up.
Click the “Install Now” button. Then, hit the “Activate” button once the installation is complete.
You can access the plugin’s settings from the new SEO menu in the sidebar or by clicking the icon at the top.
From the dashboard, go to “Your Info” and set the foundations for your blog.
Make sure that your website name and tagline are correct. Then, identify yourself as a company or person.
Click the “Save Changes” button and we’ll move on to the next step.
Next, go to the “Webmaster Tools” tab and click “Google Search Console.” Google Search Console is a webmaster tool that allows you to submit your site to their search index and optimize visibility.
Sign into your Google account, whether that’s your Gmail or Drive account.
Once you’ve logged in, click the “Alternate methods” tab and select “HTML tag.”
A new drop-down will appear with your search console meta code. Copy the alphanumeric string without the quotation marks.
Next, paste your meta code into the Google Search Console text box and click “Save Changes.”
Finally, click the “Verify” button.
As you tinker around in Webmaster Central, you’ll gain a wealth of data-driven insight, such as keyword phrases you rank for, errors on your blog, and the ability to give Google a nudge when you publish a new post.
Next, go to the “General” tab and start the installation wizard.
Yoast will take you through a series of 10 quick steps to optimize your WordPress blog.
The first step is a welcome screen that you can skip.
In the second step, select the environment that best suits your site. Most likely, you’ll choose the production environment, which means that it is a real website that you intend on driving traffic to.
Step 3 is the website type. Choose blog and click next.
The next step is to set yourself up as a company or person. We already set this up before, so you can skip this step.
In step 5, you can add any social profiles that are associated with your blog. Click “Next” when complete.
Step 6 is about post visibility. The default settings are fine to use. Set your “Posts” and “Pages” to visible and “Media” to hidden.
Next, you’ll have to decide whether you’ll have multiple authors or a solo blogger. If you choose to add another writer in the future, you can change these settings later.
If you wish to have the Yoast SEO plugin pull in data from Google’s search console, step 8 is the place to do it.
Click on the “Get Google Authorization Code” button.
A new pop-up will appear where you can allow Yoast to access your search console data. Click the “Allow” button to confirm access.
In step 9, you can verify your website name and choose a title separator.
The title separator is a symbol used to separate your blog post’s title and your website’s name in the meta title information. This is what Google searchers will see when finding your blog through a search query.
For instance, if you found this post on Google, you might have seen “How to Start a Blog – Neil Patel.”
The symbol is a matter of personal preference. Click “Next” when you’re ready to move on.
The final step is no step at all. It’s a congratulatory message confirming that you have successfully optimized your SEO settings for your budding WordPress blog.
The last Yoast SEO setting worth configuring is an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a file that lists the URLs for your website.
It helps Google and other search engines crawl your site for new posts and pages. Fortunately, Yoast has a built-in feature that automatically updates your sitemap, so you can click it and forget it.
In the “Features” tab, set the “Advanced settings pages” to “Enabled” and save the changes.
A new group of menus will appear in the sidebar, under “SEO.” Select the “XML Sitemaps” menu.
Select the “User Sitemap” tab and toggle “Author / user sitemap” to enabled. Don’t forget to save your changes.
You can play around with these settings endlessly, but everything that we’ve set up to this point will get you started on the right track.
Set Up Permalinks
Permalinks are static hyperlinks that lead to a particular blog post or page. By default, WordPress sets your permalinks to yourdomain.com/postID.
In no way is this sexy and it doesn’t help anyone understand what the page is about before viewing it.
The simple fix is to set a permalink structure.
In the left sidebar, mouse-over “Settings” and choose “Permalinks.”
There are a few options to choose from. I use the “Post name” structure on my blog which uses keywords from my title to create a unique permalink.
Save the settings after you’ve selected it. You’ll see this in action a bit later.
If you’re still with me, you’ve purchased your domain and web hosting, installed a theme, and optimized your website to be crawled and found by search engines.
Now, we get to the bread and butter of blogging. What are you going to write about in your blog?
Let’s find out.
Step 7. Brainstorm Blog Topics
On the technical side, your blog is all set up and ready to go. When it comes to topic generation, the world is your oyster.
The majority of your blog posts will come from personal experiences, passions, successes, failures, and new learnings.
People use questions as search queries, like:
- What should I write about?
- What to blog about?
- Should I start blogging?
So naturally, you should start off with some questions of your own. I use a series of questions and a systematic process to come up with my blog topic ideas.
No need to worry. It’s not complicated and it won’t take very much time.
By following this process, you should be able to come up with about 50 working topics within a half hour of distraction-free time.
Pull out a pen and paper or open up your favorite word processing tool.
The goal of this exercise is to get 10 answers for each question. If you can think of more, note them all.
It’s time to look through the lens of your readers with these 5 questions.
1. “What Excites, Intrigues, or Stirs Passion in My Readers?”
- As a golfer, I get excited by hitting my driver farther. I’m fascinated by mental performance. I’m passionate about healthy living.
- As a new stay-at-home mom, I get excited by budget-friendly ideas for the family. I’m intrigued by sleep-training. I’m passionate about homeschooling.
- As an avid camper, I get excited about finding undervalued camping sites. I’m intrigued by survival tactics. I’m passionate about minimalist living.
2. “What Common Challenges Do My Readers Face?”
- Golfers might struggle with slicing the ball.
- Stay-at-home moms may find meal planning challenging.
- Campers might struggle with packing light.
3. “What Character Traits Do My Readers Possess?
- Serious golfers have emotional stability.
- Moms are patient and have a sense of humor.
- Campers are adventurous and resourceful.
4. “What Do My Readers Love About My Niche?”
- Golfers love the challenge of perfection.
- Stay-at-home moms love being a part of their child’s mental, physical and emotional development.
- Campers love time away from the busy city life.
5. “What Do My Readers Hate About My Niche?”
- Golfers hate playing with partners who complain all day long.
- Stay-at-home moms hate being looked down on by others.
- Campers hate getting eaten alive.
You get the point. Now that you have about 50 answers, you can begin dissecting blog post ideas from each answer. The sky is the limit.
Here are a few examples you can extract from one answer in your list:
- Cure Your Slice: The Foolproof Guide To Hit The Fairway Every Time
- 3 Reasons Why You’re Slicing The Ball And One Stupid Simple Fix
- Never Slice Again: 9 Drills To Play Like The Pros
- 7 Training Aids For Dead Straight Ball Flight
- How To Shoot Even Par With A Nasty Slice.
Try to come up with a catchy headline that will draw your readers in and then throw them a one-two punch in the rest of your content.
Step 8. Write Your First Masterpiece
WordPress uses an intuitive editor, similar to your favorite word processing tools. New entries are created directly from your WordPress admin.
Click on “Posts” in the left sidebar.
This will populate a list of your blog entries in descending order. Since we’re working with a fresh install, you won’t see anything here.
To create a new entry, click the “Add New” button at the top or in the sidebar.
You’ll be brought to the editor and you can begin blogging.
Click on the + in the right corner to see WordPress’s Gutenberg blocks, which allow you to add headings, media, quotes, and tons of other features to your blog.
First things first. Add one of the titles that you developed in your brainstorming session in the title text box. Immediately after, WordPress will create a permalink based on the keywords used in your title.
You can start typing the body of your article in the large text area and write until you feel happy with your content.
You’ll want to add visual assets to your blog posts as well. Images help engage readers and can often illustrate concepts better than words.
To add new images, ensure that your text cursor is in the place where you want your image to appear. Click the blue + sign, then select the “Image” block.
Choose “upload”, “select image” (if its already uploaded to your site”, or “insert from URL.”
After your image has uploaded, you can resize it, and add links using the icons at the top of the image.
Your image will automatically insert into your post.
After you’ve completed your article, you’ll need to make a few last minute optimizations using the Yoast SEO plugin.
Yoast has post specific settings that can be at the bottom of the main text area.
The fur main settings are “SEO title,”“slug,” “meta description” and “focus keyphrases.”
Completing these settings will generate a preview of what your post will look like when it is discovered in Google’s search engine results.
Create SEO titles that are attractive to click and meta descriptions that explain what your post is about.
The Yoast SEO plugin will provide real-time feedback, as you begin to optimize your title and description.
Aim for as many green lights as possible, but don’t stress if you’re unable to get a perfect score. If you can get 80% green lights, then you’re on the right track.
Before you publish your post, you can view what your blog post will look like by clicking the “preview” button at the top of the page.
Before you hit that publish button, you want to make sure that your entry looks and feels the way that you want it to.
Here’s a quick checklist to consider, before you hit the publish button:
- Speak in a conversational tone.
- Content flows naturally.
- Easy on the eyes with adequate white space.
- Use headings to separate sections.
- Bullet points and lists.
- Check for typos and grammatical errors.
If everything checks out, you’re ready to publish your first blog post.
Scroll to the top of the page and click the publish button to post immediately.
And, here’s what my final post looks like.
Congratulations. You’ve successfully set up a blog that looks great and is optimized for search engine traffic. Feels good right?
Step 9. Create an Editorial Calendar
One of the fatal mistakes I see bloggers make is to blog only when they “feel like it.”
They forget that new fans want more content and they fail to deliver.
Unforeseen circumstances will arise. You’ll let a new Netflix series take over the time that you could have spent blogging.
Life will continue to throw curveballs at you, whether you start blogging or not.
Consistency is undervalued and it needs to be something you prioritize.
I’ve written over a thousand articles and it’s not because I type 7,000 words per minute.
It’s because I follow an editorial calendar without compromise.
Schedules aren’t just for big publications like The New York Times and the Huffington Post. They’re for regular people like you and me.
Think about it like this.
If you have a doctor’s appointment in your calendar or even a lunch date with a friend, you’re going to honor it. Worst case scenario, you’ll reschedule for the next available time-slot.
Editorial calendars work in a similar fashion.
They make aggressive goals reachable in micro-steps. They keep you organized. They streamline your social media and email marketing efforts.
And, you’ll be surprised at how an editorial calendar can even help you grow in character and integrity.
We are creatures of habit.
The better you keep your dates, the faster you’ll grow your audience.
So, how do you get started and how much will it cost?
Just open up a new Excel spreadsheet. If you have multiple writers, you can share the sheet using Google drive.
Start with four columns – Publishing Date, Title, Keyword and Notes.
Your needs might be different than mine, so feel free to add additional columns as needed. Common additions might include “Author,””Category” and “Persona.”
The simpler you keep it, the easier it will be to digest and follow.
Look through your calendar on your iPhone, Android, or the one hanging on your fridge. How often can you post?
Monthly? Weekly? Daily?
Be conservative with your goals, because consistently missing deadlines can lead to quitting altogether.
Next, go through the answers that you came up with in your brainstorming session and add them under the “Title” column.
Your titles don’t need to be perfect yet. Throw in a working headline that you can spruce up before publishing.
Sometimes, the best headlines come after you’ve written your article. You’ll have a crystal clear picture of what your story is about and who it is for.
The “Keyword” column is intended for SEO purposes. If you’re targeting specific keyword phrases that you’d like to rank for, add those in there.
If nothing comes to mind, you can do some keyword research later on.
Finally, there’s the “Notes” column.
This section is a perfect place to write down brilliant ideas that come to mind. Notes also act as a great tool to stay focused on the topic at hand and tackle it coherently.
You should be able to write up a set of 25 blog post topics with deadlines that you’re confident about keeping.
That’s almost half a year’s worth of blog posts for a weekly writer.
Okay. You have the editorial, but you’re still missing the calendar.
Go to Google Calendars and set up a new calendar. You can do this by clicking the down arrow to the right of “My Calendars.”
Click “Create New Calendar” and add a name, description and time zone. You can share this calendar with other participants on your team.
If you don’t have team members, share it with your spouse or a good friend who is willing to keep you accountable to your goals.
After you’ve filled out the essential information, click “Create Calendar” and get acquainted with your new best friend.
Make sure that your calendar is selected in the left sidebar and change your schedule view to weekly.
Click on a time slot under a day and add your blog post title as the “Event Title.” I recommend that you set a notification for a couple of days before the publishing date.
If you only write whenever it’s convenient, you’re heading down a dangerous road.
You’ll eventually run out of ideas, lose motivation and forget about the drive you once had to start your own blog.
Editorial calendars are a quick fix for a blogger’s procrastination.
Step 10. Monetize Your Blog
The last step is to monetize your blog. You may not have a desire to monetize your blog immediately. If that’s you, then it’s a good thing.
Hear me out.
Conventional styles of selling looked something like this:
- Think of an idea.
- Create a product.
- Try and sell the product.
- File for bankruptcy.
This method has been unsuccessful for so many individuals and businesses, because they didn’t build an audience before creating it.
They based market demand off “gut feelings.”
And, that’s why blogging is the perfect channel for monetization.
You can build an audience through various mediums, like your email newsletter, blog comments, and social media channels.
Ask your audience
Blogging allows people into your life. If you think of your favorite bloggers, you might feel like you know them on a somewhat personal level.
Also, your market research becomes significantly easier. I ask questions at the end of my blog posts that generate hundreds of comments.
Alternatively, you can also send email blasts with a survey, using Google Forms, to gain valuable information on what your target audience wants.
By building a blog, you open doors to talk with potential customers. People who will give you honest feedback on what they want from you.
If 90% of your survey respondents tell you that they want a formal course on digital marketing, then what do you think they want?
A digital marketing course that they will pay for.
Make Money With Advertisements
If you don’t want to sell a physical product or service, you can do what other publishers are doing.
Sell advertising space.
Anyone can put an ad on their blog using Google Adsense. But, the real money comes from private sales of ad placements.
If you build a high traffic blog, you can make a full-time income selling ad spots on your website to large corporations. The only thing that you need to do is to add their banner and keep doing what you do best – write about your passion or expertise.
Starting a blog is easy. Creating one that will be successful and make money requires hard work, dedication, and grit.
But, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Blogs are affordable and more accessible today than they have ever been before.
Like anything else in life, there will be obstacles that attempt to throw you off course. But, I encourage you to go forward with your passion and share it through your own blog.