I am frequently asked about this blogging thing that I’ve managed to turn into a full-time job. How did you do it? What do you focus on? How much time does it take?
Because of the necessarily wide range of incarnations a blog can take – not only in what you cover, but how frequently, in what style, with what focus, etc. – there isn’t a whole lot I can offer in a page like this to tell you how to run a successful blog. Given the amount of good luck that went into me turning BN into a full-time job, I’m also not sure I’m the right guy to offer that kind of advice. The short version of what I’d tell you on that end is simply: do what works for you, based on your definition of “success.” Maybe someday I’ll tackle that side of the equation – probably with an entirely separate blog, since it is such a voluminous subject – but, for now, my focus is something much more foundational.
Namely: getting started.
For many folks who have blogging aspirations, the functional side of getting started with a blog – actually setting up a site and creating content for it – can be a daunting challenge. Maybe so much so that you never even try. Although I can’t guarantee my suggestions will be the perfect fit for you, I can at least tell you how I did it. And it worked for me.
So, here go: the basics on starting a blog. How to do it, functionally.
The good news is, setting up your own site like Bleacher Nation is not as difficult as you might think. To get started, you really only need three things: (1) A Host, (2) a domain name, and (3) WordPress.
1.) A web host is essentially a company that owns a whole bunch of huge computers that specializes in creating the home where your website lives. For example, Bleacher Nation lives on a server out in California. There are a bunch of hosts out there, but Bleacher Nation uses DreamHost. I’ve been using it since day one of the site (and before on some other sites), and outside of the occasional blip you’re going to have with any computer enterprise, I’ve been very happy. Reliable, good customer service, good speed, and really inexpensive plans for folks just starting out. Mostly I’ve appreciated that when I have had issues – including stuff that wasn’t actually their responsibility – they help me promptly. Just responding quickly goes a long way to keep folks happy, I’ve found.
The truth is, there isn’t a huge difference between hosts, because it’s such a saturated market (meaning, they all pretty much have to keep up with each other). Search around, see what you like, but my recommendation is DreamHost. And, bonus for me: if you sign up with DreamHost, I get some credit back toward my own hosting costs. Schwing.
2.) The domain name is essentially the name in the address where you want your blog to live (i.e., bleachernation.com is the domain name for Bleacher Nation). Getting one is really easy, as any host you sign up with can get you your domain name at the same time you sign up (I did all of this through DreamHost). Think long and hard before you choose your site name, because if your site is successful, you’ll be stuck with it for a long time. Be creative, because obviously a lot of the simplest names have long been taken. Generally speaking, shorter is better. More memorable is better. If you have to spell the name when telling a friend about it, that could be an issue.
3.) WordPress is basically blogging software, which is available from WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com, which is slightly different, and discussed below). It’s the program that use to create your web page and your posts. It’s free, open source, reliable, used by everyone everywhere, and it’s easy for beginners. If you can create an email, you can create a blog post using WordPress. To get it working, you install it on your host server, get a database set up, flip a couple switches, and you’re good to go.
And if even that sounds a touch complicated, good news: DreamHost (other hosts may do it, too, but I’ve only ever used DreamHost) will set it all up for you. In my early days of webbing around, I had no idea how to do any of this stuff, so it was pretty convenient to be able to sign up for hosting, literally click a button, and boom, I had WordPress completely set up on my site.
From there, you select a “theme” for the site (the basic way it looks), and you’re on your way. If you’re into learning a little HTML, you can tweak the site (Google is your friend), but it isn’t strictly necessary.
If that all sounds like too much, there are free options for blogging – WordPress.com and Blogspot.com are the big ones – which will handle everything above for you, and will do it for free. For a beginner, the free route might be a good option, as long as you understand that they limit your creative options slightly. Further, if you aspire for your site to be something more serious, having your own domain (i.e., YourSite.com as opposed to YourSite.blogspot.com) has become increasingly important.
That’s it. Follow those three easy steps, and you can have your site up and running. From there, it’s eminently customizable in both look and content, and I can’t tell you want to do in that regard. Just write what you know, and what you’re passionate about.