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The Minimalists The Minimalists
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus help over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary. The Minimalists have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Forbes, TIME, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, BBC, and NPR.

How to Start a Successful Blog in 2019

How To Start a Blog

Learn how to start a blog in less than an hour. Follow the step-by-step instructions we used when starting our blog, which now has reached more than 20 million people and has been featured in the New York Times, TIME magazine, and on the TODAY show.

How to Start a Blog in 5 Steps:

  1. Choose your domain name and host.
  2. Set up your blog with WordPress.
  3. Design your blog with a theme.
  4. Select the best plugins for your blog.
  5. Start blogging with compelling content.

NOTE: The Minimalists’ blog is hosted by Bluehost. For only $2.75 a month, Bluehost can help you set up and host your blog. Because The Minimalists are a Bluehost affiliate partner, our readers can use this link to receive a 50% discount off the monthly price and a free domain for the first year.

Disclosure: Some links in this essay (including Bluehost and Constant Contact) are affiliate links, which means we earn some revenue, at no additional cost to you, when you purchase using those links. That’s obviously not why I’m recommending them; I’m recommending them because they’re what I use personally. They’ve added value to my life, and I hope they add value to yours.

How to Start a Blog: Video Tutorial

If you prefer to watch our process for setting up a blog, we’ve created a step-by-step instructional video, How to Start a Successful Blog Today, which shows the entire starting-a-blog undertaking. Otherwise, read on.



Starting a Blog: Overview

Want to create something meaningful? Why not start a blog? Creating this blog is one of the best decisions Ryan and I ever made. After all, our blog is how we earn a living. More important, it’s how we add value to other people’s lives.

How to Start a Blog like The Minimalists

So you’re thinking about starting a blog, but you don’t have any idea where to start, right? Guess what—neither did we! Before we were “The Minimalists,” we wanted to start a blog to communicate our thoughts and express our feelings, but we were overwhelmed with options.

Clueless, confused, and confounded with choices, we had no idea how to start a blog or how to be a blogger. When should we start? How do we register a domain name? What is hosting? Which blogging platform should we use? How do we choose a template? What is a plugin? What should we write about? Heck, we could hardly spell HTML, let alone build a blog!

But good news: it turns out that starting a blog is much easier than you think. We’ve learned a ton of lessons during our ascent to millions of readers, and now you can learn from our pain and suffering to circumvent much of the tedium involved in setting up a blog.

Thankfully, you needn’t be tech savvy to start a blog (we certainly aren’t). You don’t need to know how to code or design to build your blog (we still don’t). You don’t need much money to create a blog (you can get a free domain and host your site for just a few bucks a month). And you don’t need to spend a ton of time setting up your blog, either (you can set up your blog in less than an hour).

Because we receive so many questions about how we specifically set up our blog, we decided to provide our readers with a soup-to-nuts, comprehensive guide for how to set up a blog. This blog post is intended to function as a how-to manual—a guide that will light the path toward launching your new blog—with easy-to-follow screenshots, step-by-step instructions, as well as additional rationale and insights to improve your blog.


How to Start a Blog: Step-by-Step Instructions

While there are other blogging platforms out there like Blogger.com and Tumblr.com, nearly every serious blogger uses a self-hosted WordPress site because of its creative freedom and flexibility. The Minimalists uses WordPress because it gives us greater control over the look and feel of our blog—more creative control than any other platform. Oh, and WordPress itself is free!

Starting a Blog

These are the exact steps we took when we created this website. If you follow these five steps, you will learn how to set up a blog in less than one hour.

Step 1. Choose Your Domain Name and Host

The first thing we did when starting our blog was go to Bluehost and register our domain, which is free with hosting. We’ll explain hosting in a moment, but let’s talk about your domain name first. Your domain name is an important part of your blog because it creates a first impression—it is the name of your blog. Also known as your URL, your domain is also your address on the web. For example, our domain name is www.theminimalists.com.

So, what do you want to call your blog? Maybe it’s YourName.com. Maybe it’s YourBusinessName.com. Or maybe it’s a creative brand name you thought up. If you’re having a hard time thinking of a good domain name, try Wordoid, a wonderful naming tool that will give you plenty of great options. Just make sure you don’t buy the domain from them since Bluehost will give you a free domain. (If you’ve already purchased a domain elsewhere, that’s okay, too, because Bluehost will make it easy to transfer your existing domain during the set-up process.)

Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you’ll need to set up hosting for your blog. While WordPress itself is free (see Step 2 below), you need a reliable place to host your WordPress blog (your blog needs to exist on a server somewhere on the Internet). For hosting, we recommend Bluehost for several reasons:

  • We Use Bluehost. We personally use Bluehost to host The Minimalists. If you recommend a company, you better be willing to use their product yourself. We also use them to host several other websites of ours.
  • Outstanding Customer Service. Bluehost’s customer service is 100% US-based. With hold times that average less than 30 seconds and 100% in-house, on-site staff in their Texas offices, you can rest assured that the person helping with your site knows how to help. In other words, if you have any questions, they will help you through the entire set-up process.
  • Great Pricing. TheMinimalists.com is a Bluehost affiliate partner, which means that in addition to using their service, we also receive a commission for referring new customers. To be fair, though, we would still use Bluehost even if we weren’t an affiliate—we’ve used them for a long time. Ergo, we don’t recommend Bluehost just because we’re an affiliate (every hosting company offers a similar affiliate program); we recommend Bluehost because they are the best, most reliable option. Plus, because we’re a partner, Bluehost offers a 50% discount for The Minimalists readers: only $2.75 a month for the first year. That’s an outstanding price!
  • Free Domain. When you sign up for hosting, Bluehost will give you a free domain name, which allows you to avoid the upfront and recurring fees associated with purchasing a domain on your own. If you’ve already purchased your own domain name, don’t worry; you can still use your domain with Bluehost (it’s just one extra step).
  • Money-Back Guarantee. Bluehost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk if you change your mind.
  • Reliability. Bluehost’s facilities are world class. They have their own datacenter and they build their own servers. Their headquarters includes over 50,000 square feet of office space, a custom-built 20,000-square-foot datacenter, and enough backup generators to power a city.
  • Friends & Family. Many of our friends and family also use Bluehost to host their blogs.

So, now that you’re ready to get started, go to Bluehost and click the “Get Started Now” button.

On the next screen, you’ll need to select your hosting plan:

You’ll notice that prices range from $3 to $6 per month, depending on whether you want a basic, single site hosting plan or a more robust plan that allows you to create multiple sites.

Note: Because we’re an affiliate partner, Bluehost offers a special price for The Minimalists readers: only $2.75 a month for the first year. That’s a significant discount.

Select Your Hosting Plan

Once you’ve selected a plan, you’ll be taken to a screen with two options:

If you still need to register a new domain, you’ll use the left box followed by your desired extension (e.g., .com, .net, .org). If you already purchased your domain somewhere else like GoDaddy.com, don’t worry, because Bluehost will provide you the information you will need for easily transferring your domain.

Select Your Domain Name

After selecting your domain you’ll need to fill out some personal information:

Create Your Hosting Account

Once your registration is complete, you’ll see a congratulations page indicating that a confirmation email was sent to your inbox. Go to that email and click the confirmation link.

After that, click the “Create your password” button.

Welcome to Bluehost

Step 2. Set Up Your Blog

Next you will install WordPress, which is free. Don’t let the word “install” intimidate you, though. It’s much easier than it sounds and Bluehost does all the work for you.

On this next screen, you’ll be prompted to create a password:

Set Up Your Password

After creating your password, you’ll be directed to a Log In screen. Click “Log In”:

Password Set Up Complete

On the next screen you’ll be shown several theme options. Simply scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Skip This Step” (you’ll see why in a moment):

Skip This Step

Yay! WordPress is now installing and will be completed shortly.

Next, click “Start Building” to go to your new WordPress dashboard and we’ll move on to Step 3:

Start Building Your Blog

Step 3. Design Your Blog With a Theme

A theme allows you to control the specific look and feel of your blog without the need for coding expertise or design knowledge. In other words, a good theme helps you to design your blog exactly how you want it to look. If you’re not a coder (I’m certainly not a coder), then a theme makes the design work a million times easier.

We use BYLT for our theme, a platform created by SPYR. They have a number of beautiful, simple WordPress themes to choose from, and, in fact, you can purchase the same theme we use if you like. Simply go to their site and find the theme that best fits your desired aesthetic. BYLT’s themes are feature-rich plus, once you buy your theme, you will have the same team supporting your work that we trust to support ours.

Set Up Your Blog Theme

Once you purchase the theme you like, you’ll be able to download your WordPress theme (a .zip file) from your BYLT Dashboard. Save this file to your Desktop because you’ll need to upload it to WordPress in just a moment.

Remember how easy it was to install WordPress? Well installing your theme is even easier.

Now, you should already be logged in to your WordPress Dashboard but, if not, go to my.bluehost.com, enter your new domain (or username) and password and click “submit”:

Log In to Your Account

From here, go to “My Sites” and click on “Log in to WordPress”:

Manage Your Website

Then, in your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes:

Welcome to WordPress

Next, click the “Upload” button:

Upload Your Blog Theme

Then, click the “Upload Theme” button followed by the “Choose File” button.

Find the .zip file you downloaded from your BYLT Dashboard (this is your theme file) and click the “Install Now” button to install your beautiful new theme on your blog:

Install Your Blog Theme

Once installation of your theme is complete, you’ll see a confirmation page indicating that your theme has been installed successfully.

Click “Activate”.

Activate Your Blog Theme

Step 4. Select the Best Plugins for Your Blog

Plugins are third-party appendages that add additional functionality to your blog. It’s best to keep your number of plugins to a minimum and install only the best plugins. (Too many plugins, as well as unreliable plugins, can slow down your site.) We use only a few plugins at The Minimalists (see below).

In your WordPress dashboard navigate to Plugins > Add New and search for, install, and activate the following free plugins one by one:

  • Yoast SEO is the defacto standard SEO plugin for WordPress. For details and everything you’d ever want to know about WordPress SEO read Yoast’s Definitive SEO Guide.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights allows you to track your blog’s traffic easily and with lots of interesting data: overall traffic, traffic sources, views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and pageviews.
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.

Finally, so people can receive our blog posts via email, we established a free Feedburner account. Constant Contact is another great email-subscription option. (By the way, if you don’t already subscribe to The Minimalists via email, you can here.)

Step 5: Start Blogging with Compelling Content

Congratulations! You started a blog, and now it’s time to start blogging. This is actually where the fun begins. Now that you have your own blog, you get to make it yours; you get to turn your vision into a reality. So tinker away:

  • Start writing and publishing the content for your basic pages: create an About Page, Contact Page, Start Here Page, Archives Page, and any other page you want in the header of your new blog.
  • Experiment with various color palettes, fonts, and design elements within your theme.
  • Create a basic logo using a program like InDesign, Photoshop, or a text editor (note: even though we have no design skills, we were able to use Apple’s Pages application to create our simple logo after downloading some free vector art and choosing the typeface that best suited our aesthetic), or you can hire someone like 99designs to design a professional logo.
  • Add a photo of yourself (pro tip: you can start with a well-lit selfie, but when you get a chance, get some professional photos taken; they’re well worth the cost because people identify with other people more than they identify with logos).
  • Spice up your blog posts with high-quality stock photos: Paul Jarvis (free), Unsplash (free), Library of Congress (free), iStock (fee-based), Shutterstock (fee-based).
  • Determine whether or not you want comments on your blog; they are often a useful way to receive feedback and directly engage with your readers.
  • Establish a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (or all three).
  • Keep tinkering with your blog until you obtain the right look and feel.
  • Start writing new blog posts. Publish at least once a week so you can build an audience. Below you’ll also find 20 recommendations to improve the writing on your blog, as well as 15 reasons you should start a blog and 3 reasons not to start a blog.

We hope you have loads of fun expressing yourself on your new blog. We’re certain it will be a huge growth experience for you during the coming months. Wherever you’re going, make sure you enjoy the journey ahead.


15 Reasons You Should Start a Blog

We were inspired to research and write this essay after reading Joshua Becker’s 15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog, in which he discusses 15 great reasons why you should start a blog. Why being the key word here. In other words, he talks about the purpose of blogging, not just how to start a blog. That’s what many of these other “blogs about blogging” seem to miss; they miss the purpose—the why behind starting a blog.


3 Reasons You Should Not Start a Blog

So now you have 15 reasons why you should start a blog, and we’ve shown you how to start a blog, step-by-step, based on our personal experience. But after giving you those detailed instructions, which could save you hundreds of hours of wasted time, we also want to give you some good reasons why you should not start a blog. (Keep in mind that these reasons are just our opinions, and we do not pretend to offer them up as a collection of empirical blogging maxims.)

  1. Money. You should not start a blog to make money. We need to get that out of the way first. If your primary objective is to replace your full-time income from blogging, forget about it. It doesn’t work that way. Do you think that Jimi Hendrix picked up his first guitar so he could “supplement his income”? No, he didn’t. Rather, he did it for the love of it, for the joy and fulfillment he received, and the income came thereafter—much later actually.
  2. Notoriety. Don’t plan on getting “Internet famous” right away. Not every site grows as fast as ours did, but that’s okay. The truth is that we kind of got lucky. We found a great domain name, we cobbled together a logo and site design that people liked, we write fairly well, and our content connects with people in a unique way. We didn’t start this site to become “famous” though. That’d be ridiculous. Our popularity came as a surprise to us, and it was a result of a little luck and a lot of hard, passionate work.
  3. Traffic. Not all traffic is good traffic, so don’t worry about getting thousands of readers right away. Spend your time producing meaningful creations and eventually the audience will show up.

The funny thing is that all these things can happen. You could make a full-time income from building a blog. We do it, Corbett Barr does it, and so do many others. And you could become Internet famous like Leo Babauta or Chris Brogan. But if these are the sole reasons why you start blogging, you’ll be miserable, because it will seem like a job, and if it feels like a job you won’t be passionate about it, and so you’ll either (a) hate it, (b) fall flat on your face, or (c) hate it and fall flat on your face.

Instead, write because you’re passionate about it…


20 Recommendations for Your Blog: How to Improve Your Blog Posts

We receive plenty of emails asking for advice about starting a blog, about how to blog, about blog topics, and about creating meaningful content. These are the answers and recommendations we tend to give.

  1. Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. When learning how to be a blogger, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Running? Cooking? Being a parent? Have you found your passion? If so, whatever it is, write about that. If not, then you must first find your passion. (Note: We generally recommend that people don’t start a blog about minimalism or the paleo diet or any other heavily saturated topic. But what we really mean when we say this is: don’t create a blog about something unless you have a unique perspective. If you’ve embraced simple living and have a unique perspective, then by all means have at it.)
  2. Define Your Ideal Readers. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to know who will be reading your blog. For example, we blog about living a meaningful life with less. Thus, our ideal readers are people who are interested in exploring minimalism so they can clear the path toward more meaningful lives. If you want to write about your newborn baby growing up, that’s wonderful: your ideal readers are probably your friends and family. If you want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool, too. Tailor your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or local community or whoever else will read your blog).
  3. Add Value. Your blog must add value to its readers’ lives. You want to help people solve problems. This is the only way you will get great quality readers to your site (and keep them coming back). Adding value is the only way to get someone’s long-term buy-in. We both learned this after a decade of leading and managing people in the corporate world. With everything you write, it’s worth asking: Is this adding value?
  4. Be Original. Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing you want to write about. Question: So why is your blog different? Answer: Because of you. You are what makes your blog different. It’s about your perspective, your creativity, the value you add.
  5. Be Interesting. Write epic, interesting content. Especially if you want people to share it with others.
  6. Be Yourself. Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every person is unique, and your story is an important one. The important part of storytelling, however, is removing the superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.
  7. Be Honest. Your blog needs to be authentic—it needs to feel real—if you want people to read it. You can be your blog, or your blog can be you. That is, do you really embody the stuff you write about? If not, people will see through it. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should build the blog they want to write for the world.
  8. Transparency. Being transparent is different from being honest. You needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being honest. Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to what you’re writing. (Because everything we write must serve the greater good, you won’t ever see pictures of us using the restroom—that’s just not relevant.)
  9. Time. Once you’ve learned how to start a blog, you’ll learn that blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as we are (we spent over eight hours testing the fonts on this site). And see those Twitter and Facebook icons in the header? We spent hours on those, deciding what was right for us). That said, once you have your design set up, don’t tweak it too much. Instead, spend the time on your writing.
  10. Vision. The reason our site design looks good is because we have a great host, we have a great theme, and most important, we had a vision of how we wanted our blog to look. Once we had the vision, we worked hard to make that vision a reality. (Note: neither of us had any design experience before starting a blog.) It’s hard to create a beautiful blog if you don’t know what you want it to look like.
  11. Find Your Voice. Over time, good writers discover their voice and their writing tends to develop a certain flow, one that is appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing feel more alive, more real, more urgent. For additional reading, check out our essay about Finding Your Voice.
  12. We Instead of You. Use the first-person plural when possible. Statements of we and our are more powerful than you and your, especially when talking about negative behaviors or tendencies. The first person comes off as far less accusatory. Think of it this way: we’re writing peer-to-peer—we are not gods.
  13. When to Post. Question: When is the best day and time to publish a blog post? Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We don’t adhere to a particular schedule. Some weeks we post one essay; sometimes we post three. Yes, it is important to write consistently, but you needn’t get too bogged down in the details.
  14. Social Media. Yes, we recommend using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help connect with your audience and other bloggers, but don’t get too caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.
  15. Ignore Negative Criticism and Stupidity. Sure, we get a lot of negative comments and stupid questions from ignorant people who aren’t really our readers (e.g., negative comments like “You’re not real minimalists” and stupid questions like “Are you guys gay?”). We call these people seagulls: they fly in, crap on your site, and fly away. But we pay them no mind, because we didn’t start our blog for them. Delete their comment and move on.
  16. Research. Spend time researching what you’re writing about. The reason we are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in our essays is because we put in the time to research our topics.
  17. Keep It Simple. This is where minimalism can be applied to starting any blog, irrespective of its genre. No need to place superfluous advertisements or widgets all over your site. Stick to the basics and remove anything you don’t need—remove anything that doesn’t add value.
  18. Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People like to see the face of the person who’s writing the blog. If two goofy guys from Ohio aren’t too afraid to put their pictures on their site, then you have nothing to worry about.
  19. Comments. If you’re going to have comments on your site, then read The Five Words That Kill Your Blog by Scott Stratten.
  20. Live Your Life. You’re blogging about your life (or about certain aspects of your life, at least), so you still need to live your life. There are things that we always put before writing: exercise, health, relationships, experiences, personal growth, contribution. Simply put, live a life worth writing about.

4 Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about blogging, publishing, writing, and SEO, then check out these additional resources: