Tuesday, 16 April 2013

KOP Setting Up Your Home Base Part 2: Building a Website

Last post we looked at planning your homebase. Now we are finally onto the fun bit:
Starting your own webpage!
Yes, believe me this is the fun, if time consuming part. If you are at the stage I was at when I started out, then you probably know very little about starting your own webpage.

Writing yes! Web design… um, no.
However, if you are prepared to spend some time playing around with it, don’t mind it not being perfect, and have already sorted out things like personal branding, this can be a fun, creative process.

First of all, did you all do your homework and draft out what you wanted on your webpage? Hmmm?
If not, take some time to roughly work out how many pages you want, any special widgets you need, rough drafts of content to being with, etc. This will make life easier.

And now we will move onto how to start your own webpage.
While for your blogs and other anchor level things you can use free hosting such as blogger and wordpress, for your home base I’m going to recommend that you actually buy your own domain name. It looks more professional and you have more control. (and imagine if you became super famous and someone else had already bought it! Gotta think ahead.)
If you are just starting out and not yet sure you want to be a professional writer, start with just a blog and see how you go with that. But if you know you want to create an online image as a writer, and are ready to jump in, follow me!

Steps To Setting Up Your Own Webpage:

Step 1 Web-Hosting:
If you have your own domain (eg. www.thebuffygroup.com), you still need to go through a company to host your webpage. This is probably the most expensive part. Though, we are still only talking about $5-10/month.

Keep in mind that it might take you about a year to really take off, if you haven’t got an audience already, so you sort of need to have at least $120 to start this enterprise to cover the webhosting, which usually wants at least 1 year paid upfront.
I use Bluehost (aff. link) and I have been really happy with them. I’ve had to contact customer service a number of times. I've always gotten an email from a real person, and they were very understanding of my incompetence, refunding me when I accidentally signed up twice. There are other webhosts out there, but these guys aren’t that expensive, have great customer service even for Australians and have really useful tutorial videos to help you.
Some webhosts have different priced options. I would recommend making sure you have the following features:
  • More than one domain allowed. (domains are cheap to buy, so why not have everything on a personalised domain if you are already paying for hosting?)
  • You might want addon/parked domains if you already have purchased domains somewhere else.
  • You definitely want WordPress hosting (though most seem to do this).
  • If you get a free domain name chucked in, that’s pretty cool, but worth about $10 all up.
  • Also, a lot of them offer Google Adsense credit, etc. Read the fine print, because they are usually only for US residents. (Very sad.)
  • Keep an eye on the storage space. Looking around I’ve got unlimited, and some start at 100GB, but I just found one that offers a whole 1GB! I have USB sticks with more storage than that!
  • Also, check out how many email addresses they offer. You probably don’t need hundreds, but one offers only 2, so if you want to run competitions or separate out writing emails from consulting emails, it’s a bit limiting.
  • Also, starting off as a writer I don’t think you need your own toll-free number, just saying.
I always recommend  that before choosing one you do a quick Google search for reviews. If everyone talks about how slow and how often it goes down, being cheap isn’t going to make up for that.
Once you are happy, start their sign up process!
(Signing up is usually a very easy step by step process, so I'm not going to take you through it. Though feel free to email me if you get stuck and I'll see what I can suggest.)

Step 2: Choose your domain name.
You want to make sure your domain name is simple, easy to remember, and directly related to you.
I recommend sticking to .com (or .com.au, etc.) because these look more official, and strange things can happen to the less well known endings (such as the time Google dropped off all .info from their search engines for a day or two! Weird, I know. But that could be a lot of lost traffic). Keep in mind that in Australia, to get a .com.au domain you have to be a registered business. My simple solution (though I am now a registered business) was just to grab the .com version of it where there are no such restrictions.
When thinking of a name, keep in mind that you need to be able to say it and for people to understanding it easily. Therefore, I recommend against too many hyphens, numbers, weird punctuation, etc. Numbers are difficult because people don’t know whether you mean the numeral or the word. Of course, I’ve fallen into that trap with ‘thefivedaywriter.com’ and do often get asked. One easy way around this is to buy both domain names, and just have one forward to the other.
Finally, make sure it is not too easy to confuse with another domain already out there in the same field. You don’t want Joe E Blog to get all your Joey Blog traffic.

Step 3: Buy your domain name.
When you sign up for webhosting you can either buy a domain name through them, or migrate one across you already own. Pros to buying it through them is that it is super easy, and it’s there waiting for you. Cons are that it can be a bit more expensive (like a dollar or two) and certain hosts only offer particular types. I found this out when I tried to buy thefivedaywriter.com.au only to be told they didn’t sell Australian domains (though they would host them if I bought it somewhere else). In the end I just went .com, to give it a more international domain of mystery feel so it all worked out.

Otherwise, you just go to a site like godaddy.com and buy one through them. You can shop around, but consider the time it takes to the difference in price (a few dollars). Just think how many words you could write in that time.
When you buy a domain name there are lots of other add-ons you are offered such as privacy, security alerts, backup options, etc. I ended up paying to have privacy, though I don’t know how important this actually is. But it makes me feel safer at night. The other features you would need to look into and see what’s important to you.

Step 4: Load WordPress.
Well, it doesn’t have to be WordPress, but unless you are awesome at coding, you will need to load some sort of sort of publishing platform to allow you to actually put things on your website.
If you do have a budget for getting up and running, many people recommend actually hiring a web designer to create something unique and personalised for you. This can be expensive ($5,000 sort of thing), but you might also be able to find a graphic design student who would do it for you for cheaper, if they can use it in their portfolio etc.
However, it is perfectly possible to create a good looking website by yourself using WordPress.
Now, I'm recommending WordPress for a number of reasons.
  •        Lots of people talk about it, and if they like it, it must be good, right?
  •     It is made to be really easy to use.
  •     It has a large collection of ‘themes’ you can use. A theme is basically a template which gives the site its overall look. These can be edited and personalised, but having more choice is always good.
  •     Because so many people use it, people have created lots of additional add-ons which you can use.
  •    Also, with so many people using it, there are lots of tutorials out there on how to do anything you might want to know.
There are probably a lot of other reasons to choose it, but those won me over.

Now, installing WordPress is going to be different for each webhost. But here is the tutorial for installing WordPress on BlueHost.
Still stuck? Just search in YouTube for some instructions.
Step 5: Customising Your Web Site.
Now is the fun part, customising your website. This is really up to you and what you want. WordPress has a large number of themes already available, you just have to choose one you want, activate it, and then go in and change things as you like.
I recommend watching the BlueHost series of tutorials which include changing the theme and appearance of your site, creating a page, uploading photographs, creating a static page, etc.
I'm going to set you a challenge to help you get used to just playing around with everything the website has to offer. Don't worry, you can't really stuff things up too badly, and it is better to learn now because you have content and traffic, so you can just start from scratch if necessary.
I want you to create your webpage with at least 3 different themes, trying to capture a different feel each time. For example, make up the sophisticated version, the hipster site, and the B-Grade horror movie version. Feel free to surf around different blogs and sites to get some ideas.
And remember, this is meant to be fun!  
Once you have the site set up, the design as you like, and the pages with information on them, now is the time to start getting traffic to it!


  1. Those are some really useful tips for a beginner to start off, with a self-hosted blog!!
    However there's this nagging question that I have. Why should I start with a paid hosting, when there are so many popular blogs that allow us to use their hosting for free. So no hassle of hosting, and we can focus just on our writing.

  2. Great question. There are definitely great bloggers who stick to their blogspot/wordpress.com url (for example Paperback Writer makes a stance on it). I've only just moved over to my own domain, and I did it partly because I wanted to look more professional, and partly because everyone said I should. So I don't have a great answer, but I've done a bit of research for you, and here are other people's good answers that might help:

    1. Reason I did it and a lot of others do is because having your own domain gives you more creditability, showing the blog isn't just a free marketing tool.

    2. You don't own your domain with blogspot (etc.), Google (whoever) does. Consequences? Break their rules and they can close your blog down. Also if it becomes a huge hit, you can't sell it. Maybe important to you, maybe not.

    3.You have more control and can load different platforms, which becomes important when you want to do more specialized things.

    4. It affects you ranking in google. Google doesn't give as much credibility to subdomains, which the .blogspot.com makes your blog. This means less traffic in the long run.

    5. Also, I like the fact I can get my own email addresses. You can get me at BuffyGreentree@thebuffygroup.com or at Buffy@thefivedaywriter.com. Cool, huh?

    In the end, the point of a killer platform is to make your mark as a professional and get readers that would otherwise never find you. If getting your own domain can get you more traffic and convince them you are serious about your writing, it's worth the investment. But if you are not sure you want to go all the way, jump in with a free site and then when you start making it, move over to your own domain.

    Does that help?

  3. Bluehost is definitely one of the best web-hosting provider for any hosting services you might need.