Welcome to Part Two in our three part series on How to Start a Mom Blog. Thank you to Lisa from Milehimama for taking the time to share her expertise and contribute to this series. Check out Part One7 Things to Remember When Starting a Mom Blog.
All right, you know what you’re going to write about, you’re family is on board with your new venture, and you’ve thought about how you’d like to make money. Now what?
You’ll need an address (domain name) and hosting (a place to put all of your site data.) Then you’ll need a site design, usually based on a prepackaged theme. The theme contains the codes that determine how big your headlines are, if you have sidebars and how many, etc. It’s the “frame” that your design will hang on. Then you can customize your theme with the colors you want, add graphics and font styles, and so on to bring your site to life.
Hiring someone to put together a site and set up your blog is the easiest route. Blog design packages usually start at $350 and go up from there depending on what other options your choose; a basic blog with custom header, graphics, and a nice theme will be closer to $500 and up. This is a good option if you have the money to invest, and want someone to take care of all of the technical aspects of blogging. A designer will set up your site and also make it look polished and professional, with a consistent look. If something goes wrong, you’ll have someone to call. Make sure you get recommendations from other bloggers and view a designer’s site portfolio before choosing a designer.
You can also get started blogging for much, much less by doing it yourself. This is a good option if you don’t have a lot of spare cash, if you like learning new things, or if you just like to DIY. You’ll also learn a ton about blogging and your site and won’t have to pay more money whenever you want to make a change or tweak your look. I’ll show you two options, starting a mommyblog for free and starting a blog for under $100.
There are a few sites online that will host your blog for free. The two biggest platforms for starting free blogs are Blogger (owned by Google) and WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org)
On the one hand, it’s free and designed for new bloggers. You’ll have a lot of help and many resources. It’s also a good way to get started without investing any money, to try out blogging to see if you like it and will stick with it.
On the other hand, you won’t have your own blog address- it will be YourSite.blogspot.com or YourSite.wordpress.com.
Blogger is run by Google, and they can remove your site or content arbitrarily. (It happened to a friend of mine. Google robots decided for some reason that her site was spam, and took it down!). Blogger’s commenting is pretty bare bones, and you may have to install a third-party commenting system such as Disqus or LiveFyre – which risks turning off your readers. If you go with WordPress.com, you will also have lots of support, but it’s difficult to monetize a WordPress.com site.
Having a .blogspot or a .wordpress address can be seen as amateurish and might limit your ability to attract brands to advertise and sponsor your site. You also won’t be able to get professional looking custom email addresses, such as firstname.lastname@example.org (most hosting companies provide several customized email addresses per domain.) You also will be basing your income on a property you don’t own and can’t control, which could be risky.
Either way, if you eventually get your own domain, you’ll have to move everything over to your self-hosted server (or pay someone else to), a tedious and stressful job. A free site is a great way to test the waters or for a blog used simply to update the family or document your family’s life.
If you don’t want a free blog with all its limitations, what can you do?
1. Buy your domain which should cost around $10: I use GoDaddy, because they are one of the largest registrars of domain names, they are easy to work with, and they are cheap! I personally always get the privacy option, which hides your name and address from casual searchers. It costs $10 more. Try to get a .com or a .net address.
2. Get your hosting: This is where all of your files will live- your writing, your theme (which determines what your blog looks like and how it functions), your pictures, all of your data. Hosting is renting server space for your blog. I use BlueHost, because you get unlimited data and unlimited domains for $6.95/month ($84 for the year.) I like having unlimited domains- I can put up a website for my resume, or for my neighborhood watch, mommy meet up group, or even for the kids to try out without any additional cost. Other reliable hosting services include HostGator and DreamHost.
3. Install WordPress: This is WordPress.org, and it’s the editor you’ll use to write posts, change your sidebar content, create pages, and manage your theme. Yes, there are other ways to blog but WordPress is the most functional, the most supported, has much better comment control than Blogger, and it’s free. Plus so many other bloggers use it, it will be easy to find help if you need it. You can also have a self-hosted (where you pay for hosting, and have your own domain) site using Blogger.
4. Pick out and install a theme: I recommend using a free theme to start with until you are sure what you want and what you’ll need for your site, and then upgrading to a professional theme if you wish. (I now use the Thesis theme, but I used free wordpress themes for years.)
5. Start writing posts: Don’t forget to share your blog with family, friends, and through social media to get it started.
Congratulations! You’re a blogger!
Lisa Stauber has blogged for five years at Milehimama.com and created a support network for bloggers, Houston Blogging Chicks. She also writes at TXBloggers.com and hosts a weekly Twitter chat about improving blogging skills, #txbloggers. She loves to hear from readers and you can contact Lisa here or follow her on Twitter, @milehimama. Blogging with integrity: this post contains affiliate links.
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