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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 Set up a Beautiful Blog Today: Step by Step

Want to create something meaningful? Why not set up 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. It’s also how we add value to other people’s lives.

So, let’s say you’ve thought about starting a blog to communicate your thoughts and express your feelings. Now, let’s say you’re overwhelmed with options and you don’t know where to start. Sound about right? Good, that’s exactly where we started—clueless, confused, confounded with choices.

Since creating this blog eight years ago, we’ve garnered an audience of more than 20 million. Perhaps the most important lesson learned was that starting a blog was much easier than we thought. Thankfully, you needn’t be tech savvy (we certainly aren’t). You don’t need to know how to code or design (we still don’t). You don’t need much money (you can get your domain for free and host your site for just a few bucks a month). And you don’t need to spend a ton of time 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, and an instructional video.

Video: Joshua Discusses Setting Up a Blog

Can’t see the above video? Watch it on YouTube.

How to Set Up a Blog: Step-by-Step Instructions

While there are free 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.

After much experimenting and endless tinkering, we discovered the best way to set up our blog. These are the exact steps we took when we created this website. If you follow these six steps, you will learn how to set up a blog in less than one hour.

  1. Prepare
  2. Select Your Domain Name & Hosting
  3. Set Up Your WordPress Blog
  4. Design Your Blog With a Theme
  5. Install WordPress Plugins
  6. Tinker Until You’re Happy

Step 1. Prepare

Before you get started, you’ll need two things:

  • A credit or debit card (to pay for hosting)
  • 30–60 minutes to set up everything

Step 2. Select Your Domain Name & Hosting

Your domain name is an important part of your blog. Also known as your URL, your domain is your address on the web. For example, our domain name is www.theminimalists.com. But before you run off and spend money on a domain, you’ll first want to set up hosting for your blog. Bluehost is our recommendation 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.
  • 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 Utah 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. 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 special price for The Minimalists readers: only $2.75 a month. That’s a phenomenal 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).
  • 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.
  • Money-Back Guarantee. Bluehost offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk if you change your mind.
  • Friends & Family. Many of our friends and family also use Bluehost to host their blogs.

The first thing we did was 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. That’s a phenomenal price.

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). In case 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 one for free).

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 3. Set Up Your WordPress Blog

Next you will install WordPress, but don’t let the word “install” intimidate you. 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”:

Skip This Step

Congratulation! You’re all done. WordPress is now installing and will be completed shortly.

Click “Start Building” to go to your new WordPress dashboard and we’ll move on to Step 4:

Start Building Your Blog

Step 4. 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 (we certainly aren’t), then a theme makes the design work a million times easier.

We use BYLT for our theme, a platform created by our friends at SPYR. They have a number of beautiful, simple themes to choose from and, in fact, you can purchase the same theme we use if you like.

Set Up Your Blog Theme

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 BYLT (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

Totally Unrelated Bonus Step: Watch Genesis’s “I Can’t Dance”

Well that was fun. Now let’s get back to setting up your blog…

Step 5. Install WordPress Plugins

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 (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 6. Tinker Until You’re Happy

You’re done. But 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:

  • Experiment with various color palettes.
  • Add a photo of yourself (pro tip: when you get a chance, get some professional photos taken; they’re well worth the cost).
  • Spice up your blog posts with high-quality stock photos: Paul Jarvis (free), Unsplash (free), iStock (fee-based), Shutterstock (fee-based).
  • Create a basic logo using a program like InDesign or 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/font [Helvetica Neue] that best suited our aesthetic), or you can hire someone like 99designs to design a professional logo.
  • Determine whether or not you want comments on your blog.
  • Establish a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram (or all three).
  • Keep tinkering until you obtain the right look.
  • And, of course, start writing new blog posts and publish them.

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.

Additional Resources