How To Save Money When Starting Your Own Blog
Blogging can be a fun hobby for those who love to write and share opinions, but it can also be the foundation of a viable home business. A recent report on glassdoor.com shows that bloggers who truly hustle can make anywhere from $20k per year to over $70k. With those numbers representing a small but noticeable number of people, it’s no wonder why so many people are looking to start new blogs or build their current blogs up to generate some income.
As with any other business venture, however, starting up or stepping up your blogging game can begin to get expensive with all of the associated costs. There’s domain and hosting fees, plus the cost of generating content and designing the site, along with spending on promotion and marketing. If you don’t have a budget and you’re not paying careful attention to where your money’s going, you can easily spend upwards of $1000 per month and barely generate that amount back in revenue.
Fortunately, there are ways to be a successful full-time or part-time blogger spend without spending a lot of money do so. From setting up your site to building traffic, are some ways to save money as a blogger.
Save on Hosting
The first thing you’ll need as a blogger is a webhost, and there are a few ways to approach hosting services. If you’re looking to get a blog started while spending as little as possible, there are a few blog sites that are absolutely free. Sites like Tumblr, WordPress, and Google’s Blogger all offer quite a lot of features at no cost, including free templates so that your blog looks good.
While free accounts are perfect for getting your feet wet, upgrading your blog account on WordPress gives you substantially more options. Their Pro blogger package costs $99 per year, and gives users an extra 10GB of storage (so, 13GB as compared to 3GB for the free account), more customization capabilities, better support, more templates, no ads, and best of all, a custom domain name. That last part is key if you want your blog to have a more professional URL; myblog.com is a lot more professional looking than myblog.wordpress.com. For a free-versus-pro comparison of WordPress’s plans, there’s a helpful chart at https://store.wordpress.com/plans/.
Save on Your Domain Name
Speaking of custom domain names, if you want to buy one independent of a blogging plan, you’ll definitely want to do some shopping around. For a simple and standardized web product, the price of registering a domain name can vary widely. A dot-com domain name at namecheap.com will run you $10.29 per year, while over at name.com, it will run $10.99.
Those aren’t bad prices, but if you are willing to pay for a few years upfront, you can save a few bucks. From godaddy.com, you can get the same dot-com registered for only $2.99, but with a catch: you have to register for at least two years, and each subsequent year is $14.99. The site 1and1.com offers a similar deal, but with a first year price of just 99¢.
You also want to look at what you get for your money. Some registers of domains do that and only that, while others include modest hosting packages (with some storage and an email address) with your new website domain. If your blog takes off, you’ll probably need to upgrade your hosting (either with the same company or another), but to get started, the free hosting packages that come with domain registration on some sites should be enough.
And of course, if you’re truly looking to start a blog for as little upfront cost as possible, you can skip the custom domain name and use a Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger page.
Site Building Options
Once you’ve got your domain, the next task is actually building your site. If you’re going the free route with Tumblr, WordPress, or Blogger, the job is pretty simple, and you can get a simple site with a clean design in minutes with just a little bit of typing.
There are also sites like wix.com and moonfruit.com that will allow you to build a basic HTML5-based site for free. With some creativity and ingenuity, you can certainly use these tools to create a blog. However, be warned that you get what you pay for: the free site building plans on these sites are fairly limited, and you’ll be stuck with Wix or Moonfruit ads (often termed “branding”). Want more functionality and no ads? That will cost you at least $6 a month.
There is robust website-building software available from giants like Adobe Systems (adobe.com), but these programs are fairly expensive; Muse will cost you $14.99 per month, and Dreamweaver is $19.99 per month. Both programs are available as a free 30-day trial so you can try before you buy, but if you decide you want to stick with it, you’ll be adding that monthly expense to your blogging enterprise — unless, of course, your local library has extensive multimedia resources for patrons. Check to see if their computers have these programs available for users; if they do, you’ll save some money on software as long as you’re willing to update your site from the library’s computer center.
Cutting Content Costs
Great content is the foundation of any blog. If you’re publishing poorly written articles that offer little insight, you won’t build up a visitor base because no one will want to read what you’re offering. Not only is great content necessary to keep readers coming back for more, but it’s essential for ranking in Google’s search results, which won’t rank sites with shoddy content. Bottom line? Make your content great!
There are a few ways to get great content for your site. The first one will cost you nothing, and it’s this: write it yourself. Besides the money saving aspect, there are several benefits to writing your own content. First, it’s why you started a blog in the first place, isn’t it? You have things to share, and it’s your creative outlet. Aside from that, you won’t have to rely on someone else to meet your deadlines, which can save you a lot of frustration. Finally, when you write all of your own content, you know that your blog will have a consistent and real voice from one post to the next.
If you’re looking to hire a ghost writer (or several ghost writers) for your blog, you’ll start to incur costs. In fact, professional ghost writers can charge quite a lot for quality content — $50 for a 500-word post is not unheard of. There are content mills online, like iWriter.com and HireWriters.com, where you can have blog posts written for just a few bucks. While you may not get the quality you’re hoping for by hiring out the job to writers on these sites, you’re also not obligated to accept a post if you’re not pleased with its quality.
Ultimately, though, the cost of hiring out blog posts, even at a few bucks a pop, can add up quickly. Your best bet for saving money when you’re starting up a blog is to take the time to write your own content.
If you want your blog to gain lots of followers, you’ll need more than great written content. After all, the web isn’t merely text-based — it’s a visual medium. That means you’ll need images, and lots of them. As with written content, your most cost-effective plan is to take your own photos. While this means that you’ll need a camera to do so, chances are that you’ve got a smart phone with a decent enough camera to get you started. If you’re not confident about your photography skills, take some time to read and watch online tutorials about photographic composition.
If you aren’t able to take some or all of your own photos, you may still be able to use free images you find online. Now, this isn’t as simple as doing a Google image search and grabbing the first photo you like, as that’s a surefire way to find yourself in violation of someone’s copyright. Instead, what you want to look for are photos that are labeled for reuse under a Creative Commons License. You can filter images with this licensing in Google’s image search by clicking on Search Tools, then clicking on Usage Rights, and selecting Labeled for reuse. You can also look on photo sharing site flickr.com for photos with a Creative Commons License; simply search for the term you want and then filter by license.
If you do have a budget to pay for photos, there are stock photo websites that will be happy to sell you any image you need. While some charge a hefty amount for certain images, many sites like foap.com and dollarphotoclub.com charge more reasonable prices. You’ll also find that many stock photo websites offer royalty-free images that are yours for the taking.
Don’t Pay for Image and Video Hosting
Most web hosting sites will offer you a limited amount of storage when you sign up for a free or a lower-cost account. If you stick to uploading text, you probably won’t run out of space any time soon. However, photos and videos can eat up your free storage in the blink of an eye. To conserve your space and save money, take advantage of free image and video hosting sites, then embed your media on your blog.
For photos, it’s tough to beat Flickr. Sign up for a free account, and you’ll be given a terabyte of storage. That’s 1,000 GB! Unless you’re uploading 500 photos a day, you shouldn’t run out of space any time soon. For video, either YouTube or Vimeo will host your videos for free. Vimeo is often considered a more professional choice, though with YouTube, you’ll have the ability to monetize your content and earn a little bit of money for each click.
Get a Logo for Less
If your blogging dreams extend beyond blog to brand, then having a well-designed logo for your site is important. Even if your logo design budget is exactly zero, you still have some good options. There are sites like LogoGarden.com and designmantic.com that can walk you through the steps to create a logo for free. The logos you’ll create on sites like these can be generic looking, as you’re just choosing from a series of vector graphics and fonts rather than getting something from scratch, but you can come up with something fairly decent. And of course, the price is right.
Want something more original on a shoestring? If you’ve got design skills and any proficiency in Photoshop or Illustrator, you can create your own. Even if you’re not familiar with these programs, Adobe Systems offers loads of free tutorials for their software on tv.adobe.com and free, 30-day, fully functional trials of everything they make. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, you can learn the software for free, download the trial for free, and make your own unique logo using professional software without racking up any costs.
If you’re not pleased with a generated logo and don’t have the ability to create your own, consider hiring a college student majoring in art and design to create a logo for your blog. Students are often eager to do work for hire, and they will typically charge significantly less for their work than a professional will. While it’s not a given that their work will be outstanding, you’re likely to get good results if you hire a competent student and can successfully communicate your ideas to him or her.
Promote for Nothing (Or Just a Little)
If you’re willing to invest a little of your own time to promote your blog on social media channels, you can be rewarded with many more visitors. Linking to new blog posts as you publish them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and even Pinterest gives you new exposure with friends and the general public who may not know about your blog or think to visit it. It’s a lot of sites to keep track of, but you can use a social media account management dashboard like Hootsuite to post the same link to multiple types of accounts.
If you want more traffic, you might consider placing ads in a few choice spots. Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are good ways to advertise your blog on heavily trafficked sites for not a lot of money. In fact, with both advertising platforms, you can set a daily budget for ads — as little as a dollar a day. Even a little bit of money spent daily for a fixed amount of time can drive lots of new visitors to your blog. Plus, with the per-day spending cap, you won’t have any surprises when you see your advertising bill. You certainly don’t have to advertise, but if you’re not seeing the traffic that you’re hoping for even after promoting your blog on social media, you might consider spending a little bit of money to bring your numbers up.