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I live in the UK, and one thing I’ve found is that a lot of guides you find on Google on how to start a blog are from US bloggers. Of course, there’s so much information and it’s super-helpful. But if you’re UK based, you want the confidence of finding an existing blogger who’s gone through the motions of setting one up and getting it off the ground.
What Are The Benefits of Starting a Blog?
Blogging is a fantastic outlet for creative types, or for people who wish to share their progress (such as documenting a debt-free journey like mine).
It’s also a great business opportunity with minimal start-up costs and a fantastic way to expand your skillset. You can earn money from your blog by doing sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, and placing ads within your content.
It’s a great place to showcase your work if you want to start writing as a side hustle, or to earn a living. Believe it or not, there’s money to be made through writing when you know where to look, and I’m not talking about content mills (unless you’re happy to write for peanuts).
The best part is, when you’ve found something you’re passionate about, the writing comes easily. With regular writing comes confidence. And confidence attracts money.
I will point out, however, that blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
A blog is a business, and businesses are started from scratch. As with a seed, you need to plant it, water it, and nurture it for healthy growth. You get out what you put in.
What to Blog About?
It may sound obvious, but it’s really important to have a plan when deciding on what to blog about. It should be something you’re passionate about, otherwise, you’re likely to get bored quickly.
You might decide to blog about your personal finance journey, upcycling, craft, family life, writing, marketing, blogging, or any other industry/sector that excites you and you love to write about.
Once you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to choose your blog name.
How to Choose a Blog Name
Your blog should be a reflection of you and your content. Essentially, your blog name is your brand.
Miss Penny Money is an intentional play on words, not least because of Mr. Bond’s famous secretary Miss Moneypenny, but because it has two words relating to finance in the name. With Penny also being a genuine first name, the blog title makes an effective pseudonym.
As a brand name, it’s memorable.
When deciding on your blog name, you’ll also need to check to see if the URL is available. It’s no use finding the perfect name, only to discover you can’t have it as a web address because someone else has it already.
For a blog to be a business, your business name needs to be unique.
So, do some brainstorming. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, and write down some words that resonate with you, your niche, your lifestyle, and what you’re about. Play around with the words to see what sort of titles you can come up with, and check the domain name availability.
Make sure you’re 100% happy with it before you purchase your domain name. You can buy a domain name for a minimum of 12 months, but once your content is out there, changing your blog name will be like unpicking a tapestry.
You can purchase a domain name from several domain name providers, but I find it makes more sense to get it from the same place as your hosting provider to make things easier.
Do You Need Money to Start a Blog?
Not necessarily, but if you want to grow your blog into a business, yes.
But only a little bit.
Presuming you already have a laptop (or a decent tablet) your main expense will be your domain name and your web hosting. Domain names cost around £10 – £20 for the year. Your hosting will cost you around £30.00, which I’m sure you’ve spent on a takeaway before!
If you’re on this blog, I’ll assume money is a little tight, so I’d suggest a plan to make yourself £50 to get up and running with your blog. That way, there’s no credit card involved, and it’s your own capital you’ve invested into your new business.
It is possible to get started for free with WordPress.com or Blogger.com. The issue with this is that, unless you purchase a domain name, your blog name will also include the platform name.
When I initially set up Miss Penny Money, it’s URL read misspennymoney1(dot)wordpress(dot)com. Firstly, it doesn’t look great, and, secondly, I lost quite a few subscribers when I migrated to self-hosted.
Starting a Blog: Free vs Hosting
There are pros and cons to both starting a blog for free, and going self-hosted.
If you are serious about making your blog a business, I’d strongly recommend going self-hosted from the start.
Free Blog Hosting Pros
I’ve set up a few free blogs in the past, and can confirm free hosting has the following advantages:
- No initial start-up costs
- Fairly easy to navigate
- Choice of free themes available
Free Blog Hosting Cons
Once you’ve got your free blog established, the option of free hosting can be quite frustrating if you want to improve your website. Here are some of the disadvantages of free hosting:
- As mentioned above, unless you purchase a domain name, you will have the free hosting provider within your URL.
- Your site may not look as professional as a self-hosted site due to the restrictions you get with being self-hosted (layout, for example).
- You have less control over your site than with self-hosted. There are restrictions on placing ads, for example, if you want to use this as a way to monetise your site.
- You will be unable to download plugins that can help with the running of your site, such as Yoast (an excellent and widely-used tool to help with SEO).
- Your theme choice may be limited.
- In order to really grow your traffic through Pinterest, you need to ‘claim’ your website, which you cannot do with free hosting.
Self-Hosted Blog Pros
Self-hosting is usually managed through a third-party, such as HostPresto. There are many advantages to starting a blog. Here are some of them:
- You have full control over your site. You have access to thousands of themes and can choose your own font style and layout.
- You can add plugins to improve the functionality of your site, such as Yoast, which helps improve your SEO, and therefore your discoverability.
- Self-hosted sites generally look more professional.
- You have the option to run ads on your site and earn revenue from them.
- Start-up costs are minimal, and there are plenty of free resources available to help get you started, such as social media manager platforms, and image and graphic sources and creation.
- You can claim your website and your traffic through Pinterest.
Self-Hosted Blog Cons
- You will need between £50 – £70 to start, including hosting and domain name.
- There’s a huuuge learning curve if you’re totally new to blogging.
- It’s a lot of work, but massively rewarding!
After transitioning from free to self-hosted, I can honestly say I believe self-hosted to be the best option if you want to grow your blog into a profitable business. If you’re just blogging as a hobby or just to have a play around, by all means, go for the free option.
But bear in mind you will be limited. If you decide to go self-hosted, you’ll still have a lot to learn and might wish you’d made the switch sooner. Both of my websites are now self-hosted and cost me around the same price of an Amazon Prime membership, including domain names. Any future blogs I start will undoubtedly be set up as self-hosted.
Assuming you’ve made the decision to go self-hosted, here’s what you need to do next.
Choose a Hosting Provider
I use HostPresto, and highly recommend them. They’re UK-based, have excellent customer service, and their basic package starts from £27.60 (including VAT), for the year! (This option is limited to 1GB of disk space, however.)
If you choose to pay monthly, it’s just £3.60, which is less than a bottle of wine. Depending on your budget preference, I’d recommend the yearly package because a) it’s cheaper, and b) it gives you a year to get used to blogging before taking it to the next level.
There are no nasty surprises, and you can choose to pay monthly, annually, bi-annually, and tri-annually (as confirmed to me by the super-helpful guys over at HostPresto).
Not only that, but HostPresto are also running an offer to try their hosting for £1 for your first month, with their exclusive discount code which you can find when you click through. (Affiliate link)
When going self-hosted, you’ll need to use WordPress.org rather than WordPress.com, which is only for free hosting.
Choose a Theme
This is my favourite part, as whatever you choose will reflect your personality. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging, it’s to be authentic. Go with what you love.
The theme I currently use is from Blossom Themes.
Another site I absolutely love for their feminine themes is Bluchic.com. They have loads of beautiful themes available for the serious blogger or entrepreneur.
Write Your First 5 – 10 Posts
It’s important to get some content out there, so start by deciding what you’re going to write about.
List between 5 – 10 post ideas. A good starting post would be an introductory post describing the purpose of the blog.
When creating content, post with the reader in mind and how what you’re sharing can benefit them.
Schedule Your Posts
Set your posts to be published at regular intervals. How often you publish will depend on how much time you have, and the content you are putting out there. Some posts can take an hour or less, others can take 4 hours or more, depending on the content.
You could schedule them for once a week, or twice a week.
In the meantime, get creating some more content and get that scheduled, too.
Share to Social Media
Once your blog is live, you should start sharing your posts to social media and grow your audience. For branding, you can get specific accounts set up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as a minimum, unless you choose to use your own social channels. Just keep in mind any personal content that you might not want people to see!
If you’re setting up new social channels, you’ll want to find people to follow. You can grow your following by interacting with other bloggers, or people in your niche (if you want to be a parent blogger, chat to parents, if you want to be a craft blogger, chat with other crafters, etc.).
Grow Your Blog (and Audience)
There’s only one way to grow your blog, and that’s with consistent work and posting.
Similarly, in order to grow your audience, you need to spend time consistently posting content to your channels and interacting with others in the social stratosphere.
A social network’s primary purpose is for individuals and businesses to network.
So, get producing, and get networking!
How to Make Money from your Blog
There are three main ways to make money from your blog.
- Sponsored Posts
- Affiliate Marketing
For me, sponsored posts are my favourite way to make money from my blog. I’m a writer, so for me it’s another avenue for getting paid to write. The best way to find sponsored opportunities is to find a company you wish to promote and contact them directly about collaborating. Once your blog begins to grow legs, you might even get companies contacting you directly!
Affiliate marketing is a very popular way to make money among bloggers and other websites. This is where you promote a company to your audience and earn a commission for any sign-ups. You need a decent amount of traffic in order to be successful with affiliate marketing. This means you also need a decent amount of content to get traffic to your site.
Ads can be a great way to monetise a site, especially for sites with high traffic. A good place to start is with Google Adsense, which can place your ads automatically within your content for you when you add coding to your site.
I hope this guide has given you the basics you need to start a blog. If you’re considering other ideas, check out the post 10 UK Side Hustle Ideas You Can Start for Free (or with very little money).