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This guide will get a new entrepreneur set up with a simple WordPress site, a domain, a working SSL certificate, and an email address (or multiple email addresses). The total upfront cost will be around $32 depending on which domain and hosting plan you buy. For most people setting up a new site, this will be enough.
We use Namecheap, a well-known hosting provider (and our host as well). If you use another host your instructions will be mostly similar, but certain things might cost extra and the screenshots will be different.
Get Started – Security First
Step 1 for new entrepreneurs is to always start using a password manager. You will be signing up for an incredible number of services when you start a business, and you don’t want to be reusing passwords across sites. If you don’t use one, start using one now. Don’t skip this!
I use the free personal version of LastPass to run my whole business but other options are 1Password, Dashlane, Keepass, and Bitwarden.
Set up the password manager and download the web browser plug-in for whatever web browser you use. Choose a master password. I highly recommend using a passphrase without numbers or weird letters. Go with a full sentence of something easy to remember but not obvious, such as “Ilikehamburgerswithketchupandmustard”. Feel free to write down a hint for yourself, as you definitely don’t want to lose this.
For the rest of this tutorial and for any additional sites from now on, make sure your password manager correctly stores your website and username.
Buy Your Hosting and Domain Name
We’re going to walk you through the setup process using screenshots we did for a small blog we set up for someone we know.
Step 1: Go to Namecheap. Search for the domain you want and add it to your cart. You can pick any ending. This person went with the .dev ending because it was cheap. Below is the Namecheap search screen.
Add the lowest-priced shared hosting plan seen here (it’s called “Stellar”). You do not need to purchase a separate SSL certificate OR private email hosting, they will be included with what you already have in your cart. You do not need Premium DNS. Pick the U.S. Data Center if you are in the U.S. The 1-year total should be somewhere around $32.00 if you picked a simple domain name (although sales can bring that number down). I use the automatic renew function (be aware the renewal is more expensive than the initial purchase. This is true for most hosting companies). The current cost to renew everything I show you here is about $50, which you will have to pay after 1 year. Here are the screenshots of the process.
Purchase both your domain and your hosting at the same time. This is a very important step and makes set-up a lot easier. If you purchased your domain somewhere else, you can either transfer it (not always available) or point your DNS to Namecheap hosting. Help articles here and here.
Wait 30 minutes for Namecheap to set everything up. It could take longer. You can check if it is set up by going to this old-school looking website and entering your brand new domain name. If you see a Namecheap welcome message, you’re all set to move onto the next step. If not, don’t! Here is a screenshot of that website.
Set Up Your SSL Certificate
Installing the SSL certificate is a two-step process. First, go read the article here to associate your plug-in with your certificate. It’s as simple as logging in and hitting “allow”. Then install your SSL certificate by following these instructions to the dot (we can’t stress this part enough). Use your personal email address in the form here because your future business email is not set up yet. Wait until it is active (refresh the page if the status doesn’t change), and then follow the directions for “Enabling HTTPS-redirect” further down the page. Boom, you’re all set. I’ve not included screenshots for this process because the two help articles include the screenshots you will need. Read both articles first, then start with the first article listed above.
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Set up Your Email
We’re going to create the email account you want first, and second, we will set up how to check it. Most hosting companies include a way to check your email via the web, like an off-brand Gmail. It looks simple but it gets the job done. After you have set up your email account, you then set up any additional ways you want to access it, like on your iPhone or through Outlook, etc.
Log into cPanel and go to Email Accounts and follow the directions here (By the way, cPanel is an important part of your hosting/domain account. We link to the help article on how to remember to log-in because a lot of hosts don’t make it obvious).
We suggest creating only one account per person if you are a solo entrepreneur, and not creating a separate account for sales, contact, info or any generic emails you want on your website. I use a catch-all to send those to my main account. If you decide to create accounts for all of those, you’ll either have to check them all or set up forwarding on them all. For this client, it was not worth it.
You can pick any email address you like that ends in your domain. Also, while you’re setting up your email account, I highly recommend you generate a secure password from your password manager and then copy it into a notepad document because a password manager usually won’t save it from the creation screen. Once you log in the first time it should work correctly.
Set the storage space to 5GB instead of the 250MB listed. If you picked the basic shared hosting plan we suggested above, you get 20GB total between your email and your website, so you can even go bigger on your email if your website is small and unlikely to change much. Keep the box checked to send a welcome email. If you’re setting up a lot of emails, you can click the “stay on this page” checkbox so that you can create another one right away.
Keep following the directions to check your email, (you’ll need to pick one of their generic Gmail-like web clients to use) and make sure everything is set up ok. Send yourself an email from your personal account and make sure you get it. Then, log out and log back in to make sure your password manager has the password correctly. If anything goes wrong, remember you can go into cPanel and reset the password or start from scratch. Whatever you do, don’t continue past this point until you log out and in with your password manager.
Now that your email has been created, you can set up your iPhone or android Mail client, or Outlook, OS X Mail, etc. All the directions for the different clients can be found here. I use IMAP, not POP3. Use the live help chat if you can’t get it working, Namecheap support is fairly good. My guide doesn’t go through all the ways to set up email on your phone, tablet, etc., so contact support if you need help with any of the options listed in the article above.
Set up a default address (catch-all): Last thing, go back into cPanel and under the mail section, click on “Default Address.” Make sure your domain is listed and click the radio button next to “send all unrouted email to this address” and enter the address you just created in the section above in that box. Now, every time someone sends you an email with the wrong address before the @, it will be forwarded to your regular email account. It’s also a way to put an email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org on your website and have the email come to you, even though you never created that address.
Now you’re going to install WordPress to create your first website. If you want to create your own site with some free tools, using something like Bootstrap, you can upload the web files yourself. However, we recommend WordPress for almost any solo not running an online store.
Go into your cPanel and at the top is Softaculous (if you don’t use Namecheap, you might have other directions). Go in there and install WordPress using these directions (if you’ve forgotten how to log into cPanel, the directions are here.) Change the site to use https and use most of the default settings except change the table prefix name (it can be anything you chose) and change the upgrade options to always stay up to date on everything you can. Very important: copy and paste your username and password into a document, because password managers have problems immediately associating both usernames and passwords when doing this setup.
Click install to let Softaculous do its work. Once Softaculous has installed everything, you should now be able to log into your WordPress admin dashboard by adding /wp-admin after your domain name. Go there now and do it and add it to your password manager. Also, bookmark yourdomain/wp-admin in your browser because this is where you will make all the changes to your website. Some people forget this step and then can’t figure out how to log into their site to edit it again.
Uninstall and install plug-ins: I recommend uninstalling almost everything you won’t be using or paying extra for. The plugins I do recommend are Atomic Blocks, Jetpack, WPForms Lite, and Loginizer. All should be free. Jetpack is a simple replacement for Google Analytics (tells you how many people have visited your website), Atomic Blocks has some nice building blocks for building your website. WPForms Lite gives you a free contact form and Loginizer is just a security plug-in suggested by WordPress to keep your site secure by preventing how many failed login attempts you can have (since you will be using a password manager you will never fail to login correctly, meaning the only people failing at this are hackers). All of the above are probably the best free options out there.
You can find all plugins by searching for plugins right from the WordPress dashboard (the left-hand navigation has a menu called “Plugins, click on that then use the search box in the upper right-hand corner). Set everything to auto-update if you can.
Next: Install a theme
You’re almost done! Install a theme you have purchased or install one of the free WordPress themes to get you started. This site went and installed the Genesis Framework, which sits between a theme and WordPress to make it faster and easier to edit. Visit our WordPress section for more on themes and frameworks. If you’re keeping costs down, or don’t have a lot of skill in WordPress, just go with a free theme directly from the WordPress dashboard.
Customizing WordPress: I highly recommend the website WP Beginner to help you out. Just search for what you are trying to do. That’s not an affiliate link, they really do have the best answers and the least amount of ads and junk.
That’s it. Your WordPress website is up and running and you can design, edit, and fill in the text to your heart’s content. If you’ve set everything to auto-update you should stay up to date on security and not be surprised by the cost of any renewals.
Now that you have a website, get started on the rest of your business by picking out business software in our directories, or visiting our blog for entrepreneur tips and guides. We also have coupons and deals in our monthly newsletter.
Check out other posts from the No-Nonsense blog
- Email Marketing Vendor AWeber Launches a Free Plan
- How to Calculate the Cost of Hiring a New Employee
- How to Use a Payroll Service Provider to Take the Fear out of Hiring Your First Employee
- A Roundup of the Current Top Website Creation Tools and Fast Prototyping Page Builders
- Square Updates Pricing Plans on Square for Restaurants and Square for Retail
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