Blogging is a great way for freelancers and small business owners to market their services.
Blogs are a lead magnet to pull in clients. The more blog posts, videos and images you have on your blog, the better your chances of potential clients coming across you when they're searching Google or browsing social media.
Not every visitor to your blog will become a client - only a tiny percentage will. But the more visitors your blog gets, the more people will get in touch to ask about your services.
In this article, I'll show you how to get started creating a blog for free, using the website Wordpress.com. But first, it's time to go back to basics. What is a blog?
What is a Blog?
As a professional blogger, it's easy for me to assume that everyone knows what a blog is. Yet recently, I've met business owner after business owner whose first question to me is "What's a blog?"
Blogging is simple. Blogs are made up of blog posts. A blog post is a short article, usually 250-750 words. Blogs are updated regularly, typically at least once per week.
The article you're reading right now is a blog post.
Freelancers usually write a blog about the service they provide. Their blog posts address common questions or problems faced by their clients. Small business owners usually write on a topic related to the product they sell. Potential clients visiting the blog will see the business owner knows what they're talking about.
Writing a blog post is as simple as writing an email. This is true both in terms of the writing skills you need to blog, and the technical skills you need to use blogging software.
If you'd like to try out blogging, there's a simple, free way to start.
Wordpress is the world's most popular blogging tool. You can use it on a self-hosted website. This is a good option for those with intermediate computer skills, but for those just starting out, setting up a self-hosted site can be intimidating.
Alternatively, you can use Wordpress on Wordpress.com. A basic account is free to set-up and use. It's an easy way to dip your toes into the blogging waters and see if blogging is right for you. What's more, if you enjoy it, you can stick with it, there's no need to transfer over to a self-hosted blog, unless you want advanced functions. Even if you decide to go self-hosted, you'll have the advantage of already being familiar with how Wordpress works.
Advantages of Wordpress.com:
- It's easy to set up.
- A basic account is free.
- Your blog has a high level of security against hackers.
- All technical maintenance is done for you.
- Even if your blog goes viral, it won't crash under the weight of the traffic, because Wordpress.com has the servers needed to do the heavy lifting under heavy traffic conditions.
- You're part of the Wordpress.com community, and this will help you find readers. This is especially helpful when you're starting out.
Disadvantages of Wordpress.com:
- Wordpress places adverts on your blog. You have no control over what these ads say.
- Your website is a Wordpress.com subdomain, i.e. yoursite.wordpress.com, which looks less professional than having your own domain, i.e. www.yoursite.com.
- You have limited options for visual customization.
- You don't have full control of your content. If Wordpress.com ever folded, you could lose what you've published. (This, however, is extremely unlikely as things stand.)
- You can't use plugins or ecommerce features.
While these disadvantages are significant, they shouldn't stop you from dabbling in Wordpress.com as a way of getting familiar with blogging. What's more, if you want to stick with Wordpress.com, many of these disadvantages can be overcome with paid solutions. These work out at around the same or a slightly higher cost than a self-hosted site, but it's well worth it if you're willing to spend a little more to save yourself on the hassle of self-hosting, particularly if you're not technically minded.
To complete this tutorial, you will need:
- An Internet Connection
- An Email Account
1. Sign Up for Wordpress.com
Step 1: Visit Wordpress.com
To sign up for your Wordpress account, visit Wordpress.com, then scroll down and click Create your WordPress.com blog now!
Alternatively, you can visit the Wordpress.com signup page.
Step 2: Choose Your Blog Address
You'll be asked for your email address, a username, password, and blog address, so enter these.
Your blog address is what people will type into their web browser to visit your blog. Make it memorable and relevant to your business. For example, if you're a copywriter, consider including the word "writer" in your blog address. Avoid numbers, because these are confusing in website addresses (is it blogone.com or blog1.com?).
The name you choose will be appended by .wordpress.com, so your site name will be yoursitename.wordpress.com.
Alternatively, at this stage, you can sign up for your own domain name by clicking the blue arrow in the blog address form. Options are .me, .com, .net, and .org. Only do this if you're confident you'll stick with Wordpress.com over a self-hosted site. If you're unsure now, you can buy your own domain name from Wordpress.com at anytime in the future.
Once you're done, scroll down and click "Create Blog" at the bottom of the page.
You'll be asked if you want to update to a paid option, and you'll be offered a significant discount. Don't feel pressured to upgrade, as the discounts are available at any time.
Step 3: Confirm Your Email Address
Wordpress.com will send you an email confirming your registration. To activate your blog, check your email, then click the "Activate Blog" button in the Wordpress email.
2. Set Up Your Blog
Step 1: Choose a Title and Tagline
When you click the link to Activate your blog, you'll be taken to Wordpress.com and guided through setting up your blog.
First, you must choose a blog title and tagline. As with your blog address, make them memorable and relevant to your business. In particular, you'll want to include what you do somewhere in the title or tagline, so visitors to your blog immediately know that you're a writer, consultant or designer. This also helps people who are looking for your services find you on Google.
Don't worry too much about making it perfect, as you can change your blog title and tagline at any time.
You also set your language at this stage.
Step 2: Choose Your Theme
In Wordpress, how your blog looks is determined by your theme. Themes are a simple way to change the appearance of a website without having to know any code.
Initially, you'll be shown nine themes, some free, some paid. You can browse more themes by scrolling down and clicking "Show More Themes" at the bottom of the theme list. As with your title and tagline, there's no need to agonize over this decision, as you can change your theme at any time.
To find out more about a theme, click on the theme name. You'll be given an overview of the theme's features, and a bigger same view of the theme.
If you want to take a look at a different theme, click "Back to previous step".
Once you're happy with your theme, it's onto the next step.
3. Create Your First Blog Post
Step 1: Select Post Type
Once you've selected your theme, Wordpress guides you through creating your first blog post. You can choose to share a text post, a photo, a video a quote or a link.
Note: Blog posts are typically multimedia, and can include any combination of these media types.
For this tutorial, we'll create a text post, as this is the most common type of blog post.
Step 2: Try Out The Editor
You'll be taken to the Wordpress editor. If you used a web-based email client such as GMail or Yahoo, this will look familiar you. Essentially, it's a basic word processor.
Using the toolbar at the top of the editor, you can make your text bold or italic, create a bulleted or numbered list, selecte text alignment, insert links and quotes, and conduct a spellcheck.
Type one or two sentences into the editor and play around with the different options.
Step 3: Pick a Title
The title or headline is the most important part of any blog post, as from the title readers will decide whether or not to read on. In the title bar of the editor, type your title.
Step 4: Write Your Blog Post
Next, type out your blog post. As you're learning how Wordpress works, it doesn't matter what you write. Like everything on Wordpress, you can change the blog post later, or delete it if you want to.
Step 5: Add an Image
Images grab the eyeballs of your readers and encourage them to read your blog post.
To add an image, start by placing the cursor in the editor where you'd like the image to appear. At the start of your blog post is a good place.
Next click "Insert Photo" next to the title bar. Browse your computer to find a suitable image.
To edit how the image appears, click on it, then click the small button (it looks like a mountain) that appears at the top right of your image.
You can choose how the image is aligned, and give it a title.
Step 6: Add Tags
Beneath the editor, you can insert tags for your blog post, separated by commas. Tags allow you to organize your blog post into different categories. Don't worry too much about tagging your first blog post. You've guessed it, you can edit tags later!
Step 7: Publish Your Post
Finally, click "Publish Your Post." The post you've created will now be live on the Internet.
Type the web address of your blog into your web browser, yourblogname.wordpress.com. Admire your beautiful creation!
Step 8: Rinse and Repeat
To add more blog posts in the future, visit Wordpress.com, log in with your username and password, and click "New Post" in the top right.
Blogging really is that simple. So go on, now you've read the tutorial, follow the steps and get started today!