Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used and loved and would never recommend anything I don’t actually like. This way you get a great product or service and I get extra money for ice teas in the coffee shops I work from 🙂
As many of you already know, I recently started my Digital Nomad Job Challenge in which I pledged to try out 10 new online jobs over the next 10 months to help me on my quest of becoming a digital nomad.
There are quite a few reasons why I did this, it sounded like fun and a good challenge, it will hold me accountable and I will learn a lot of new skills. But the main goal was to prove to myself (and others) that you don’t have to have a tech background to be a successful digital nomad. Sure, if you’re a web developer you will be well on your way to location independence, but you don’t have to be a coder in order to become a digital nomad.
Now hang on a minute! “If you’re not a techie then how the hell did you set up your own blog?” I hear you ask.
Well, you got me. This is the exception to the rule: in order to blog about not being techie I had to learn some basic tech skills!
But the good news is, if I can figure out how to do it (a girl who still hasn’t mastered using iTunes after 11 years) then you can do it, too. And in this quick beginners’ guide to WordPress I’ll give you a little overview!
Figure out if you need a blog
It seems like everyone and their dog nowadays has their own blog, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you are on your way to location independence there are many paths you can take, and not all of those necessarily mean you absolutely need a blog. So if you already have a blooming freelance career to sustain you, then you might be able to keep going with your current clients, just as you do at home.
However, if you’re reading this blog it probably means you’re just starting out on your digital nomad career, like me. In this case, I would definitely recommend starting your own blog/website. First of all, web design skills are becoming more and more important, and I feel being able to set up a simple website is almost like being able to use emails nowadays. And secondly, having your own website is a great way to show your talents to the world and connect with future clients or colleagues to collaborate with. Even this teeny tiny little blog has already helped me get some work, because people read it and liked what they saw. You can set up a “work with me” page and make it easy for potential clients to contact you.
WordPress, Joomla, Squarespace, Wix…. who are they and how do I pick?
There are many ways to create a website, but as a non-techie I would suggest going with WordPress. Why? Because it’s (relatively) simple, highly customisable, cheap, and there is a TON of support out there. Support is really, really important, and not only when you’re starting out. So many things can go wrong that it is nice to know that there’s a whole community out there to help you. For me, the support and the flexibility were most important, so I chose WordPress, and I am really enjoying learning about it every day.
To self-host or not to self-host, that is the question!
Ok, so you’re going with WordPress, great! Are you ready to get started? Hang on, not so fast! There is still the all-important question of which is the right one, WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
What, there are two WordPresses? What kind of tricks are they playing?
That’s how I reacted when I found this out after I had already started my blog on wordpress.com. This was a big mistake and something that took me literally years to fix (because I kept on freaking out, that’s why I’m writing this guide). WordPress.com is a simple and free blogging platform, which was designed for beginners and people who really just want to share holiday pics with their families. The .com blogs are hostel by WordPress, that means they live on WordPress servers, but in return have very limited functionality.
If you want to do anything more than share your breakfast pics (and you do, trust me) then you MUST go with WordPress.org. This platform is run by WordPress, is also free, but you have to buy your own hosting. Yes, it costs more, but you have SO much more flexibility. It’s like comparing an old Nokia 3310 with the iPhone 6. Exactly.
Now you only have to pick a hosting provider and there are soooo many out there. Again, pick one with great support as you will need it in the beginning and even later on. I have spent so much time in live chats that my support person invited me to their kid’s bar mitzvah. Just kidding. But seriously, get good support.
For my blog, I use Bluehost, which is amazing and has the BEST support, but they are not the cheapest. If you want as cheap as chips with good support then you could also pick Siteground, which I am using to build websites for friends at the moment.
What does all the gobbledygook mean?
The jargon alone put me off many times when I was ready to get started. Domains, hosting, servers, WordPress?!?! What is a plugin and do I need one?
It can be totally overwhelming, but try not to get scared! Take it step-by-step and just google every term you don’t know. I literally had no clue what hosting was before I started.
The domain is the name of your website, i.e. the www address. So in my case it is www.squarehippie.com. If you don’t have a domain yet you will have to buy one. There are many different places that sell them and they are called registrars. GoDaddy is a popular one, but personally I use 1&1 domains because they are very cheap and have quite good support. You can also buy your domain from your hosting provider; many of them even give you one for free. Remember that you have to pay for your domain every year, otherwise someone else can snatch it away from you.
So if you are confused about any lingo, don’t despair. There are so many blogs and tutorials out there, just google it or search for it in YouTube.
Installing WordPress. Where is it?
This was super confusing for me in the beginning. When you sign up for WordPress.org it tells you that you have to install it. I am used to downloading apps and software and installing them on my laptop (I’m not THAT un-techie), but I just couldn’t figure out how to install WordPress. After helping others with this I now realise that is a pretty common thing for beginners.
So basically, you are not installing WordPress on your laptop or PC, but on your shiny new hosting provider’s server that you just signed up for. Ahaaaa!
So the hosting provider is the place where your new website or blog lives, it’s all online! Both Bluehost and Siteground offer simple one-click WordPress installation services for you, so you don’t have to do much at all. Then you get the link to your WordPress blog login page and the login details and voilà, you can start building your website!
A theme is a theme is a theme, or is it?
Every WordPress installation comes with a pre-installed theme, this is always the standard theme of the year, this year it’s called 2015. There are millions or billions of themes out there for you to pick from, but sadly, not all of them were created equal.
What I did and I recommend you do, is pick a free theme in the beginning and play around with it. This way you will learn what you like, what you don’t like and what the limitations are. Once you have a clearer picture of what you want your theme and your website to do and to look like you can go ahead and buy yourself a nice little theme.
You can get free themes either from the WordPress theme store or from other sites. I used to have the Sparkling theme from Colorlib and was quite happy with it.
When you’re ready to purchase a great theme for your site you should make sure that some of the basics are ticked. One of the most important things is that it is responsive. That means that the theme automatically adjusts its design and content to different browser sizes. This is incredibly important nowadays as more and more websites are being viewed on smartphones and tablets. Other than that, your theme should offer great support (that again) and a lot of flexibility. And if you’re planning on having multiple languages on your website then pick a theme that is multilingual.
Personally I tried out a few free themes, and then decided to buy the Divi theme by Elegant themes. You pay yearly but get access to all 89 Elegant themes and can use them on as many websites as you like. I’m using it on 3 different sites already and am building friends’ websites with it, too. Divi is incredibly flexible and just really pretty. It is easy enough for me to use as I don’t need to know any coding, but if I do want to play around with the code that is also very simple. But best of all is the support by Elegant Themes and other blogs and forums that specialise in Divi. I can literally find out how to do anything, just by asking around. And on top of that it is actually a lot of fun to play with Divi!
What are plugins and where do I plug them in?
Themes offer you a lot of flexibility, but if you need even more, you use a plugin. These are like little apps that you add to your blog that provide all sorts of functionality. For example, Akismet is a free plugin that makes sure no spam comments are left on your blog, or BackWPup is a backup plugin that saves regular backups of your blog in case anything ever goes wrong.
Many plugins are free and you can get very far with just those to start out. Whenever you have an issue, just google the problem and add “plugin” and you will most likely find a solution. Just make sure you don’t go crazy, only install the plugins you really need as having too many can slow your site down and cause compatibility troubles later on.
You’re ready to roll. Now what?
If you’ve followed all the steps to this point you’ve got a fully functional WordPress website set up. Yay! Now you just have to fill it up with great content. I suggest writing about your interests and services and to help others. If you’re a travelling online yoga instructor you could write about the best yoga poses to do on an airplane, for example. Just anything that adds value to you and others. And, of course, don’t forget the fun stuff.
Remember to create a Work With Me page so your readers can find out how to hire you for your services. Always include your social media buttons (there are plugins for that!) and a contact page, but most importantly, try different things and have fun learning.
Congratulations, you have now created your first WordPress website, all on your own! You rock!!!
Now I want to hear from you! Have you ever built a website before? Was it super hard or a piece of cake?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used and loved and would never recommend anything I don’t actually like. This way you get a great product or service and I get extra money for ice teas in the coffee shops I work from J