Your website is how clients, customers, managers, agents, publishers, journalists, bloggers and podcasters find out about you and decide if you’re a fit for them

It’s where you connect with friends, fans and followers, show them what you do, who you are and how to connect with you.

And only here can you build an email list of like-minded people who love what you do.

It’s the heart and soul of your creative endeavors.

But most creatives and creativists are building their sites on free platforms. NOT the best option, people. 

In this post, I talk about why having your own self-hosted website is important, the two things you must have to get such a website working (a domain name and a hosting account), and give you  direction in how to set up a WordPress site that will work for you.

And all in under an hour.

(In a separate post, I’ll talk about how to attract more traffic and how to create a big email list and integrate it with your new website.)

Owning your own corner of the internet isn’t expensive, if you think of the return it will bring you, year after year.

And it’s quick and easy to set up using WordPress, a free, open-source platform written in PHP.

In non-geek speak, this means a powerful blogging and content management system (CMS) can be yours for a tiny investment of time and money.

Why self-hosted?

Your website is your creative corner of the internet and so you want a self-hosted site. This gives you:

  • Control. If you own your site, no one can take it away from you. As creatives, control of our own assets is the base of our business. Nothing is more fundamental than our website. It’s our shop front, store room, cash register, and more.
  • More professional impression. Some clients, customers, managers, agents, publishers, journalists, bloggers and podcasters judge see free sites as unprofessional
  • More functionality. Self-hosted sites have access to a range of plugins that enable you to do very groovy creative things.
  • More traffic. There are also plug-ins that help you top optimize your site for search engines and increase your traffic.

 

How to set up your own creative website: Step by step

(1) Get a domain name

A domain is your address on the internet – usually your own name or business name e.g. OrnaRoss.com or AllianceIndependentAuthors.org.

You can get domain names at lots of places (GoDaddy.com is one of the cheapest options) but you can also use the hosting site (Bluehost) that I introduce below, and have domain and hosting in one place.

(2) Get a hosting account

Your website host is where you store your site. Essentially specialized hosting companies lease you a little space on their computers. There are lots of good options out there. I recommend Bluehost, which meets the needs of most creatives and creativists very well.

Why Bluehost?

It’s:

  1. WordPress recommended. There are only four hosting companies recommended by WordPress and Bluehost is one.
  2. Easy to use. (I’m totally not techy so that’s my No. 1 requirement)
  3. Reliable. Bluehost’s “up time” averages 99.9%No limits – unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains, email accounts – so your site can grow
  4. Affordable.  A few $ a month depending on which plan you pick and a discount off the advertised price through the link below
  5. Returnable. Bluehost offers a 30-day money back guarantees.
  6. Great customer service. Excellent 24×7 support by email, online chat or phone

How to set up your account on Bluehost, claim your domain and install WordPress

Click here to go to the Bluehost site.  The first page will give you an option, depending on whether you have a domain or you need to get one.

Choose an account plan. The Plus plan allows you to build more than one site but you can start small and upgrade later. Enter your payment details.

You’ll get a confirmation email saying your account has been created and your domain assigned. You can now set up a password for your account on Bluehost. This is your administration password so keep it safe and easily accessible.

 3. Install WordPress software

Bluehost makes this super easy. Either you will get a pop-up which says “Install WordPress”, or click the icon on the control panel.

Once installed, you will receive login details. Again, keep this safe and easily accessible as it is the Administration access to your new website.

4. Find A Theme

Congratulations! You now have the bones of a great website. Now we need to add some flesh.

The final step before you start adding your content is to choose, and install, what’s called a WordPress Theme. This is a template that gives you the design, the look and feel, sometimes called the “skin”, of your website.

You can update the theme any time, without your content being affected. I’ve changed themes twice on OrnaRoss.com but all my blog posts since 2008 are there.

You can find an up to date selection of great free themes here

If you’d like to invest some money, you can buy beautiful themes at StudioPress. There, a premium theme with SEO (search engine optimization) and mobile compatibility (see below) can be had for under US$100.

Whether you choose paid or free, ensure that the theme:
a) is mobile responsive — most people look at creative stuff on their phones and tablets now. Make sure your theme adapts effortlessly to all devices.
b) is SEO — search engine — friendly. (In another post I’ll explain why SEO is so important and introduce you to a great plug-in for it)
c)  has a track record. Choose a company that has been around for a while and has good customer service. Look at the ratings and customer comments, both of which are excellent for Studiopress.

5) Choose Your Theme

  • I use the Himmelem theme for OrnaRoss.com, Kubasto for AllianceIndependentAuthors.org and Canva for SelfPublishingAdvice.org. All have been customized for the various needs I brought to the themes.
  • I wanted my personal website to be a colorful and inspiring experience for readers, authors, creatives and creativists
  • I wanted ALLi’s site to be clean and professional looking appropriate for an author’s association
  • I wanted the Self Publishing Advice center to be suitable to use for our online conference, Indie Author Fringe, as well as running an active blog site and evergreen pillar pages, full of advice, ratings and charts.

These are the sort of issues to take into consideration when choosing a theme but mostly it’s about a gut response.

Give yourself 30mins to browse, then make a decision. Don’t let this lead to procrastination.

Don’t get stuck in decision anxiety here. One of our creative mantras in The Creativist Club is: production not perfectionism.

You will find as you go on that you’ll change things anyway (it’s so easy in WordPress) and that’s part of normal creative evolution.

For now, just go ahead and choose something you like, so you can get it finished and up there, working for you.

6) Install And Customize Your Theme.

Whichever theme you choose, free or premium, you download it as a .zip file onto your computer. Thenon your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance -> Themes  to upload it.

Now you will want to customize it. Each theme comes with a guide to optimizing it, so you can make it look how you want it to look. Have fun with that, but again, don’t get stuck there.

7) Go Create!

So that’s it. Less than hour and you are now the proud possessor of your very own corner of the internet.

Now go create!