So you want to learn how to create a blog for free and make money? I’ve been blogging since 2015, and my blog took me from high school band director to 7-figure business owner in less than 5 years.
This guide will walk you through the process of starting a blog, from picking what you’ll blog about to how to make money blogging. I’m also going to explain the differences in learning how to start a blog for free versus paying for hosting services.
How to Create a Blog for Free & Make Money in 2021
Step 1: Decide what you’re going to blog about
The first step to starting a blog is deciding what the heck you’re going to blog about. It’s great if you already know your topic, but please read through this section because I’m going to focus on choosing a profitable topic.
There’s a difference in blogging as a hobby and blogging to make money.
Like, say your hobby is crocheting sweaters for miniature ponies, and you want to blog about that to share your passion with the world. That’s great, but there’s not a lot of opportunities to monetize a miniature pony crocheted sweater blog — it’s just too niche. That means there’s not a wide enough audience, and you run the risk of not having enough content either.
The most successful blogs (aka, the ones that make the most money) take a broad topic, like food for example, and then narrow the focus down, but not too narrow. I know that sounds vague, so let me explain with an example.
Take my blog, Millennial Money Man. I decided to create a blog to talk about personal finance, but that’s way too broad. I niched down a little to focus on millennial personal finance, which makes sense because it’s what I know.
But millennial personal finance is still a pretty broad topic. So I niched down even more and started my blog to focus on three pillars of millennial personal finance: make more money, save more money, pay off debt.
If you want to create a blog but are struggling to decide on a topic, here are some things to think about:
What are you passionate about? Enthusiasm shows in your writing and readers love that. It’s also important because you need to love the topic enough to write 100+ blog posts about it.
What do you know a lot about? Is there a topic you can explain to others or a skill you can help people learn? You don’t have to be a foremost expert, but you need to make sure your knowledge comes through in your content.
What are you interested in learning? Watching someone learn something new can be incredibly compelling. There’s failure, success, and humility. It’s a major way to connect with people.
Did you go through a major life change? People love transformational stories — big debt pay off, adopting kids, major physical transformation, etc. There’s probably someone else out there who’s trying to do the same thing. You can blog about your experience and help others.
I know this sounds cheesy, but no matter what topic you choose, be yourself. It’s your unique voice, story, and message that people will help people connect with you. Don’t feel like you need to be something you aren’t.
Step 2: Get your blog online
You need a domain and hosting service to get your blog online. Your domain is your .com and a host is what makes your blog accessible to people on the internet. It’s a service that keeps all of the files secure on your site.
There are free blog hosting platforms — Blogger, Medium, Tumblr, Weebly, and even WordPress has a free option. Free blog hosting is geared towards hobby bloggers, not bloggers who want to make money. That’s an important distinction, and I want to explain more about why you should pay for a hosting service.
Self Hosted vs Free Blogging Platforms
While you can use a free blogging platform it’s not recommended. If you want to make money you are building a business, you’ll need full control of your site.
Self hosted sites allow you to personalize your domain name.
With a free blog, your domain name is going to look something like awesomeblog.blogger.com. It will have your site’s name followed by the name of whatever free blog host you’re using. It doesn’t look professional, and people won’t take you seriously.
Whether you agree with that or not, the reality is that a personalized domain name is how you get readers and potential partners to look at you like you mean business.
With a self hosted site your domain will be awesomeblog.com. Which looks so much more professional.
Free platforms actually own your blog.
The free blog host actually owns your site, not you. The risk here is that when you eventually decide to move to a paid platform to make money, you can lose readers because you don’t have real control over your site. There’s the potential to lose all of the content you worked so hard to create.
They can change a feature you depend on or just decide to remove your blog altogether. You don’t have any actual control.
Free platforms have very limited bandwidth.
Bandwidth is the amount of daya your website can transfer to your users in a given amount of time. Limited bandwidth won’t be a big problem in the beginning when there isn’t much content, but as you start to add more your site’s load time will dramatically start to slow down. Slow load time = poor user experience. It also negatively affects your rank in Google.
Free platforms limit your options to make money blogging.
You will be hard pressed to find an affiliate marketing partner or brand who’s interested in running sponsored posts with a free blog. Your domain name tells them it’s a free site, and that signals to them that you’re not taking it seriously. It’s a red flag for them.
The host itself can even ban certain affiliates (or all affiliates). They can also put ads on your site that they get paid for, not you.
Hosting isn’t as expensive as you might think.
Bluehost has blog hosting for less than $3/month. That’s less than the cost of a latte.
You get a professionally hosted site, and there are lots of really great looking free themes and plug-ins you can add to your blog when you pay for hosting.
The other great thing about Bluehost is that you can install WordPress for free — this is the best blogging platform IMHO. It’s what we use for this site and what I use for Millennial Money Man. There are a ton of features for beginners and professional bloggers.
Now that you know why to pay for hosting, these next couple of steps will walk you through the process of creating a WordPress blog hosted on Bluehost.
Step 3: How to start a blog hosted on Bluehost
Bluehost is a hosting service that stores all of your blogging files (images, HTML codes, etc.). You can think of it like renting a physical space for a brick and mortar business.
The reason Bluehost is the preferred host for many, many new bloggers is because it’s designed specifically for bloggers who are first learning how to start a blog but still want to take their blogs seriously and make money. That’s because it comes with the following features:
- Tons of free themes and plug-ins so you can ge a professional look without paying for web design services
- 24/7 customer service chat support
- A free domain name for your first year
- WordPress comes with Bluehost
This last one is key: Bluehost gives you ownership of content you put on your blog.
Now that you know why I love Bluehost, here’s the 3-step process for creating a blog on Bluehost.
1. Select your Bluehost plan
When you head to Bluehost, there are three plans, but I recommend the Basic plan for new bloggers. It’s only $2.95 per month when you sign up through our exclusive Bluehostt link.
2. Register your domain name
Your domain name is your blog’s personal address on the internet. Most bloggers use their blog’s name for their domain name. You can come back to this if you don’t have a name for your blog yet.
Below is the screen that pops up after you’ve selected your Bluehost plan:
Here are some tips for choosing a name for blog blog and domain name:
- Easy to spell. Don’t confuse people with weird spellings.
- Easy to remember. It should be something that people can easily recall.
- Related to your blog. Your blog’s name should give people an idea of what your blog is about.
- Stick with a .com domain name. Avoid .net or any other weird .whatever stuff. It just gets confusing
3. Create an account
You need to create a Bluehost account to finalize everything. This is how you log in and out of Bluehost, and it’s also how you pay for the hosting services you just selected.
If you want the special $2.95/month pricing, you’ll want to choose the 36-month option. It’s a much better value, and you won’t have to worry about billing for three full years.
You will be asked about extras, but keep it simple. You do not need all of the bells and whistles when you are first learning how to create a blog.
The only one that I suggest is the Domain Privacy Protection. This hides your contact information, so pretty important and worth it at $12/year.
Then you enter your payment information and click the box saying you’ve read the terms and conditions.
Almost there… Now you need to create a strong password for your brand new Bluehost account. It should be a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s 2021, you know how to create a strong password by now.
Like the screenshot says: nice work! Congrats, you just created a brand new blog!!
Step 4: Install WordPress
WordPress is a content management system, basically that means it’s a tool that lets you blog.
Installing WordPress is fairly easy, but if you get overwhelmed at all, we have a free service called Launch That Blog, and our team handles the entire WordPress installation process and delivers it to you in 2 business days.
- Creating Blog Posts in WordPress: A Step-By-Step Walkthrough
- The Key Ingredients to the Perfect Post (Step-By-Step Video Guide)
- The Professional Blogger’s Toolkit
- The Blueprint to Building a Profitable Blog
- Facebook Ads 101 Training For Bloggers
- BONUS: How to Customize Your Blog — my web developer for Millennial Money Man has put together a special bonus training showing you exactly how to customize your theme to make your blog look great in minutes!
If you feel like you want to try it on your own, here’s how to install WordPress on your Bluehost blog:
1. Log into you Bluehost account
You will need to enter your domain name and password here:
2. Name your site
If you already named your site when signing up for Bluehost, you can skip this one. There’s also an option to create a tagline, which gives a little more explanation about your site. You can always come back to your tagline if you’re not sure.
3. Tell Bluehost a little bit about your blog
The information you enter tells Bluehost what kind of plug-ins and tools it should recommend. These will help you get set up to reach your goals as far as what you want to do with your blog.
4. Pick a theme for your site
The theme is what your blog looks like. WordPress has some really nice looking free themes, and you can always change it in the future. Most bloggers change the look of their site overtime, and eventually you will land on something you love.
When you’re learning how to create a blog, the design is way less important than the content you’re creating.
WordPress has a ton of beautiful free themes, so don’t feel pressured to pay for one.
Once you pick a them, you should get a screen that looks like this to tell you that Bluehost is working on installing your theme:
And when it’s all ready…
Read more at Learn How to Build a WordPress Blog.
Step 5: Start building your blog audience
Too many new bloggers are only focused on pageviews. While they are important, you want to build an audience of loyal fans. These are the readers who sign up for your email list, ready all of your content, share it with their friends, follow you on social media, and click on your affiliate links.
The difference in lots of pageviews over loyal fans is the same as quality > quantity.
Every new blogger starts small, and it can take a little time to feel momentum — that’s completely normal!
Here are tips for building your audience:
- Get on social media. Pick one social media platform to begin with, and use it to share content and interact with readers. You can go ahead and set up accounts on other platforms, but you only need to use one in the beginning.
- Reach out to other bloggers. Email other bloggers in your niche and see if they would be interested in guest posting on your site. This is free exposure for you. You will be more likely to get a “yes” if you reach out to smaller sites than massive blogs.
- Post on a regular schedule. Decide on a sustainable posting schedule, like 1-2 blog posts a week that you publish on the same days each week. You might be excited and want to write 7 posts a week, but you will burn out quickly if you try to stick to that schedule.
Step 6: Learn how to make money blogging
Bloggers make money in a variety of ways. The strategy you choose often depends on where you are with your blog. For example, a brand new blogger probably won’t be able to make money selling online courses, but they can use display ads or freelance.
With that in mind, here’s how you can make money blogging in 2021:
You can use your blog to promote a variety of freelance services, and your services don’t necessarily need to relate to your niche. Here are a few ideas:
- Run Facebook ads for local businesses. Digital marketing is an in-demand service, and you can learn more about it here.
- Manage Pinterest accounts for other bloggers. This is promoting other people’s sites on Pinterest, and you can use those skills for your own blog too.
- Virtual assistant. You can perform any number of tasks for other business owners – email management, social media support, bookkeeping, scheduling, etc.
- Freelance writer. A lot of bloggers hire freelance writers for their sites, and your blog can act as a portfolio for your writing.
- Graphic design. You can design logos, templates, stationary, printables, and more. You can link to clients on your blog, and eventually sell some of your design products.
- Copy editing/proofreading. You can work for other bloggers and business owners who need help polishing their content.
Bloggers who freelance often have a “Hire Me” or “Work With Me” section on their blog where they can explain their services.
2. Display advertising
Display ads are ads that you see popping up on the sides or bottom of a blog. A blogger decides where they want them on their site, and the ads are run through an advertising network like Google Adsense, Mediavine, or AdThrive.
You make money when people click on those ads (CPC, cost per click) or by the number of people who see the ads (CPM, cost per impressions).
While you can make money with display ads, I don’t recommend them when you first create your blog. You don’t have a large enough audience to make them worthwhile, and they can diminish the quality of your site when trying to find those super important first readers..
I recommend that you don’t try to make money blogging with display ads until you have at least 50,000/view per month. I’ve seen bloggers at this point have much more success with them.
For more on display ads, listen to Episode 93: Make a Living Off Your Blog (Without Display Ads).
3. Affiliate marketing
Making money with affiliate marketing is when you work with other businesses and promote their products or services on your site. You’re paid a small commission when one of your readers makes a purchase through one of your unique affiliate links.
The products and services you promote must somehow improve your audience’s lives. Think about it like this, you’ve worked really hard to build trust with your new readers, and promoting stuff that doesn’t help them undermines all of your hard work.
Affiliate marketing, when done well, can build even more trust with your audience. You tell them about something that helps them, they buy it, and it actually helps them — that’s major trust.
If you want to learn more, check out Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. She regularly earns around $50k per month in affiliate income alone.
4. Sponsored posts
Sponsored posts are also known as paid partnerships. It’s when a company pays you to write blog posts and possibly some social media posts to promote their products.
For example, if you’re a food blogger, a company might pay you to mention their kitchen tool, like an Instant Pot or Ninja Blender.
You’re paid a flat rate and given parameters for the post, like what images to use, how to phrase certain things, links they’d like to include, etc.
The best way to make money with sponsored posts is to only promote products and services you truly believe in. Same as affiliate marketing. If you’re asked to write about something you don’t like, then don’t write the post. It’s not worth risking your reputation for a paycheck.
There are a few different ways to find sponsorships:
- Join a sponsored network: Sponsored networks can help you connect with brands that would work well for your niche. Some networks to check out are Izea, Linqia, TapInfluence, and Pollinate.
- Reach out to companies: You can contact companies through their media or PR contact (you can find these on their website or LinkedIn). Email them with an explanation of who you are and what your blog is about. Be prepared that they may ask about your number of pageviews, and other blog stats.
- Make it easy for companies to contact you: Make sure your contact info is easy to find on your blog, a simple “Contact” or “Work With Me” tab is good. Have your social media links integrated on your blog, and your website link on social media is also helpful here.
5. Sell digital products
Selling digital products can be a fairly passive way to make money blogging, because they’re not physical products that you have to worry about manufacturing, storing, shipping, etc. There’s also a lot of different kinds of digital products you can sell on your site.
Some ideas for digital products are ebooks, planner pages, budget spreadsheets, how-to guide, calendars, to-do lists, and printable gifts (like thank-you cards, invitations, etc.).
Here are some examples from The Savvy Couple blog:
In addition to those, they have a debt payoff tracker, 52-week money saving challenge worksheet, a 40-page Christmas planner, and more.
Your blog will need an ecommerce function to sell digital products, and that’s one of the nice things about WordPress — there’s a Shopify plug-in and other ecommerce features. You won’t have access to all of that stuff with a free blog.
6. Create an online course
If you follow very many blogs, then you’ve probably noticed over the years that more and more bloggers are selling online courses. There are two really good reasons for that: online courses can be a pretty lucrative way to make money blogging and you can add real value to your readers’ lives.
That last point is key if you’re thinking about creating a course. It must do something good for your readers, like ease some friction in their lives, relieve a pain point. Think about what they need help with and go from there.
If you’re interested in learning more, read Learn How to Create an Online Course in Just 9 Steps.
The final word on how to create a blog for free and make money
If you want to make money blogging, then you will need to pay for hosting services. You want to own your content and be in control of how you monetize your blog. You also need it to look professional.
If you’re thinking, “I’ll start with a free blog host and then start paying for one,” it’s not that simple. You run the risk of losing content and losing your audience. Your time is worth an investment in a paid host like Bluehost. It’s as little as $2.95/month when you use our exclusive Bluehost link, and you can then use our free Launch That Blog service to help you set your site up.