How to Start a Blog for Free

A primer on blogging for beginners

Creating Your Own Blog Is Easier Than You Think

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Deciding to create a blog for yourself is a very worthwhile exercise to hone your writing craft, discuss your interests, and demonstrate your expertise; many individuals who have started humble blogs in their spare time have turned them into lucrative businesses. The best part is you don't need a large monetary investment to get started. We'll show you the steps to get your very own web presence up and running for free.

Blogging for Beginners: Create Your Blog Strategy

The very first step you should take is to strategize a little about your blog:

  • What is it going to be about?
  • Who is your intended audience?
  • What types of content are you going to post?

These will lead you to other details. For example, are you going to post every day? If so, you should make sure your blogging system has good mobile support. You may need to update something on the go.

Create a Blog: Choosing Your Blog Platform

Before you start looking at blogging platforms, have a look at our overview of blog fundamentals. This will get you up to speed on what types of functions your chosen platform should provide. When the time comes to choose a blogging system, the main decision you'll want to make is whether you want to use an existing service, or host it yourself.

A Hosted Blog on WordPress.com Is a Great Way to Start Blogging For Free

A first, very basic choice is between services, self-hosts systems, or options that are both:

  • Blogging services: Services like Medium or more general website builders like Wix.com are one option. They're free, and they save you the trouble of actually installing and maintaining any software. However, they often come with restrictions, or at least withhold useful features that are only part of paid tiers.
  • Host a blog yourself: Drupal, Joomla, and an astounding number of options exist. These systems allow you to do whatever you want with it, particularly with respect to monetizing it through ads or by selling products. But in these cases you are your own tech support; if your blog system gets hacked, there's no one to help you get up and running again.
  • Hybrid systems: There are some blogging solutions you can either sign up for as a service, or install and host yourself. Not at the same time, mind you, but this route provides you some flexibility. For example, when you start out, you can focus on writing, then if/when your blog grows to the point where you can consider making money with it, you can always migrate to the self-hosted version of the system.

For the purposes of this, we're going to take the third option; if you're just starting out, you'd have a hard time doing better than a hosted WordPress blog. WordPress is easy to use and offers great expandability. If you eventually want to do some of the monetization we mentioned, you can either upgrade to one of their paid plans, or find your own hosting, install WordPress, and move your blog over to it.

How to Make a Blog: Finding a Great Design

Most blogs come out of the box with very mediocre designs, but when readers land on your blog, you have a very limited amount of time to capture their attention. You'll need to think about what your readers want most, and arrange your blog in a way that puts at least some of the information they're looking for front and center.

Lucky For You, WordPress Has Tons of Great, Free Themes Available

Themes are the term in WordPress-speak for settings that control:

  • Aesthetics: Like what colors your blog uses or what the default fonts are.
  • Website controls: Like how the main menu behaves. Is it a simple list of pages, or are there multiple nested sub-menus?
  • Website layout: Is the main menu at the top? Is there a side menu? If so, is it on the left or right?
  • Website components: What page components and other functional widgets (photo galleries, login controls, etc.) are available.

While you can technically switch up your WordPress theme at any time, you should try to settle on one as quickly as possible. Some content you create may be associated with the theme in which you created it. If you switch themes, your content may not automatically end up in the new design. You can get it back, but it may require help from a technical person, or a lot of copying/ pasting.

How to Find WordPress Themes

For WordPress, you absolutely should start at WordPress' own collection of themes, where you can find a variety of free, attractive options.

  1. If you want to get an idea of what themes are available before you commit to the WordPress platform, go to its theme website. You can browse and search the available themes here.

    You can get WordPress themes from other sources as well, or make your own if you have the skills, but these need to be uploaded and installed manually, which is only allowed on paid WordPress.com accounts. If you upgrade your blog to a paid WordPress account, themeforest, Elegant Themes, and StudioPress are other useful websites for finding themes.

  2. If you've already signed up for WordPress, sign into your account, then select WP Admin to visit your website's administration menu.

    Your WordPress.com Dashboard for Your Site Contains a Link to the Admin Panel
  3. Next, select Appearance > Themes.

    The WordPress Admin's Appearance Menu
  4. Now you can browse and search for other themes, just like on the external website.

    The Themes Screen Displays Free Themes You Can Use For Your Blog
  5. If you like a theme and want to see how your website will look with it, select Preview below your chosen theme.

  6. If you want to use it, select Activate.

How to Create a Blog Post

Blogging is what WordPress originally focused on, so creating blog posts is a straightforward affair.

  1. While logged into your WordPress blog, hover over Posts in the right-hand menu.

    To Add a New Post, Go to the Posts Menu in the WordPress Admin
  2. Select Add new.

  3. You'll see a screen with all the tools you need to craft your post. Fill out at least the Title, and put some content in the editor.

    The WordPress Post Editor Lets You Write, Schedule, and Publish Posts
  4. When you're finished, select Publish, and it will appear immediately on your blog.

Select Edit next to the Publish immediately field to choose a date and time in the future to make the post available. You can also select Save draft to save your progress for review later. Visitors to your blog won't see the post until you choose to publish it.

How to Create WordPress Pages

In addition to Posts, WordPress has Pages. At a high level, Posts are supposed to be timely updates, or at least things that are associated with a particular date. Pages, on the other hand, are things that won't change much over time, like the "About Me" page.

The biggest distinction is Posts can be included in lists on your blog. For example, the home page of many blogs is simply a list of Post summaries sorted newest first. Pages, on the other hand, will be in the same place until you change them.

  1. Hover over Pages, then seelct Add new.

    The WordPress Pages Menu Is Similar to the Posts Menu
  2. Fill out the Title and content fields.

    The Page Editor Looks A Lot Like the Post Editor, Just a Little Simpler

    The main difference between creating Posts and Pages is Pages are primarily just titles and content. They don't have the variety of options for different layouts or organization (e.g. Categories or Tags) that Posts have.

  3. Select Publish to add the page. You can also select Save Draft to save your progress, or use the Publish immediately controls to schedule the post to publish at a later date.

How to Launch Your Blog

Once you've created your content, the last step is to actually launch your blog. Fortunately, with a WordPress.com blog you don't need to worry about domain names or hosting. You only need to start telling your friends, family, and other potential readers about it.

Social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can help with the launch and bring in some of your friends and other contacts. Of course, it's your job to keep them coming back. So get writing!