Looking for a new income stream to add to the mix this year? A website is a passive-ish way to build a side hustle that is infinitely scalable and can even make money for you while you sleep.
At first glance, building a website can seem daunting. Between formatting CSS to adding snippets of code to your site, you might not think it’s worth the stress. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to build a website.
Learning how to build a website is a great skill to have and will set you apart as the economy becomes increasingly digital. A website can also help you launch a new business or be the start to a flourishing side hustle.
This article will walk you through how to build a website and start a blog in a day – maybe even less. Before you know it you’ll be a lean, mean, website building machine.
Affiliate Disclosure: MBNY participates in a number of affiliate programs including the Amazon Associates affiliate program. Some of the links below are affiliate links and MBNY may be compensated for any purchases made through those links. You can read more about that here.
Why You Should Start a Blog
You might think the era of blogs is over. While the mid-2000s fad of digital journaling (hello Tumblr) has fallen to the wayside, websites have not. Even as we transition to web3, two-dimensional websites will still play a pivotal role in how businesses and people interact with one another.
Whether you own a business, are looking for a new side hustle, or are simply trying to find a better job, learning how to build a website can be key to your success. Here are a few reasons why you should consider building a website if you’re still on the fence.
Websites Generate Passive Income
You probably work in a job where you trade your labor for an hourly wage or salary. If you stop working you stop earning money. That is not the case with a website.
When you build a website, earnings are decoupled from the equivalent exchange of time. You can earn money while you sleep or make sales on digital products while you aren’t actively working. Heck, you can even make money while you are on vacation!
That being said, a website will require a lot of up front “sweat” equity. Building the site, populating it with content, and developing authority with the Google algorithm will all take time. If you stick with it though, you’ll make your upfront labor costs back in the future.
Websites are Infinitely Scalable
When I first started building websites I had to set up my hosting service. I talked to a guy at Bluehost who described it to me like this: you can build a city block and add as many houses – or websites – onto it as you want.
Once you start building, you can buy, build, and maintain as many websites as you want. This is actually important to keep in mind depending on your revenue model. Would you rather have one website with traffic feeding into Google Adsense or many websites? The more you build the more opportunities you have for the right people to find you and thus more ways to generate revenue.
If you want to focus on digital product development that is infinitely scalable too. With a brick-and-mortar business, you can only scale to a point until you need more capital to expand. With a website based around digital products and services, you can add as many offerings as you would like. You may come to a point where you need help managing everything but even that will cost a fraction of what scaling a traditional physical business would cost.
You Can Build and Sell Websites
Think of a website like any product-based business. You can build one to flip and sell with minimal oversight.
There are marketplaces where a skilled website designer can build out a website and where marketers can buy underperforming websites and bring them to life. If you don’t want to create a blog you can just build out a website and look for a buyer.
Alternatively, you can build websites on a project or client basis. Small business owners can find the thought of creating a website excruciating. That’s where you can step in and offer your services. You can just build the website or you can help write copy and begin driving traffic to it.
Your Website Can Be Your Resume
When you meet someone new for the first time what do you do? You Google them! Whether it’s a match on Bumble or a new job prospect, everyone Google’s everyone. Wouldn’t you like to set the first impression for people when they search for you?
A website allows you to control the narrative around your life. You can make the website to highlight portfolio projects or link to media hits. Don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn is useful for digital resume building, but like any other social media platform, you don’t own your data on it. A website is yours to keep and share with the world if you so choose to
How to Build a Website
Are you convinced yet that you should build a website and start a blog? I hope so! When you’re ready to get to work follow these steps to build your new website from the ground up.
Pick a Niche
Before you begin building your site you’re going to want to figure out what niche you want to create it for. What’s a niche exactly? It basically means category or industry sector. A niche is a general theme you’ll be creating content for and the audience you’ll be curating that content around.
You’ll want to pick your niche first because your niche can dictate how your website looks. A fashion blog, for example, is going to have a lot of images and videos. A website like this one, on the other hand, is going to need more room for text-based posts.
Your niche can also help inform which revenue model your site might have. A website with more images than text won’t have much opportunity to rank in search engine results. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means monetizing your site from search engine traffic might not be the most profitable option.
To choose your niche, figure out what you want to create a website about. It can be about something broad – like sustainability – or something narrow – like greenhouse gas accounting for corporate entities. From there, find a few competitors and see what they are doing. How have they designed their site? What topics do they write about? How can you set yourself apart from them?
Even if you choose a saturated niche there is still an opportunity for you to grow and build a website that allows you to share your unique contribution to the world. Whatever niche you choose now can change down the road. A website is basically a giant digital sandbox, after all, it’s meant to change and evolve over time.
Buy a Domain
There is some strategy to buying a good domain. The accepted practice is to still use a .com website. While .co or .biz are growing in popularity, you should try to find something with .com if you can. Depending on your niche, this can be difficult as most “good” domains were bought up long ago and are now being resold for big bucks.
You’ll also want to choose a domain that is searchable with keywords related to your niche. If your website is about Korean BBQ, for example, you might want to choose a domain for a phrase related to Korean BBQ. Why is that? If you solely focus on the “BBQ” aspect of Korean BBQ your site will come up in the search results alongside briskets and pork roast. While that’s not inherently a bad thing, your site will become white noise within the larger BBQ niche making it harder for your audience – people who like Korean BBQ – to find you.
Last but not least, when you buy your domain be sure to activate all privacy controls. Website domains are managed by an organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This basically turns the internet into a giant phonebook where anyone can look up who owns what website. Activating the privacy controls hides your personal information to prevent random people from cyberstalking you on the internet.
Set Up a Hosting Account
If you’ve seen other articles or YouTube videos about building a website you’ve probably heard about hosting. What is hosting exactly? Think of hosting like land or property. In the real world, you can’t build a house without having land to first build it on. Hosting is kind of like that.
Your hosting provider also acts like a switchboard. The physical internet is really just a bunch of cables and server buildings that are brought to life through digital code and algorithms. In order for different websites to talk to one another, they have to be connected – much like a switchboard operator connected phone lines between households back in the day. Think of your hosting provider as your switchboard that connects your website to the broader internet allowing you to be found.
I use Bluehost which is probably the most popular hosting platform but there are dozens to choose from. As a beginner Bluehost is easy to get set up on and it integrates well with WordPress. Once you get more established there might be a cost/benefit to switching to another platform, but for now, I would recommend sticking to just sticking with Bluehost.
Connect Your Domain to Your Hosting Account
After you set up your hosting account, you’ll want to change the nameservers on your domain. Think of this as your mailing address. When you move USPS has you complete a change of address form. This redirects your mail from your old address to your new one.
Without making this change your mail will just keep going to your old address right? You’ll want to make sure you avoid that. Check out this handy guide to learn how to redirect your domain nameservers to Bluehost.
Once you’ve done that you’ll need to assign your domain in Bluehost. Here is another step-by-step guide to walk you through how to assign your domain.
When you assign your domain you’ll notice you have the option to assign it as a Parked domain or an Addon. Think of a Parked domain as your primary residence where you live full time and where you receive mail. An Addon domain, on the other hand, is like a vacation home or rental property. You own it but it’s not the primary place you call home.
Remember when I said hosting is like buying a city block and putting houses on? This is what I meant by that. Once you purchase and assign a primary domain on Bluehost, you can add as many additional websites as you want. This is great when you’re getting started because it gives you the ability to test new concepts and make mistakes. If something doesn’t work out you can start over without sinking too much capital into it.
Create Your Website
After you’ve taken care of all the back-end details to make sure your website is functional, it’s time for the fun part: building it! I use WordPress which is probably the most well-known website builder out there. WordPress easily integrates with Bluehost, making it simple to build a website without a ton of technical expertise. These are the basic components you’ll need to build a simple website on WordPress.
A theme is like the design blueprint for your website. It includes the layout, how your headers and footers will look, the typography you can use, and your color palette options. There are a ton of free options on WordPress as well as paid themes. If a visually appealing website is important to you, you can also hire a professional web designer to build a custom theme for you.
When you’re just getting started you’ll want to opt for a free theme. The reason is simple: there are going to be a lot more resources available for it than a paid or custom theme. There is an entire niche of content creators out there who write guides on how to do just about anything on WordPress. Your chances of Google searching a solution to a theme-related problem are a lot higher with free themes than with custom themes.
The trade-off is a less customized website in the short-term. This is ok if you’re just getting started and don’t want to commit to any branding just yet. Remember: you can always commission a designer to build you a more beautiful site down the road.
Every good website needs a logo. Fortunately for you, creating a logo has never been easier. Canva is a free web-based design program that was created for people with no design experience. You can create a professional, beautiful website and never have to touch professional design software.
Canva is great for creating a logo because they have templates you can use. Create your own or modify a template to your liking and voila! You have a logo.
Creating a logo can be the most challenging aspect of building any business. You want to get it right – and you can – you just don’t have to knock it out of the park on your first try. Just a reminder: Nike didn’t have its famous Swoosh until they were in business for several years.
If design isn’t your forte you can build a logo around a wordmark. The wordmark is simply the name of your company or brand stylized in a fun font. Take the salad company Sweetgreen as an example. Here is their wordmark that is also the logo on their website:
If you don’t already have an account set up on Canva be sure to go set one up. It will help you create your logo and can be a huge asset for building social media and marketing collateral down the road.
When I first got started blogging I didn’t know the difference between pages and posts. My first few blog posts wound up being pages – whoops!
Pages are the skeleton of your website. Each page has a specific function just like every bone in your body works in concert to help you move. Blog posts, on the other hand, are the pieces of content that bring people to your website in the first place. Think of blog posts like the clothes in your closet. You wear different outfits based on your style just like you write different blog posts based on your niche.
While you can build a website with just a main page, there are a few pages you might want to consider adding. An about page is great to have to tell visitors who you are and why they might be interested in your website. A contact page might also be helpful for people who want to learn more about you. Last but not least, if you sell a product or service, you will want to consider a page to outline what you’re offering.
The navigation bar on your website is more than just showing people where to go. It helps categorize your website around content verticals while directing people to learn more about your products and services. Check out the navigation bar for this website:
As you can see I direct people to an about page where I share a little bit more about my background as well as my courses and guides. You’ll also notice three categories: Save More, Make More, and Live More. These represent the three content verticals of my website: articles about saving money, posts about making more money, and lifestyle ideas.
Your navigation bar is important because it directs people to all sorts of content, not just blog posts or pages. Under Courses & Guides, for example, I direct visitors to my course which is hosted on Thinkific as well as my guides which are available on Gumroad. The easier you can make it for people to find products, services, or articles they’d like to read, the more successful your website will be.
Copy is the writing you add to pages. Usually, it is short, sweet, and to the point. This is different from blog posts which are usually longer and contain media like pictures.
Why do you want copy? Keywords in your copy help Google and other search engines know what your website is about. This helps your website and, thus your blog posts, rank in the search results. Here is the copy on the front page of this website:
This copy tells search engines that this blog is about money and wealth while the question about wealth helps cultivate a sense of curiosity from the reader. What is wealth? Keep reading and you’ll find out!
Copywriting is a good skill to master whether you become a full-time blogger or stick to a 9to5 job. It is the art of stringing together a few select words to convey the right message. You can apply copywriting to work emails and believe me, your coworkers will thank you for it.
You’ve heard the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words” right? While you don’t need photos to get your site started they can help reinforce what you convey in your copy. Here’s an example from another website I recently built:
See how the picture creates context for the copy on the page? Adding photos and graphics can help you boost the value of your page.
An easy way to create images for your website is to use Canva to create graphics. With a Canva Pro account, you’ll get access to licensed premium photos. You can incorporate these into your graphics to take your design skills up to a whole new level. I’ve started using Pinterest Pins I’ve created in Canva as the featured picture on all my blog posts. This kills two birds with one stone, allowing me to repurpose my Pinterest content on my website.
When adding pictures to your website, be careful not to use pictures without permission (aka failing to purchase the rights to use them). Not only is this illegal it can lead to hefty legal fees down the road. Instead, consider using a website like Unsplash which has free images available for public usage.
Ways to Make Money From Your Website
Now that you know how to build a website and why it’s important to have one in our digital economy there is one last question to address: how do you make money from it?
Before I dive into ways to generate revenue from a website, you first need to figure out if you want to monetize it in the first place. The answer depends on your personal objective. If you have a product or service to sell you can use your website to supplement your income and generate leads for your business. If your website serves as a digital resume or portfolio there may be no need for you to monetize it at all.
If you decide that you’d like to make money off of your website, here are a few ways you can do that.
Participate in a Digital Advertising Network
Have you ever read a blog post with random ads spaced between paragraphs? Those are ads placed by a digital advertising network. Believe it or not, those pesky little ads that follow you around the internet are the backbone of our modern digital economy. More than 80 percent of both Facebook’s and Alphabet’s revenue comes from digital ads.
As a digital creator, you can make money by producing content that ads can be shown on. Google Adsense is an easy one to get started with. Simply follow these instructions to create a Google AdSense account.
If Google isn’t your jam you can show ads through a managed partner like Ezoic. What’s great about Ezoic is they’ll teach you how to monetize your website as it grows. Check out their easy setup guides here.
As you begin producing content and increase your web traffic you can become eligible for other higher-paying ad management agencies like Mediavine. Getting onto one of these platforms is a good goal to strive for and will help you make the most out of your website in the long run.
This is an easy business model to get started with but to be successful you’ll need to produce a lot of high-quality content. Think of your content like a fishing pole. When you go fishing with one pole you can only catch one fish at a time but if you went fishing with 10 poles suddenly you can catch a lot more fish. The more blog posts you write, the more opportunities you’re creating for people to find your website and thus generate revenue.
To put this into perspective let’s use 50,000 pageviews as an example. Why 50,000? This is the threshold to be eligible for Mediavine which boasts a $10 RPM. If you average around 100 pageviews per blog post per month you will need to have 500 posts on your website. If you commit to writing 1 blog post per week it would take you about 10 years to reach 50,000 pageviews!
Despite what you might see on social media, it takes a lot of time to build a successful website. It takes time to create the content and it takes time to refine your craft so you aren’t writing posts that only bring in 100 pageviews per month. Participating in an ad network is the easiest way to monetize your website right off the bat but until you begin to really grow, be mindful that it can take quite a while for cash to start flowing in.
Another easy way to monetize your website is through affiliate marketing. Affiliate links are URLs with tracking information that attributes website traffic to an affiliate’s website. If you take a look at my book recommendations page all of those books are affiliate links that take you to Amazon.
In exchange for driving traffic to an affiliate’s product, you will earn a commission, typically a percentage of the sale or a flat fee per lead. What’s great about affiliate marketing is that it isn’t confined just to your website like digital ads are. You can share your affiliate links in blog posts as well as in emails and in digital products.
There are a bunch of affiliate programs out there and many you can join right as you’re getting started. Just remember the more chances you give someone to click an affiliate link, the more likely someone will click it and convert to a sale.
Here are some popular affiliate networks to join:
As with digital ads, it takes time to create a reliable revenue stream from affiliate marketing. To get good at affiliate marketing consider obtaining some formal training from a course like this.
Create and Sell Digital Products
While participating in digital ad networks and linking affiliate products on your site are easy ways to make money, they might not always be the best ways to monetize your site. Why is that? By relying on external partners like Google AdSense or Amazon Associates to generate revenue, you become vulnerable to any changes they make. One algorithm change or commission adjustment could cost you your entire online business instantly.
To diversify your income streams consider creating digital products. You can sell digital products on your website or on ecommerce platforms like Etsy. Digital products are great because you put in the sweat equity on the front end to produce the product while continuing to generate revenue from it years down the road.
Depending on your niche here are a few types of digital products you can create:
- Excel Spreadsheets
- Membership Clubs
Once these products are created they can be bought and sold over and over again without you having to actively trade time to make them. You can increase your revenue by bundling digital products together or even using them as a lead generator for a service.
Lead to Offer Professional Services
Your website can also be a place where you offer visitors the opportunity to work with you professionally. If you’re a consultant, accountant, or lawyer, think of a website as an opportunity to find new clients.
A great example of someone who is doing this well is Mark Tew over at Not Your Dad’s CPA. In the real world, he is an accountant, specializing in helping ecommerce resellers file their taxes and maintain their books. His website provides content around tax advice which brings new prospective clients (like yours truly) to him.
In addition to his professional accounting and tax preparation services, Mark also has an ebook and course on taxes. These products give prospective clients a taste of what working with him might be like and gives existing clients the chance to dive deeper into a topic they would like to learn more about.
Within his ebook, Mark also recommends products he uses – like Quickbooks – and provides the reader with an affiliate link. Neither the ebook nor the affiliate link is the primary model of his business, but they are ways he adds revenue streams to his business while simultaneously marketing himself to new clients.
Not all blogs have to be around fashion or food. In fact, there is a deficit of niche-specific blogs around professional services like medicine or law. If you provide a professional service a blog is an easy, low-cost way to market your expertise, and when combined with other revenue models, can become semi-passive too.
Building a website to start a blog is a great way to not only generate passive-ish income but it can also be a lead generator for your services too. With several different business models to choose from, you can start a blog that works for you.
Almost all of us read a website on a daily basis but few people understand how they are made. By building your own website and learning how to monetize it you’ll develop an in-demand skill that will set you apart from the rest. Talk about job security!
With these steps, you can build your first website in a day (or less) and get started creating meaningful content for the people you’ve been called to serve. Are you ready? Let’s go!
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