Starting a blog is an idea that can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. There are so many blogs already out there. Some of them are so big!
Remember: No matter how successful the blog, there was a time when it was just getting started, too.
ProBlogger, for example, was once a hobby for Darren Rowse before becoming a part-time job, then a full-time job, then a full-fledged business. Mashable was founded by Pete Cashmore when he was 19. An unknown number of successful “mommy blogs” started as women who were just looking to share thoughts on motherhood with other mothers.
They all had humble beginnings.
It’s easy to overlook this and become overwhelmed when it’s time for you to start a blog. Even if you’ve started a blog before it can be overwhelming.
Where do I start? Where do I go? What do I do?
Blogging, like cooking, is actually pretty easy. That doesn’t mean blogging or cooking well is easy. It means the beginning stages aren’t too bad.
With cooking, you can just put a frozen meal in the microwave. Or you can put on a pot of boiling water and add Ramen noodles. Done. You’re a chef.
Getting started with blogging is only slightly more difficult.
Starting a blog: Why do you want to blog?
The first question to ask yourself is why you want to blog. Or, to ask it another way: What is your goal with blogging?
The reason this is important is your answer dictates all the other steps you will take.
Many of those questions with which you’re struggling (Do I buy a domain name? How do I buy a domain name? What is WordPress? Is it free? How will I attract readers?) will become clearer once you’ve answered this first question.
Why? Why do you want to blog? What’s your goal?
After all, someone who just wants to blog for friends and family doesn’t have the same needs as someone looking to have lots of readers or who wants to make money blogging.
Should you be pinching pennies…
If you’re just blogging for fun, there’s really no need for you to pay money for a domain name and web host. You’re perfectly free to do so (by that I mean such things are open to everyone), but the primary reasons for doing so will not apply to you.
You’ll get a free domain name in the following format: example.wordpress.com. The “example” is whatever available WordPress name you choose. It could be your name, a nickname, a funny expression, an inside joke, etc. It can be whatever you want it to be.
I’ll write a future article detailing these steps.
Alternatively, you can do away with the “wordpress.com” part of your domain and have an example.com, example.net, etc. domain instead. This is a paid upgrade with WordPress and, as of this writing, costs $18 annually.
…or should you invest money into your blog
If your blog is for a business, or for your profession, or you hope to gain fame and/or fortune with it, I highly recommend you register a domain address. In other words, don’t have an example.wordpress.com address. Have an example.com address.
Why? So many reasons. For now, I’ll list three: Brand recognition, credibility (you’re far more likely to be seen as a resource in your niche with a professional domain name) and flexibility (your choice of software, designs, plugins, etc. are limitless).
You can register your domain with a company like GoDaddy, but I prefer and recommend having my domain registrar and hosting company to be one and the same. (Think of it like having both your 401k and IRA retirement accounts with the same company, such as Vanguard. It just makes things easier.)
I use HostGator [affiliate link] and so do a lot of other blogs. I highly recommend them.
In a future article, I’ll walk through the process of registering a domain name and hosting package with HostGator.
Some people blog for fame
Some people blog for money. Some people blog because they love to write. And, some people probably blog to give them something to do.
There’s no wrong reason to blog (unless it’s part of some complicated world domination scheme). You just need to know your reason.
Be honest about it. And once you know, you’re ready for the fun stuff.
What’s your reason for starting a blog?
Flickr Creative Commons Images via Nolan Williamson (adapted).