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.

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 your WordPress site.

In a separate post, I’ll talk about optimizing search engine availability, to attract more traffic, and how to start your email list and integrate it with your new website.

Why self-hosted?

Your website is your creative, your own corner of the internet. I see so many creatives choose one of the many free websites available on the web rather than invest a small amount of money in owning their own.  Bad plan, people.

You want a self-hosted site, because it gives you:

  • Control. If you own your site, no one can take it away from you. The foundation for your free site is the marketing muscle you give the company who owns the space on the Internet, collectively with millions of others. What if that company goes out of business or decides not to continue that service anymore? As a creative, control of our own assets is what creates your business. Nothing is more fundamental than your Internet site. It’s your 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. In WordPress, if you use their free service (WordPress.com), you’re missing out on a lot of very cool functionality. Self-hosted WordPress sites have access to fabulous plugins, enabling you to do so many creative things and increase traffic.

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, what that means is that the easiest to use, and most powerful, blogging and website content management system (CMS) available today can be yours for a tiny investment of time and money.

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’ll be introducing below, which is easier for you, as you’ll have domain and hosting in one place — and it is almost as cheap as GoDaddy.

(2) Get a hosting account

Hosting is where you store and run your website, on the computers of a specialized hosting company. There are lots of good options out there. I recommend Bluehost, which meets the needs of most creatives and creativists very well.

Why Bluehost?

WordPress officially recommends three hosting services and BlueHost is one of them. And little wonder. Bluehost is:

  • Easy to use. (I’m totally not techy so that’s my No. 1 requirement)
  • Reliability. Bluehost’s “up time” averages 99.9%No limits – unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains, email accounts – so your site can grow
  • Affordability.  A few $ a month depending on which plan you pick and a discount off the advertised price through the link below
  • 30 day money back guarantees.
  • 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 – either 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 payment details.

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

 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 fundamental machinery of a great website!

But it’s not quite fully functional yet. We’re almost ready for you to start adding your content but the final step before that is to choose and install a WordPress Theme.

The theme is the design, the look and feel, sometimes called the “skin”, of your website. What’s brilliant about WordPress is that you can update the theme over time, but the content remains. 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

And if you’d like to spend some money, you can buy beautiful themes at StudioPress. There, you can get a premium theme with SEO (search engine optimization) and mobile compatibility (see below) 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 can change 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)  is run by a company that has been around for a while and has good customer service. Look at the ratings and customer comments

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 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.

>One of our creative mantras in The Creativist Club is: production not perfectionism. You will find as you go on that you’ll change much of this later anyway (it’s so easy in WordPress), so now go ahead and choose something, you 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 and then go to Appearance -> Themes on your WordPress dashboard to upload it.

Now you will want to customize it. Each theme comes with a guide to optimizing it to be how you want it.

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!