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How to Start a Blog to Boost Your Finances

Laptop with caption Would you like to tap a $269 billion industry that you can do at home? Start a Blog!

Start a blog from home to earn money?

“Yeah, right. Dream on.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“You’re nuts!”

“It’s a scam!”

These are some of the skepticism surrounding the idea of making money from home with a blog.

We’ve all been there. Who will ever deny how good it feels working from the comfort of your home? That means getting rid of traffic, office politics, a yelling boss, and whatever annoying thing the 9-to-5 job has. Besides, all you need is a decent computer, an internet connection, and a small capital. And you can even take your work anywhere, like on a white sand beach.

But,

With all the money-hungry scammers out there, our BS alert goes high. “This is too good to be true”, you may say. And with good reason.

Consider a survey of 1000 bloggers done at Blogging.org in 2012. The infographic shows that only 8% earn enough to support a family. Now, that’s the undeniable truth. And the landscape has not changed today. Not even close to the dream of working on a beach!

But here’s another undeniable truth:

  • Blogging is very much alive. More than 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages each month, according to WordPress.
  • Content Marketing, which includes blogging, is a $269.24 billion industry.

With an audience of 409 million monthly and a $269.24 billion money on the table, what made a select few win the game and the rest lose?

Blogging for Money IS a Business

A business is an activity for making money. And blogging for money is no different.

What else do blogging for money and small businesses, in general, have in common? Their survival rates reveal a similar story.

According to the US Small Business Administration(SBA),  

  • 80% of startups survive the first year. 
  • Around 50% survive the first 5 years. 
  • About 33% get to the 10-year mark. 

Sounds familiar?

And believe it or not, the #1 reason for small business failure is also the same as why blogs fail.

So, what do we need to win in our blogging business and live to tell the tale?

What You Need to Start a Blog

1. Know What Blogging Is and What is Involved

What is a blog?

Many definitions are floating around the web on what a blog is. Here’s one of the many definitions I chose. From lexico.com:

A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

Note the underlined words:

  • Regularly updated – your readers found you because of the problems you solved for them. However, irregular posting can make you lose readers in the future. To top that, Google won’t like your blog and bury your posts deep in the search results.
  • Conversational style – Writing blog posts is not like writing essays and academic papers. So, use simple, day-to-day words that people can easily understand.

The takeaway:

  1. Blogging for money is a business. You don’t want to earn money only when you feel like it. So, post regularly.
  2. Don’t bore your readers to death with a non-conversational writing style.

Should you start a blog?

My real question to you is: Why not?

You have an audience of 409 million monthly. And the money involved is $269.24 billion. The number of bloggers is increasing. In the US alone, it will reach 31.7 million by 2020. So, many are already jumping in. They want a share of the big pie of $269.24 billion. What about you?

The takeaway:

Start a blog today!

Can you make money online with a blog?

In short, yes, you can make money with a blog. And we have statistics to prove that. But the real question is how much you can earn and when.

Since this is a business, the previous survey on Blogger.org on how much you can earn should not surprise us anymore.

And to give us more of the real story of blogging for money, another survey done at Problogger.com reveals that 63% earn less than $100/month or even zero. Meanwhile, the remaining 37% of responders earned between $100 and $10,000+ per month.

Here are the different levels based on the result:

Blogging stats from Problogger.com
Credit: Stats from ProBlogger.com

We’re not done yet. Here’s another truth about when you will earn.

Let’s ask Jon Morrow of SmartBlogger.com:

“It took me three years to reach $1,000 a month. That’s a long time, right? Well, two years after that, we crossed $100,000 per month, and we’ve never looked back.”

– Jon Morrow

Next, we ask Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com

took about a year of hard work before it was generating enough income to support my family

– Pat Flynn

You see, these people worked hard to reach their goals with tremendous determination. Do you know Jon Morrow’s heartwarming story of courage and determination that made him what he is today? Read it here, and you’ll see why you can do it too. It hit me hard, and now, you’re here because of his story.

And they treat blogging as a business that won’t flourish immediately but will be in the future. It can be in a year or more. It depends.

The takeaway:

While you can earn money with a blog, earning to make a living and support a family takes time.

Can I start a blog for free?

Years ago, I tried blogging for free in Blogger.com. I decided to pay for self-hosted WordPress when I thought it’s time to get serious.

But why pay if you can do it for free?

  • Serious bloggers who treat their blogging as a serious business invest in a paid web hosting.
  • Self-hosted WordPress gives you the flexibility that free platforms can’t provide.

Note: WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress blog are two different things. WordPress is a content management system used by 35.9% of all websites in the world. This includes WordPress.com.

The takeaway:

Use free platforms to test the waters of blogging. Buy a reliable web hosting and install WordPress when you’re ready to take the next challenge.

Should I start a blog during a global recession?

Now this is a tough one.

I can’t blame you if you doubt this home business. I know the feeling. This COVID19 pandemic disease gave us a feeling of uncertainty and worries. As a family head, I want to serve food on the table, pay bills, and send my kid to school. Start a blog? That may be the last thing to do or maybe never.

But here’s what I found out:

Pat Flynn, who was laid off during the global financial crisis in 2008, started his online business in the same year. He didn’t just survive but thrive. And now, SmartPassiveIncome.com has become the definitive source of passive income ideas.

More popular blogs launched in 2008:

  • ShoutMeLoud.com
  • TheNextWeb.com

The takeaway:

Starting a blog as a home business may take time to generate income streams. Doing it during a pandemic crisis or global recession may be harder but it’s possible and doable.

2. Tools and Resources to Start a Blog

Next up are the blogging tools you need. As a beginner, you need the right categories of tools and resources. This can let you start as fast as possible but without compromising quality.

Good for you I have compiled a list of tools and resources that you need. You can check it out. Most of them are free.

And of course, you need a computer and internet access.

3. Writing Skills

And last is your skills to write.

Blogging is writing, and writing good content should be a top concern. Think about it for a moment. If you want to build an audience and your writing sucks, how will it happen? 

Here’s a not so secret tip:

You can improve your writing thru practice. That’s the only way. But where do you start practicing?

  1. Start by writing catchy headlines. Use emotion-filled, powerful words.
  2. After the headline caught your new visitor’s attention, the introduction should suck them deep into the body of the post. Practice writing good introductions.
  3. Next, the body of the post should fulfill the promise of the headline and the introduction. Use transition words to connect each idea to the next.
  4. And last, practice writing conclusions that will make the reader act on the brilliant ideas they’ve read from you.

What You Don’t Need to Start a Blog

Now that you know what you need to start a blog, here’s a list of some of the things that you don’t need:

  1. College degree
  2. Work Experience
  3. Technical expertise

How to Start a Blog from Nothing to Launch and Make Money (10 Steps)

1) Choose a Winning Topic That Will Serve People’s Needs

The first step to start a blog is to choose a topic.

Is having fun your only reason to blog? If that’s the case, you can choose a topic that you are passionate about. But if you want your blog to earn money, that’s a different story. Because not all topics will be profitable.  

Here’s how to find out if the blog topic or niche you’re planning will take home some money:

  • Are there other blogs or discussion groups on Facebook or elsewhere about your topic?
  • Of all the sites that discuss your topic, are there popular ones that have more than 10,000 subscribers?
  • How many searches in Google and Bing does it have? Are there ads about it?
  • Are people buying products related to your topic, like in Amazon? If yes, how many and how much is the earning potential?

Here are some of the topics of note that have been popular, so far:

  • Personal finance
  • Parenting
  • Travel
  • Fashion
  • Fitness
  • Health
  • Food, recipes and popular diets
  • Photography
  • Online Business
  • Blogging

Yet, you may not want this. You think the competition is tough with these topics. But think of this: A unique topic with no competition means no audience. And what good is a blog without it? Besides, you won’t get links from other blogs and no one will search about your topic. A unique topic no one is serving is good as dead.

And while we are at it, remember the #1 reason for small business failure?

The Takeaway:

Don’t try to be unique when choosing a topic if you want to earn money with a blog.

2)  Secure a Domain Name

After choosing a topic, you need a name and web address for your blog. In technical terms, this is called a domain name.

And how you name your blog will depend on the topic or niche you choose. It should be easy to remember. You want your readers to come back, right?

Consider MomsMakeCents.com as an example. From the name itself, it’s very clear who the target audience is and the benefit they can get out of it.

You can follow this pattern in naming your blog:

  • Name of Topic, like SmartPassiveIncome.com, JapaneseCooking101.com
  • The audience, like ThatDadBlog.com, Entrepreneur.com
  • Topic + Benefit (or the reverse), like EnchantingMarketing.com, FreelanceToWin.com
  • Audience + Benefit (or the reverse), like SmartBlogger.com, MomsMakeCents.com

But take note that you don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about your domain name. Some bloggers use their names, like NeilPatel.com and MelyssaGriffin.com, and both are successful. Others have somewhat weird names like BakeRella.com (about baking), PaleOMG.com (Paleo diet), and BlogfulTips.com (Blogging tips) 😄.

To start brainstorming names, list down 10 domain names of your choice. Once you are ready, you can test it out from your web host.

The Takeaway:

Choosing a domain name for your blog is not rocket science. The suggestions here will help you start in your search for domain names.

3) Buy Your Web Hosting

After crafting the domain name of your choice, it’s time to buy the place where your blog will reside. In technical terms, this is called web hosting. It will handle all the hardware and software needs of your blog.

And here’s what I recommend:

SiteGround (affiliate link – I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to buy)

This is one of the “best and brightest of the hosting world” according to WordPress. While the other recommended hosts have 1-click WordPress install, 24/7 support, and tools to easily manage WordPress, SiteGround maintains the latest and greatest in speed technologies that make WordPress run faster.

Siteground has a 60% discount for new customers that made this a more suitable choice for me.

Here’s how to buy a hosting plan from SiteGround:

  1. Select a Plan. For beginner bloggers, the best is the StartUp plan ($3.95/month).
  2. Choose a Domain. Register a new domain name from SiteGround or enter an existing domain name (like from NameCheap.com)
  3. Review and Complete. Input your account information (email, password), client information (your name, address, phone number), payment information (credit card information), and purchase information (hosting period you are about to pay, like 12, 24, or 36 months)

See the figures below:

A screenshot of SiteGround's Get Plan
STEP 1: Select Your Hosting Plan
A screenshot of SiteGround's Choose Domain
STEP 2: Choose Domain
A screenshot of SiteGround's Review and Complete
STEP 3: Review and Complete (Account and Client Info)
A screenshot of SiteGround's Review and Complete
STEP 3: Review and Complete (Payment and Purchase Info)

Pro Tip: Buy a hosting period of 36 months and pay only $3.95/month for much longer. Once the period lapse, it goes back to the regular price of $11.95/month.

4)     Install WordPress

Now that you have a domain name and a web host, it’s time to install WordPress.

I won’t consume much of your time here because it’s so easy.

  1. Login to your SiteGround account for the first time. You can use the link SiteGround emailed you after paying for your web hosting.
  2. Select Start a New Website.
  3. Under the section Please choose software to install, click WordPress.
  4. Create the login details for your WordPress account (Username, email, password)
  5. Click Confirm.
  6. Read SiteGround Terms of Service.
  7. Click Complete Setup.

See the figures below:

A screenshot of SiteGround's email after buying a plan
Siteground’s email after buying a plan
A screenshot of SiteGround Login Page
STEP 1: Login to SiteGround for the first time
Start a blog in SiteGround's Start a new website
STEP 2 & 3: Start a New Website
A screenshot of WordPress Registration page
STEP 4 & 5: WordPress Registration

That’s it. In a few minutes, you can log in to your WordPress Dashboard.

5) Pick a Theme

Next up is to choose a design for your new WordPress blog. Because at this point, your blog is naked. You need to dress it up.

But first, think of a good first impression for your new visitors. That first impression is dictated in your blog’s overall usability. And the usability factors according to the 2020 usability stats in HubSpot are:

  • 93% of people will leave your site if it didn’t display properly on their device.
  • 90% of people will leave your site if it was badly designed.
  • 93% of people will leave your site if it didn’t load quickly enough.

As a beginner, a blog should be simple and responsive for your visitors regardless of their device. That’s not rocket science, right? And for your own sake as a content creator, it should be easy to customize to your heart’s content.

With all these considerations, I recommend to you the Astra theme. This is what I am using. And it’s FREE. Here’s what you’ll get for the free version:

  • Pre-built layouts of starter templates so you can dress up your blog in a few minutes.
  • Superfast performance with less than 50kb of resources needed and loads in half a second.
  • Customize without coding so you don’t need coding skills.
  • And much more.

There’s a pro version of Astra and it’s not free. But for beginners, the free version is more than enough.

How to Install Astra

Installing Astra is much the same as installing any other theme. But to make this easy for you, I will make the steps focus on installing Astra.          

So, here are the steps:

  1. Login to your WordPress Dashboard using the account you registered in the section Install WordPress. To go there, launch your browser and type the domain name you registered followed by \wp-login.php. Example: https://yourdomain.com/wp-login.php.
  2. In the left pane, hover your mouse pointer to Appearance and select Themes.
  3. Click Add New.
  4. In the Search Themes textbox type Astra.
  5. Once the Astra theme appears, hover your mouse pointer to the Astra image then click Install.
  6. Click Activate.

See the figures below:

A screenshot of WordPress Login page
STEP 1: Login to your WordPress Dashboard
A screenshot of WordPress Appearance and Themes menu
STEP 2 & 3: Click Appearance then Themes then Add New
A screenshot of WordPress Search Themes page
STEP 4 & 5: Search for Astra theme and install
A screenshot of themes activation
STEP 6: Activate Astra theme

6) Install Plugins

Another item you need to do is to install WordPress plugins. As you can see, your WordPress blog is like a Lego you need to assemble. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel so to speak. There are working pieces that you only need to plug-in, hence they were called plugins.

And installing them is easy. Here the steps:

  1. If you haven’t logged in to your WordPress Dashboard, do it.
  2. In the left pane, hover your mouse pointer to Plugins and select Add New.
  3. Search the plugin you need to install. Check the list of plugins below.
  4. Click Install Now
  5. Click Activate
  6. Configure the settings for each plugin.

That’s it.

See the figures below:

A screenshot of WordPress Login page
STEP 1: Login to your WordPress Dashboard
A screenshot of WordPress Navigation and Adding New Plugins
STEP 2: From the navigation, select Plugins and click Add New
A screenshot for searching and installing WordPress Plugins
STEP 3 & 4: Search for the name of the plugin. Example: iThemes. Then click Install Now
A screenshot for searching and installing WordPress Plugins
STEP 5: Activate Plugin

From the list of blogging tools I have featured, the type of plugins you need to install are the following:

  1. Caching plugin for running your blog even faster. My choice: SG Optimizer
  2. Security plugin. My choice: iThemes Security. It saved me from intruders penetrating my WordPress Dashboard by locking them out while I was still setting up.
  3. Backup plugin. My choice: UpdraftPlus
  4. SEO plugin. My choice: Yoast                            
  5. Social Media sharing buttons. My choice: Grow by Mediavine (formerly Social Pug)
  6. Email Marketing plugin. My choice: SendInBlue

7) Create Useful Content

Finally, your blog setup is done. And it’s time to fill it with content.

Before thinking of your first blog post, make sure you have the following:

  1. About Page – this identifies the person behind the content. Why it’s important? Readers will naturally look for the person who’s helping them with their struggles. And if you want to connect with them, this is your chance.
  2. Legal pages – this includes Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, and Disclaimer. I recommend you consult a lawyer on this. Don’t write your own or copy from others. I am not a lawyer so this is as far as I can give you in this area.

At this point, your blog is now ready for your first blog post.

But the question is…

What Headlines Will Fasttrack Your Success?

If you have read my list of blogging tools, one of the tools I mentioned is Buzzsumo. The free version is limited to 3 top posts from blogs like yours. But from this limited list, you will find what post topics worked and shared in social media.

You can start with this.

Of course, it won’t stop here or you’re out of ideas. Would you like to pay BuzzSumo? That’s up to you. But if you’re like me when I started, I don’t have much so the only thing I can do is settle for free.

That means more work but it’s doable. How?

How to Know the Needs of Your Readers and Transform it into Post Topics?

If you remember my subtopic above on the winning topic you should pick for your blog, I mentioned how to know if your topic or niche will take home some money. And those are other blogs or forums on the same topic as yours, Facebook groups, products from Amazon, and searches or ads on search engines.

Did you do your part in doing the research based on those points? If you guess some numbers and answer yes or no on those questions in a blink of an eye with each because you are so “sure”, please go back.

Why?

It’s not just making sure if you’re niche is viable. You will also gather more information about people’s pains and struggles surrounding your topic.

And from all the things you found out, they can be made into blog post topics.

If you can fix their struggle and remove their pain through your words in your post then congratulations! You can win a new reader. Repeat the experience and soon, you have a line-up of blog posts full of solutions to future readers.

But even the greatest of blog posts are nothing if the world doesn’t know it exists.

So, the next thing to do is…

8) Promote Your Blog

Where can you promote your blog?

The answer lies again in your research. Where does your target audience gather to get answers to the thing that makes them awake all night? Are they on Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest? Then go there. Learn the ins and outs of promoting to that social media.

Once traffic is coming in, you need to capture them.

9) Build Your Email List

I tried avoiding this step when I first started blogging years ago. And I thought that writing stuff sprinkled with ads will make me money. As a result, it didn’t work.

Building your email list means collecting people’s names and email addresses. Sounds easy.

But it’s not that simple. Besides, people won’t just give their email addresses to you because they don’t know you yet.

How to Get Names and Email Addresses the Right Way?

So aside from serving them solutions with your blog posts for free, you need to give them a reason to give their email addresses. This is done by giving them a freebie or bonus that they can only get if they give you their email addresses. Examples of freebies are PDF checklists, short e-books, hidden pages with instructional videos, and many more.

And you need an email marketing solution to automate the these:

  • Recording email addresses
  • Keeping your records safe and hidden from others
  • Helping you simplify your campaigns.

In my list of blogging tools, I recommended SendInBlue because of its free features, strong email deliverability, and a good choice for beginner bloggers.

I suggest registering for free in SendInBlue and download the accompanying official WordPress plugin to integrate it into your blog. Then create opt-in forms that will link to your freebie.

After capturing these email addresses, continue providing value through your emails by giving them more value pack freebies.

Consequently, all of these are for serving your audience.

And once you get a sizable group of fans who trust you it’s time to…

10) Make Money Blogging

At this point, your readers trust you and they feel free to contact you about anything about their blog and their problems with it.

What would you do?

If they are asking for products you use and know, recommend it. Remember the products being sold around your blog’s topic during your research? With this in mind, if you have a product that you use that will help your audience, then get to that product’s website and see if they offer affiliate commissions.

You get a commission if a customer buys a product you recommended. Simply put, this is called Affiliate Marketing.

What’s the First Product That You Can Promote and Sell?

The first product available to you as an affiliate is your blog’s web host. In my case, it’s SiteGround (affiliate link). And yes, adding the “(affiliate link)” is needed after the link to notify your readers that it’s an affiliate product and that you will earn a small commission without extra cost to them. Also, specifying that it’s an affiliate link is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And you want to be friends with them by following their rules and avoiding unnecessary trouble.

Is Affiliate Marketing a Good Way to Monetize Your Blog?

Is this a good way to earn money? Let’s ask an authority on ethical affiliate marketing – Pat Flynn. Go to this page in his blog. It’s rather long so when the page is open, search for the words “$3 million”. In Chrome, Firefox or Edge in Windows 10, press Control-F then type “$3 million”.

$3 million is not bad. Don’t you think?

Start a Blog Then What?

Start a blog and take action.

You now know that blogging is a business and like any other business, many are failing. But with the right mindset, framework, and tools, it can win and become a viable home business.

Here’s the thing:

“You can’t fail if you don’t quit. You can’t succeed if you don’t start.”

Michael Hyatt

And here’s another:

“90 percent perfect and shared with the world always changes more lives than 100 percent perfect and stuck in your head.”

Jon Acuff

You don’t have to think everything through and avoid failure. Just start a blog. And once you earn your first $10, $20, or $50, don’t stop from there. Keep serving your audience until you reach your goal.

Why not make this easier? Start a blog with the help of an interactive workbook!

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