Starting a blog is easy and there are an estimated 570 million blogs out there in early 2021 (source). How can there be so many? Because the barrier to entry is so low. Almost anyone with access to a computer that has the internet has the ability to at least start a blog in some form.
That said, there are huge differences between small hobby blogs, huge monetized blogs with thousands of posts, or the many millions of blogs that have one or two posts and then never receive another one.
How much does it cost to start a blog? How expensive does it get to run a good one? All your answers to the costs surrounding starting and running a blog will be answered in this article.
Let’s jump in!
Can I Start Blogging For Free?
The main reason is you have no control. If they just decide to shut down your blog, there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t own the platform, so there’s nothing you can do about it. There are also limits on things like design, formatting, and monetization might not be allowed.
Many hobbyists would have had better blogs, and the potential to move to monetization, if they had only had control over their content instead of starting on a free platform.
Define Your Blogging Purpose
Defining the purpose of your blog is important for multiple reasons. Not only does your blog’s purpose determine how you post, what you post, and affects every part of how you will build your website but it is also crucial for proper motivation.
You can take a laissez-faire attitude towards posting when it’s a hobby blog, but when it’s a side hustle there has to be more targeted keyword research and focus.
When you are aiming for a full-time income, the strategy has to be carefully planned and then executed with massive work.
A hobby blog is just that. These are started as a passion project. The focus is on sharing information, teaching others who want to learn new skills, and showing off to others in the community.
The goal isn’t monetization, though there are hobby blogs that toss on some AdSense for a little extra change. The focus is the passion for the topic and everything else is secondary.
This is the lowest pressure option, but it also requires the least investment for starting up and has the least stress.
Maybe the main point is to showcase a hobby, but you want to make some money out of it. This could be for a long-term passive income that just puts a little bit of cash in your pocket every month or it could be hoping to sell later for a decent payday for an upcoming project.
While bootstrapping is still the right move, with a side hustle you need to at least understand a little bit about monetization, especially display ad options and affiliate sales.
As traffic and income come in, at least some reinvestment would be important like better inexpensive hosting or possibly some SEO work.
More discipline is important as consistent content creation will be a must.
Earning a full-time income from blogging is 100% possible. Tens of thousands of people have done it, and many more do it each year. Getting to a full-time income with a blog doesn’t happen by accident.
Someone blogging to eventually go full-time needs to do in-depth keyword research, learn how SEO works, and write with search engines in mind. Ranking well in Google is crucial for monetization and scaling earnings.
Things like technical design, optimized monetization, and in-depth SEO will be crucial to go with an ambitious content plan.
Let’s Cover The Basics – Blogging Hardware Costs
Certain tools are necessary to be able to blog. These are the tools that serious bloggers use almost every single day.
Laptop Or a PC
You need a computer that can connect to the internet. Without that, there’s no way to create an online blog.
The computer doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a 10-year-old laptop cooled on a box fan, but as long as it can connect reliably to the internet that can be the starting tool.
If you don’t have one you need to either buy it, or a workaround in the bootstrapping days would be to possibly use a family member’s or friend’s computer, or even going to use a public library computer (though don’t save passwords, and keep in mind this has security risks).
Get a working computer.
Keyboard and a Mouse
Simple enough. They don’t need to be anything fancy. I’m a fan of the “no-click” mouse that doesn’t make a lot of noise when clicked, and an ergonomic keyboard to support the hands and wrists, but these aren’t a necessity in the beginning.
Smartphone With a Good Camera & High Data Plan
Good pictures are important, and a smartphone camera is good enough for most needs. Having a high data plan helps you make sure the blog is rendering properly on mobile. A smartphone can also be used as an emergency Wi-Fi hotspot if your Internet isn’t working.
It might even be a stop-gap to allow you to connect online and work, especially when traveling.
Headphones & Microphone
These are important for a variety of things. Aside from listening to YouTube or podcasts that can educate you, this allows you to record training videos, YouTube videos where you’re showing the screen of your computer, or even voice-activated talk to text software.
Costs Of Starting a Blog
Assuming you have all the necessary hardware, the costs of starting a blog can vary from a low amount to much higher depending on what tools you want out of the gate. The difference in what a beginner should spend versus an experienced blogger who has made profitable sites before can be enormous.
A normal domain name will likely cost between $10-20 in most cases. Some TLDs cost more at a minimum, and expired or premium domain names can cost thousands, but a new unused domain name can be picked up for $10-20 from GoDaddy or NameCheap right now.
While a big site may eventually want a VPS or server, shared hosting is fine in the beginning. Shared hosting can start as low as $3 a month with better shared hosting usually in the $10-20 a month range.
WordPress has countless free themes, and a lot of very good ones. Look for a theme that’s clean and works. If you want something specific, design costs will vary – but you can also use YouTube tutorials to see if you can learn whatever you need.
Many free WordPress themes will work perfectly fine for starting blogs. Once some money is coming in it can be good to look at GeneratePress or another premium theme.
These usually have a yearly subscription or a one-time fee for lifetime use that is a few hundred dollars. Once you find a premium theme that supports fast loading and that you like, it’s usually worth getting the lifetime if you are going to be blogging long-term.
While there are many sites like 99designs that offer graphic designers bidding on a job for a few hundred dollars, there’s no reason you need to pay this much! Fiverr has many talented artists who can get you a great logo for under $50 including revisions and tip.
Once you have the hardware and the initial startup costs, there are costs for running a blog. Keep in mind that a lot of these can be done by yourself, or they can be outsourced. It all depends on your budget and whether you want to invest money or your time.
Content Writing Costs
Technically content writing costs can be $0 if you do all the writing yourself. This is how many bloggers start, and it’s good to learn what makes for good content so you can train others to write the way you want.
As the blog grows and expands, you can decide whether you want to keep doing it solo or outsource. Most bloggers who become profitable and grow eventually hire freelancers or train a team to help them scale.
Content writing can get expensive fast. It takes work to find inexpensive content writers if you want to outsource and the old adage “You get what you pay for” really applies to freelance writers.
Two to three cents a word is the very low end, four to five cents is fairly standard, and a lot of high-talent freelancers or specialist agencies start at 7 cents a word and go all the way up to 20 plus cents a word.
This is a high-variable cost, and the more time put into finding writers with good skills/potential and training them up in the beginning, the happier most bloggers will be in the long run.
Many bloggers never advertise their sites so the advertising costs are $0. Experienced bloggers looking for attention or building out the brand will look at targeted social media ads to increase exposure.
Email Marketing Software
An email list can be a powerful way to build relationships and create revenue. Tools like MailChimp are crucial for properly managing an email list and tend to range from free early on up to hundreds a month depending on the size of the list and number of services.
You can mess around with MailChimp’s pricing tool here to get an idea of what tools like this might cost at different traffic levels.
Social Media Tools
Some bloggers use no social media tools at all. It is possible to have a successful blog without any social media, but that would leave a lot of potential (and likely money) on the table. Tools like the Tailwind App help manage and grow traffic from Pinterest, for example.
These tools are going to vary in price depending on what tool and what social media sites you are focusing on, but it’s possible for this number to be a very low expense.
Some premium plugins are incredibly useful and are powerful tools for blogs. LinkWhisper is one example of a powerful plugin, which gives a blog plenty of power to control internal linking on a site.
Ninja Tables Pro is a plugin used by affiliates all the time to create fantastic tables that increase sales and conversion rate, and look good enough to avoid Google’s ire.
Premium plugins can range from a $40 one-time use, to several hundred dollars, to a monthly subscription model. The exact premium plugins you need to improve your blog will determine the cost.
Depending on the niche there might be extra tools that are going to help. These might be organizational to manage a team like Trello, an Ahrefs account to search keywords and competition, or something else altogether.
Most blogs will need extra tools at some point and these costs might be one-time or recurring. Expect a few hundred dollars in expenses for extra tools at some point.
Learning How To Save Money When Starting Out
One of the best things about starting a blog is you can do it on a budget. While an ideal website is going to have an investment in content, in the right plugins, in custom graphics, and high-end hosting, a brand new site can start with a $10 domain name and $5 a month shared hosting.
Instead of buying a keyword or SEO tool like Ahrefs for a year, organize what you need to look up and buy one month. Just make sure to get all your work done in that month so you can cancel before getting charged again.
Use YouTube tutorials to learn how to do things instead of hiring freelancers. Assume you’re writing the first 100+ articles of your website before outsourcing.
Many of the premium plugins or tools streamline processes or help to scale things you would be doing solo otherwise. When saving money is very important in the beginning, do everything solo that you can do on your own.
Use the free versions of things until you have the budget to get the premium tools, plugins, or resources you need once you’re ready to scale.
Can You Be Successful In Blogging With a Low Investment?
Starting a blog is one of the best potential investments out there. Imagine buying three years of hosting on sale and a domain name for just over $200, and then making over $50,000 over those three years and then selling the site for $80,000.
That’s an amazing ROI and it’s not that uncommon. It’s not even close to being the ceiling of what can be done, either. You can be successful blogging off a low investment if you work hard, focus on learning, and scale-up intelligently when the income starts coming in.
- Bootstrap heavily in the beginning
- Get creative to get the tools you need
- Create a plan for your blog
- Blogging can be very cheap to start, but you will need to scale up later
- YouTube is the best free resource you can ask for
- Upgrade to excellent hosting once traffic picks up past 10,000 views a month
There aren’t gatekeepers. With a minimal amount of money, a computer with an internet connection, and a lot of hours building a profitable blog is possible. It can even be done on a surprisingly small budget.