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Hello Fellow Freelancers. This is Kay’s Mom, here to share with you some tips if you would like to build your own blog. There is a lot of info out there on how to build a website or blog online, and I have dabbled with both, but this blog is my first attempt at a “real” WordPress blog. It’s been quite an adventure and I’ve learned plenty!
To build this blog I followed a guide called “The Thirty Day Website Building Challenge”. And in full disclaimer, it does cost $97.00, and no you don’t need it to build your own blog. I am just sharing the story of building this blog so you can see what is actually involved in building a well functioning and nice looking WordPress site. (And full disclosure – this post does contain some affiliate links. The links are only to products I use and recommend.)
Now if you are a freelance writer, having a website can have a number of benefits. In fact, Kay wrote a great article about this: Why You Need A Website For Your Writing Business.
Or perhaps you have been thinking about blogging to make money, and have heard about people who have turned blogging into a full-time income. There are an infinite number of possibilities with websites and blogging, and despite the vast number of blogs already on the internet, there is no one like you that can share from your own unique point of view.
Over the years I have built a few websites using Solo Build It and Weebly, but I had shied away from WordPress or actually doing a blog. Well actually, I hadn’t shied away from it, I had experience with the free versions, and found them frustrating and limiting. But going all in with hosting and themes and plugins – Oh My! Editing and formating, love it! The other tech stuff – not so much!
But the desire to start a blog was still there, to learn how to do it right if nothing else.
Enter “The 30 Day Website Building Challenge” – a course by Jessica Larrew of the Selling Family.com.
Being a full time used book scout and seller on Amazon, I have followed Jessica for a few years now, enjoying and learning from her excellent info about successfully selling on Amazon FBA. And now she was branching out and offering more helpful info, gleaned from her own experiences building her websites and blogs.
The challenge was how to actually build a WordPress website/blog from scratch.
I decided to jump in, not even knowing what I would build a blog about.
I started with the welcome video and immediately liked the setup of The 30 Day Website Challenge. With easy to follow videos, it takes you through daily steps to build your own WordPress site. The whole program is very well done, and even includes a private facebook group so you can interact with other participants and Jessica, helping each other out and getting questions answered.
As the challenge began I followed along, even checking out the comments for the day on the group Facebook page. But I still didn’t know what I was going to write about. Then I woke up one morning with a eureka moment! My daughter is a writer, and she was working on becoming a full-time freelance writer. She needed a good online platform to showcase her portfolio and her writing, and she had a lot of valuable insight to share around what she was learning about making it as a successful freelancer.
A match made in heaven! Kay was excited about the idea, and took off like a rocket, creating a blogging content calendar, outlines, to do lists and more. It has actually been a great partnership, I get to do the website stuff that I like, and Kay gets to write – her passion.
Now if you do not have a good solid idea for your blog, (and even if you do), I HIGHLY recommend Solo Build if for WordPress (SBI). SBI for WordPress gives you online business building training and access to an incredible brainstorming tool to research keywords and find out if topics you are considering have potential both for monetization and the ability to win in the Google search engine wars, so you can find that “sweet spot” for success with your website/blog.
Otherwise you could be just writing into the void, so to speak, with millions of other blogs out there that never get found and never get read. SBI for WordPress also gives you a business building plan to follow with your blog, a great forum to get and give help, and so much more. It’s only $17.00 a month, well worth the investment and a great support resource for the Thirty Day Website Building Challenge. I personally use it to find good keywords for this blog, and also for my next blog project in the works.
(*Now if you are only looking to build a website as your own portfolio on line, and are not interested in trying to create blogging income, then you don’t need to do the keyword research part.)
So… back to the challenge. With my topic sorted it was time to get started. What follows here is a play by play of my experience going through the challenge.
After the welcome video all thirty days are laid out on one easy to access page, so you can jump around, go back, etc., and the page also includes a daily task check off so you can remember where you are and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when you check off a daily task you have finished.
Days 1 – 4 are dedicated to deciding on your niche (topic), choosing a domain name, getting hosting and installing WordPress on your new site.
Hosting: Jessica recommended SiteGround. I had experience with Bluehost, which is another solid hosting company, but after listening to Jessica’s reasons why she preferred SiteGround, and also googling some other comparison reviews I was sold. Sign up for SiteGround: Check!
Domain name: Check! My daughter was already using Kaywritesstuff as her twitter handle and we both liked it. It was also available – meaning no one else had already bought that domain name. When you sign up for SiteGround you also get a free domain name with your first website, but I had been using NameCheap for years to purchase my domain names, and the cost was actually the same because even though the SiteGround domain is free, you do pay for the domain privacy upgrade which is free with the purchase of a domain through Namecheap.
If you are thinking about a domain name, you can search NameCheap here to find out if it’s available. But note to blog/website building newbies… it will be easier to just use the free domain name from the hosting site your first time out, unless you want to learn the tech of transferring your domain to the hosting site.
Next, installing WordPress to my site. Simple, quick and check! All of Jessica’s videos are very easy to follow, and she is thorough enough without it being so much that you get bogged down.
Days 5 through 8 we got to play with the “pretty” stuff. Adding a theme to the site, creating your logo, favicon and brand board, with the colors and fonts you will use consistently on your site. I had never done anything like this before, and I learned so much using one of my favorite playgrounds – Canva, along with some new friends like PicMonkey. For the theme Jessica recommends and uses Divi, by Elegant Themes. I hesitated at first to purchase a theme ($70.00), as you can get by with a free WordPress theme, but I am so glad I did. Divi gives you so many more options for creativity and making your site look cool. I even ended up purchasing a $10.00 Divi related plug in so I could have more options for the position and thumbprints of the posts on the blog.
Day 9: Writing your first post! Check, Check and Check! Kay had already written about 10 posts and was anxiously chomping at the bit to start getting them on the blog. But Jessica does give you an actual topic, title and great writing tips to help you get that first post written. And she also does this with the other two posts you will write further along in the challenge.
Days 10 – 16: Setting up a lot of the appearance of the site, including learning how to make cool blog post header Images. Fun stuff like creating your “About” page, and setting up Social Media sharing. And with every website, just like in everyday life, there is the mundane routine stuff that needs to be set up and maintained, hence setting up your domain email, and learning to backup your site.
Day 17: Writing your second blog post. Check, Check and again Check. (See Day 9).
Days 18 – 22: More mundane stuff, even the legal nitty gritty such as disclaimers, custom footer, and more fun stuff such as setting up your Contact page and customizing your navigation menu.
Day 23: Third blog post – as you can guess – Check!
Days 24 – 30: Setting up your email sign up system, some final style and customization touch-ups and a little more of the “back-end” mundane stuff. And WALLA! You have finished the challenge and now you have a shiny new website/blog, ready to fill with all kinds of great content to share about whatever your heart desires.
Finish! That’s what I finally did. And no I didn’t do it in a month, it actually took 3 months. And really, the blog will never be “finished.” There are always new posts to add, upgrades and updates to maintain, a little tinkering and perfecting here and there. But the thirty day format builds your platform, and you get to continue from there. It got me proficient with WordPress – my original target, and created a great showcase for Kay’s portfolio and writing.
Now there are a couple of things I would have liked to see included in the challenge. For one, creating a cool homepage that adds to the look of the blog. The tools are there with the Divi theme, which Jessica does discuss in one of the videos, but it is a bit more involved and probably out of the scope of this basic challenge. With the challenge you have a perfectly fine homepage, standard for most blogs, but I wanted to go a step beyond so I created a more personalized homepage with a few more “bells and whistles”.
I would also have liked more info about creating tags for posts which would enhance search engine optimization. As I mentioned above using a keyword research tool to find out what people are searching for is extremely helpful for having good SEO. You know, SEO, meaning Search Engine Optimization, helping Google find you and put you on their pages so people will find you. Tags is just another word for keywords, and when you put a post up on WordPress you add the relevant tags/keywords for the search engines.
Now for some of you with the advent of Social Media, this may not really be an issue, as more and more people are using facebook, twitter, instagram and pinterest to connect with potential readers instead of the old school method of trying to optimize their posts for the search engines. Still it’s an important part of building a website, so if nothing else at least put the topic of your post as a tag, or if you opt to use SBI for WordPress, you will already have this covered.
But all in all this challenge is incredibly well put together. I learned things that added to my skill set and enhanced my possibilities for creative expression. I also learned all the “back end” stuff that I didn’t even realize was required to ensure the smooth functioning and security of a WordPress website/blog. And having it be step by step, day by day, with videos to follow made it doable and attainable with ease.
And there is always more to learn. Next I will be working on a blog to document my upcoming road trip plans. And if you are ready to build a website online, check out “The 30 Day Website Building Challenge” to see if it’s right for you.