How to start blogging in South Africa

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I often get asked about why & how I started blogging, followed quickly by “how much money do you make?” On one hand you get the skeptics who think that blogging and social media is just a waste of time and “not a real job” while on the other hand you get the folk who think that they can make a quick buck with a blog.

So, if you think that blogging is just a waste of time; it isn’t! You really can make a living off it. However, it takes a lot of hard work and a good few years! I have been doing this part-time now for just over two years and although I do make some money, it’s not much at all and I still have a long journey ahead.

If you’re only interested to start a blog in order to make money then rather don’t waste your time. There are probably easier ways to make money. This needs to be a passion and you need to enjoy learning, experimenting, interacting with people, social media, writing, etc.

So having gotten all of that out the way, let’s get going with how to start a blog in South Africa. It’s probably the same process in any country but I’m in South Africa and will share my experiences from this perspective.

Start with a “why”

Before jumping into anything start off by asking yourself why you want to blog and what it is you want to share. What do you want to get out of it and what do you feel you can offer.

You definitely won’t have all the answers and you’ll figure a lot out along the way. However, if you’re going to spend 1 – 2 hours every day blogging then you better have some sort of idea why you want to do it.

Don’t choose a category based on what you think people will like; just write about what you know and like and figure out how you can help others who like the same things as you. A blog needs to reflect you and it needs to be useful, honest, high quality and interactive.

You don’t have to commit to the next 10 years, just think about why you want to blog and take it from there.

How to set up your first blog

Let’s be honest, there are literally thousands of internet companies who will offer similar hosting packages and blogging platforms. And most of them will probably do a good job. You shouldn’t get too hung up on who you host with and how you do things as you can always change things along the way. It’s unlikely that you will have a massive following and huge page views in the first few months so you even decide on a new name for your blog later on and that won’t be too big a deal. (The SEO experts may argue, but really, things start off slow)

It’s easy to get caught up in the details and waste lots of time instead of just starting!

What system to use?

If you Google the term “blogging platform” you’ll find all sorts of systems and sites out there. The popular ones are all relatively easy to use and will serve you well.

WordPress.comPersonally I like to use WordPress (along with millions of other users) and I’ve being using WordPress for over 10 years for various business and personal sites. I find it quick and easy to learn and to set up.

Remember that any system you choose will take a day or three to learn so instead of chopping and changing, just use something that is well established and take the time to learn how to use it.

Self-hosted or system hosted?

And the next question is whether you want to sign up for hosting somewhere and host your blog or whether you’re happy to use the WordPress (or similar) platform to manage your site.

As I’m using WordPress I also just host on their platform. It’s costs a little more but it’s the simplest for me. If you think that time is money then sometimes paying for a service is just simpler.

As an example, you can search for a hosting provider, learn how to use the system they provide (often called CPanel), learn how to install WordPress (or contact support), ensure that all files and folders are secure, search for a nice template, etc… or you can just spend 10 minutes and use the quick and easy option. Again… you can change things later.

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Pros of using WordPress on their hosting platform

  • Everything just works – quick and simple
  • Not necessary to deal with a hosting company
  • Awesome chat support (only for paid plans I think)
  • They manage security patches, upgrades, backups etc
  • Paid plans have free premium templates that are approved by WordPress and don’t have any dodgy scripts
  • You get JetPacks plugin which tracks all your stats for you (costs a fair bit if you buy it seperately)
  • The mobile app just works with your site; no issues
  • You are immediately part of the WordPress “social system” which allows others to follow your blog, like posts and get email updates
  • Everything just works (oh, I mentioned that LOL)

Cons of using WordPress on their hosting platform

It’s expensive – self hosting in South Africa can cost around R20 – R50 a month (eg Afrihost) whereas a Business Plan on WordPress costs $300 which at my last renewal was around R4,300 (about R360 per month). That’s 10 times more expensive.

NOTE: You can get 20% off WordPress if you use this voucher before 31 August 2019 : DISCOUNT20 (but try it even if it’s past the date, this voucher code is often active – #JustSaying)

However, I have 2 blogs on the WordPress system and would recommend it any day. Seriously. To me it’s better use of my time.

Start your blog for free using WordPress

I started this blog about 2 years ago and didn’t pay a cent for the first 3 months until I knew what I was doing and what I wanted out of this. Let me explain…

Firstly I signed up for a free WordPress plan and just started blogging. Sure you have the ads, the WordPress branding and the funny domain name but let’s be honest, no-one will be reading or finding your blogs for the first few weeks. So this is a great way to test the waters and see if it’s something you enjoy and feel you can do.

The free plan is limiting but there is enough to get you started.

I kept blogging on the free system for about 3 months before I upgraded one notch so that I could get a free “.blog” domain (which I still use) and get rid of the ads. And then I kept this plan for many more months before I eventually jumped in and upgraded to the Business plan.

WordPress.com

Using WordPress is really just one of many options out there but it’s seriously what I’d recommend. And, starting off completely free is super useful as you can play around and see if it’s what you want.

And what’s next?

Choosing your blogging platform is just step one of the journey. Now you actually need to write posts, find images, create social media accounts, decide how to share you awesome content, build an audience, etc….

It’s all a journey and it takes time.

Don’t try to do everything all at once, start off by focusing purely on content. Get at least 10 decent length (800 words or more) posts on your site and then start looking at sharing.

Remember that no-one will find your site initially so besides your friends and family who read it there may literally be no-one else. So don’t over-stress at the start!

Got questions or comments? Feel free to chat…

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