If you’re thinking about starting a blog, or you’ve recently started one, you’re probably hoping to make money as quickly as possible. If you’re like me when I started my first blog, you may have young children at home and money might be tight.
Starting a blog was my ticket to staying at home with my kids so I decided to try it. And I’m glad I did because in less than a year, my blog was making over 10K a month. Since then, I have started multiple blogs.
With my first blog, I was very frugal in the beginning and only invested in the blog when it became absolutely necessary (sometimes to the point where I hindered my own progress). I was constantly wondering whether I was making the right decisions with my blog investments and second-guessing if my purchases were worth it.
In this post, I want to lay out all the costs associated with starting a blog and discuss which expenses are essential right away, and which could be delayed until the funds become available. Therefore, you won’t hinder your own progress like I did.
Disclaimer: Through no additional cost to you, I may be compensated from affiliate links included in this post. Learn more here.
Costs to Start a WordPress Blog
Unfortunately, with blogging, a lot of your expenses are incurred at the very beginning. This is before you know if you’ll have any success or before you know if you’ll even like it. To help you manage costs, I’ve broken the post into “must haves” and “nice to haves”. Start with the must haves and move on to the nice to haves if you have the budget.
This post focuses more on the potential investments for new bloggers and doesn’t cover tools or plugins for bloggers already making a healthy income. Additionally, there are a ton of paid courses out there to boost your blogging knowledge. There are too many courses to list here and in my mind these all fall in the “nice to have” section as the information is generally available for free on the web.
Blogging Startup Expenses
When starting a blog, it is an absolute must to have your own domain name (ex. Growbloggrow.com) with webhosting.
Domain names are generally pretty inexpensive (about $15) and can usually be purchased through your webhost. When purchasing a domain name or when signing up for web hosting, you’ll be asked to buy add-on products such as site security. The only add-on you’ll ever need is Domain Privacy Protection. This hides your email and phone number that are required during signup. If you don’t purchase this addon, which is about $12/year, you will be inundated by spam emails, calls and even text messages.
Total Cost: $27 (or purchase with webhosting)
Webhosting is the essential service that houses all of your content and basically allows your website to be online. When pricing out web hosts, there are two ways to pay, monthly or yearly.
Monthly plans are nice because you won’t pay as much up front. If you only end up blogging for a few months, then you’ll have spent less than if you had purchased 1 or 2 years up front.
Yearly plans give you a much cheaper rate on a per month basis but require a year of payments up front.
My favorite WordPress webhost that offers monthly payments is Lyrical Host. Their smallest plan is $12 per month and they also sell domain names too, which makes things so much easier.
If you have a little more money to spend on starting up, then consider paying for a year or more up front to get an overall lower rate. My favorite Webhost with yearly payments is Siteground. They offer introductory plans that are $3.95/month. Their catch is that after your first invoice, you go up to their normal rate of $11.95/month, which they do to entice you to sign up for 2 or 3 years instead of just 1.
My advice here is to just sign up for 1 year. Why? Because your goal should be to outgrow them in the first year. Siteground is great for new bloggers, but once you start generating significant traffic you’ll want to switch to a more expensive, premium host like Flywheel or BigScoots.
Total Cost: $12 per month or $47.40 for your first year
A Premium WordPress Theme
While purchasing a premium theme is not absolutely essential in the beginning, I am including it in this section because in my eyes it is. What is the difference between a free theme and a premium theme? With a premium theme, you will have the ability to customize everything with just the click of a button.
If your theme sucks, then you will have to be learning CSS code to customize. Additionally, switching your theme later on is a huge pain. So, my advice is start with a fantastic theme to save yourself so much frustration, time and energy.
I never knew the different levels of customization until I purchased my third premium theme, GeneratePress (which is what I’m using now). There was literally an option to change every single part of my blog’s appearance without any coding knowledge.
What should you look for in a blog theme?
- Avoid themes with a monthly cost, while you may pay a little less up front it will cost you more in the end.
- Highly rated for site speed
- Can use for multiple sites (will save you money if you want to start a second blog)
- Good customization options
- Mobile Responsive
For me, the theme that met all these criteria was GeneratePress for just $50. It has allowed me to achieve lightning quick speed scores, has been a breeze to use, and best of all I can use it on my other blogs.
Total Cost: $50
Nice to Have if you have the budget
Next up are a handful of plugins/tools that either: make your site faster or increase your social shares. These tools are not absolute essentials to start up, but if you have the budget then they are worthy investments. They are ordered in terms of priority.
Share Buttons Plugin
Generating social shares is paramount to creating a successful blog. When people visit your site, you want them to share your post to Pinterest, Facebook, or some other social platform, before they leave. How do you get them to do this? By removing all barriers.
How to generate the most social shares?
- All your images should have a pin button
- You want share buttons on the screen (mobile or desktop) at all times
- You want pre-written pin descriptions for both your images and your share buttons.
The easiest way to do this is with the Social Warfare plugin. Reasonably priced at $29/year, this plugin will do all of the above and will have a major impact on your social media presence. Social shares and building your social presence will be the first way your traffic starts to grow.
Total Cost: $29/year
Continuing our focus on social media, and Pinterest specifically, I want to discuss Tailwind. If you haven’t heard of Tailwind before, it is a tool that allows you to schedule your pins to be posted at the most optimal times throughout the day. Tailwind also has Tribes, which are like niche-specific communities, where you can get your content shared in exchange for sharing other people’s content. Tailwind is a massive time saver as you can set it up to post your pins for up to a month at a time.
With my first blog, Tailwind was a big part of how I was able to grow to 300,000 pageviews per month. At that level I aimed to keep about 100 different pins in circulation and it would have never been possible for me to do manually. In my opinion, Tailwind becomes worth it once you have about 20 pins that you want to keep regularly pinning to Pinterest.
Total Cost: $120/year
Images are probably the most resource-intensive thing that your site has to load. This means that if you can decrease the size of your image files, you can really speed up your site. Why is site speed important, according to Google, if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, up to 40% of your potential readers will leave before even arriving.
ShortPixel is a tool that compresses your images without sacrificing quality, and automatically sizes them down to the appropriate size. Both of these actions greatly decrease your image file sizes and speed up your site. Additionally, and not to get too technical, ShortPixel will also convert your images to a next-gen format (WebP instead of .jpeg or .png) and display that next-gen format for users who are using a compatible browser.
ShortPixel is priced based on credits. If you upload fewer than 100 images per month it’s free and $5/month gets you 5,000 images per month. You can also do a one-time spend of $10 to compress/convert 10,000 of your existing images. This is a smart option for more established blogs.
Total Cost: $5/month + $20 upfront if you’re already blogging
If your Site Speed is good (you can check here), then don’t worry about this one until down the road. However, if your site is slow, then you can consider investing in this $39 plugin.
Total Cost: $39
Now go and spend wisely
Wherever you’re at in your blogging journey, I hope this post was helpful for you. Overcoming the initial investment and getting started is difficult but is so worth it. Blogging has truly changed my life and I hope it can for you too.