Embrace Your Online Freedom With Self-Hosting


Blood, sweat, tears, (you name the body fluid) and it’s been poured into this site.  Maybe a little TMI for you, but I’ll bet you can say the same for your little patch of online real estate.  I birthed this blog in September, 2012, and a lot has changed since that time.  My reason for creating relevant and user-friendly content remains the same, but deciding to branch out and offer products and services along with that information made for a sticky wicket on my original WordPress.com site.

For one thing, I market vegan supplements, and I love them.  Wordpress has strict rules about marketing for their free sites, so in order to speak freely about my cool stuff (and avoid having my entire site deleted without warning), I needed to make the switch.  Additionally, I was tired of being offered opportunities for advertising (like sponsored posts) and having to turn them down (WordPress policy again).  Throw in the inability to enjoy passive income for fitness-related ads clicked from my site, and that was it for me.

But it wasn’t all for the money.  I am big on aesthetics, and wanted flexibility for graphical and design changes on the site as well.  For instance, I have been OBSESSED about social media buttons for several months now.  With my old site I was limited to the generic sidebar widgets for directing readers to my Facebook and Pinterest accounts.  With all the plugins available via WordPress.org (and not WP.com), I have delighted in a veritable smorgasbord of options with which to tinker, and the plugins make it SO easy.  Even for coding dolts like me :). I now have a footer (even though my theme doesn’t support one), much more detail from my Google Analytics page, and I even got to add a new, fun font to give the text blocks a little punch.  I am in website heaven.

melonsBut wasn’t it scary, you ask?  TREMENDOUSLY!  I was terrified to risk all that content (that turns out I actually didn’t OWN anyway) when the site was basically doing what I wanted it to do?  I had learned how to maneuver around the dashboard and get posts published.  I even knew how to tier menu items and add graphics THAT LINK TO THINGS!   Why fix what wasn’t exactly broken?  And have to $hell out extra to do it?  I felt like I was going under the knife for some gratuitous plastic surgery, like a third boob job or something; being greedy when I already had what I needed.

I did weeks worth of research, pouring through every last WordPress Support page and forum, reading blog posts by other bloggers who’d done it.  Switching over myself seemed easy enough.  Plenty of folks have written about it, including WordPress, who provide a step-by-step guide, detailing The Famous 5-Minute Installation.  And if you haven’t met Timethief, you definitely need to check out her page – amazingly helpful info. Just be prepared to have GOOD, thoroughly researched questions, or you might get comment slapped.

The other option is the Guided Transfer, which I chose and highly recommend.  This is basically a dedicated WordPress chick/dude, or Happiness Engineer, who transfers all your WordPress.com content to your new host and installs all the imbedded plugins from your old site (widgets, menus, etc) so that when you go to www.ihopemysiteisstillhere.com, it actually is.  If you want to use the same theme, and it is supported outside of WordPress.com, you can take it with you.  I took mine, Confit, even though it still isn’t exactly what I want.  I had enough stress worrying about getting the transfer done, and just wasn’t in the mood to recreate the wheel.

How I Did It

So the first step was to pay the $129 and schedule the transfer with WordPress.  Then I contacted my new host, Bluehost in this case, to set up my hosting service. I found their outstanding customer service, which was steeped in their refusal to let me feel like an idiot with all my idiotic questions, SO refreshing.  They offered site security (among many other things that I don’t really understand, but hope to one day) and their prices are reasonable.   I already purchased my domain name through WP, so it transferred for free.  However, if you need one,  you should budget for this as well when looking at potential hosts.  Also be aware that when they say they charge is $X for hosting per month, you may pay for 3 YEARS’ worth of those months up front to get that price, so be ready with your wallet.  Bluehost gave me an account (where my new content would live) with a username and password.  By this time my WordPress Happiness Engineer, Michael, had emailed me to schedule the date and time and to obtain my Bluehost account information.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to schedule the transfer within 2 days.  Yay!  Michael was helpful, and assured me that it would all be O.K.

storkAnd it was.  I cleared my schedule for the day of the transfer to be sure I was available for any crises.  I was WAY too drama queen about the whole thing.  I was like dads of today, all decked out in my scrubs with the Lamaze manual under my arm, ready to do a lot of breathing. Turns out all I needed was the box of cigars.  The guided transfer allowed me to relish this birth like a 1950’s father.  After I delivered everything to the hospital, I spent a few hours in the waiting room anticipating the announcement:  “The transfer is complete.”  BAM!

The Aftermath

I was advised that the servers at WP and Bluehost would spend up to 72 hours transferring all the data between them, but my guess is that my site is so small the conversations were concluded pretty quickly.  I was able to access my new WP dashboard (which looks virtually the same – YAY) and actually create a post by early the next day.  I was ecstatic that my website still existed and immediately went to work with the changes.  Although I had 2 weeks worth of email support from my Happiness Engineer, I didn’t really need it.  All my questions were based around plugins and doodads and fun stuff that wasn’t part of the package. That 2 weeks is really for learning to navigate the dashboard, which I already knew, so I can’t say I really took advantage of it.

david faltermierHowever, on the FUN STUFF front, I have let you know that there is NO way I could have gotten my site to where it is today without some big time web savvy on the part of David Faltermier, founder of Freshweb Studio.  He has helped me obtain a large portion of the aesthetic improvements I mentioned earlier, and I am just giddy about it.  David is a true professional – knowledgeable, patient and real.  Thank goodness, because I will need his ongoing help as the morphs and changes will keep coming.  I am just never satisfied with the way things are, and I don’t fancy myself a diva on any other front but this one.  My apologies precede me, David!  And THANK YOU.

If you do decide to make the switch to self-hosting, I suggest you get David or someone hopefully as good as David to help you refine and tweak.  Once you get started with one thing, you’ll want ten more, trust me :).

The only negative I can come up with regarding this whole project is that my new posts won’t show up in your reader unless I publish them from my old dashboard on WordPress.com (which I don’t plan to do after this post).  In fact, if you haven’t seen me in your reader for a while, and you haven’t subscribed via email, then it’s possible you missed a few things.  At this juncture I would highly encourage you to head over, check it out and SUBSCRIBE, kind readers.  You can also receive updates via my Facebook page, as I push all my posts out there as well.

So if you’ve been on the fence about switching over, I would say go for it!  Yes, it costs more, but it’s such a small price to pay for claiming your freedom with the online abandon you’ve been craving.

On the fence about making the switch?  Talk to me.