If you’ve done much research on the cost to start a blog, you’ve probably discovered everything from free on the low end to stupid, stupid expensive.
When you’re a potential new blogger looking at options, it’s not unlike buying a car. You ask Google a generic question like “How much?” and get all kinds of advice – some, all or none of which might be applicable to you and the blog you hope to start.
Compared to the car-buying scenario where most adults have at least a little familiarity with cars and their operation, blogging is uncharted territory. When you haven’t blogged before, it’s easy to hear all the techno-babble and assume the person dishing it out knows the way, and you should follow.
If you do, how much it costs you to start up your blog will depend on which page you landed on and decided to trust.
That’s backwards, don’t you think?
Instead of first deciding what you actually want to do and then figuring out if it’s doable with the time and money you have, you start reading stuff like this:
You wind up giving money to the wrong people for the wrong thing. Now, it’s great that blogs and the websites they live in aren’t carved in stone. But do you really want to do the whole thing over six months into it?
Didn’t think so.
So let’s do this. Instead of trying to figure out how much (or how little) it costs to start someone else’s idea of a blog, let’s back up and think about what makes sense for you.
The 2 most important questions for those about to blog
- What do you want to accomplish with your blog? Or if that’s too big a question, just think about why you want to blog right now.
- What can you actually afford to spend on your blog? Probably a good way to think around this question is to realize there’ll be two parts: What you can spend right now and what kinds of ongoing costs to prepare for.
For sure there’s more than one way to get a blog started, including overspending and underspending. But as people with decades of web experience, we know a secret we’ll let you in on.
Starting a good blog is less about how much you’ll spend than you’d think
A blog that gets you where you want to be is more about making the right choices than whether you spend more or less money getting started.
Starting a blog requires several decisions up front, any of which might involve multiple options and their own pros and cons.
We won’t even try going over every possible combo. That’d be a big waste of your time and ours.
Instead, we’ll talk about just a few options. We’ll give you rough costs, and tell you the pros and cons of each.
That way, instead of being like every other “how to start a blog” post (which tell you that you MUST use self-hosted WordPress and host with Bluehost), you’ll see examples that’ll help you decide what will best work for you.
And, of course, answer the “cost to start a blog” question.
Question what bloggers tell you about how to start a blog
Ya, we know – here we are giving you advice and you’re obviously reading our blog. >_<
Hear us out, please.
There’s a lot of bad blog advice on the internet that looks 100% genuine.
Sometimes it is genuine and well intended. But that doesn’t mean following it won’t ultimately lead to technical nightmares. Or that the blogger who provided it isn’t being paid a commission to steer you toward a specific solution.
Why trust what we say?
TBH, you probably shouldn’t if this is the first you’ve read from us. Have a look around the site. Check out what we’re about around here.
No time? I guess you could take us at our word (or not) that we have the technical background most bloggers lack. We get paid to undo their bad advice.
Sure, we like making money as much as the next girl/guy, but 100% hate it when we have to charge for things that could have been prevented.
We don’t know about you, but we’d rather spend $3K on an awesome new website than a tenth of that unf*cking a janky site built with bad advice.
3 options for starting a blog (and how much they cost)
Option #1: How to start a blog for free
The popular advice around this option is that you shouldn’t bother with a free blog.
Sure, there are some downsides to a free blog. We’ll cover those. However, when your budget is zero but you are ready to blog, are you really going to sit around doing nothing? When you could be building a blog?
No – you’re going to start a free blog at WordPress.com.
- Hosting: $0
- Domain registration: n/a (unless you upgrade to a paid plan)
- Site maintenance: n/a
- Features: Limited
- Security: Included
- Backups: Limited
- Freedoms: Limited
- You actually can start a blog for free
- Little need to worry about hackers
- Many decent template designs
- No monthly costs for hosting
- No worries about doing software updates – it’s all done automatically
- All of your posts and images can be exported and reused if you later decide you want a self-hosted WordPress site
- WordPress.com sites load more quickly than an equivalent site hosted elsewhere
- If you don’t give them at least a little money, you’re stuck with a long and unprofessional URL, e.g., myawesomeblog.wordpress.com
- If you don’t give them at least a little money, they will put ads on your blog; you’ll have no control over them and won’t be compensated for them
- Beyond choosing a different template, you can’t really customize your blog unless you give WordPress.com a pretty decent chunk of change
- If you want to add your own plugins or designs, you’ll have to fork over an amount of money that’s just stupid for what you get
- If you cross the line and blog about topics the WordPress.com folks deem unacceptable, they can shut down your blog
- If you mess up your blog, you can’t ‘undo’ or restore from backups
- When you want to leave and take your stuff elsewhere, you won’t be able to pick up your whole site and move it; you can pay WordPress.com to transfer it to one of their two “approved” hosts (one of which we do NOT recommend)
- If you decide to move your site yourself, the only option you have is to export posts and media/images, then import those into a new site…which you’ll have to set up
Use WordPress.com to get started if you need something that’s free.
Instead of waiting around for “perfect,” just write. WordPress.com lets you do that without worrying about money, software updates, security vulnerabilities or getting fancy with design (mostly because you can’t).
If you can spare a little bit of change, pay for the cheapest plan. It’ll allow you to use your own domain name and remove ads from your site. In fact, they’ll give you your first year’s domain name registration for free, as part of your plan.
Once you are going gangbusters and you think you’re ready for “big boy”/“big girl” self-hosted WordPress, you can export your posts, pages and images and use them in a new site. You haven’t wasted a thing.
Option #2: How to start a blog on the cheap, with the ultimate goal of making money
The popular advice here is to start with a nearly-free $3.95 Bluehost account, which purportedly offers everything you need, stellar customer service, reliable hosting, etc., etc.
Uh…no. The people telling you this are either flat out lying or they just don’t know what bad advice it is because they’ve only ever dealt with one or two websites in their entire life.
We have experience spanning numerous hosts and dozens upon dozens of websites. Cheap shared hosting will eventually bite you in the ass.
We need to be honest, though. While we’re not fans of Bluehost and they’ve brought our clients the lions’ share of problems, it’s not just Bluehost you need to avoid.
What’s wrong with cheap hosting?
Cheap shared hosting in general is best left for hobby blogs and sleazy websites that are likely to get shut down for one violation or another.
They cater to a low-end, low-tech crowd that tends to do bad things with their sites, and yours will be sitting right next door.
If you are a kick-ass blogger or working to become one, the work required to maintain a secure, well-performing WordPress website on cheap shared hosting is a challenge at best and a time suck at worst.
Inferior tech support
If you’re a newb, you’re gonna be toast the first time your site hiccups. And it will almost certainly hiccup, friend.
Even if you’re the rare bird who manages to grow a blog to a decent level of revenue before your cheap shared hosting craps out on you, you will hit its limitations.
Your day of reckoning with your cheapskatedness will arrive.
Would you like that to be in the middle of a five-figure month? Or six? All because you wanted to pay $3.95/month.
Cheap hosting actually doesn’t cost much less than good hosting
I’m not great with math, but saving a few dollars a month – even over a whole year or more – is chump change compared to what you’d lose in revenue when your blog struggles with performance or it’s down completely.
One dirty little hosting-giant secret you need to know up front: It’ll cost more when you go to renew your plan.
For all the reasons above and more, you’re going to do it right and start with managed WordPress hosting. If you’ve heard about this kind of hosting and are worried about the expense – stop. I’ve got a recommendation for you a bit further down. One that won’t break the bank.
- Hosting: $10/mo or $99/year
- Annual domain registration: not included
- Site maintenance: Not included
- Features: Extensive
- Security: Included (limited)
- Backups: Included (limited)
- Freedoms: Extensive
- Inexpensive, but not so cheap as to attract bad websites
- Fast, high-performance servers
- Servers aren’t overloaded with other sites
- SSL included
- Sites are isolated/protected from one another
- Responsive customer service from WordPress experts
- Basic security included
- Basic backups included
- Use any template design you like
- Install most any plugin/feature you like
- Entire site – design and all – can be moved to another host at any time
- You are responsible for all WordPress, theme and plugin updates
- Not updating increases your site’s vulnerability to attack
- You are responsible for figuring out how to resolve issues, whether it’s with tech support or undoing something you did
- Backups aren’t “smart” and can be difficult to restore
We won’t do a deep dive into the tech stuff here. Just know that, compared with the first option of just jumping on WordPress.com and blogging for free, there’s a bunch more you’re responsible for.
Ultimately, though, you’ll be able to use your site for a lot more.
Like, to sell digital products. Run an affiliate program. Write content for sponsors that pay you. Create and sell courses. Grow your e-mail list. We could go on…
If you want to start a blog with only a small amount of money, this option is where you need to be.
There are risks and responsibilities. It’ll take you time to learn what you need to do. You’ll need to invest more time to actually do it.
But in the end, the potential payoff is much greater than what you could do sticking with the free route.
Option #3: How to start a blog when you’re short on time, hate tech BS and you’re willing to shell out $50 or more per month
Take the previous option, and add on a WordPress site care plan to handle site updates and backups.
Don’t need the hassle of site setup and design? Hire that out, too. Expect to pay $4500 – $6500 for new blog setup, depending on complexity.
- Hosting: $10/mo or $99/year
- Annual domain registration: not included
- Site maintenance: $49/month
- Features: Extensive
- Security: Basic + monitoring
- Backups: Smart backups included
- Freedoms: Extensive
- All the Pros of the previous option
- Your site care professional handles WordPress, theme and plugin updates
- The right site care plan offers smart backups that don’t negatively impact server space or site performance
- Eliminates many of the technical hassles of blogging, helping bloggers stay focused on content creation
- Unless you pay a monthly tech support retainer, you’ll still be responsible for getting technical issues resolved
This option is for someone willing to work on his/her blog, but needing help to make the most of the time available.
Blogging is hard work. We’re not gonna lie.
Offloading site care or even site design can help you make more progress in less time than if you’re trying to do it all. But don’t expect to hire out everything.
The best blogs are those with personal stories at their core, and content that readers feel they can connect to. Without a personal connection to your content it’s hard to get people to care about your blog.
What else should I be prepared for when I start a WordPress blog?
You don’t have to register a domain name if you need to start for free. But that’s the first upgrade we’d suggest.
If you’ll stick with a WordPress.com site for a year, it makes the most sense to get your domain name through them since the first year is included.
If you’re going with option 2 or 3 above and don’t already have a domain name, you’ll need to register one.
We recommend NameSilo for domain registration. Their pricing is less than any registrar we’ve found; while we appreciate that we appreciate even more how easy it is to manage our domains there.
If it’s more important to you to keep things super simple, you can buy a domain name from the host when you sign up, or transfer in your domain.
Our personal recommendation, though, is to always keep hosting and domain name registration separate. You’ll probably never want to leave the host we recommend, but it’s always good to have options.
We recommend sticking with WordPress, whether you use it for free at WordPress.com, or use it on a site hosted in server space you’re paying for (this is what’s known as “self-hosted WordPress,” BTW).
In case you’re confused by the whole “WordPress.com vs WordPress.org” thing, know that it’s essentially the same blogging software and just a matter of where you use it.
We don’t care where you use it – just choose whatever works best for you.
Know that when you stick with WordPress you’ll find more options than any other platform. No, it isn’t perfect. But it’s damn close.
We use and recommend Lightning Base managed WordPress hosting. They’re fast, secure, affordable and know WordPress inside and out.
You can pay less and get shat on by hosting giants, and you can pay more without getting anything extra.
New WordPress bloggers are often taken aback when they find out that they are responsible for either a) updating their blogging software and plugins or b) getting their hacked sites cleaned up after not updating.
We don’t want you to be surprised. It’s something you need to either stay on top of or pay someone else a little to handle, else bad things can happen.
Don’t think ill of WordPress, though. It’s not that WordPress is inherently insecure. It’s just that there are hacker types who enjoy figuring out how to ruin it for everyone, and we all have to stay a step or two ahead of them.
We’d love for you to trust your site maintenance to us when you’re ready.
If you’re new to the WordPress world, you might not know that “theme” just means template.
The template you use creates the design part of your blog. While you can customize a bit on top of that, it’s best to choose one that has a basic layout and fonts you like.
One new-blogger tendency we want to mention (and encourage you to avoid) is choosing too complex a design. More minimalist designs initially seem boring, but remember that it’s your content that should shine. The theme should take a back seat.
If you’re building on your own, we recommend StudioPress Genesis themes (but only those actually designed by StudioPress themselves – not third parties). We’ve found them to be better coded, well supported and easier to customize and maintain than third-party Genesis themes.
When we handle site design, we build with GeneratePress. It’s extremely lightweight out of the box, and flexible as well. But if you’re a beginner you may find it’s too much of a blank slate.
Resources for starting a new WordPress blog
The links below are affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase we’ll receive a small commission that helps underwrite our work.
Note: If you’re the least bit familiar with what we do, you know we put a lot of research into our recommendations and only share resources we stand behind and use ourselves or for our clients.
WordPress.com – start a free or low-cost blog
NameSilo – buy or transfer your domain name (use Promo Code FEARLESS for $1 off a domain registration or transfer)
Lightning Base – performance-optimized managed WordPress hosting
Site Care – done-for-you WordPress maintenance, security and smart backups
StudioPress – beautiful, professional and well-coded WordPress themes
Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment or ask a question below, and let us know.