How to Start a Blog or Website: 3 Ways to Build Your Online Presence

Setting up a blog or website for personal or business use is not as difficult as you might think it is. Basic knowledge of HTML would be an asset, but no programing experience is required. In 2012, when I was in New Zealand, I started an internet marketing business with two other like-minded business enthusiasts. This was the first time I learned about WordPress, GoDaddy, and many more interesting internet companies (defined as companies that do the majority of their business on the internet).

Preparation

Before starting your own blog or website, you should prepare yourself. I have created free resources for you so that you can start planning your blog. Simply download The One-Page Blog Planning Sheet and start the initial work.

1. Blog or Static Website

If you want to start a blog or static website I recommend using WordPress or Squarespace. Both offer great themes and an intuitive content management system (CMS), which is the front-end user interface that allows users, even with limited expertise, to add, modify, and remove content from a website without the intervention of an administrator. Using a CMS is as easy as using Facebook. My personal website and the static website of Awaken&More are both run on WordPress.

On WordPress you first select which kind of website you need, then you proceed to find your domain name, which should be equal or similar to your brand name. You either choose a free plan with a .wordpress.com ending or purchase a customized domain name with a .com ending. You can also use a domain name you already own. When I signed up, it was possible to purchase a customized domain name while being on a free plan. I had to pay only 18 Euros per year. However, this is no longer possible. The cheapest plan is called Personal and costs 4 Euros per month; currently it includes a domain registration and privacy protection. Each plan includes a selection of 121 free themes. Whether you select the free plan or a paid one, the next step is to learn how to use WordPress.

A more advanced solution is to purchase a web hosting plan from GoDaddy (or HostGator), which includes a free domain name, and then use the 1-click install to upload and self-host your WordPress theme. You can read about the difference between the fully hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, whose software is available for free at WordPress.org here. If you select the self-hosted version and use GoDaddy as your web hosting platform, make sure to search for GoDaddy coupons. They can be found online throughout the internet and you could end up paying as little as 1 Euro per month. However, subsequent years are often more expensive.

My personal blog uses the free Rebalance theme by Automattic and the hosting is managed by WordPress.com. However, the advanced solution requires more work. First, select a free theme on WordPress.com, then scroll down on the theme description page, and finally download the theme for free. Alternatively you could select a paid theme on ThemeForest, which is a website that offers much more choice.

Once you found your theme you need to convert the downloaded folder into a .zip file and follow the steps provided by GoDaddy. Afterwards you can log into your WordPress theme and follow the instruction on how to install the theme through the .zip file. Then you can proceed following the WordPress tutorial as the CMS is the same as the one from WordPress.com. Noteworthy, the WordPress CMS does not change in the advanced solution. The difference is that you host your theme on an different web hosting platform than the one managed by WordPress.com.

Once you run the WordPress theme, you can start adding plugins, which can be downloaded from WordPress.org or other sites such as CodeCanyon. When you downloaded a plugin, simply go to the WordPress sidebar Plugins, click on Add New, and then press Upload Plugin and upload the plugin .zip file. Read this article on GoDaddy to find out more about the powerful functionality that you can add to WordPress via plugins.

I find it very convenient to create an email address that uses the domain name address, such as info@claudiomarseglia.com when the website is claudiomarseglia.com. I like consistency and would not like a email address that is different from my domain name address. WordPress explains how to set up email forwarding. Once the WordPress email forwarding setting is installed, you have to change some settings in your mail program. Apple Mail users have to go to the Accounts settings, select the current email account, go to the email address, set a comma after the first address, and then simply type the new email address you created. If you want to create more than five email addresses, then you need to follow this instruction and open an account with Zoho. This worked well for Awaken&More as Zoho comes with a free plan that includes up to 50 free accounts.

Once you set up your blog or static website, you can start creating content and publishing it through your selected CMS.

2. Online Store

If you want to start a blog or website including an online store, then I totally recommend Shopify. Simply visit the site, add your account information, and proceed to set up the online store through their intuitive design and detailed instructions. Some WordPress themes also offers store options, however, it can become complicated for first-time users to set up stores that are secure and ensure legal compliance. Shopify offers a great solution with modern designed themes.

3. Hiring a Programer

Sometimes a theme, even if it is customizable, does not reflect your idea. You have a clear vision and need a programer that can understand your needs and program a website that reflects your vision. Due to the simplicity of WordPress, I recommend asking your programer to program a WordPress website. Furthermore, as more and more people use mobile devices, ask your programer to use a responsive design that can adapt to different screen sizes. If you want a very specific website, hiring a programer is the way to go. However, do not go directly to your local web agency. First, likely it is very expensive and you need to save your cash for other expenses. Second, most web agencies outsource their programing work to freelancers and act as mere middlemen. Cut out the middleman and hire a programer on Freelancer or Upwork. It is not difficult when you know what you want, understand the rating and review system, and have solid English communication skills. I have had both good and bad experiences with freelances but at the end I was always very satisfied. I will soon post an article on how to select freelancers, set clear expectations, and create manageable milestones. However, feel free to comment with a question if you cannot wait.

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