If you want to take your business seriously and be able to effectively market yourself online, you need a solid, online platform to base it on.

You also need this platform to have an easy-to-use user interface and a content management system built-in, so you don’t need to have to write code just to add information.

Using WordPress as the basis for your website is one of the quickest, easiest and most effective ways to do that. 

In this article, I am going to show you how to set up your very own self-hosted, WordPress blog. The process is super easy, you don’t need to have any technical skills or lots of cash to do it, and the entire setup only takes about 20 minutes.

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No, it won’t be a “complete, professionally designed-looking website” but it will definitely be enough to get you started. Sure, there is a learning curve, but I guarantee you that learning to set up and manage your own WordPress blog is a must-have, valuable skill for any creative professional these days. Both for your own business and as a service you can offer as an additional income stream. 

I built a career out of it, and I am definitely NOT a technical guy, so If I can do it, you can too!

So, let’s get into the details…

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links which means, if you click on them and buy something there, I can potentially receive a commission for items purchased there, at no additional cost to you. For more information, you can read my affiliate disclosure and my privacy policy.

Ready to launch your blog with Dreamhost and follow along with this tutorial? Get started for just $2.95/month! See more info below.

What is the Difference Between a Website and a Blog?

There is a lot of misunderstanding about the difference between blogs and websites and many get confused about what kind of website they need for their business.

First, let’s clarify some things. A blog is feature of website, a website can have a blog and a website can also be a blog.

Confusing? Let me elaborate…

Early iterations of blogs were once used mostly for online personal journals. Remember LiveJournal? (Yes, I am showing my age with that question…)

A blog “was” a type of website that had frequently updated and sharable article content posted in a chronological timeline and a website tended to be much more static and organized into pages.

As social media grew in popularity and the practice of sharing blog content on social media became a much more standardized way of marketing and sharing information, the definitions started to blur as more and more websites started to incorporate blog functionality as a core feature.

This is where the terminology gets mixed up, and honestly, there really is no standard answer anymore. Some people say “I run a blog” and some say “I run a website.” Some people refer to themselves as “bloggers” and others call themselves “webmasters.”

The reality is, a blog is one of the most powerful and effective marketing features of a website, so those of us who do online marketing, place a lot of focus on “blogging” as one of many marketing practices that are used to market businesses, generate sales and to make money on the internet.

When I refer to my web presence or my content, I say “Check out my website and read my blog” and most people get it.

So, with that LONG tangent out of the way… (whew!) go ahead and quickly decide on whatever title or terminology you want to define yourself as and let’s move on.

Do You Still Need a Website in 2021?

This is a big question that we are all asking ourselves these days. With all the popularity of influencers and TikTok and Instagram, there are a lot of creators who rely solely on their social accounts. 

So, do we still need a website in 2021?

My argument is a resounding, YES, you do still need a website.

Two Big Reasons:

  1. Your website is your home base. It is the one place where you control all of the content, the messaging and the products and services that you sell. If done properly, it can become a very powerful and effective automated marketing machine and platform for getting your message out, sharing your work and staying in control of your fans and customers.
  1. You don’t actually own your social media account. The social media platform does. You have to play by their rules and your content or message has to comply with their policies. You can spend all of your time and money and effort to grow your social followers, but if something should happen and your account gets blocked or censored, you are out of business.

    Social media is a great channel for promoting yourself but don’t make it your only option. If you lose your social account, you always have your website to fall back to.

Why WordPress?

I use WordPress exclusively to run all of my websites, including my portfolio sites, other business sites and of course seanearley.com. It is a really powerful piece of open source blogging software and I highly encourage you to start using WordPress as the content management system for your website or portfolio. 

It allows you to easily log in, create web pages, blog posts, add images, write and format text, and change the design with easy to install templates and plugins.

It is also the industry standard for website platforms. As of 2021, 39% of all websites in the world are WordPress.

Why Self-Hosted?

There are two options if you want to use WordPress:

WordPress.com – The first option is to use the free hosted blog that you can set up on WordPress.com. While this version works just fine, the problem is that it is still hosted on someone else’s platform. This means that WordPress will still have editorial control and your options for what you can post, advertise or promote are more limited.

Self-Hosted – The second option, and what I recommend, is to install the WordPress software on your own hosted account with your own domain name. If you are planning to base a business around your blog, I recommend building it somewhere where you have total control. This is especially important if your subject matter is controversial. It also means that you can say, advertise or sell whatever you want without worrying about someone shutting down your business because they don’t agree with your content.

The main point being, having a self-hosted WordPress blog gives you total control over your online business and platform. Yes, it costs money to do it this way, but what you save by having complete control of your business is well worth the price.

Web Hosting Affiliate Programs

Regarding WordPress hosting costs, if you choose a web hosting company with a decent affiliate program (I use and recommend Dreamhost) with just one or two affiliate referrals, you can easily cover your annual hosting charges and even earn a decent additional income. I personally have not had to pay for hosting for years, due to all of the affiliate referrals I have sent to Dreamhost.

Ready to launch your blog with Dreamhost and follow along with this tutorial? Get started for just $2.95/month! See more info below.

Getting Started

Before you begin the setup process, you will need:

  1. An idea for a domain name (www.yourname.com or www.yournameart.com or whatever)
  2. A credit card to pay for the hosting
  3. A hosting company that specializes in WordPress. (I use Dreamhost and will be using it in the following tutorial examples)
  4. About 20 minutes. (10 min or so to register for hosting. 10 min to complete the WordPress install.)

Let’s also assume you have done some homework and are clear on what the topic and focus of your blog/website will be.

Maybe an art portfolio site, a podcast site, a website for your music or your band, a shop to sell artwork or hip-hop beats? The list goes on and on, and we will definitely be discussing this in-depth in other articles about how you decide on your niche and monetization strategies.

But for now, let’s get you set up with a website!

Step 1: Set Up Your Web Hosting

The first thing you need to do is get set up with a Web Hosting Company. There are tons of hosting companies to pick from, but I have been using Dreamhost for 20 years and I couldn’t be happier.

They offer great prices, great service, and specialize in WordPress.

Dreamhost

Dreamhost has a couple of WordPress hosting options depending on your needs and your budget.

WordPress BasicPrices run between $2.95 – $8.95 Per Month depending if you pay monthly or yearly. This basic package is great because it includes a free domain name registration, unlimited traffic or bandwidth, and best of all, it comes with WordPress already installed, so you could even skip the rest of this whole tutorial!!

DreamPressDreamPress is a special hosting option I highly recommend if you can afford it. It includes 24/7 personal wordpress support in case something goes wrong, something breaks, or you get hacked. They also include some amazing premium plugins that speed up the website and helps with security and backup. 

Having someone there to help with technical problems is a huge benefit, so it is definitely worth the extra price, if you can swing it.

Ready to launch your blog with Dreamhost and follow along with this tutorial? Get started for just $2.95/month!

Step 2: Register Your Domain Name

During the signup process, you will be asked to register your domain name. There is a whole strategy in determining the perfect domain name for your business but in the interest of time, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Your domain name should be memorable, short and easy for the user to type.
  2. Don’t use hyphens, strange characters or confuse people with strange spelling or abbreviations.
  3. If at all possible, use .com instead of .net or .io or some other extension. Using .com psychologically makes your website seem more legit and professional.

Step 3: Activate The Domain

Now that your hosting is set up, it is time to activate the domain name. Doing this basically makes an empty folder and adds a database on the hosting company’s server for your WordPress files. It also connects your domain name to the folder so that when someone types your URL into the browser, it actually takes them there.

Set To Fully Hosted 

(In this tutorial, I will be using the domain name: seansamazingwebsite.com so you can follow along.)

Log into your hosting account and go to Domains > Manage Domains > Find your Domain name > Then click “Edit”

On the Fully Hosted Page ( usually check the “Leave It Alone” selection so that both www.seansamazingwebsite.com or seansamazingwebsite.com will both work. 

Then leave everything else in it’s default selected state and click the “Fully host this domain” button.

Once this is done, you just need to wait a few minutes until the URL propagates into the system. Sometimes this can take a while so, in the worse case, it might take a few hours, but usually takes only a couple of minutes.

Once completed, you will receive an email with some special login info that you might need later if you decide to expand on your website features. Keep this email!

Step 4: Install WordPress

Once the domain name is activated, it is time to install wordpress.

Go to WordPress > One-Click Installs > Learn More & Install

  1. Select Your domain in the dropdown
  2. Make sure “Automatically Create Database” is selected
  3. If this is your first WordPress install, I also suggest checking “Deluxe Install” and “Install WP Website Builder” because this will also install a lot of plugins and theme templates so you have a decent selection to choose from out of the gate.
  4. Click “Install it for me now!”

In a few minutes, you will receive another email with your WordPress Login Details. Click the link in the email to access your website.

Before logging in, you will be required to change your password (Remember to write it all down so you don’t forget!)

Log in to Your New WordPress Blog!

Your first time login should look something like this. Depending on what your web hosting company pre installs by default there may be some slight differences.

This is the Backend administration to your WordPress website where you make all the changes.

View Your Website

In the top left corner, click “Just Another WordPress Site” or go to your main URL: www.yourdomain.com

This is the front end of your website, or the live page that the world sees.

To get back to the Dashboard screen, you can either click the browser’s back button, click again on “Just Another WordPress Site” or you can always go to www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin

Important! Remember to bookmark this link so you can always log back into your website!

Step 5: Add Your SSL Certificate

This step isn’t necessary, but adding the SSL (secure certificate) to your website helps with website security and also adds a layer of credibility to your blog. In other words, it adds a trust factor to your website, so that when users or other services access your website, it is now certified that it is a legitimate website and you are the owner.

By doing this, it basically changes the domain name from: 

“http://www.yourdomain.com” to  “https://www.yourdomain.com”

Dreamhost offers this service for free. If you have a Dreampress account, this will already be activated. If you have the WordPress Basic Plan, you will need to activate this yourself.

To do so, go to Websites > Secure Certificates > then click the “Add” button next to your domain name.

This will take you to the “Add Certificate” page where you just need to click “Select This Certificate.”

After you click this, you usually will need to wait between a few hours and 24 hours and you will receive a confirmation email and you will also see the change in your domain name.

Step 6: Change Your Theme Template

Now let’s change the look and feel of your website by changing the themes.

In the Dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes

This should give you a selection of free premade design themes to pick from. 

To pick one, just hover over any theme and click Activate. You can also click on the Live Preview button to see how it will really look like, without actually changing anything on the live page.

Once you activate a theme, you can go back to your home page and see the changes.

Themes I Use:

Divi by Elegant Themes

I have been using the Divi WordPress Theme by Elegant Themes for about 4 years and is now pretty much the only theme I use these days for all of my website projects.

Having been through so many different WordPress templates over the years, it is so important to have a stable WordPress theme that is mobile responsive, easy to edit and well supported. Elegant themes is a great company with great products, great customer service, regular updates and their DIVI platform is one of the best.

I really like the theme’s on-page editing and layout flexibility, the huge community that offers tons of advice and templates, not to mention the plugins are super solid.

One very important issue with picking a theme for me is support. If something goes wrong, I want reliable tech support to help me with a problem. I also want a theme that is used by a lot of people, so there are a lot of online resources.

This is a premium theme that comes with an annual subscription fee, but definitely worth the investment.

Themeforest

Envato Marketplace’s Themeforest is probably the largest marketplace for WordPress themes. I have purchased several themes in the past and they have a huge selection of slick-looking themes that are “typically” very solid.

I say “typically” because you very often take your chances in the support department. Before you purchase a theme on Envato, be sure to research the ratings and comments section for feedback and take note of how often a theme gets regular updates.

Step 7: Add Some Plugins

Plugins are additional software that enables additional features on your blog. Depending on what hosting company you use, there will be different plugins that are already preinstalled.

The plugins section allows you to activate, deactivate or to install new plugins: 

Go to Plugins and then > Add New

Plugins I Recommend:

Borlabs Cookie Plugin

European law requires you have a cookie popup notice on your website so users can opt-in or out of your use of web cookies. Even if you don’t live in the EU, having a cookie notice is a good best practice. I have been using Borlabs Cookie Plugin for some time now and it is simply one of the best. Very easy to install and use.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is a Search Engine Optimization plugin (SEO) that helps you configure your blog’s content so that it is more search engine friendly. Yoast is probably the industry standard for SEO plugins and I highly recommend it.

There is a free version available, as well as a premium version that offers more features.

WP Rocket

Wp Rocket is a speed plugin that optimizes the loading speed of your HTML, CSS and javascript. It works great and I have checked out them all, so nothing compares. Get it and thank me later.

Congrats! At this point you are now up and running with your first WordPress Blog.

Now is the time to actually get down to business and start writing great content, adding images and lots of tweaking and adjusting.

As I mentioned previously, WordPress is very user friendly, so it shouldn’t take you too long to get the hang of making simple changes and adding posts and pages. 

It would take ages to actually teach you everything about how to use WordPress here in one blog post, so I would suggest also taking a beginner online course, either on Udemy, or do some Googling. There are TON of beginner YouTube videos.

A few things to add before you go public with your new blog.

  1. Design your Home Page
  2. Add Privacy Policy page and Impressum page (Required if you live in Europe) This also is what your Borlabs Cookie plugin will ask to link to.
  3. Add Contact Info Page
  4. Add an About page with an image
  5. Add your social media links
  6. Add Google Analytics

Again, these are all topics we can discuss in later articles. For now, dig in and enjoy your new WordPress Blog!

Bookmark This Page!

This page will continue to grow and be edited over time to reflect any changes in both WordPress and my recommendations.

I suggest bookmarking it and returning to it a couple times per year to keep up on any changes.

This is my first of what will be many more WordPress posts, so please leave me some comments and feedback and let me know what you think.

Best of luck with your new website and welcome to the world of blogging!

Hire A Designer!

No desire to do this yourself? I can totally understand that.

If you are interested in hiring a professional designer to design your website for you, contact me and I can make you a great deal.

Ready to launch your blog with Dreamhost and follow along with this tutorial? Get started for just $2.95/month!

Sean Earley is a marketing consultant, music producer, author, entrepreneur, artist, and host of the “Grow Your Digital Business Podcast.”  He loves guitars, smoothies & helping entrepreneurs to become more successful.