When I first started blogging in 2014, I was in my final year of high school and I was just a girl who liked fashion and started getting into makeup and wanted an outlet to share my thoughts and life. I did it because I enjoyed it and when I didn’t enjoy blogging, I stopped blogging. It was that simple. Times have also changed so much since then.
I think it’s without a doubt now that everyone knows you can monetise your blog. You can make a lot of money out of it. You can become an ‘influencer’. For some people, it’s an excellent secondary income stream and for the lucky few, blogging can be a full-time job.
However, if you ask any blogger who is able to monetise their blog, they will say they that have incurred a few expenses. And trust me, that can seem a bit daunting. It was for me. I didn’t want to spend too much money knowing I was very unlikely to make a return. It can take years for a blogger to make a liveable income and the market is so over-saturated already.
Hopefully this guide helps you decide what things you should splurge on and what things you should save when starting a blog.
Tip: When starting to blog, think of a blogging budget. I really think that helps drive some direction when you start blogging. Whilst I do mention some expenses I think you should incur and shop around, you can absolutely blog in 2020 for almost zero dollars and expenses.
Obviously, everyone has a different blogging budget as we all have different needs and financial circumstances.
*This post contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
Splurge – Hosting
Great news! Owning a blog can cost zero dollars! Starting a blog using Blogger or WordPress is free. My first blog (Splashes with Fabulosity) was made free from Blogger – it was very easily customisable so it’s a great way to experiment and have a go with blogging.
However, the problem with these free options is that you don’t own the website. I know it’s far-fetched, but if these websites for any reason disappeared, so would yours. Under the terms and conditions, they also have permission to terminate your account and website at any time.
Not only are you limited in ownership but you’re also limited in customisation and even monetisation. Many premium and ‘prettier’ themes are usually restricted to WordPress self-hosted users and monetisation is not as lucrative on free hosting sites. Advertisers also have control over ad placement on free hosting sites.
When it comes to creative intellectual property, I really think ownership is important.
If that hasn’t convinced you enough, you also look far more professional with a self-hosting website. Compare a URL like thesydneysider.com vs thesydneysider.blogspot.com. Brands can be quite selective with who to partner with so this is such a simple way to stand out.
However, I don’t think a self-hosting platform is essential just highly preferred. I would be a hypocrite if I said you needed a self-hosting platform because I did start with a free blog (and for almost 5 years at that). I think it is great that you can start your blog completely free and that option should remain.
But if you’re thinking of making your blog something professional and as a side hustle/source of income/portfolio as opposed to a side hobby, I would strongly consider a self-hosting platform. The good news is the options are also really affordable so it’s not really a splurge.
Siteground – I use this and I honestly can not recommend them enough. You can own your very own website for less than $7 a month! Compared to the $20 a month they advertise, this is a nice steal. Siteground also offers 24/7 technical support which is extremely handy when it comes to starting out your blog.
If you have a current WordPress blog, Siteground also offers a free migration. Unfortunately, I had a Blogger blog so I could not transfer but it was okay because I wanted to start fresh.
Bluehost– I would say Bluehost is the other main hosting service that bloggers use. You can own your website for less than $6 a month. Bluehost also offers 24/7 support as well and even offers a free domain name for a year.
Both are really great options so you’ll be in great hands.
Splurge – WordPress/Blogger Theme
The first thing people see when they look at your site is your theme and layout of your website. You want to ensure that your users have the best user experience so I think buying a theme is completely worth the investment.
Tip: Start thinking about a blogging budget and work around that. Don’t buy a $100 WordPress theme because you think you need to and all the popular bloggers have. There are some really affordable options out there (under $50, under $20).
Even if you have absolutely zero web skills, these themes are super easy to install and customise to your tastes. I know starting a new blog can be overwhelming but the sellers offer step-by-step tutorials on how to set up all features of the blog and also offer additional support if required.
Just make sure before purchasing that the theme works for your blog. The worst thing would be purchasing a WordPress theme when you have a Blogger account. As I mentioned earlier, some themes may be restricted to self-hosted WordPress users (WordPress.org not WordPress.com) so having your own website definitely gives you more options.
SkyandStars Mary Jane – This is actually the WordPress theme I have and I really love it. It’s a beautiful theme with neutral colours and gives my blog a really professional and fresh look.
SoleilflareDesigns Guinevere – This WordPress theme has a great professional feel and is such a great theme for lifestyle bloggers.
17thAvenueDesigns Amelia– I’ve seen a lot of bloggers use themes from 17thAvenueDesign and whilst they are quite expensive (around $70-110), I’m sure all of them thought purchasing it was a great investment. The themes are stunning and are a lot more sophisticated than other designs so I think the price point is justified. SkyandStars Mary Jane is an excellent dupe to this theme for less than half the price.
BlogPixie Amelia – This is another stunning, feminine WordPress theme that i think would work so well for beauty and lifestyle bloggers.
SoleilflareDesigns Clementine – This Blogger theme is beautiful and is only $10. I love the minimalist yet professional look and is the perfect theme for the blogger on a budget.
Syncboost Samara– Yet another affordable Blogger theme for $10. This is very minimalistic and simple but also looks super professional and clean so it’s a great theme to start out with.
Save – SEO (for now)
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is incredibly important because it essentially relates to how well your website performs in search engines. However, a lot of this takes time so when starting a blog, I wouldn’t worry too much about optimisation (although it is something to keep in mind).
Yoast SEO is a great free WordPress plugin. It is able to analyse your post and see how well it meets SEO standards and I think this would be great for all beginner bloggers to experiment with. It definitely helps you to get in the mindset of optimisation at an early stage.
I blogged on and off for almost 5 years and sort of feel regretful that I don’t have much to show for it. I never even thought of SEO at the time. Don’t make that mistake.
Save – Analytics
If you’re thinking of blogging professionally, it’s really good to track your progress using analytic tools. I think when starting out this is something to save on because there are so many free analytic tools that are so useful.
Two of my favourite tools to use are Google Analytics and Google Trends. Google Analytics tracks metrics such as views, users, view time, geography and audience retention. Google Trends is really helpful when it comes to blog writing. You can find what topics are trending or what are break out search terms. This can really help curate your blog titles to really make them stand out whilst showing relevance to your readers.
MonsterInsights is a fantastic free WordPress plugin that works just like Google Analytics. I love it because I can see whether I am getting organic views (google search) or referrals (usually Pinterest and Twitter).
Save – Photography
Good photography is definitely an understatement. When I first notice a blog, I look at the layout and photography. Sometimes even though I think a blog has great content, if the photography is lacking, it can come across off-putting.
The two free apps I use when editing my photos are VSCO Cam and Abode Lightroom. I prefer VSCO Cam mainly because I’ve been using it since the beginning and I prefer editing there.
If you’re looking for free, royalty-free photos to use on your blog, look no further than Pixabay. This site has thousands of really high-quality images that you can use for free. It’s amazing and a life saviour if you want to include them to complement your blog post.
However, please don’t just use free, royalty free images. Use a combination of both your own and free images if you must. Your blog should really be a representation of you.
I really hope this post has been helpful and maybe has given you an insight of the expenses you may incur when starting a blog and the importance of setting a blogging budget. Don’t try to live out of your means just to try make something work. That’s the great thing about blogging – it’s catered for absolutely everyone. There are bloggers who incur hundreds and thousands a month (trust me – there are so many monthly reports online ‘How Many Money did I Make this Month’ – it’s kind of fascinating) but it is a full-time job for them and they have invested a lot of time and resources. On the other side of the spectrum, there are also bloggers who blog as a hobby who almost spend next to nothing.
One thing that is absolutely free to use when blogging is your mind, your own personality and creativity. Super cheesy but it had to be said.
I think a blog can be a great extension of your brand so I think it’s really important to be authentic as possible. This will gain trust and respect with your following.
The self-hosted domain, pretty WordPress themes and that other stuff are great but your personality is unique to you and I think that is going to make you the most successful.