You’ve heard that it’s inexpensive to start a blog. That’s one of the biggest selling points that attract people to blogging. Low startup costs mean there’s a low barrier to entry so virtually anyone with a laptop and a WiFi connection can start a blog.
But is starting a blog really as inexpensive as they say? In this post, we’re going to break down the true cost to start a blog, uncovering any hidden fees or additional expenses. That way, you can get a true sense of how much you should expect to invest to give your blog a solid chance of success.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links as explained in my disclosure-policy.
The Non-Negotiable Expenses
First, let’s go over the expenses you have to make to run and start a blog.
After you choose a name for your blog, you need to officially register it as your own. That way, no one else can use that name. The process of doing this is called domain registration. I registered my first domain name somtoseeks.com with Bluehost back in 2017. Because I also signed up for web hosting, which I’ll talk about next, I got the domain registration for free. Some web hosting companies give you free domain registration when you sign up for their hosting services.
I had a terrible experience with Bluehost and moved both my domain registration and my hosting over to Siteground. The cost of domain registration on Siteground is $15.95. I researched the most popular hosting companies and the cost of domain registration ranges from $10-$20 per year. Note that you have to renew your domain registration every year. This is to ensure that your site is still active. Many domains go dormant after some time or are never even used in the first place.
Every website needs an online storage space to keep files, images, code, and all the components necessary to run properly. A web hosting service provides this storage space for a fee. It stores your website information on a server so that it can be viewable online. Think of it as a digital parking lot for your website.
Web hosting is the process of renting a space on a server for your website. As a blogger, you’ll need to purchase web hosting. While there are free blogging platforms, I do not recommend using those. For instance, you can set up a blog for free on a site like Wix, Weebly, and Blogger. The problem with those platforms is that they don’t give you much control of the design, customization, and branding of your site.
First, when you sing up for these free blogging platforms, you get a domain name that looks like yourname.weebly.com or yourname.wix.com. That prevents you from establishing a professional domain name that is unique to your blog. Secondly, you’ll be forced to have the ads and logos of these free platforms on your blog. This, too, limits your ability to create a professional blog that you can grow and earn money from. You can’t, for instance, work with high-paying ad networks like Mediavine or AdThrive if you’re using a free blogging platform. This is simply because you can’t install the code to run those ads.
So what platform should you use for your blog? I recommend that all new bloggers create a self-hosted blog on WordPress.org. This is the best option if your goal is to build a professional blog and make money from it. WordPress.org is a free content management system that powers over 30% of all the blogs on the internet. It is a platform that you can use to write and publish content, manage your blog’s appearance, respond to reader comments, and more. While WordPress.org is free, you need to pay for a domain name and web hosting to maintain your blog.
Going the self-hosted route may seem more complicated, but it gives you complete control over the design, branding, and monetization of your blog. If you’ve never used WordPress.org before, there may be a learning curve in the beginning. However, you’ll get used to it with time.
There are hundreds of web hosting companies out there that offer starter plans for $3-$10 a month. However, not all of them are created equal. Based on my experience and research, I wholeheartedly recommend Siteground and caution you to avoid Bluehost. Many established bloggers recommend Bluehost to their readers, but don’t take their word for it. These bloggers are affiliates of Bluehost and make money every time someone purchases from their link. The people you should pay attention to when choosing a web hosting service are impartial users – small business owners, web developers, and bloggers who aren’t affiliates of Bluehost. Those people overwhelmingly rate Siteground highly. In fact, according to Webhosting Geeks, a hosting review site, 92% of users give Siteground 4 or 5 stars. Compare that to just 28% of Bluehost users.
I recommend Siteground, which starts at $6.99 a month for the StartUp Plan. When you purchase a Siteground plan, you can choose the length of your hosting: 1 month, 12 months, 24 months, or 36 months. The 12 months of hosting is the best deal so I recommend you choose that plan. The total comes out to be $83.88 for your first year.
A Premium Theme
A critical part of your blog’s success is the user experience. The design of your blog determines how readers interact with your blog, how long they stay, and whether or not they’ll return. That’s why it’s important to purchase a professional theme for your blog,
A theme is essentially a series of code that determines the look and functionality of your blog. While there are free themes you can choose from on WordPress, they tend to be quite limited in their design and functionality. I tried using a free theme when I started my first blog, and it was next to impossible to customize. I wasted hours trying to design my site on a theme with no space for customization. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Purchase a professional theme from the start.
If you’re looking for a professional theme for your blog, then I would recommend a premium StudioPress theme with the Genesis Framework. This is the theme I use for both of my blogs. The Genesis framework, which acts as a foundation for a theme, is regarded by web developers as the most secure and reliable framework for websites. StudioPress themes are highly customizable and mobile responsive. There are over 400 themes to choose from. These themes start at $39 and go up to $200. One perk of Studiopress is that once you purchase one theme, all subsequent purchases are 50% off.
Another expense that I think is critical to growing your blog is education. By education, I’m not talking about enrolling in a 2-year MBA program. I’m referring to online courses that you can take to learn specific information you need to know to grow your blog. These range from all-in-one blogging courses to subject-specific courses about Pinterest or SEO. You may also want to invest in coaching to improve skills like sales, leadership that will help you become a better business owner.
To date, I’ve invested over $30,000 on business coaching and online courses. These investments have been worth every penny, allowing me to fast-track my success. I truly believe that if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you can’t be afraid to spend money. It doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars. It just means that you must be willing to invest in yourself and your business to achieve your goals. Here are some of the most valuable paid courses for new bloggers in any niche.
- Superstar Blogging Masterclass – $49/month
- Stupid Simple SEO – $297
- Pinteresting Strategies – $57
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – $197
The 0ptional Expenses
Email Service Provider
Any typical ‘how to start a blog’ post will tell you to create an email list right from the start. The money is in the list, they say. An email list is a database of email contacts who have given you permission to send them communications. Unlike your social media accounts, you actually own your email list. That’s why it’s often considered the most valuable asset you can have as an online business owner. When you get someone’s email, they’re giving you access to their inbox, which is a sacred space.
An email service provider is a platform you use to manage your email list. There are several free email service providers that are great for new bloggers, such as Mailchimp and Mailerlite. Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers and Mailerlite is free for up to 1,000 subscribers.
You don’t need an email list to be a successful blogger. An email list is only useful if you take the time to engage with your list and get your subscribers to trust you. Just having an email list doesn’t mean you’ll be printing money. That’s one major misconception that new bloggers have. If you don’t have a specific action that you want your list to take, then building an email list may be a waste of time. However, if you know that you want to eventually launch your own product, then building an email list would be helpful. Of course, this is only if you regularly communicate with your list to build a relationship with your subscribers. Otherwise, you may be better off focusing on other efforts to build your blog.
I use an email service provider called ConvertKit, and I’ve been using it from the beginning of my blogging journey. However, I don’t think you need Convertkit when you’re a new blogger. It starts at $39/month, which can quickly add up when your blog isn’t yet generating income. I would recommend Convertkit if you committed to building an email marketing strategy to sell your own products or promote affiliate products. Otherwise, it’s best to use Mailchimp or Mailerlit.
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that allows you to add more functions and features to your blog. You can use plugins for a variety of purposes, from compressing images to speed up your site to showing your Instagram feed on your sidebar. Plugins exist because even the most sophisticated WordPress themes can’t possibly offer every single feature bloggers may want or need.
Plugins come in both free and paid versions. You can learn about the free plugins to optimize your blog’s performance on my recommendations page. Paid plugins are also known as premium plugins. These plugins charge a monthly or yearly fee to use their services. Here are some premium plugins that may be worth the money to start a blog.
MiloTree – $9/month
MiloTree is a plugin that you can use to grow your email list subscribers and social media followers. It allows you to create non-intrusive popups or a sidebar icon that prompts your readers to take a specific action. This can help you fast-track the growth of your email list or social media followers if these are important to your business strategy.
SeedProd – $37/year
SeedProd is a plugin that allows you to create landing pages on WordPress. A landing page is any page that’s focused on persuading prospective customers to take one action – join your email list, buy your product, download an ebook, etc. With SeedProd, you can create a custom coming soon page for your blog when it’s still in the works or a sales page for your product. There are over 100 templates to choose from. This plugin also integrates with ConvertKit.
Tally of Costs
Now that we’ve gone over all the essential and non-essential costs of blogging, I’m going to tally the costs of blogging for a year.
- Domain registration – $15.95
- Web hosting for a year – $83.88
- Premium WordPress theme – $39
Total = $138.83
Non-negotiable expenses + optional expenses
- Domain registration – $15.95
- Web hosting for a year – $83.88
- Premium WordPress theme – $39
- Convertkit – $39 x 12 = $468
- Superstar Blogging Masterclass ($49 x 3 months) =$147
- Stupid Simple SEO = $297
- Pinteresting Strategies = $57
- Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing = $197
- Milo Tree – $108
- SeedProd – $37
Total = $1449.83
Based on this tally, it will cost you between $138.83 and $1449.83 to start a blog with the right foundations. That’s not bad at all when you compare it to the cost of starting a traditional brick-and-mortar business. While it may be relatively inexpensive to start a blog, it still costs money to ensure that your blog is successful. Determine your budget, evaluate your weaknesses, and invest in the right education and tools to help you become the best blogger possible.
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