Over the last 15 years I’ve started a ton of blogs. It’s something I get excited about. I used to spend weeks setting up and designing my new blogs, including my main business blog. When I decided to start this blog, I knew that I needed to focus on setting up a quality blog quickly, and on a budget.
At the request of a couple of friends who really want to know how I do what I do, I decided to document my journey and share the best tools I found to start a self-hosted WordPress blog on a budget. The result was a start to finish setup time of two hours and less than $120.
Keep in mind that depending on your level of expertise and the options you choose, time and cost may vary. This is really so simple that anyone can do it!
This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through these links. I’m sharing them because they’re the best I’ve found for easy, affordable WordPress blogging. You don’t have to use my links, but I sure do appreciate it if you do! Read my disclosures for more information.
Start a WordPress Blog on a Budget
WordPress.org vs. Self-Hosted
One of the most common questions I see from WordPress newbies is: WordPress.org or WordPress.com? I dislike this question because it makes it seem like you need to sign up for one of the two. You don’t. When you get your hosting, WordPress is installed for you on your domain – for free. You won’t need to visit either WordPress.com or .org during this process. Read the hosting section for more information on how easy it is to set up your own self-hosted WordPress blog.
- A domain name – $10.69
- Hosting – $14
- Site Theme – $69
- Header or logo – $20
Buy a Domain Name | 10 minutes
My favorite place to buy domain names is Namecheap I almost always buy .com, which at the time of this post is $10.69. However, they have a lot of options for $2-$5. You can save quite a bit of money by buying a domain with a different extension, but you also want to make sure that you like what you buy.
If you already have a domain name for a blog on another platform (like Blogger), don’t worry. This puts you a step ahead of the game, and it doesn’t matter which company you bought your domain name through. You won’t have to transfer the name or anything fancy. You will follow the same steps as those with a new domain name through Namecheap. I’ll explain a little bit more about this in the hosting section.
Get WordPress Hosting | 30 minutes
There are a lot of hosts out there, and I’ve tried many of them. After host-hopping a bunch, all of my WordPress blogs are now hosted on Flywheel. All of my other blogs have been migrated to Flywheel, so this was the first time I set up a brand new blog on their hosting first. Flywheel is specifically for self-hosted WordPress sites.
Because Flywheel is only for WordPress, the dashboard is very simple. WordPress is already installed and available instantly. You can find more information and get your hosting here. The Tiny Plan is a great place to start for your new blog. That’s the plan that this blog is currently on, and I love it!
Use a host that works specifically with WordPress and includes advanced support.
The Next Step…
The most time consuming part of of this process is getting your domain servers changed to point to your hosting account. There are tutorials on how to do this, but I always take this shortcut: Contact the company you purchased your domain from. If it’s Namecheap, use their chat support. Give them your name servers from your Flywheel account (next to the U.S. Flag) and ask them to point your domain there. That’s it. It’s super easy! It does often take a few hours to see everything working, so I always take a break after this step and come back to it the next day.
Once your domain name servers are updated, you can access your WordPress account at www.yourblogname.com/wp-admin/. You can also click the “ADMIN” button from your Flywheel dashboard.
If you choose a host that’s not Flywheel, contact them to find the easiest way to get WordPress installed on your hosting account. It’s often just a one-click install. Again, I recommend Flywheel because that is already done for you.
Flywheel also has fantastic support, so you can call them at any time if you get stuck. They’re experts at WordPress, so they will be able to answer a lot of your WordPress questions that other hosts cannot.
Choose and Install a Theme | 25 minutes
In the past I’ve purchased themes from a variety of sites. There are some awesome theme designers out there. However, when I help friends setup their WordPress sites, they almost always get stuck when it’s time to personalize the site.
This time around I decided to try a new theme site. I stumbled upon My Theme Shop when searching for a mobile responsive template that was easy to customize. What I really liked was that I could demo the different themes, and see what it looked like on desktop and mobile. What I liked even more was that I could customize every template to the exact color scheme I wanted. Most pre-made themes just have a few color schemes to choose from. I knew I wanted to do black, white, red, and gray for this site.
For my purposes, the Feminine theme seemed perfect. I wanted a basic blog with the Instagram slider at the bottom. As with all WordPress themes, I could customize it to have the main page look any way I wanted it, but this time I wanted a quick and easy setup that anyone could do.
Here is what the customization looks like in your WordPress dashboard after you install. It’s all in one place – from choosing the colors of the site to adding a header and choosing your Homepage setup. Simply navigate here by clicking “Appearance” and then “Theme Options”. This is the most detailed customization I’ve ever seen on a pre-made theme, and it’s incredibly user friendly. If you scroll down a bit, you will see how much customization is available in the theme dashboard.
One important thing to note about My Theme Shop: They have a ton of deals when you purchase themes and plugins (I saved $10 off regular price, and another friend only paid $19 for the same theme on a special promo), but they want you to renew and pay again the next year to continue to get updates on the theme. You can easily turn this subscription off in your My Theme Shop dashboard and still be able to use the theme forever.
Having the support the first 12 months is awesome, and the theme is yours to keep and use without having to pay a dime more – as long as you cancel the renewal.
Once you purchase your theme, you’ll need to install it on your WordPress blog. Navigate to your WordPress dashboard, then click the “Appearance” menu. Find “Themes”, click “Add New”, and then “Upload Theme”. If you haven’t downloaded the theme file from My Theme Shop, do so now. It should be a compressed (zip) folder. If it’s no longer a zip (Mac automatically unzips), right click and compress the file to turn it back into a zip. It has to be a zip file to upload it.
After you upload it, activate the theme and it will now be live on your site! Here’s what it looked like on mine before I did any customizing:
Purchase a Header & Customize the Site | 45 minutes
I’ve made a ton of headers for my blogs, and hated every one of them. I discovered that the best way to make my blog look professional was to hire a professional. However, I don’t like paying hundreds of dollars for this, or having someone design something that doesn’t fit my vision.
What I do is search for “premade logos” on Etsy. You’ll find a ton of templates designers have made already for $20-$30. Choose one that looks like it would fit well with the template you chose. Something square or rectangular is usually my go-to because it works well on my blog and as a watermark on all of my images. When I saw this triangle logo, it was instant love!
Read the descriptions carefully. You want to choose one where you send the designer your blog’s name and they customize it for you and send it back in a variety of file types. A transparent png file is very important to have for both the blog header and to watermark your images.
Within 48 hours, I had my design files back and they looked awesome. After you get your logo design, head back to your WordPress dashboard. Choose the “Appearance” menu and then click “Theme Options”. Under “General Settings”, you can upload your png file as the Logo Image. Save your settings and check your blog. If the logo seems too big or too small, contact the designer and see if they can resize it for you to fit better in the space. I googled “image resizer” and used a free one to change the image size to about 1/3 of the size the designer sent me because it was WAY too big.
“Menus” is the other section you want to check out when customizing your site. You can easily choose what you want on your navigation menus. You’ll probably come back to this part when you actually have content on your site to link to in the menus.
I also went through each page of the settings to customize colors and setup. In just a few minutes, my blog looked drastically different.
This is the fun part! Now’s the time to get comfortable with the platform and start adding blog posts. This is the best way to learn how to use WordPress and really see what your site will look like.
If you’re transferring content from an established blog on another platform (like Blogger), get professional help. I imported my posts in just a couple of steps using the WordPress plugin Blogger Importer Extended and changing the post link structure to prevent broken links, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this on your own if your blog is already established.
How to Get Help
If you have issues, or want to do something more complex with your blog, there are many great video tutorials on YouTube. My Theme Shop has a great YouTube channel with videos on all of the basics of using your WordPress dashboard. WordPress is a widely used platform, so there’s a lot of free information out there. If you chose Flywheel as your host, they can often help as well. It doesn’t hurt to reach out to them!