In the past seven years, I've gotten numerous emails asking me for advice about starting a blog, and I think there are various ways to tackle this question because everyone has a different blogging journey. So I'll start with the objectives, the tangible essentials that you need to create a blog. Now, I don't want to come off too technical so I asked the help of amazing bloggers and creative freelancers to craft a blog walkthrough for people like you who want to start a badass blog.
1. Domain Name
How much? $10+ per year, from Namecheap
If you're signing up with web platforms like Tumblr or Blogspot, getting a domain name is optional because you'll automatically receive a blog URL in a particular format (or subdomain) for free. But if you're serious about blogging or establishing a name for yourself, a domain name is necessary. When choosing a domain name, pick a name that's memorable but easy to type.
2. Web Hosting
How much? Price starts at $5 per month. My current web host offers $30/year.
Some of the popular web hosts other bloggers use are Bluehost and Dreamhost. I have no experience with any of these web hosts (yet) but I did ask friends for some feedback:
I use Bluehost and they've been really helpful in terms of customer service and prompt in replying to my emails. Their reps are really resourceful and they rescued me numerous times after I mess with my coding and broke my site by accident. — Aimee of Ready Set Happy
Always remember that a web host is crucial to your online business or blog. If your web host is down all the time, you'll lose valuable clients and readers. Look for a web host that's reliable, one that delivers an uptime of 99%, and has an incredible customer service — all at a reasonable price.
3. A Blog Platform
Currently, there are five platforms that a lot of bloggers choose from — Tumblr, Blogspot, Squarespace, Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org. The web design goddess, Ashley of Nose Graze, was generous enough to write an in-depth yet concise pros & cons for each blog platforms (the blockquotes).
Tumblr (Free) is a micro-blogging platform that's perfect for shareable content like art, photos, and poetry. Its reblog feature serves as an excellent blog exposure tool and could boost your traffic. But since it's considered a 'micro-blog', the platform comes with basic and very limited features. Ideal users: Artists, photographers, writers and poets.
The pros of Tumblr: It's very easy to use and has an active community, or fandom. Illustrators, photographers, writers and poets can receive great exposure through this platform.
The cons of Tumblr: Although intuitive, the features and functions of the platform are very limited. The inability to visit a blog on another tab affects a blog's traffic.
Blogger (Free) is a Google-powered platform is one of the most reliable blogging platforms since 2000s. Like other free platforms, Blogger also has their set of "limits" but they aren't very limiting at all. In fact, each Blogger account can have up to 100 blogs per account, 1 GB of total storage, and 2000 unique labels per blog. For more info about the limits, read this. Ideal users: New bloggers and for anyone who doesn't want to spend too much.
The cons of Blogspot: You're at the whim of Blogger/Google. If someone reports your blog as spam, they can delete/remove/hide it without warning. They have full control over all your content and could decide to shut down one day without notice or reason. There are also fewer customization options since you cannot use PHP or modify the admin area in any way.
Squarespace (Paid) is a paid platform that offer so many things. You can showcase your portfolio, sell your products and blog your thoughts — all in one place! What I like about Squarespace is the ease of use and modern minimalist themes you can use. They also have an excellent customer support, and you won't have to worry about technical matters. Ideal users: People who want to set up a website but doesn't want to code.
Pros of Squarespace: It's very "what you see is what you get" and simple. If you're not tech savvy and don't want to become tech savvy, it will probably be the quickest and easiest way to get a site up and running. You have someone on the platform itself you can turn to for help/advice/questions. You don't have to seek out a third party "developer" or "maintenance plan".
Cons of Squarespace: It's not open source. That means you can't do whatever you want with it. This severely limits what you can do with the platform. Also, Squarespace is a HUGE pain to move off of. So if you decide to move to WordPress later, it will be a nightmare. Posts can transfer over okay, but images do not. It will require an experienced developer to get it working even somewhat okay. Also there's a monthly fee.
The Two WordPress There are two Wordpress versions: the .com and .org. The significant difference between the two is who's hosting your website. With Wordpress.com, somebody else takes care of the hosting for you just like what Google is doing to Blogspot and Yahoo to Tumblr. With Wordpress.org, you host the website. You'll install it on your web host, you make your rules on how you use it.
WordPress.com (Free) is the hassle-free version because all you have to do is think of a username and sign up. This easy to use platform comes with a robust analytics but doesn't allow third-party advertisers (no Nuffnang or Google Adsense). Yikes! Their free plan also comes with so many limitations, so if you want to access the advanced features, you'll have to pop $99/year! Ideal users: Anyone who wants to set up a blog without monetization in mind. Also, you must be rich.
Pros of WordPress.com: I've heard that their support is very good. It's easy and free to get up and running. Also if you decide to move to self-hosted later, it will be RIDICULOUSLY easy and completely seamless.
WordPress.org (Free) offers the same features WordPress.com has but with more freedom, flexibility and customization in terms of usage. WP.org also has a repository of plugins that you can use to improve further and tweak your website. Using these plugins, you can turn your website into a shop, a forum, and even a social media site! The possibilities are endless! Ideal users: people who want to build a customized website.
Pros of WordPress.org: The platform is open source and there are hundreds of thousands of plugins. There are literally NO LIMITS with the platform. You can do absolutely anything with it. You're only limited by your own abilities and/or what other people have made (plugins). Plus you have full ownership and control of all your content.
Cons of WordPress.org: You have to pay for your own hosting and you're also responsible for your own maintenance (unless you hire that out). You have to stay on top of plugin/theme/core updates, and you have to be security conscious. Most of this should be common internet sense, like don't use the username "admin" and have a strong/good password.
Which one is the right platform for me? Choosing the right blog platform is crucial because you'll be spending a lot of time together. My best advice is to try them all since most of them are free, and you can decide which one you're most comfortable with.
Of course, for beginner bloggers, I strongly encourage signing up with the free platforms first to determine if blogging is something you can commit to. Blogging takes a lot of hard work and patience!
4. A Gorgeous Theme & Branding
How Much? $30-1500 or more, one-time payment.
If you want a fully customized theme, prepare to shell out some money. One customized theme can cost at least $1000. For pre-made themes, like the ones that you can find at Theme Forest and Creative Market, can range from $30 to $80. If you know a little bit of HTML, CSS and PHP, you can also create your own from scratch or download a free theme and modify it to match your style.
Need inspiration? Check Design Crushes for my favorite fonts and themes.
5. Social Media Marketing & Business Tools
How Much? Free or $5++/month
Paying for extra services to promote your blog is optional, but it's very useful for people who want to pursue blogging as a career or business. These services can help you streamline your creative process, promote content more efficiently and allows you to focus more on the important things. Here my current top three tools:
- CoSchedule — A social media editorial calendar plugin that I highly recommend. The only reason I like this plugin is that I can manage my posts and schedule promotion in just one window. No multiple accounts needed! Price: Starts at $9/month.
- Buffer — Buffer is a great scheduler app. You can schedule your posts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and even Pinterest! Buffer also has a built-in analytics to check your growth and engagement. Price: Free or $10/month.
- Evernote — Evernote is an all-around digital workspace where you can write, collect, present and even discuss ideas. I use Evernote to write drafts when I don't have any Internet access and keep notes that I deemed imperative. Price: Free or PHP550/year.
Aileen of IAmAileen.com is a very successful travel blogger from the Philippines living in Belgium. Despite her success, she doesn't spend much on tools. In fact, most of the tools she recommended to me are FREE! She was kind enough to share her favorites:
- Portent's Content Idea Generator - it's a fun way of generating new content for my blog if I ever get stuck on thinking of a new topic to write about; otherwise, it really helps in suggesting keywords that I can use.
- Click to Tweet - the easiest way to encourage your readers to share your blog post by highlighting a quote.
- TwitterDeck- a free web application that helps me manage my Tweets, but the best feature that I like about it is that I can freely schedule Tweets in advance
- Asana - a free management tool that helps me collect and plan the ideas or tasks that I have for my blog
The Total Cost? About $110 yearly. This is only an estimate based on the figures I've given you (and on the assumption you will buy a new theme every year), but the actual cost will differ from one blogger to another. Take me, for example, I paid $13 for my domain and $25 for my web host (I got it for 75% off on a Black Friday Sale). I also paid $50 to use CoSchedule. If you add all that up, you'll know that my essentials were %88.
I know this was quite a lengthy read, but I hope this walkthrough has helped you know how to start a badass blog! If you're a beginner in blogging, you're not required to spend a single dime. But if you really want to invest, then these are the costs you need to know. Let me know if you have any more questions! :)