So, you want to start a blog?
I don’t blame you! After all, it’s a great way to make money online and potentially begin to earn some of that elusive passive income.
And the good news is, it’s really not that hard (or expensive) to get started. In fact, you can be up and running in less than 15 minutes and for less than $3 a month.
Pretty cool, right?
In this free 6-part video series, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to get started.
And if you’re already sold on starting a site, skip to Video 5 below and I’ll show you how to get it online in a hurry.
4 Reasons to Start a Blog
Do you like how the thumbnail for this video paused right on the “make money” slide with me doing the Mr. Burns thing with my hands?
In any case, that’s just one of the reasons I think you should start a blog.
1. Blogging is a creative outlet – it’s fun!
I’ve always loved writing and the consistent practice of writing online has made me a better communicator and allows me to exercise my creativity in ways I never really thought it would. I’ve written well over 1000 blog posts at this point, and never would have gotten that far if it wasn’t fun.
2. Blogging lets you share your ideas with the world.
Some posts of mine have been read 10s of thousands of times, which is awesome! On top of that, you’ll get comments and emails from readers saying how much you’ve helped them. It’s a really cool feeling.
3. Blogging can make you money.
For many viewers and side hustlers, that’s what it’s all about. Blogging is one of the channels that lets me earn a full-time living working from home, and it’s just a really powerful platform to serve an audience you can help in some way.
The caveat to this is — in most cases — your blog isn’t a business on its own. But it CAN help you build one. We’ll get into how blogs actually make money in Video #3.
4. Blogging builds your network.
Once you get started online, you’ll find an incredible and supportive community.
A few years ago, the scale tipped in my personal life, when my number of “Internet friends” (as my wife calls them), began to outnumber my “real life friends.” Today it’s not even close, and that wasn’t intentional or expected, but it was 100% a result of putting myself out there online, starting with a blog.
Now I have friends and connections in nearly every city in the world, and have been able to meet up with readers in Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Barcelona, Prague, and all over the United States.
Don’t Call It a Blog!
OK, I know this whole series is on “how to start a blog,” but calling your new website “a blog” is probably a recipe for disappointment and failure.
To me, a “blog” sounds like an online diary — where you’re going to share what you did today, pictures of your kids, or what you had for dinner — and if that’s all you want to write about, that’s fine, and you can still follow Video #5 to get it set up, but don’t be surprised when not too many people are interested.
That type of “online diary” site might work if you’re a celebrity, but if you’re not (and if you eventually want your site to make money), don’t call it a blog.
Instead, call it what it is: a website, a brand, a business.
Personally branded sites are just fine — Side Hustle Nation is very much a personally branded project, meaning it’s got my name and face all over it.
If you want to start a blog (or rather a website) as a side hustle, remember the Rule of the Internet: People are only ever online for 2 reasons:
- To solve a problem.
- To be entertained.
I call this the “reason to exist” — what’s the point of your site?
With entertainment, you’re up against House of Cards and Game of Thrones, YouTube, ESPN, and Fantasy Football — it’s tough to compete. But helping people solve problems, especially if you can do it in a unique or entertaining way, that’s where the gold is.
Your new website might be a hobby or a side hustle at first, (it certainly was for me), but when I started treating it like a business and not just a blog, that’s when things started to take off.
(It only took me 4 years to realize that!)
Blogs — or rather websites or online businesses — can make money in a ton of different ways.
In this video, I’ll walk through 8 real-life monetization examples so you can see what each one looks like in practice.
1. Affiliate Marketing
This is perhaps the easiest monetization strategy for a new website. Affiliate marketing is where you link to a product or service you recommend, and earn a commission when your visitor buys.
This is still one of my primary revenue streams and lets me partner with brands like Udemy and Amazon.
Here’s an example of a post on Side Hustle Nation that’s monetized with affiliate links.
2. Selling Your Own Services
3. Selling Your Own Products
You can use your blog to sell your own physical or digital products. Through my site I’ve sold digital products like ebooks and courses, and physical products like t-shirts.
Contextual and display advertising can be a lucrative income stream if you have enough traffic to your site. In fact, some friends of mine bring in thousands of dollars a month in this way.
5. Sponsored Content
Some brands will pay you to host sponsored posts, where the content is directly or loosely connected to their company. I’ve been paid several hundred dollars at a time for these sponsored posts, and am now accepting sponsors on my podcast as well.
Here’s an example of a sponsored post from the Side Hustle Nation archives.
Some websites and bloggers maintain a private community for their readers, and often charge for access. The Dynamite Circle private mastermind forum at TropicalMBA.com is an example of this.
Another way for bloggers to make money is by hosting live in-person or online events. Sometimes this starts with a premium online live training, but can graduate to full-fledged multi-day conferences.
8. Donations and Contributions
The 8th way blogs make money is through direct contributions and donations from readers. If none of the other monetization channels make sense for you, you can ask readers to support your work directly.
While it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different monetization strategies that are out there, you don’t need to figure out your entire business model right now.
First, you’ve got to figure out what your site is going to be all about, and that’s the topic of the next video in this series.
What to Blog About? How to Pick Your Blog Topic
So far we’ve been through why you should start a blog, why a blog is actually a bad label for what you’re building, and how these brands, websites, and online businesses actually make money.
But what are you going to write about? One critical ingredient in every blog on earth is the content.
Figuring out the focus of your site is what I want to help with in this video:
Have you heard the phrase “the riches are in the niches?”
It’s true about online business: a site that tries to appeal to everyone is just going to get lost in the noise. Niching down makes it easier to find your people and quickly showcase how you can help them.
My rule is to pick something you care about. It doesn’t have to be an undying passion of yours, but you have to care enough about it to keep going.
As you’ll see in the next couple videos, starting a blog is the easy part. It only takes a few minutes and a few dollars. Keeping it going until you start to see some traction is what’s hard.
Finally, once you have a topic in mind, I like to do a little mind-mapping / subcategorization exercise. Basically, trying to figure out what subtopics I can write about under the umbrella of my main topic.
If you can come up with 5-10, you’re doing great. If you have more than 10, you might consider niching down a little more.
Free Bonus: Click here to download the 365 blog post ideas.
To get your site online, you need 2 things:
- A Domain Name
The good news is you can get them both at the same place, and I’ve partnered with Bluehost to get you an awesome deal.
Your first domain is actually going to be free, and reliable hosting is crazy cheap — just few bucks a month. It’s an incredibly small price to pay to get your site available to a worldwide audience.
Here’s how to get it done.
Here’s the link to visit Bluehost and get started:
*For disclosure, that is an affiliate link.
As a side note, you CAN get free hosting, but it comes with some serious drawbacks: Your image is going to be cheapened by having another company’s name in your URL, like nickloper.blogspot.com, which looks unprofessional.
Second, and most importantly, your functionality is severely limited on these free hosting setups in terms of what plugins you can install and how you can improve your site’s visibility in Google.
The good news is that your domain and hosting really are among the most affordable startup costs in the history of business.
In this special offer for Side Hustle Nation, you’ll get:
- A free domain
- One click WordPress installation – I’ll show you how to do that in Video 6.
- 24/7 live chat, phone, and email support
- A 30-day money back guarantee
- Safety in numbers. Bluehost powers 2 million websites worldwide, including several of my own sites.
- Pricing starting at $2.95 per month
The first step is to pick your hosting plan.
The “basic” option is probably all you need when you’re just starting out. If your needs grow, you can upgrade at any time, but I always like to start lean.
Next, they’ll ask you to pick your domain name. This is the URL or your website and what visitors will see in their browser bar, like sidehustlenation.com, espn.com, cnn.com, etc.
If you know what domain you want, you can punch it in right away and check availability. You can consider a domain name that illustrates the topic of your site, or you can even register yourownname.com, which leaves you open to pivot topics later if your interests change.
Now you might find that your first choice — or first few choices for a domain name — are taken!
In that case, one cool tool I like to help brainstorm available domains is NameMesh.com.
Once you’ve got your domain, you’ll select your Bluehost password and be able to access your hosting control panel.
How to Install WordPress and Pick a Theme
You’re almost there!
In this video, I’ll show you how to quickly install WordPress on your new domain name.
In your Bluehost hosting dashboard, scroll down to where it says “website” and click the button for “One-click install”.
From there, it will ask you what software to install (WordPress in this case) and where to install it (on your homepage in this case).
You can also use this tool to install other content management systems but I’ve found WordPress to be the most customizable and robust platform to create on.
Once WordPress is installed on your site, you can click the link to view your Admin panel login credentials. If you open the /wp-login link and enter that information, you’ll find yourself in the backend of your very own WordPress site.
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is to change the site title, which you can do by finding the Settings menu on the left side of the screen.
You’ll notice that WordPress has installed the default theme for you, which looks pretty cool. However, one of the best features of WordPress is the giant library of free and premium themes available.
You can see some of the free themes by visiting Appearance > Themes in your WordPress admin panel. You can search by keyword if you have a particular idea in mind, or you can browse the directory, preview themes, and install one you think looks good.
Although these are designed to work well “out of the box”, you might still need to customize it a bit to make it 100% yours. This is what I’ve done with all my WordPress themes; find a “close enough” pre-written theme, and then customize it to fit my needs.
Now you’re ready to start your website!
Just one additional note: In your “General” Settings, you’ll need to click the link to take your site out of “Coming Soon” mode to make it visible worldwide.
Thank you so much for checking out this website starter series and please feel free to let me know if you have any comments, questions, or feedback.