How We Started This Blog
Want to create something meaningful? Why not start a blog? Why not become a blogger? Creating this blog is one of the best decisions Ryan and I ever made. After all, our blog is about how we earn a living. More important, it’s how we add value to other people’s lives.
So you’re thinking about starting a blog, but you don’t have any idea where to start, right? Guess what—neither did we! Before we became “The Minimalists,” we wanted to start a blog to communicate our thoughts and express our feelings, but we were overwhelmed with options.
Clueless, confused, and confounded with choices, we had no idea how to start a blog or how to be a blogger. When should we start? How do we register a domain name? What is hosting? Which blogging platform should we use? How do we choose a blog theme? What is a plugin? What should we write about? Heck, we could hardly spell HTML, let alone build a blog!
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But the good news: it turns out that starting a blog is much easier than you think. We’ve learned a ton of lessons during our ascent to millions of readers, and now you can learn from our pain and suffering to avoid much of the tedium involved in setting up a blog
Disclosure: Bugre blogs are hosted by Bluehost. For $2.75 a month, Bluehost can help you set up and host your blog. Because The Minimalists are a Bluehost affiliate partner (i.e., we earn some revenue, at no additional cost to you, when you purchase using our links), our readers can use this link to receive a 50% discount off the monthly price and a free domain for the first year.
While there are other blogging platforms out there like Blogger.com and Tumblr.com, nearly every serious blogger uses a self-hosted WordPress site because of its creative freedom and flexibility.
These are the exact steps we took when we created this website. If you follow these five steps, you will learn how to set up a blog in less than one hour.
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STEP 1Choose your blog name and get your blog hosting
The first thing we did when starting our blog was going to Bluehost and register our domain, which is free with hosting. We’ll explain hosting in a moment, but let’s talk about your domain name first.
Blogging Quick Start – Step 1
In this first step you will choose your blog name (domain name) and buy your blog hosting.
- Go to Bluehost and click the Get Started Now button.
- Select the Basic plan.
- Pick your domain name and enter it into the New Domain box.
- Create your Bluehost account.
Choose your domain name
Your domain name is an important part of your blog because it creates a first impression—it is the name of your blog. Also known as your URL, your domain is also your address on the web. For example, our domain name is www.theminimalists.com.
So, what do you want to call your blog? Maybe it’s YourName.com. Maybe it’s YourBusinessName.com. Or maybe it’s a creative brand name you thought up. If you’re having a hard time thinking of a good domain name, try Wordoid, a wonderful naming tool that will give you plenty of great options. Just make sure you don’t buy the domain from them since Bluehost will give you a free domain. (If you’ve already purchased a domain elsewhere, that’s okay, too, because Bluehost will make it easy to transfer your existing domain during the setup process.)
Set up blog hosting
Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you’ll need to set up hosting for your blog. While WordPress itself is free (see Step 2 below), you need a reliable place to host your WordPress blog (your blog needs to be on a server somewhere on the Internet).
For hosting, we recommend Bluehost for several reasons:
- We Use Bluehost. We personally use Bluehost to host The Minimalists. If you recommend a company, you better be willing to use their product yourself. We also use them to host several other websites of ours.
- Outstanding Customer Service. Bluehost’s customer service is 100% US-based. With hold times that average less than 30 seconds and 100% in-house, on-site staff in their Texas offices, you can rest assured that the person helping with your site knows how to help. In other words, if you have any questions, they will help you through the entire setup process.
- Great Pricing. TheMinimalists.com is a Bluehost affiliate partner, which means that in addition to using their service, we also receive a commission for referring new customers. To be fair, though, we would still use Bluehost even if we weren’t an affiliate—we’ve used them for a long time. Ergo, we don’t recommend Bluehost just because we’re an affiliate (every hosting company offers a similar affiliate program); we recommend Bluehost because they are the best, most reliable option. Plus, because we’re a partner, Bluehost offers a 50% discount for The Minimalists readers: only $2.75 a month for the first year.
- Free Domain. When you sign up for hosting, Bluehost will give you a free domain name, which allows you to avoid the upfront and recurring fees associated with purchasing a domain on your own. If you’ve already purchased your own domain name, don’t worry; you can still use your domain with Bluehost (it’s just one extra step).
- Money-Back Guarantee. Bluehost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk if you change your mind.
- Reliability. Bluehost’s facilities are world-class. They have their own custom-built 20,000-square-foot data center with enough backup generators to power a city.
- Friends & Family. Many of our friends and family also use Bluehost to host their blogs.
Now that you’re ready to get started, go to Bluehost and click the Get Started Now button.
Next, choose your hosting plan.
You’ll see that prices range from $3 to $6 per month, depending on whether you want a basic, single blog hosting plan or a more robust plan that allows you to create multiple blogs.
Note: Because we’re an affiliate partner, Bluehost offers a special price for The Minimalists readers: only $2.75 a month for the first year. That’s a significant discount.
Once you select your plan you’ll choose or enter your domain name.
If you don’t own a domain name simply enter your desired blog name into the New Domain box.
If you already own a domain name simply enter that into the I have a domain name box.
Finally, create your blogging account.
And click Create your password to complete your blog hosting setup.
Just like that, you’ve nearly become a blogger!
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STEP 2Start your blog by adding WordPress
Next, you will install WordPress, which is free. Don’t let the word “install” intimidate you, though. It’s much easier than it sounds and Bluehost does all the work for you.
Blogging Quick Start – Step 2
Next you’ll install WordPress.
- Click the Log In button.
- Click Skip This Step on the Pick a theme screen.
- WordPress is now installed, click Start Building to go to your dashboard.
To begin simply click Log In.
Bluehost provides several blog design options, but simply scroll to the bottom and click Skip This Step (you’ll see why in a moment).
WordPress is now installed. Simply click Start Building to go to your new blogging dashboard and continue to Step 3.
STEP 3Pick a simple theme to make your blog your own
A theme allows you to pick a design for your blog without the need for coding expertise or design knowledge. In other words, a good theme helps you to design your blog exactly how you want it to look. If you’re not a coder (I’m certainly not a coder), then a theme makes the design work a million times easier.
Blogging Quick Start – Step 3
Next you’ll choose and install your blog’s WordPress theme.
- Go to BYLT.
- Purchase the theme that fits your style (we use the tru Theme).
- Download and save your theme’s .zip file to your Desktop.
- Return to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance > Themes.
- Click Upload and then Upload Theme.
- Click Choose File, select your theme .zip file, and click Install Now.
- Click Activate.
Our blog design is from BYLT, a platform created by our good friends at SPYR. They have several beautiful, simple WordPress themes to choose from, and, in fact, you can purchase the same theme we use if you like.
Simply go to BYLT and find the minimalist WordPress theme that best fits your desired aesthetic. Their themes are feature-rich; plus, once you buy your theme, you will have the same team supporting your work that we trust to support ours.
Once you purchase your theme you’ll be able to download your WordPress theme (a .zip file) from your BYLT Dashboard. Save this file to your Desktop because you’ll need to upload it to WordPress in just a moment.
Remember how easy it was to install WordPress? Well installing your blog theme is just as simple.
First, return to your WordPress Dashboard.
You should already be logged in, but whenever you are signed out go to my.bluehost.com, enter your new domain name (or username), your password, and click Submit.
From here, go to My Sites and click on Log in to WordPress.
Next, in your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes.
Next, click the Upload button.
Then, click the Upload Theme button followed by the Choose File button.
Find the .zip file you downloaded from your BYLT Dashboard (this is your theme file) and click Install Now to install your new simple blog design.
Finally, click Activate and your blog theme is installed.
STEP 4Add two key blogging plugins to find your readers and track stats
Plugins are third-party appendages that add additional functionality to your blog.
Blogging Quick Start – Step 4
In the final setup step you’ll install two plugins that will improve your blog’s features.
- In your WordPress Dashboard go to Plugins > Add New.
- Search for Yoast SEO. Click Install Now followed by Activate.
- Click the Add New button to add one more plugin.
- Search for MonsterInsights and click Install Now followed by Activate.
- Click the Launch the Wizard! button to configure MonsterInsights.
It’s best to keep your number of blog plugins to a minimum and install only the best ones because too many plugins—as well as unreliable plugins—can slow down your site. We use very few plugins at The Minimalists.
In this section you’ll install and activate the following free plugins:
In your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New.
Search for Yoast SEO.
Then click Install Now followed by Activate and your blog will immediately have improved SEO.
Next search for MonsterInsights.
Then click Install Now followed by Activate.
Next click Launch the Wizard! and follow the steps to complete the MonsterInsights setup.
STEP 5Write compelling content to create a blog that your readers love
Congratulations! You started a blog, and now it’s time to start blogging. This is where the fun begins.
Now that you have your own blog, you get to make it yours; you get to turn your vision into a reality.
- Content. Start writing and publishing the content for your basic pages: create an About Page, Contact Page, Start Here Page, and any other page you want in the header of your new blog.
- Photo. Add a photo of yourself (pro tip: you can start with a well-lit selfie, but when you get a chance, get some professional photos taken; they’re well worth the cost because people identify with other people more than they identify with logos).
- Logo. Create a basic logo using a program like InDesign, Photoshop, or a text editor (note: even though we have no design skills, we were able to use Apple’s Pages application to create our simple logo after downloading some free vector art and choosing the typeface that best suited our aesthetic). Or you can hire someone like 99designs or SPYR to design a professional logo.
- Images. Spice up your blog posts with high-quality stock photos and images: Paul Jarvis (free), Unsplash (free), Library of Congress (free), iStock (fee-based), Shutterstock (fee-based).
- Comments. Determine whether or not you want comments on your blog; they are often a useful way to receive feedback and directly engage with your readers.
- Social. Establish a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (or all three).
- Publish. Start writing new blog posts. Publish at least once a week, especially when first starting a blog, so you can build an audience. Below you’ll also find 20 blogging tips to improve your writing in the How to Blog section, as well as 15 reasons you should start a blog and 3 reasons not to start a blog.
We hope you have loads of fun expressing yourself on your new blog. We’re certain it will be a huge growth experience for you during the coming months. You have now officially become a blogger. Wherever you’re going, make sure you enjoy the journey ahead.
How to Blog: 20 Blogging Tips to Improve Your Writing
We receive many emails asking how to blog, about blog topics, and about creating meaningful content. The bulk of this essay explained how to start a blog, but that’s just the initial step. Now it’s time to start writing and publishing your content.
Here are 20 tips on how to blog.
- Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. When learning how to be a blogger, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Running? Cooking? Being a parent? Have you found your passion? If so, whatever it is, write about that. If not, then you must first find your passion.
Note: We generally recommend that people don’t start a blog about minimalism or keto or any other heavily saturated topic. But what we really mean when we say this is: don’t create a blog about something unless you have a unique perspective. If you’ve embraced simple living and have a unique perspective, then by all means have at it.
- Define Your Ideal Readers. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to know who will be reading your blog. For example, we blog about living a meaningful life with less. Thus, our ideal readers are people who are interested in exploring minimalism so they can clear the path toward more meaningful lives.
If you want to write about your newborn baby growing up, that’s wonderful: your ideal readers are probably your friends and family. If you want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool, too. Tailor your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or local community or whoever else will read your blog).
- Add Value. Your blog must add value to its readers’ lives. You want to help people solve problems. This is the only way you will get great quality readers to your site (and keep them coming back).
Adding value is the only way to get someone’s long-term buy-in. We both learned this after a decade of leading and managing people in the corporate world. With everything you write, it’s worth asking: Is this adding value?
- Be Original. Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing you want to write about. Question: So why is your blog different? Answer: Because of you. You are what makes your blog different. It’s about your perspective, your creativity, the value you add.
- Be Interesting. Write interesting blog posts. Especially if you want people to share it with others.
- Be Yourself. Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every person is unique, and your story is an important one. The important part of storytelling, however, is removing the superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.
- Be Honest. Your blog needs to be authentic—it needs to feel real—if you want people to read it. You can be your blog, or your blog can be you. That is, do you really embody the stuff you write about? If not, people will see through it.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should build the blog they want to write for the world.
- Transparency. Being transparent is different from being honest. You needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being honest.
Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to what you’re writing. (Because everything we write must serve the greater good, you won’t ever see pictures of us using the restroom—that’s simply not relevant.)
- Time. Once you’ve learned how to start a blog, you’ll learn that blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as we are.
That said, once you have your design set up, don’t tweak it too much. Instead, spend the time on your writing.
- Vision. The reason our site design looks good is that we have a great host, we have a great theme, and, most important, we had a vision of how we wanted our blog to look.
Once we had the vision, we worked hard to make that vision a reality. (Note: neither of us had any design experience before starting a blog.) It’s hard to create a beautiful blog if you don’t know what you want it to look like.
- Find Your Voice. Over time, good writers discover their voice and their writing tends to develop a certain flow, one that is appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing feel more alive, more real, and more urgent. For additional reading, check out our blog post about Finding Your Voice.
- We Instead of You. Use the first-person plural when possible. Statements of we and our are more powerful than you and your, especially when talking about negative behaviors or tendencies. The first person comes off as far less accusatory. Think of it this way: we’re writing peer-to-peer—we are not gods.
- When to Post. Question: When is the best day and time to publish a blog post? Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We don’t adhere to a particular time-of-day schedule, but we do publish at least once a week because consistency is important. You needn’t get bogged down in the details, though.
- Social Media. Yes, we recommend using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help connect with your audience and other bloggers, but don’t get too caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.
- Ignore Negative Criticism and Stupidity. Sure, we get a lot of negative comments and stupid questions from ignorant people who aren’t really our readers (“You’re not real minimalists!”).
We call these people seagulls: They fly in, crap on your site, and fly away. But we pay them no mind because we didn’t start our blog for them. Delete their comment and move on.
- Research. Spend time researching what you’re writing about. The reason we are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in our essays is that we put in the time to research our topics.
- Keep It Simple. This is where minimalism can be applied to starting any blog, irrespective of its genre. No need to place superfluous advertisements or widgets all over your site. Stick to the basics and remove anything you don’t need—remove anything that doesn’t add value.
- Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People like to see the face of the person who’s writing the blog. If two goofy guys from Dayton, Ohio aren’t too afraid to put their pictures on their site, then you have nothing to worry about.
- Comments. If you’re going to have comments on your site, then read The Five Words That Kill Your Blog by Scott Stratten.
- Live Your Life. You’re starting a blog about your life (or about certain aspects of your life, at least), so you still need to live your life. There are things that we always put before blogging: exercise, health, relationships, experiences, personal growth, contribution. Simply put, live a life worth writing about.
15 Reasons You Should Start a Blog
We were inspired to research and write this blog post after reading Joshua Becker’s 15 Reasons You You Should Blog, in which he discusses 15 great reasons why you should start a blog.
Why is the keyword here? Crucially, Becker writes about the purpose of blogging, not just how to start a blog. That’s what many of these other “blogs about blogging” seem to miss: they miss the purpose—the why behind starting a blog.
Here is a summary of our three favorite reasons from Becker’s list:
- You’ll become a better writer. “At its core, writing is communication. It is about recording thoughts on paper and compelling others to agree with them,” writes Becker. “To that end, writing (just like every other form of communication that has ever existed) improves with practice. Blogging will not force you to become a better writer, it’ll just happen as you do it. And becoming a better writer holds important benefits for the rest of your life—whether you are creating a book, a presentation, a resume, or an anniversary card for your spouse.” Spot on! Writing blog posts is not only a great way to improve your blog writing, it’s a wonderful chance to improve everything you write—from business emails and text messages to that novel you’ve been dreaming of penning.
- You’ll meet new people. “Whether it be through comments, emails, or social media, you may be surprised at how quickly you meet people online,” writes Becker. That’s true! The Minimalists’ blog is responsible for many of the most important relationships I’ve developed over the past decade—long-term business and personal relationships birthed from this very blog
- You’ll become more confident. “Blogging will help you discover more confidence in your life,” writes Becker. “You will quickly realize that you do live an important life with a unique view and have something to offer others.” So true! Writing helps us better understand the lives we live and the consequences of our actions.
3 Reasons You Should Not Start a Blog
So now you have 15 reasons why you should start a blog, and we’ve shown you how to start a blog, step-by-step, based on our personal experience.
But after giving you those detailed instructions, which could save you hundreds of hours of wasted time, we also want to give you some good reasons why you should not start a blog. (Keep in mind that these reasons are just our opinions, and we do not pretend to offer them up as a collection of empirical blogging maxims.)
- Money. You should not start a blog to make money. We need to get that out of the way first. If your primary objective is to replace your full-time income from blogging, forget about it. It doesn’t work that way.
Do you think that Jimi Hendrix picked up his first guitar so he could “supplement his income”? No, he didn’t. Rather, he did it for the love of it, for the joy and fulfillment he received, and the income came thereafter—much later actually.
- Notoriety. Don’t plan on getting “Internet famous” right away. Not every site grows as fast as ours did, but that’s okay. The truth is that we kind of got lucky. We found a great domain name, we cobbled together a logo and site design that people liked, we write fairly well, and our content connected with people in a unique way.
We didn’t start this site to become “famous,” though. That’d be ridiculous. We started this site to become bloggers and share a message. Our popularity came as a surprise to us, and it was a result of a little luck and a lot of hard, passionate work.
- Traffic. Not all traffic is good traffic, so don’t worry about getting thousands of readers right away. Spend your time producing meaningful creations and eventually, the audience will show up if you are helping people solve problems. In other words, focus on adding value, not increasing traffic.
The funny thing is that all these things can happen. You could make a full-time income from building a blog. We do it, Corbett Barr does it, and so do many others. And you could become an Internet famous blogger like Leo Babauta or Chris Brogan.
But if these are the sole reasons you start blogging, you’ll be miserable because it will seem like a job. And if it feels like a job, you won’t be passionate about it, so you’ll either hate it or fall flat on your face (or both).
Instead, become a blogger and write because you’re passionate about it…
4 Blogging Resources
If you want to learn more about blogging, publishing, writing, and SEO, then check out these additional resources: