Blogging used to be simple. You’d sign up for a blog on Blogger, start blogging, and call it a day, all for $0. But now? Now it seems like you need a ton of tools to have a successful blog. And many of these tools cost a pretty penny. What ever happened to blogging on a budget?
But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a successful blog. In fact, there are very few things you actually need to spend money on. The rest you either don’t need, or can get away with free options. Blogging on a budget is possible, so don’t let a lack of money dissuade you!
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What You Need
Before I get into what you actually need, let me preface this by saying that blogging can be done in a million different ways. There is no right or wrong way. These are things I recommend for the best possible blogging experience. Your needs may vary, so take this with a grain of salt.
1. A Domain ($10+/year)
Want to be taken seriously? Want to have an easy to remember URL? Then you need a domain. This is my #1 blogging must have. Even if you go with a free Blogger blog, I believe a domain is super important.
A domain is a cheap way to instantly give your blog a boost. No one is going to remember that your blog URL if it’s followed by a .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com. Odds are they’re going to instantly take your blog name and add a .com to the end of it. Plus, think of how professional you’ll look with a custom domain!
You can often purchase your domain through your host (in fact, many offer a free domain for a year when you purchase hosting), but if you’d rather keep things separate (like I do), Namecheap is my go to domain registrar.
Related: Domains 101
2. A Good Host ($5+/mo)
Notice I said a good host. I know we’re talking about blogging on a budget, but in terms of hosting, you get what you pay for. However, that doesn’t mean you need to spend an arm and a leg for a good host. My personal favorite, SiteGround, isn’t that much more than many low cost hosts and they’re highly recommended. If you have a bigger budget, you can try out Flywheel, which I have heard nothing but good things about.
Related: Hosting 101
I should also note that if you purchase hosting, you’re also going to need a content management system / blogging platform, such as WordPress. Depending on your host, you’ll probably have to install and get that setup. If that sounds complicated for you, another decent option is to go with Squarespace. Squarespace is a website builder/hosting solution in one. In other words, you can purchase a plan for $12 a month and you’re ready to go.
If Your Budget Allows
A domain and good hosting are the only things I think are absolutely necessary. Everything else can be achieved for free or you can just do without. But as they say, time is money, so going the low cost or free route might take more time on your part. Of course if you’re low on cash, but have time, by all means invest your time into your blog. But if you have some extra cash you’re willing to invest into your blog, these are the things I would look into.
1. A Clean, Organized Theme ($20+)
If you go the self hosted WordPress route, you’re going to need a theme that not only looks nice, but is easy to navigate. If you’re really on a tight budget, there are plenty of free WordPress themes available in the theme directory. Of course, you get what you pay for. That’s not to say that there aren’t any good themes available, but when it comes to customization, you may be limited.
That’s why I personally advise spending a bit of money to get a clean, organized WordPress theme that you can customize to match your brand. I am a big fan of the Genesis Framework, but it is pricey (although it’s 100% worth it).
2. An Email List ($15+/month)
If you’re blogging, you probably are looking to grow an audience, right? The best place to grow your audience is with an email list. Sure, you could grow your audience on social media (and you should), but you shouldn’t rely on that alone. Social media comes and goes. But email? Email has been around and will continue to be around.
If you’re looking for a free option, MailChimp is my go-to. You can have a list of up to 2000 subscribers, but since it is free there are limited features. If you’re willing to spend a bit, you can upgrade and get additional features such as auto responders.
3. Google Apps for Work ($5/mo)
Most hosts come with email, but if yours doesn’t, you’re going to need one. Sure, you could go with a Gmail account, but we want to look professional. I mean, you’ve purchased a domain so let’s keep everything on brand, shall we?
But even if your host does provide email, you still might want to check out Google Apps for Work. Why? Well simply put, if you’re using your host for email and your site goes down, so will your email. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s no bueno in my book. But if you host your email elsewhere, your email will still work even if your site goes down.
4. Social Media Scheduler ($10+/month)
We all know that publishing blog posts is only half of what running a blog entails. If you want your posts to get read, sharing your posts via social media is key. But not only that, you should be sharing other people’s content as well.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to be sitting on Twitter all day tweeting posts at certain times. I’d much rather take a block of time and spend it scheduling all my social media posts so I can focus on other things.
Social media schedulers don’t have to be expensive. Buffer offers a free plan where you can schedule 10 posts. I highly recommend you try it out if you’re not using Buffer already. It’s definitely worth the $10 upgrade in my book. CoSchedule is another great option, but it does cost a bit more. And of course, you can also use free tools such as Hootsuite if you’re really on a tight budget.
These are the things that I think are most important and worth splurging on when it comes to blogging. Of course your needs may vary. The important thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s blogging needs are different. Just because every blogger and their mother are using a new expensive tool, doesn’t mean you’ll need to use it to. Check your budget and evaluate your blogging needs, then choose tools that fit within those. Blogging can cost a lot, but it doesn’t have to.