Starting a blog is easier now than it ever was and much more affordable than what many believe. However, if you want to turn your blog into a business, you cannot really do it for free. If you look around the internet you will quickly figure out that there are different opinions about how much it costs to start a blog. This is because there are various ways to get it done right, which is a part of the beauty of blogging.
In order to make it as easy as possible for you, this article will teach the following topics:
- The possibility of starting a blog for free.
- What you absolutely need when you start a blog.
- Extras that should be considered if you have some extra money available or want your blog to grow.
Why Should You Invest in Your Blog from The Very Beginning?
When you want to start a personal blog, it can be done for free through options like WordPress.com, Blogger.com, and even Medium.com.
Free versions can be utilized but in most cases, people just like blogging so much that they want to continue. Because of the fact that a free option was used, it is difficult to grow. For instance:
- With Medium.com, you have no growth option and you cannot properly monetize your blog. This means the possibility of making money with your blog is really low.
- With WordPress.com you have to spend a lot more to upgrade to an option that truly enables you to make money. You cannot add any ads. Affiliate links are not allowed.
- Medium.com is very limited and also requires advanced HTML and CSS knowledge when you want to make design modifications.
As you can see, the free options are not a good idea if you want to make money with your blog or if you want to grow and reach a bigger audience. So why not do it right from the start?
You can host a blog on your very own server, use the popular WordPress.org (don’t get confused with the free version WordPress.com – that’s something different) and avoid all the mentioned downsides. This will also allow you to monetize it later without difficulties.
The great thing: it is not as complicated as you might think it is. Really. When you go to a professional hosting provider, e.g. Bluehost, it is only a few clicks and your blog is ready to go. So don’t shy away from it now and go for a seemingly easier free option. You might regret it later.
Take away: When you just want your blog to be read by friends and family members, it can be done for free. However, if you do want to be professional and really turn your blog into a business, you have to get it right from the start.
Must-Haves When Starting a Blog
If you have decided, that you want to host your own blog (which is the best idea for most of us), you should have a look at the tools and things that you need to get now:
Of course, you want to have a professional domain for your blog. I bought all of my domains on NameCheap. Even the popular “.com”-domains are usually only around 10 USD.
NameCheap also offers numerous potential discounts you can take advantage of. Usually, the biggest discounts are offered when you buy several domain names at once (useful when you cannot decide on a domain name extension or when you can’t decide on a name) or when you pay for a minimum of 2 years.
If the budget allows it, you should seriously consider buying all the most popular domain extensions for the name you want to use, like “.net” or “.org”. This is because there are individuals out there that follow successful blogs and register the same domain name with other extensions. They are also likely to copy some of your content and try to steal your readers.
If you are only writing for a specific country and you are sure that this will never change, you could also go for extensions like “.fr” for France or “.de” for Germany. To be on the safe side, be sure you also own the .com domain name.
It is always recommended to choose a hosting package that is optimized for WordPress.org use. Bluehost offers such an option and is generally preferred when starting a blog due to the flexibility offered and the fact that it is super easy for beginners to get started.
After you make your payment, you actually get the account with WordPress.org already installed, which is highly convenient when you do not know much about PHP, FTP, HTML, CCS, and such programming languages.
Most blogging beginners will opt for Bluehost’s Basic package, which has all you need if you are just starting out. This also includes a domain name; means you don’t have to buy one in advance but get it for free when you sign up with Bluehost.
The Bluehost Basic package is currently on sale for 3.95 USD a month. That’s not even 50 USD a year for hosting and domain. Great offer!
Having a hosting provider and WordPress.org installed is not enough. You also need to have a nice theme. A theme is basically a template which lets you change the design and layout of your blog.
There are countless free WordPress themes that can be used but in order to have a truly unique blog. However, free themes have numerous restrictions in terms of customizations.
Paid themes can be fully customized and offer much more functionality and a support team if you have any questions.
There are plenty of theme providers out there today. I’ve been using Divi Theme by the company Elegant Themes for years now and absolutely love it! It is perfect for everyone who, just like me, has no idea of coding or programming. You can simply drag and drop modules on you pages the way you want. You can also change colours, font sizes, images etc. with a few clicks. It really is super easy to use.
Plus, you get tons of free beautiful layout examples that you can easily adjust to your own needs and fill with your own content. If you still need help or have questions, their customer support is excellent. There is also a very helpful Facebook group for Divi users that support each other.
The Divi Theme is 89 USD per year (or 249 USD for lifetime access) and you can use it for as many websites as you wish.
As you can see, I’m a huge fan and can’t recommend Divi Themes enough.
Total Costs for Blogging Must-Haves
Let’s assume you decide for a hosting company like Bluehost, you won’t need a separate domain, which saves you a bit of money. That means you only have to pay for hosting and a proper theme.
Total Costs For Must-Haves When Starting A Blog: 12 USD per month (139 USD per year)
Great-To-Haves When Starting A Blog
Besides the must-haves mentioned above, if you want to turn your blog into a business, you should consider a few possible extras. With a domain name, hosting and a good theme, you just have the basics.
If you want to bring your blog to the next level, the following additional services are very helpful:
SEO (search engine optimization) is vital for the success of a blog. In case you are not aware, this means optimizing your blog with certain keywords so that it appears higher in search engines. No matter what blog you start, you need to focus on SEO from the start. This allows you to get more traffic and ultimately, make more money because the best traffic you can get comes from search engines like Google and Yahoo.
This is a very comprehensive topic on its own but the most important thing that you have to keep in mind to use keywords that people actually google for. How do you find those keywords?
There are several tools on the market but my favourite is Keysearch.
Keysearch is a very useful tool that countless bloggers use right now. It helps you find out what people actually look for and to track the results of the SEO work you do. Simply put, when you have an idea and you want to write about something, Keysearch tells you how interested people will be in the article before you even write it. You can thus save a lot of time and can make more money with the blog in a shorter period of time as you have extra information most people do not have.
The Starter option, which is very good for most blogs, costs 17 USD per month.
Extra Tip: If you don’t want to spend the money for the entire year, at least get it for a month or two at the beginning of your blogging journey. If you do SEO right from the beginning, it will save you a lot of time later.
Click here to get a free trial for Keysearch.
Canva quickly became popular among both beginner and professional bloggers because it solves a big problem: most blog owners are not designers or have any fancy design programs. However, graphics are vital for the success of a blog.
With Canva, you can easily design really good graphics to be used on the blog and on social media, just to mention a couple of options. You can even use Canva to create infographics or Pinterest posts, which are great traffic sources many do not use or know.
There is a free version of Canva which is great to get started. However, the upgraded option gives access to 400,000 exclusive illustrations, templates, and photos that can be used. Also, there are more customization options available, making it easy to create designs that will look exactly as you want them to. For instance, in the free version, you choose the size of the design and cannot change it afterward. With the pro version, you can automatically resize all designs so the size is perfect for where it will be used.
It also lets you download a design with a transparent background. Perfect for creating logos or small elements for your blog layout. On top of that, you can give all of your team members access to it, too, so they can edit the designs as well.
You can get a free 30 days trial to see and try all the extra features offered (trust me, you’ll love it). After that, Canva for Work costs 12.95 USD per month.
Pinterest and Instagram are great traffic sources for blogs so many bloggers want to have profiles set up on these social networks. Especially Pinterest is a rather untapped traffic option that can be particularly useful when you start a blog and want to build an audience. The only problem is that it takes a lot of time to post as many times as needed.
Tailwind is a great tool to manage that issue and I would be absolutely lost without it. You can easily schedule hundreds of posts and pins in no time. There are also many additional features, like statistics, to step up your social media game.
For Pinterest, there are also so-called Tribes. You can join tribes in your niche and share your pins there. This will give you extra exposure and can literally explode your traffic.
In the beginning, when you are not ranking high on Google yet, Tailwind will bring your content in front of a big audience while saving you hours and hours of precious time, so it’s definitely worth the 9.99 USD per month.
Email marketing is a very effective tool to use when blogging that generates growth. Basically, you want to start collecting email addresses as early as possible so you can set up newsletters and eventual sales funnels. You also need to make sure you stick to legal requirements in terms of privacy and data protection. Hence, professional email marketing software is necessary.
A popular option for that is Convertkit. This service helps you take control of your entire email marketing campaign even when you are an inexperienced newbie blogger. It is also preferred over other similar services because of the complete design and customization control offered.
Pricing varies based on subscriber numbers. If you have up to 1k subscribers, which is the case for most blogs during their first year, the price is $29 per month ($290 when paying for an entire year).
I have to admit that this is not exactly cheap. However, you will need a reliable email marketing tool when you want to grow your blog and Convertkit definitely is one of the best ones out there.
Extra Tip: When you set up your mailing list, be sure that you create something to give to new subscribers. For instance, an option that is highly effective is to offer a free chapter from a book you wrote. When you give people a reason to sign up to your newsletter, there is a much higher possibility they will actually join. Also, check out this post for even more tips on how to get more email subscribers when you are at the very beginning of your blogging career.
The blog is only as good as the articles on it. Because of this, you need to be sure that you avoid spelling and grammar mistakes, as much as possible. Nobody is perfect and it is easy to slip up.
Grammarly is a tool that steps in and offers a much-needed helping hand since it automatically checks spelling and grammar. There is even a Chrome plugin you can install and check articles as you type in WordPress or you can use the Microsoft Word add-on that does the same thing.
Grammarly is available for free, offering coverage for all basic spelling and grammar problems that can appear. The check that is performed is actually a lot better than what Word offers.
If you can afford to pay an extra 11.66 USD per month, you also get access to more advanced grammar suggestions like overused words, inappropriate tone, or inconsistent writing style.
Blogging Costs for Beginners
As you can see, there are quite a few tools and services that can make your life as a blogging beginner much easier.
If you want to start a blog, you should invest at least 12 USD per month for the very basics (hosting, domain & theme). This allows you to create all the content and do all the work needed to promote the blog.
If you have more budget, you should definitely consider adding a few (or all) of the other mentioned nice-to-have tools. As said before, you don’t necessarily need to get all of the tools for the entire year. With some, e.g. Keysearch, it would also be ok to just buy it for a month or two and use the heck out of it during those weeks. If you need it later, you can always subscribe to it again.
Other services, such as Tailwind, are definitely recommended all year long. They just save you so much time and work, it makes no sense to use them only for a few months.
No matter what options you choose, remember that the most important thing at the end of the day is to offer the highest possible quality in everything that you do. The success of your blog will depend on the quality you offer and money is needed in order to create quality.
Extra tip: If you are interested in more helpful tools you need as a newbie blogger, check out the linked article that lists my favorite resources.