No…really…how much does it REALLY cost to start a blog or an online business?
First things first…the most successful online businesses also require a blog, and if anyone tells you differently, they're either not being truthful, or they just don't know. There are various types of online businesses, and the biggest myth on the internet is that you can do affiliate marketing without a blog. Yes, you can, if you want to make fifteen cents a month.
Ok, maybe not fifteen cents, but you can't make enough money to live on. The most successful super affiliates even have a blog or squeeze page builder.
So the short answer is that you can start a blog for free, but quite honestly, free blogs are not only mediocre, you will gain zero credibility with your online business and nobody will take your blog or your business seriously. The better question is:
How do I actually Make Money from my Blog so that I can turn it into an Online Business?
DO: Use the term “blog” and “website” interchangeably. For the purpose of starting an online business, they are one and the same.
This article will address most of your questions. The reality is that you don't really have to spend a lot of money to get started. In fact, if you do spend money, just a little (we're not talking thousands here) you will be able to get an amazing blog (website) theme that will help you gain credibility faster.
You can start a blog (website) that is slightly above mediocre for about $100; however, if you have a little time and desire on your side, my recommendation is to keep reading and you’ll learn that you can DIY your own professional looking blog or website for around $250.
But wait…there's more!
Marketing your blog, website, or even affiliate product on social media and on an email list is a huge part of building a successful online business, but we'll get to that in a minute. First…
This is really the number one question anyone who is even thinking about starting an online business asks:
How much money do I have to fork over up-front to start a blog or website?
Let's focus on the details of how to start a high quality website from scratch. Serious deets. Like the concept is only in your head because you have a career at the moment, but you're frustrated beyond belief because you work your ass off to get your kids where they need to go, your dinner on the table, your work-life balance practically doesn't exist and you've been hearing about these bloggers who rack in thousands each month working from the comfort of their homes.
Did I hit the nerve yet?
You CAN do it too, you just need to know exactly where to begin. This is not just a bunch of pink sparkle here at Vogue Media, but real, actual numbers. Up front numbers. A year down the road numbers. Cold, hard, facts that no one seems to be giving you a straight answer about.
Please note that some of the links included in this article are affiliate partner links. For more information, click here.
How much does it really cost to start a blog or a website? Because I hate the answer “it depends” I'm going to give you a straight answer first: you can get started for between $60 and $250, depending upon how Type-A you are. Here’s what you need to know:
The FREE Blog
First things first, sure, you can start a blog for free using WordPress.com, but it’s a waste of time. Nobody will ever take your topic seriously if you do that.
There are basically 2 reasons why people start blogs: 1. to make money online and 2. because they are passionate about a topic. Even if you are passionate about a topic that you want to share with the world, for less than $100 bucks, you might as well set it up right the first time, otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself in a year from now saying “damn it, I wish I would have set it up right from the start!” Then you’ll experience all kinds of annoying nonsense like trying to figure out how to transfer your blog to the “right” platform while still keeping your readership, making sure your site doesn’t go “down” while you do it, or getting knee deep into an argument with a customer service provider that doesn’t speak your language.
No thanks. No time for that. I’m a mom, I only have a limited amount of time anyway. Moral of the story…free is not always better.
WordPress.com and WordPress.org both share a similar name, but there are some very important differences between the two. Lets clear up some of the most common questions about blogging with WordPress.
Is WordPress FREE?
Yes, WordPress is Free. But it’s important to be clear about what exactly is FREE about WordPress. The code itself that makes up the WordPress core files is free. This is called “Source Code”. The WordPress platform is what enables you to make changes to your website without having to be a real web designer or developer who studied computer science. So while the code itself is free, in order to actually use it, you need to know exactly what to do with it.
So, yes, the code found on WordPress.org is free and open source (“open source” means that developers, or people who know how to write the code, can go to WordPress.org and download the files for free, modify those files any way they want…for free). The WordPress core files consist of thousands of pages of code that makes your website work. If you don't know how to read “code” then even if you download the files, you will have no idea what to do with them.
Why might someone without a computer science background use WordPress.org?
Here’s the catch, well, there really isn’t a catch, you just need a little guidance. Quick backstory…I started creating WordPress websites for clients in 2006. Back then, I was pregnant with my first baby and I needed a job with some flexibility, however, most companies were not hiring for “Remote” positions at that time. (Omg, am I really THAT old?)
In fact, digital marketing as we know it today didn’t exist yet in 2006, so I created my own business and my mission was simple…to create beautiful websites for my clients.
Back then, I thought all websites were ugly and that people deserved to have a gorgeous website without having to pay a developer a shit-load of money to get a beautiful website. At the time, the web developers all used the same “ugly blue” hyper-links and the term “web designer” meant “computer science major” not actually a professional designer.
Fast forward 14 years and the moral of this story is that bloggers don’t have to do it the hard way anymore.
In simple terms…It’s not necessary for you to download source files from WordPress.org in order to use the “Free” version of WordPress. Instead, the easiest and most intuitive way to get your online business started is to create an account with BlueHost.
BlueHost is the most beginner-friendly hosting provider that exists today, yet it's a complete platform that offers everything you need to run your business. But more on hosting in a moment. Let me explain what hosting is and why you need the right host.
The difference between the “Free Source Files” from WordPress.org and the “Free Blog” from WordPress.com:
WordPress.com is that platform that enables you to set up your blog completely free of charge, however, there are some VERY BIG disadvantages to using this version:
1. You cannot pick a custom domain name (i.e. your URL will be yoursite.wordpress.com)
2. Very limited monetization options (in other words, you can’t sell anything on your website and ads are very limited, so there is little opportunity to make money with your blog if you opt for the “free” version
3. Limited use of plugins for such things as an email list
4. You have to pay anyway if you want to have the WordPress branding removed
5. There is very limited theme support and very basic design themes
6. Limited analytics and SEO capabilities
WordPress.org contains the source files, however, you don’t need to be a developer to use them if you create your blog through a hosting company such as BlueHost. Here are the advantages to buying a hosting plan from BlueHost for about $60:
1. Fully customizable design
2. Unlimited plugin options
3. Your own branding
4. Full monetization
5. Powerful SEO features (so people can find your site easier on Google)
6. Capability for a membership site, or affiliate site
Here’s the stark reality: you can’t make money using a free blog from WordPress.com. Period. End of Story.
You might think that you don’t care about making money, you care about your cause. You’re super passionate about this topic that you plan to blog about. It’s a small niche topic and you’ve got some serious intel about it…and that is a great start!
But you see your blog, it’s kind of a like this virtual, inanimate love. You’ll nurture it, take good care of it, share it with others, and you’ll want it to be top notch. You’re not just any blogger, you’re about to pour your heart and soul into this and you want to run with the big dogs, because your topic has the potential to inspire others around the world.
This is not just.any.blog.
GirlBoss Secret: Raise your standards, and the universe will meet you there.
The $100 Blog
The first step to starting a real, respectable blog will cost you less than $100. What you are paying for is called hosting. Your hosting account stores all your “virtual” website files. It’s kind of like a virtual file cabinet. But if you are still wavering between the Free Blog and the $100 blog, take it from someone who has been doing this for a VERY long time, I would never, ever, ever, ever, in a million years recommend using WordPress.com to create a Free blog.
But what if you’re not a developer? What if your fear is that you have no idea how computer code works? What if you get stuck?
You dream about having a blog that makes money while you sleep. One that looks professional…like a designer created it. That’s the kind of blog you want. But you can’t afford to spend a lot of money on it. At least not yet.
Lets get back to being transparent about how this all works. You don’t have to be a designer or a developer to DIY your own stunning WordPress website. You just have to be willing to spend a little bit of time to educate yourself about how it works, and then spend a little time and money to get it set up the right way.
In order for your blog or website to be up and running on the world wide web 24 hours a day 7 days a week, those files you are getting for ‘free’ from WordPress.org need to be stored somewhere…and that is called hosting…remember your virtual file cabinet that I mentioned above?
Storing your website’s files, is not free, and neither is owning your domain name. However, hosting is very inexpensive, especially if you choose a reputable host such as BlueHost, so the benefit of setting up your website or blog through a solid registrar is of the utmost importance. Not only does BlueHost offer hosting for $3.95 per month, it’s basically a “point and click” method whereby your WordPress website is set up in just a few clicks. You don’t even need to go get the source code from WordPress.org because BlueHost does everything for you! It’s quite literally a newbie blogger’s best friend.
This is the very first step to getting your website set up right. You can even check to see if your preferred URL is available right now!
If hosting costs around $60, then what about that other $200?
The great part about DIY is this is that all of these tools are a-la-carte. That means you don’t have to buy all of them at one time or pay a digital agency upwards of $10,000 to get a gorgeous website. Lets break down a few more costs so that you understand how to take your website from ordinary to extraordinary.
The more you buy at a time, the less expensive it is. Typically you can purchase your domain (ie: Your URL) and hosting for up to 5 years at a time. If you choose to purchase only one year, the typical annual renewal fee for hosting is around $80. Note that this annual cost increases significantly if you choose to use a lesser known hosting company such as SiteGround. Often, SiteGround is recommended by amateur bloggers because it has an affiliate program. I have set up websites for hundreds of clients using a variety of web-hosts including: GoDaddy, BlueHost, 1and1, SiteGround, HostGator, and WildWildWest. I think Bluehost is the most intuitive and easy to use for those new to the industry.
Once you set up your account and your blog with BlueHost, you’ll notice that your website looks very ordinary. WordPress comes standard with their “year” themes such as 2017, 2018, and 2019. These are fine, they will get the job done, but they are all rather ordinary.
This is where the “Type-A Personality” comes in.
If you’ve been reading up, you’ll notice that the most beautiful blogs do not look “ordinary” and you probably want yours to look nicer. More Professional. You may already have a logo and preferred color scheme, and a plain-Jane or free WordPress theme isn’t going to launch your blog into the final cut where you can run with the big dogs.
In order to get a beautiful website design, the most efficient method is to purchase a theme which will cost anywhere from $35 to $100 depending upon which design you select. The great part about using a theme, is that it easily integrates with your WordPress files, so you can essentially upload the theme and install demo content with one click. Then all you have to do is swap out the text and photos, and you’re all set. The theme fee is a one-time fee. Depending upon which theme you select, some themes may offer an annual “renewal” fee which is anywhere between $50 and $100.
Please know, however, that some themes require you to buy additional plugins to make them work. The Genesis Framework, for example, is one of those.
What's Next in Getting Your Online Business Started?
Now that you’ve got your website up and running, and you’ve shared your blogs on your social media channels, the next most common question is “how do I get more traffic to my website?”
This is where the additional tools and potential expenses come in. A lot of people think that if they set up their website, people will just find it online. Unfortunately, that isn’t how things work. There are no “social media fairies” that magically make people visit your website; it takes a lot of effort…probably more than you originally thought.
From SEO to online advertising and social media marketing, there are a variety of strategies and tools that you can put into place to get more traffic to your blog. The tools that you’ll use depend on the topic that you blog about as well as the type of online business that you are starting, but there are some tools that I highly recommend for ALL online entrepreneurs, regardless of what topic you blog about. These tools are:
No matter what Niche you are in, you will need email automation. A lot of people mistakenly get started with MailChimp or MailerLite because they offer free options. BIG MISTAKE. I could go on and on about how much of a headache you will have later if you do this, but that is for a completely different blog article.
The best choice for businesses just starting out is ConvertKit. For businesses making over $250,000 per year, then I recommend HubSpot. Why? Well because HubSpot costs a lot.
Watch this video for more information about online businesses
Want to gain some clarity about your Niche and the direction of your online business? Download my FREE Worksheet!
Still need some help? If you would like to schedule a “blog audit” or connect to discuss your unique situation, click here. I will personally review your website or consult with you about your business idea and provide you with a written report that focus’ on what you can do to improve your chances of success!