I’ve been running my own WordPress sites for a while. Every so often, a creator or a customer asks me: how do I get started with my own WordPress Web site?
It’s a more pressing question than ever. With Twitter changing by the day, many creators who once called it their home are questioning how long they have left there.
Fortunately, a new service provides an all-in-one solution for both WordPress hosting and site creation. You can not only create a new WordPress site, you can design it yourself using simple drag-and-drop controls.
Note: Some links in this article are to affiliate Web sites. I earn a commission at no expense to you if you make a purchase.
The need for ownership
First, the $64 question: do you even need your own site? After all, many creators on social media get by just fine without having one.
I gravitate towards Web sites as a form of expression because…well, I’m a writer. I consider everything else I do an offshoot of my writing. If you’re a writer by nature, hosting your own content likely holds the same appeal for you.
But no matter what you create – writing, illustrations, videos, etc. – you should have some outlet for your work that isn’t social media.
I discussed why in my article on the Twitter takeover. Your social media accounts aren’t yours. Social media companies own them. And they can shut them down without warning.
Web sites, mailing lists – these are assets that you, the creator, own. Even if someone shuts down your Web site hosting account or mailing list account, you still own the data. You can take your business elsewhere. However, if Twitter bans your account (or goes under), you have zero recourse.
I’m not saying “don’t use social media”. That’s impossible. I’m saying keep your creative output in some form that you own and control. Use social media to promote these assets and drive more people to your properties. Don’t spend all your time making social media companies richer.
There are definitely cheaper ways to host a Web site than WordPress. You can use a static site generator, for example. Assuming you’re conservant with the underlying tech, they can cost less than $10 a month to host.
But using WordPress carries so many advantages that I recommend nearly everyone start with it:
- Collaboration. Static sites are a nightmare if you have more than a single contributor.
- Dynamic sites. Static sites have little to no programmatic functionality. Want to add a shopping cart? Good luck. By contrast, you can add just about any feature, from forms to shopping carts, into WordPress.
- Extensibility. WordPress’s plugin system makes it easy to add new functionality with zero programming. With thousands of well-tested plugins available, you can tailor your WordPress site to meet your exact needs.
If you’re new to WordPress, there’s a lot to wrap your head around. But it’s worth learning. Once you know your way around WordPress, you can build whatever sites you need with few limitations.
The two barriers to using WordPress
WordPress is powerful. But, as Ben Parker said, with great power comes great confusion. (Or, um, something like that.) WordPress is so powerful that you can find yourself at a loss for how to get started.
There are two barriers to using WordPress: Hosting and site design.
There are two ways to run WordPress:
- Host it yourself via a hosting provider.
- Use WordPress.com, a WordPress solution managed by the company that develops WordPress.
The latter is the easiest path. With a few clicks, you can have a WordPress-powered site up and running in minutes. And you’ll belong to a larger community of WordPress authors and readers that can jumpstart your audience.
It’s fine to start on WordPress.com if you’re new to WordPress or aren’t sure your project has legs. However, if you want to earn money from your content, you’ll eventually want your own WordPress installation.
Why? Because WordPress.com has several restrictions that are onerous for creators. For example, you can’t host pay-per-click ads such as Google AdSense. Also, you can’t upload your favorite WordPress plugins – you’re restricted to using the plugins WordPress.com provides. This limits how much you can customize your site.
Fortunately, there are many – MANY – sites where you can host your own WordPress. All provide one-click installation and easy setup tools. (I’ll talk more about my preferences for hosts below.)
The next barrier is your site’s look and feel. Maybe you’re a writer and not an accomplished digital designer. (Hello.) How do you craft a WordPress site that feels professional?
The traditional solution is using a WordPress theme. A theme contains HTML, CSS and PHP code (the programming language in which WordPress is written) that determines your site’s entire look and feel.
Creating a theme isn’t a light undertaking. There are a ton of professional, pre-built themes you can buy from WordPress theme marketplaces.
But using a pre-built theme as is makes your site look cookie-cutter. Modifying such themes can take as much skill as building one from scratch.
Fortunately, these days, themes are old news. The new way to WordPress is with a site builder.
A site builder is a WordPress plug-in that enables creating a WordPress design using drag-and-drop controls. Site builders provide basic building UI building blocks – things like post carousels, dynamic menus, search boxes, mailing list forms, etc. With a site builder, you can start from a professional-looking design that you can change easily to suit your needs.
Site builders make it easy to build any type of Web site you can imagine . Despite being a fundamentally flexible platform, WordPress’s default mode is “blog”. It takes some work to turn it into, say, a product landing page or an image gallery.
With a site builder, you can design any site you want on top of WordPress. You can have a “normal” WordPress site with customized landing pages for sp[ecific products or services you offer. Or you can use a site builder plus tools like WooCommerce to create a store selling custom merch.
The all-in-one WordPress hosting solution
So how do you get started with WordPress Web hosting using a site builder?
The good news is you can kill both birds with one stone.
For years, Elementor has offered one of the most popular site builders for WordPress. Site authors could purchase Elementor as a plugin and load it into WordPress hosted on the site of their choice. While better than using a theme, this still required a lot of manual steps that new, non-technical users could find daunting.
However, Elementor has now solved that problem! For USD $99/year, you can get Elementor Cloud – an all-in-one package that includes WordPress hosting with Elementor built in.
Elementor hosting gives you everything you need to get your site up and running within the week:
- Secure cloud hosting – your site won’t go down even under a crush of traffic
- An integrated Content Delivery Network (CDN). This copy your content to servers all across the world. That ensures your site loads quickly for your fans no matter where they’re surfing from.
- 100s of pre-built templates to get you started with a base design
- Elementor’s drag-and-drop UI to customize your site and add powerful functionality with a few clicks
- Support for WooCommerce for shopping cart experiences
Once you sign up for Elementor, you can use their step-by-step guide to setting up your site on Elementor Cloud.
It’s hard to stress how good a deal this is. There are cheaper WordPress hosts but most come with hidden costs. And none of them include Elementor!
For less than $10/month, you can create your own content portfolio and attract more commissions, subscribers, affiliate sales, and clients. It’s an investment that pays for itself.
The limits of Elementor hosting
Elementor Cloud is great. And it will fit most creators and businesses that are just starting out. But it has some limitations that might not work for you.
The hardest limitation is data storage. Elementor only provides 20GB of storage. If you’re storing a lot of high-res images, you’re gonna use that up fast.
You have a few options here. One is to use other sites for high-resolution image hosting. Patreon is an excellent way to a membership system as a visual artist.
You can also use WordPress but store your images somewhere else. Plugins such as WP Offload support storing your images in a cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services. (Cloud provider storage/data transfer will always be cheaper than a WordPress host.)
You can also start your site on Elementor Cloud hosting and transfer it to another host later. The good news is, you don’t have to give up Elementor if you move! You can purchase the WordPress plugin for Elementor and upload it to any WordPress site on any host.
My choice of WordPress hosts is Kinsta. It’s a full-featured WordPress hosting solution that grows as your site’s popularity grows. I’ve managed multiple client sites on it for years with zero downtime.
WordPress doesn’t have to be hard. Using Elementor Cloud, you can build a highly customized site that grows as you grow. And you can do it all without writing a single line of code.