How to get started with your own self-hosted WordPress website (even if you’re scared of the technology)
Written by Nadin Thomson
You need a website and you want to get started straight away.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an easy-to-use website builder and just get going? Ideally, you want to plan a weekend without distractions (no kids, no social visits) and you concentrate on this website thing in one go. On Monday morning you wake up and you’re proud of yourself because now you have a fully functioning website.
I can reassure you, that’s not going to happen!
I have helped many women who run their own business and have gone through the pain of trying to figure out how it all works. Knowledge is power! Let me help you set up a website the professional way. First you need to know a little bit about website builders. Companies like Wix or Squarespace suggest building a website for a small business is totally easy and everyone can do it – with just a few clicks.
They suggest all you need to do is sign up with their builder software and get going.
I cannot remember how many business websites I have literally had to rescue from those website builder platforms. The website might look pretty, but it’s not found in Google and they lack the functionality that many small businesses require. By the time a small business owner comes to me, they are usually so frustrated – about the time they have spent with the “easy” builder, the money they invested, the lack of support and the website simply does not perform as expected.
When I started writing this article, I used the words “cheap website builders”. Then I did a price comparison and was quite surprised. Have a look for yourself – Price comparison of self-hosted WordPress and website builders.
Who should use a website builder other than WordPress?
You should consider building your website with a website builder if:
- A website is not that important for your business
- You just need to get it done quickly – within a matter of days
- You’re not sure if you will be in business for a long time.
- You don’t mind paying a percentage of your online sales to the website builder company
- You don’t need your website to do well in Google
- You only need really basic functionality, such as pages and blog posts
- You’re OK with templates and don’t mind that your website looks like hundreds of others with the same template.
- You’re OK to pay extra for additional functionality like shops, email addresses etc.
- You’re OK to pay an IT person to set up a business email address for you as some of the more known builders don’t offer email addresses.
Who should use WordPress?
WordPress is fantastic for one-person businesses as well as large corporations.
People Magazine is built on WordPress and Sony Music uses WordPress too. Check this website on WordPress.com to see how many of the Fortune 500 companies use WordPress. I was really surprised when I started researching it!
You can also check and compare on Google trends what the most searched for website creation software is.
Consider investing the time in WordPress if:
- You need your website to attract customers to your business
- You need your website to do well in Google (i.e. someone enters a search term and they then find your website)
- Maybe not now, but in the near future you need additional functionality, such as an online shop, a calendar, landing pages, contact forms, membership etc.
- You want your website to reflect you and your business and truly make it yours
- You want everything available at your fingertips and not continually being charged for additional things
WordPress myth buster
Almost every week I read questions and comments on Facebook and these are the things people say about WordPress:
- It’s too difficult
- It’s too techie
- It’s hard to learn
- You have to do update plugins all the time
- You have to pay for themes
- Self-hosting is more expensive
WordPress is too difficult
Like anything new, it can be totally scary to learn something that’s entirely out of your comfort zone.
There are two things you can do: Learn it, or outsource it. Either way it’s an investment of time or money. If you don’t have the funds to pay a good web designer, you can get started with your own website and learn the basics. Your website will evolve over time and WordPress simply grows with you – there are no limits to your imagination.
There are lots and lots of videos about anything relating to WordPress online. Make Google your friend and ask your questions!
Self-hosting is too expensive
Until I started writing this blog, I couldn’t really say if this was true or not.
I researched the costs and did a price comparison of website builders and self-hosted WordPress. I was totally surprised by the outcome. And as you can guess – as this is a headline under “myths”:
WordPress is cheaper in the long run!
You have to update plugins all the time
This is no longer the case. As of a most recent version of WordPress (introduced in 2020), plugin and theme updates can be enabled to be done automatically.
You have to pay for themes
You don’t have to, but I would recommend it.
Once installed, within WordPress you have thousands of themes at your fingertips. And they are all free. With a bit of trial and error, you can probably adapt a free theme to your business.
However, I would recommend a professional theme, such as Divi.
I use Divi for all my customer’s websites and it’s the most versatile paid theme I have ever come across. The Divi team also provides amazing learning videos on their website, so you will never be lost for answers. Their support is also outstanding! You won’t get support with a free theme.
Regardless of the website platform – make time for your new website!
Without ANY website builder knowledge, you cannot and you should not build a business website yourself in a weekend.
Do not expect to spend a couple of days and then have a fully functioning website for your business. Building a website is hugely complicated and the cheap website builders suggest that this is not the case.
Let’s hear from Tina in Austria and her experience with building her own website:
What you have to bear in mind with WordPress is that you will need to spend a bit of time getting to know it and understanding it.
It can feel clunky, or it might be really hard to get your head around things. But if you spend the time experimenting with WordPress for a while BEFORE setting up your website properly, you will be rewarded hugely in the future!
A new website will take a lot of your time – regardless if you use a website builder or WordPress!!
Let’s hear from Tina again and her experience with building her own website:
You can build your own website in WordPress!
You can absolutely build a website yourself – in WordPress, but it will take time.
This same applies to website builders! You will be frustrated with it, you will want to throw in the towel and wish there was an easier way! But do not give in to the people suggesting to you on Social Media that Wix or Squarespace is so much easier and better. What these website builders strip away is what you will miss in a matter of weeks!
There are no shortcuts in life. There are no shortcuts in building a great website.
Here’s Tina’s advice.
Have you already bought your domain name?
Read this guide to understand what you need for your WordPress website and the things you need to keep in mind when ordering your web hosting.
You have no domain name - follow this guide
This easy-to-follow guide will help you understand all the things you need for your WordPress website. It will also highlight aspects you might not know.
The things you need to set up your WordPress website
First of all, don’t go to wordpress.com and register an account. That’s meant for kids and bloggers without a plan!
Let me talk you through the elements you need for a website:
- domain name
- (WordPress) Web hosting
- WordPress theme
Without any of these, you cannot get started.
Many people buy a domain name months or sometimes years before they start work on their website. If that’s the case, there’s an additional step for you to link your domain name with your web hosting. It is quite common to have your domain name registered with a registrar such as www.123-reg.co.uk and have your hosting with a different company, such as 20i.com.
In some countries, however, web hosting companies do not allow you to have your domain name elsewhere. In this case, you may need to move your domain name to the hosting company. In general, this is straightforward, but can take anything between 24 hours and 7-10 working days!
If possible, buy your domain name and hosting at the same time
The easiest way for a newcomer is to buy a domain and web hosting with the same company at the same time.
Find a reputable web hosting company in your own country that also allows you to register a domain name. The location of your hosting company is actually really important for future search engine optimisation. So if you’re not in the US, don’t skip this step and register with wordpress.com, bluehost etc. But make an effort and find a good hosting company in your own country and language.
If you need help with your hosting in the future, you want to be able to call someone or email someone who is in your time zone and explains things to you in your own language.
How to find a reputable web hosting company
- Open Google
- Enter “web hosting in the Netherlands” (exchange the country with your own country)
- Check the online reviews
- Look at different companies and check the hosting packages
You can use Google like this: “best web hosting company in the Netherlands” (and preferably you would search in your own language, ie. not in English). Avoid clicking on adverts at the top, but click on blog articles that review different hosting companies, such as “Top 10 best web hosting companies in Germany”.
If you’ve found one you like the look of, open their website.
On their homepage, you should see a big search field that allows you to search for available domain names. That’s an indicator that you can buy the domain name at the same place where you will buy the web hosting. Now check their hosting packages and look specifically for “WordPress hosting”.
Beware of the introductory pricing!
On price comparison sites, they usually show how much it would cost per month. Please don’t be swayed by the cheapest! They are usually cheap for a reason.
Disadvantages of cheap hosting
By “cheap” I mean hosting that costs less than £30 per year.
They might only offer email support and it can happen that you need to wait several days to get a reply. Their servers might be overloaded which results in a slower website. Anything you need additionally, such as SSL (the padlock – you will need that) comes with a hefty price tag.
It really does pay to look around and check out their actual pricing.
Once you’ve gone through the steps of setting up your own website, you don’t want to have to do all this again a year later because your hosting company is bad for business.
Web hosting packages can seem totally confusing, especially when you start out.
Must have elements of your web hosting package
As with anything, there are different types of hosting but you don’t need to know too much to know what to look for.
The thing to look out for is shared web hosting. This is super cheap – less than £50 (<70 USD, <€60) per year. However, as the name suggests, you are likely to share a web server (this is like a computer) with many other websites. If one or more of other websites on the same server as yours and have a lot of website traffic (ie. they get a lot of visitors), the other websites will suffer with their website speed.
If your website speed is slow (this means your pages are loading really slowly), Google will not rank your website very highly. Google knows about all sorts of stuff, including your website speed.
The thing to look for is web hosting that says SSD (Solid State Drive) as part of the hosting package.
An SSD is a special type of hard drive which delivers information quicker than normal hard drives. Check that the package mentions the word “speed” but also “WordPress”. Better still – you look for WordPress hosting, as these servers are optimised for WordPress websites and make the installation of WordPress super quick and super easy.
There are other hosting options that are meant for bigger businesses or companies who require super fast websites, such as large e-commerce websites. In this case, look for business hosting or VPS hosting.
Most cheaper WordPress hosting packages start at around £50 per year.
Web space and memory for WordPress hosting
Unless you’re a photographer with thousands of images, a WordPress website doesn’t need much web space. You will generally be fine with 10GB and either 256 or 512 MB RAM.
Many hosting companies offer different WordPress hosting packages. Compare the packages and make sure they include the following:
- SSL (Let’s encrypt)
- WordPress should be mentioned (e.g. WordPress Hosting, or One-Click WordPress Install)
- PHP, MySQL
- Anything up to 50GB web space
- SSD Hard Drive
- Check the server location (which country?) (I will show you in the video below how to find this)
- Minimum 10GB Webspace
- Minimum 256 MB RAM
- Minimum 10GB (10000 MB) Web traffic per month, but unlimited traffic is better
- 10 (or unlimited) Email addresses
- 10 (or unlimited) Email forwarders
How to order web hosting & domain name at the same time
Once you have decided on a hosting company, simply click the Buy Now or Order button and start ordering your preferred web hosting package.
Usually, in the second step during the ordering process, the hosting company will ask you if you already have a domain name. Make sure you know what domain name you want to use.
A word of advice about domain names: you only need one!!!
Don’t start ordering all sorts of domain names!! Also, domain names with keywords in it, such as wedding-florist-edinburgh.co.uk do not perform better in Google than one of a florist called “laurasmith.co.uk”.
Stick to your own company or personal name and register the most obvious one.
If you’re in the US, use a .com, in the UK – use a .co.uk, in Germany use .de! You do not need lots of variations as you will only ever use one domain name on your business card or for your marketing.
Decide on your preferred domain name before you are ready to buy it
It can happen that the domain name of your dreams is already taken.
Sometimes, a website exists, and sometimes someone bought it and is not using it. Either way it will be hard to obtain a domain name that’s already registered. Write down a few ideas and now check if your domain name is available.
Most hosting companies allow you to search for domain names for free.
Simply enter your preferred domain name without any ending into the domain search field. You can do a search on this website for example: www.123-reg.co.uk. For example if you want to use “laurasmith.co.uk” you would enter only “laurasmith” into the search field. The website will then show you all available options.
Check different domain names and their readability.
As domains are registered through a central body, but the hosting companies work like an agent, they can check if your domain name is available. As your hosting company won’t be 123-reg.co.uk, you can still check on this website if your domain name is available and then register it through your preferred hosting company.
Please check your preferred domain name and see if it could be misread!
I have seen some howlers over the years! But check out this blog on Bored Panda to see what I mean about unintentionally inappropriate domain names. For example “itscrap.co.uk” – is meant to be IT Scrap, not it’s crap! Or penisland.net (for Pen Island).
Let me show you four examples on UK, US, German and Dutch hosting company websites so you can get a feel for what to look for.
Importance of web server location
Read this brilliant article about the importance of your web server location. So it really is important to choose a web server that’s located either where most of your customers are, or in your own country. Should you need hosting support, you want them to speak your own language.
2 things to know about email addresses
Make sure your preferred web hosting company offers a package that include email addresses.
This means you can set up your own email addresses with your domain name, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
These are simple email accounts, but they will get you started. If you can afford it, I would strongly recommend having a Microsoft 365 email account, as this includes a lot of additional features, security and backup, but you can easily convert your simple email account into a 365 email in a few months or years. If you want to know more, I have written a blog post about the different types of email accounts.
1. Simple (POP3 or IMAP) email addresses should not cost anything.
They normally have a minimum of 2 GB inbox space. Some hosting companies offer as much as 10 GB, but others may charge for an increased mailbox. Look for a company that gives you at least one 2GB inbox free of charge with your hosting account.
Most reputable hosting companies include 10 or even unlimited email addresses and forwarders.
2. Also check you can set up email forwarders.
A forwarder email looks exactly like an email address, but you may want to use this only for a certain time and then delete it again.You would use a forwarder email address for a marketing campaign. You could set up something like “email@example.com” – and then all emails that are sent to this email address are forwarded to your main email address or even an external one, such as gmail. They are not collected in a separate (2GB) inbox, but a forwarder is simply a redirection from one email account to another.
Why do you need forwarder email addresses?
For business reasons, it’s a good idea to be able to measure responses to a marketing campaign. If all responses go into your main inbox, then you will have a hard time counting them. But if they all go to a specific email address, you can simply run a report in your mail program and count how many people have replied to this email. You can then figure out if your marketing campaign was successful or not.
You can also use forwarders for newsletter signups.
I don’t want to give my business email away when signing up for a newsletter. So I set something up like “firstname.lastname@example.org” and when I start to get spammed, I simply delete the forwarder and set up a new one. Anything then sent to hello22@ will no longer bother me.
If you’re still unsure whether WordPress or website builder is right for you?
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about BEFORE you sit down playing with designs. Web builders take all that important stuff away from you, and when you actually need website speed, or a proper email address, they then cost you more and more money each month.
How to set up web hosting for WordPress
Simply follow the steps on the web hosting website and enter the required information as you go along. When you search for your domain name, make sure you tick the right one from the list of options that’s displayed. Then they might ask you for additional options, but the standard things are a great start.
Don’t get pushed into buying additional features at this point. Should you need them, you could easily add them later on.
Once you have bought your domain name and you have paid for your web hosting, you will receive an email with the login details. Make sure you keep these details safe. Normally you would access your hosting account via the web hosting company website.
Now you’re ready to install WordPress.
First, you log in to your hosting account. This might be scary, as the hosting account can contain a lot of things that make no sense to you to start with. Each hosting company has their own way of displaying things. When you log in, initially you will see things like your profile, your billing details etc. Look for “my package” or “hosting details” or something like that. If you cannot find it, look for the help section on the hosting company website and enter “install wordpress” – they will normally have an article or a video that talks you through.
Once you see a number of icons, such as email, log files, one-click installs, then look for the WordPress Install.
All you need to do is click on the WordPress icon and then follow the steps on the screen. Everything you enter here (apart from your username!!) you can change in the future. You will need to add your website title, a strap-line, your username and a password.
Make sure you don’t use the word “admin” as your username, but use a complicated username that includes numbers and letters as well as the @ symbol.
This makes it harder for hackers to guess in the future. Make sure you take a note of your username and password as you will need to log in with these.
Once you have entered all those things (ignore the checkbox about search engines), click Install and then WordPress is installed within a matter of minutes.
After the successful installation, you will see a login link and you can log in straight away. At this point you can start working on your website.
Next step – install a WordPress theme
As soon as WordPress is installed, WordPress will automatically install a few standard WordPress themes. These are OK, but you cannot really do much with them from a design point of view.
If you want to buy the – in my opinion – best WordPress theme available, you can buy Divi.
I have worked with WordPress since 2005 and have tried all sorts of themes – free and paid. But the one that blows all the paid themes out of the water is definitely Divi.
Divi itself comes with 150+ professional website templates and each template comes with up to 10 different options, so currently, you have almost 1,500+ page options to choose from.
Let’s hear from Tina again who had no WordPress experience and started working with Divi.
How much does a paid WordPress theme cost?
Divi (from Elegant Themes) offer an annual option (approx. $90 per year) and an outright option where you pay more, but it’s a one-off fee. There are numerous other websites where you can buy themes, such as Theme Forest.
Are you ready to build your own website?
If you’re still a little scared about it all, join our Facebook Group – the SEO Club. We are a friendly bunch of people and always welcome questions.
WordPress Setup Service
If you’re worried about making the right hosting decision and want some help setting it all up, please buy our complete setup package. We will get your hosting organised and WordPress setup for you.
Nadin Thomson started developing websites in 1999 as a hobby and started her business as a web developer in 2004. She has 18+ years of experience in helping businesses of all sizes to create an online presence and improve their website. She's also worked as a photographer in Scotland for 15+ years. The majority of her customers found Nadin through Google as she's continually optimised her website for SEO.
Nadin Thomson has a University Business degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing.