March 6

How To Start A Blog: This Is What I Recommend


Lately, I have had several people reach out to me asking if they should start a blog on or a self-hosted blog.

Starting a blog on is FREE and that is wonderful but it comes with some important limitations. For example, you can't have Ads, eCommerce or Premium Themes. You can upgrade your package and get a few options but the cost can add up quickly.

If you are blogging for a hobby and just trying to have a good time, then seriously consider

Starting a #blog doesn't have to cost a fortune. Here is how to do it cheaper.

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Starting a blog doesn't have to cost a fortune.​

But if you want to monetize your blog and funds are short for your launch, a self-hosted blog utilizing is your best bet.

If you want to grow your blog and sell products on it, I highly recommend a self-hosted blog.

Regardless of your pathway to blogging, you will likely wind up spending some amount of money. Of course, that is assuming that you ever go beyond the beginner package at

You do not need to spend too much money to start your blog.

Technically, you could start blogging on your own domain name for less than $50. 

Update April 11, 2016: SiteGround has lowered their hosting fees. They were at $6.95 a month and now they are back at $3.95 a month. This price $3.95 is a 60% price reduction for new accounts. 

This is the blog setup options that I recommend:

Basic Self-Hosted Setup: Total Cost $47.40

  • Hosting & Domain ( SiteGround )
  • WordPress Theme (Free Theme)
  • Free MailChimp Account
  • EverNote
  • WordPress Plugins (listed below)

Self-Hosted Setup With Premium Theme: Total Cost $96.40

Self-Hosted Total Package With Bonus Items: Total Cost $319.50

  • Scrivener
  • Thrive Content Builder
  • Thrive Leads

Web Hosting

Bonus: Download a free checklist of the first plugins that I always install on a new WordPress Blog. 

Blog Hosting: $47.40 for year one

First Choice: SiteGround

SiteGround is the company that hosts my blog and our blog. These are our two most important projects.

As you will see below, this cost includes a FREE domain name. This is a big deal for the cost conscious blogger. Domains generally costs an additional $14.99 the first year, so this is a nice bonus.

The package that you probably want to start with:

Shared Hosting StartUp $3.95 /mo

  • ​This is a perfect starter package and should get you thru a full year of blogging.
  • Comes with a Free Domain name
  • Includes Free Daily Backup
  • Includes Email
  • Free CloudFlare CDN

This is the hosting package that I personally started with. However, I am now using their GoGeek package because I am hosting multiple blogs and I like their Geeky features.

If your traffic increases beyond 10,000 unique monthly hits, no problem. That is a happiness problem and you can just upgrade your account.

WordPress Theme

I do not even know how many free and premium themes there are for WordPress these days. The options are truly endless.

But not all WordPress themes are created equally. When you are first starting your blog, I highly recommend that you pick a theme that is easy to setup and easy to use.

The Premium WordPress Theme

My go to theme shop these days is Thrive Themes. The only downside to Thrive is that it does cost money. However, the benefits tremendous. If you have the money, then I would highly recommend that you buy one of their themes.

My Most Recommended WordPress Theme:

Focus Theme by Thrive Themes: $49 Single Site License

Thrive Theme Focus Blog:

I am currently running this theme on my latest blog and I didn't touch the code at all. I installed it, read the directions and was up and running immediately.

Note: Below in the wish list section, you will notice that I highly recommend Thrive Content Builder and Thrive Leads. These are not must have items but they sure make blogging easier.

You can get the entire suite of Thrive Products: Themes, Plugins, Thrive Content Builder and Thrive Leads for $228.

Note: If you use my affiliate link above to buy this theme and then run into trouble, I will help you. It is that easy to use.

The Free WordPress Theme

If you are not prepared to spend money on a theme, do not let that keep you from blogging. You can ALWAYS upgrade your theme later. I changed WordPress themes 3 times in 2015 alone.

The most important part of blogging is providing content that your readers care about. While design matters, it matters less.

This is the WordPress Theme Directory for Free themes: Be careful because you can get lost in a world of indecision.

My recommendation is to read the reviews and to pick something simple. Whatever you do, don't spend more time on your blog design than you do on your content.

Start Collecting Emails Today

The biggest mistake that I made in blogging is not starting my email list sooner. Do not be like me. Go ahead and create a free MailChimp account today.

MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. You will never regret this.

Do not write directly in WordPress

This week we are going to have storms in my part of the world. This means that we could lose power at any moment. Web browsers sometimes crash for no good reason. In the world of digital, things just happen.

This is why I highly recommend that you write your posts on a piece of software that is on your computer.

Evernote is free to start and I wrote in it for years.

There is a slight learning curve with Evernote but it is truly slight. Also, it is cloud based, which means that it will sync your information between computers. You can even install the Evernote app on your phone and keep writing from there.

The Free WordPress Plugins that You should start with




Yes, there are plenty of other plugins that I am currently running on my blog but these are the bare bone plugins that I would recommend to start with.

Bonus Items:

Scrivener has become my absolute favorite writing software. These days, I do almost all of my writing inside of it. Sure, I use Evernote every single day but Scrivener is my new love. It is designed for one thing, writing.

You do not need this but I promise you, if you write much, you will want it. But, if your budget is tight then put this on your wish list and write inside of Evernote.

Scrivener Affiliate OS: $45

Scrivener PC: $45

Thrive Content Builder

This software makes WordPress beautiful. This is what I use to stylize my blog posts with beautiful boxes and responsive tables. It has is what I use to create landing pages.

For years, I built custom websites for clients and I would spend weeks custom coding pages to be beautiful. With Thrive Content Builder, I can do the same work in minutes.

As much as I love this software and as much as it has changed our lives, it is not a must have product. I can honestly say that I would give up Netflix before I would give it up but if your budget is tight and you are just starting to blog, this can wait.

Get Thrive Leads for WordPress

Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is how I create beautiful email newsletter signup forms. I use to create the signup form at the top of my blog, the pop-ups and the in-post forms.

The most amazing part of Thrive Leads is the templates. They have so so many different types of templates. No code is required at all to make them work.

As you can tell, I am fanatical about The Thrive Product line, so much so that I created an entire blog that is primarily dedicated to them:


Considering that you can start blogging on your own domain name for as low as $47.40, there is no real reason to not start blogging today. I have even created a FREE 13 video series on how to get your blog up and running on SiteGround

If you want to have the same blog setup as me, you can have that for $320.50. For that price you will have the best of everything that I recommend. However, you don't have to take that route to start blogging. You can always upgrade as you go.

Will you start blogging today?


How to start blogging, Start a WordPress Blog, What You Need To Start Blogging

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  1. This is a great post, Renee! I have been a fan of Scrivener for planning and writing for many years. There are far too many VERY decent WordPress themes out there to pay anything for one. However, as your blog audience grows, so should your site…so, there is that.

    Also, the one plugin that I simply can NOT do without is Akismet. it keeps all the spammers away! :o)

    Again, great post! I’ll be sharing!

  2. I get the shivers when I see business people with a plain old WordPress URL blog. This does nothing for your business. Blogs drive traffic to your website, which helps improve your search engine ranking. And your website is where you convert the leads generated by your blog into paying customers.

  3. Great tips for beginning bloggers Renee! I almost allowed myself to get distracted by going to view new themes…but it is like being in a candy shop. I have always purchased premium themes but a part of me wants to switch it up.

    1. Rachel,

      I so agree with you. I am moving all of my sites to Thrive Themes. But I love getting a new theme for my blog as much as I like buying a new outfit. It is not always the best time for it.

      P.S. Rachel is my first name. :)

  4. OMG.. yesssss a blog is SOOOOO valuable for a business owner, if a ‘regular’ business or an MLM.. it gives you so much opportunity. Only thing I would add.. MailChimp has regulations as far as MLM’s go and Aweber is better integrated. Yes, you are paying at the beginning, but the goal is to GROW!

  5. I started with .com and wish I had started with .org. I now have it all transferred and love the .org. I will be checking out the plugins. Thanks.

    1. Karen,

      I hope that your transfer was as smooth as possible. One of the issues with such a move can be driving your existing traffic to the new location. Yes, these are some great plugins that I use very single day.


  6. So much good info, Renee. Much like you, I have learned what I could have done a bit better. Like how building an email list as early on as possible is a top priority. I’m a fan of Evernote as well. Your blog set up options section is a beginner’s dream. We all learned when starting out that it was going to cost some to get going, but once you start seeing results, you then view that as an investment in your business over just spending money.

  7. Where were you when I was told to start blogging? There really wasnt a good guide for my type of business. I had to unlearn things I thought were for me but didn’t fit. I love my theme & setup now & work with an editorial calendar.

  8. This post is full of good information for beginning bloggers and will help them with making choices. I like your words, “The most important part of blogging is providing content that your readers care about. While design matters, it matters less.” That is so true. And should be reassuring to the beginning bloger.

  9. Hi Renee :)

    Excellent post on how to start a blog! So many awesome tips and must have tools to start blogging right :) I highly recommend using WordPress for blogging as it is much easier and you have your choice of awesome themes to make it more branded to you :)

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!!

  10. Renee, excellent post. Nice tools recommendation too. I guess everyone needs to get Thrive Leads if you’re building a list. It’s one-time payment, so much cheaper vs other tools like Leadpages where we have to pay recurring. I am using it for all my sites and a happy customer. Glad to see Reena recommend it here to everyone ;)

    1. Verena,

      Yes, the one-time payment is just one of the things that makes Thrive Leads such a wonderful tool. Lead Pages is a great tool by a wonderful company but Thrive is my go-to for sure.


  11. Oh, I wish I had known this when starting out. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best options. I appreciate that you mentioned Evernote, that’s something I’m going to check out.

  12. Renee – Wow. I had no idea: “Starting a blog on is FREE and that is wonderful but it comes with some important limitations. For example, you can’t have Ads, eCommerce or Premium Themes. You can upgrade your package and get a few options but the cost can add up quickly.”I switched to WordPress because my old blog host wouldn’t allow me to share content onto Facebook. I’ve been on WordPress for several months now, and am happy with it. However, I had no idea that I couldn’t have ads if I elected to do so. Yikes!Even though I’m a neophyte at all of this, I so enjoy reading blog posts such as yours so that I can tuck away these cool bits of info if/when I need it. I may bet into the 21st century yet!

  13. Hi Renee,

    I wish I found your guide when I made my website. It is not easy when you don’t have someone to show you the ropes. I love the way you wrote this article and it’s so helpful. Thank you!


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