The Complete Guide to Starting Your Blog on a Low Budget

Get ready, because this post is huge. But I mean what I said: this is a complete guide to starting your blog on a low budget.


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, meaning that I receive compensation if you purchase through the links on this page (at no additional cost to you!). I preach transparency around here, so know that affiliate programs in no way affect my opinions of these products. I 100% believe in what I recommend.

Update 8/8/18: This post was written when I was using WordPress hosted by Siteground. I have since switched to Squarespace and plan on creating an updated version of this post. For now, learn about why I made the switch here! It's worth noting that I still fully endorse WordPress & Siteground.


It won't take 15 minutes. It will cost more than $3.95. But it won't leave you with a blank website you don't know what to do with.

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

If you haven't been researching how to start a blog for very long, you have no idea what I'm talking about. In short, many "How to Start a Blog" guides advertise that it can be done in minutes, for just a few dollars. However, they say that because all they're teaching you how to do is sign up for a hosting account.

However, to actually build a functioning blog, you'll need to put in a lot more time. And more money.

In fact, it'll take at least a few weeks and between $75 to $135. Possibly more, depending on your choices.

So! I decided I wanted to create a guide that walks you through the most important steps you need to take in order to have the bare necessities of a functional blog.

When you're excited about your blog, it's easy to get caught up in planning product launches and webinar schedules. Yes, those are important for profitable blogging, but they're wayyy down the line. There's so much more do to first.

There's a ton of blogging noise out there and learning how to focus in on what's most important for YOU right NOW is a massive headache. Luckily, it's possible!

 

The Five-Step Framework

So let me help you out. In short, I believe there is a five-step framework everyone must follow to establish a solid foundation for their brand new blog. Keep in mind, we're talking bare essentials here. In short, you need:

  • To know what you're blogging about.
  • A place to blog.
  • Content for your blog.
  • To bring traffic to your blog.
  • To get that traffic to keep coming back.

That makes sense, right? So let's dive in! Don't worry if you experience a bit of information overload. I recommend you read through this post first so you can see the big picture.

 

Know what your blog is about

 

- Niche

Decide what you're going to write about!

The best way you can get started is to think about what you know, what you love, and what you'd enjoy learning more about. You're going to spend a lot of time exploring this topic, so it really needs to be an area you're interested in and familiar with.

Notice how I used the word familiar? You don't have to be an expert! There will always be someone a step behind you that wants to learn what you know. However, you definitely shouldn't be a stranger to a field, either.

Choosing a niche is about way more than just you, however. When you think about your own skills and interests, you'll find your "zone." However, your blog needs more than that; it needs a purpose.

The best way to find your blog's purpose is to assess your ideal audience. Your readers are everything, and your blog will only grow if you give them what they want (versus trying to give them what they need. They have to want to need it first!).

Who do you think will be interested in your topic? Who would you love to help? Where do these people hang out on the internet? What discussions are they having? What questions are they asking? Do they have problems that need solutions? What can you offer them?

If you can answer these questions, you're well on your way to a well-defined niche. And don't get too caught up in whether or not your topic is narrow enough, or if it's too broad. You get to decide all of that. You might focus on the tiniest facet of a field, or you might want to write about several topics. The important part is that you can identify what you're about.

If you can't explain your blog's purpose and audience in a couple sentences, you haven't defined your niche yet.

I wrote an in-depth analysis on the concept of a niche over here. Check it out if you're struggling to settle on the right niche for you!

 

- Name

This is another simple concept that can stump blogging-hopefuls for days, weeks, or even months. We could spend all day trying to find the perfect name for your blog, but chances are, you'll question it tomorrow. Keep this process simple.

Choose a name that will appeal to your ideal reader. If you want to target college-aged women, you probably don't want your name to be "Craptastic Mud-ventures." (I'm going to be honest, I have no idea what stupid corner of my mind generated that name and it worries me.)

You get bonus points if your name can communicate what your niche is, but it's really not 100% necessary. It's becoming more and more popular to just use your first and last name as your blog name! Personally, I think this works best if you're blogging to promote your services, but it really can work for several purposes.

The important part is for it to be relatively unique and identifiable. It's okay if a stranger can't tell your blog's mission statement through your name alone (but they should see it when they visit your website!). Primarily, you want people to begin to recognize your name when they see it out in the world.

If you're super nervous and indecisive, pick something relatively vague that may have multiple meanings. "The Lazy Source" was meant to be a productivity blog for lazy people, but now it's a business finance blog! But it still works because A) I'm lazy and B) I like to write about simplified and efficient methods. My name could even fit for a lifestyle blog, and probably a few other areas.

 

- Brand

I'm getting a little repetitive here, but keep this part simple too! You could easily spend a week dissecting every detail of your blog's brand, but then you're just procrastinating. Productive procrastination is still procrastination.

Don't worry about developing an official brand board yet. Chances are, as you develop your website later (especially if you use free themes like I'll show you later), you'll have to adjust your image a bit. It's fine, you're just starting!

- Identity

So, here's what you should do to start forming your blog's "image". Describe your blog's "essence" in three words, then use those words to clarify what it isn't. I know, that makes no sense. So here are a few examples:

  • My writing is humorous, but not obnoxious.
  • My blog has a casual atmosphere, but it is not unprofessional.
  • The design is pretty, but not too feminine.
  • The layout is clean, but not plain/bland.

See? Easy peasy.

- Color

Now, decide on 2-3 colors. If choosing colors is complicated for you, pick a range! This is what I did for my wedding because I couldn't commit (irony). I did a range of light blues, and the feedback from my guests says that it worked out well! Just be sure to have an accent color to stand out against it.

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

I do recommend that you jot down the HTML codes of your colors for more precise color matching when you customize different programs or use image editing software. This is super easy with a website like this!

- Fonts

Now! Pick a couple fonts! I recommend choosing a traditional font you like (think Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc.) so you can find it across most platforms. Then, go find one or two fancy fonts! These are great for making logos or branded images in the future. I've always liked DaFont, but make sure you filter your search to "100% Free" so you don't validate any creative licenses. I've also recently discovered The Hungry JPEG, which has a freebies section that they rotate out for fonts, mock-ups, graphic elements, etc.

- Optional: Pattern

If you're really into this part and are getting excited about it, I'll let you do one more thing before I tell you to move to the next step. You can pick a pattern to be a part of your blog's general theme! These are great for additional forms of branding around the web.

For example, I used a striped pattern with my two boldest colors for my Twitter header. I didn't feel like creating a huge promo banner of my blog (ahem lazy). I just wanted something simple yet on-brand!

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

The only problem with this is you'll either have to purchase a pattern stock image, find a free one, create your own, or hire a designer. If it's too much of a pain for you right now, just skip it and move to the next step! It's not vital to your brand.

 

Website

Hooray! Your blog now has an identity. It's more than that twinkle in your eye at this point. Now it's time for the birthing process.

Surprise, did you know you were pregnant? Don't freak out. My super-weird-economics teacher once gave us a painfully descriptive metaphor for how creating a business from an idea is like having a baby. If you've never seen a male business teacher mimic the birthing process in front of a class of mortified college students at 8:00 in the morning, you haven't lived.

Moving on. Let's talk websites!

 

- Hosting & Domain

Signing up for a web host is like a traditional business owner signing a lease for a building. Your web host is where your website will be housed. Researching web hosting can be a tremendous chore, so luckily for you, I did all the work for ya! If you're new to the idea of web hosting, I highly recommend you read that article before you keep going. It's okay, I'll be here when you get back.

If you've read that article, you're set for signing up for your host! If you skipped the article, that's fine. The shorty short is that I 100% believe Siteground is way better than Bluehost. As such, this guide will get you started on Siteground.

The good news is that signing up for Siteground is mega easy. I don't know why or how people are writing 5,000-word articles on how to fill out a typical "create account" form. We keep it simple around here.

Step 1: Go to Siteground's website and begin the account creation process.

Step 2: Choose your plan. Personally, I don't think a brand new blogger needs anything more than the StartUp plan in the beginning. (And don't worry, 10 GB of storage space is plenty.)

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

Step 3: Register your domain name. This will cost $14.95. Or buy it elsewhere and transfer it.

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

Step 4: Fill in your information!

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

Step 5: Sign up for the payment period you'd like to pay for. Note: This will be paid up front! I did the 12-month plan for $3.95/mo, for an upfront sum of $47.40. Add the domain charge and the total is at $62.35.

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

Step 5b: Purchase the domain privacy.  That's the best $12 you'll ever spend. I didn't when I signed up and I had about 50 spam emails and 27 phone calls within 48 hours. When you register a domain, your personal information becomes public record. Many business people, especially Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategists, stalk this information to try and get business from brand new website owners. They will not stop. Pay for the privacy protection, I promise it'll save you from so much headache. Plus then your address and personal phone number won't be up for everyone to see.

Step 6: Pay up.

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

Note: If you already have a website you want to transfer to Siteground, you can migrate it easily! Here's a link to a tutorial for using Siteground's free migration service for your website.

And you're done! You have your very own website!

P.S. Your email address will also come through Siteground, so you can have a name@domain.com address, which is way more professional. Want to be able to use this email outside of that ugly Webmail client? Check out the post below!

 

Related Post: How to Move Your Domain Email to Gmail

 

- WordPress

You've created a website and found a hosting server to house it, but how are you going to manage your website? Now you need software! WordPress is like the number 1 option for bloggers. I think nearly everyone uses it. It's easy to learn, easy to use, and free!

Plus, Siteground is officially recommended by WordPress, so naturally, it's super easy to get WordPress set up. In fact, when you sign up for the first time, there should be a setup wizard that appears the first time you access your account.

Full disclosure, I stole that image from Siteground (the image will take you to their tutorial if you click it) because I've long since installed WordPress already. It only took me a couple minutes to get everything set up, but if you have any trouble, I found this great tutorial here for a more manual installation.

Next, you want to set up your Gravatar account. This is basically your WordPress profile picture and will show up next to your comments on your blog posts. It's a nifty thing to have and only takes a couple minutes.

Head over to Gravatar's website, here.

Log in with your WordPress information, and then add your profile photo! You can then fill in the rest of the profile if you'd like, but it's not that important.

And finally, let's download some plug-ins! Plug-ins are the superpowers of WordPress. They really expand your options for customizing and building your website! I have a full resource page here where I list every plug-in I'm currently using on my own website, but here are the major ones I'd recommend you start with:

  • Akismet - Filters out spam comments.
  • Yoast SEO - Helps you optimize every page and post to help you rank on search engines.
  • Social Warfare - Helps increase social media engagement with social media share buttons.
  • Wordfence Security - Monitors hacking attempts and scans your site for malicious activity.

I also recommend these!

  • Elementor - Offers extra website theme customization with easy to use drag and drop tools.
  • Coming Soon Page by Seedprod - Redirects visitors to a "Coming Soon" or "Maintenance Mode" landing page while you work on your blog behind the curtain!
  • No Self Pings - When a page from your site is linked to, you receive a "ping" notification. If you link to your own articles in other posts, this gets obnoxious! This plug-in filters out pings from you linking to your own articles.
  • Exclude Pages from Menu - This plug-in is useful if you don't want certain pages to appear on your main navigation menu, such as a disclaimer page or an informational page.
  • Better Click to Tweet - Increases post shareability by allowing you to insert tweetable quotes in your posts that people can share by just clicking the text.

No affiliates, I just use 'em.

You can see a complete up-to-date list of the plug-ins I use on my Resource Page.

 

- Designing your site

First up, we're gonna find a theme. This part will inevitably take you a while because it feels scary and it's hard to choose.

This is where the "low budget" aspect of this post comes in. I had a teeny tiny budget starting out, and I only wanted to pay for the necessities. A lot of bloggers suggest the Genesis or Divi themes for WordPress, but those kinds of paid themes can cost between $50-$80. I wasn't quite ready to pay that.

So I spent an even greater amount of time browsing free themes. You can still find some beautiful designs out there for free; the disadvantage comes in when you want to customize it.

I remedied this in two ways. First, I found a theme that already fit my brand. I use Dara, and the blue was pretty close to the blue I had chosen in my beginning branding process. I just went back and readjusted my colors and bam. On-brand website. When the time comes that I'm ready for an updated my site, I intend to invest money into it so I won't have to worry about matching my colors to another free theme again.  (June 2018 update: I have since invested in the Genesis Framework and a Restored316 theme, and I highly recommend them when you're ready for it!)

The second way I worked around the free theme limitations was with the plug-in Elementor, mentioned above. This plug-in is super nifty and offers a lot of great customization options. My homepage is the result of Elementor!

 

- Website Elements

A blog does not have to be a complicated website to set up! Honestly, you're good to start with just a few main pages:

  • About Me. You want to have a page where people can go to learn more about you personally, you as a blogger, and what they can expect from your blog.
     
  • Contact Me / Work with Me. If you are building a service-based business with your blog, it's super important to have a page dedicated to detailing the packages you offer and how to reach you.
     
  • Legal. You need to create a page dedicated to your legal disclaimers, affiliate disclaimers*, terms and conditions, etc. 

 

Related Post: Is Your Blog Legal? The Most Overlooked Blogging Necessities!
 

  • Home. Obviously, your website will have a home page. Most themes allow you to choose whether this page shows a feed of your most recent posts or if it's a static page. My homepage is an example of a static page. I wanted my homepage to be a hub of navigation for my site, so I used Elementor to design something a little more unique.

Additional elements

  • Sidebar. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em. It can be a good way to keep your face front-and-center with a little blurb about you, but the decision is yours!
     
  • Search function. I get really frustrated when I can't search for keywords on a blogger's website. I prefer when they're either in the sidebar or the footer of a page.
     
  • Archives. This is helpful for encouraging people to browse around! There are tons of ways to do this depending on your website and theme, but it's worth looking into.
     

Create content

We've got so much of our blog set up, but where's the blog?! It's time to create some content.

Do. Not. Rush. This.

Temptation: Create a dozen posts to fill your blog and post all over social media to start bringing in traffic.

Reality: Low quality, unhelpful, scattered blog posts that might bring in traffic but won't convert anyone into a subscriber.

Blogging is a big world, and you've got to offer serious value to get anywhere. The blogs that perform the best publish way less often but offer way more value.

I recommend starting your blog with a minimum of 3-5 good posts.

 

RELATED POST: 5 Ways to Improve the Writing Quality of Your Blog Posts

 

When I launched the first version of this site, I had one post that was barely even relevant and offered absolutely nothing to my readers. Big shock, no one cared about it. I also had nothing to market to bring traffic to my blog. All I had was content IOUs.

Here are some basic tips to guide you to create the kind of content people will want to read:

  • Your content should meet your readers along their journey and take them to a certain end goal. Know what journey you're taking them on before you start to write.
  • Create actionable content that offers the reader something. Let them walk away changed.
  • For your website's first blog posts, keep the topic simple. But make the post detailed and helpful.
  • Aim for 2,000-5,000 word articles. It sounds like a lot, but when you're focused on creating value and actually helping your reader, those words will come flying outta yo' fingertips.
  • Edit, and edit well. Have someone else edit if you can, or download Grammarly to at least get the embarrassing spelling mistakes out of the way.
  • Make it "skimmable." Use headings, line breaks, and pictures to break up large chunks of text. Bold important sentences so someone scrolling quickly can see your main points.
  • Create at least one Pinterest-ready image for each post using Canva or Adobe Photoshop. (Vertical, with a text overlay of the title of your post.)

 

Promote yourself!

All this work will be pointless if you don't get your name out there. However, you could easily spend 40+ hours a week on promotion and marketing alone if you don't know what you're doing.

Choose a simple promotion strategy, and stick to it. Don't try to have every social media account. Personally, I recommend joining a few Facebook groups and creating a blog-centered Pinterest account.

 

RELATED POST: How to Drive Traffic to Your Website

 

- Facebook

Creating your own Facebook pages and groups is another field on its own. Instead, I think a new blogger will benefit the most from joining other groups. There are so many out there that are hubs of support and promotion for new bloggers, it just takes a quick search on Facebook!

Don't join too many too soon. Just find a few. If a group seems like a ghost town, it won't do you too much good. Look for groups with lots of engagement and answered questions.

Then use the group! Follow the rules, but take advantage of promo threads on the designated days (usually specified in the group description). Ask questions, but don't forget to answer other people's questions. Just be involved! Blogging can get lonely, and the communities in these groups will carry you through the slow days.

Check out How to Make the Most of Facebook Groups to Better Your Blog to really maximize the impact this platform can have for your business!

Side note: I don't think Facebook groups are a long-term strategy for promotion. They're great for continued community, and many people find success running their own pages and groups, but I've personally moved on from using other people's groups as a traffic-driver for my blog. But they're GREAT when you're just starting!

 

- Pinterest

If you haven't realized it yet, you will soon: Pinterest is a search engine. And it's a powerful tool for bloggers to generate traffic to their websites. However, you can't just take your personal account with your "dream wedding" and "someday-soon-fitness" boards if you're blogging about quilting. You have to optimize your account to make it effective for your business.

- Profile

Let's cover the basic ground rules for using Pinterest for business:

  • First up, sign up for or convert to a business account.
  • Second, be sure to set up rich pins. These are a standard for more professional pins. Essentially, this will automatically pull your blog name and post title so it appears with any pin from your website.
  • Next, cover the basic profile information. Upload a profile picture (preferably the same one you've been using elsewhere for brand consistency!), write a clear bio that describes who you are and what you do, and add your website URL.
  • Put keywords in your name. For example, mine is "Katie | Business for Bloggers."
  • Make a list of 10-20 topics your followers would be interested in relating to your niche. Create these boards and write keyword-rich descriptions for each of them.

- Scheduling & Automation

I firmly believe the key to success with Pinterest is automation. Honestly, it's just way too time-consuming without it. There are plenty of people who have made it work by manually pinning, but we're lazy around here and that just won't work for us. Enter, schedulers.

So, here's the deal. Your main players in this game are BoardBooster and Tailwind. You're going to have to decide what will work best for your strategy. But since I've used both, I'm going to help you out a bit. Hey, it's what I'm here for.

 

Tailwind

Tailwind is, in my opinion, a scheduler that can't be beat. Tailwind makes it incredibly easy to schedule dozens to hundreds of pins in advance. You can install the Tailwind extension to your browser to it's as easy to schedule pins as it is to save images on the Internet with the Pin It button. If your primary goal is simply to grow your account by filling your boards with pins, Tailwind is the way to go.

How I used it: Activity is a positive sign for the Pinterest algorithm, so you want to be pinning consistently. I found that 20-40 pins a day was a good place to start. This sounds like a lot, but if your boards are all in your niche, you should be able to schedule a single pin to several boards, spaced over time. This multiplication effect can really add up!

Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.
Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.

You can also take advantage of Tailwind Tribes, which are like group boards, but I personally found them a little tedious to use. Maybe you'll get luckier!

Sign up for Tailwind here to get access for free for your first 100 pins. From there, you can pay $15 a month or $119 for a full year (which gives you 4 months free!).

I used to recommend BoardBooster in this section, but BoardBooster was forced to shut down on June 27, 2018. While many of us are still salty about it, know that Tailwind is a GREAT program that I highly recommend.

 

- Group Boards

Group boards are an awesome component of Pinterest. They're pretty self-explanatory: they're Pinterest boards that multiple people can pin to. This means all pins posted on this board reach the audience of every member of that board. Talk about an exponential reach.

If you try to promote your blog on Pinterest without any group boards, you're just making things way more difficult for yourself. Unnecessarily. Start joining group boards right immediately.

Before you jump in, though, establish your criteria. Many group boards have super specific rules designed to encourage higher quality pinning and engagement. If you don't think you'll be able to keep up with a rule that requires you to repin 2 pins for every 1 you post, don't apply. (Though, you can eventually use BoardBooster to virtually automate this process.)

Also, find niche specific boards. Generally speaking, "Post your latest blog post!" boards are usually flooded with new posts, and yours will not get the engagement it deserves.

Here's my batching technique that I use to make this process a little more tolerable:

  • Go to PinGroupie to search for group boards with keywords related to your niche.
  • Create a spreadsheet with the URL of every board you come across that is accepting new members, and fits within your criteria. Don't apply yet, just save the URLs. Save a ton of them.
  • Go back through your spreadsheet, go to the URL, and follow the instructions in the descriptions to apply. Then update your spreadsheet with the date you applied.
  • As you hear back, update with the date that you joined that board.
  • After a few weeks, you can follow up with anyone you never heard back from if you'd like.

Bonus tip: Create a template email that you send out for group board applications to save you time. You should always include the name of the board you want to apply to and the email your Pinterest account is under. Something along the lines of:

"Hello! I'm a blogger who writes about _________. I came across your group board, _______, and would love to join if you're accepting new contributors. I've read the rules and followed your account. The email associated with my profile is: ______. Thank you for your time!"

From here, it's a waiting game. Just know that you will not hear back from most of the boards you apply to. You can follow up if you'd like, but I generally just move on. Once you are accepted into one, though, use it! Just be sure to follow the rules so you aren't kicked out.

- Personal Boards

Listen up! A lot of people will tell you that group boards are the absolute key to success on Pinterest. Yes, group boards are helpful, but they're not the only path to success! Pinterest places a lot of weight on how your personal boards perform on your account! So don't neglect your own profile!

Continue to curate the best quality articles that you can find, and don't forget to share your own posts to your own boards!

 

Convert your traffic

I promise we're almost there!

You've got a blog, you're starting to promote it, and hopefully, traffic is starting to roll in. But the problem is, they read your post, share it if you're lucky, then leave! Most likely, they're going to forget about you.

Remedy this with an email list.

Your email list is yours. No social media algorithm or website shutdown will take it away. Those are people who have granted you permission to send your content to their inbox. Email marketing is huge, but don't get too caught up in the intricacies of it yet.

You can spend months working on all the different email strategies and automation sequences out there. I know because I tried. However, at its core, you just need a place for people to give their email address along with a way to email them. All of the free content upgrades and lead magnets can come later.

So first, you need an email client. I highly recommend MailerLite. MailerLite is free for your first 1,000 subscribers and has a ton of great features for beginners.

You'll hear talk of MailChimp and Convertkit as well. Let's address those real quick.

MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and offers plenty of great features as well. However, MailerLite still won out for me for the following reasons:

  • The paid version of MailerLite is still cheaper than the paid version of MailChimp.
  • MailerLite has better customer support and awesome video tutorials on their website.
  • MailerLite lets you create landing pages for email sign-ups. These are distraction-free pages dedicated to whatever you're promoting that have higher conversion rates than traditional sales-type pages.
  • MailerLite has better customization options for your emails.

ConvertKit is pricier at $29/month, but it's more advanced. Honest opinion, ConvertKit is awesome, powerful, and totally worth the money, once you get your email list going. As in, I don't think you need to jump into ConvertKit right off the bat. I wasn't personally willing to pay for it when I was starting at 0, so I wouldn't recommend it to you.

Full disclosure: I have since moved to ConvertKit for their more advanced tagging features. Once I began ironing out a more intricate email marketing strategy, I realized I needed more than what Mailerlite could do up to this point.

But for most of you just starting out, you'll have what you need with MailerLite. Head on over there and create your account!

From here, your next steps will be to:

  • Link to your email address.
  • Create your first "group" for your new subscriber list.
  • Create a simple automation sequence for your first Welcome Email under the "Automation" tab.
Starting a blog is about so much more than signing up for a web host! Let me walk you through my Five-Step Framework for establishing the absolute essentials for your new blog. From choosing a niche to collecting your subscribers, let me show you how to start a blog without overcomplicating the process.
  • Write a Welcome Email that introduces who you are, what the reader can expect from you, how often they can expect to hear from you, and why you're qualified to be delivering this content to them. Now's your chance to eradicate any "buyer's remorse" they may feel for giving you their email address. Eventually, delivering bonus downloadable content will be a win, but we don't have time for that right now! So if you want to add value, give them an exclusive tip, piece of advice, or even a recommendation for a free product.
     
  • Create a landing page under the "Forms" tab for your new list. This creates a distraction-free web page where you can convince people to sign up for your list! You can also create a Pinterest-ready image to promote this page!
     
  • Create an Embedded Form under the "Forms" tab to place around your website.
     
  • Add the links and forms on your website! I'd promote them in your sidebar, at the bottom of posts, on your About Page, and even throughout your post (links, not forms.)

Bonus: Embedding forms with MailerLite is a lot easier if you install their official WordPress plugin!

 

We're done!

And that's that! Sounds like a lot? It is. This will likely take you at least a few weeks, plus approximately $135 (depending on what investments you choose to make), if you follow this guide exactly.

However, I don't want you to procrastinate your dream because you're overwhelmed. But I do want you to be prepared for the time and financial investment.

Speaking of financial investment, there's a secret step among all of this! It wasn't included in this post because this is more specific to those of you trying to blog for business, but if that's you, listen up! As you start spending money for your blog, you need to begin creating systems to track and manage that money! Your first step is to open a separate bank account for you blog (a regular checking account will do!) - learn more about this and other behind-the-scenes financial steps you need to take for your blog here!

To review, these are the five areas we're focusing on:

  • Know what your blog is about.
  • Create a website.
  • Content for people to explore when they visit.
  • A strategy for promoting your blog.
  • A way to 'capture' traffic.

In other words:

  • Niche
  • Website
  • Content
  • Traffic
  • Email

I spent a solid 10 minutes trying to turn that into a mneumonic and all I got is: Now We Come To Eat. Nasty Winters Came To England. Never Wear Coats To Egypt. Now We Can Tame Elephants.

Whatever works for you.


Wondering where that blog startup road map is from the pin? I've removed it from this post because A) it was kind of ugly and outdated and B) you don't reaaaaally need it. Everything you need is in this post! I have a renewed commitment to only ask for an email address when I can actually deliver you great, exclusive value. So this is me being honest and saying you don't need the road map! But, if you want to sign up for my email list, you totally shouldI'll give you a MUCH BETTER freebie if you do!


Make this a fun process. Don't let it intimidate you, and don't let it get in the way of your dream! Tackle each task, one at a time. I'd recommend the following three methods to keep yourself on track:

  • Write out five separate to-do lists on paper for each of the steps in the framework (or just use the checklist I made for you!). Then be sure to place everything on a calendar because a scheduled task is way more likely to get done!
  • Or, sign up for a free Evernote account and create the to-do lists in five separate notes in a notebook. Use the checklist formatting feature so you can mark off what you've done. I still recommend putting the tasks in a calendar, setting reminders in Evernote, and/or giving yourself due dates next to each task!
  • Or, sign up for a free Trello account. This is a great option because your to-do and your calendar can be in one place. Create five separate lists, create a card for each task, and then schedule each card. Turn on the calendar "power up" and see everything in the calendar view! Here's a great resource for getting started with Trello!

Any one of these will go a long way in keeping you organized and on track. Until you've tackled these tasks, I really don't recommend you mess with anything else. It can wait. For now, you need to lay your foundation.

If you need any help along the way, comment below or send me an email at katie@thelazysource.com

Until next time!

- Katie Scott