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My Self Hosted WordPress Journey Part # 2: Make it Yours!

My Self Hosted WordPress Journey Part 2
Make it Yours!

 Welcome back to the second part of My Self Hosted WordPress Journey! If you didn’t see the first part, check it out for information on all the technical stuff you need to set up a self hosted WordPress!

So once you have a self hosted WordPress blog, you have opened the door to a lot more customization options than you had before. This post is going to cover all the options you have for making your blog look unique, from free touch ups to full paid custom designs. Then we’ll go into the wild world of plugins and the list that I’ve found most important for a book blog to have, as well as some other lists that I found while figuring things out. Finally, there are lots of good other resources out there, so don’t miss the list at the end for further reading!

Step 3: New Design Time!

So you have a few options when wanting to spruce up your blog. First, there are lots of free resources that you can use to do the sprucing yourself, and a fair number of quality free themes easily accessible. Second, you can pay someone a little or a lot to do the sprucing for you!

Let’s start with the free options. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and I would love to hear about more options in the comments. To start, if you want to read more about blog design and more specifically color design, check out these articles on blog design from Sparring Mind and color design from Studio Press.

Next, there are lots of free themes out there, but some of my favorite that you can get from are:

  • Anubis
  • Blak Magik
  • Color Paper
  • Grassland
  • Greenery
  • Japan Style
  • Retweet
  • Thoughts
  • Twenty Eleven
  • Vistered Little

After you’ve done some reading and found a free theme, you can go to Subtle Patterns to pick out a new background for your blog. A subtle background texture can add a lot over a plain white or black color-filled background, and all of Subtle Patterns’ work is free to use!

Another favorite resource for designs is Kuler by Adobe where you can play with and download all sorts of color combinations so you don’t have to stress about clashing colors! I like to just look through and move around colors even when I don’t have a project to work on because they are pretty >.>. Don’t judge me! :D.

Now, the argument can be made that if you are making the jump to self hosted and paying money for the domain and possibly hosting, you might as well go all the way and purchase a theme and design that you really love. There are a couple options for this as well. You can purchase a premium theme, use custom art or a completely custom theme. To find premium themes, you can really just do a Google search for “premium wordpress theme” and find lots! If you find something you like this way, usually if you have a good hosting provider, they’ll install the theme for you, so you don’t even have to worry about that!

If you want to just get some custom artwork, but not the whole custom design, I recommend looking at Dribble, deviantArt, or iStock Photo to find artists and art that you like for all price ranges. Then you could incorporate those pieces into whatever theme you have to get your own spin on a common theme!

Finally, you can make a bigger investment and get a completely custom design for your new self hosted WordPress. These designs can cost anywhere from $100-$600 to begin with depending on the designer, and a lot of designers have a weeks to months long waiting list. Also some designers don’t work with WordPress, so be sure to look around their website to see if they do before writing to them.

Finding the right designer for you can be a little tricky, and I will admit that I spent a lot of time looking through portfolios and writing questions to designers before I found some that fit my needs. The best place I found to look for designers was The Blog Designer Network, but I still ended up looking at a lot of designers.

There are several designers that I found through clicking on the credit at the bottom of book blogs, which might work better for your needs since they would probably have a better idea of what book bloggers need. Those I found are below, and if you know of more in the book blogging community, let me know!

Book Blogger Designers:

Finally, the designer that I went with in the end is Likely Lola who had no waitlist, got back to me very quickly and did a wonderful job with the iStock pictures that I picked out. Literally the design process took about 24 hours, since I caught her on her days off!

Step 4: Customize with Plugins!

So now that you’ve made the outside of your blog all pretty, it’s time to customize the back end of your blog to make your life easier! Plugins are one of the best perks of a self hosted WordPress blog because there are hundreds and more being written every day!

As with many other things during this journey, I got a lot of help finding the right plugins to use from the book blogging community, so this is going to be broken up into two segments according to the book bloggers that helped with them!

First, Amanda from On a Book Bender was wonderful to give me her list of best plugins:

  • Duplicate Post (allows you to make a copy of a post to use as a template, just like on
  • Broken Link Checker (emails you if a link you use becomes broken, and can also be used to mass edit your links for your new domain!!)
  • Comment Reply Notification (if you’ve ever commented on Amanda’s blog, you’ll know about giraffe shifters ;-) )
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar (that thing you’ve always wanted and never realized existed! Makes a calendar for you to schedule posts through!)
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast (SEO, you should do it and this makes it much easier)
  • Google Analytics for WordPress (helps you with all the stats of your blog)
  • Jetpack (gives you a lot of those tools from

And in addition to her list, Amanda linked me to Smash Attack Reads’ WordPress Plugins post and here are my favorites from her:

  • Copyrighted Post (with all the problems going on recently, it’s good to remind everyone that you own your content!)
  • Sociable (put sharing buttons right where you want them!)
  • Tweet Old Posts (every few hours it will tweet the title and link of an old posts to give them some more love, awesome!)
  • WP to Twitter (auto tweets your new posts so you don’t forget! Just a note, the set up is a little scary, but just follow the instructions and feel free to ask me if you need help!)
  • WPTouch (so your blog can be pretty on mobile screens!)
I’m sure there are more awesome plugins out there, what are some I’ve missed??

Step 5: More Resources

Whew, quite a journey huh? Well we’re never done learning, so here are some more places to learn about the powers of self hosted WordPress blogs when you have the brain power to keep reading!

And I’m certain there are more great guides out there, so let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

Anything I’m missing that other users think would be good for new converts to know? Have a question that I may or may not be able to answer? Post comments!

And remember to subscribe for weekly reviews of awesome books and stop by again soon!

-AAnya from About The Story

© 2012 – 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. […] to self-hosted WordPress and has written about her journey in two parts: Here’s part 1 and here’s part 2. If you’re looking to make the switch, there’s some great advice […]

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