So you want to start a blog, or a website for your business? The options can seem daunting, I know.
In this previous post, I’ve run through all the basics you need to know for setting up a site and why I recommend what I do - but bottom line is, for just about all needs, I hands-down recommend a self-hosted WordPress site.
Now, I’m pretty tech savvy. I run a Web Design business after all. And while my partner is the programmer, I’ve always been a quick learner when it comes to computers and did a lot myself even before I met him. But I’m a designer and creative first, and even when I was starting out years ago, when people mentioned self-hosted WordPress, I got the nervous sweats. And that yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach, where you’re trying to wing your way through doing something technical, and kinda worried that at any moment you’re about to accidentally press a button that will break the whole internet.
I didn’t really know what 'self-hosted' meant, let alone how to do it. Even when hosting companies said they made it easy, it didn’t really seem that easy, and navigating it was as bewildering as if it had all been in a foreign language - which computer stuff pretty much can be!
It can feel tempting to go with the all-in-one companies like Wix or similar, because you just pay once and all the background stuff is done for you. But in the long run, I generally recommend against this, as while you feel overwhelmed now, you will learn over time, and you may come to find yourself quite limited by those platforms.
It’s a lot harder to shift and rebuild your whole site later than it is to start off from the beginning with WordPress, which has the flexibility and freedom to grow with you and do just about anything you want it to.
And fortunately, it is getting simpler and simpler. And it is possible for you to do yourself, and actually pretty hard for even the most techno-phobic to screw up. I promise.
So if you are wanting to start your own site, for your blog or business, let me walk you through the very basic steps to get started.
(I’m trying to keep it simple and straightforward but please feel free to comment with questions or get in touch if you’re still like, “Uh, what?” at any point.
And this post contains affiliate links, but only to the hosting company we use and highly recommend ourselves, after a lot of research and trying out a bunch of different even more 'techy' options.)
First, What is Self-Hosted WordPress?
Very simply, your website is a bunch of files stored on a computer. The URL (your domain name/website address) is the way other people access those files, which are viewed as your site.
Underneath it all, your site is a bunch of coding, which is a computer language, which then is ‘interpreted’ and displayed as the visual stuff you see and interact with.
So whatever platform you create your website on, you need two things - a ‘creator’ part, where you can put in text and images and all the coding stuff is done for you in the background. And a ‘host’ which is basically someone to manage, store and protect your files on a computer somewhere so it’s there to be viewed as a website. Somewhere out there are big rooms with heaps of computer systems storing all the files of all the websites on the internet. Fortunately, we don’t have to think to much about that side of it.
The all-in-one solutions combine both of those things at once. (Wix, SquareSpace, WordPress.com, the hosted version.) So you just pay them and they both host your site and provide you with a way to create it. Which can be a great solution, but also more expensive - you’re paying for convenience - and limiting as you can only create with the features they provide.
Self-Hosted WordPress means that you separate these two parts.
- WordPress is the platform to create your website.
- And you choose a third party host, whom you pay a monthly or yearly fee, to store your files on their system.
So it’s not ‘self’ hosted in the sense that you have to literally host it yourself, more that you just get to pick the host that does it for you. They do all the storing, protecting and maintenance of those computers so that your site keeps running.
Why is this better?
In a nut shell? Freedom, control and flexibility.
Self-hosted means you aren’t locked in. You get to choose the best deal, choose the plan that suits you - normally for a lower price than the all-in-one’s can offer - and are free to change at any time if you’re not happy, find something better, or outgrow your currently plan. (Get more traffic to your site etc.)
WordPress itself is also free to use when you go with self-hosted. So that means you are only paying the hosting company.
And then, for free, you get to use the very popular and flexible WordPress platform to create your website however you like it. If you use free themes and plugins, you don’t have to pay another cent.
BUT, you also can choose to buy premium themes and plugins if you want to. And this is a good thing - because WordPress is an open platform, whatever you need for your site is probably out there already. And you can even get people to create and install custom themes or plugins just for you, if you ever need it. Something you can’t do on the limited, closed-system all-in-one options.
Put simply, self-hosted WordPress means you are totally in control of your own website, how much it costs you, how it looks, what it does and how big it can grow. You can’t get that total freedom with any of the all-in-one options.
So while they might seem more convenient on the surface, in the long run, learning to use self-hosted WordPress (which is not as hard as you think once you get started) provides the most freedom and flexibility.
And fortunately, these days it’s really easy to get started!
How to Get Hosting & WordPress
We recommend SiteGround for hosting. They are well priced - and also reliable, fast (in terms of helping your website load quickly etc.) provide free SSL, and have great customer service.
And they provide good security and backups of your site. (Remember how I said you website is files on a computer, so you want the company managing that computer to be taking good care of it - so cheaper isn’t always better with hosting. You want to choose someone reliable first and foremost.)
We use SiteGround ourselves, and they have a great reputation from everyone else I've encountered who use them too.
They also have really easy auto-installation of WordPress - meaning, in a few clicks, you will have access to the WordPress platform to actually build your site.
They have instructions here, so you can see how simple it is. And they are also really helpful when you contact their support team, and will help you out.
(They also, at time of writing this, will do website transfers for free, if you’ve already got your site with different hosting and want to switch.)
So getting started is two easy steps:
- Sign Up for the hosting - which is as simple as going through any online shopping checkout system. You could do it in the next 5 minutes. (I'll wait...)
I’ve also created a free set of instructions with screenshots to guide you through it. (Free PDF, not opt in needed.)
- Install WordPress. Check out SiteGround’s instructions for this here.
And then you are ready to go. And that’s where the fun begins, of picking a theme and actually creating your site, either by yourself or by hiring others to help with certain parts. But that’s for another post.
If you’re signed up for a self-hosted WordPress site, you’re already off to a great start!
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We are always looking for the best ways to support you & empower you to not feel lost in the online world & to have an effective website. If there's anything you need to know & we don't have a post on it yet, let us know. We love to know what you need & can help with!