The Truth About Starting a Free Blog

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You’ve decided you want to start a blog but you’re not sure where to begin.  You keep finding articles telling you that you can start your blog for free.  Starting a blog from scratch for free?  Can it be true?  I read tons of articles on blogging before starting and still had moments where I was totally dumbfounded when I realized the truth.

the truth about starting a free blog

So what is the truth about starting a blog for free and what are some of the myths?  Lets dig into this topic.

 You can start a blog for free.

Well technically it can be free but when you strip it all down it’s really not.  Most, if not the majority of successful blogs are self hosted.  What that means is that bloggers are running their blogs on platforms that cost money.

Take my blog, The Crafty Middle Sister.  It’s a WordPress blog hosted on Siteground.  Siteground is where my blog lives and I would recommend them to anyone starting a blog or even someone looking for a new web host.  I pay Siteground “rent” to allow my blog to live here but  I can choose to move my blog to another web host any time I want.  I would then pay that company “rent” to allow my blog to live there.  It would not affect my blog’s name or anything else on my blog if I moved to another hosting site.

Web Hosting

But what about Blogger?  Yes, Blogger is free and I even had a blog on it.  It wasn’t that bad but I didn’t really own my blog.  For instance, if Blogger decided to shut down with no warning my blog would’ve been gone.  *POOF*  A lot of money-making blog opportunities are not available there either.  Most companies want you to be self hosted where you own your content.  Also your domain, which isn’t actually yours on Blogger will end in blogspot.com unless you purchase your own .com domain which I recommend.

My advice is: be prepared to pay.  While it may not be $0 there is great, affordable web hosting out there for cheap.  I believe you can find a plan that suits the needs of any new blogger for less than $5 a month.  You may have to pay for a year or two of hosting up front to get that price but if you’re truly dedicated to your new blogging gig it’s well worth it.

the truth about starting a free blog

Self hosting is the only way to go when starting your blog.  Would you live somewhere that you could be kicked out of at any time?  Where everything you put into this place is gone one day because someone locked you out for no reason at all?  Of course not!  You want to not only own your place and everything you put in it but be able to take it with you if you decide to move.

I can choose a free theme to save money.

While this is absolutely true and everybody likes FREE, let’s look at the pros and cons of free themes.

Pros

  • Free

Cons

  • May not be able to customize
  • May offer minimal support if any at all
  • Infrequent updates if any

I sometimes tell myself this somewhat controversial saying, “You get what you pay for”.  Okay, it may not always be true but when it comes to something important, like YOUR BLOG! why would you risk it?  For instance, when you purchase a theme from a designer or company you want to make sure they offer support if you need it.  You may need help getting your blog to look right.  You may not know how to do something to tweak parts of it. This is where being able to contact the designer or their customer support people comes into play.  You want to be able to get answers to your most important questions.

Customization is a big plus when it comes to purchased themes.  You may want to change colors, text or layout and a lot of times that isn’t an option with free themes.  You truly have a lot more freedom when it comes to making your blog look exactly the way you want it to with premium themes.

wordpress themes through creative market

My advice is: research the theme you’re interested in and don’t use one that’s free.  If you do start with a free theme make it a goal to switch over to one that you know will offer updates, support and customization options once you’re comfortable with blogging.  With that said though, you’d be further ahead purchasing a theme and playing around with it.  Why switch when you finally get used to your theme?

Go to Creative Market or Theme Forest and search WordPress themes.  When you find some you like go to the designer’s website and check it out to see what other themes they offer.  Sometimes they have pages that list websites who are using each particular theme.  By viewing these pages you get an idea of how much customization can be done to that theme.

One last benefit to purchasing a theme is that designers sometimes offer add-ons that coordinate with their themes.  It may not be a necessity but it helps give the site a cohesive look.

That blog name ain’t free.

Okay, so the name is but the domain isn’t.  The exception would be if your web host offers a free domain with a hosting subscription.  Usually they offer the first year free and you pay each year after.

In most cases you can purchase a domain through your web host, I was able to get mine through Siteground, and it must be renewed each year.  I paid around $12 or $13 for mine and will pay that to renew it every year.  Some sites offer discounts when web hosting is purchased at the same time.  Be careful to read the fine print when it comes to domain transfers though.  Make sure you can transfer your domain to another web host if you decide to.  Some may have fees involved you may not have known about.

the truth about starting a free blog

My advice is: there are some decent choices when deciding where to register your domain but I chose to go with easy and do it with my web host.  Make sure you do your research before you commit to a particular registrar.  And be prepared to pay the renewal every year.

Protecting your hard work comes with a cost.

It still baffles me how anyone can say that running a blog (or starting it) is free.  One thing I found out right away is that there is more to it than just typing up posts and taking pictures.  You need to make sure that your blog is being backed up, you’re not being inundated with spam comments and more.  I’ll address these issues and more in my next post.

While it may be possible (although very unlikely) for you to start a successful blog for free I think you would quickly realize that it’s going to cost you money somewhere down the line.  I want you to know this now before you jump in with both feet.

If you want to talk more about starting your best blog you can join my new group on Facebook here.

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