A few weeks ago, I went to drop RB40Jr off at school and met one of his friends’ mom. We hit it off because she’s from Thailand and we had a short conversation while we waited for the kids to go inside. She asked what I do, and I told her I’m a blogger. She must have heard “logger” because she said something about landscaping. I didn’t have a chance to correct her because she had to run and drop off her other kids. Okay, that was a bit strange, but understandable. Blogging is a relatively newer way to make money and a lot of people don’t know the possibility of blogging as a business.
*Stern Warning: Blogging takes up a lot of time, especially in the beginning. When I first started, I routinely spent around 40 hours per week on this “hobby.” It really cut into my sleep and I routinely stayed up until 1 am. Now, I’ve settled into a groove and I still spend 20-30 hours per week on this blog. You have to be passionate about the subject to spend this kind of time on it. I just don’t want you to spend money starting a blog and then find out you don’t have time for it. Blogging changed my life so it’s worth it to me. It is also very fulfilling to write and share my views with readers. Anyway, I hope I didn’t scare you off. It’s really worth your time if you can make it work. Good luck and read on!
Why you should blog start a blog
I started blogging in 2010 and it completely transformed my life for the better. I was at a low point in my life and blogging lifted me out of that funk. It gave me a purpose by helping me focus on improving my life instead of blaming others for my problems. Blogging helped turn the negative energy into a creative force. That’s pretty amazing. Here are just a few ways that blogging helped me.
- Setting goals – Writing your goals down has a way of making them more concrete. Once I started sharing my goal to retire early, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. I made plans to achieve my goals and I followed through on the execution. It’s probably mostly psychological, but blogging has been extremely helpful with achieving my goals.
- Community – Early retirement and financial independence are difficult to talk about. Nobody I know in real life is comfortable with the idea of retiring early and I couldn’t find any support in my circle of friends. Luckily, we have the internet now. Blogging about early retirement connected me to like minded individuals all over the world. Many of our readers are interested in early retirement and I’ve discovered many other online communities about FIRE. The internet is amazing because you can always find someone who has similar interests as you. Blogging can help you find your tribe, and I found mine.
- Creativity – Since I started blogging, I have been writing and reading about new ideas every week. Previously, I thought early retirement meant only saving and investing a lot of money. Now I know there are many different ways to reach early retirement. You don’t have to take the beaten path if you’re creative. Blogging will help expand your mind.
- Extra income – The extra income is a nice bonus. I didn’t expect to make much money when I first started blogging. I was just hoping that the site could pay the monthly hosting. However, Retire by 40 turned out to be a relevant blog because workers everywhere are totally stressed out. The modern work-a-day life is very dissatisfying and a lot of people are looking for an alternative. Blogging really is very flexible and you can take it in many directions. For me, I’m happy with the income from advertising. More ambitious bloggers use their blogs as a platform to launch careers such as freelance writing, motivational speaking, consulting, and ad campaigning. Blogging is a great way to join the internet economy. And you never know. Maybe you’ll be one of those elite bloggers that make $10,000 per month! It’s really amazing how much online income some people make. By the way, I made over $150,000 since I started blogging in 2010. That’s not bad for a hobby, right?
How to start a blog
That’s why I encourage everyone to start a blog. The great thing about blogging is that you don’t need to know how to do all the technical stuff. You don’t even need to be a great writer. I was always better at STEM subjects when I was in school and I never thought I could write for a wide audience. My early articles weren’t great, but I improved a lot since then. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. Seriously, if I can write a blog, anyone can.
First we’ll go over a few terms.
- Domain – This is what people type in their browser to get to your site. The domain name here is retireby40.org.
- Hosting – Your blog lives in a computer at your web hosting company. I use SiteGround because they are fast and reliable.
- WordPress – The software behind most of the blog that you see. Almost every blogger uses WordPress because it is easy to work with and it’s the standard setup. I would go with WordPress if you’re new because it will be easier to find answers to your questions.
Starting a blog is extremely easy. Again, you don’t have to know anything about the technical side in the beginning. The hosting companies want your business and they will help you set up a WordPress blog in just a few minutes. You might think it would be better to start a blog for free on Blogger, Blogspot, or wordpress.org; however, I don’t recommend going with free in this case. Most advertisers and companies avoid working with free sites because free blogs are not very professional. There are also other limitations such as not being able to put ads on your site. It’s much better to have complete control over your site and go with a hosting company like SiteGround. The price really is pretty cheap for the first year at $3.95 per month. Normally, I like free, but paid hosting is a lot better.
What will you blog about?
Here is the first thing you need to deal with before starting a blog – what will you write about? I started Retire by 40 because I was driven to retire early. I knew I couldn’t continue working at my old company and that gave me plenty of fuel to blog about financial independence and early retirement.
Once you settle on a topic, then it’s time to pick a name for your blog. For me, it was a moment of inspiration. In 2010, I hated work and I spent quite a bit of time reading various personal finance blogs. Suddenly, the name Retire by 40 popped into my head. It was the perfect name and I registered a domain name right away. Mrs. RB40 was 7 months pregnant at the time and she was a bit stunned when I shared this news with her. She got on-board with the plan soon after, though.
One of my goals this year is to start a new site and I’m going with Fit by 40. Yes, I’m a few years over 40, but I want to keep the new site under the same brand umbrella. I really need to improve my fitness now that I’m getting older. Blogging improved my personal finance so much and I hope it can do the same for my fitness.
Check Google and US Trademark office
When you start a new site, you should Google the name first to avoid future problems. If a blog with that name shows up on Google search, then you probably should go with a different name. Using the same name as an established business is going to cause a conflict and you’d probably lose if it comes down to a lawsuit.
For Fit by 40, I searched the internet and found a site on blogspot with this name. I think this is fine, though. The site is not a business because there aren’t any ads there. I believe Trademark law only applies once the name is used in commerce. I
Also, it’s a good idea to search the trademark database at the USPTO. If something comes up here, I’d go with a different name. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a business associated with the brand Fit by 40 in the trademark database. You can see an example of a registered trademark by searching for Retire by 40.
Get your domain name
Now that you have a name for your blog, you need to see if the domain name is available.
Go to namecheap and search for your domain name.
The best case scenario is that the .com is available. However, almost all basic names have already been purchased by domain speculators. Fitby40.com is also taken, but it is available for $4,095 per year. I’m going to say no to that and go with fitby40.org instead. I don’t think it’s a huge deal at this point because you can type a site name into the browser address field now. The .com is still preferred, but I think .org or .net is perfectly fine.
I purchased fitby40.org for $3 around New Year, but you don’t need to do that if you’re going with SiteGround.
You will get a free domain when you purchase a hosting plan with SiteGround. SiteGround discontinued the free domain promotion in March, 2017. 🙁
Go with SiteGround
Okay, now it’s time to get serious and get a hosting plan. I recommend SiteGround because they have great performance and the price is very competitive. The StartUp plan is $3.95 per month and that’s all you need at the beginning. You can always upgrade once your blog has more traffic.
SiteGround is one of the best hosting companies right now and their price is competitive with other hosts. You could find cheaper plans, but they will not be as good as SiteGround. Here are the reasons why I recommend SiteGround.
- Uptime – SiteGround has very good uptime record. This means your site will rarely go down. I hate it when Retire by 40 doesn’t load and this is a huge priority for me.
- Speed – SiteGround is faster than most other hosting companies. Many hosting companies are owned by Endurance International Group and their quality of service is subpar. SiteGround is not owned by EIG and I hope they stay that way.
- Support – They have a very good support team that you can chat or call 24/7. In fact, I recommend that new bloggers chat with support and request them to install a WordPress site for you. It is easy to do it manually, but even easier to let them do it for you. I’ve tried 4 hosting companies and SiteGround has the best support team by far.
I switched to SiteGround about a year ago and I’ve been very happy with them. Retire by 40 has been very stable (100% uptime) and the speed has improved. Previously, I used JustHost and I had more issues.
Alternatively, you could go with BlueHost. BlueHost is a bigger company, but their performance isn’t as good as SiteGround according to various reviews. However, Bluehost is more affordable once you move beyond basic shared hosting. Either Bluehost or SiteGround works fine when you’re just starting out. It’s easy to change hosts if you need to. BlueHost does pay a better referral fee ($65 vs $50) so I don’t mind if you sign up with them. 😉 I still recommend SiteGround over BlueHost, though.
The signup process
The signup process is really easy. You can visit SiteGround and keep this page open for referral if you’d like.
Step 1. Choose Plan. If you’re just starting out, I’d go with the cheapest plan. The GrowBig and GoGeek are great plans for people who have multiple sites and more traffic. If you’re switching from other hosting platform, either of those would work very well. The higher level plans also come with caching which will speed up your site.
Step 2. Choose Domain. Input your domain name.
Step 3. Review & Complete. This is where you add your info and pay for the hosting service. Here you need to select a password and write it down. Here, I would go with 12 months of service. If you choose one month, then there would be a $14.95 setup fee. One year of service cost $47.40. That’s really not bad because it will be the full amount you need to spend on your blog for the next 12 months. I would skip the domain privacy and HackAlert monitoring at this time.
Log on to SiteGround and install WordPress
Once you’ve signed up for hosting, you’re ready to install WordPress. There should be a welcome email from SiteGround in your mailbox at this point with your username. The email should have a link to a page where you can log on to SiteGround with that username and the password you wrote down earlier. You can try logging on now and check out SiteGround’s user area and control panel, or cpanel.
At this point, I wouldn’t worry too much about cpanel because you need to install WordPress first. The easiest way to do this is to ask the support team to install for you. You can access the chat from SiteGround’s homepage.
If you really want to install WordPress yourself, here is SiteGround’s tutorial.
Register the DNS server
If you register your domain name with SiteGround, then you should be good to go. However, if you register your domain name with NameCheap or GoDaddy, then you need to do one more thing. You need to tell the registrar (NameCheap) where your host servers (SiteGround) are.
At this point, you should call or cat SiteGround’s support to get the Nameservers. This information is also available in your SiteGround dashboard. Then log on to your registrar and input the custom DNS.
I know the preceding paragraph will sound like Chinese to a lot of you, but it isn’t that difficult. The support team will help you through it. Once this is done, your site should be up very soon. Whew!
Now, you’re ready to start blogging!
Log on to your site’s admin area. You should be able to get to the logon page by typing the following into the address bar of your internet browser. (Change fitby40 to your site domain.)
Explore WordPress and modify some settings
Once you’ve logged on, there are a few things that you should do. You can also click around a bit and explore WordPress.
1. Set permalink and time zone. You should use “Post name” for the permalink setting. Then go to the General setting and set your time zone.
2. Write your first blog post. Click the “Publish” button and you’ll be able to see what your blog looks like.
That’s it! You’re on your way. At this point, your site will look very basic, but don’t worry about it too much. WordPress is very flexible and you can make endless customizations. You can visit Fit by 40 and see what a basic blog looks like. I only have a few posts up at this point and I’ve only done a few basic customizations. I’ll leave it like this for about a month and work on the design later.
Basic customization for your site
Customizing your site is a never-ending work in progress. It’s tough to balance content and design when you’re starting out. I think most people will want to work on design until they get it just right, but that’s difficult when you don’t know much about WordPress. I would start getting content out first and then work on the design as you go. The truth is you’ll be the only one to see your blog for a while (unless you’ve got an awesome site name).
Here are the basic customization that I’ve done at Fit by 40.
Header – This is the image at the top of the page. You can add an image by clicking on Appearance > Header. I found a relevant image and added it to the header by clicking on the Header Media menu. You can also change the Site Title and Tagline in this section. Here are a couple of good free sites to get your first few images – Pexels and pixabay.
Widgets (sidebar) – Next, you can customize your sidebar by clicking on Appearance > Widgets. I haven’t done much at Fit by 40 yet. I just added a Twitter icon and put one ad on the sidebar.
Plugins – This is where things will start to get more complicated. You can add Plugins to increase the functionality of your blog. Here are the few plugins that I currently have on Fit by 40.
- Akismet and Growmap Anti Spam Plugin – These are good plugins that will reduce the spam in your comment section.
- Jetpack – Jetpack is a big plugin and it can add social share buttons, enable you to look at visitor statistics, improve security, and more.
- SG CachePress – This is the caching plugin from SiteGround. It will help improve the speed of the site. This one was a bit more complicated to install, but the support team helped me get it going.
- Yoast SEO – This plugin will help improve your search engine result.
There are hundreds of plugins and you can find a ton of info on the internet. I’d keep it light when you’re starting out. Too many plugins will slow down your site. If you have any problems with any of these plugins, contact the SiteGround support team via chat. They have been very helpful for me.
Theme – A theme dictates how your site looks. Currently (January 2017), I’m leaving Fit by 40 at the default theme (Twenty Seventeen). I will change it to the Thesis theme soon to keep it consistent with Retire by 40. Actually, my main motivation for starting a new site is so I can redesign Retire by 40. I don’t want to make any changes here until I tried it out first on Fit by 40. I needed a guinea pig site for the redesign.
You can add new themes and change the look of your blog by clicking on Appearance > Themes. I recommend leaving the default theme until you have a few posts up. Don’t let customization distract you from blogging. It will take a ton of time to get your site to look just right so there is no need to rush. I spent way too many late nights on the design when I first started out. On Fit by 40, I’m going to take my time and I won’t stress out too much over how it looks.
Cpanel – Cpanel is a web based control panel to manage your WordPress site. You can change your password, check webmail, and that kind of thing. I’d just ignore this for now and learn about it later. The only thing you really need to do here is to forward the emails to your gmail account.
Blogging tips for new bloggers
I think the hardest thing for new bloggers is to keep going. When you’re just starting out, there won’t be many readers and it will feel like no one hears what you have to say. Believe me, every blogger went through that at some point. You’ll just have to stick with it and keep writing. Things will improve as you build up your content. Here are a few tips to keep you going.
Blog about something you’re interested in. Blogging will take a lot of time and you should blog about something you’re interested in. Blogging about your interest is the easiest way to create a genuine voice. It’s really difficult to write about something you don’t care about and it’s not fun. Why would you want to blog about something you aren’t interested in?
Set a schedule and stick with it. I think this is the biggest factor that kept me going in the beginning. I set a schedule to blog MWF and I stuck with it no matter what. Blogging became a part of my routine. If I didn’t have a set schedule, I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep it up. At Fit by 40, I will blog once per week.
Don’t aim for perfection with your blog posts. My blog posts weren’t very good when I started. I tried my best, but I wasn’t a very good writer back then. It took a long time to find my voice and if I needed every post to be perfect, I’d given up long ago. I think it’s better to get something out than to shoot for perfection every time. Everyone is busy and sometimes you just have to go with a short blog post or an easy one.
Don’t spend too much time on customization. Honestly, customizing my site was more fun than blogging in the beginning. You can see instant feedback and it feels good to see improvements. However, you don’t want to spend all your time on the backend. I think it’s better to get some posts up first and then work on the site itself when you have extra time.
Connect with other bloggers and communities in the same niche. Once you have a few posts up, try to connect with other like-minded individuals online. You can comment on other blogs. Seek out bloggers who just started and work together to help promote each other. Established bloggers will probably be happy to help you with your questions as well. We were all beginners at one point.
Those are my tips for beginners and you can find a ton more on the internet. Blogging has been very fulfilling for me and it opened up a world of possibilities. You might think it’s too hard or you don’t have time for it, but you won’t know unless you try it. I’d give it at least a year and see where it goes. And you never know, you might be able to make a little extra income through your blog. Fit by 40 already made 8 cents in 2 days! Heh heh, you won’t make much income at first, but it will get better.
Alright, what are you waiting for? Visit SiteGround now and you can start a blog in just a few minutes. Enjoy your blogging journey!
*This post contains affiliate links and we may receive a referral fee if you sign up with the hosting services mentioned here.
Your can find more tips in my follow up – How to Grow Readership for Your New Blog.