With the wind blowing and a view above my cursor, I write to you today. I am going to show you how I went from homeless couch-surfer to young entrepreneur doing something I love: blogging. If you’d rather just skip to how to setup a blog or my demo video on YouTube, that is totally fine, no worries. I know you have a busy life just like me.
There are just so many blasé guides out there on “how to start a blog” that I thought it would really help to show you all the good that can happen when you actually take action and start up, the right way. After my story of course, we’ll setup a blog.
Day 1 of Blogging
On day 1 of blogging, I was homeless. I had just had another unsuccessful interview in midtown Manhattan. I was 22 and sleeping on my friend’s couch.
In need of a pick me up, I roamed to the local Barnes and Nobles. I was down and out, $35 bucks left in my wallet. Always drawn to the “computer programming” section, I picked out the “WordPress for Dummies” book.
I sat in the cafe reading with a coffee, now just $31 to my name. The words were alive. Blogging, publishing, building an audience. I flipped through the pages furiously, like in those cartoons, and my coffee spilled everywhere.
Guilty of my clumsiness, I ended up buying “WordPress for Dummies,” net wealth now $11. I spent my last money on a train ride, and read the whole way. That night, I started my first blog. The rest, well, I guess it’s history.
The Front Page of the Web
Before I continue, you’re probably wondering where I started my blog. I actually borrowed a few bucks from my friend who had a full-time job and setup WordPress.org on a domain and hosting plan from HostGator. I had heard WordPress.org was the holy grail and I was so excited about blogging that I wanted to do it the right way. Been with them ever since.
“I like having a service I can pay for, because when you buy something, you’re the customer, not the product.” – Seth Godin
My blog was an advice community for university students. It covered everything from how to ace the final to how to find cheap housing, and it did alright. I managed to get about 10 guest contributors writing under me and even started an internship for younger students. Traffic was nothing to brag about but I was happy.
Then, suddenly, everything changed. I received a call, must have been a groggy Saturday morning, from a journalist at Huffington Post who want to feature my blog. Two weeks later and I had a quoted feature of my own on the web’s hottest newspaper. I think I jumped from 200 visits a week to 20,000.
It wasn’t the front page of the web, but it sure felt like it.
A Trip to San Fran
My blog continued to grow after that feature, with my interns churning out content around the clock from around the globe. Word to the wise, if you ever want to build a following online, on Facebook, or wherever, start your own internship program.
In the meanwhile I was working for a major PR firm that connected me with cool brands like Adobe and Sony. It was Summer of 2012, and they decide to fly me and 15 other up and coming bloggers out to San Francisco to thank us for our hard work writing reviews.
One of them, Thomas Frank, even dropped by for this post:
@gregnarayan out of every platform out there, WordPress has the best combo of ease of learning, control and flexibility, and community.
— Thomas Frank (@TomFrankly) May 24, 2013
San Fran was a game-changer for me. I learned that other bloggers we doing way bigger things than me. I received my own free copy of Creative Suite 6, which helped me design the logos and graphics you see here. Above all, this trip taught me I could do blogging for my job. The feeling was insane.
When I landed in New York, refreshed from sun and margaritas, I went straight to work. I uploaded a new theme from Theme-Junkie to my blog, and emailed all my interns with a long note that basically said “On the double, folks!”
The new design meant a lot for me. Finally, my blog looked like a legitimate, trusted website. I was able to actually pull in advertisers who wanted to submit reviews and post ads on my site. Of course, I couldn’t accept everyone. But I was ecstatic at my progress.
I continued this university blog for a couple more months before I had another idea.
Thanks for Your Business
Around Summer of 2012, it occurred to me that another opportunity existed for a blog concept. I had just executed a rigorous case study, and really needed a platform to share it with people. My bud Ramsay always says that successful online business men need a current project and a future project or two in their back pocket, and it was time to pave my own path. Again.
I told most of my advertisers I could no longer work with them, keeping a select few.
Then, over the course of 14 long nights, I drew up the blueprint for a “Blogging Answers Community” that still needed a name. Boy, was choosing the domain name tough. I wanted an authority name that also conveyed “community” and “home”.
The premise was simple (though executing an idea never is) and I knew the new site would serve to answer blogging questions in a convenient way for readers.
In the September of 2012, DearBlogger.org was born. It wasn’t easy getting the ball rolling, but as the traction and comments started to flow, I was a bit more reassured. Now, I spend most of my time here. I manage a few other blogs, but devote most of my efforts to answering the high volumes of blog questions that pour in here, on Twitter, and on Google Plus.
Blogging saved my life. It allowed me to carve out my own niche. It helps me helps others which I think is the most fulfilling thing of all. And, it’s pretty fun to chat about at the dinner table.
How to Setup Your Own Blog
Of course, given my successful experience with self-hosted WordPress, I recommend all new bloggers start this way too. If you can afford it – it’s as expensive as one cup of coffee per month – you can get a dependable, professional blog or simple website ideal for creating your online success.
To make this whole story complete, I outline exact steps to setting up self-hosted WordPress below. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you get stuck! No question is stupid!
(greg AT dearblogger DOT org)
Oh yeah, and before I forget, I worked out a long-time costumer deal with HostGator to get you a discount:
Just plugin in “dearblogger25″ or try “HG30″ (if you sign up in June 2013 only) and you will get a great discount on domain name and hosting.
Start to Finish WordPress Setup (Setup time ~ 10 minutes)
To start off, click my HostGator affiliate link, then click on the “View Web Hosting Plans” button in the center of your screen. Step 1, done!
You need to choose a plan here, and the best value is Hatchling for 1 year. It’s a great option and you really don’t need anything more at this point.
After you select a plan, you’ll be taken to the HostGator Order Wizard where you enter your domain name, create your HostGator Username and Pin, and make your payment.
Now, it’s time to make your payment. I recommend buying domain and hosting for 1 year upfront, so you can blog and not worry about anything expiring. Either way, it’s up to you. This is a lot like any other online payment you’d make and it should go pretty quickly. By the way, this payment gets you a ton of features from HostGator like private email setup, unlimited bandwidth, SEO tools, and of course the WordPress installation. You can browse fun tools later on.
The next step takes place in your inbox. After 2-5 minutes, HostGator will send you an email titled “Your Account Info.” This email contains a new username and password to login to HostGator’s control panel, where you will install WordPress in the next steps.
The link you need to click to continue your setup is titled “Your Control Panel.”
Plugin in the username and password from the Your Account Info HostGator email, and you will enter the HostGator control panel or “cPanel” for short. Close any pop ups that appear and take a few minutes to get comfortable with the layout.
Now scroll down to the section called “Software/Services” and you’ll see a blue smiley face called “Fantastic Deluxe”. This little guy is a powerful WordPress 1-click installer we will use to setup your new blog.
There are a couple other services here that act as backups to Fantastico, but as far as I know Fantastic is the best route and he’s what I used to install my WordPress.org blog right here.
Click on that Fantastico, and you are now inside the WordPress installer. Find WordPress in the left hand column, and click on the word WordPress itself. You must click on the word itself. Then click New Installation.
Your blog is already in the making, and it will be ready in a moment. Right now, create your WordPress username and password. You’ll be using these a lot more than the HostGator login credentials so better make them good, and easy to remember.
Once you’ve got ‘em, click on the button that says Install WordPress about as long as it takes for an average Google Search, HostGator creates your new blog.
You’re all set. Click Finish Installation and get ready to blog.
Click the link with “Bookmark this!” right before it. As a best practice, I would bookmark this login link on your web browser to make logging in easy as you go forward. Then enter your WordPress username and password and go check out your brand new blog.
Your blog looks pretty awesome, but it is brand new. There are several WordPress premade features like a new post, even a new comment, and you can delete these straight away if you want.
Now it’s time to write a new post. In the setup video below at around 6:00, we login to WordPress and do a bunch of stuff like change the theme, publish a post with an image, and even install a plugin. You should definitely check that out.
Have fun, you now have your own WordPress.org blog. You are in good company, and can now learn the software that the biggest names in blogging (Darren Rowse, John Chow, Glen Allsop) use. It’s all done at WordPress.org.
Video Guide to WordPress.org
Some folks just prefer video. I hear ya.
So I made a 10 minute video that covers the same steps as the manual guide. Using HostGator as our web host, we do it all, and setup a real, live demo blog.
Feel free to view the resulting blog in advance, and better grab a coffee. You might be up for a while, especially if you’re a perfectionist.
Good reads after you launch
Whether you choose free blogging or self-hosted blogging, here are three good posts to get you on your way.
- 10 Things To Do After Your Blog Goes Live
A list of 10 to-dos to ensure you make a good first impression on readers.
- Why Blogs Fail to Get Traffic
2 problems I see with getting traffic, and 20 different solutions.
- Success: What Bloggers Must Do
A working blueprint for blogging success. Very popular with the Community.
These posts are some of the hottest ones on the blog right now. I really hope they work for you too.
Alternative Blog Choices
To be 100% fair, here are several other places you might want to know about for starting a blog or simple website.
Quora’s blogging platform was just launched this year (2013). Previously, the site was mainly a question and answer community, where user’s could post questions on a topic or an entire topic itself. Interacts occurred as responses to a topic, similar to what you might see on Reddit or Digg. The company was founded by 2 former Facebook employees and has about 500,000 registered users to date.
Joomla is estimated to actually be the second most used Content Management Software (CMS) on the web after WordPress. It is a free-open source blogging software that allows thousands of extensions to change different aspects and features on a blog. It’s written in PHP from mySQL databases, making it a bit more tricky to edit that a tradition Blogger blog (HTML and CSS) or a WordPress blog (HTML, CSS, and simple PHP).
Drupal is a content management framework written in PHP that provides back-end usage for around 2.1% of the websites on the entire web. It’s used by everything from blogs to corporate sites and massive government websites like whitehouse.gov and data.gov.uk. The coolest thing about Drupal may be that it is a full web application framwork – one can build apps on it and write the code to what could become the next amazing thing.
Typepad launched October 2003, was popular at the start of the millennium.
Pros: User-friendly, large community, three different start up plans
Cons: Outdated software, pay for each plan
Weebly launched privately in September 2006 and was made public in early 2007.
Pros: Good for non-techie users
Cons: Less customization than Blogger and Tumblr, pay for upgrades and new features
If you used this guide to start your blog feel free to comment below using Facebook or WordPress comments.
I want to end by saying that blogging has opening countless doors for me, and still continues to amazing me each day. If your blog ever feels small, don’t worry. You’ll grow. Your blog has unlimited potential. Our favorite blogs all started somewhere.
To Great Blogging,
aka “The Blogger”
p.s. If you used this guide, please hit LIKE so a few more people can benefit!