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If you want to be a blogger or start a freelance writing business, you need to have your own blog or website. There are two ways to accomplish this: hosted or self-hosted blogging platform. This was my first predicament before I put up this website.
Although there are many blog platforms out there, I have to pick one that suits my preferences. What is the difference between hosted and self-hosted blogging platforms? Check out the infographic below:
Self-hosted platforms seem promising because you have full control of your blog’s functionalities from customizing to making money out of it. However, the downside is it comes with a cost and you must possess some technical knowledge. Do not worry, I’ve got you covered.
Full disclosure: This website or blog is made from WordPress.org.
If you’re like me who considers blogging more than a hobby, self-hosted blogging platforms like WordPress.org might be for you.
Before we delve into the technical side, let us familiarize ourselves with the technological terms you will encounter while reading this article.
What is a domain registrar?
It is a company that allows you to register a domain name by paying them depending on the installment setup (e.g. monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly, yearly) you’ve agreed upon. The domain registrar company secures your domain name on the web.
What is a domain name?
It is the name of your blog or website that it is exclusively yours, for example mine is freelancewritingiswork.com. Your domain name is your unique address on the internet and you should protect it by registering it through a domain registrar.
What is a web hosting provider?
WPBeginner provided an interesting analogy:
Web hosting is the place where all the files of your website live…if the domain name was the address of your house, then web hosting is the actual house that address points to.
What is a name server?
It converts a domain name into an IP address, which is a machine-readable string of numbers separated with a dot. Domain name and its equivalent IP address are the same. For example: website.com = 12.345.678.90
What is a SSL certificate?
SSL is an abbreviation of Secure Sockets Layer and protects your website from cybercriminal attacks. It acts as a shield and you may check it by looking at your web browser where “https” is shown before the domain name.
This is the fun part of this post for those who chose the path to self-hosted blogging platform. Here are the steps I went through that could help non-techie writers:
Choose a domain registrar
My perfectionist nature kicked in that it took me awhile (a month maybe?) to choose a domain registrar. How to choose the right domain registrar? From here on, I am not going to mention any company names and let the tips below be your deciding factor:
It should be reputable
Many registrars will claim that they are reputable and well-known. Or they are the best. Don’t be fooled though, and please, do your homework. I found online forums and reviews helpful, insightful and eye-opening. It steered me away from bad apples.
Accredited by the ICANN
ICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. It provides universal guidelines and rules that every domain registrar must follow. Make sure your chosen registrar is under ICANN’s jurisdiction.
Select a domain registrar that will not give you a hard time transferring to another registrar. Ask about their domain transfer policy.
In terms of pricing, not all registrars are the same. Besides from the domain name itself, compare prices of add-on fees like WHOIS registration, privacy protection and SSL certificates.
Check first the availability of your domain name. Visit this site and enter your desired domain name to find out if it is registered or not.
Choose a web hosting provider
I am not shy to admit it that it took me two months to find a suitable web hosting provider. Hey! I want only the best value for my money—my hard-earned money.
After I read the reviews and forums, I’ve leveled up my investigating skills by asking several web hosting providers some questions. One of the red flags a hosting provider sucks is how their customer service responds to your queries. It means their technical support is poor, too.
Moving on, here are the questions you should ask a hosting provider before buying a “house” from them:
- Can I contact your technical support agents 24/7?
- How do you handle SPAM or malware attacks?
- Do you provide backup? Is it free or not?
- Are your packages pro-rated or do you offer money-back guarantee?
- What are the penalties for cancellations or late payments?
- How do you handle downtime?
- What is your uptime guarantee?
- Do you have Let’s Encrypt Support to generate free SSL certificates?
- Is it easy to scale up or down my plan?
- What are the features of your cPanel? Is it included with website creation tools/apps?
- What if I exceed my bandwidth and storage limit?
- How many servers do you have and where it is located?
Uhm, I know this is quite a long list but it could help you make an informed decision. Conversely, you have to ask yourself your storage & bandwidth requirements; how many websites you will create; number of emails & databases you want and how much RAM will you use.
And, oh, don’t forget to ask your potential hosting provider the original or renewal price of your chosen web hosting package.
Separate your domain registration and hosting plan. Sure, 2-in-1 deals may be affordable since most domain registrar companies provide hosting plans; while web hosting providers attracts potential customers with free domain. However, don’t fall into this kind of setup. Why? For several reasons like:
- What if you found out you’re with a bad hosting provider? Domain transfers can be a complicated and time-consuming process.
- You’re planning to create not one but numerous websites.
- In case your hosting provider experienced a major security glitch, your domain name is safe elsewhere.
Point name servers to domain registrar.
Is your job done after you registered your domain and purchased a hosting plan? Can you now start creating your own blog? Not yet because you have to perform this step.
What is the role of name servers? According to WhoIsHostingThis, name servers are provided by web hosts, and they’re keys to your website being visible on the web. In other words, skip this task and you won’t able to see your website no matter how you search it. Kidding aside, you can still visit your website but you need to type its IP address on the browser, which is pretty inconvenient especially to your visitors.
This can be prevented by pointing name servers to the domain registrar. How? Follow this copy-paste step:
- Copy your name servers from your web hosting account. Their formats are like these: ns1.servername.com and ns2.servername.com. Get it from your web host’s account settings or from the email you’ve got after signing up with them. You may also ask the technical support guys if you’re having trouble finding it.
- Log in to your domain registrar account.
- Go to DNS settings. It is usually called “Domain Manager,” “Domain List” or “Domains.”
- Paste the name servers under the section labeled with “name servers” or “nameservers.” Do it in a chronological order, ns1.servername.com first followed by ns2.servername.com. If you want a more specific reference, find “Primary Name Server” and “Secondary Name Server” labels, and paste the name servers respectively.
- Save or update the changes you’ve made.
Wait for the name servers to propagate.
This is also called DNS propagation. It will take awhile for the changes to complete. Approximately, it is after three days or 72 hours. Sometimes it is about 48 hours or shorter. Why? The DNS servers all over the world need to update or refresh as well.
Create or add email accounts.
What for? Are your personal email accounts not enough? Verisign explained the importance of creating an email for your website as follows:
- It gives an impression that you’re established and professional.
- It shows you’re credible and your freelance writing business is legit.
- It promotes brand awareness and it is a way to make your website known online.
Moreover, you may need it the moment you create your website. Here’s how you do it:
- Log in to your cPanel account.
- Go to Email -> Email Accounts -> Add Email Account tab.
- Enter account name in the “Email” field (e.g. “firstname.lastname@example.org,” “email@example.com”).
- Create password and confirm it. You can also auto-generate a password by clicking the “Generate” button. Save the password in a secured file afterwards because I assure you it will be a string of unintelligible characters that you won’t able to remember.
- Set a Mailbox Quota or you may choose the “Unlimited” option.
- Click “Create Account” button.
Choose a Webmail.
The Webmail is similar to Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. This is where you can read your emails sent to your branded email address. There are three Webmails to choose from namely Horde, Roundcube and SquirrelMail. Which one is the best? I’d say it will be based on your preferences.
You can open your Webmail by following the instructions below:
- In your cPanel account, go to Email -> Email Accounts.
- A table of your created email accounts is shown. In the “Actions” column, click the “Access Webmail” link.
- Select the Webmail of your choice and you can also set it to default.
Create or add email forwarding account.
This is optional but it might be helpful in case you’re not always opening your emails via a Webmail system. Add an email forwarder account in cPanel by going to Email -> Forwarders and click “Add Forwarder” button. Enter the necessary details.
Install SSL certificates.
Other than it secures your website, Google, one of the most used search engines, requires to adopt HTTPS encryption in every web page. So without further ado, here are the steps to install SSL certificates for free:
- Log in to your cPanel account.
- Go to Security -> Lets Encrypt™ SSL.
- In the “Issue a new certificate” section, you will see a table of your domains. Under the “Actions” column, click the “+Issue” link.
- Check the boxes of the domains you want to install a certificate below the “Include?” column of the table.
- Click “Issue” button.
For advanced users (and the brave non-techies out there), add another layer of security on your blog by creating or modifying a file called “.htaccess” via File Manager of your cPanel account. As much as I want to help you regarding this matter, this file is sensitive and could break your site by accident. It is a powerful tool though because it can:
- Block certain IP addresses
- Block IP addresses by country
- Set folder/file restrictions
- Prevent image hot linking
- Prevent bad bots from attacking your website
By the way, this is one of the perks of a self-hosted blogging platform because you have direct access to your web files.
Create website in WordPress.
Every cPanel account has this software called Softaculous Apps Installer. It is a treasure trove of apps where you can create blogs, websites, online stores and even your own social networking site! You can do that later but for now let us focus on our goal: to create a WordPress-powered website or blog:
- In cPanel, go to Software -> Softaculous Apps Installer-> click WordPress or Softaculous Apps Installer -> click WordPress.
- Click “Install Now” button.
- Enter your blog’s information in the form. Below is a section by section walk-through:
- Choose Protocol: https (you’ve installed a SSL certificate, right?)
- Choose Domain: yourwebsitename.com
- In directory: leave it blank
- Site Name: the actual name of your blog
- Site Description: think of a catchy and short description
- Enable Multisite (WPMU): leave it unchecked
Fill in the following:
- Admin Username
- Admin Password
- Admin Email (you may use your branded email account for this)
Select Language: the commonly used is “English”
Select Plugins (skip this one)
Advance Options (skip this one)
After you filled out the form, enter your branded email in the “Email installation details to:” textbox which is found under the “Install” button. Now you may hit “Install.” You will receive a confirmation email where the details about your WordPress installation are written. Secure this email for future use.
Backup and block your website.
I have a logical explanation for this last but important step. Backup everything before making any changes to keep a fresh and unmodified copy in case something bad happens. In this way, you don’t need to install WordPress again when your website crashes by accident and saves precious storage space, too. Follow the easy instructions below:
- Log in to your cPanel account.
- Go to File -> Backup.
- Under “Full Backup” section, click “Download a Full Website Backup” button. That’s it!
Next, block or make your website invisible and inaccessible to everyone. Since, you don’t want your potential clients to be put off when they visit your underdeveloped blog, right? Perform the following:
- Discourage search engines to crawl or cache your website.
- Log in to your new WordPress site via this link: https://[yourdomainname.com]/wp-admin/
- At the left side of the screen, go to Settings -> Reading menu.
- Search for the “Search Engine Visibility” text and check the box.
- Click “Save Changes.”
- Install a plugin to hide your website.
- In your WordPress site, go to Plugins -> Add New menu.
- In the search box, type in the keywords: hide website.
- Select a plugin of your choice and it should be compatible with your version of WordPress.
- Click “Install Now.”
Now, you’re ready to develop your own website for your freelance writing business—or not yet. I bet you’re groaning in frustration because of this lengthy tutorial about how you can setup a website in a self-hosted blogging platform. However, you still need to fine-tune your newly installed WordPress site. Hey, don’t worry because I will guide you through it in my next post. 🙂