My Advice to Beginning Bloggers

Recently, my daughter Marissa asked my advice on starting a blog. What I told her is very different from what I would have said a year ago. Many experienced bloggers might disagree with me, but I thought I would share my advice here.

A Toddler Learning How to Walk - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/melastmohican, Image #11478658

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/melastmohican

Many people get excited about blogging. When they start exploring the options, an entire world opens up to them. There are so many choices to make. For example:

  • Should you go with a hosted blogging platform WordPress.com or a self-hosted one like WordPress.org.
  • If self-hosted, which hosting service should you use to host it? There are literally hundreds of services available. (I recommend BlueHost.)
  • And which theme should you pick? There are thousands of free themes, not to mention the premium ones like StandardTheme (which I use).
  • What about a name and logo? And who will you hire to design it?
  • What commenting software will you use? Will you go with native WordPress or a third-party system like Disqus (which I use)?
  • Will you include ads or go add-free?

The number of decisions can be overwhelming. But I think they put the cart before the horse. They are not the questions you should ask first.

People often decide to jump immediately to self-hosted WordPress. (This is what I use, for example.) It is what most of the big bloggers use, with the exception of Seth Godin, who is still on TypePad. (And, oh, by the way, it seems to be working fine for him.)

WordPress.org is enticing, because the basic software is free and you can get space on a server for as little as $6.95 a month. And then you can customize it to your heart’s content.

But don’t be deceived. While the basic WordPress self-host software is free, it is like a crack cocaine sample. It is designed to get you hooked. Once that happens, the expenses begin to mount.

I spend more than $1,000 a month on my blog. I know: this is shocking to most people.

This amount includes hosting, server administration, custom programming, software services, trouble-shooting, and more. Sometimes, I feel like it is a black hole.

For me, it is worth it, because of the traffic I generate and the income it produces from ads affiliate commissions. But it has taken me years to get to this place.

The truth is that most people who start a blog quit within a few months. (Re-read that sentence again and let it sink in.)

Setting up a blog is the easy part; actual blogging is the hard part. Once the initial enthusiasm wanes, it is difficult to keep posting. Most would-be bloggers post less and less until they simply quit and abandon their blog.

I am not trying to discourage you. Honestly. But before you invest a bunch of time and money in self-hosted WordPress, you need to answer two questions:

  1. Can you generate high quality content on a regular basis? (And by “regular” I mean at least three times a week, minimum.)
  2. Will my content attract a loyal and growing audience? This might not be your goal, but you won’t generate enough income to cover your costs unless you do.

In my opinion, until you can answer these questions with a resounding “Yes,” you have no business investing the time and money on self-hosted WordPress.

Instead, here’s what I recommended to Marissa, as a beginning blogger. It’s what I would also recommend to you if you are thinking about starting a blog:

  1. Set up a blog at WordPress.com. It’s simple and free.
  2. Upgrade to the Premium version. It is only $12–$17 per year. It will allow you to map your unique domain name to your WordPress.com site (e.g., michaelhyatt.com vs. michaelhyatt.wordpress.com).
  3. Select a theme. WordPress.com now has over 100 to choose from. You can upload your own logo if you want, and do some other customization. This is way cheaper than paying a designer the $2,500 to $10,000 they will charge to create a custom design.
  4. Start writing. Anything that stands between you and this is a distraction.

Too many bloggers I know spend way too much time tweaking their design and fiddling with plugins instead of writing. If you write compelling content on a regular basis, you will build an audience. You will then be able to monetize your traffic and upgrade to a different platform. In the meantime, stay focused—and write!

Update: Many of the most popular blogs in the world are on WordPress.com. Here is a list of the top ones. Also, as your blog becomes successful, you can migrate it to WordPress.com VIP. It is for uber-bloggers who don’t want the hassle of creating a self-hosted site.
Question: What advice do you have for beginning bloggers? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://www.tubetoolboxssecrets.com/ youtube marketing

    I really much enjoy your web site here, thank you so much 

  • http://www.tubetoolboxssecrets.com/ youtube marketing

    thanks for your   hard work u made to put these points 

  • Poornimababu

    Hello,
    I like your advice. But I have a doubt. I am using wordpress blog. My blog is 7 months old and Iam not getting much traffic. Can you help me.

    by
    http://www.name-fame.com

  • Pingback: Wednesday’s Weblinks 02 « Part Time Novel

  • Penny

    Hi Michael, 
    Thanks for your advice. I am just starting with blogging and I better change to wordpress.com before I start deep into it. Already I am spending too much time tweaking things instead of writing. 

  • Urljet143

    v  It was very useful for me. Keep
    sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking
    for and I am glad to come here!

    v  ttthank
    you for your provided information.

    http://www.urljet.com/

  • http://www.vinfotech.com/solutions/social-network-design.htm Sam Daniel

    Nice post  for a newbie blogger and I appreciate it. I do have a blog on WordPress and experience with this is amazing.

  • danielcuroda

    One question, if you purchase your domain name with wordpress.com while setting it up on their service would it be possible to transfer that to a GoDaddy in the future if somebody wanted to or not possible?

    Would it be better to purchase the domain name with GoDaddy.com and just host my blog with wordpress.com?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the process of registering a domain through WordPress.com. All mine are registered through GoDaddy.com. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/kp_halloran Kevin Halloran

    Hey Michael, thanks for the tips! I want to purchase the Standard Theme like you have….is there any way to give you credit for referring me?  Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for asking. If you click on the ad in the right-hand sidebar, it will give me credit. Thanks.

  • http://www.defineyourmoment.org/ Tasha

    I Just started Blogging, I have one on WordPress.com. I want to inspire others, and I love to write. I hope to help others thru my personal challenges. I dont know If I am going about it the right way. I want to build  a following… I dont know how long I need to wait or if I am doing any of it right or not.  Any extra advice would be awesome, thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/jonwellman Jon Wellman

    I use WordPress.com PRECISELY because I don’t have to worry about the way #NoCamo looks or operates. Someone else maintains the server, the OS, the backend,  etc.  

    I am prone to obsessing over minute details, and I’m sure that an online entity with my name plastered all over it that I have to PAY to operate would be exhausting financially. I map my custom domain and that is all for which I pay.

  • http://twitter.com/kellystilwell Kelly Stilwell

    Could someone explain why Blogger is so bad? It’s been great for me with my limited experience, but just about every blogger I know who started there moved to WP. Just would like to understand the benefits. I have my own domain, and hosting through BlueHost.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EchoohcE Marilyn D’Auria

    Thank you for the insights. http://www.withthiskissitheewed.com/blog/

  • http://gmcwherter.posterous.com/ Glen McWherter

    Michael, I use posterous for my blog and it’s actually the homepage for our church. As the pastor, I try to keep it relavant and personal to churchlife. Do you have any suggestions for me to either improve my use of posterous or migrating to wordpress? Thanks.
    Glen
    http://NewChurchWhittier.com

  • http://janbierens.com/ JB

    Hi,
    I started blogging 1 1/2 years ago – first on blogger and moved in 2012 to self hosted WordPress. Own a domain, and do everything myself, because I’m able to do so.
    What I am interested to hear about is how in this world your blog costs you around $ 1000.00 a month, like you said?
    That’s an awful lot of money!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That is a lot of money, but I more than pay for it. If I were a retailer, I would have to pay rent. This is like that. It is my interface with my customers.
      Also, understand that this is a bunch of stuff you won’t need until the cost justifies itself. Most of it is the cost of having two servers (because I have so much traffic) and a huge mailing list.
      You can get started for as little as $3.95 a month with BlueHost web hosting.

  • Pingback: Advice to Beginning Bloggers by Michael Hyatt ! at The Best Of Music

  • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

    I would keep everything on one Site. One blog is challenging enough to manage. I don’t too many people who can manage two. Thanks.

  • Fadootricks

    here a good blog also
    http://fadootricks4u.blogspot.com/

  • rajendra

    First post one immediately. And keep writing as and when you feel and post it at regular intervals

  • Madhab

    EmailOcean is a brand new platform to cater to your email marketing needs.
    It provides promotional emailing at an amazingly low rate of $0.10 per 1000 emails. The customer only pay for what is utilised. The brilliance of EmailOcean lies in it making the process easier and faster for the customer,as compared to Amazon and Sendgrid, EmailOcean has a beautiful Web-app which makes creating and sending the campaign a lot more easier. Using this web-app one can also send and track their campaigns.
    As of now,the registrations are open by invitation but register yourself with the website and keep self updated as to when they are open to all or for your surprise invitation code.

    http://www.emailocean.com

  • Madhab Jha

    EmailOcean is a brand new platform to cater to your email marketing needs.

    It provides promotional emailing at an amazingly low rate of $0.10 per 1000 emails. The customer only pay for what is utilised. The brilliance of EmailOcean lies in it making the process easier and faster for the customer,as compared to Amazon and Sendgrid, EmailOcean has a beautiful Web-app which makes creating and sending the campaign a lot more easier. Using this web-app one can also send and track their campaigns.

    As of now,the registrations are open by invitation but register yourself with the website and keep self updated as to when they are open to all or for your surprise invitation code.

    http://www.emailocean.com

  • Madhab

    EmailOcean is a brand new platform to cater to your email marketing needs.

    It provides promotional emailing at an amazingly low rate of $0.10 per 1000 emails. The customer only pay for what is utilised. The brilliance of EmailOcean lies in it making the process easier and faster for the customer,as compared to Amazon and Sendgrid, EmailOcean has a beautiful Web-app which makes creating and sending the campaign a lot more easier. Using this web-app one can also send and track their campaigns.

    As of now,the registrations are open by invitation but register yourself with the website and keep self updated as to when they are open to all or for your surprise invitation code.

    http://www.emailocean.com

  • Guest

    What about Tumblr? Surely that’s one of the the easiest platfrms to start with?

  • Charl Diener

    What about Tumblr? Surely that’s one of the easiest, most user-friendly platforms to start with?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yea, but it is more difficult to convert to WordPress.

  • http://mytributaries.com/ Irmgarde Brown

    I agree 100%. I have been blogging for several years but I know and understand that this is my proving ground for writing. In fact, I have more than one blog, much like Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook: each suited to my need at the time, each targeted. But the key is writing and writing and writing. Blogging has its own persona as well. Content and ultimately people passing the blog posts around are the best way to get started. I also link my blog posts to my social network.

  • Michelle Soto

    thank you! I have attempted several times to start up a blog. Feeling overwhelmed with all those very same decisions you just mentioned, I gave up feeling defeated because I really just wanted to write.

    Am definitely taking this advice and giving it one more try!

  • Bola Ogundeji

    Thanks Michael. Food for thought for me. I am the one you describe fiddling with plugins and widgets on my website instead of writing. I am going to change from today. Thanks a lot!

  • http://tropicalnomad.com/ Adam Finan

    I used WP.org Hostgator, free theme.. Works fine.. If you are new to blogging then just keep at it.. Write, promote, network, share…

  • http://lifeoflu.com/ Luis O. Miranda

    Great article and thanks for sharing. I just launched my blog at the beginning of August and I fell into the trap of trying to update my blog. I’ve spent close to $300 already trying to get it to where I want it to. Thank you so much for sharing your tips!

    http://www.lifeolfu.com

  • http://www.fivefoldfatherhood.com/ Ricardo Butler

    Amen! I think starting a blog is the online version for us Christians is like starting a church. Purpose, Passion, a Vision all needs to be there along with the people and the finances to sustain it. Believe it or not, I started my blog by reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church. I followed all the steps that applied there. lol!

  • brandonstarnes

    I just entered the blogging world about five months ago. I am learning a lot as I go. To be honest I can’t believe I have stuck it out this far writing doesn’t come naturally for me. I have grown to love blogging.

    I loved the tip about three articles per week. I have been wondering what the sweet spot was. I have been posting one per week so three will be challenging. I have done the self hosted site through bluehost and the cost hasn’t been bad for me. Do you recommend the WordPress.com for a financial reason or audience builder? Lastly do you have a article on a process for creating great content that you find successful? Thanks for all you do ! Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Dawn Renee Rice

    Michael, this article came at the perfect time for me! I’ve been struggling with the idea of switching to self-hosted but your article has given me a reason to think twice and seriously consider staying right where I am for now. Thank you!!

  • danieltroutman

    This has to be some of the best blogging advice I have EVER received. I’ve read so many posts on blogging that I’ve lost count. But this cuts straight to the heart of successful blogging (and really any topic in life). Thank you for (re)sharing this advice with all of us. I’m going to bookmark this and refer to it often in my blogging journey.

  • Sheri Riley

    I’m launching my blog in the 1st quarter 2014 and the reminder “just write” is so helpful. There’s so much info it is overwhelming but focusing on the “1 thing”, compelling content is the main thing. Thank you for the timely reminder

  • Nancy Diaz

    I am running few technical and fashion blog now. Ia ma planning to start my own personal blog very soon to share my personal life experience. I usually like to use wordpress CMS. Most of the time I buy themes from http://wpthemetuts.com/.

  • http://wehaveadd.blogspot.com James Napier

    I really have found some good advice in this comment fourm. And I have got some good ideas on what to do, and what not to do.
    my new blog
    http://meandthefather.com
    will take this advice to heart.Thanks!!

  • Danielle Kaye Agustin Flores

    I have a blog, and it’s new. I hope ya’ll could visit it and leave comments. I want to learn so your comments would really mean a lot so I could improve. Thank you!

    http://www.misskaye.weebly.com (haven’t upgraded to premium yet..)