I started my professional writing career blogging. Yes, I know, most people don’t make money blogging, but I did, with an astrology blog on a now shuttered network. While I didn’t earn much money, I earned some, and while doing so I learned the fine art of blogging.
Its a given these days that writers should have their own websites. Every blog about writing I’ve seen advises so. There is nothing like putting yourself out there on the ‘net announcing you are a professional writer.
There are those of you who set up your Google Blogger blogs or your WordPress.com blogs and are happy with them. First off, they are free, which is a boon to underpaid writers everywhere. Secondly there is ease of use. If you don’t know how to set up a website there is nothing like preset templates to get you started.
But if you want to announce yourself as a professional writer there is nothing like the cache of your own domain name on a self-hosted site. Even with a free WordPress template you can make a very professional looking site for very little cash. There just isn’t a reason anymore for anyone to spend hundreds of dollars on a personal website even if my son, the website designer, needs the work.
WordPress is my platform of choice. There are literally hundreds of free templates and plug-ins that add functionality to your site.
So what are your first steps? First you need a domain name. Again there are hundreds of domain name providers, all with different pricing. I went with GoDaddy, and currently keep all my domain names there, though I might, when the price is right switch them to my hosting provider, Hostgator. Depending on various sales you can get your domain name from $10 to $20 dollars a year. Some domain providers advertise cheaper prices though those are usually one time sale prices for the first year. If you can manage it, buy your domain name for more than one year. It looks better to people like Google if your domain name has a shelf life longer than a year, but we’ll talk about that more in another post. If you can’t afford that, you need to work harder selling your work. The second is deciding on your host provider. I use Hostgator because I got a deal where I pay $15 per month for unlimited number of sites. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of buying domain names you start collecting them like you eat potato chips. Well at least I do, though it is a well known fact that I can eat only one potato chip and walk away from the bag. So it is a boon to have such a deal. And since the sites don’t draw mega traffic it works out just fine.
I like Hostgator though other people complain bitterly about them. They are cheap, relatively speaking. They keep my sites up. I can add as many new websites as I like, and access to WordPress templates through Fantastico, an installer program, is free. If you are searching for places to host your site, beware those that charge for every feature, such as email addresses and templates. It just isn’t necessary.
Once you get the hang of this not only can you snicker when your friends proudly display their Google blogger sites you can say with some pride, “Well, I self-host mine.”
Next post we’ll talk about actually setting up your site so until then buy your domain name and find your hosting site.