I love blogging and blogging has loved me back. I’ve been offered paid freelance writing gigs and paid speaking engagements because of my blogs and I’ve used the See Jane Write blog to grow a small women’s writing group into an award-winning business. A blog can also be a great way to build an audience for the book you want to write.

Make 2018 the year you finally launch (or relaunch) your website and blog. Here’s a guide to get you started.

1. Purchase your domain name and hosting.

I use BlueHost for both the See Jane Write website and for my portfolio site, Javacia.com. With the purchase of hosting through BlueHost you will also receive a free domain name that you can renew each year for a low cost.

If you’re having trouble thinking of a domain name, I highly recommend making your name your domain name, especially if you want to use blogging to get your name out as a writer.

Next, you’ll need to install WordPress. Many hosting companies offer easy ways to install WordPress in 5 minutes or less. With BlueHost, you can install WordPress with a simple click. Here’s a tutorial from BlueHost.

If you don’t want to bother with any of this yourself here’s another option to consider:

WPBeginner.com, one of the best — if not the best — online resources for WordPress users, offers a free blog setup service. All you have to do is sign up with one of their hosting partners using WPBeginner’s affiliate link. (BlueHost is one their partners as is HostGator and several others.) This is also a great option if you already have a WordPress.com site and would like migrate your blog to a self-hosted WordPress site. Get more information on this free blog setup service here.

2. Choose a theme.

Now it’s time to make it as fabulous as you are! WordPress has a number of free and premium (paid) themes. You can also consider purchasing a theme from a site such as StudioPressElegant Themes, or The Theme Foundry. Personally, I’m a huge fan of themes by BluChic (affiliate link). I use BluChic themes for the See Jane Write website and for Javacia.com. It’s the perfect option if you want a feminine theme.

The theme creator you use should provide you with a tutorial and documentation to help you install the theme and set up features that may be included such as a slider, customized header, etc.

3. Create a header (or not).

Creating a header for your blog through a program like Canva is a great way to give your site a professional look. You could also hire someone to create one for you. If you’re on a budget, consider the site Fiverr through which you could get a header for only $5!

But I want to offer a word of caution: Do not put off starting your blog simply because you don’t have a header. Visitors to your site will care much more about your content than your logo.

4. Write your About page.

Whenever I stumble upon a blog and really enjoy the post that brought me there after finishing that post I immediately read the site’s About page to learn more about the blogger behind the blog. That About page is what helps me decide if this is a blog I’ll regularly visit in the future. So you need to write an About Me page that will hook your ideal reader.

Despite its name, an About Me page isn’t actually all about you. Yes, you should tell us who you are and share your story, but always with your ideal reader in mind.

Begin your About Me page by explaining what your reader will get out of following your blog. What benefits do you offer? What problems will you solve?

Then share your story. (The story you share should be related to your blog’s content, obviously.) Think back to that person you were years ago, that person that you’re now writing for today. Who were you and what did you want? What problem did you face that was keeping you from your vision or goal? How did you feel? What was your game changer? Who did you meet, what did you read, or what did you do that finally led to the breakthrough that you needed? What plan and process did you develop for going after what you wanted? How did it feel to take action on that plan? Who are you now because of the plan you put into motion?

Share your happy ending (or the happy ending you’re striving for if you consider your story a work in progress) and reiterate how you’re going to help your reader achieve a happy ending of her own.

After telling your story, also share any related credentials and experience you have and if you’ve been featured by any major media outlets for your talent or expertise.

After you’ve been blogging awhile you may want to also include links to some of your favorite or most popular posts and details about some of your blog’s features and its overall theme.You may want to also include your mission statement on your About page.

Show your personality and share fun things like your hobbies, your favorite things, or random facts about yourself. Include a few photos of yourself. Add a video to really make your About page stand out.

5. Create your portfolio page.

If you want your blog to help you land freelance gigs, create a page to show off your best work to editors.

6. Write your Work With Me page.

If you’re using your blog to sell writing, editing, or coaching services, you’ll need to create a page that outlines your offerings and qualifications and the best way to reach you to learn more.

7. Create a Contact page.

Let your readers know how to find you via email and on social media.

8. Install plugins and widgets.

Be sure to install a Google Analytics plugin and once you start blogging regularly to track your users and pageviews. However, don’t get obsessed with metrics, especially when you’re starting out. Just check your numbers monthly or weekly to make sure you’re growing. And remember that you can do a lot with a small following. Having a handful of readers who are really invested in the work that you’re doing is much more valuable than thousands of pageviews from people who visit your blog once and never return.

You should also install Yoast SEO, an all-in-one SEO plugin that helps you optimize your posts so you can get more traffic from search engines.

Widgets you want to include on your site include an About box, social media icons, and popular posts. After signing up for an email marketing service like MailChimp, you should also embed an email list sign-up form.

9. Create consistent content.

Before launching your blog you need to make some decisions. Decide on the categories of content your blog will include, how often you will update your blog, and when you will publish new posts. Next, brainstorm post ideas and create an editorial calendar.

Ideally, when you launch, your site will already have a published post in each category so readers will get a good idea of what they can expect from you.

Your first post should convey the purpose of your blog and let readers know what they should expect from your site. Be compelling. Tell a story. Tell your story. Explain how you became interested in the topic of your blog and why you’re so passionate about it.

This first post, like your About page, should also tell your reader what she will get out of following your blog. What benefits do you offer? What problems will you solve?

Be sure to add images to this and every post. Subheads will also help break up large blocks of text.

10. Promote! 

Once your site is live, be sure to promote, promote, promote! Use social media, email and even in-person networking to spread the word about your blog.

Happy blogging!