7 Steps to Start a Successful Blog on a Budget

A 5-step guide for busy moms who want to know how to start a successful blog on a budget. Earn an income from home and get started on less than $12/mo.

My blogging income in January was $14,757. While that is a record for me, I have been making a full-time income since 2016 and a healthy part-time income since 2014 from home through my blog, even as a busy mom with two toddlers at home.

Whenever I actually tell people that I write and blog for a living (which is rarely), I get the head tilt, eyebrows scrunched look and the dubiously-asked question “How do you make money blogging?”

Despite this awkward reaction to my unconventional business, no one could be more surprised than I am that I am able to make a steady income from home by blogging.

I never started out to make blogging a business. When I began GrowingSlower in 2011, a couple of months after my oldest was born, it was simply to fulfill my personal need, yes need, to write. As a newly stay at home mom, it was also a connection to the outside world and an opportunity to share all I was learning about simple and frugal living.

It was years before my blog started earning any significant income, quite by accident, and in that moment I realized that just maybe I could have the best of both worlds.

I could use my love for writing to authentically share my passion and experience to help other moms reach their financial and family goals. And at the same time, I could help my family by earning a much-needed income.

In fact, my blogging income played a key role in helping us get out of debt in under a year. Blogging has allowed me to afford to stay at home with my kids as I’ve transitioned to blogging professionally.

Blogging lets me help support my family as a stay at home mom and live debt free. It isn't easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
My life is full of strollers, Legos, homeschool curriculum, and in my “spare time”, working from home blogging. It isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Image Credit

Here’s what I now know. If you have a passion you are longing to share with the world, if you’re willing to work hard, and if you start out following a few simple guidelines for starting your blog the right way, you can make an income blogging, even in the midst of a busy family life and on a tight budget.

Looking back on my blogging journey, I can just imagine how much more quickly and easily I could have reached this point if I could somehow have known when I started what I know now about how to become a successful blogger and make money doing it.

But since that’s not possible, I am sharing everything I’ve learned with you, so your path will be that much smoother. Nothing would make me happier than to help out another busy mama who is wanting to start her blog. So, here we go!

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Earning an Income Blogging

Almost daily, I receive emails from busy moms who have been curious about blogging for a while but aren’t sure where to get started or how it can be turned into an income. They love writing and have so many ideas they want to share with the world through blogging and earn an income at the same time.

If you’ve been thinking about blogging, don’t wait another day. Start now, so you can start growing your blog and your income. I’ll walk you through it step by step. Here is a comprehensive guide for how to start a profitable blog on a budget.

Blogging is one of the few businesses you can start on a tiny budget where you get to share your passion with the world right from your dining room table.
It’s a beautiful time in history where you can share your passion with the world right from your dining room table, and earn an income doing it. All you have to do is start! Image Credit

This post includes affiliate links to many of my favorite affordable blogging resources. At no cost to you, I earn a small commission when you click one of my links and make a purchase.

How to Start a Successful Blog on a Budget

These 5 steps to start your blog will take no more than an hour to complete. Then you’ll have all the basics in place to start sharing your message with the world!

1. Choose a Host

The first step to starting your blog is to pick a host. A “host” is a company that houses your blog online and allows it to be seen by your readers.

There are free options out there. I started out on the free blogging platform Blogger. Unfortunately, this was a huge mistake that really held me back from growing my readership and my income until I finally switched to self-hosted WordPress October 2014. That’s when things really started to take off!

The first and possibly most important step to become a successful blogger is to find a host. Make sure to go with a paid host, so your blog will be "self-hosted". It's so worth it! This image is a graph of my blog traffic coming from google. I was getting almost no pageviews from Google when I was on a free blogging platform. Almost as soon as I switched to a paid host, you can see the graph dramatically increased and continued to grow. The few dollars a month for hosting really paid off and helped me grow my blog and income in ways I just couldn't do before.
Before I switched to a paid WordPress host, I wasn’t even a bug on Google’s windshield. Now it’s my #2 traffic source.

I always assumed that it would be too expensive to pay for hosting for my blog. However, this just isn’t the case. Starting a blog is very affordable.

(I am an affiliate for Bluehost because they offer reliable, affordable hosting for new bloggers. I earn a commission if you purchase a hosting plan through one of my links.)

If you’re just starting out, Affording Motherhood readers get exclusive pricing as low as $2.95 a month for hosting when you click one of the links in this post!

For a new blog, I recommend choosing the starter plan and then upgrading as needed. Most likely, you’ll be just fine with the starter hosting for quite a while.

If I were starting a blog today, I would 100% go with a paid host with WordPress as my blogging platform.

Here’s why I chose to pay for hosting:

  • It is MUCH more affordable than I imagined.
  • Shows up in search results much better. (My search traffic has increased by 1928% since I switched!)
  • Many more options for creating a user-friendly, professional-looking site.
  • More control of your own content.
  • More options for income through products, ads, and sponsorships.
  • Very easy to use.

Simply put, there’s a reason why WordPress is the most popular blogging and website platform in the world. And to use it, you need to choose a host. It only takes a few minutes to get set up with a host.

Bluehost offers automatic WordPress installation included with the cost of your hosting plan. They have a great reputation for customer service, affordable hosting, and are perfect for new bloggers.

So, if you want to start a profitable blog on a budget, your first step is to head over to Bluehost and choose your plan. Click the get started now button, and I’ll walk you through the basics of how to get your blog up and running.

When you're ready to get started you can click the image to go to Bluehost to set up your hosting. once there, click on the green get started button to start your blog. Congratulations! You're on your way to making money as a blogger!

I previously used Black Chicken and now WP Engine because I need more managed hosting now and a higher plan. These are more expensive than other options, but I have had a great experience with them both. Switching in the future if needed when your traffic grows is very easy, as long as you start out on WordPress.

2. Choose a Topic

Chances are if you’ve been thinking about blogging, you already have in mind the topic you’d like to write about. However, with so many blogs out there, is there room for yet another one about your chosen topic?

Here’s what I truly believe and have seen to be true again and again. You have a unique story and perspective. If you are willing to authentically share that on your blog, and just be you, you won’t have any trouble finding a loyal group of readers and make a good income.

You also might have heard that you need to pick a particular topic in order to make an income blogging. I have not found this to be necessary. It’s not like there’s a list of successful blog topics out there that you must pick from.

There are successful bloggers making part-time and full-time incomes in a huge variety of categories, especially “lifestyle blogs” which include fashion, budgeting, food, faith and lots more. So, whatever you’re into you can create a successful blog about.

You will certainly be the most successful if you blog about something you are truly passionate about. Again, it goes back to writing authentically in the context of your unique story.

Important Related Read: How to Choose the Best Blog Topic

The most successful blog topics are the ones you're passionate about, the ones you could sit down with your journal, a cup of coffee, and your laptop and write about day after day.

3. Choose a Domain Name

A domain name is the web address people will type in to get to your blog. For instance, the domain name for this blog is affordingmotherhood.com.

The cost for a domain is about $10 to $15 for the year. I recommend buying your domain name through the host that you’ve chosen to use, for simplicity sake. This will save you the extra step of connecting your domain to your host.

Bluehost offers a free domain name registration with their standard hosting plan.

In this step, you’re essentially choosing what to name your blog. That could seem a little daunting. However, it is not hard to change your domain name down the road if needed, so don’t stress over it too much.

There seems to be a trend now of people simply using some combination of their first and last names, so if you’re totally stumped, that’s a safe bet.

Just enter your domain name in the little search box to see if it’s available.

Next it's time to pick your blog name and domain name. Enter your desired domain in the New Domain box to see if it's available. Don't be too worried about picking the perfect name, as it's really pretty easy to change down the road. The best thing to do is just get started!

You’ll then be asked to enter your account information like your name, address and email address.

The next screen is where you officially select your hosting package. You can choose from a one, two or three-year plan along with a few other options.

If you’re going to be using your home address for your blog registration, then you’ll want to include the Domain Privacy Protection.

Next, enter your credit card info to pay for your hosting package.

Follow the instructions to set up the password for your account.

4. Install WordPress

WordPress is the blogging software that I use along with pretty much every serious blogger out there.

If you’re using a host other than Blue Host, at this point you would need to install WordPress. However, with Bluehost, that’s done automatically for you.

You’ll then be asked to choose a login name and password for your WordPress account.

This is the screen you'll see after you've registered your domain. Now it's time to finish setting up your hosting account.

For better security, don’t use ‘admin’ or your blog name for the Username.

An important note…at this point you’ll be asked to pick a theme. I recommend that you skip this step for now. I’ll explain more in a minute about why this is important and what to do instead.

You did it! Use the Admin URL in your account to login to your new blog. I am SO excited for you!

Congratulations! You just started your blog! Click “Start Building” to login to your new blog.

5. Choose a Theme

A theme works with WordPress to control the way your blog looks. This is what will allow you to choose page layouts, fonts, colors, and much more.

There are free themes available, but after much research, I decided that a paid theme was definitely worth the small investment.

Here are a few of the reasons I chose a paid theme:

  • Higher quality theme by design professionals
  • Updates for latest web changes, guidelines, and security
  • No risk of hidden malicious code
  • Ongoing support

The last thing you want to do is put time into customizing your theme and then find out a couple months later that it doesn’t comply with the latest updates, or worse yet has some hidden code that is compromising your blog and your business.

For my theme, I use and recommend Elegant Themes. You can buy an annual membership, starting at $89, and you gain access to all of their themes. (I recently upgraded to the lifetime membership because I’m not going anywhere.)

That means if you start customizing a theme and realize it’s not what you had in mind, you aren’t stuck. You can just download another one of their dozens of themes until you find the one that is perfect for you without any extra cost.

Elegant Themes has fantastic support and beautifully designed themes (as in both beautiful to look at and easy to use), and they’re constantly updating their library and resources. Best of all, they’re always here to answer questions if I run into a problem.

Important next step: How to Design Your Own Blog

(Everything you need to know about choosing colors, fonts, and creating a logo)

6. Start an Email List

Collecting the email addresses of your most loyal readers is one of the most important steps to growing your traffic and your blogging income.

Imagine you’ve just published your new and totally amazing blog post. You just know that this is going to go viral. Wouldn’t you like a large group of hundreds or even thousands of people that believe in your message to see it right away?

That is why you need an email list. It is free to start one.

When I first started out I used MailChimp for my email management system. It has a lot of good features. Best of all, it is free up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails every month. No credit card required.

How much does it cost to get started blogging?

So, based on the above recommendations, your total cost to start blogging for income is about $160 for your whole first year. If you look back to my interview with Gina Horkey, this is similar to the $171 she invested to start her successful freelance writing business.

Can you start a blog for free? Yes. From my experience, you won’t see the full fruits of your labor until you make the small investment to start your blog the right way. When you do, you’ll soon recoup your cost many, many, many times over.

There are few other businesses you can start with such a small startup cost and that give you the flexibility of working from home.

7. Monetize Your Blog

I know what you’re asking yourself. Before I jump into starting my new blog, how am I going to use it to actually earn an income for my family?

I totally get it! Blogging isn’t the most common career path, and it can be a bit of a mystery when you first start out, but I promise it’s all totally legit.

When people ask me about how I make money blogging, I use the magazine analogy. When you buy a magazine subscription, chances are the publication isn’t even covering its costs to print and mail you their magazine.

Instead, their income mostly comes from sponsors that place ads or articles on their pages.

With a blog, you provide free articles to your readers, while sponsors pay you to include their ads within the post.

In addition to ads, you can also earn income through affiliate networks, sponsored posts, writing books, and creating related products and services.

A lot of people wonder how bloggers earn an income, but it isn't that complicated or unusual. While there are many options, one common way is through placing ads within your blog posts, like magazines do.
One of the main ways to earn an income blogging is through placing ads in your articles, similar to magazines. Image Credit

Of course, bloggers can make a wide range of incomes, and most of it depends on getting started the right way and then continuing to stick with it.

I’ve already shared that I now make a full-time income blogging, but what about other bloggers?

In her 2016 post, Amy Lynn Andrews estimated that bloggers can make around 1% of their page views per month. So, if you have 30,000 pageviews, you might expect to make about $300 per month. In my personal experience, that seems a little low. I usually find myself anywhere from the 1 to 3% range.

In her book, blogger Ruth Soukup notes that the tipping point for earning $50,000 per year is about 300,000 pageviews per month. However, if you just need some part time income, 25,000 to 50,000 pageviews will get you around $10,000 to $15,000 per year.

For specific detail about how to earn an income blogging visit the following post…

Important Related Reads: 

How to Start a Successful Blog on a Budget

Here’s a quick summary of the 7 steps to follow to start your blog.

  1. Choose a Host
  2. Pick a Topic
  3. Choose a Domain
  4. Install WordPress
  5. Choose a Theme
  6. Start an Email List
  7. Monetize Your Blog

I wish you the absolute best with your new blog! Feel free to stop by the comments to share your progress or ask any questions. I’d love to cheer you on!

shannon Clark, LIFE & FINANCIAL Coach

As a mom, I know what it's like to feel exhausted, overwhelmed by life, and inadequate to meet my children's needs. But I also know you don't have to stay there.

As an author and coach, I've had the joy of encouraging more than 9.1 million moms to find forward motion with their faith, family, and finances — without the frenzy.

Will you be next?