You don’t have time for a side hustle. Right?
For the next year, I’m going to be building a profitable niche site in one hour a day. Because you don’t need all the time in the world. You just need to start.
Today I’m sharing stage 1. How I went from zero ideas to a published website ready for content in under three hours.
Hour 1 — Niche and Domain Selection — Just Pick One
My first blog failed because it was too general and the advice was shit. I worked on it for three months and backed out for something more commercial. But I began learning how to write online.
My second niche site failed. It was about extended-range guitars but playing guitar is going out of fashion faster than riding to work on a hoverboard. I worked on it for about 4 months, earned a little affiliate commission and realised it wasn’t a viable niche. But I learned about affiliate marketing and SEO.
My third site brought my first 6 months of learning together and hit the target. I carried on learning and worked on it for the next four years before selling it.
My advice for niche selection is simple. Just pick a niche and start. It doesn’t have to be the perfect choice, and you don’t have to be an expert. If you’re passionate about your niche, great. If you aren’t, that’s fine too. Just start.
My Niche Selection
Picking the niche for this project was simple. I’d recently been researching buying myself a product that was in the £500+ category. Bingo. That’s a nice high amount to get a reasonable commission payment from.
My biggest niche site successes have been promoting more expensive products. That said I also had a site that sold products in the $30 range and it earned over $3k per month so expensive products aren’t a must.
Niche decided. Let’s choose a domain.
Three Domain Checks You Want to Do Before Hitting Purchase
For a domain name, I like to go with something broad so I can leave room to expand. If it was slow cookers I was researching I’d want a domain that lets me talk about cooking.
To be perfectly honest, past domain names have been my wife’s idea. I talk to her about domain names I think of and she normally comes out with a good one where mine lacks imagination!
But this time around I came up with it myself. I simply went to a domain checker and started typing in ideas to see what was available. Obvious domain names are usually taken so this is trial and error but eventually, you’ll find one that’s available and that you like.
AND YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT LATER.
Your domain isn’t set in stone. If you want to change it for a totally different domain down the line you can. Anyway. Next up are the three domain checks you want to do before hitting purchase.
- Google the domain to check it isn’t already a business. Sometimes you’ll find the domain is available but it’s already a popular brand name operating somewhere like Etsy. No need to start off with competition while also leaving yourself open for lawsuits.
- Once you’ve confirmed there are no competitors using the same name it’s off to archive.org. I’ve been caught out by spam domains in the past and archive.org allows you to see if the domain has been used and what it’s been used for. If it was a spam site it will be pretty obvious and should be avoided.
- Lastly, you want to run the domain through a backlink checker to make sure there aren’t a ton of spam links pointing to it. Ahrefs have a free backlink checker that will give you a good enough overview. Look out for Lots of spam links from unrecognisable sites.
Then buy your domain! I like Namecheap but to keep things simpler you can buy your domain and hosting from the same place. I’ll get to that next.
It sounds like a lot but all of that took me a little under one hour from start to finish.
Hour 2 — Hosting Set up — Let’s Take It Live Baby
Now we’re on to physically setting up the site.
Picking your host is the place to start. There are a ton of options out there and Bluehost tends to get the most publicity for one reason… They have the highest commission! It’s something like $125 per sale to the person who refers you.
I’ve never liked Bluehost and started my first site with Hostgator who were fine at best but I quickly moved on to a faster provider. From them, I went across to Siteground for their easier-to-navigate website and faster customer service.
If you’re new to niche sites I’d recommend Siteground. You don’t need much technical abilities and their customer service is speedy and reliable. You can use my affiliate link if you like but after I just slammed people for promoting Bluehost I don’t blame you if you don’t!
For this project, I went with Cloudways and a DigitalOcean Droplet. They are slightly more do-it-yourself host but the speed you get is fantastic for the price you pay. If you’re a beginner I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you’ve played around with websites before they can be a great option.
I have a refer-a-friend code where you get $25 of hosting credits for those interested. Again no pressure from me. The marketer in me won’t let me not use an affiliate code when I’ve got one.
Installing WordPress and Finding a Theme
In my mind, WordPress is the only option for a niche site. It’s the best way to organise lots of written content which you’re going to have on your niche site. Any host usually asks what type of site you want and you select WordPress from the options.
Next, you want to set up SSL, which is the HTTPS before your URL. Just follow the instructions of your host or jump on a live chat and have them guide you.
I actually had some problems with this where the different versions weren’t redirecting together. I technically had two websites, one was at www. and the other wasn’t. But again I talked to live support and they got it sorted all within the 3 hours this all took.
Don’t overcomplicate things. You just need a website that you can start writing on.
You’re in. You have a URL and your website is ready to go.
Next, we have to set it up with a theme. When I set up my first website i spent 4–8 weeks learning CSS and HTML so I could customise and tweak all the little details. What a total waste of time.
I didn’t have any content written so nobody was coming to the site to see how it looked! Just get a theme looking good enough and start writing. There are plenty of free themes out there but I like StudioPress themes. I had a theme I’d previously bought so I re-downloaded and used that.
Pick the colours you like in the customisation and you can more or less leave it as that. Your homepage just needs to be your latest posts for now and maybe a header of some kind to explain what the site’s about. Remember, you can change it all later. It doesn’t have to be finished before you start writing.
The last thing to do in the second hour is to decide your permalink structure. Do you want Iheartcookin.com/slow-cookers/beef-hot-pot or do you want iheartcookin.com/beef-hot-pot?
I prefer the latter but it’s really up to you and I don’t think it matters that much. You sort this in the WordPress settings but I’m going to reveal to you the secret of figuring out any website set-up problem you have.
The Secret to Sorting Website Problems
Yup. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a technical problem that hasn’t been solved by googling it. As a last resort, you can jump on a live chat but that is rarely required.
Seriously. If in doubt. Google it.
Hour 3 — Final Website Gubbins
Does anyone outside the UK say gubbins? What about Bumf? I’m getting sidetracked. There’s only 1 hour left so we gotta get going. This brings me to my next piece of advice.
YOU DON’T NEED A LOGO.
Sorry for shouting but this is another common hang-up that stops people from starting. Obsessing over a logo. You don’t need one. At least you don’t need a logo right now. You need a website and some articles, THEN you can think about getting a logo.
Next up you want an about page. Don’t overthink it. You will definitely change this later. Just put up some blurb about who you are and why you started the site, blah, blah, blah.
A note on personas — You don’t have to write under your own name if you don’t want to. Right here on Medium
writes under a pseudonym. She even details why it might be preferred. If that’s something you want to do now is the time. If you start with your own name it can be hard to change later.
Next up you’ll want an email address. Setting up a Gmail account along the lines of email@example.com will do nicely. You can then create a contact page and put that on there.
Finally, I went ahead and grabbed the various social media accounts using the new email. I’m not sure if I’ll use any of them but they’re always useful to have in the back pocket.
Congratulations! You Have a Niche Site!
Boom. Three hours later and a niche site is born. Now you’re ready to start keyword research and writing articles. Remember, keep it simple stupid.
You can come back and change literally everything aesthetic on the website from the theme to the colour scheme. It’s only 3 hours and nothing is set in stone. So if you’ve been dilly-dallying enough is enough. Go start your own site.
This is the checklist I used during these three hours.
- Pick Niche — don’t overthink it. The aim is to start.
- Test out different domains in a domain availability checker
- Check the domain in a google search. If competitors come up then find a new domain
- Check the domain in archive.org
- Check the domain in a backlink checker to rule out spam
- Decide on host — Cloudways or Siteground (affiliate links)
- buy hosting
- Install WordPress
- Point domain to the host
- Set up SSL
- Find a theme — StudioPress
- Decide a basic colour scheme
- Set up permalink structure — I prefer plain
- Make About Page
- Set up Email
- Make Contact Page
- Add T&C page
- Add Privacy tools
- Grab Socials
Feedback, comments and business enquires welcome. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
First published on Medium.com