How to Start a Blog (Without Wanting to Kill Yourself)
February 9, 2017
I GIVE UP: WHERE IS EVERYBODY?!
In 2009 I started this blog and I remember thinking that pretty soon EVERYONE was going to be doing it—My friends! My lovers! My former teachers! That neighbor with the soupy ass! (sweatpants can be evil)—and the gig was going to be up, because I HAD DISCOVERED THE SECRET TO ALL THE THINGS (not to mention making my first $103,000 that year—which, trust me, was a f*ck ton back then).
I remember thinking: Yup, annnnnnny minute now. Anyyyyyyy minute.
But then: *cue crickets*
And it’s weird, because even though the online space is more saturated than it was nearly ten freaking years ago (no wonder I have grey hair), it didn’t become a life-changing professional movement as fast as I thought it would. I mean, didn’t the ability to get online, and make a name for yourself, and reach people across the globe, and be able to SELL ANYTHING YOU WANT TO, UNDER THE SUN, TO OTHER PEOPLE, WHO DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO LIVE IN YOUR ZIP CODE, WITH THE CLICK OF A BUTTON solve so many of our woes? So many people affected by an economy gone sideways; by a lack of job opportunities; by physical distance limitations; by other people deciding if and when they’d have an income.
So many people suffering.
So many people uncertain.
So many people barely scraping by.
But the idea of a “job” has meant something very narrow for such a long time, that I think even with the prevalence of the Internet, other options aren't as obvious yet. To most people, having a job means applying to work for someone else. It means showing up during designated hours. It means clocking in and clocking out. It means collecting a regular paycheck. And frankly, it means being told what to do. (Which, you know, can be nice sometimes. It can be nice to be told what to do, as long as we aren’t talking about your haircut.)
The concept of creating your own job is still a little foreign—like that shit is buried deep inside a fortune cookie somewhere, just waiting to be revealed. There’s a lot of hesitancy around creating your own job, because that means creating your own business, and for most people, that means an outdated definition as well: Taking out a hefty loan. Renting a physical space. Investing in tons of inventory. Figuring out packaging. Sweating and tearing and bleeding and crying. And then, you know, PROBABLY FAILING. Because that’s the narrative that’s been spoken to us our whole lives about starting a business. “900 BAJILITY PERCENT FAIL BY THE FIRST YEAR.” No wonder most people are entrepreneurship-averse.
But—let me say it, and let me say it loud and clear, with this big, throaty voice of mine: the Internet has forever changed the game.
You can now:
a) Decide what you want to do with your life
b) Start a website around it
c) Become that very thing
d) Sell goods and services in exchange for money
e) And never depend on other people for your dignity—and livelihood—again
Of course, I’m leaving out all the best parts, like working whenever you want and from wherever you want—LIKE FROM 2-6PM EVERY DAY WHILE PRANCING AROUND SWEDEN. (On the downside you’ll probably gain some weight, forget how to dress like a normal person, and think it’s perfectly normal to pour a margarita at noon.)
Now. We all know that I’m the OG—short for “original gangsta”—of Scranton, Pennsylvania (nice try, Joey), and that means that I know a lot of people who could benefit from learning about these kinds of opportunities. They could benefit from learning about the things that could potentially improve their quality of life seventeen fold. They could benefit from learning about other ways that they can live well, and work well, and survive beautifully—even when the opportunities aren’t coming to them.
As such, I get a lot of Facebook requests that go something like this:
Hey, Ash! …..
…PLEASE FUCKING HELP ME FIGURE THIS OUT.
So I thought that if they were sending me notes like that, then maybe there were a bunch more people out there who wanted to know the same thing: How can I start a blog like you did? How can I create a business like you did? How can I create my own freedom like you did?
I also thought that it would behoove my little soon-to-be-arthritic fingers if I stopped re-typing everything and maybe just wrote it once. Here. In the form of this very blog post. Or maybe a series of blog posts, now that I see what I’ve gotten myself into here.
BECAUSE IT’S TIME TO SHARE THE LOVE.
We need all the help we can get.
We need all the inspiration we can get.
I truly believe that the only reason cool things happen in this world is because we see other people doing cool things and then it GIVES US IDEAS. And not just ideas, but permission. If so and so is doing it, then it must be a thing, right? It is clearly not an impossible thing, nor a pipe dream, because I am seeing it with my own very eyes.
And this is how we progress.
This is how we move forward in spite.
In spite of is kind of my favorite style, you know? And right now, with this crazy political climate, I’m pretty sure we also need all the in spite of we can get.
So let’s do this thing, shall we?
I’m going to walk you through the very first steps you need to take to create your own blog / website / secret escape hatch, and then we’ll pick up on this conversation in part two of the series next week, so that way I don’t accidentally write a book IN THIS ONE BLOG POST because then everyone will think I’m an overbearing hag and no one will read anything I write ever again, obviously.
Step #1 | HOW TO START A BLOG
Check to see if www.yourname.com address is available + set up a freaking account with Bluehost already. (Time commitment: 90 seconds.) HINT: YOU CAN DO THAT RIGHT HERE IN THIS BOX. Go ahead! Type in something! Voila!
Do not over think this, boo. Your name doesn’t have to be your website address forever—you can ALWAYS add different URLS to your account later—but it’s a good idea to own your own name’s URL anyway, so no other fool tries to take it, and this is one way that you can just get started without having to be a total perfectionist and have all the details perfectly in place. DO NOT OVER STRESS. (Otherwise you’ll be waiting the next year while you think of the perfect name.) Just take one small step today that gets you some momentum, so you can stop feeling like a low-life Procrastinating Patty.
By the way, here’s why I like Bluehost:
1) I started this website on Bluehost, and I did very, very well with it. Therefore, Bluehost and I happen to like each other. And this isn’t just a one-sided relationship: They happen to like me, too. So much so, I’M EVEN A POWER PARTNER. (Not an actual term but I kind of liked it so, I mean, it’s an actual term in my head.) Which means that if you sign up for hosting with them afterward, then they will email me and be like, “Ash thanks for sending us a customer, we want to give you a commission for referring them, here you go, sexy.” Except they won’t call me sexy. And that's crazy, right? BUT THAT IS HOW THE INTERNET WORKS. Referrals are everybody’s friend. We will talk about how you can create these kinds of relationships soon.
2) Bluehost is reliable and doesn’t make your website crash every other day, which can make you want to kill yourself in really dramatic ways. (Trust me on this.)
3) You don’t need hosting that costs $90/month. BLUEHOST IS, LIKE, $2.95/MONTH. (As a power affiliate, I get to offer special, ridiculously cheap promo pricing like that. I got your back, boo.) It’s kind of like buying cotton candy for $90 when you know you can have it for the real price of $2.95. YOU WOULD NOT BUY IT FOR $90. I MEANNNNN.
After you pick your plan, go ahead and put a ring on that domain name.
Step #2 | HOW TO START A BLOG
Put some paint on your website. AKA install a theme!
“Themes,” as they’re called, are pretty much the visual equivalent of painting the walls of your website, or hanging curtains, or decorating the baby’s room. If WordPress is the structure, themes change the way that structure looks. Maybe you want a navigation on the left. Maybe you want it on the right. Maybe you want a big photo up top. Maybe you want no photo at all. The theme you install will help to dictate the way your website looks. So because you’re going to be using WordPress, you need “Wordpress themes.” So, two ideas to get you started. Either start right within your Bluehost account, or browse over at Template Monster, which is a huge freaking library full of modern templates that I like. (And who will also send me a commission check if you buy anything, because REFERRALS.) My biggest tip here? Stay away from free themes. It won’t look as polished as you need to be taken seriously.
Option #1: Within Bluehost
Option #2: Template Monster
Step #3 | HOW TO START A BLOG
Use Bluehost’s 1-click install button, and install WordPress!
Think of it like this: Your .com address is your plot of land. Your hosting is your electricity. But WordPress is the frame of your house. It gives your website the structure + ability to have a blog with blog posts that can be updated—which is different from just having a static website with a few pages (like your About Page, or Contact Us page), and given that it’s the #1 platform in the world for blogging and websites, it’s ultra flexible and can do many, many different things. This is good news for you. And it’s also good because it means it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon, which is important because nothing would be worse than putting in tons of sweat and tears into a website on someone else’s platform only to have that company go under. EW.
Step #4 | HOW TO START A BLOG
Sign up for Canva and make yourself a logo.
If you’ve got the bucks, hire a designer. Fuze Branding is doing our new re-brand, and I AM MADLY FREAKING IN LOVE WITH THEM AND THEY ARE AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING. If you don’t, however, and you just need to get started? Go use Canva and create yourself a logo in a matter of minutes! (Canva is freaking awesome for creating any kinds of graphics, if you have NO CLUE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Which is clearly why I like it. I am super duper design challenged. <Insert tear.>)
And voila! That should be everything you need to get started! Next week, in Part II of this series, we’ll talk about what to actually write on your blog, now that you have one. BECAUSE YOU DO REALIZE YOU HAVE ONE NOW, RIGHT? And you do realize we totally did this together, and it probably took you less than an hour, and now you are a total big cheese, and now we can all happy dance and cook hot dogs. (WHAT YOU THOUGHT I WAS VEGAN?! …playa please.)
I hope we will love each other long time.